Practicing Pleasure: An Excerpt from Good Sex
Excerpted from Good Sex: Getting Off Without Checking Out by Jessica Graham.
Mindfulness meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. The Buddha taught his followers how to meditate on the breath, physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts way before mindfulness became the wildly popular word it is today. It’s a tried and true practice that has stood the test of time.
Mindfulness is the practice of greeting all experiences with acceptance and curiosity. It allows you to know what you are feeling when you are feeling it and what you are thinking when you are thinking it. It opens up a small space before acting on a thought. It’s a path that allows you to stop resisting what is and embrace the present moment. In Good Sex, we focus primarily on mindfulness meditation, traditionally called vipassana, which means to see things as they really are. We will also explore loving-kindness or Mētta practice, as well as many special exercises aimed at bringing more mindfulness into your sex life.
Even during my early encounters in which I didn’t always value the quality of my sexual experiences, my sex life has always been very important to me. I’ve seen sex as a creative way to connect with myself and other people. You might say it’s been my hobby, or my extreme sport. For a big chunk of my sexually active years, though, I was selling myself (and my partners) short. I was not in touch with my body. I couldn’t feel the subtle vibrations after an orgasm ends, or the warmth that spreads across my inner thighs and stomach when I become aroused, or the tingle in my chest when I get kissed exactly the way I like.
When I started practicing meditation, I didn’t set out to have better sex. In fact, I didn’t actually know what I was missing at that time. I set out to process years of painful emotional buildup and hopefully to grow spiritually. I didn’t know that by sitting quietly each day and exploring the sensations in my body, I would start having mind-blowing sex. It makes sense, though. The more I got to know my body, the more it could offer me.
How do we begin to bring this freshness into our sexual expression? The first place to start is where you are right now. In your body. When you are in your body, you get the full experience of pleasure, not a watered-down one.
You would think that everyone would want to be in their bodies during sex. It feels good, right? But many people are having disembodied sex. I used to be one of them. I felt the broad strokes (like climax), but all the subtle sensation was ignored. Even our orgasms are greatly limited when we aren’t mindful with the body. There is so much more to be felt when we bring mindfulness to our bodies during sex.
Learning New Tricks
I often hear from people about “that one amazing time” they had, and how they just want to get back to that. Some go so far as to use the memory of a good lay to get off every time they have sex. There is certainly nothing wrong with recalling especially satisfying sessions. I’ve laughed with partners about how a really hot time can keep the fires burning for weeks between us. Just the mention of it is all the foreplay we need! But overly relying on memories to be able to have pleasure during sex is limiting and disconnects us from our partner. We are just replaying the past like a movie in our minds instead of actively engaging with the present moment. Fantasy absolutely has a place in mindful sex, but we don’t want it to be our only option.
I know letting go of what works for you, what gets you off, can be hard to do. But I promise you it will be worth it. You can also come back to your old tricks from time to time, or maybe expand upon them. Being more grounded in your body will only make these tricks better anyway. Nurturing a relationship with your body will give you a new blueprint for pleasure. You will wonder how you ever had sex without the emphasis on embodiment. That has certainly been my experience.
Pleasure Boost Practice
- Settle into your posture and relax from your head to your feet.
- After relaxing your whole body, feel a spot that feels most relaxed. When you find an area of the body where pleasure is present, focus your attention there.
- If you’d like, you can use the label PLEASURE to acknowledge the sensation.
- Really feel the relaxation. Use your physical awareness to notice the temperature and size of the relaxed sensation. Is it spreading out or moving around?
- You can stay with this sensation or move to other relaxed sensations in the body.
- You can zoom your attention into a small area of relaxation or zoom out to cover relaxed sensations in your whole body.
- Keep coming back to what is relaxed without trying to get rid of what isn’t.
- Anytime you are pulled into your thoughts, gently return to your body and the pleasurable sensations you are aware of.
People often miss that there are opportunities to feel pleasure all the time. Here are just a few examples:
- Eating a delicious meal when you are really hungry
- Climbing into bed after a long day
- A hot shower or bath
- Having good sex
This is a short list—there are so many more pleasurable moments throughout the day. All you need to do is start to bring your attention to them. By practicing this technique, you’ll become more sensitized to instances of pleasure.