Buddhists, Jews and orgasms

k6353If you’re one of those rare individuals who is interested in the topic of sex, you may enjoy Patricia Leigh Brown and Carol Pogash’s story in the Sunday New York Times about a co-ed live-in commune dedicated to the female orgasm.

The reporters take an in-depth look at the One Taste Urban Retreat Center and its founder Nicole Daedone. The center emphasizes women’s pleasure even though love, romance and flirtation are not fundamental components.

I bring it up here because there is, of course, a religion angle. The 38 live-in practitioners practice yoga and mindfulness meditation. The key ritual experience, though, is where women, naked from the waist down are brought to orgasm by their “research partners” through orgasmic meditation.

There are hints that we’ll get into a full fledged discussion of religion or spirituality, such as this paragraph:

One Taste is but the latest stop on this sexual underground, weaving together strands of radical individual freedom, Eastern spirituality and feminism.

There’s lots of discussion from critics that Daedone enjoys cultlike powers. We know that the group practices yoga, although we’re not told what type. Here’s another religion angle:

Another member, Racheli Cherwitz, 28, had spent years grappling with anorexia and alcoholism, she said. In search of identity, she moved to Israel and became an Orthodox Jew.

Discovering One Taste, she said, has improved her self-image and given her “deep physical access to the woman I am and the woman I want to be.”

Ms. Cherwitz commutes to New York and offers private sensuality coaching at a satellite outpost operated by One Taste on Grand Street. Many of her clients, she said, are married Orthodox Jewish couples from Brooklyn.

I would love to know more about this. There are also hints of discussion about “responsible hedonism” and the “ego-crushing machine” of valid monastic traditions. We learn more about Daedone’s background:

Her pathway back to life was initially Buddhism, which she pursued with a vengeance, intending to live in a Zen community. But at a party in 1998, she met a Buddhist who had a practice in what he called “contemplative sexuality.”

He invited her to lie down unclothed, set a timer and, while stroking her, proceeded to narrate in tender detail the beauty he saw, the colors that went from coral, to deep rose, to pearlescent pink. “I just broke open, and the feeling was pure and clean,” Ms. Daedone said. “In a strange way, I think at that moment I decided to live.”

I’m curious to learn more about contemplative sexuality in a Buddhist context but we don’t get any substantive discussion. Sex — and female sexuality — is such a hot topic across all religions. Why not give a few more details about how it relates to Buddhism and Judaism? Finally, there’s this:

Ms. Daedone wants One Taste to be mainstream, and to that end the center presents lectures by rabbis and Tibetan monks, along with public classes and workshops in “mindful sexuality.”

The article is terribly interesting but I left it without much more insight than I had at the front end. I wasn’t able to grasp the particular philosophy, spirituality or religious elements of OMing or the One Taste community in general. I’m sure it’s a difficult task but it seems like an area ripe for further exploration.

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  • Jerry

    During the 60′s people interested in such things studied Tantra, specifically tantric sex, and the Kama Sutra. The more things change…

  • dalea

    Checked around on this. Seems there is more to the story than the NYT told. Nichole has a background in Theosophy to which she has added Kaballah and Buddhism. Here are some links that fill out the story, and show the limits of dead tree journalism.

    Jessica Grose at Slate has covered this on Monday:

    http://slate.msn.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/tags/the+One+Taste+Urban+Retreat+Center/default.aspx

    Commongroundmag has an interview with Nichole:

    http://commongroundmag.com/2007/02/spiritsense0702.html

    Her background is in Theosophy, she has moved some Buddhist concepts and practices into her life.

    An ad for the center:

    http://www.sfstation.com/one-taste-urban-retreat-center-b3310

    CultAwareness has background on this movement:

    http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?12,62400,page=1

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    I read the headline and knew instantly that Mollie posted this.

  • R.S.Newark

    If I remember correctly the writers conclusion was not flatering.

  • michael

    What?

    You mean sex is an ersatz religion?

    In this culture?

    Surely not.

    Now that is news.

  • http://tikkun.org/ Lauren

    The lack of any well fleshed out account of One Taste’s philosophy or spiritual framework in this article could be due as much to our culture’s difficulties in talking about sexuality and gender as to awkward treatments of religion in the media.

    Here’s an article that argues for re-considering what gender equality can mean for religious women — gendered rituals and traditions are one thing, but the criteria for eligibility for religious leadership should not be gendered. I think it’s a good example of thought-provoking writing on the twin journalistic ‘problem children’ of religion and gender/sexuality.
    http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/mar09_tanenbaum

  • Cinn Fields

    I only know a little about these folks – I’ve been there twice – nice folks – I think the spiritual angle is about mindfulness – like vipassana (?). I also think the 2007 reference above is way out of date – they’ve changed a lot – they have rooms instead of dorms, etc. etc. I don’t know if I’d call this an in-depth look


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