Therapy has come a long way over the years. Not only in the way of social acceptance, but in practice, too. Today, you can find a specialist to help you with almost any particular, including sex. For that, we can thank the likes of Freud, Kinsey, Masters and Johnson and more. Still, the realm of sex therapy continues to evolve. And a new concept has been making its way into that world. “Mindfulness” refers to the ancient Buddhist practice of becoming fully present in both body and mind. And a growing pool of sexologists say it’s time to bring it into the bedroom. Dr. Laurie Mintz is one of them. In her book, Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters, And How To Get It, she covers the concept of “mindful sex,” and walks readers through the ways in which it can help correct dysfunction, increase arousal, and intensify orgasm. Curious, we spoke with Mintz about her feelings on mindfulness and how it can lead to better sex for all parties.
What is your brief definition of mindfulness as it relates to sexuality?
To me, mindfulness is about having your mind and body in the same place, in space and time. When I talk about it in terms of sexuality, I talk about being fully immersed in the moment rather than thinking of other things, like ‘Do I smell ok?’ or ‘Am I taking too long to orgasm?’ or ‘What’s my partner thinking about me right now?’ Those thoughts tend to feed into a concept we in the field of sex therapy call ‘spectator sex.’ It refers to when you became an observer of your own experience. Mindfulness is one way to get out of that pattern. It’s all about being immersed in the body’s sensations, as both a giver and receiver of touch.
I’m guessing a lot of people partake in ‘spectator sex.’ In what ways can a wandering mind hamper the sexual experience?
If you’re too stuck in your head, you’re not going to enjoy the experience. You’re not going to be paying attention to the pleasurable sensations sex can deliver. And that’s also going to interfere with orgasm. It’s kind of like sports. The less you let your mind wander, the more you put into the game, and the better you’ll perform.
In your experience, does that affect men and women differently?
Women often worry about the way they look, or the way they smell during sex. But male anxiety often centers on the penis. They worry if it will stay hard, will it be hard enough, and will it last long enough. That kind of anxiety is one of the main culprits in erectile dysfunction. Mindfulness can really help with that.
What do people tend to get wrong about mindful sex?
There is a huge misunderstanding out there about mindfulness. A lot of people think if their mind wanders, they’ve failed; they didn’t accomplish this ‘mindfulness’ thing. The reality is that everybody’s mind wanders. The practice of mindful sex is about recognizing when that happens, and being able to bring it back quickly.
So how would a beginner go about incorporating mindfulness into sex?
I usually describe it with the help of a metaphor. I ask people to imagine they’re on a roller coaster. As you’re getting buckled in, your mind starts going. You wonder if you’re in safely, you wonder if the ride will be ok, you wonder why you got on in the first place, but as you descend downhill, those thoughts dissipate. You’re just feeling. That state of simply feeling without thinking is the goal of mindfulness.
I suggest trying to apply it to some everyday activities before bringing it into sex. You can even practice while brushing your teeth. Instead of just mindlessly brushing, try focusing on the feeling of the toothbrush in your mouth, of the bristles against your teeth; think about the way the toothpaste tastes. Every moment can be a mindful one.
I’m guessing this concept will be particularly beneficial to those dealing with a lot of stressors. Like, say, parents.
Becoming a parent is going to take a toll on your sex life. Period. You can’t just have sex at any time. You’re tired. You’re thinking about the baby. You’re worried the kids are going to walk in. It would be incredibly helpful, in that regard, for new parents to learn about mindfulness. They need to learn how to bring their mind back to where they are instead of worrying about something else, somewhere else.
So, how can couples help each other remain “mindful” during sex?
Achieving mindfulness tends to be more of an individual exercise but couples can help bring each other back into the body. I remember years ago when I was going through a very stressful period of time and I was just not really there during a sexual encounter with my husband. So he of course asked what was going on. The truth is, I was looking for a new job and was basically writing my vitae in my head. He tried to bring my mind back into where we were. I think he gave me a back rub or something. The point is, having your mind wander off doesn’t have to be this big shameful thing. Sharing about the experience can be really helpful.