Spiritual teachers have been on to this for years, but research is now showing that orgasm and meditation create much the same effect in our brains.
According to a recent article in Scientific American, both meditation and orgasm decrease our sense of self-awareness. Bliss, says author Nadia Webb, whether through the experience of meditative contemplation or through the bodily experience of sex, "shares the diminution of self-awareness, alterations in bodily perception and decreased sense of pain." In other words, both experiences lead to a temporary stoppage in the incessant flow of our internal commentary. Even if for only a few minutes, we are able to see ourselves as something other than the ego.
Mystics and gurus have long referred to the similarities between the two activities. Osho, the Indian spiritual teacher formerly known as Rajneesh, was famous for his acknowledgment of the mystical value of an orgasm. "The experience of orgasm itself is always nonsexual. Even though you have achieved it through sex, it itself has no sexuality in it," he once said. "And my own understanding is that meditation has grown out of the experience of orgasm."
The French term for orgasm is "la petite mort" or "the little death," in reference to the period of tranquility, crystalline awareness and transcendence experienced shortly after a peak sexual experience.
The esoteric Indian tradition of tantra purports to use sex as a way of eventually achieving enlightenment or total understanding of the universe.
Still, orgasm is no replacement for meditation.
Meditation and orgasm light up different parts of the brain. Meditation, various studies have shown, lights up the left prefrontal cortex -- an area associated with joy and happiness. But during an orgasm, the left cortex remains totally silent. Meditation has also been known to create lasting change in the brain through a thickening of the cortex.
What this perhaps means, in terms of strengthening our emotional wellness, is that while orgasm can make us hunger for the experience of sustained transcendence, meditation is the only path to actually achieving it.
Read Scientific American's original story here.