If you’ve already used the toilet in front of each other or have had the conversation, “What do you think about when you masturbate?” then you may be ready to move your sex life to the next level of intimacy. And honestly, even if you haven’t, you probably still want better sex. Who doesn’t? And there’s a simple solution: mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
While it’s a simple solution, mindfulness is a not-so-simple practice. Mindfulness takes place when your mind is fully aware of everything you're experiencing in a given moment: what’s happening, what you’re doing, where you’re moving in a space. It gives you a break from all of your mind chatter, because you’re not thinking about what you had for breakfast, worrying about a conversation that will probably not even take place, and so forth. You’re focused on the here and now.
It’s easier said than done, but there’s no way around it: when practiced in the bedroom, it makes the experience of intercourse richer. Do you remember when you first held hands with Kevin Monroe in the sixth grade? Too far back? How about the first kiss? That you must remember. Take a second to engage with any romantic or erotic memory that gives you a visceral reaction. That’s exactly the kind of bodily response we’re trying to elicit with this new mindfulness thing. And while I mentioned it can be difficult, it’s definitely achievable.
As someone with sexual trauma and generally a very busy brain, I’ve struggled with attentiveness during sex. I would get embarrassed when my partner would get frustrated and I was hard on myself. Yes, I was attracted to him and he turned me on, but I just couldn’t focus during the act. To make matters worse, I couldn’t articulate my difficulties, either, so finally I consulted a professional therapist.
She asked the classic doctor line, “What seems to be the problem?” I still wasn’t sure how to answer, but I quickly learned that my affliction was the most common issue she deals with. Many, many women just can’t concentrate or sometimes just can’t get into it, even if they adore their partners… Even if they try things to spice it up… Even if… Even if… There’s no end. So, I posed the question, “Yeah, but how do you do it?
How do you do it?
Well, baby steps. There are any number of ways; it’s all about finding what’s right for you.
You’re not going to try one of these techniques for the first time and all of a sudden have mind-blowing sex. (But if you do, please write to me and tell me what you did.) These things take practice. Plus, I’ll say it again: you’ve got to find what works for you, and in some cases, what works for both of you. Since partner play is collaborative, many of these approaches take two to tango, if you will.
Start with yourself. Learn to pay attention to how you pay attention. Similar to a meditation practice, focus on your breath. Be aware of when it quickens and when it slows with a moan. Feel your stomach rise when you inhale and flatten when you exhale. When your mind wanders, come back to your breath without self-judgement. Here’s a 5-minute beginners guide to cultivate your mindfulness outside of the bedroom first.
This is not only about your connection with yourself, but with your partner as well. Talk to your partner about wanting to improve mindfulness during sex. Start by discussing all of the things you love about your sex life thus far. Your partner may feel vulnerable during this conversation; no need to damage any egos here! In my case, my desire to improve my ability to be present during sex had nothing to do with him at all. It’s exciting to most people to want to take things to the next level. Keep in mind that it’s flattering that you’d want to increase intimacy in the first place.
And then, when the time is right for sex, try setting the mood by changing your lighting so it’s dim but not pitch black. You can perhaps light some candles and or maybe try incense you both like. This is especially good if you only use a particular scent when you’re going to have sex, because it’ll trigger a happy memory response and get you all the more ready and turned on. This is making your sex ceremonial, which has a powerful effect on the psyche, and thus is setting you up for success.
Breathwork and Sensory Play
Remember the breathwork you cultivated earlier on? Try it out during foreplay. Aim to synchronize your breath – it’s a great way to connect with them and get out of your head. This will set you up for another powerful mindfulness tactic, which is to try to engage your senses as much as possible. Notice the way your partner’s skin feels on yours, the way they’re touching you… And then actively feel that touch just by paying attention to it. Run your fingers along your partner’s body: be aware of every curve, the smoothness, the roughness. Only focus on what your fingers are feeling at any given point in time. Absorb their energy through your touch. This keeps your mind in the present moment’s thoughts and actions.
It’s a lot more challenging than it sounds, but try keeping your eyes open. If you’re staring at each other, whether into each other’s eyes or at each other’s bodies, you’re completely forced into the moment. You have no choice but to focus on the deed. It may be a little awkward at first, but if you commit to having eyes open, you’re likely to get over that quickly and move on to feeling the thrill. Because it’s shockingly intimate, and how hot is that?
Talk to Each Other
You can also work on how you talk during sex. People often feel insecure about their dirty talk game, and that’s ok; there seems to be a lot of pressure or expectations with it. But it’s amazing to be vulnerable while having sex, and if you give yourself permission to just voice how you’re feeling at any given moment. Forget the clichés you’ve seen in movies and just focus on what’s happening: verbalize that you like something your partner does or to articulate how scintillating something feels or state how sexy you think your partner is. This brings you into the moment and out of your head. You may think it’d put you back into your head, because you’re nervous about something sounding dumb, and fair enough. But that’s the vulnerability factor that’s ultimately working in your favor. Try having a talk with your partner about it first to mutually agree to this sans judgement.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t judge yourself for having not practiced mindfulness thus far, and don’t judge yourself as you embark on your journey of mindfulness. Key word: journey. Practicing mindfulness during sex can be challenging. Speaking from experience, it can feel like one step forward, two steps back at times. But ultimately it has been totally worth it. I believe that when you incorporate these and other mindfulness techniques, they can vastly improve the quality of your sex life.