Forget those New Year’s Resolutions, Notice the Now
If your sex life as a couple has taken a nose dive over the years, you might be tempted to create New Year’s resolutions to “fix” it. In fact, about a quarter of us make resolutions around relationships at the start of the year; and sadly, few of us keep them. When it comes to a flagging love life, we may find ourselves thinking, for example, that we should follow the “novelty” suggestion, by expanding our sexual techniques or buying new sex toys.
If you are setting goals around sex (say to have more sex, or to have more passionate sex) you are apt to benefit from building new habits onto already existing habits. Yet, even then, setting goals around sex usually boxes in your sexual experience. It might be a beautiful box, but it’s a box just the same.
Beyond The Box
Instead of making resolutions that involve incorporating more tricks into your sexual “act,” you can change the quality of your sex life by attending more fully to what you are already doing. The essence of mindful sex is “Getting Here” versus “Getting Off.” If, as a long-term couple, you truly want to experience sex that remains always fresh and engaging, you can have that by noticing the now.
This suggestion is simple but not easy. According to Matt Killingsworth, we spend about half our lives not being present to our unfolding experience. In the bedroom, this can be another box – the box of automaticity. Mindfulness can help us go beyond our boxes in order to access our Pure Erotic Potential.
The Pressure to Expand
These days, many couples feel pressure to walk on the wild side and become more kinky. While this might be a beautiful and expansive path for you, there are other ways to expand that involve changing what you pay attention to while doing the “regular stuff.”
For example, attending to each of your five senses can result in fresh, creative erotic encounters that are vibrant and unique. As Rilke put it, through presence we create an open space of being that allows us to “see the other whole and against a wide sky!”
Here is a short exercise to help you practice being present the next time you have sex: For a few seconds bring your attention to a place where your body is in contact with your partner’s body. Notice how lips touch lips, or tongues, hands or bodies. Feel the sensation. What is the temperature? The texture? Dry? Wet? What do you notice that you did not notice before?
By paying attention, the ordinary can become new and expansive.
Expanding Through Sensory Awareness
If you want to go beyond pure awareness, you can heighten your sensory experience in the following ways:
- Use aromatherapy for relaxation, arousal, or to create a more loving connection. The olfactory system goes directly to the limbic system, or emotional brain, and can have a soothing or stimulating effect. According to one study, smell is the number one factor of mate selection for women. Conversely, body odor seems to adversely affect arousal more so for women than men. For a list of oils and their sensual properties, you could try the Essential Oil Sanctuary.
- Try hot and cold play: You can experience different sensations by adding warm oil, ice cubes, marbles or metal to what you already do. Think of a hot stone massage versus a regular massage with hands. New sensations get our attention. Try “touching” with your hair, fingernails or an object instead of using only your fingers.
- Use music to entrain to an erotic beat. Researchers have found that music is not just an environmental stimulus, but also mirrors the internal rhythms of rest and arousal. Music has been used in courtship displays for eons and may enhance feelings of attraction for your partner. A study published in the journal Media Psychology found that when couples listen to music with suggestive lyrics, they find their partner more appealing. In addition, the area of the brain that registers music is positioned close to receptors for vasopressin, a bonding hormone in men that gets activated during love-making.
Just be careful that the music doesn’t overshadow your erotic connection. In a study of 2,000 men and women conducted by Daniel Müllensiefen, 40% said that the songs played during sex were a bigger turn-on than being physically touched by their partners. Müllensiefen explains that there is a direct link between music and the pleasure centers of the brain. While sexy playlists abound, I suggest you compile your own by seeing what kind of music supports your erotic flow.
- Use a blindfold. Blocking out visual stimulation (and distractions) can intensify awareness of the other senses, particularly hearing and touch. You may feel freer when you reduce the vulnerability of “seeing” and “being seen.” A blindfold creates an element of uncertainty that can be highly arousing if you are with someone you trust.
- Look into each other’s eyes during sex. Many of us go into our own world during sex, using “self-entrancement” to become aroused. It might be interesting to notice what happens when you stay in contact with your partner throughout the experience. How does eye contact effect your connection? How does your body respond?
Expanding The Quickie
Another way to have expansive sex is by expanding your sense of time. Most of us are caught in a trance of time-scarcity, feeling like we barely have time for the essentials, let alone for juicy and erotic sex. Sometimes the idea of a quickie is exciting and arousing, but often it only cues us to go on auto-pilot.
Is there a way to bring presence to brief erotic interludes without taxing ourselves? Can we experience something new without the pressure to be more than we are right now?
Most would agree that we live in frantic times, but many of us wear our “crazy-busy” state as a badge of honor, according to Brene Brown . As was pointed out on the TED Radio talk “Slowing Down,” we may also equate “slow” with “stupid.” But, slow sex, which doesn’t necessarily mean slow thrusting, or boring sex, allows an experience to unfold if we let go of the goal of “going all the way.”
When we increase our capacity to be present through mindfulness, we can enjoy spaciousness in tiny doses. We can choose to cultivate a Slow Mindset, which can paradoxically stretch out the time we do have in surprisingly sexy ways.
How Can I Deepen my Experience of Mindful Sex?
If you are going to set a goal, hopefully it will be to be more present during sex. A regular mindfulness practice can help you come off of automatic and deepen your awareness of the many layers of sensation that are subtle, yet profound during love-making.
For more information about how to transform the way you experience sex, check out our videos, regular webinars and hold couples retreats. Perhaps 2017 will be a year of sexual expansion not through vows or learning techniques, but through the simple act of paying attention.