“By the time I put the kids to bed and finish everything I’ve been working on, the last thing I want to do is be sexual with my husband,” she said, as the women around her nodded in sympathetic assent. “To me, sex is the last chore of the day.”
I was teaching a workshop on sexual embodiment for a women’s group that had invited me as a guest teacher. The women in the room were all stylishly groomed, attractive and put together; almost all of them were in long-term relationships.And yet for all the physical confidence they projected, their words revealed a thread of common experience.
“I want to be in my body more.” “I want to feel more comfortable with myself.” “I want to be more sensual, more playful.” “I want to be more present during sex, not be so in my head.” “I miss the feeling of getting lost during sex.”
The complaints heard in that workshop echoed the things I’ve heard from thousands of people about how hard it is to get out of their heads during sex. I see this as a search for deeper sexual embodiment, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve seen how our increasing level of technological enmeshment affects us as sexual people.
The way we are living is hurting a lot of things, not the least of which is our sex lives. We are always plugged in, we are always running from one thing to the next, overscheduled, understaffed, under-resourced. That makes it really hard to be present to our lovers and the things we really care about when we actually want to unplug. So the truth is that if you want to be more embodied, you have to start outside of the bedroom. We can’t expect to live with our days filled with meetings, errands, work, phone calls, social media notifications, and the pressure of multi-tasking… and then turn on a dime and show up as fully embodied, wild, surrendered sexual beings with complete presence as soon as the bedroom door closes. Expecting it to happen automatically can set us up for the feeling of failure.
There’s a Zen koan that says,“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes each day, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” And something I’ve seen countless times over the years is that when people get stressed and overwhelmed, sexuality and eroticism fall by the wayside. Have you experienced that inner cycle of stressful thoughts, overwhelm, and the constant mental pressure to “get things done,” as you de-prioritize exercise, food, sex and sensual experiences because you “don’t have time”? That feeling of living “from the neck up” keeps us from dropping into our bodies, from relaxing, from tuning into what we really want and need in the moment. That disembodied place is where that woman spoke from when she described sex as her “last chore of the day.” Sexuality and eroticism guide us back to being present in our bodies and yet they fall to the bottom of the priority list or start to feel like a chore when we are overwhelmed, even though they, ironically, are just what we need.
I want to clarify that I’m using “sexuality” in a broad sense here; I’m not only talking about having sex with other people (which can be great, and a huge stress reliever), but also masturbation, fantasy, and other ways in which we feel connected to our desire; I’m talking about our attunement to and ability to appreciate beauty; I’m talking about the feeling of living inside our own skins.
Cultivating a deeper level of sexual embodiment is a practice, so here are some keythings you can do to unplug from technology and plug into real sensual experiences.
1. Release the hold on your electronic leash. Stop keeping your phone next to the bed. It shouldn’t be the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do in the morning. And stop looking at your phone during everything, dates, walks, just being. If you can’t walk down the street without being on your phone, you are missing out on life around you.
2. Protect your bedroom spaceand keep it for sleeping and sexy time. Remove the televisions and the gadgets… keep that space sacred.
3. Seek out beauty, prioritize it, and take your time more. Stop and smell the flowers, stop to look at beauty. Beauty is the highest expression of spirit and it is meant to be enjoyed. We are beauty filled beings and we need beauty to keep us plugged into the erotic. I recommend making a list right now of “ten sources of beauty” and just feel how it changes YOU to contemplate the sources of beauty in your life.
4. Nurture your erotic energy in other ways: luxuriating in lotioning up your body after your shower, enjoying the feeling of water and the sunshine, dance, touch your body and include your breasts and genitals. If you just gave yourself affection each day, what would that be like?
5. Create a space that feels luxurious and sumptuous to be in; make art. Make food beautiful when you serve it. Keep flowers in your house. Grow a garden. Our erotic selves are affected by the environment, so assess your surroundings from the question: “Does this inspire my erotic self?”
In her essay “The Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde wrote: “Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives.” The way you do anything is the way you do everything. If you are always in a rush, always somewhere else but in the present moment, it will be hard to be present and to surrender to the deepest expression of pleasure in sex. Sex is an art. Life is art. Start making it your art. Do things with flair and make the little things meaningful.