From the Ground Up Series
by Melissa Walker, MA, LPC, R-DMT
This year, my monthly newsletter will focus on building a vision of embodied intimacy from the ground up. Each month, you will learn tools to assess and practical skills to apply to your life and relationships. We will visit the complex layers beneath the skin which culminate in the experience and expression of desire and arousal, as well as the inhibition of these often sought-after states. Desire and arousal affects how we interact with the people in our lives through sex, emotional connection & regulation, and even every day problem solving.
What are three descriptive flavors, textures, or colors from breakfast this morning? What does your partners skin smell like? Describe the sensation of rain on your face or lotion on your hands or sun on your belly. These answers require a deeper inquiry than “my partners skin smells good” or “my breakfast was yummy.” Erotic mindfulness is an invitation to not take your senses for granted – to fully immerse yourself in the pleasurable experiences found in your daily, mundane life. Erotic mindfulness is a quality of attention and awareness which is open to receiving sensory and pleasure information from the environment. The daily practice of erotic mindfulness is a confluence of present-moment attention, sensory awareness, and permission. It is an opportunity to de-fragment and even rewrite the relationship to pleasure versus just attempting to avoid pain. Pleasure is fundamentally growth directed.
If I am eating my breakfast and thinking about all the things I have to do in my day, chances are I won’t taste much of my food. As humans, we are continually bouncing from the past to the present to the future and back again. This is work for our minds and is a product of evolutionary survival – being able to quickly think ourselves into different times and places allows us to feel a sense of position, it allows us to plan and avoid danger and recall memories. It also activates a sympathetic nervous system stress response. Think back to my post two months ago where I described how the stress response cuts us off from the experience of relaxation and pleasure. The antidote is present-moment attention. By focusing on the experience of the present moment, with a quality of noticing and non-judgement, I am able to find the relevant detail in front of me and within me. Whether we find discomfort or pleasure in the present moment, this practice allows us to learn from the discomfort, discover what it needs from us to move us back into comfort. Your body, and its discomfort is not the problem – your body is responding in a healthy way to an uncomfortable situation – it simply wants your help to feel better. Remember, the more we avoid, the more painful discomfort becomes! This mindfulness practice literally integrates our mind and body and can, over months and years of practice, increase brain growth. When the focus of my mind is on the pleasurable experience in which I am immersed, I am integrating my brain and body around receiving pleasure – and stimulating brain growth and emotional regulation all at the same time.
Okay, so I can focus on the present moment but what am I focusing on? Our senses are the gateway of experience. When we see, smell, taste, and feel the breakfast we are inviting it into our bodies to provide nourishment. Erotic mindfulness drops further into something smelling or tasting “good” – the practice of erotic mindfulness requires that we find the layers in our experience and enjoy the edges of sensation. When I taste my morning chai, I smell the layers of cardamom, honey, and ginger. I feel the creaminess of the coconut milk on my tongue, taste the layers of spice and sweet, and feel my shoulders and belly soften with the warmth of the drink. From beginning to end, erotic mindfulness invites the senses to open to receiving the experience. The more subtle sensations and flavors can be difficult for some people to detect, but when including this as a daily practice, this can be a learned skill.
Present-moment focus and sensory awareness? Okay, that’s simple enough. But this practice is not easy when everything and everyone comes before the moments that you enjoy for yourself. Erotic mindfulness requires that you put yourself on the priority list and presence your desire. By “presence” I mean “make known” without apology, without excuses, without making a big deal about it. In fact, to presence oneself in the moment means to find value in what you can receive and what you can offer. By giving yourself permission to take an erotic mindful moment for yourself, you are adding so much value to yourself and to those you are with. “Honey, taste this chai! Can you smell the cardamom? Delicious! My belly is warm and tingly! What do you taste?” What a sweet moment for you and the recipient of your erotic mindfulness! Just imagine integrating this practice in intimacy with your partner. This practice cultivates deeper connection with yourself and with those around you. The result is an intelligent relational skill.
Erotic mindfulness is a practice that I facilitate with my clients in the office and in workshops. I will facilitate a live experience of this embodied intimacy skill and much more at my Couples Retreat and Couples Workshop. Details for registration found below!