When I was fourteen I decided it was high time to lose my virginity. So I did. It happened in the backseat of a hot rod car— I think it was a green Chevelle—with an eighteen-year-old with tattoos and a ponytail. I kept my turquoise All-Star high tops on the whole time. I was high and don’t remember all that much of the experience. I just did it because I thought it had to be done; it didn’t really matter if I was actually present for it. I had never even made out with anyone before.
Later that year I had sex again; this time in a field with a twenty-year-old with a ponytail. I was also intoxicated again. This pattern went on for many years. Not always with older men with ponytails. Not always with men. What remained the same was my inability to really be conscious for sexual experiences. Even if I wasn’t drunk or high, I wasn’t really fully there. I was checked out in some way. I didn’t look into my lover’s eyes. I didn’t feel a sense of merging or the sacred. During the sex act I certainly didn’t tell them how much I cared for them. It was all about checking out and getting off; sex without presence or intimacy.
When I started meditating I was still very disconnected from my sexuality. I had begun to recognize that thoughts and emotions were not as solid as I thought. Meditation showed me parts of myself that had been previously unavailable, but I wasn’t quite ready to delve into my sexual life. Then I read a book that talked about looking into your partner’s eyes while you climaxed. I thought, “No way. Never going to happen.” The idea of actually seeing and being seen at that vulnerable moment made my skin crawl. I preferred to squeeze my eyes shut, turn my head away, and if possible hide under a pillow. I really liked sex and thought of myself as a very sexual person, but I didn’t want to cross that line to a establishing a real connection.
I was also cut off from my body. I didn’t want to feel anything emotionally uncomfortable so I tried not to feel at all. I was good at sex and I enjoyed it, but when I look back it’s as if I was only using a small percentage of my sense awareness. I had no idea how good sex could actually be. I was only partially present for my partners because I was only partially present for myself. I tend to attract people who match me with where I am in my emotional and spiritual evolution. So no one ever called me out on the fact that I disappeared during sex. My meditation practice, however, did not miss that fact. When you spend time working on waking up, it gets harder and harder to go unconscious. By observing thoughts and emotions every day in formal meditation, my practice was revealing the parts of me that were hidden away. The awakening I was having in other areas couldn’t help but spill over into my sex life. I wanted more. My authentic sexuality was bursting forth.
After one of my first retreats I realized that I wanted my sexuality to be included in my spiritual practice. I wanted to open my eyes. I wanted to really feel all of it.
The first time I looked into my lover’s eyes while we made love was frightening, exhilarating. It was also obvious that, of course, this is the way it should be. I began to have very profound spiritual experiences during sex. It was a meditation in action that I had never known. As a result my creative life began to expand too. I found that I had more energy to write, act, draw and play. My sexual and creative nature began to blossom in a beautiful way.
It became impossible to be cut off from such an important part of my experience. Meditation was giving me freedom from my mind and access to my body in a way that I had never known. I recognized that the potential for richness, connection, and satisfaction were limitless. A whole new world was opening up, which was very exciting.
And my relationships benefitted. I was no longer hiding from my partner. I was present, vulnerable, and open. My body became incredibly sensitive. I could feel things that I hadn’t even known existed. It was like how some people describe certain drug experiences, but without the drugs. With this greater connection to my own body I connected with my partner on a much deeper level. What it is possible to share with another person continues to shock and delight me.
This doesn’t mean that I always make sweet love, staring into my partner’s eyes, and whispering sweet nothings. Mindful doesn’t mean mushy or boring. Mindful Sex can be dirty, fun, exciting and rough. It can be based on who I am in that moment. I’m no longer stuck with one version of sex. I’m free to explore, push my boundaries, and see what happens next.
By simply feeling and seeing your partner while you are having sex, you can connect in ways that seem magical. It’s not actually magic; it’s how life is when you show up for it. You can start by just really experiencing a hug. It doesn’t have to be sexual. Feel the other person’s arms around you. Notice the feeling of your breath and theirs. Experience the warmth of another body meeting yours. Try it in a conversation. See their eyes; the color, the shape, the size. Watch the way their mouth moves. Hear the sound of their voice. Give up being solid and separate, and for even just a few seconds connect from the place that goes beyond You and Me.
I didn’t know that an amazing sex life would be a side effect of meditation when I started this journey. Actually I didn’t even know that my sex life was missing something. Now I know that there are no limits to the pleasures that await me. I now consider my sexuality to be as much of my spiritual practice as sitting on the cushion. This is no different from how I view my work, eating, interactions with family, creating art, and life in general. Meditation stops being this special thing we do for thirty minutes a day and begins to be our moment-by-moment experience. Everything is part of it.
This is the beginning of a series that I call Mindful Sex. I plan to write from my personal experience and to offer insights that I have gained through bringing mindfulness to the bedroom (and the kitchen counter and the living room floor and the backseat…). I will share how my practice has helped my sexuality evolve and techniques I have suggested to others who are struggling with sexual issues. I would love to hear from you about what else you’d like me to explore in this writing. I’m excited to share this adventure with you.
photo by Valeri_GIA