Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Mindfulness and Intimacy

By Michael Bates, M.D.

I have been seeing references in the media to mindfulness, allegedly something that can make us happier, healthier, and sexier. What is this all about?

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, with roots in Buddhism. It is a state of active, open attention on the present. It promotes unconditional presence in the moment of whatever is happening, no matter what it is, without judging it good or bad.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D. of molecular biology, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness of Massachusetts Medical School, introduced the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine in 1979. His secular technique, downplaying the connection with Buddhism and emphasizing the scientific context, has spread worldwide. His aim is to help people cope with stress, pain, and illness via meditation.

Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures of life by being fully engaged in the moment. It also creates greater capacity to deal with the adverse events we inevitably experience as a consequence of being alive.

Mindfulness improves well being by focusing on the here and now. Some experts believe that mindfulness works by helping people accept their experiences, including painful emotions, rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance. People who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

Very much like the human sexual response, mindfulness improves physical health via

  • stress relief
  • lower blood pressure
  • sleep improvement

and mental health.

  • depression
  • addiction
  • eating disorders
  • anxiety
  • obsessive-compulsiveness

So what does sexuality have to do with mindfulness? Well, a key factor in having better sex is actually being there when you are having it. Not just being there physically, but really showing up, tuning into the experience not only for yourself but also for your partner.

We are sexual beings, sexuality is an essential part of who we are. Sexual energy flows through us and between us. The energy is pleasurable and positive. The very best sex happens when we are mindfully aware of that energy.

Suppose your mind isn’t tuned in to your partner, to your body, to the moment. Perhaps you are worried about a health problem, a family problem, a work situation, or you are worried about how your body looks. Maybe your partner doesn’t seem too interested, simply going through the motions. The energy goes away, and with it vaginal lubrication and erections.

On the other hand, what if you are perfectly tuned in to your body, to your sensations, to your emotions and to your partner? The sexual energy flows, blood flows, vaginal lubrication happens, erections occur and the best sex follows.

If all of this sounds good, how does one get started? Turn to Mr. Google, every major meditation center, university, and professional specializing in meditation has an online web page. Just type in mindful meditation and you will see the broad range and number of programs, workshops and even virtual instructional apps available. Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction centers are found in most cities.

In the meantime, try this exercise on your own.

  • Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor
  • Focus on your breathing, the flow of air into your nostrils and out of your mouth
  • Become aware of and savor each sound, sensation, and thought, without being judgmental

Start by dedicating 10-20 minutes a day to the exercise, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends 45 minutes a day, most days of the week. As your mind settles and you gradually and slowly increase the length of your sessions, the more effect you will have.

So what is the take home message? Whether it is the stress of our hectic world, chronic pain, mental or physical illness or sex that has become routine, mindful meditation can help us cope. A key factor to better sex is actually being there, not just physically, but with moment-to-moment awareness of yourself and your partner, enjoyable and loving sex will occur naturally. Think about it.


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