April 18, 2012

Making Love Mindfully. ~ Joe Elliott

Photo S. Wright Osment

What is your sex communicating?

“Cellulite and sexual potential are highly correlated.” ~ David Schnarch

Relationships are a powerful mindfulness practice; they bring our faults, assumptions, and bouts of ignorance into awareness, so that we can examine them with a mind towards restoration and repair. In this piece, I take one aspect of relationships, sex, and highlight the ways in which it can be used as a meditation to gather information and improve your relationship.

Photo: Seem-ing Lee

For most of our lives, the notion is perpetuated that our sexual prime occurs in young adulthood, when our bodies are most resilient and when our genitals are most functional. It seems that we don’t hear as much about how our sexual satisfaction and level of stimulation becomes greater as we mature and become more self-aware.

One of the foremost sex therapists, David Schnarch, asserts that as men and women grow older, they become more adventuresome. Women become more comfortable with their genitals and more empowered to pursue sex for pleasure, and men crave more intimacy and emotional connection.

Our relationships are all of one piece.

The quality of our sex lives are inextricably linked to the intimacy that we feel with our partners, and the foundation of intimacy is built on communication.

In sexual interactions, human communication occurs on many levels, but here I want to focus on the verbal, kinesthetic, and meta-level. Becoming aware of what you communicate and what your partner communicates can be considered an awareness practice.

The verbal communication about sex is obvious. But how much do we really talk with our partners about what turns us on, what we like, or find out how to do the things that give them an optimal level of stimulation?

On the kinesthetic level, there are number of subconscious cues that we can tune into that contain messages for us. What happens in our bodies? Do we feel muscle tension and anxiety? How well do our bodies yield to pleasure? When we are kissing, touching, holding, do we feel movement and flexibility or hesitation and retraction? Do we show signs of arousal—wetness and engorgement? Do our hearts pound? Do we feel heat in our bodies when we are with a partner?

On the meta-level, we can be aware of how certain sexual behaviors communicate a symbolic meaning about our relationships. Consider the difference between fucking and making love. Fucking involves pulling, grabbing, and wrestling the partner into the positions and movements that amplify self-gratification. Making love incorporates the wants and needs of the partner and involves creativity, imagination, and play.

Photo: Seem-ing Lee

To learn more about how these dynamics are communicated, you could ask the following:

>How well do you share power in bed?
>Does the same partner always initiate sexual activity?
>Is the level of desire for sex a constant focus of attention?
>Are the sexual acts that are performed, catered to only one person’s pleasure?
>Are there firmly established rules that dictate your sexual relationship with your partner?

In traditional sex therapy, attention is paid to what is communicated and verified in a sexual relationship, as it provides another medium for working towards emotional intimacy.

With an increased capacity for emotional intimacy, there is greater pleasure and physical stimulation. This increased capacity comes through a cultivation of the faculty of differentiation, a quality that comes with self-knowledge and awareness. Using interactions in relationship as a mindfulness practice contributes to this self-knowledge and awareness.

As we grow in self-knowledge and self-awareness, the qualities of our sexual relationship can age like fine wine.


Joe Elliott has been working to help families for the past thirteen years. His specialties are in couples counseling, family therapy, death and dying, parenting, financial management, and adoption. Joe received his undergraduate degree from Naropa University in Psychology and Religious Studies and his Masters in Counseling from Regis University in Denver. Joe completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Denver Family Institute. Joe has also taught Family Therapy to students at Metro State Community College. Find out more here.

Editor: Lorin Arnold



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