5 Tips for A More Mindful Sensual Experience
We live in a society that is constantly pushing us to go harder, faster, longer. And no, I’m not just talking about sex. Whether it’s our jobs, at home, or even our hobbies, we are continually striving to get better, to go further. We are inundated with messages that tell us to progress, to do more, more, more! It may feel sometimes like we need to be superhuman to even keep up. Often, we get so caught up in reaching our goal that we forget about enjoying the journey, only to find at the end, we’re still not happy. So we set another goal and start the process again.
As it turns out, our hectic lives are a pretty good indication of what’s going on behind our bedroom doors too. Is it any wonder we feel we haven’t found time to really connect with our partner? Is it any wonder sex seems like just another item on the to-do list? That we are too stressed/distracted to achieve that big ‘O’? Is it any wonder we worry we will never feel satisfied or experience a deep and meaningful pleasure?
Luckily, I can offer a few words of comfort and five practical tips to help explore sexual pleasure in a more meaningful way. The good news is that none of us are broken, nor are our intimate relationships in ruins; they were simply set aside as we got caught up in the whirlwind of life. Secondly, adopting these five mindful sexuality strategies will help promote a more mindful and pleasure oriented experience in all your day to day activities.
Yes, it is that simple. When was the last time during foreplay or sex that you really connected with your breath? During sexual activity hormones are flooding our nervous system, blood is being pumped ferociously to our erogenous zones, and we start to quicken our breath. While this is an excellent way to detox the lungs, sometimes we are trying so hard to reach climax that we stop breathing altogether (kind of like when you are holding triangle pose during yoga for the first time and you forget you even have lungs). Before you know it, sex is over and you’re wondering if it was even any good! It was quick, to the point and utterly devoid of mindfulness. Focusing on your breath during sex can help you reclaim that sense of connection to your body, mind, spirit, soul and even partner. Breath, physiologically speaking, is integral to a pleasurable sexual experience; it relaxes our muscles and actually increases blood flow to the genitals, which can result in a more intense and longer lasting orgasm. However, emotionally and spiritually speaking, focusing on our breath reminds us that sex is a beautiful journey; a time to connect, renew, relax and indulge. Try this: During foreplay, lay in spoon position with one of your partner’s hands on your belly and the other on your heart center. Breathe slowly and purposefully. You will feel the day’s tension melt away and you will feel the breath flow to where you need it most. If at anytime during your sexual encounter you start to feel that mad rush to get somewhere, stop and start breathing mindfully with the rhythm of your bodies. Delight in the sensations that you never even noticed before.
2. Look. Don’t touch.
Our eyes are powerful and magical; looking into someone’s eyes can tell you their life’s story, their greatest sorrow or their biggest desire. Eyes are often cited as the most erotic part of the human body, and can offer you the most intimate sexual experience you have ever had, without even getting physical. When was the last time you really looked at your partner? When was the last time you let your partner look at you – with the lights on?Perhaps you have forgotten what a beautiful and magnificent creature you are. Allow me to remind you of your absolute perfection. Really looking at one another during foreplay or sex will force you to ignore the nagging or critical thoughts rushing through your brain and will immediately center you in the present moment. The beautiful moments spent looking into your partner’s eyes gives you access to their soul, allowing you to experience the love and desire they have for you, in turn allowing you to relax and enjoy the moment. Try this: Undress slowly for your partner. Let them look at you. Let them marvel at every inch of your body. Once naked, sit facing each other and spend one minute staring into each other’s eyes with out breaking contact. Allow the feelings of vulnerability to surface, acknowledge them, and let them pass. Maybe you will feel intense desire or maybe you will begin to laugh uncontrollably with your partner. Either way, you will experience an intense sensuality that will likely be more rewarding than a quick-fix romp session.
3. Touch. Don’t look.
Your skin is your largest organ and it is filled with tiny nerve endings everywhere, ready to fire off messages of pleasure to the brain. But often times, most of these sensual spots go unnoticed or unused. Back of your elbows or knees? Fingertips? In between your fingers and toes? Behind the ears? The base of your neck or the top of your bum? When was the last time any of these places received the attention they deserve? Our genitals, nipples and lips get their fair share, but surprisingly, our finger tips are just as packed with nerve endings. I also know of people who cannot get aroused until the backs of their legs are gently stroked. Is it possible that you have a hidden hot spot waiting to be discovered? If we spend the time to explore our naked bodies through touch, we are giving permission to the world around us to slow down. We are proclaiming that our body, our temple, is worthy of pleasure. Try this: Ask your partner to blindfold you (if you feel comfortable with that) and allow them to explore your body through touch. Ask them to massage you, to trail their fingers or tongue all along your body, allow them to kiss your finger tips (and yes even toes) slowly and sensually. Allow them to explore all your nooks and crannies and to keep you guessing as to where they will go next. This results in your whole body entering a heightened state of arousal. You may get goose bumps, and you may make some interesting discoveries. When you are done, be sure to return the favour (bonus points if you use different objects and textures like soft skin brushes, pearls, feathers etc.)
4. Smile and give thanks.
This is a simple one, but it is all too often ignored. We may spend countless dollars on the latest magazine promoting explosive sex, only to be left feeling inadequate and dissatisfied at the end because it fell short on it’s promises. Our insecurity, fueled by the mythical stories of people finding nirvana between the sheets because they finally mastered reverse cowgirl, coupled with unrealistic Hollywood narratives of intensely passionate and ferocious encounters, only leads us into a deeper sense that we are somehow missing out on some big sexual secret. You may start to think you are the only one having slightly awkward functional sex with your socks still on. Hint: you’re not. The only difference between people having miserable sex and people having amazing sex is that the latter half is appreciating their experiences for what they are. It’s no secret that a positive outlook will attract more positivity into your life. The same goes for sex: smiling and giving thanks after each encounter will remind you that there was a part of it that really was enjoyable (you were just too busy focusing on what you “did wrong” and comparing yourself to unattainable ideals). Next time try focusing on all the enjoyable bits of the sexual experience. Reminding yourself about all the possible joys in each encounter will enable you to engage in sexual experiences with less pressure, which in turn will enable you to redefine what it means to have meaningful sex.
5. Don’t orgasm.
You must think I am crazy! Trust me on this one – nothing takes you out of the present moment more than trying to reach a goal. Inevitably, if you are trying to get somewhere, you are likely not paying attention to what is happening in the moment. This is ever so important during sexual activities simply because orgasms can be such powerful experiences; so much so that the smaller pleasures that we experience along the way get ignored and downplayed. This is especially true if we struggle “achieving” that goal; we feel let down, frustrated, guilty and we forget about what a wonderful experience we just shared. When orgasm becomes a by-product of sex, rather than an outcome, we are opening ourselves up to explore our sexuality in a more in depth, all encompassing, curious, and ultimately, more meaningful way. This is especially helpful for people who don’t feel in the mood, are tired, or feel performance anxiety and so avoid sexual intimacy. Try this: Do all the above tips, or pick your favourites, and then make a commitment with your partner to not have a sexual agenda. Instead, focus on sexual play: try new positions, try different paces and rhythms, try different locations, toys, or games, or simply try meditating together during sex by letting your bodies enter into their most intimate position and staying there still and silent until they merge into one. When you don’t have to get anywhere, you learn that exactly where you are is incredibly satisfying.
We all deserve to indulge in sexual and intimate pleasure no matter how busy or rushed we feel. Perhaps we can’t all move to a tropical island to get away from it all, but with a conscious effort, we can create our own paradise or oasis in the comfort of our bed. Allowing ourselves to enter into a sensual sanctuary from time to time will remind us that we are all worthy of pleasure and pampering. No matter how overwhelmed we may feel in life, no matter what we hope for our future, real time only exists in the here and now. Practicing mindfulness in the bedroom gives us the tools and ability to press pause in all aspects of life so that we may actually be able to enjoy the smell of the roses along our way.
Kemetic Yoga: Resurrection of an African Legacy
The geometric positions and postures seen in the hieroglyphs and temple walls of ancient Egypt are some of the earliest manifestations of yoga. Discover how practicing Kemetic yoga poses can profoundly affect your health, wellbeing and consciousness.
As a boy growing up in the public housing projects on the Southside of Chicago, I was always fascinated by ancient stories of mythology, fantasy and warriors. I watched many programs about the wonders of the ancient world on public television. The most fascinating aspect of the ancient world for me had always been the mysteries of Egypt. From the first time I’d seen the pyramids and the Sphinx in documentaries, movies and in books I wanted to travel there and see them in person.
The Great Black Kings of Africa
At Catholic grade school in the 1960s, my one and only Black male teacher, Mr. Rochelle, introduced his class to books by the Black historians, including J.A. Rogers, who wrote Great Black Men of Color. This book spoke of the Great Black Kings of Africa and their accomplishments. It also revealed to us that Egypt is in Africa, is the origin of western civilization and that the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were actually Black.
This information became even more interesting to me when I saw that in my grade school geography book that the country of Egypt (northeastern Africa) was absent from the map of Africa. The space where Egypt is supposed to be was blank.
The country of Egypt was instead placed in a separate circle in the upper corner of the page with the words “middle east” written under it.
What I learned in later years is that there has been a concerted effort on the part of western academia to take Egypt out of the context of Africa and to place it in the European/Middle Eastern area of civilization.
Mount Meru: The Origin of Humanity
DNA studies show conclusively that the original modern human beings emerged out of Africa over 3.5 million years ago. The people of India, who were originally an all-Black people called Dravidians, had DNA that originated in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is part of the African region called “Kush” that included ancient Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, all of which comprises a large chunk of Africa. In the book “Opening to Spirit”, author and Yoga master, Shola Arewa draws the connection between ancient Indian stories of the origin of humans on Mount Meru, with East Africa, where the actual mountain of Meru stands at over 15,000 feet in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Hatha and HetHeru There are many similarities between words in Sanskrit and the ancient Egyptian language as it relates to Yoga. For example, the word Hatha which designates the general system of Yoga and means “Moon” and “Sun”, similar to the ancient Egyptian word “Hathor”, which was originally pronounced “Het Heru” by the ancient Egyptians. Hathor or Het Heru is the goddess of the moon and sun.
In ancient Egypt she was personified by a cow. Interestingly the cow is held sacred in Indian culture and is never killed. The Indian cow goddess Kamadhenu, like HetHeru, represents the sacred mother and fertility.
At the age of 21, I made a conscious decision to completely leave the bad habits I had acquired growing up in the ghettoes of Chicago behind me. I stopped all drinking, smoking and the use of psychedelic drugs. As a child of the 60s I had learned to use drugs like marijuana and acid as a means of creating a transcendent consciousness. I also realized that even though these substances could be used to explore the mind that they often had negative impact on my health and wellbeing. Therefore, I decided that I would take up a vegan diet and use fasting, meditation and exercise (running and calisthenics) as my new path towards higher consciousness.
My Yogic Journey
About a year after embarking on this new path, I met someone who was into Yoga. After a great deal of hesitancy, I allowed myself to try out a Yoga class. After the first class with my one and only teacher, Dr. Asar Hapi of Chicago, a Black man, Naprapath and Chiropractor, I knew that I would make Yoga my life long path.
Though I was very stiff at the beginning, I could feel the benefits; I felt relaxed and my energy improved. I learned that physical benefits of Yoga, such as flexibility, came as a consequence of practice. My teacher, Dr. Hapi, had already adopted an ancient Egyptian name. We both felt that Yoga probably came from Egypt but we did not have any particular proof.
Revelations From King Tut’s Tomb
This changed when the King Tut exhibit came to Chicago in the mid-1970s. One of the artifacts that were found in the tomb of King Tut was a chair that contained a uniquely ancient Egyptian Yoga posture and various hieroglyphic inscriptions.
We were inspired to figure out how to perform this posture, translate the hieroglyphic writing and interpret the symbols. Our investigation of the artifact revealed the following:
- The Sun Disk at the top of the head represents the crown chakra
- The two serpents on each side of the sun disk represents the two primary nadis (energy channels) Ida and Pingala
- The hieroglyphic inscriptions make reference to eternity and the achievement of immortality
- The “person” or deity pictured in posture is called Heh or Shu and is associated with life energy, the breath and the life force found in the air (prana)
- He is seated on a platform that means “Nub” which is the ancient Egyptian word for gold. Gold is a metaphor for the highest level of consciousness that a person can reach which is the ultimate purpose of the practice of Yoga
Resurrection of Ancient Egyptian Yoga
As we explored more of the ancient Egyptian records through books it became apparent that Gods and Goddesses they called “Neteru” were actually in various Yoga postures that did not exist in the Indian system. The philosophies of Yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism were similar and in some cases identical to ancient Egyptian spiritual science. They are various examples of this:
The ancient Egyptian philosophical idea that the underlying nature of the universe is predicated on a discernable order that each individual person is obligated to strive for. According to Maat the true nature of everything is order, balance, harmony, justice and reciprocity. This principle of Maat and these attributes need to be exemplified in the way that we live our lives in order to transcend the limitation in consciousness that comes with identification with the temporal world of cause and effect. It is the over identification with the physical body and material world that gives rise to all of the problems that afflict humankind.
A woman sitting on one folded leg with spine twisted and arms extended personifies Maat. The arms have wings attached which signify the ability to heal and for the spirit to take flight or rise metaphorically. Maat wears a feather on her head.
In the ancient Egyptian funeral rites, the heart of the of the deceased person Wwas symbolically weighed: it had to be lighter than the feather in order for the person to achieve immortality.
The Greeks called him Hermes but the ancient Egyptians called him Tehuti or Thoth. Thoth was the great spiritual teacher of ancient Egypt who was the inventor of writing, knowledge and wisdom. Hermetic philosophy speaks of methods of achieving immortality through the practice of techniques that allows the mind to disassociate with identification with the material world. This idea of disassociation and transcendence was referenced in all of the earliest Yogic writings from India. This process depended upon the practice of contemplation and meditation rather than the performance of hundreds or even thousands of Yoga postures that characterizes modern Yoga. Thoth delineated 7 primary principles that became the foundation of what was later to be called Hermetic philosophy and gave rise to Free Masonry, Theosophy and many other modern “new age” philosophical movements.
The Seven Principles of Hermetic Philosophy
The seven principles are:
- The Principle of Mentalism: The All if Mind and the Universe is Mental
- The Principle of Correspondence: As above, so below, as below so above
- The Principle of Vibration: Nothing Rests, everything moves, everything vibrates
- The Principle of Polarity: Everything is dual, everything has poles, everything has its pair of opposites, like and unlike are the same, opposites are identical in nature, but are different in degree, extremes meet, all truths are but half-truths, all paradoxes may be reconciled.
- The Principle of Gender: Gender is in everything, everything has its masculine and feminine principles, gender manifests on all planes
- The Principle of Rhythm: Everything flows out and in, everything has its tide, all things rise and fall, the pendulum swing manifests in everything, the measure of the swing to the right is measure of the swing to the left, rhythm compensates
- The Principle of Cause and Effect: Every cause has an effect, every effect has a cause, everything happens according to law and chance is but a name for law not recognized, there are many planes of causation but nothing escapes the law
For those who are familiar with the philosophy of Yoga, the similarities with Maat and what is called Hermetic philosophy are intuitive.
However, there are key differences in the approaches of Yoga as it was understood and practiced in ancient Egypt and India. A fundamental aspect of ancient Egyptian spiritual science (which is identical across Africa) is the connection to ancestors. In ancient Egypt, which is properly called Kemet (Egypt is the Greek version of the word), connecting with the spirits of the ancestors through meditation, prayer and ritual is a pillar of Kemetic Yoga practice. The purpose of meditation is not only to transcend the boundaries of the material world but also to connect and communicate with the living spirits of those who have gone before us.
About two years after I started my practice of Yoga with Dr. Hapi, he informed me that he was going to focus his attention on his healing practice and that I should continue to develop and teach the system of ancient Egyptian Yoga. Though I really only wanted to practice Yoga for my own development, I eventually started to teach it more regularly. I decided to use the term Kemetic Yoga because it is the correct Egyptian term. Over the years I have done more original research into the philosophy and practice of Kemetic Yoga through traveling to Egypt, studying ancient texts, deciphering symbols and introducing new movements and postures into the system.
Kemetic Yoga Poses
We perform many of the movements and posture or asanas that are found in mainstream Hatha Yoga because many are seen in the record of ancient Egypt and are also represented among the practices of traditional African societies. Some of the postures and movements that are uniquely ancient Egyptian are:
- The Pose of Immortality
- The Pose of Auset/Maat
- The Pose of Min/Sekhmet
- The Teken Pose/Teken Sequence
- The Sesh Poses
- The Pose of Anpu (Peaceful Warrior Pose)
- The Maat Ka Sequence
- The Pose of Selkhet
- The Pose of Ausar
- The Pose of Geb
The YogaSkills Method
I have synthesized the practice of Kemetic Yoga into a system called the YogaSkills Method. YSM is based upon two concepts called Rule of Four Breathing (RFB) and Geometric Progression. RFB simply means that each breath should be mindfully divided into four parts: Inhalation, Pause, Exhalation, Pause. This is simply to allow the mind to stay focused and so that energy can move properly through the body. GP or Geometric Progression means that we are moving the body through postures in a manner that is consistent with physical and spiritual anatomy and that allows energy to flow through the channels (nadis).