Orgasm. Is there any word that gets our attention so quickly, and yet remains somehow beyond explanation? The physiology of ejaculation is pretty well known: In men, physical stimulation of the genitals, whether by sexual contact with another or through self-stimulation, causes semen to flow from the vas deferens to the seminal vesicles within the prostate gland. At the peak of orgasm, a spinal reflex causes smooth muscles around the urethra, penis and prostate into rhythmic contraction in throb after throb, pulse after pulse. Semen spurts out the penis. Ejaculation generally lasts a few seconds.
“Orgasm” and “ejaculation” aren’t necessarily the same thing. Because they tend to happen simultaneously in men, we often think they are the same thing. Understanding that they are not the same thing is the key to exploring ecstatic states. Orgasm is described by sexologists as the all-of-a-sudden release of the sexual pressure that happens during arousal, followed by an intense relaxation.
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 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 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 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 to increase your body’s capacity for pleasure and how to open yourself more fully to this experience.
Some basic considerations: 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 something of 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.
Next, let go of any goal when having sex other than to feel your body, feel pleasure and connect deeply with your partner (if you are having partner sex rather than solo sex). Notice if you find yourself getting distracted by concerns about erections, what your partner is thinking, how you are doing, etc. Let these thoughts go; be in the moment. If you find yourself distracted by thoughts or worries, work on them later.
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 tensely? 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, see if you can stay relaxed and breathing. Doing so allows the sensations and rhythms of your body to increase and reverberate inside of you, and it greatly prolongs the pleasure. Some of us tend to hold our breaths or to breathe very shallowly as we approach our climax. Doing so shuts down sensation. In fact, half the pleasure of some men’s orgasms comes from simply relaxing their too-tense bodies.
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. Make the most of it!
A final thought: the openness that many of us feel after orgasm may 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. Don’t be too quick to try and get rid of these feelings. There may be an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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