Mindful meditation can impact every area of our lives in a positive way. Learn how this practice can foster a more intimate and healthy sex life.
The media is full of images and headlines about how to have great sex: hot bodies and new moves, gymnastic positions and pearly pink sex toys will “spice things up” and help you either give or get the mind-blowing pleasure you’ve been looking for.
One thing often overlooked, however, is whether you’re actually in your body while you’re having sex. By this, I mean are you planning your schedule for the next day? Are you going over your grocery list? Are you worrying about having or giving an orgasm? All of us have internal mental chatter while having sex, but when thoughts come up and we ride away with them we lose contact with the sensations and subtleties of the present moment. When this happens, we limit the richness and depth of the sex we’re having.
Specifically what happens when we’re stressed or anxious during sex is our brain sends the message to our bodies to constrict blood flow to all parts of our bodies except what we need to fight or run away—that doesn’t leave much left for some key parts used in sex (aka genitals).
When we are present in the moment, however, the activity in the part of our brain called the anterior insula is increased. This part of the brain is like a huge communication channel between the brain’s different parts and the body. When this part is activated we perceive our physical sensations in a deeper, more intense way. We can also be more emotionally present and in-tune with our partners. This gives us a chance to more fully connect. It becomes a sort of positive feedback loop because connection and in-tune sex reinforce each other.
So what can we do?
Day to Day
Whether we’re having sex or not, regular practice of mindfulness meditation actually increases the volume of the insula. This can lead to a fuller, juicier experience of sex. There’s no set amount of time you have to meditate; however, most experts recommend at least 20 minutes a day. If you know this is longer than you’re going to be able to commit to, even five minutes is better than nothing and will still have some positive benefits.
Find a comfortable place to sit—it doesn’t have to be completely silent—just somewhere where you won’t be bothered. Sit in a relaxed pose with a straight spine either cross-legged or on a chair or couch. You can keep your eyes open or close them. Then tune into your breath. Thoughts will arise. When they do, notice them lightly and return your focus to your breath. This is a basic mindfulness meditation practice.
Practicing mindfulness helps us notice when our thoughts have hijacked us from our experience and gives us a chance to choose to bring our attention back into our bodies. It also helps us avoid the feedback loop of anxiety that lots of folks have around quick enough (or slow enough) orgasms and hard enough erections. Practicing mindfulness is another way of saying practicing coming back to the present moment. We notice the chit-chat of our minds and let it float away, returning to the pressures, sensations, caressing and breath going on in our bodies. Tuning into our body’s sensations, emotions and breath are the main tools of mindfulness.
Here’s a concrete example: Let’s say you’re fooling around and start to worry that you’re stomach is looking too big. Before you know it, all of your attention is on your stomach and you’re kissing on automatic pilot. When you notice yourself thinking, try labeling the thoughts “thinking” (in your head) and bring your attention back to whatever is happening: the hand on your leg, the contact of lips. Breathe and consciously relax.
And even if you’re not feeling worried, next time you’re fooling around, try consciously bringing your attention away from your thoughts and down into your body. Notice your breath. Travel down your body and tune into where you’re being touched. Imagine sending your breath into those places. When thoughts arise, let them pass through your mind like clouds in the sky and bring your attention back into your body. Notice what’s happening without judgment. Enjoy!
[image: via Bryan Brenneman on flickr]