Have you ever had one of those moments during sex in which you feel disconnected? When your mind wanders, and you find yourself observing the spectacle objectively? Sometimes it’s the feeling of having a really rational thought that seems out of place during sex. For example, you might be having sex, and suddenly find yourself thinking, “why do we do this?” or “what do we look like right now?”
It’s a phenomenon that’s common to most of us, and a lot of us experience it regularly. It’s called “spectatoring”, and it’s a kind of lack of focus that can diminish our sexual pleasure and delay or reduce the intensity of our orgasm. There are two main types of spectatoring: the first concerns worrying about how our body looks in the moment, and the second involves concern over our sexual performance, and what our partner is feeling as a result.
In other words, during sex, it’s common to worry about our appearance, and our sexual ability – both of which make it very difficult to achieve satisfaction from the experience. If orgasm is the goal, it’s almost impossible while your mind is occupied by such concerns.
Switching off this self-critical and analytical side of your mind can be accomplished with mindfulness, which is the increasingly popular name we give to a number of processes and techniques designed to address psychological obstacles like spectatoring. Mindfulness can increase contentment, tackle depression, soothe anxiety, and even address chronic illness and pain. One off-shoot of this is the benefit mindfulness has for sex.
In practice, mindfulness is the ability to focus entirely on what’s happening in the present moment. Think about riding a rollercoaster, and whether or not you like it. As the rollercoaster ascends a steep section, you might be thinking, “this is fun,” or “I want to get off.” But, when the rollercoaster goes over the peak and begins to descend, the immersion of the experience is so overwhelming that it’s not possible to think anything meaningful at all. That state of unthinkingness, of pure sensation, is mindfulness. And it’s the key to amazing sex.
In your daily life, your body might be doing one thing while you’re mind is doing something else. You might drift off on a phone call and start thinking about dinner, or you might be washing up and thinking about Christmas. In sex, you might be receiving oral sex while worrying that your partner might be getting bored. Mindfulness is the exact opposite of your body doing one thing and your mind another. Mindfulness is fully immersing your mind and body in the same moment in time.
It takes conscious dedication and practice to achieve a state of mindfulness – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it takes a lot of time. It’s something that can – and should – be introduced into your daily life. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth can become mindful experiences, by immersing yourself full in the sensations of the activity, and being aware of all that’s happening in your body as a result. Then, when you’re eating breakfast, allow yourself to be immersed in all the sensations and tastes of eating, and then do the same for washing the dishes, experiencing the water on your hands, and the motions and stresses of your body. You can do this while you’re doing anything and everything, and once you’ve become accustomed to focusing on what’s happening in that moment, you can extend it to fun stuff, like sex.
It’s easy to be distracted, even during something pleasurable like sex. Even with conditioning and practice, invasive thoughts can pop up that seem beyond our control – this is particularly true of people suffering from depression and anxiety. Some people have phrases, like mantras, that they say to themselves to get them back into a mindful space instead of a distracted one. Others have ways of visualizing the thoughts being carried away by water, or some other process. Some teachers of mindfulness instruct students to take notice of that, to let it exist, but to not become involved with it.
Most people, though, acknowledge the importance of a deep breath as the best strategy for bringing yourself away from distractedness and back into the present moment. Use the breath to fill your lungs, and take note of any scents on the air, and use those to re-centre your focus on the present moment. Breathe from deep within you, engaging your core muscles and pelvic floor, and this should help you to clear your mind and reengage with the present.
It’s really useful to get used to mindfulness before you bring it into the bedroom. Being aware of sensations and movements in your everyday life is crucial, and highly beneficial. The better you get at slipping into the necessary groove to attain mindfulness in your daily tasks, the better you’ll be at it during sex, and the better your sex will be as a result.
The end result will be a complete bodily and mental immersion in the sexual experience.