byWe have sex for a lot of reasons.
We do it for power and prestige. We do it to please our partners or because we assume it’s expected of us. We do it to emulate the plasticized people we see in porn.
We forget the part where sex is supposed to be about play and intimacy with another human being. We forget the part where it’s supposed to be fun.
Mindful sex is a very deep form of connection not only with another person, but also with our own bodies, our own desires, and our own pleasure. It’s one of the most fun presence practices we can do. Here are three rules to activate a playful, pleasurable, mindful sexual connection.
Rule No. 1: Be Present
One of the best ways to become present is to focus on the body. The mind can time travel to the past or the future, but the body can only ever be here and now. When we’re having sex, the body is experiencing sensations that are somewhat unpredictable because another person is involved. It’s a perfect time to practice presence.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to stay with how we feel. We over focus on what the other person is experiencing, how we’re performing, or what we look like naked. Spectatoring is a known phenomenon where we disconnect from what’s happening and judge ourselves as if from the outside. Nothing shuts down pleasure and presence more quickly than obsessive self-judgment.
Mindfulness teaches us to observe whatever is happening and be kind to ourselves. It can also teach us how to adjust our attention. So we may very well notice that we are spectatoring. We can remind ourselves that it’s okay, it’s just something that’s happening right now. Then, just as we do in a meditation practice, we can redirect our attention to our breath. We can breathe deep down into our bellies and focus on the sensations that we are feeling, allowing ourselves to relax, softening our grip on what we look like or what our partner thinks of our cellulite.
This is, obviously, a practice, and it can take time to get better at it—so it’s a great reason to keep having more sex!
Rule No. 2: Let Go of Goals
One of the quickest ways to skip out on the present is to focus on goals. Many of us think that the point of sex is, first, penetration, and secondly, orgasm. Orgasm generally doesn’t show up when it’s forced or rushed, and a person needs to feel safe and relaxed in order to allow for that release to happen. Like any good introvert, orgasms don’t like to come to the party if they know they are going to be the center of attention—especially if they have to show up alone. Orgasms need foreplay. Lots of it.
Penetration is the act that we tend to associate with sex, but we really would do well as a society to let that go. It’s only relatively easy and comfortable for heterosexual couples, but even for them, it’s not the best way to make most women have an orgasm. The clitoris is an internal structure that wraps around the vagina and pokes its head out out just above the vagina, in an area that avoids most penetration. The clitoris generally needs different kinds of stimulation instead of or in addition to penetration for a woman to access orgasm. Further, some women suffer from pain with penetration for many different reasons, and pain (well, the wrong kind of pain anyway) is a quick way to shut down any possibility of orgasm.
Sex is, fundamentally, unstructured adult play. Refocusing on what feels good in the moment, what would be fun to try, and what is delicious and delightful right now rather than worrying about who’s coming and when and what it all means can go a long way toward actually enjoying the sex we’re having.
Rule No. 3: Listen with the Body
Many of us are very stuck in our heads. We judge and analyze everything, trying to solve all of our problems by thinking about them. There’s a time and a place for that, of course, but the body has its own wisdom. When we are having sex, we have an opportunity to let the body guide us toward what feels good and away from what doesn’t. We can listen to our own bodies, but we can also learn to listen to our partner’s body as well.
We do this partly by listening for the breath. If someone is breathing deeply, they are generally present with their pleasure. If their breathing is getting faster and more intense, their pleasure is probably getting more intense, too. If they stop breathing, they’ve almost certainly tensed up, and this can be a signal that the body is saying “no” (though some people tense up and stop breathing during orgasm). In general, we should pay attention to tension and relaxation patterns both in our own bodies and our partner’s. This is a key to nonverbal consent. Of course we must listen to our partners if they tell us “no” or “stop” with their words, but for many of us, the body knows whether or not we like something long before the voice can speak. The body can communicate in real time.
In general, anything we do to a partner sexually should also be pleasurable for us. This is partly where the deep, nonverbal sense of connection comes through in a sexual experience. If we are doing something that our partner likes but we are bored, annoyed, or in pain, our partner’s body may notice that before their mind does (at least, if they are connected to us and care how we feel) and they will not be able to let go as fully. Whatever we are doing to give our partner pleasure should also be pleasurable for us. When we know that they are doing the same, we can relax and let go enough to have a really, really good time—mindfully, of course.
Julie Peters is a staff writer for Spirituality & Health. She is also a yoga teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) and co-owner of Ocean and Crow Yoga studio in Vancouver, BC, with her mom, Jane. She is the author of Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (SkyLight Paths 2016) and the forthcoming WANT: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media 2019). Learn more at www.jcpeters.ca. Follow her at @juliejcp.