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Then there's the fact that this is a sensuality community focused on building connections to others through stroking the clitoris.
The female-centric nature of One Taste makes sense since it was founded by a woman: 39-year-old Nicole Daedone. She's striking, a dynamic presence whose speech is punctuated by pregnant pauses and plenty of hand gestures. Her chestnut hair normally hangs in perfect waves, and she always seems to have the right amount of makeup on her olive skin.
She gets quoted a lot by others at One Taste. A community member may say, "Nicole says, "Avoidance is buying pain on credit cards with interest'" or "Nicole says, "We should be an open source for sensuality.'"
Daedone, who was born in Los Gatos, wasn't planning on becoming a sensuality guru. She'd been on a doctoral track with an emphasis in semantics at San Francisco State University and was helping run 111 Minna Street Gallery when, at 27, she got a telephone call that her father had only hours to live. She rushed to the hospital, where he died within two days. "Everything cracked in me," she said, her voice shaking.
She prayed to God to take her, too, or reveal her purpose in life. Around that time she met an unusual older woman at a rave who kept telling her to call if she ever needed anything. Daedone showed up at her door, told her what had happened to her dad, and for the next three years studied with the woman at what she calls as "mystery school of theosophical studies," eventually gravitating toward Buddhism. She was celibate for more than a year during her studies.
When her teachers asked her how she wanted to bring what she'd learned back into the world, she debated heavily between Buddhism and the pursuit of more earthly pleasures. "I knew, though, that Buddhism would say no to sensuality," Daedone said. "But sensuality wouldn't say no to Buddhism."
Daedone's background in Buddhism may explain why the group's description of its OMing practice sounds so similar to other forms of meditation (except, of course, for the lube and clit stroking). Daedone and others at One Taste say the concept at the root of OM is that too many people get caught up in their rational mind (or what they call the cortex, as in cerebral cortex) with all its inhibitions and judgments. So OMing is designed to let the sensory system (or the "limbic system," the nerves and networks in the brain controlling emotions and drives) rise up, and in doing so help practitioners access different forms of consciousness. "Very much in the way in meditation you plug into the cosmic consciousness," Daedone said. "This is where both people plug into the one orgasm that's always there."
Some religious or meditation organizations consider their practices as ways to reach higher thinking, or even enlightenment, but at One Taste they're not so lofty. Community members prefer the term "integrated thinking," and consider their practice a goal-less one. There is no black belt in orgasm here.
Still, One Taste is a for-profit business, meaning they do have a goal to make money as they spread the message of orgasm. For example, the urban monk program for those who want to immerse themselves in sensuality costs $2,000 per week. One Taste is already expanding to other cities by teaching courses in Hawaii, New York, and Sacramento, and has additional requests to teach in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz. A One Taste in New York may be open by fall, and Daedone hopes to eventually open a center in every major city.
But is the rest of the country ready to OM?
Some people have discovered One Taste through friends. Others stop into the center on Folsom Street looking to buy a cup of coffee there's something about the boxy wooden building, with its hardwood floors and vintage couches that keeps convincing passersby it's a cafe. Others have stopped in for a yoga class or massage and ended up sticking around to explore the rest of what the center has to offer.
Beth Crittenden was one of those people. The tall, wholesome-looking freckle-faced woman first wandered into One Taste to get a massage in the fall of 2005, drawn by the center's mission of "making your body a pleasurable place to be." While managing special projects at the UCSF Medical Center, she'd had a string of serious relationships, the last nearly leading to marriage, but saw a troubling pattern with her boyfriends. Each seemed like the perfect fit at first, like she'd found her soul mate. She might even convince her friends that she'd found "The One." Then she'd start to see bad things and would find herself getting angry when the fantasy crumbled.
Crittenden has lived at One Taste for more than a year and is now with her fourth One Taste research partner the only community member she knew from before she moved in. She actually saw him after her first massage appointment that day, and he was with her at her first One Taste event, a Wednesday-night communication-game event known as IN Group.