When you think of meditation, images of quiet, serene settings—the ocean, a yoga studio, sitting peacefully on a cushion in your bedroom—come to mind.
Raw, animalistic sex probably does not.
But, according to Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation, it should.
“We see it as naughty or falling off the bandwagon to have any thoughts at all during meditation, let alone thoughts about sex,” she said. But Fletcher observes client after client raving about the positive turn of events in the bedroom, describing their sexual encounters as yes, “animalistic” and “raw,” after starting a meditative practice.
“If you don’t want to get pregnant, wrap it up if you’re starting meditation,” she said, half jokingly. If you’d like your sex life to be a little louder, quieting your mind may be key.
The Neuroscience Behind Meditation and Sex (or Lack Therof)
At the beginning of the Sex & Meditation event in New York City (hosted by The Path who hosts weekly sits, courses, workshops, and social events, with a focus on teaching ancient meditation techniques in a modern way), Fletcher posed a simple question to the group: “Think of the sexiest person you can. Now name the attributes of the person that came to mind.”
Some of the answers offered up by the crowd included: confidence, grace, strength, an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude (which Fletcher reframed as detachment before throwing in “giant tits” for good measure.)
Stressed out, frazzled, scatterbrained, and high-strung didn’t make the cut. Shocking, we know.
As Fletcher bluntly put’s it: “Stress isn’t sexy.” And when we think of de-stressing and getting ourselves to a mental state where we can embody all of these qualities that we do find so sexy in others, suddenly a natural connection arises between meditation and the quality of our sexual experience.
The Side Effects of Stress
In order to see the role that meditation can play in supercharging our sex lives, it’s important to back track and first acknowledge the ways in which stress is negatively affecting our minds and our bodies (which is inevitably creating an environment that is not conducive to having—or enjoying—sex.)
According to Fletcher, “when we are under stress, we’re distracted because we are so in our left brain, and it increases our cortisol levels which leads to premature aging and storing body fat.”
In addition, studies have linked chronic stress to cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes, inflammation, and genetic and cellular deterioration. It also decreases productivity and life satisfaction, increases risk of depression, and leads to low energy, headaches and yes, loss of sexual desire or ability.
In our fast-paced world, with calendars packed to the brim, traffic jams, and 12-hour-workdays, it’s hard, if not impossible, to avoid. The key then becomes better managing the stress when we do encounter it.
At a basic level, “the more we can reduce stress, the better we feel in our bodies, which affects how confident we feel,” said Fletcher. And as meditation is a proven way to reduce the effects of stress on the body and better cope with it as it arises in our daily lives, meditating has just become an intriguing addition to your foreplay routine.
Have More Sex: How Meditation Can Help
Before delving into how meditation can enhance our sexual experience once we’ve already made the decision to take the leap (into bed), Fletcher noted that meditation helps to combat some of the more specific side effects of stress that are preventing you from wanting to have sex in the first place:
You’re too tired. “One in four cohabitating couples say the number one reason they are not having sex is because they are too tired,” said Fletcher. “We give your jobs everything, then we come home put on sweatpants, watch Game of Thrones, and pass out.”
“The sound meditation that I conduct at Ziva gives your body rest that is two to five times deeper than sleep. A 20-minute sound meditation is equal to a 90-minute sleep cycle. So you may just have the energy to get your freak on later that night.”
You have a headache. “I have had an 80 to 90 percent success rate with meditation and improving migraines,” said Fletcher. “Actually, if you masturbate right when you feel a migraine coming on you can stop it altogether.”
Stress: The Ultimate Turn-Off
Now, once you actually find yourself half naked on the way to the bedroom, the presence of stress can immediately put a damper on the experience.
“Many people, men especially, say that stress fuels them at work, that they need it; but the flight or fight response makes you stupid,” said Fletcher. “Our blood coagulates, our bladder and bowels empty, (you know, the nervous poos you get before a presentation?), our adrenaline and cortisol levels increase, and your immune system goes on the back burner.”
These bodily reactions are good for you if your demands are hungry tigers, not if your demands are your in-laws, traffic, or a date (and possible booty call).
And if you do schedule in some sexy time, the chances are high that there won’t be a happy ending: “If women have too much cortisol in their system they are physically incapable of orgasming,” said Fletcher. “Same with men for adrenaline.”
The Spiritual Ideation Behind Sex and Mediation
We all know that whether a sexual encounter is a one-night stand or with a long-time partner, it is not purely physical. There are powerful emotional connections occurring at the same time. And the bodily response to stress is “maladaptive; disallowing us to be fully present,” said Fletcher. To the contrary, meditation is a tangible way to bring yourself back into the present moment.
Generosity and Being Present
To demonstrate the power of being present, Fletcher calls to mind the idea of mirror neurons, a type of brain cell that responds equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action, according to the American Psychological Association.
“They are like boomerangs that come out and dance with each other and then come back and report on the experience,” said Fletcher. “It makes you feel like you’re having an experience without actually having it.”
Being able to tap into this idea will make you a more intimate lover, she explained, as it allows you to be more intuitive and get pleasure from seeing your partner feel pleasure.
“Sex becomes so much more enjoyable when it’s an act of generosity; a beautiful interchange and present experience,” said Fletcher. And using this idea to reframe how we view sex, is a helpful way to be more fully present during the act (even with the residual stress from sitting in an hour of traffic, having a full inbox to sift through, and an ever-growing to-do list to worry about accomplishing tomorrow).
“We go through life saying I’ll be happy when … ” said Fletcher. “When I get promoted, when I get married, when I have a baby, when I make a million dollars … Happiness then becomes a carrot that gets further and further away until we die.”
And the mentality doesn’t stop short of our sex lives: How much sex can I have? How many partners can I sleep with? How much porn can I watch?
When you come at sex from this perspective, thinking of our mirror neurons and seeing it as an act of giving and receiving, it becomes possible to separate the experience from the rest of our stressful lives and fully experience it in the moment.
We Are All One Consciousness
“According to Vedas”—the ancient Indian body of knowledge that is the source of Ayurvedic medicine, yoga and Indian philosophy—”there is only one thing and we are all it,” said Fletcher. “That one thing is consciousness, or energy if you are looking at it from a quantum physics standpoint.”
Meditation provides you with tools to remind yourself of this, and enable you to connect to everyone and everything around you (versus being a wound up ball of energy bouncing off of other people as you travel through life).
“This can happen in sexual encounters as well; according to Vedas if you fall in love with someone you are falling in love with yourself. The more you tap into the right brain, the easier it is to see more of yourself in others and others in yourself,” said Fletcher. “When we meditate we pull away some of the layers and get to our pure energy and consciousness. We reunite with that piece of ourselves that is connected to everyone and everything.”
‘They’ Cannot Complete You
Whether it is a conscious decision or not, many people approach relationships and sexual encounters with the mindset “I am 80 percent fulfilled, you need to complete the other 20 percent,” said Fletcher. “But that doesn’t work, and we end up disappointed in that other person that they can’t fulfill us.”
But as cheesy as it sounds, few, if any, of us can argue the long-touted advice of mothers everywhere that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Being a whole fulfilled person on your own really is an imperative first step before you can find true happiness in a relationship.
“If you are 80 percent fulfilled, that means you have 80 percent to give to that person,” said Fletcher. “But that person cannot fill up the other 20.”
Instead, she advised approaching relationships with a “what can I give to this?” mentality, versus a “what can I get?” To be able to do this, we need tools, techniques and practices that will help fill us up so that we can approach relationships from a fulfilled place.
You guessed it, meditation is one of those tools.
“Every time that you’re meditating, you are filling yourself up and increasing your stores of adaptation energy,” Fletcher explained. “This is your ability to adapt to a change in expectation and demand, so you can then approach relationships from a place of fulfillment. Meditation gives you access to your fulfillment in the only place that it resides—within you. What you seek is inside yourself, we all know that intellectually but what is more tangible is experiencing it everyday through the act of meditating.”
Sexual Intercourse: An Exchange of Energy
“Note of caution: every time you have sex, there’s an energy exchange that happens,” warned Fletcher. “With sex, eating, singing, mediating: there is an energy exchange happening. Not that it costs you something, but all of your stuff starts opening up. So if you’re not loving the energy that someone is giving off, maybe don’t have sex with them. Take care of who you’re giving your energy to.”
She equated the experience to buying a house: If you know you want to purchase a home in the near future you will probably adjust your spending habits, eat out less, buy less shoes, and begin to save up for that purchase. The same can apply to the hopes of developing a strong bond with someone in the future: sharing your sexual currency with every person you meet at a bar, probably isn’t the best approach.
And the same goes for porn: “We’re living in a time where we are all over-sexualized but undersexed,” said Fletcher. “I don’t think porn is good for us; we need to take care with how much porn and what kind of porn we are consuming. You can’t watch videos of gang bangs and then expect to have normal, healthy sexual relationships. We need to act with integrity within all areas of our sexual arena.”
She asked us to think of the days, months, even years following a hard breakup. Weren’t we more creative? Productive? Fueled by some kind of inner energy that had been invigorated?
“Sexual energy is powerful. Think of when you break up with someone, you start writing poetry, singing songs, and starting companies. That energetic currency is something to be taken care of,” she said. “Celebrate it as a beautiful, creative, generous thing instead of seeing it as bad or naughty.”
Meditation as Foreplay
Now to the real-world application. Aside from developing a daily meditative practice of your own to help keep stress out of the bedroom, Fletcher provided some more specific exercises that you can rely on before sexual encounters to open yourself up to the environment and the experience, and bring yourself into the present moment. Make these a part of your pre-sex ritual and you may be able to describe the experience as raw and animalistic yourself.
“Cum to Your Senses”
This silent practice is about sensory perception. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your hands on your knees. Begin to mentally run through each of the five senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, taste—tapping into the environment around you. What do you see, even with your eyes closed? Complete darkness? The sunlight coming through the window? What do you smell? What sound is most prominent in the room? Is it traffic outside? The air conditioner? What is the faintest sound you can hear? What do you feel? The floor or a pillow beneath you? Your clothes hanging on your body, your hair tickling your ears? What taste do you have in your mouth? Then, focus on all of them at once, completely immersing yourself in the present moment. The exercise will have you feeling slightly more alert and alive—and help you shake off the stress of the day—before engaging in sexual activity.
A Partner Exercise
This exercise is about establishing a bond with your partner; creating that sense of generosity and openness. Face your partner, place your right hand on their heart and have them do the same. Then, both of you place your left hand on top of the other persons (on top of your heart) and stare into each others eyes. It may be uncomfortable, but continue to hold eye contact even if any laughter or nervousness arises. Then, prompt each other to think of what the other’s biggest dream or goal is and concentrate on bottling that up and giving that to them. With a deep inhale and exhale, think of your breath filling them with this dream, as well as love. And then feel open to receive what they are breathing into you. After a few minutes, when it feels natural to break away, finish with a hug, and then … take this fresh connection to the bedroom.
For more workshops, sits and courses like this, check out The Path’s upcoming social events.
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