The mind-blowing power of mindful sex
One thing I’ve learned: being present, truly present, and being in one’s body (as opposed to stuck in one’s head) are conjoined states, if you will. I might even venture to say they’re one and the same, reductive as that may sound. Just think about it. It’s hard to “be here now” and not be aware of the sensations in one’s body. And vice versa. I dare you to try it in either direction. My prediction is you’ll notice they’re inextricably linked, at the very least. Laurie Mintz recalls several definitions of mindfulness that makes a lot of sense here. Among them: putting your mind and body in the same place—rather than thinking one thing while doing another.
The meaning of mindfulness
To exist in the moment, and to be aware of one’s body are at the core of mindfulness. Although the concept is ancient, mindfulness as a topic has become somewhat trendy in recent years. What, pray tell, has it got to do with sex? Coined by Buddhist scholar Rhys Davids at the start of the 20th century, ‘mindfulness’ is a translation of the concept of sati, which originates in Buddhist meditation practice. In 2003, John Kabat-Zinn brought the concept of mindfulness fully to the West, defining it as “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
As Yoga teacher and birth doula Courtney Avery describes it: “Think of your morning routine: You’re in a rush to get your day going, make coffee, answer emails, reply to text messages and get your first social media post up on the way to the car. … This is what you missed: The air was thick with dew and the clouds were like fresh paint across the blue-gray sky. Birds were chirping their sweet morning songs as the sun rose higher in the sky. Pink flowers bloomed in the bushes by your car. There is recognition that your body is healthy and your legs are strong, allowing for a quick morning stretch… seems like a lot to miss, but hey, you got things done!”
So if science is any indication, and mindfulness can indeed make us happier and healthier both physically and mentally, what could it mean for your sex life?
Jeremy Adam Smith got a laugh out of me with his succinct yet poignant way of addressing what’s at stake when it comes to mindful sex: “What our partners are really craving is connection, attention—and better use of our tongues.” Sure, it’s meant to be catchy, as lines go, but it also gets at the heart of how pleasure and presence are so connected, in relatively few words. Mintz points out that it’s no coincidence that the term “mind-blowing” is associated with sex: “mind-blowing sex means that your mind is not working; only your body is reacting. In fact, during an orgasm, some research shows that a part of the conscious mind turns off, and this is exactly what mindfulness helps you do.”
Chances are if you try to relive the best sex you’ve had, you’ll remember what it felt like in your body, and how you felt emotionally. You likely felt mentally, emotionally and physically connected to your partner. You probably weren’t thinking about responding to emails, or worrying your partner was bored. Learning to stay in one’s body during sex is learning presence of mind.
Mindful sex is all about slowly but surely training your mind to pay attention, thereby reducing stress—stress being pleasure’s true enemy. Although it may be tempting to skip the general mindfulness and go directly to the mindful sex, it’s may be easier to incorporate mindfulness practices into your everyday life before trying to apply them to your sex life.
But different strokes for different folks, y'all. Here are some mindfulness exercises and meditations to acclimatize yourself to the whole thing. And since our focus here today is S-E-X, here are several mindful sex practices worth tryin’ out. Plus one right here for good measure:
- Next time you are having sex you want to be mindful about, focus on foreplay—but not in a performance-focused porn star kinda way. Take time to feel your way into your body, and get in touch with your physical and emotional state. You may even want to spend some time meditating beforehand. Maybe this interests your partner too.
- Stay aware of your breath. Feel the sensation of your body against your partner’s body: the warmth, the softness. Feel what effect this has on your body as you experience each other.
- If you feel stressed out, freaked out, or downright scared (real intimacy is kinda challenging dontcha know), come back to your breath to help yourself relax into it. If you lose connection with your partner for a moment just pick it up again when you can. It gets easier—and more rewarding.
- You can even experiment with looking into your partner’s eyes. But you may have to work up to this. If you do it and it feels funny or weird or crazy, that’s pretty normal. Keep a sense of humor and just keep coming back to it.
- When you develop the ability to maintain eye contact close-up, the possibility of mind-blowingly mindful sex opens up to you even more.
Bonus tip: exploring tantric sex is another way of engaging with mindfulness practice on a sensual/sexual level and overlaps with the technique described above.
Bottom line: where’s there’s a will the head & heart will learn to listen to the body! <3