Issue #51 of White Crane was devoted to the discussion of Pleasure and featured John Ballew’s piece on Orgasm.
By John Ballew
Because orgasm and ejaculation tend to happen simultaneously in men, we often think they are the same thing. Understanding that they are not is the key to exploring ecstatic states.
Orgasm is described, even by sexologists, as just the all-of-a-sudden release of the sexual pressure that happens during arousal, followed by an intense relaxation. Sounds like ejaculation. Missing from this medical explanation is any understanding of what happens elsewhere in our multidimensional beings--that is, in our hearts, our souls, our minds. Orgasm doesn't happen just in the pelvis. Studies show changes in brain waves, for instance. Muscles all over the body tense and relax, emotions arise.
Some orgasms are more powerful than others. Sometimes we are seeking a simple release--we are feeling sexual tension, and we want to get rid of it. The resulting orgasm may be a bit of a thrill, and it is certainly pleasurable, but it is a pelvic sneeze compared with full-tilt, openhearted orgasm.
The French phrase for orgasm, "le petit morte" means "the little death." When we are in an orgasmic state, time seems to stop. We experience something transcendent and powerful. We may feel a sense of clarity, losing our sense of self-consciousness, living only in this present moment.
In this ecstatic state we let go of the ego. Our day-to-day anxieties no longer seem so important and we let go of our obsession with the self. We let go of our sense that we are separate from those around us; that's one reason why this ecstatic state is especially powerful for those who are in love. In this orgasmic state we are simply present, alone or with a lover, fully alive and connected with everything that is. It is a powerful spiritual experience, a miracle in itself. Small wonder that so many religions seem to fear sexuality and do everything they can to control it!
To be able to let go during sex and to savor this sense of transcendence is one of life's great joys.
Let's talk about how it increase your body's capacity for pleasure and how to open yourself more fully to this experience.
Bodies which are full of life are more capable of ecstasy than those which are half-asleep. Exercise of at least a mild sort helps. Sex isn't a marathon, but if you spend your life stuck behind a desk and are a couch potato at home and have trouble climbing a flight of stairs without getting winded, you're not likely to feel fully awake and at home in your body.
When having sex either with a partner or solo, let go of any goal other than to feel your body, feel pleasure and connect deeply with yourself or your partner. If you find yourself getting distracted by concerns about erections, what your partner is thinking, how you are doing, etc., notice them and let these thoughts go; be in the moment.
Focus on pleasure rather than orgasm as a goal in itself. Let go of any goal whatsoever. Are you tightening your muscles and holding your body tense? Let go. Relax. Breathe. Savor sensations and delights for their own sake. There is no hurry. What else could be more important than what you are doing right now?
When you start to cum, stay relaxed and breathing. This allows the sensations and rhythms of your body to increase and reverberate inside of you, and it greatly prolongs the pleasure. Keep breathing! Some of us tend to hold our breaths or to breathe very shallowly as we approach climax. Doing so shuts down sensation. In fact, half the pleasure some men's orgasms comes from simply relaxing their too-tense bodies.
A friend recently shared with me that when he starts to ejaculate, he recites to himself the Buddhist prayer of compassion and loving kindness: "May all beings be happy. May all beings be free." In doing so, he shifts his consciousness and expands his vision.
Our culture enshrines the idea of simultaneous orgasm. That can be fun if it happens spontaneously, but working to that end can turn sex into, well, work. Consider instead what can happen when you cum at different times. You can be your partner's witness--seeing him in this moment of transcendence, truly being there for him. He can be there for you, free from his own need to do anything other than just be with you; that's magic enough.
The time following orgasm is sacred time, sometimes referred to as "afterglow." Enjoy it, whether you are by yourself or with someone else. Notice what thoughts, even visions, come to you. Notice what you are feeling. Don't be in a big hurry to clean up. Stay where you are. If you have been making love to yourself, this can be a useful time to simply enjoy the feelings of peace and openness. If you are with a partner, this gentle, open time can be a wonderful opportunity to affirm your love for one another.
The openness that many of us feel after orgasm may also bring up negative feelings. Perhaps you realize that the person you just shared this experience with was someone with whom this level of intimacy was more awkward than you expected, or perhaps old messages about sex-and-shame made an unwelcome visit. This may be an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself.
John R. Ballew, M.S., is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, and relationships, spirituality and career. He can be reached via the web at www.bodymindsoul.org.
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