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Hands up: who has ever had an open dialogue with your parents about sex?
This is a question I was asked at a recent—and rather pleasurable—event I attended here in Melbourne earlier this year. In a room of 16 adult women ranging in age from 20 to 60, not one person raised their hand.
I find it fascinating how we live in a culture where sex sells. Flesh dominates advertising. Yet the appearance of the human body somehow outweighs what it actually does.
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with anyone about your sexuality? How do you explain the natural functions of the human form to a child who has just discovered her “lady bits” without inferring shame or denying her natural wonder and curiosity?
People often experience a sense of foreboding and awkwardness around this topic, as if natural functions and desires of the body should be considered dirty or shameful. What if I showed you how sex and love making increases the body’s ability to heal itself just like meditation?
Through this article, I invite you to open your mind and your heart, take off the shame goggles of your ancestors and experience your own sense of wonder and curiosity about the miraculous human body. The way it communicates with us and heals itself is truly magical and fascinating and sacred all at once.
The benefits of spiritual practice and meditation have been well established and documented throughout Eastern cultures for centuries. This understanding has gradually and finally made its way over to the West. In 1975, a medical doctor and cardiologist named Dr Herbert Benson discovered a phenomenon which he called the “relaxation response.” Dr. Benson’s research indicated this response as being initiated when a person relaxes to the point that the brain facilitates the healing abilities of the autonomic nervous system, such as during meditation. The autonomic nervous system controls our involuntary functions and is made up of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I think of these systems as being like aspects of the masculine and feminine, designed by nature to counter balance each other. So ideally, we want this pair balanced and working in harmony just like a happy couple!
Let me explain.
Our sympathetic nervous system is like the man of the house. He regulates our fight/flight/freeze response to stress as adrenaline and catecholamine are released in the brain. Systems that aren’t essential for our survival, such as digestion and sexual response, are immediately deactivated to allow circulation to be constricted to provide the heart with all blood available to get us out of a scary situation. There is no capacity for mindfulness or compassion when we are triggered into this space.
Our parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, adds the feminine touch that allows us to soften. It decreases our heart rate, regulates our organs and glands and helps us return to a state of rest. However, in order for the lady of the house to do her part effectively, she needs to feel safe, or the sympathetic system will remain active and on guard. We begin to re-engage the parasympathetic nervous system when, with patience and practice, we take the time to pause and connect with our true nature before acting.
A regular practice of meditation can help us balance the autonomic nervous system which allows us to connect with our environment on a deeper level and provides us with a heartfelt sense of what is right for us.
Just as focusing on the breath can deepen our meditation practice, breathing deeply and rhythmically during sex or stimulating activity can enhance orgasm and actually enable it in many instances. The experience of orgasm quietens the “thinking” part of our brain and moves us into “sensing.” I invite you to try it out when you settle in for the night and see what you think!
As you breathe in, feel the breath flow all the way down to your pubic bone and hold your attention there as your breath expands throughout your belly, chest and torso. Continue to breathe like this and observe what sensations you notice. A deep full bodied breath encourages blood and energy to flow to the genitals during sexual stimulation and enhances the sensation. Any breathing practice will also naturally assist your body to heal itself as it provides a good supply of oxygen to every cell, every muscle, body and organ.
Naomi Wolf in her fascinating book entitled Vagina illustrated how there have been actual studies using an MRI to track the brain activity of a woman as she approaches orgasm. For example, research conducted by Dr. Janniko Georgiadis found that as a person (or in this instance, a woman) approaches orgasm, the brain centre for behavioural regulation shuts off while the self-critical brain activities and judgments that take place in the cortex are momentarily suspended. How peaceful!
Additionally, discoveries made in neuroscience indicate that orgasm activates the parts of our brain that are hardwired to engage all of the senses allowing us to not only experience our internal sensations but also awaken to the sensations in our environment such as smell, touch, sound and vibration.
The true meditative value of love-making happens when the importance of the autonomic nervous system is understood and our body is given the time it needs to safely engage in its natural response of increased blood flow, lubrication and connection. It means being patient, sometimes inventive, creative, attentive and loving. Be open to learning, sensing and playing around with what arouses your partner and what arouses you if you are engaging in a self-practice—and some days it will vary!
By allowing yourself this time to engage with your body without judgement, you are able to gain knowledge about your own anatomy, your likes and dislikes and your connection to your body, the body of your lover and your own divine nature which leaves you free to fully experience the moment and the meditation of sex.
Author: Jennifer A. Faulkner
Editor: Erin Lawson & Catherine Monkman
Photo: Lianne Viau