Sex and Mindfulness

by Adrienne Alden

People can have beautifully connected relationships and miss the physical expression of it by being adrift in thought.  Mindfulness is a skill that can be cultivated in various ways to help a person be in the here and now and feel the physical expression of love intended for them.  Mindfulness can be practiced while doing any daily task.  The goal is to be more fully engaged in what you are currently doing.

Clients often describe feeling checked out during sex and intimacy.  Clients relay the story of a war in their minds during sex.  They want to be interested in what is happening in the present with their partner but can’t stop thinking about the grocery list or a work dilemma.  Many minutes can pass where they have missed the loving touch intended for them.  It’s not uncommon for someone to miss an entire experience by being stuck in their thoughts.  This not only effects the person missing the touch but your partner senses that you are not all there.  Both people can leave the experience feeling some level of disconnection.

Someone might even begin to ruminate about thinking.  They start to focus on how checked out they are and become upset with themselves.  This thinking about thinking phenomenon is incredibly common, but prevents us from being more present.  It’s another version of being lost in thought similar to being anxious about sex.  Anxiety during intimacy is a large contributing factor in premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, lack of orgasm, low libido, low arousal, and pain with sex.

The main skill of mindfulness is meditation. I often practice short meditations and breathing exercises with clients in session in order to help them understand meditation skills and the feelings associated with being present.  However, mindfulness cultivation doesn’t have to be meditation.  You can practice being more fully present in any scenario although mediations do help build brain muscle memory.  Purposeful meditation often evokes a more intense experience that allows you to get a taste of the sensation you are looking for. Profound experiences help your brain have an ingrained pathway to follow.  The brain does what it knows and if it has commonly been lost in thought it’s going to take some intentional training to create and take another path.

The first and most useful skill in mindfulness is using your breath as an anchor to the present moment.  The objective is to simply notice where in your body you can most easily feel your breath.  That might be in the rise and fall of the chest or belly, cool air coming into the nose and warm air coming out.  It doesn’t matter where you feel your breath; no judgement! We are here to observe and get out of our heads!  You will most likely discover that your breath and your mind wander off again and again.  That is okay!  When you notice this, go back to your breath.  Over and Over. Go back to where you can most easily feel your breath.  Placing our attention below the brain is a crucial skill in being able to feel pleasure.

You won’t be good at this right or away and that is okay!   You might even struggle with this skill for quite some time. That is okay!   You will most likely never perfect it.  That is okay!  This is something to practice.  That is okay!  It will get easier.  The level and type of practice you need will shift over time.

Important things to consider when practicing mindfulness:

  • Mindfulness has been scientifically studied and is proven to improve quality of life
  • The goal is not to transcend reality or totally empty your mind
  • Mindfulness is not a religion and can be practiced in conjunction with any religious orientation
  • If something doesn’t work once this doesn’t mean that it’s not for you.  Keep trying.
  • Mindfulness isn’t always about feeling amazing.  It can allow us to see difficult aspects of ourselves.  Awareness is the first and most important part of change
  • Sometimes being checked out serves a purpose.  Being more aware might draw your attention to something painful. Don’t ignore that. It’s ok to seek therapy or other help to assist with this.
  • Stay Curious! Mindfulness comes with many questions.  Talk to someone who has been doing it a while, order a book, download an app, google, seek a mindfulness-based therapist for a few sessions