You've no doubt heard (and probably ignored) the advice: To survive the chaos that crappy colleagues, app alerts, and holiday shoppers inflict on your overtaxed brain, you need mindfulness meditation. That's how you clean out the psychological gunk and restore your zen. Meditation's proponents insist that you don't even have to sit on a beaded velvet cushion in a cloud of incense to master the craft. You can shut out distractions and be present while shaving. Sitting at a red light. Sipping coffee. Browsing Facebook. Researchers have looked into the value of meditative dishwashing. The net is really wide here. Which makes us wonder: Can we reach nirvana by simply rubbing one out?
Hell yeah, you can. Mindfulness practices can be applied to all sorts of activities, especially masturbation, says meditation researcher and teacher Lorin Roche. "As long as you're tuned into your body and tracking your physical feelings, a sexual sensation or desire is as valid to meditate on as your breath or a mantra." Being mindful is a practice built on blocking out distracting thoughts and directing your full attention to the sensations of the moment—what you hear, taste, see, smell, or feel. In that regard, solo sex might be the perfect vehicle, especially for people with less experience with meditation. Stimulating that great big bundle of nerves packed up in your genitals makes it easy to focus your attention. It's basically impossible not to. Rather than thinking about the profanity-laced comebacks you'd like to shower your boss with, you're blissed out on the tingle in your pants. And as the brain shifts away from frets and four-letter words, the body's relaxation response kicks in, says meditation teacher David H. Wagner, author of Backbone: The Modern Man's Ultimate Guide to Purpose, Passion and Power.
Researchers are still trying to decode the neurobiological mechanisms driving the physiological aspects of meditation, effects like decreased inflammation, heart rate, and blood pressure. One recent study found that mindfulness may work by lighting up sections of the brain responsible for controlling stress and focus. Meanwhile masturbation—or more specifically, sexual arousal—releases a cocktail of hormones that increase your heart rate and blood pressure, at least temporarily. So masturbation and meditation aren't exactly the same. But both practices have the effect of dialing down stress and tension and minimizing pain, so there's definitely an overlap.
There's just one disclaimer: Blasting one out in 60 seconds to a Pornhub clip with a Sir Mix-A-Lot soundtrack doesn't exactly qualify as mindful. There should be a leisurely, yet intense quality to meditative masturbation, says Wagner. (Fast and furious men—take a cue from women.) "It's important to take your time and give the practice dedicated space," he says. "This isn't just about what happens in your sex organ, but the feelings that emerge everywhere throughout your body."
So yes—that's license to spend more time masturbating.