Making Love Mindfully. ~ Joe Elliott

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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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The Elephant Ecosystem

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anonymous Nov 17, 2013 11:22pm

Spot on! As an older woman I can say that I feel more free than I did in youth, more sure of myself and enjoying it more and more often, too! My sweetheart and I enjoy secret giggles that we probably have more sex than our kids do…aging like fine wine? Yes! Adventuresome, romantic and very sensual…we are nearly 60 and having the time of our life 🙂

anonymous Nov 17, 2013 9:31pm

This article is really little more than rehash of articles an books already published. I’m in a relationship where my wife is everything I need, but very little, if any, of what I want. We’ve communicated just fine over the years. What I want sexually isn’t what she wants sexually, and what she wants sexually is frankly mundane and lacking any real effort or imagination. I’m betting there’s a lot more people out there in same boat I am, but like me they have no idea what to do other than let go of the idea of sexual satisfaction ever existing again. You don’t leave a person because just one aspect of your lives together is crap. So what do you do???

This article, like so many others, doesn’t even scratch the surface of answering this question or addressing this situation. It’s just rehash.

anonymous Jul 15, 2012 10:14pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 8, 2012 8:35pm

[…] about being human. It’s about experiencing our time here on the planet with the added joy of intimacy—not just with another, but with ourselves as well. Touching and being touched, loving and being […]

anonymous Apr 26, 2012 3:18pm

[…] that said that passion has to be painful. You are supposed to respond in a very dramatic way to a potential partner, and that means you should feel overwhelming anxiety. Basically, you should feel like […]

anonymous Apr 20, 2012 2:00am


anonymous Apr 19, 2012 7:54am

Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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anonymous Apr 18, 2012 5:05pm

Posted to Elephant Family on Facebook and Twitter.

Lorin Arnold
Blogger at The VeganAsana
Editor for Elephant Food and Elephant Family.

anonymous Apr 18, 2012 2:10pm

Good stuff, Joe! Great to see someone write intelligently about spirituality and sex – and aging, too. When I was a boy, my grandmother Grace used to say: "Youth is wasted on the young." Now that I am older, I do know what she was trying to convey. :o)))

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