Mindfulness And The Perilous Present of Sexuality

July 14, 2015
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Mindfulness And The Perilous Present of Sexuality

A few days ago, Kinkly published a lovely piece by writer Jillian Boyd about applying mindfulness practices in the bedroom. Her piece, which cited a study by Pascal de Sutter – he’s a professor at the University of Louvain department of Sexology and Family Science – about correlating orgasm and bodily focus, gives a glimpse into fears she’s had whilst in carnal embrace. According to Boyd, practicing mindfulness can bring you into the moment and help focus the mind on what’s going on in the body during coitus.

In using mindfulness to overcome mid-coital anxieties, Boyd is absolutely correct in many ways. During sex, it’s pretty common for stressful thoughts and outcroppings of anxiety to ruin the moment. Enjoyment can be derailed pretty quickly by any and all passing thoughts not related to the activities at hand.

The practice of mindfulness can definitely aid in sexual play and practice. Finding your way back to the moment is definitely an important part of meaningful and well-orchestrated pleasure times.

However, there are problems with invoking mindfulness. Being mindful, by certain definitions, is living in the moment, not letting the past or future, both constructs of a nutty consciousness, intervene in the present. Like being at an outdoor music festival forever. This definition is limiting, though, and puts a neat little bow on mindfulness, as if it’s a one-stop shop for lifelong joy and merriment. In actuality, mindfulness, when meditation is practiced, is far from serenity.

Being mindful does mean being present, but the immediate isn’t always a serene place. Depending on which mountaintop guru you’re talking to, it may not even be a place at all, but another illusory point of focus erected by an anxious, fearful mind. When meditating, it’s actually not that wise to say, “I’m here, I’m now,” on repeat, because that, like everything else, is a thought, and the more actualizing you’re doing, the more that thought is going to go sour on you.

I was taught meditation some time ago, and I remember it as being quite simple. When sitting, all you’re doing is sitting and breathing, not pondering the existential meaning of this or that. All you do is sit down – preferably on a cushion – get in a half or full lotus, straighten up that strong back, gaze forward, and breathe. Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth, filling the belly with air and not raising the shoulders. It’s basic goodness, sitting and breathing, practicing being without all the illusions of self.

So what happens when there’s a pesky thought? I was once meditating when suddenly a really bad breakup rampaged in. In meditation, you don’t push thoughts away or dwell on them. Rather, you let them in kindly, and let them out just as kindly on the breath. But thoughts, like my breakup, sometimes stay around and muck up the place. Don’t worry, though, even the worst thoughts will drift away. Problem is, you do the same thing with really, really good thoughts.

An adult film stud once said that to stay erect, one of his tricks was deep, methodical breathing. His focus seems to be on the breath, not the act at hand itself, so whatever problem arises can be dealt with meditatively, as in, let go on the breath. Even the fear of not having good enough sex is just another thought to be let go gently. Or the triumph of thinking the sex is amazing? Let go on the breath. Mindfulness is embracing the transitory nature of experience, not zeroing in on a present that’ll fade away as soon as you believe you’ve grasped it

The moral of the story is this: be careful of mindfulness. Sitting practice and applied meditation can really, really help, but not if it’s thought of as goal-oriented or a fix for a problem that was very much dreamed up in the first place.

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