“There is nothing more synchronized of body and mind than orgasm. That is the ultimate synchronization. Your discursive mind is turned off. You can’t be spaced out and have an orgasm,” says Susan Piver, founder of the Open Heart Project Online Meditation Center.
But what about when we want our bodies and minds to synchronize but can’t? Or what about when we don’t even care whether we come or not, we just want to enjoy sex? When we live in a culture that actively encourages distraction, what do when we want to counteract our culturally distracted state with a little bump and grind?
Well, we can meditate.
A recent study suggests that women who meditate experienced greater sexual satisfaction than women who don't. “At a very surface level, mindfulness helps us with distraction,” says Lori Brotto, professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia, co-author of the study, and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness. “We know that people can be easily distracted in general, and in particular around sexual activity. One of the ways that mindfulness helps us in that domain is that it teaches us to be fully anchored in the here and now, in the sensations,” Brotto says.
In other words, meditation and mindfulness practices can help us learn to be present to the actual lived experience of the body and less caught up in the back and forth of our brains. “We practice synchronizing mind and body so that when we go into our life or we get into bed with someone that synchronization is more familiar,” Piver says, “In a sense, sex can be the ultimate mind-body practice.”
Synchronization of the mind and body are key to experiencing sexual satisfaction. In the medical world, they call this synchronization “concordance.” Concordance means that your mind and body are agreeing to be in the same place at the same time. Brotto has studied this by measuring patients' physical sexual responses and self-reported experiences when stimulated (through erotica and fantasy) before and after developing mindfulness practices. The more patients are experienced in mindfulness, the greater their level of concordance.
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“After they develop a mindfulness practice, the degree of concordance between physical response and self report response goes up. In other words, the body is getting aroused and the mind is getting aroused to the same degree,” Brotto says. Basically, in order to experience sexual satisfaction, we can’t just experience physical arousal. We also have to know that we are turned on and we have to be able to tune into it. Mindfulness and meditation practices help us develop the skill of tuning in, and as a result, we are able to have better sexual experiences.
If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know that becoming present is a practice. Though the goal of meditation isn’t better sex (meditation, in general, has no mission statement), it can help you become present, to bring your awareness to your body, and therefore, to have better, more present sex.
The following meditation is designed to help you tune into the sensations of the body; Brotto recommends it with a partner or alone. The intention of the practice is not to lead you to orgasm, but simply to help you get into the practice of getting curious about what the body is feeling so that you are able to more fully experience pleasure, sexual or otherwise.
Full Frontal Pleasure Meditation
Find a comfortable place to recline. Prop yourself up with pillows, blankets—whatever makes you most comfortable. Burn incense or run an oil diffuser. You can play soft music if you like, but don’t include anything on the playlist that will distract you.
2. Begin by allowing yourself to relax into the space. Close your eyes. Observe the atmosphere. Notice what you smell, what you hear, what your body feels as it reclines, what your clothes—if you’re wearing any—feel like against your skin. Try not to judge any of these sensations as bad or good, pleasurable or not. Just notice how it feels to be in this space at this time.
3. Observe your breath. Notice how the body expands and contracts with each breath. Invite yourself to feel the lightness and buoyancy of inhalation and the emptying of exhalation. There is no need to change the breath in any way, but it’s okay if it does change.
4. Bring your awareness to your body. Set an intention to allow yourself to be curious about the sensations of the body, without judgement or prejudice, without trying to make one part of the body feel more important than the other parts of the body. You could use the statement, “I am curious about my body.”
5. You will be systematically observing the sensations that you feel in each part of the body. Try not to form stories around them, but instead notice the subtle qualities of each sensation. It’s okay if there are parts of the body that experience more or less sensation. Notice the quality and intensity of each sensation. You can name the sensations out loud if it feels good to you. Some sensations might be: soft, tingly, tight, tense, open, hot, cool, or pulsing. Don’t limit yourself to these descriptors. Allow yourself to feel into each sensation as it manifests in your experience. Allow yourself to linger where the sensations intrigue you most.
6. Observe the sensations of the body from the toes to the tip of the head, not skipping any parts. Start with the toes, the soles of the feet, the tops of the feet, the ankles. Move to the shins, the calves, the backs of the knees, the front of the knees. Observe the sensations in the back of the thighs, the outer thighs, the fronts of the thighs, the inner thighs. Notice the sensations in the genitalia, the anus, the pelvic floor, the scrotum and penis, or the labia and clitoris.
Notice the sensations through the pelvis, hips, and bottocks. Notice the sensations in the low back, mid back, upper back, and shoulders. Notice the sensations in the arms, hands and fingers. Notice the sensations in the belly, the ribs, the chest, the breasts, and the nipples. Notice the sensations in the neck, face, lips, eyes, forehead, scalp, and even the tiny muscles around the ears.
7. Take a scan of the body and notice whether there are sensations that stand out to you. Go back to them. Give them a little extra attention.
8. Bring your awareness back to your breath. Notice the rise and fall of the breath.
9. Thank your body for any information it offered you. We have a tendency to label the sensations of the body as positive or negative, but they are all just information that the body offers us.
10. Let your eyes open and bring your awareness back into the space. Notice your surroundings.
After this meditation, try to spend some time writing, or just reflecting on the practice. What was surprising for you? Where did you have the most sensation? The least? Are there parts of your body that you were tempted to ignore or emphasize? Where did you feel the most pleasurable sensations? The least?
Rinse and repeat, ideally three or more times per week. This is a great practice not just for learning to tap into sexual pleasure, but for establishing a loving and attentive relationship with your body.
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