The concept of “mindfulness” has become widespread across many fields. Mindful parenting, mindful eating, mindful writing, mindful walking. Mindful leadership. Mindful listening. And, yes, mindful sex.
Mindfulness describes the process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. While the term may be somewhat new, having been introduced in the last quarter of the 20th century by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh and his student, American author JonKabat-Zinn, it is NOT a new concept.
The word itself, mindfulness, was coined by a Buddhist scholar, TW Rhys Davids, over a hundred years ago. It was his attempt to translate into English this thousands-year-old practice of turning one’s mental attention to whatever sensory experience is going on, rather than focusing on thoughts that take us out of the moment.
As a practitioner of the Japanese martial art of Aikido, I became very familiar with this practice. To perform Aikido well, one cannot allow oneself to be hijacked by thoughts. The word “mindfulness” had not yet become mainstream. We used terms like “centering” and “energy awareness.”
Centering puts us into our bodies and grounds us. Energy awareness in Aikido invites us to notice and blend with what’s going on, from that centered place, making us more skilled.
Paying attention to a “martial” art turns out to be not so dissimilar from paying attention in the more personal “marital” art of love. Bringing centering and energy awareness into the bedroom also makes us more skilled.
Tantra, ancient spiritual teaching from India, enhances sexuality by providing a framework of mindfulness for these most intimate encounters.
On the Aikido mat, there are direct and knowable consequences depending on whether we move in a way that is mindful and centered, or not. In bed, there is also a consequence. Greater pleasure and more feelings of intimate bonding with one’s partner are the most positive outcomes.
It would seem simple to pay attention to what’s physically going on during sex. Yet, in spite of the many sensory sensations that lovemaking provides, we are often distracted, disengaged from the delight itself. As the poet Alexander Pope wrote:
“She, while her lover pants upon her breast,
Can mark the figures on an Indian chest.”
Who among us has never become bored or sidetracked during lovemaking, thinking about something entirely unrelated?
Or, we get caught up in seemingly related thoughts such as wondering if our partner is happy or being concerned that we’re not “performing” well, and so on.
When we are evaluating or worrying, we’re not experiencing. Just as in Aikido, our attention must be in the here and now in order to blend with our partner.
Training in mindfulness alerts us when we’ve wandered away, and reminds us to shift back to an awareness of what’s actually going on.
Mindfulness is a fluid activity, a way of walking through life (which includes bedroom activities). Mindfulness invites us to notice how we’re walking, what we’re walking past, what we’re noticing, what we’re thinking.
Breathing is often used as the gateway, the path back to the present moment. Our breath is always here, always happening, always available for us to focus on. Tantra Tai Chi, developed by myself and my husband, provides an easy blueprint for returning to the center. When a couple shares an understanding and appreciation for a pattern of bodily focused mindfulness, lovemaking is taken to extraordinary heights and awakens spiritual joy.
Mindful lovemaking can create a vibrant intimacy throughout a couple’s lifetime.
Diana Daffner, with her husband Richard, is the author of Tantric Sex for Busy Couples: How to Deepen Your Passion in Just Ten Minutes a Day and leads workshops for couples, in romantic locations as well as via Zoom. Brochure is available. Visit IntimacyRetreats.com or call 941-349-6804 for more information.