On a recent evening in Indiana, 31-year-old Colin experienced what he refers to as the “best orgasm of [his] life.” Having abstained from any sort of “sexual release” for the two weeks prior, he was especially pent-up, quelling most of his urges with bouts of soothing meditation. But when he was suddenly overcome with a vivid fantasy about a “certain female,” Colin couldn’t hold back. It was time.
Beginning the breathwork and kegel exercises he’d been practicing for months, Colin let the fantasy overcome him, allowing himself to become so absorbed by it that it felt “more real than a dream.” As the pleasure built and a “release” became inevitable, he relished in the fact that his hands — the traditional tools of self-stimulation — were relaxed by his side. Not once did he care to use them — his mind was providing all the sensation he needed.
Then, without warning — or touching himself — Colin began to cum. It was “by far the longest orgasm” he’d ever had and the “largest amount” he’d ever ejaculated. It was also somewhat seizure-like — for two minutes, he lay there while his body “erupted” in pleasure, twitching while the orgasm “rose in [his] mind like a fire.” Afterward, he experienced an unparalleled bout of post-nut clarity. Not that a clear mind was necessary to realize that he’d just had his first hands-free orgasm, an outcome many refer to as a “mindgasm” or “thinking off.”
For the uninitiated, mindgasms are just what they sound like: Orgasms that stem from mental stimulation and fantasy, not from physical touch. But although there’s no genital contact, the brain and body often react as if there is — most people who’ve had them say the experience is just like jacking off or having sex, only enhanced by the novelty of orgasming in a new, X-Man-like way. In fact, many people report that hands-free climaxes are the best they’ve ever had.
Colin’s so-called “journey to the core of [his] sexuality” began two months ago with “a dumb infographic” on Buddhism and tantric sex. This was his first foray into understanding “chi,” the Eastern concept of a body’s vitality and life force, and “ley lines,” which are paths of positive energy between sexual partners. Colin’s curiosity about the capacity of the human body to retain sexual energy — instead of releasing it out of the body and “into the void,” usually as ejaculation — led him to discover something called the “microcosmic orbit,” an ancient Taoist and tantric exercise used to circulate the aforementioned “chi” throughout the body. To begin the microcosmic orbit, you must activate sexual energy through a combination of breathwork and kegels to create a “circuit” of energy around the body. “It sounded weird,” says Colin. “But it happened very easily.”
The meditative practice of the microcosmic orbit dates all the way back to the Zhou dynasty in ancient China, when its underlying principles were first outlined in the I-Ching, a 5,000-year-old divination text. This foundational exercise was popularized by Taoist master Mantak Chia, and is still used today by Taoist and tantric practitioners to “purify” the body, mind and spirit. In tantra, the microcosmic orbit is thought to help people achieve multiple, long-lasting, full-body orgasms. Anyone can tap into it and reap its benefits.
Many brave souls like Colin have spent a few movie-montage months researching, practicing and meditating to achieve this galaxy-brain feat. A few mindgasm devotees even seek out gurus, experts and guided meditations to break down their inhibitions and lead them to explosive new heights. However, others stumble upon the gates of Heaven by accident, without any practice or meditation whatsoever.
Gailyn, a 40-year-old BDSM enthusiast from Florida, had her first mindgasm this way. Though she’d heard of hands-free orgasms and believed they were real, she never expected to have one herself. So when she unintentionally orgasmed without touch following an impact scene with her wife, she considered it a “profound sexual breakthrough.”
“My body started contracting and I made low, guttural sounds,” she tells me. “It felt just like an orgasm, but also different. I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but it was good, so I just relaxed into it and let the sensations wash over me. The ride lasted about two to three minutes, which feels like a really long time when your whole body is contracting.”
That said, it’s not something that happens often, or that she can do on command. “For me, it’s more about shutting everything else off so that I can let it happen,” she explains, revealing that the key is to feel as opposed to think. “I [have to] shut off my brain and just be. I have to be careful with not placing expectations on myself because it just ends up frustrating me. I just try to enjoy the sensations.”
For more than 30 years, sex coach Barbara Carrellas has been teaching people how to have mindgasms like these (though she calls them “breath and energy orgasms” instead). Carrellas stresses that anyone is capable of mindgasming, and believes that they’re of the most accessible routes toward altered states of pleasure because they enable the practitioner to transcend their body. “This can be done by anybody who can breathe,” she tells me. “I teach this practice to a lot of trans and gender non-conforming people, because for people who don’t enjoy sex because of wherever they are in their gender journey, [mental] orgasms are a safe, pleasureable and erotic way to go in back into their bodies.”
Likewise, for those with disabilities, the mindgasm can be a revelation. “I’ve taught a lot of people with spinal cord injuries,” Carrellas continues. “Even if the only place you can feel is from the neck-up, you can have the experience of that tension, release and expansion.” She points to MRI brain activity studies by Barry Komisaruk, Beverly Whipple and Gina Ogden to prove that mindgasms are just as real as any genital orgasm. “We measured the [physiological response to] their orgasms when [subjects] came by thinking — or claimed to — and when they had orgasms by genital self-stimulation. And the physiological responses and the brain responses are comparable,” Komisurak said during an appearance on the talk show The Balancing Act.
To get a person to a state of ecstasy using purely the power of their breath and mind, Carrellas begins with a guided meditation similar to Colin’s microcosmic orbit practice. She talks her students through a series of exercises including breath, sound and pelvic floor squeezes, then guides them to imagine their “body is an empty vessel to be filled with energy.”
Through these exercises, Carrellas aims to break down traditional concepts of the orgasm. “I have friends who can think off by just imagining a fantasy,” she explains. “And that’s wonderful, right? But what I’m trying to teach people is how to really feel what’s happening. Most of us are so cut off from what we’re actually feeling at any given moment that we consider our bodies just flesh suits holding our brains. The deeper we go into our bodies, the more we can tap into the collective mind. We can switch off the parts of our brain that think we’re separate. We realize we’re connected to everything.” Per Carrellas, the mindgasm can trigger a feeling akin to ego death, an experience that involves the dissolution of “self” and an increasing awareness of the connectivity of everything around you.
According to hypnotist Mark Cunningham, having an orgasm on that level can do wonders for a person’s sexual self-confidence, too. “It transforms a man’s life because he can just relax,” he says. “He knows he’s got this tremendous gift to share, no matter who he is, no matter what it looks like.”
That seems to be the case for Colin, who says his newfound ability to bust a nut without touch has heightened his IRL sex life. “When engaging in intercourse, I have much greater control of when I cum,” he says. “The ladies appreciate it.” In fact, his experience has not only given him more sexual and physical awareness, but it’s lent him a transformative understanding of orgasm, too. “I feel much more in touch with my sexuality since doing this,” he adds. “The mind is the greatest force a human can wield.
Carrellas emphasizes, however, that it takes a certain open mindset to learn how to mindgasm. “If you have the expectation that this is going to be the best thing you’ve ever tried, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment,” she says. “By the same token, if you’re sitting there going, ‘This shit never works for me, I’m just going to fail,’ then you probably will. So really, it’s best to approach [the mindgasm] from the stance of, ‘Oh, what the fuck, I have a half hour to kill.’”