What is Mindful Sexuality and How Can We Access it?
Mindful Sexuality is a philosophy, a practice, and a set of skills to cultivate curiosity, heartfullness and a spirit of erotic exploration. The traditional practice involves bringing gentle awareness to our immediate experience, which is an antidote to automaticity.
By turning attention to the present, we become aware of the fullness and depth of our sensual, emotional and mental processes right now. When this “seeing” is combined with an accepting attitude, we can discover many things about ourselves that enable us to enjoy sex more fully and grow as a couple.
When it comes to sex, most of us chase pleasure without opening to the full experience of our eroticism. Yet, real life sex is the whole enchilada: We get the yummy, tangy, hot, succulent bites and the heartburn that sometimes comes with it. While mindful sex is far from “perfect,” it offers real life couples an opportunity to have an authentic, loving and deeply connected erotic relationship.
Couples often ask me for tangible steps to establish a more intimate connection with their partner. I believe thinking in terms of “ways,” or “steps” can be helpful, as long as we don’t slip into becoming more performance- and future-oriented.
The intention of mindfulness is to focus on the unfolding now rather than achieving perfection. If you choose to see the following as offerings for non-judgmental practice in the now, you can step into a delightful, ever-changing sense of aliveness each time you make love with your partner.
#1. Enter the experience without a goal
Don’t worry about getting “somewhere.” Whether we are aware of it or not, most of us have a goal in the back of our mind to reach a state of orgasm. I recommend instead to be completely open to what happens, and let yourself be surprised.
Don’t even worry about becoming aroused. Instead, imagine you are doing an improvisational dance. You are free to express yourself in ways that your body shows you in the moment.
#2. Stay present by using all your senses
It’s so easy to become distracted by thoughts. These thoughts can be about anything, from the unfinished laundry to worrying about your sags and bumps, to whether the kids are truly asleep, and on and on…
When you come around to noticing that you are having thoughts that are taking you away from your immediate experience, gently re-direct your attention to the now.
Rotate through your five senses:
- the sensation of your partner’s touch or chest on your body
- the sound of your breath or theirs
- the smell of pheromones or body odor. Is it sweet, musky, or floral?
- the taste of your partner’s lips or skin
- the sight of something that pleases you. Look for the glow of candles, the greenery outside your window, the shape of your partner’s shoulder or facial expression, even your own curves.
#3. Pause if you are becoming automatic and come from curiosity instead
If you feel you are slipping back into “going through the motions,” following familiar pathways to arousal, pause and wait for an authentic impulse.
Give yourself permission to go into new territory, and experiment with moving your body differently from usual, touching in new ways and places. Find and follow your curiosity. View this as an exploration and not a performance.
#4. Allow the experience to unfold
Follow the energy that is growing between you. Let it tell you what kind of dance this may have become. You may be dancing free-form, or your erotic energy may have unfolded into something else. Does the dance remind you of salsa dancing, a waltz, a tango, or hip hop?
Let your body move in response to what you feel inside. See what wants to happen rather than shaping the experience. Remember, there’s no one correct route, and there’s no real destination, just listen for the erotic energy moving through and between you as you dance this one and only dance.
#5. Notice anything that interferes with pleasure, connection and self-expression
Pay attention to any thoughts, feelings and images that are blocking expression. Be mindful of habitual ways of shutting down, disconnecting, and judging the experience or yourself. Pay attention to fears about waking the children, general anxieties, or perhaps sexual triggers due to trauma, all of which are very common.
If your thoughts are interfering, pause and return to #2, where you gently re-direct yourself to the present. Return to an attitude of curiosity – again and again.
This is a practice that you will want to repeat as often as necessary.
#6. Let the experience be what it is without judging it as “bad, fair, good, great.”
Non-judgment goes against the grain of our competitive culture, so it may take some practice to let the experience be what it is.
With this in mind, you can choose to refrain from judging the quality of your sex life on this experience alone. Recognize that erotic energy is ever-changing, as are you, and that you can open to the freshness of each experience every time.
If your experience was satisfying, savor the good feelings. If it was less than satisfying, gently explore ways you held yourself back from expressing what you wanted or went forward when you might have wanted to stop or change gears. This information can help you become more self-aware, it is not an indictment. Mindful sexuality allows you to experience more erotic vitality and study what prevents you from being fully self-expressed.
For more information about experiencing a vital and collaborative erotic life, we have videos, regular webinars and hold couples retreats that offer a transformational way of working with the sexual issues that arise in all long-term relationships, not just troubled ones.