by Jessica Graham
Before mindful sex I was one of the many who have no interest (aka intense dread) in looking into my partner’s eyes while we had sex. The last thing I wanted to do was connect in such a intimate and vulnerable way with my partners. But meditation has a way of rearranging who we are and how we think. After a year of intense meditation practice and personal evolution I became ready to integrate my spiritual life and my sex life. Reading the book Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch was a big turning point for me in that venture. In this life-changing book he writes about open-eyed sex and even (gasp) open-eyed orgasm. I wanted to know what intimacy like this was like and I had the mindfulness tools I needed. I knew it was time to explore these uncharted waters, so I let go of my fears and insecurities and dove in. It was refreshing, exciting, and oh so hot.
Now that I know what I was missing out on, it’s hard to fathom why everyone wouldn’t want to experience open-eyed sex. But the truth is lots of people would rather pass on sex altogether, than have open-eyed sex, let alone open-eyed orgasms. When I posted my first article in this series I heard from many men and women how scary and foreign the idea was for them.
For a lot of folks, eye contact during sex equates to that awkward moment when you both happen to open your eyes at the same time and then squeeze them shut or quickly look away. There is a shock of discomfort through the body, embarrassment warming the cheeks and tightening the chest. Then you try to get back in the groove, perhaps bringing some fantasy to mind in order to rid yourself of the experience of actually seeing and being seen.
Another common scenario is when you can feel your partner’s eyes on you. Trying hard not to sneak even a peek in fear of that dreaded eye contact, you focus on your own sensations or a fantasy. Then you hear it. The words you have been hoping would never come. Look at me, baby. The alarms sound! No way in hell are you going to take part in this open-eyed insanity. Doesn’t your partner know they are killing the vibe, and making you lose your chance at orgasm? So you either thrust a little harder, hoping they will forget those words were uttered or you blink your eyes open and closed lightening fast, being sure not to actually make eye contact.
This fear and aversion to eye contact during sex limits the connection you can have with your partner. Think about how it feels to have a conversation with someone who won’t make any eye contact. Not great, right? So why would you want to engage in one of the most intimate conversations you can have without ever looking into your partner’s eyes? The conversation between you and your partner’s body deserves full and intimate connection.
I’m not saying that you need to gaze deeply into your partner’s eyes every single time you have sex (I certainly don’t). But wouldn’t it be nice to have the option? Even if it’s something you do only once in awhile, knowing that you can, without having a negative reaction, is huge. It gives you more fluidity and flexibility in your sex life, which leads to more fun and intimacy.
You might be thinking looking at my partner means we are having mushy, lovey dovey sex. I want to have wild, rough, raw sex, not that flowery crap. Well fear not. Making eye contact while you are fucking is one of the hottest things in the universe. Imagine you are fucking your partner from behind and they look back over their shoulder at you. Seeing their wild eyes, open mouth, and sly smile will just add to the raw passion. Plus if you are into kink, eye contact can be very helpful when someone is tied up and gagged. A safe word could be two short blinks and a long one. All that to say, eye contact doesn’t have to equal making sweet, tame, and gentle love.
Mindfulness Tools for Connected Sex
How do you get over the fears, insecurities, and aversions to open-eyed sex? This is where your meditation practice comes in handy. Your aversion is made up of thoughts and emotions, so if you can learn to navigate and detach from those, you will be getting off with eyes wide open sooner than you think.
Here is a practice for meditating on thought and emotion. This is something you should do every day for at least 10 minutes and also at other times when a craving arises. Below is a description of how to do it, or you can watch this video for a guided version.
Set a timer take a comfortable seat, and relax from your head to your toes. Now place your attention on the area where mental talk arises, for most people it’s in the head region. When you notice some thoughts coming up try labeling them “Talk,” and then just listen. Not to the content of the thought, but rather to the activity of the thinking. How loud is it? What is the pace and pitch? What part of the head or body is it coming from. With this technique you will never be trying to “quiet” your mind, or change the thoughts. You are simply witnessing the arrival and departure of each thought. You can observe mental images the same way. Try labeling them “Image,” and then just watch the imagery come and go. If you find that you are pulled into the images or words (which you almost always will be), pop back to observing without judgement.
After a few minutes of that, move your attention to your body. Start to scan through the body to see if there are any emotional sensations present. You may want to pay special attention to your face, throat, chest, and stomach. This is where people generally report experiencing emotional sensations. When you notice something that seems emotional, plant your attention there and feel the sensation. Explore all aspects of the sensation with your physical awareness, letting go of any resistance and allowing it to be just as it is. If you’d like to, you can label the sensation “Emotion,” as you deeply feel it. Does the sensation vibrate, expand or contract? Is it warm or cool? How big is it? If you are not aware of any sensations that seem emotional, just explore what you can feel in your body. Your breath, your heartbeat, the feeling of your butt on the chair or cushion, any pain or itches, and any feelings of relaxation or pleasure. If you become aware of something that seems emotional bring your attention to that area of the body. It’s okay to guess if a sensation is emotional.
Now allow your attention to free float between all three: mental talk, images, and emotional sensations. Be sure to know which one you are paying attention to. Stay clear and sharp as you explore the thinking and emotional system. When the timer goes off, take three deep breaths, sighing out loud on the exhale. Then take a moment to rest your attention on something that feels good or neutral in the body. I like take a minute or two at the end of this meditation to focus on a pleasant sensation in the body. Smile, relax and focus on whatever feels best.
Once you feel comfortable with that technique you’ll be able to use it during sex. I suggest talking to your partner about what you’re working on and getting them on board too. Then you can try opening your eyes for 10 seconds at a time while having sex. Feel the emotions and notice the thoughts that arise and then close your eyes and return to the sensations of sex. After a few minutes try again maybe for 20 seconds this time. You don’t have to stop the thoughts or emotions, just let them move through. Don’t feel that you have to lock eyes the entire time they are open. Look into each other’s eyes, but also look at your bodies. It’s your own personal sex show! Eventually you’ll be able to work up to having your eyes open for as long as you like. It will stop being something you have to coax yourself through and become another way you connect during sex.
After you have mastered open-eyed sex (which may only take one session!) you can graduate to open-eyed orgasm. I’ve heard from a lot of people who love looking into their partner’s eyes during sex, but don’t want to do it during orgasm. The most common reason is that they will “lose” their orgasm, or it won’t be as good. The cool thing about meditation is that you can learn to actually take in more than one thing at a time. You can train yourself to take in the sight of your partner’s eyes, while also deeply experiencing the pleasure of climax. This may take a little practice, but the reward is mind altering, earth shaking, mindful sex. You may have a few orgasms that aren’t as “good’ while you gain this new skill, but it will be worth it.
I think the deeper reason why open-eyed orgasm (and sex) can feel so scary is that you are really seeing and being seen. In this vulnerable, naked state, opening your eyes means opening your heart. This goes for your long term partner, or your one night stand. It’s so very intimate to look into someone’s eyes while you are being penetrated or penetrating. All the facades and games are stripped away in those moments. It’s just the two of you, eye to eye. While this might seem like too much to bear, you can not only bear it, but find deep satisfaction and pleasure from it.
You can use the same meditation technique I explained above to work though the challenges of opening up in this way. You would also be wise to offer yourself lots of love and soothing as you learn to practice this kind of intimacy. Use deep breaths and relaxation to calm your system and say some loving phrases to yourself in your mind. Ask your partner to support you in this too. It may feel like a tall order, but keep soothing yourself and take a break anytime it feels like too much.
Remember that mindful sex doesn’t have to be serious sex. Have fun and let the laughter roll as you experiment with open-eyed sex and orgasm. And be proud of yourself. You are evolving sexually and the sky’s the limit.
Read the full Mindful Sex Series here
Learn more about Jessica Graham
photo by Sanbrina Campagna