Meditation and Sex: How to Use Mindfulness to Understand Sexuality
Meditation has long been touted as a stress-management technique. Proponents use it as a road to personal healing and higher understanding, and claim you can bring these benefits to your sex life.
Mindfulness, or awareness-based meditation, is promoted as a way to help people process their thoughts and emotions about sex in abstract ways, or from alternate perspectives.
The benefits can be numerous, with a focus on cultivating a more existential viewpoint, one that might have the potential to alleviate anxiety and sexual dysfunction, and improve the quality of physical relationships.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which special focus is given to awareness of the present moment, without attributing judgment or a specific emotion to that experience. People who practice mindfulness report feeling a greater sense of control over a multitude of situations and themes in life, including sex. Practiced mindfulness seeks to bring a deep sense of calm and open awareness to daily life.
As a concept, mindfulness can be traced back to early Buddhist traditions that established “vipassana,” or the focus on presence of mind during meditation, as the most direct path to long-term mental clarity. Though certain elements of this meditational form have been modernized for contemporary practices all over the world, the central goal and process remain the same.
Mindfulness & sex therapy
Sex therapy studies seem to indicate a strong correlation between a wandering mind and an inability to become sexually aroused.
One study reported that 40 percent of women at some point experience a debilitating lack of desire to have sex, causing significant pyschological distress and relationship problems. The study noted “lack of motivation” as the leading issue among women attending sex therapy; subjects reported distractions and wandering thoughts as key factors in the issue.
Subjects who took part in mindfulness therapy sessions discovered they were able to experience much higher rates of genital arousal compared to women in control groups who did not participate in mindfulness meditation.
Another group of clinical researchers found that couples who took part in mindfulness therapy experienced noticeable improvements in their ability to calmly take part in conflict-resolution discussions.
Mindfulness may be successful in sex therapy because it trains one’s mind to pay attention to visceral feelings before anything else, slowly tracing these back to their source. Often, mindfulness reveals that anxiety and lack of concentration can be attributed to thoughts about the past or the future, not the present.
To try mindfulness for yourself, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable, quiet place and sit down. If you find it difficult to sit cross-legged, do what some practitioners do and simply use a chair instead.
- Find a place to rest your hands without tensing your shoulders, perhaps on your knees or your lap.
- Practice taking several deep breaths in through your nose. Pay attention to the rising and falling of your chest, find a steady rhythm and stick with it.
- Close your eyes if it feels natural.
- Pay attention to passing thoughts or physical sensations. “Follow them” back to their source. They may arise from deeper themes of anxiety and fear of situations that have either already happened or may never happen.
- When these thoughts and sensations pass, the goal of mindfulness has been achieved.
While further study is needed, initial research seems to indicate that learning to simply “be in the moment” can be helpful when it comes to arousal. It costs nothing and involves no changes to your body, home or overall lifestyle. It can’t hurt to try.