From Suave to SkillfulBY ROSS
Kids at school bullied me and made fun of me for how different I looked because of my Asian features. That's how I learned to exercise my intuition.
When kids want others to like them, and they're building their own friendships, they often gang up on the odd person out, so they can feel like they belong to a larger group. There weren't a lot of Asians in my community, so as the odd one, I was automatically put on the defensive. It's easy to respond by hiding or running away, but I was the youngest of eight children, so I had brothers and sisters to back me up. Also I'm outgoing. I like being social. I learned fast to read the people around me and adjust my behavior to show I was a likable guy. I was able to walk into a room, anticipate people's reactions, and transform their ideas about me within five seconds of meeting them.
This survival skill has always served me well, but it also gave me a habit of trying to please people. I especially wanted to please women, having grown up with three sisters close to my age. While talking to a woman, I was always wondering in the back of my mind, How is she seeing me? Do I have to shift my persona? Does she feel she can trust me? But the way it came off, I didn't seem trustworthy because I wasn't quite being real or honest. I was so focused on getting that approval.
I was married straight out of college, and after nine years, we broke up. At that point, I was on a career track, moving up in the management field. One day I read an article about OM, and then shortly after that a friend mentioned it too. Following my intuition, I decided to check it out.
One of the first things I noticed about the practice was how simple and direct it was. Even just asking for an OM: “Would you like to OM?” “Yes, I do.” Or, “No, I don't.” It was such a relief to skip the strategizing I learned in my younger years, when I thought I had to shapeshift in order to have connection.
The first time I OMed, I was anxious and excited. My jaw and my shoulders tightened up, and my groin was tingling with electricity. My brain went right into worrying. Am I doing this right? Does she like how I'm stroking? I fell back into my default dynamic with women where I try to make them happy. With that focus dominating my first few OMs, I wasn't really connecting. Then I was OMing with a woman who'd been practicing for years, and I asked her to teach me. I figured she'd give me instruction in my stroking technique. But she said, “Stroke for your own pleasure.”
It was the best advice I could've gotten. It helped me get grounded in my bodily sensations. I learned to feel my hips planted on the cushion. That feeling calibrates me at the start of every OM, I begin by being aware of myself.
It took practice to make the shift from pleasing my OM partner to being fully present and in the moment. At first, in the noticing step, I'd use flowery language, talking about how beautiful her genitals were. I had to accept that the rule was to stick to what I was seeing, down to its bare bones, with no judgments. “The outer labia are dark pink, with brown hair that outlines them about an inch from the pubic bone.” That kind of seeing and reporting was also grounding, helping me stay present with my own perceptions.
I came to appreciate the goallessness of OMing too. We're not aiming for climax or some other special destination. We're just exploring a connection, one stroke at a time, and in order to maximize the sensations, we have to stay in the moment. That presence has extended into how I relate to women outside of OM. Now I go on a date and I want to see how the conversation and the relationship builds. I want to melt into each moment of our interaction. My freedom from expectations actually safeguards me from rejection. If the woman doesn't want to see me again, there’s no harm, no foul, it just didn't work out. I benefit greatly from not being attached to an outcome.
My work life has also changed. As a manager, one of my tasks is to give employees feedback on their work. In the past, if there was something I needed to criticize, I would try to be sensitive about their feelings, skirting around the issue. I might ask, “How do you think that session went?” hoping they'd bring up the problem so I wouldn't have to. I'd try to make them feel good about their work so they'd consider me a good boss. But that evasiveness created an indirectness in my workplace, and it interfered with my functioning as a manager.
After the experience of the OM container and communicating clearly, I learned to be more direct with my employees. Without being demeaning, I'll say something like, “I noticed you have a tendency to not really listen to some of our customers. You have to be there paying attention because that's one of our objectives.” I get specific about what they're doing and how they can do better. It makes for a more professional dynamic and actually improves the work.
In my social life, I've discovered how to connect with people vibrationally. There's an energetic level that I can now navigate, which allows me to follow the flow of conversation, just like when I follow a stroke and sense when to offer an adjustment. OM has helped me develop a deeper level of empathy and sensitivity that allows me to ask the right questions and create an environment where people feel seen. I'm genuinely curious and interested in someone else's story.
Back when I was sensing the room because of defense mechanisms, I was trying protect myself from bullying. Now when I read the room, I can use my intuition to really connect with other people.