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Mindful Sex

by Andy Puddicombe

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Meditation and sex might not be the two things you’d most naturally associate. One involves sitting alone in silence while the other is rather more active, often noisier, and ideally involves someone else. But sex is much more than just a physical activity. Your enjoyment of it has a huge amount to do with your attitude toward the experience and, as such, mindfulness can play a big part in helping you to have the best experience possible. The mental aspect of sex is hugely important in developing and maintaining intimacy and keeping that spark of passion alight.

In terms of clinical research, it’s still the early days and most of the studies have been pilot studies – albeit in very respected medical institutions. One which is often quoted in relation to mindfulness and libido is a study among women at the University of British Columbia, at their Centre for Sexual Medicine. After taking standard tests of sexual function, participants took part in three mindfulness meditation sessions (in a group) spaced two weeks apart. Between these sessions, they practiced mindfulness meditation at home (alone) and then after the third group session, they retook the sexual function tests. The course of meditation was shown to increase the women’s desire, arousal, lubrication and sexual satisfaction. In the post-program feedback, the women apparently rated the mindfulness exercises as most helpful aspect of the program, which also included advice and guidance from a gynaecologist and sex therapist.

Sounds good right? So I’ve put together few tips that will hopefully help you have a more mindful sex life.

Learn to switch off autopilot

You know the routine you go through when you pull out in your car? You look at the mirrors, put on your indicators and then apply the gas. You probably do it without even thinking, because it’s become such a hardwired behavior. Now, it’s not a very flattering comparison but it is possible for sex to become a similar matter of routine, particular if you’ve been with your partner for a long time. What you did at first to satisfy each other has become almost automatic. The problem with this is that, just as in the car, the behavior has become so automatic that the mind may not be present at all, and that can be a real passion-killer.

The best way to handle this is to develop your ability to bring your attention back into the body. This is easily done by focusing on your breath at regular intervals throughout the day, when you’re waiting in line, or waiting for the kettle to boil. Concentrate on the flow of air through your nose and mouth, the feeling of diaphragm rising and falling. That way, if you do notice that your mind has wandered when you’re in bed with your partner, you’ll be much more practiced at coming back into your body.

Anchor yourself

Don’t worry, you needn’t physically chain yourself to anything. Just try to notice a physical sensation that’s occurring right now, and if you find your mind wandering, bring your mind back to it. The good news is that the more that you do this, the more neurological pathways are formed, and that means that it’s easier each time. This increases your chances of remaining physically in the here and now, which is just what you need for really great sex.

Start meditating

Developing a meditation practice will really help you get some perspective on the passage of thought through the mind. That way if you do find yourself distracted, you’ll be more aware of the distraction and therefore more able to counter it with mindfulness. Regular meditation has also been shown to reduce the amount of cortisol in the brain, the hormone which we experience as stress. In evolutionary terms cortisol is produced as a ‘fight or flight’ response, so it directs blood to essential functions like the muscles and away from the extremities like the genitals. Cortisol actually reduces the libido (no time for sex if you’re on the run from a sabretooth tiger), so if you lower cortisol you can actually increase libido – which means you’ll want sex more. Your partner is bound to be flattered.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.