It's vital for mindful acts of emotional and spiritual intimacy to steadily develop as a daily practice for healthy sex. To that end, I've co-authored a book of daily meditations titled Mirror of Intimacy with a colleague at Center for Healthy Sex to help you reach your sexual and relational potential. (You can subscribe for free to receive the meditations by email, here.)
Even momentarily concentrating on healthy solutions rewires psychological patterns to receive and share healthy sexual love in the present. Here are three meditations with the themes of anxiety, sorrow and adequacy for you to ponder and practice this week.
Meditation 1: Anxiety
"Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It makes one feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic." -- Anaïs Nin
Sometimes we're not even aware of anxiety as our own, busy as we are projecting it outward onto external problems and people. Like an unexpectedly discovered bruise on our bodies, our inner psychological states can surprise us by revealing a trauma we never noticed -- anxiety and tension. Other times, an audible sigh announces the sudden realization that we were stressed. Knowing this, we can take steps to release all tension, known and unknown.
Childhood anxiety is buried especially deep. Without a secure attachment to caregivers, a child cannot acquire emotional tools to regulate anxiety. Forceful instances of conflict, enmeshment, or neglect shock a child's nervous system and induce a fight/flight/freeze response. With repetition, associated triggers become embedded into the child's procedural bodily memory, so that the sight of a fist, the tone of a voice, the shrug of a shoulder, or the most innocuous-seeming gesture provokes powerful unconscious anxiety. And this process stretches into adulthood unless the memory is released or reprogrammed. Even the conscious awareness that a specific trigger creates anxiety does not completely eradicate its affect because the reaction happens on a cellular level.
Your first day at a new job may be fraught with anxiety, bringing nervous energy, shallow breathing, and a higher-pitched voice. But after you've gotten the work down cold, you won't even remember the tasks that paralyzed you at the start. A new procedural memory has supplanted your previously dominant anxiety-activation process. Such pattern replacement manifests in all practiced endeavors, especially love and sex, which are typically loaded with unconscious associations and triggers. A devoted practice of loving intentions and shared intimacy with a caring partner does much to counteract relational anxiety, allowing access to lower erotic vibrations as breathing becomes more connected to the body, the voice to the heart.
Daily healthy sex acts
- Notice your anxiety levels throughout the day. Become familiar with your triggers -- sounds, looks, movements -- and trace them to their source in your deepest past. Release or reprogram the troubling memory by making new associations. For example, remind yourself the street "where (your ex-lover) works" is now the street "I take to yoga class."
- Next time you're trying something new sexually, be willing to tolerate anxiety in order to grow and change. Recognize anxiety as a natural part of your sexuality and invite it as a welcome, temporary guest. Breathe and know that all is well.
Meditation 2: Sorrow
"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." -- Charles Dickens
When we fight the urge to mask our sadness with a happy face, when we can sit with the emotion of sorrow without self-pity or self-abandonment, we fling open the shutters of denial to the whole truth of our experience. Fear of depression, of inviting so-called negative energy, or of falling into an emotional abyss can create shame for even acknowledging sadness. Yet who among us is immune? The invitation to feel real sorrow does not exile us to permanent melancholy or gothic gloom. And the narrow social stance that measures our worth solely by positivity prevents true feeling -- the only act that could integrate our sorrows rather than bury us in them. To shine the light of attention and acceptance on our darkest moments brings us closer to wholeness. Sharing emotional truth with trusted others, as we feel it, breaks the chains of isolation.
Personal grief is a microcosmic reflection of world sorrow. Everywhere people suffer for all the reasons under the sun -- death, loss, lack, injury and insult -- and their suffering is our suffering multiplied. In fact, our potential for identification with others' very real lives is the greatest source of joy and communion, and also of pain and helplessness. To deny the true impact of our own and others' sorrow ultimately leads to destructive avoidant behavior and to a half-life of unreal relationship at best and sociopathy at worst.
At the same time, we don't need to deprive ourselves of happiness and pleasure in the face of world sorrow. Maturity contains both delight and sadness, and embraces these polar truths as part of livingness. Many of us did not learn self-empathy for our sadness. The more we develop a psychological language for our sorrow, the more depth, meaning and joy we find in life and in relationship.
Daily healthy sex acts
- How did you cope with sorrow in childhood? Recall times you acknowledged sad feelings and shared them. Now, recall the moments you hid your sorrow in isolation.
- What messages did you learn about sorrow? List all the words you associate with sorrow. Do these beliefs still serve you today? Can you accept your sorrow without shame?
- If you've felt stuck in sorrow, seek out solace through peers, support groups or professional help. Sometimes sharing the truth about your emotional states throughout the day can regulate difficult feelings, and sometimes it's the first step toward necessary healing.
Meditation 3: Adequacy
"We can only be who we are, and at some point that has to be good enough." -- Panache Desai
We exalt the exemplary, but the rare thrill of perfection pales next to the dependable pleasure of adequacy. To feel loved and accepted for ourselves, regardless of what we achieve, creates a sense of warmth and safety that no honor or title can bestow. In youth and beyond, we sometimes despair of anyone's ever staying with us, given all our faults. Yet we stay with ourselves and face our flaws day and night, and most of the time we reconcile ourselves to our shortcomings. We're all adequate for this world, or we wouldn't be here. Even if we permit certain thoughts of inadequacy to define us, they're just thoughts, a tiny percentage of our reality.
But the loop of psychological inflation and deflation can seduce us into the superlative world of compare-and-despair where, as it's said, we're each the worst piece of crap that the world revolves around. Of all the infinite words and ideas to which we've been exposed, why do we cling to the ones that tell us we're not good enough? For, make no mistake, no one has the power or vantage point to define us by our true worth, least of all ourselves -- and we're the witnesses of our whole lives.
Adequacy derives from the Latin adaequatus -- to make equal. Adequacy balances the polar extremes of grandeur and depravity, and lives in the interstice of reality and fantasy. We need our heroes and superstars to inspire us to exceed what's accepted as possible. But this ambition makes a poor base for our central identity. Any attempt to express the best emotions or the most successful thoughts is as quixotic as trying to locate the strongest wave in the ocean. Go with your natural flow as a human in the act of being, by honoring your sacred adequacy.
Daily healthy sex acts
- Notice today the language of superlatives around you, constantly rating objects and events as best or worst, and any feelings that accompany such judgments.
- Affirm the adequacy of each moment in your life. Your experience may have been less than ideal, but something carried you to this moment -- whether good-enough caregivers, passable life instruction, or sufficient opportunity.
- In your heart, extend the appreciation of personal adequacy beyond your own experience to hold everyone you know. Leave off value judgments that isolate you from loving others and bask in the beauty of shared humility, of shared humanity.
For more by Alexandra Katehakis, M.F.T., click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.