A couple months ago, I traveled to Dorset, England, to participate in a conscious sexuality festival. I had never heard of the term before going. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was what I gleaned from the website, which mentioned yoga, meditation, and a sauna, all set against the classic rolling hills of the English countryside. I can hear you exhale a sigh from here. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Turns out, it’s not that relaxing.
What I learned in my week there is that conscious sexuality has much less to do with actual sex and much more to do with learning how to be present and figuring your own damn self out. I took workshops in everything from eye-gazing (seriously, try this) to how to hug properly, realizing along the way that even if you think you have your life sorted, there's still room to grow and discover what it actually means to be a human. So, if you were looking for explicit sexy time advice, sorry to bust your bubble. There are no illicit bedroom tips here. This is all about how to be present with yourself so you, in turn, can be present with someone else. And, truth be told, that's the best kind of sex advice there is. While learning mindfulness is a lifelong journey, below are five simple steps you can take to easily begin.
Many of us go through day-to-day life trained to look outward for fulfillment. We seek reward in all forms and base our happiness on the attainment of things or validation from others. But, many of us also feel that there is something more than external validation. And there is. The word yoga itself means “union”—that of the individual body with consciousness or soul and the universe at large—and has been around for centuries. It’s not just a series of poses that you follow in your morning group class; yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that can help your well-being and leave you calmer, happier, and, yes, more fulfilled. Do your research and see what type of yoga suits you: There’s everything from Iyengar, a purist yoga that uses props like incline boards to make sure your alignment is spot on, to Kundalini, which features constantly moving and invigorating poses. They all, though, seek to connect the mind, body, and breath, helping to direct attention inward and improving your awareness.
Put your phone away
We are entirely used to having middling conversations with people we are close to. How many of you have found yourself engaging with a loved one on a serious topic, just to realize you’re only halfway paying attention because one (or both) of you is refreshing Twitter—again—for no reason other than that it’s a habit? One of the core ideas of conscious sexuality is learning to be present, or practicing mindfulness, and that’s harder than it sounds. A good first step, though, is getting rid of distractions… like your phone. Once you make the decision for it to be gone, try to be aware of focusing your attention outward toward the person you are interacting with. Watch their face. Really listen to them. You’d be surprised how much more meaningful your interactions can become when you’re simply existing in the moment. The memes can wait.
The benefits of meditation have been linked to everything from lower blood pressure to the ability to concentrate better. Many who practice conscious sexuality do active meditation, which is probably the exact opposite of what you believe meditation to be, and is a wonderful catharsis. To do it, begin by deeply breathing through your nose to center yourself. Then, breathe quickly and deeply through your nose, with the intent of losing track of your body and “becoming the breathing.” Once you have done this, move chaotically for 10 minutes. Jump, dance, make noise, laugh—hold nothing back. Don’t let your mind interfere. This is followed by a period of jumping up and down in place, arms overhead, while yelling a “hoo” sound to fully exhaust your body. Finally, freeze in place to witness what is happening with yourself and recognize the energy you have just created. Yes, this whole process might sound odd to some, but meditative movement has been in existence across the world for ages, from Japan’s Katsugen undo to Turkey’s Mevlevi Dervish. Active meditation especially works for modern society; we are very much driven by our brains, not our hearts, and rarely unburden ourselves.
Take care of your mind and your body
There is a very real and tangible connection between the well-being of your physical self and the well-being of your mental self. Good physical health not only reduces instances of anxiety and irritability, but our abilities to handle those emotions when we do encounter them. Imagine how you tackle problems when you’re on little sleep and hungover versus after a good night’s rest and a healthy meal. Betting those are two completely different people. Eating healthier, engaging in more physical activity, and monitoring your extracurricular activities (drinking, smoking, etc.) can have a tremendous impact on yourself beyond immediate physical differences. The very easiest way to make a healthy change is by drinking more water, specifically, water that is free of things like chromium, fluoride, and arsenic. Try CORE, which also has a pH that matches your body’s pH and includes electrolytes, things that help prevent dehydration before it even starts.
Being vocal means several things. As mentioned earlier, it is a useful tool in active meditation, a way of catharsis for us as modern beings to let loose and open ourselves to the world. It also means learning how to truly communicate with your partner—being transparent not only builds trust, but allows you to stay connected with who you are and your place in the world. Talking is something to be practiced. We often have long conversations (or arguments!) where nothing is really said at all—feeling vulnerable is scary, but deeper physical intimacy and satisfaction naturally comes when you communicate and feel trust, honesty, and respect with your partner. A good starting point is learning to converse about and own your feelings. Forget talking about superficial things, or other people. Simply say, “I feel…” and go from there.