It's Saturday afternoon and I'm in a Community Hall near Old St with 40 people. We're about to watch a man and women demonstrate a type of meditation. The woman lies down on a physiotherapy bench, takes off her knickers and, butterflying her legs, displays her vagina to the room. The man puts on some latex gloves. He looks into the woman's eyes and says, "I'm going to touch your pussy now."
I turn to the person next to me, a girl in her mid 30s, furrow my eyebrows and say, "This is weird, right?" She smiles, awkwardly, and nods, briskly.
I'd heard about the world of Orgasmic Meditation, (OM) from a girl in a coffee shop: a Stroker (male or female) strokes the clitoris of a Strokee (female, obviously) for 15 minutes. It purports to be enjoyable for both whilst helping them become more connected with their sexuality. OM's UK founder Marc Quinn suggested I come along to an Introduction to Om session to find out more.
Overseeing the day is Robert Kandall, the co-founder of One Taste (the company behind OM). The demonstration is preceded by a "What's your name & why are you here?" icebreaker.
"I was a classic 28-year old Jew from New York, doing well in my career, living in San Francisco with my wife. After a passionate start to our marriage we only had sex when drunk or after fights. One day she asked me to go to a class on sexuality at a Hippy House up in the hills.
"It became apparent that I didn't understand her at all - I was in total denial about our lack of communication and my inability to fulfil her. I could either: deny the problem and continue the chauvinistic life that I'd been living; or go down the rabbit hole and explore deeper. I chose the second option."
Regular practitioner Aubrey Fuller explains more, "I felt trapped between my sexual desire and social guilt about chasteness and purity. I came to OM to explore ideas around sexuality. It became the ultimate connection with sensation and feeling."
The demographic and motivations for the attendees is broad: there's a 35 year-old PR girl who's never orgasmed with a man; an 18 year-old from Greece who wanted to "be like James Bond"; a woman in her 60s who wanted to explore a side of herself that she'd neglected since motherhood.
Aubrey explains (in rather frank language) the intent of OM, "Think about how most relationships work: a man buys a woman a drink, they kiss, he takes her for dinner, they have sex. She sucks his cock, he licks her pussy, she comes, he comes. It's all power, and goal-oriented.
"In OM you aren't trying to climax, just explore the sensation. It's ritualised and separate from everything else, and it's not foreplay. When you're finished, you just carry on your day without any baggage."
They begin the demonstration. Surprisingly, the Stroker seems to be enjoying it as much as Aubrey. After 15 minutes they stop and the whole audience is asked to share a description of what they felt. One girl says "a tingling sensation spread from her vagina to her forehead around nine minutes in. It was lovely."
Robert quickly cuts her off, "We only want to hear a clear description of the sensation. No value judgements or qualifications. That's where you end up with obligation, guilt and trying to please someone."
Heading out for lunch is as discombobulating as the daylight end of a warehouse rave. At a nearby café, strangers are pouring out their sexual histories. Kapil (who has been OMing for a year) explains how it transformed his life.
"Sex used to be all in my head. I fantasised about people other than my partner," he says, "But pretty quickly I stopped watching porn or masturbating - my sex was so present and real. The idea of not doing things out of obligation has altered every other aspect of my life."
As we return for the afternoon session Claire (not her real name), who I'd been speaking to over lunch, walks next to me.
"So... are you staying for the practice session at the end?" she asks.
"Uh. I don't know," I respond, "I guess so, but I don't know if I'd be able to do something that intimate with a random person."
"Me too," she says. We walk in silence for a while. "Well, if you'd like to stay at the end, would you like to Om with me?"
It was half past one on a Saturday afternoon and we're both sober. Yet a woman whom I'd never met has just asked me to stroke her clitoris.
"Yes." I hear myself say. I was going down the rabbit hole.
"It started with an all over tingling, like the building of a wave. Then I felt an extraordinary sense of relaxation. Like the greatest exhale ever."
It was the end of the day and Claire was sharing a frame. We'd just OMed. I had felt nothing to begin with. Then experienced a hot, feverish sensation, before relaxing as you do when a fever passes.
"Well, I didn't expect to be doing that when I arrived this morning," I said.
"Me neither," she replied, "But I'm glad that I did."
I still don't quite know what to make of my Om experience. It has elements of focus in common with other forms of meditation, which might be where all these life-changing stories come from. But the sexual zeitgeist is one of increasing honesty about our wants and needs. Om seems to be a window to allow that to happen, and I can only see it growing in popularity.
To find out more about Orgasmic Meditation, visit the One Taste website.