One of my favourite books on Zen, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," begins with this sentence:
Can Mindfulness Improve Your Sex Life?
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.
Mindfulness, the practice of being present and aware, is the way to cultivate a beginner's mind. Cultivating a beginner's mind is a great way to improve your sex life.
Think about what a beginner's mind helps you find: new ideas, new fantasies, new toys, and new techniques. If you have a beginner's mind, you're never bored or jaded; you're always curious and willing to experience new things.
The practice of mindfulness, of course, begins with meditation. Take it off the mat or cushion and into the bedroom (or living room, or dungeon, or kitchen...), and you'll soon experience new heights of pleasure and awareness. Here's why.
Mindfulness Shuts Down the Autopilot
We live most of our lives on autopilot. We're not thinking about every step we take, every breath we inhale, or every movement we make.
Yet, when it comes to sex, being on autopilot means being disconnected. If you're not attending to what you're doing and how you feel, you quickly get distracted. Thinking about your grocery list while your partner is pleasuring you? That's a sign that your autopilot is on ... and a sign that the sex is not going to be very good.
When we learn awareness and intention, we can attend to our bodies and our actions more carefully. We feel more sensations, more pleasure. Every movement we make has purpose. Most importantly, we're paying attention.
Mindfulness Stops the Orgasm Race
Does your sex suffer from the orgasm race? By that, I mean, do you have sex just to get to the orgasm?
Although orgasms are great, you're missing out on all the pleasure and intimacy of the buildup. Foreplay is pleasurable, sometimes even more so, than a quick orgasm.
When we're racing to orgasm, we're likely not paying much attention to how we feel in the moment. We're just thinking about the goal, and we lose plenty of sensations and possibilities for intimacy and pleasure along the way.
Mindfulness teaches you how to slow down and "smell the roses." It shows you how important it is to stop running from one activity to another, always moving, never still.
Mindfulness Helps Release You from Triggers
Everyone has triggers. Some of us have sex-related triggers. The beauty of mindfulness is that it teaches us how to recognize the triggers and how to stop them from affecting us without notice.
When you develop mindfulness, you become aware of when your mind starts drifting, when you start reacting, or when you start losing awareness. You also learn how to return to your breath and your body and the present moment, no matter what. The trigger might still happen, but you'll be able to see it, feel it, and then go back to enjoying the present moment.
Mindfulness Quiets Self-Judgement
Another thing you learn in mindfulness is how to shut down the judging mind. "This is good. This is not good. This is terrible. I am ugly. This is shameful." We all have these judgements about ourselves and others floating about in our minds virtually all the time.
Except, none of these judgments is true. They're just thoughts. They're only an interpretation of reality, but they are not real. Yet, we tend to believe them as if they were real. That hurts us in so many ways ... and lots of them have to do with sex.
When we learn to practice non-judgement, we get better at letting go of this little voice that evaluates everything. Instead of saying "this is bad," we attend to the unpleasant feeling.
For example, if our partner does something we don't like, we can say "This is unpleasant," or "This doesn't feel good to me," instead of "You're crappy at this." Imagine how different your partner feels when they hear the former rather than the latter!
Mindfulness Grounds You
Mindfulness is a grounding practice. It grounds you in your body and your breath. No matter what happens to you or around you, you are always capable of returning to your breath and to your sensations.
And, as we know, knowing how to breathe is good for sex - no wonder Tantric practices begin with breathing!
To get the full benefits of mindfulness in your sex life, it's best to have a daily mindfulness practice. There are plenty of books and videos online to get you started with a simple home practice. Make it an activity you do with your partner every day, so you can support and encourage each other.
Whatever happens, always remember to breathe.