Self-acceptance

Do you wish to feel more connected to a partner, a friend, or a family member? Are there moments when you feel lonely though you aren’t alone? If you sense there is distance, whether or not you spend time together, there may be room to develop more emotional intimacy.

Intimacy involves deeply knowing another and being known by another. This level of being seen can only occur if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to let someone see our authentic self. The risk we feel here is the fear of rejection for who we truly are, and this is especially difficult if we are rejecting of ourselves. 

Therefore, the path to an intimate relationship with another is through the path of self-love and self-acceptance. This is not a path to perfection, of identifying all the parts we think are broken and fixing them. That path takes us further into self-criticism and shame, which moves us more into avoidance and numbing. The more we accept all the parts of ourselves, the more we are able to allow another to see all of us. 

Feeling known, understood, and accepted is a powerful experience. You deserve to give yourself this gift.

How does mindfulness improve sexual experiences?

Can I motivate you to maintain a mindfulness practice by sharing how this will enhance your sexual desire and sexual experiences? 

Whether you lack sexual desire, have performance anxiety, experience pelvic pain, or feel bored with sex, mindfulness is an effective framework for developing a more enjoyable and meaningful sexual relationship with yourself and with partners. 

Mindfulness is a practice of present-moment awareness, a heightened observation of your internal experience. Any thoughts of what you “should” be doing rather than enjoying sex are uninvited to your sexual experience. Any worries about what may or may not occur sexually are uninvited to your sexual experience. 

Mindfulness is non-judgmental, so your critical thoughts are uninvited to your sexual experience, as are worries about your partner’s thoughts. 

All of these thoughts are actually turn-offs, so they reduce desire, arousal, pleasure, and connection. When these turn-offs show up, because they will even when uninvited, shift your attention away from these thoughts and focus instead on what you are experiencing in your body and in your emotions. 

The more attention you bring to your body, the more aware you will be of your experience, and the more intense the experience can be. This awareness can also allow you to notice what you are desiring in the moment. Knowing your desires is an important skill to have as a creator or co-creator of your sexual experience. 

Because mindfulness is a skill that requires practice, I encourage you to look for opportunities throughout your day to practice being present, aware, and non-judgmental. Not only will this be rewarding in those moments but will also benefit you when you bring these skills to your sexual engagements. 

Embracing your experience

Pause and notice what you feel. 

What happens when you notice a pleasant or unpleasant sensation or emotion? Most of us try to escape unpleasant sensations, and some of us even try to escape pleasant sensations. Imagine if you were to increase your ability to stay in the experiences rather than avoid or numb from them. What could you gain by having a greater capacity to be more fully in your emotions and sensations? I believe this is a pathway to having a richer and more fulfilling life. 

Let’s practice deepening our experience now. 

In this moment I am aware of the sound of birds chirping outside and of my cat purring in my lap. I am aware of the light and shadows in this room from the lamps. I am aware of the sensation of my fingers tapping the keys on my laptop, as well as slight pain from muscle tension in my left shoulder. Emotionally, I feel appreciation for the moderate temperature of the room from the open window, love for my cat, curiosity about the words that are flowing onto my screen, and annoyance with my tight shoulder. 

If I want a part of my experience to be more intense, I can choose to focus on that aspect. I can pause from typing and listen to the birds. As I do this, I notice my face smiling and I feel joy. If I shift my focus to the slight pain in my shoulder, I can be with this sensation both from a place of accepting the experience and also of relaxing into the sensation, both of which ease the tension a bit. If I focused instead of how annoyed I feel about the sensation, the pain would likely intensify because my muscles will tense further if I increase the feeling of annoyance. 

I encourage you to try this practice. Begin by noticing sensation and emotion in this moment. Now choose one sensation or emotion to embrace and enhance. After being in this for at least a minute, shift your awareness to a sensation or emotion that seems slightly unpleasant and practice awareness of this without judgment as good or bad for about a minute. Now again bring your awareness to a pleasant sensation or emotion and sit with this experience as your focus. After a minute, scan with your five senses and emotions for additional pleasant aspects of this moment to add more depth to this enjoyable experience. 

Look for opportunities throughout your week to practice your ability to choose where you place your attention and how deeply you can experience each moment. 

How deeply do you experience your life?

Most of us are taught to think rather than feel our way through the world. We may even have been told that ignoring basic needs and physical or emotional discomfort demonstrates how strong we are or how dedicated we are to something more important than ourselves. 

I’m suggesting you make a radical transformation. Notice how you feel - both physically and emotionally. 

Shift your attention to your body. How do your hips feel as you walk from your kitchen to your living room? How does your shampoo smell when you wash your hair? Which muscles in your body are most relaxed when you lie down in bed at night?

Now add the layer of noticing your emotional experience of sensation. What emotions do you feel when you notice the movement of your hips while walking? What emotions do you feel as you smell the shampoo while showering? What emotions do you feel when you lie down in bed at night and you notice relaxed muscles?

These emotions will likely be different than what you would be feeling if you were walking, showering, or lying in bed while your mind is planning your day, dreading what may happen in a few minutes, worrying about something that happened an hour ago, or criticizing yourself or someone else. 

Your experience of each moment can change just by shifting your focus from your thoughts about the past or future or away from judging into being aware of your body and your emotions. Some of what we notice will be pleasant and some will be unpleasant. When we increase awareness of the moment, we have choices in how to be with the experiences rather than ignoring and suffering through the hard parts and missing out of the enjoyable parts. 

Ask yourself how you feel, and then notice the answer. This is important information. Now you have choices in what you do with the information. How will you respond? Explore this on your own, and I’ll offer some suggestions in my next post.