Mindful Sex: a guide to becoming fully present sexually Do you feel that you do not fully experience your sexual experiences and sexuality? Do you sometimes feel like you are not present during sex or like you are just going through the motions? Sometimes we are not present during sex for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons may be that we are just not feeling sexual, we are feeling anxious and stressed, or we are feeling depressed. In addition, individuals who have a history of sexual trauma may have difficulty feeling fully present in their sexual experiences. What can you do to increase your ability to be more present?
Mindfulness can be effective in managing a variety of problems including anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is the practice of being and experiencing the present moment. Many of us have difficulty experiencing the present moment. We may be thinking about the future and things we have to do or dwelling on the past and things that have happened. When we are caught in the future and the past, we miss many things that are happening around us. When what is happening around us is a pleasurable moment such as sex with a partner, we are having sex, but we are not really there and are missing out. So how do you practice mindfulness?
- To try the practice of mindfulness, try this basic breathing and awareness exercise. Try to have at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to try this exercise. Start by getting comfortable either by lying down or sitting comfortably in a chair. Take a few deep breaths, and then resume normal breathing. When you are breathing normally, notice the different sensations that you feel in your chest and abdomen when you inhale and when you exhale. Also notice how the other parts of your body feel including your shoulders, neck, arms, legs, etc. To do that, bring your attention to each part of your body and note any tension. This body awareness is one part of mindfulness, becoming aware of how your body feels in the present moment. After noticing how each part of your body feels, focus your awareness on other senses. Notice what you are hearing around you. For example, maybe you hear the sound of traffic, birds singing, or a clock ticking. Notice what kinds of smells are around you. For example, maybe you smell dinner cooking or flowers in your garden. Also take note of any taste in your mouth and what you can see around you. The idea of the exercise is continuing to focus on the present moment and what is being experienced through your five senses. You may find as you do this exercise that your mind wanders away from the present, maybe thinking about things that you need to do or things that happened in the past. It is very normal for this to happen. It is also normal to feel emotions, either good or bad, during the process. When it happens, recognize that you are having the thought or emotion, and gently guide yourself back into experiencing the present moment.
- A few other ways to try being mindful, is to practice the same exercise of being aware of your five senses while eating something you enjoy or while taking a walk. With eating, notice what the food feels like in your mouth, what it tastes like, what it smells like, and what it looks like. With taking a walk, you can take special note of what you see, hear, and smell all around you. Also, take note of how your body feels walking, such as focusing on your feet touching the ground and the movement of your legs and arms as you walk forward. As with the breathing exercise, try these exercises for at least 15 minutes.
Applying Mindfulness to Sexual Experiences
You may be beginning to have an idea how you can apply mindfulness to the sexual experience. Being more present in your sexual experiences, allows you to further and more fully experience sensations and pleasure.
- If you are comfortable, it is helpful to first try being mindful when masturbating to more easily tune into your senses during sex as you are not concerned with pleasing a partner, but only pleasing yourself. To try it, make sure you have at least 15 minutes without interruption. You may want to use some nice body lotion or massage oil. Take time to touch every part of your body, specifically noting the sensations that you feel. For example, does it feel nice and relaxing to touch your neck, do you feel exciting and tingly when touching your breasts and/or genitals. What kind of touch do you like? Do you like soft touch or hard touch? Do you like the feeling of using the oil or lotion or do you like not using the oil or lotion? If you are lying down, what does the fabric you are laying on feel like? As in the above exercises, also be aware of other senses. For example, what do you see? Does it turn you on to see yourself naked or to see yourself touching yourself? If you use any visual pictures for masturbating, take some time to focus on the picture and what you find erotic? Are their any sounds in the moment? Are you turned on by the sound of your breathing if you are feeling excited? Or maybe you put on some music before you started that you find sexy. As with the above exercises, the idea is about fully engrossing yourself in the present moment. It is very likely that your mind will wander and that you may feel different types of emotions. With individuals who have experienced sexual trauma, you may have some unwanted negative emotions surface. Remember to note both thoughts and feelings with a neutral reaction and to gently direct yourself back to what you are experiencing in the present moment.
- After practicing by yourself, you are ready to try the mindfulness exercise with a partner during sex. It may be helpful to take time to prepare for your sexual experience by putting things in your environment that you find sexy, for example scented candles, or music you find erotic. However, you can certainly have a mindful sexual experience if the sex is spontaneous. As with the other exercises, when you are being sexual with your partner, be present by attending to your senses. How does it feel when you partner touches your genitals? How does it feel to touch your partner’s skin? Is your partner beginning to breathe heavily? Is your partner making any sounds indicating that he or she is turned on? Basically be attuned to what you are experiencing through your senses in the present moment. You may find that it is easier to be mindful with yourself as there is more information available to your senses with a partner. However, with practice, you will get back at staying in the moment both with yourself and with a partner. Sex and our own sexuality can be very pleasurable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be fully present in the moment?