Mindfulness & Pleasure
We live in a world with many distractions. Most people are unable to sit still for 30 seconds without reaching for their phone, a remote, or some other object to distract them.
There is an art to being still and truly experiencing the present moment. Many of us lost this in a world where “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and productivity is often prioritized over pleasure. We live in a world where it is easier to live on autopilot day-to-day than to be connected to our surroundings and self.
How often do you take the time to be mindfully present with the current moment? How often are you taking the time to notice what you are feeling, tasting, seeing, hearing, and smelling in your environment. Think about this for a moment: consider how your attention impacts the connection you have to your experiences. Think about eating a raisin. Do you just pop it in your mouth and chew or do you take the time to see the ridges and colors, feel the texture, smell the aromas, hear the chewing, and taste the tart sweetness and, maybe, a little bitterness.
Some of our greatest memories involve being able to smell, see, feel, hear, and taste in that moment. The same goes for our sexual experiences. If we are thinking about what we had for lunch, the kids in the other room, or work, we are missing out on the connection and essence of the experience. This is why the practice of mindfulness can be the key to unlocking consistent pleasure in sexual experiences.
The founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, states that there are seven attitudes to mindfulness:
Acceptance: See things as they are, no matter what’s happening
Beginner’s mind: Allow new possibilities and avoid the rut of getting stuck in your own expertise by being open and curious
Letting go: Let your experience be what it is right now. Don’t hold on to thoughts, emotions, and situations.
Nonjudgment: Act as an impartial witness to your own experience
Non-striving: Be with yourself right here, right now. Don’t try to change what is unfolding
Patience: Accept the fact that things sometimes unfold in their own time
Trust: Know it’s ok to make mistakes. Trust yourself and your feelings
Just imagine how relaxed, engaged, and fun sex can be if you incorporated the above attitudes. Live in a space where every encounter is something new. Let go of the past. Trust yourself. Don’t strive for an outcome but be patient and accepting of you and your partner. That all sounds pretty amazing.
Mindfulness is our ability to be present and fully engaged in our experiences, therefore allowing the experience to have a lasting impact on self. In the act of mindfulness, we notice experiences without judgment, and we honor whatever is present. We learn to keep coming back to the present moment, despite feelings and thoughts that may feel uncomfortable. There is something new to be learned in every moment, when we keep our attention in the here and now.
Our society has trained us to disengage and harshly judge our sexual selves and bodies. Mindfulness practices help our brains to rewire the negative scripts that prevent us from being fully engaged and present in our bodies. This keeps us from accepting ourselves in full totality. It is about awareness over judgement. Notice what is happening, without deciding if it is good or bad, while being kind to ourselves in knowing everything has light and dark.
It is loving to embrace pleasure. It is loving for us to pleasure others. It is okay for us to love our bodies and sit and appreciate all sensations. In many ways mindfulness is mandatory for us to not only survive but thrive and truly connect with others.
According to senior clinical psychologist Dr. Rezvan Ameli, there are two primary components of mindfulness: focused attention and openness of the heart. In your next sexual moment really see what the experience is like when you consistently focus your attention and keep your heart open. This is where meditation and yoga (specifically heart openers) can really help someone reconnect to their sexual selves. Every time you feel your mind drifting refocus your attention on a new action or sensation in present time. Try to envision yourself breathing from your heart and spreading heart energy all over yourself and/or your partner(s). Mindfulness can be the key to recharging your life and sexual self.
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Renée BurwellLCSW, MPA, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist
She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College, a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, a Post Graduate Certificate in Sex Therapy and Education from the University of Michigan, and is AASECT certified as a sex therapist.