Friday, February 02, 2007


Whether for Buddhist monks or Catholic priests, the monastic life of spiritual seekers over the centuries has been rooted in denial of the carnal. As Jews regard the pig as an unclean animal, the world’s major religions have viewed sex and lust as mire-splattered interlopers.

The Urban Monk Program at San Francisco’s One Taste Urban Retreat Center completely inverts that ancient precept. Sex and sensuality, instead of being denied or purged, are isolated and then focused upon in the pursuit of spiritual transformation.

Marketing material promoting it describes it as “an integrated program that takes care of your whole being … by expanding the delicate and potent energy of orgasm.”

Pop theologians like Stephen Mitchell have widened the definition of prayer from “talking with God” to include everyday pursuits, like concentrating deeply on a math problem. Similarly, Nicole Daedone, founder of One Taste, views sensuality as one of many circuits to the divine — or at least to liberation from societal “hangups.”

The Urban Monk Program offers its acolytes a range of programming from lectures on communication to 12-step inspired “sensual recovery” to hands-on “stroke clinics” and “orgasmic meditation (OM).” The tuition runs upwards of $12,000, or $2,000 per week, “with special arrangements for work trade.”

Thirty-nine-year-old Daedone opened One Taste on Folsom Street in San Francisco’s SoMA district in 2004. Daedone studied semantics at SFSU and theosophy on her own before living in a series of sex-positive cooperatives in Oregon and Northern California. Together, the two experiences gave her the spark for One Taste, which takes practices from underground sex communities and brings them to the public.

We spoke with her and Beth Crittenden, 31, the director of the Urban Monk Program. Daedone and Crittendon live in the community loft space near the center, along with 40-some other members of the One Taste cooperative, many of whom staff the center and facilitate its offerings of bodywork, yoga, organic café creations, lectures, weekly intimacy communication games and sex-themed events.

Below, Nicole and Beth talk about the Urban Monk program and their take on sensuality’s relationship to the divine.

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