Bring Sexual Pleasure In Your Life With Mindful Embodiment

Written by Stephanie Hulsmann
Enhancing Sexual Pleasure

Many clients who come to sex therapy are young, healthy, and in happy relationships, yet they still struggle with sexual difficulties. Although their presentation might be different, one common factor is that they all report a difficulty staying present to their sexual experience.

Client’s state that one moment they are in the moment but next moment their mind wanders and the moment is gone.

It becomes awkward for men who can easily lose their erection, which can become a source of tension within their relationship, as they risk the other person blaming themselves. Whilst it isn’t as obvious for women it is still just as frustrating and sex soon loses its appeal.

The following article looks at how contemporary society can have a negative influence on how we enjoy sexual relationships. It explores the practices of mindful embodiment and how it can help us overcome sexual difficulties and enhance our enjoyment of sex.

Mindful embodiment is the process of becoming consciously aware of our body – how we breathe, move and posture, and our experience of feelings and sensations. It is about drawing on the resources of our body, its intelligence and tools, to create a more meaningful way of being in the world.

When we habitually forget about our bodies, and live from our minds, we are no longer present to the sexual experience.

When we learn to stay present through mindful embodiment practices we can create an internal environment that supports receptivity, openness, curiosity, playfulness, which are essential elements to pleasurable and fulfilling sexual relationships.

The Modern Dilemma: Ignoring The Body

Ignoring The Body

We live in a highly industrialized and computerized society that values information, productivity, and entertainment. Since the introduction of high-speed internet, there is never a dull moment and we can be constantly entertained or distracted.

We work, communicate, socialize, shop, bank and seek entertainment through our screens. On one hand life is easier but on the other hand we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, pressured, anxious and sometimes depressed.

Computer work, whilst mentally stimulating and an essential part of daily living, does little to enhance the awareness of our body. We may notice aches and pains, but often dismiss more subtle sensations and messages of the body.

We are too busy with work, friends and family, and when we finally get a moment we just want to relax with a drink and TV show, other forms of entertainment. Endemic in modern day society is the tendency towards escapism.

It has become increasingly easy to distract our minds rather than staying with uncomfortable feelings. Entertainment and sources of escapism are readily at hand, easy and accessible, and we can simply go through life half here, and half somewhere else. Never really feeling fully present.

People’s sex and relational lives have been largely impacted by the trends in contemporary society. Not only are we becoming too busy and tired for sex, many people don’t know what good sex feels or looks like.

The majority of people’s sex education is absorbed through online pornography. Pornography is based on men’s sexual fantasies and is purely for entertainment, not education. Yet it is the most accessible medium we have if we are curious about sex.

Sex is largely learnt through experience. Some of us are lucky to have great sexual experiences that have a positive impact on our psyche. However, many people have bad experiences and can find sexual relationships challenging.

Uncomfortable feelings

Sex is a highly sensitive and loaded subject that is often accompanied by strong feelings around shame and guilt. These feelings can feel intolerable for many people, who will often choose to disassociate or numb uncomfortable feelings.

For many people, who find feelings too unbearable, intimate sexual experiences can be torturous. Some men, and women, find sex with their partner so challenging they would rather watch porn as it feels comparatively familiar and safer.

Our sexuality lies at the heart of our innocence, wildness and vulnerability. If we feel safe and relaxed within our body, we can enjoy sexual moments with playfulness, curiosity and openness.

Sex is an embodied, intimate and sensual experience that can be indescribably pleasurable. However, if we want the benefits of sex we need to be able to stay be present to the sexual moment with self-assuredness and curiosity.

Understanding the mind/body connection and learning to resource the body may provide the key to remaining present and embodied during sex.

West Meets East: Acknowledging The Mind-Body Connection

The Mind-Body Connection

For over 5000 years ancient medical traditions in the East have acknowledged the body/mind connection. Practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga, all acknowledge and work with to the mind/body connection to help restore equilibrium to the body.

These ancient practices have holistic approaches to healing and being in the world, and the understanding of the interconnection of the body, mind and soul and its relationships to nature.
It uses energetic practices, exercises, herbs, diet, massage to address physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances. The mind and body are treated simultaneously.

Western medicine has predominantly held a dualist perspective of the mind and body, perceiving and treating them separately.

Doctors deal with physical ailments, whilst psychiatrists and psychotherapists treat the client’s emotional world. In recent years, however, neuroscientists now have access to technologies, such as brain scanning imagery, that can verify what the ancient medical practices have always known: the mind and body are interconnected.

Slowly there is a movement amongst western medical practitioner to work with the physical body when addressing emotional and psychological issues. For example, science has now shown that 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut and therefore developing healthy digestion and gut flora can help the treatment of depression.

Mental health specialists

Trauma and mental health specialists now claim that yoga has a better treatment outcome then medication when it comes to working with PTSD and other trauma disorders.

Working with the body and physical health is more than digestion and healthy eating, which is just one aspect of healing. It’s about movement, posture, relaxation/tension, grounding, centering, and breathing.

Our body is a feeling, sensing organ that is constantly engaging and retrieving experiential data. How we move in the world reflects our life’s experiences. Our body holds and represents the story of our entire life.

It is not merely a part of us that is controlled by our brain, our body also sends messages to our brain. Understanding this provides us with the key to understanding how to support and managing emotional challenges.

When we become more aware of our body and how we move through the world, we develop a deeper sense of self-knowing and self-mastery.

Creating Safety Through Self-Function: Bringing The Body Back Into Sex

Self-Function

Many people will never seek support for their sexual issues, choosing to suffer in solitude, whilst becoming stuck in a sexual rut. Delving into sexual exploration and talking about sex is also hard.

Sexual memories or experiences can trigger the most vulnerable feelings around being acceptable. If we feel unsupported or unsafe, exploring deeper sexual feelings can feel too risky.

If our mind and body has perceived a situation as a potential risk, then becoming embodied and present to the moment is almost impossible.

When we feel unsure, threatened or uncomfortable, the part of our brain which is creative, curious and playful brain is no longer online, the nervous system is activated and primed for defence, our autonomic nervous system is activated– ready for fight or flight.

We can either shut down or retreat, or go into defence with criticism and anger. When we are activated, it is not possible to be in the present moment, relaxing and soaking it the experience.

The first step in bringing the body back into sex, is to create a sense of safety. The body needs to feel safe enough to allow for curiosity, play and exploration, which are all essential elements of good sex.

We need to first become centred and grounded, whilst soothing our nerves with slow mindful breathing techniques.

Learning these simple techniques can immediately help restore balance as it sends a message to the brain the its ok to relax, we are no longer in danger. When we feel grounded and centred within ourselves we can then be in the present and fully engaged in the moment

Quick Fixes

We have also been conditioned to want quick fixes. If a man is struggling with maintaining an erection, he is likely to go to his GP for a prescription for Viagra, rather than exploring the actual cause and adjusting his life accordingly. Short term medication use always has its place but I believe it is essential to also work therapeutically with the issue whilst developing healthy self-supporting skills.

Developing mindful embodiment practices takes time and effort but the benefits worthwhile. Through habitual and mindful embodiment, we develop skills for self-management and sow the seeds for personal transformation, rather than finding ourselves in a sexual rut and becoming reliant on an external source of support.

Introducing Mindful Embodiment Practices

Mindful Embodiment Practices

Mindfulness embodiment practices need to become part of our daily lives. The more frequently and regularly we remember to tune into the mind body connection, and check in to the body, the more habitual the process will become.

Our relationship with our body is similar to any other intimate relationship we have – it needs love and attention to flourish. Initially we begin by testing the field and having planned dates, or initially doing a few classes and learning a few things.

If we fall in love, we may decide to merge, and the relationship becomes part of daily life. Similarly, our relationship to mindful embodiment, over time, can become a way of life, and a state of being.

Practices need to be pleasurable if we want to have any chance of incorporating them into our lives. Any practice that uses the body, mind, breath to soothes the parasympathetic nervous system and create a sense of calm and relaxation is essential.

There are many disciplines that practice mindful embodiment and it is important to find one that really work for our lifestyle.

Practices such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, dance, martial arts, Alexander technique, meditation, are some practices that draw on the breath, movement, and mindfulness, therefore providing us the skills and resources needed for embodied exploration.

The elements of play, spontaneity and exploration may come into play later when we begin to feel comfortable in our embodied existence.

It is similar to learning an instrument, it is hard learning, but when we develop a certain ease and connectedness with our instrument, we feel more inclined to explore, improvise and play. Beginning is always hard.

Support of a Therapist

Initially when we are trying to bring mindful embodiment practices into our daily life, we may need the support of a therapist or teacher, who can keep us inspired and on track for change.

Often, we become stuck because we don’t have enough support in our life to facilitate the process of change. Change can feel daunting to many and this is why we often need the most support at the beginning.

Read More: Sexual Decline In Aging-How To Be More Sexually Active

Therapy can be the essential to the process of change as it provides us the necessary support to gives us confidence to start moving forward.

Through a slow process of transformation, as we develop more self-functions, we gradually need less support and become more self-reliant. When we can be comfortable in our embodied reality, we can then start to enjoy sex again.

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Author

Contributor : Stephanie Hulsmann ()

This Article Has Been Published on November 22, 2017 and Last Modified on October 1, 2018

Stephanie Hulsmann is a Fully Qualified Sex & Relationship therapist in East Melbourne. She worked in healthcare for over 20 years and holds both a Masters in Gestalt Therapy and a Masters of Sexology. Stephanie Hulsmann is Vice President of the Society of Australian Sexologists (SAS) Ltd and a registered member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA). Visit her website-www.StephanieHulsmannSexTherapist.com.au, also connect with her on LinkedIn.

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