Lose yourself in the moment, not in your mind
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Your partner’s lying on top of you in bed, passionately kissing you. Their lips are soft and supple and their tongue dances with yours. They go from your mouth to your neck and to your chest, making their way down and around, planting gentle kisses as they move along. It feels good, it feels really good. Their tongue flicks in all the right ways, and their mouth drives you to squirm. Your body tenses. Your toes curl.
You feel the pressure building inside you, waiting for the perfect moment of release. You wait and wait, but you still haven’t come. Is it taking too long? Are they getting bored? Now you’ve gotten too in your head, which has taken you out of the moment, probably taking your orgasm with it.
Psychologists call this kind of mid-sex mind wandering “spectatoring,” and it usually leads to lower sexual pleasure and fewer orgasms. Spectatoring most often appears as analyzing and worrying about either your physical appearance or your sexual performance. Really, who can orgasm when you’re thinking about all that? Luckily, practicing sexual mindfulness can help connect your mind and body so you can fully experience all the pleasures of sex.
What is sexual mindfulness?
Sexual mindfulness is “present-moment, non-judgmental awareness.” Essentially, sexual mindfulness helps you to focus completely on what’s happening right in front of (or below) you and to fully experience the sensations that come with it.
Practicing sexual mindfulness doesn’t mean you won’t get distracted during sex or have unrelated thoughts. Instead, mindfulness means noticing these distracting thoughts, observing them and then letting them go without judgment.
Dr. Laurie Mintz, an author, therapist and professor at the University of Florida, says she imagines distracting thoughts being carried away on a gentle conveyor belt.
Mindfulness comes from Buddhist traditions and meditation techniques, but modern uses of mindfulness for sexual pleasure were first introduced in the ‘60s by gynecologist William Masters and psychologist Virginia Johnson. While they didn’t specifically use the word “mindfulness” to describe their work, it is at the very core of their technique. The “sensate focus” technique has partners touch each other and focus on the sensations of the touches, instead of focusing on their thoughts about the experience or anything unrelated.
Sensate focus is the basis for more recent mindfulness practices, which have surpassed their predecessor by focusing on both partnered and individual play. They involve paying attention to more senses than just touch, such as the smell of a partner or the sound of your heavy breathing.
Does sexual mindfulness even work?
Multiple studies have been conducted by Lori Brotto, a researcher and professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia, which have found that women who practiced sexual mindfulness experienced higher levels of sexual desire and arousal, decreased sexual distress and less pain during sex than those who didn’t. These women were also more aware of how their bodies responded to sexual stimuli, which resulted in them finding the experiences to be more arousing.
Women aren’t the only beneficiaries of sexual mindfulness, though. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that mindfulness can be useful for treating situational erectile dysfunction, which is when a man can physically get an erection but cannot maintain it in certain situations. Other studies suggest that mindfulness can also be used to help with premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation and decreased sexual desire.
Sexual mindfulness can also help everybody to better communicate about sex. Alex Iantaffi and Sara Mize, a sex therapist and psychologist at the University of Minnesota, found that by holding less self-judgment and having more body awareness, people were better able to talk openly with their partners about sex — what they like or don’t like, and what may be causing them pain — as well as better communicate with health care practitioners.
Many of the issues that arise in partnered and individual sex come from feelings of stress or anxiety about any number of things, such as unwanted pregnancy, performance anxiety or stresses from daily life. Sexual mindfulness allows you to get out of your head, let all the stress slip away and focus on the physical pleasures.
OK, this mindfulness thing sounds pretty cool. How can I do it?
Mindfulness takes practice. You don’t have to go on week-long meditation retreats or seclude yourself from society; Just practice by being present in the things you do every day. Focus on the different flavors in your dinner and how the food feels in your mouth. Notice how your muscles tighten as you exercise, and listen to your breathing as you run.
Slowly move these mindfulness practices into the bedroom. Focus on the way you like to touch yourself, how each movement makes you feel and which ones make you tingle. Focus on the way your partner's hands feel gliding across your skin, the way your breath catches when they pull you in close. Notice the smell of your partner’s sweat, the sound of your breathing, the taste of their lips.
But most importantly, stop focusing on the end-goal, the climax, the orgasm. Let yourself be completely submerged in the moment. Focus on the physical, and your mind will be blown in the end.
Rachel Kutcher is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She loves the rain, candles, fancy cocktails, collecting jars and New Girl’s Nick Miller. Her passions include destigmatizing sex, empowering women and exploring cultures through food. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.