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 limitations, curiosity, and familiarity for you to ponder and practice this week.
Meditation 1: Limitations
"It doesn't matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn't matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years -- we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on." -- Sharon Salzberg
A limit is a point at which we restrict our actions by our own free choice. We set limits when we tell ourselves, "I'm going to limit myself to one glass of wine with dinner." The related act of setting boundaries -- differentiation between ourselves and others -- ensures that we can keep setting our own limits freely, so it is crucial for mental health and real relationship. For example, we may say, "My limit is one glass of wine with dinner when I'm out with friends, and my boundary is that if I feel pressured to drink more, I will take care of myself and say 'no,' or leave if I need to." This simple formula will alleviate a lot of problems in relationships when both parties agree that they are entitled to their limits and boundaries.
Limitations, on the other hand, differ. These restrictions on our conscious will are often born out of our fear rather than out of our aspiration to master ourselves. Challenging our limitations is a powerful way to grow and change. When we hear ourselves state, "This is just how I am," or, "I've always been this way," we should recognize that we are giving into our limitations, especially when it comes to sexual experimentation. Blaming or shaming a lover because he or she wants to try something new may indicate that we're hiding behind our limitations. We might then ask ourselves whether we'll really be of our integrity if we try this new behavior or whether we're taking the easy way out by not confronting our limitations. Demanding that a partner live within our own limitations is a form of emotional hostage-taking. Instead, let's use our awareness of our limitations to further, and freely, develop an ever-evolving adult sexuality limited only by our best selves.
Daily healthy sex acts
- What are the top three limitation tales you tell yourself? They will typically have a tinge of fear or judgment in them and may sound something like, "I'm too old to..." or, "I think it's weird when..."
- What are your sexual limitations? When did you set those? How did they come to be? Have they helped or hurt your relationships?
- Take on one sexual limitation this week and entrust your partner to help you break through it.
Meditation 2: Curiosity
"Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not." -- Virgil Thomson
The desire to learn plays a large part in helping us fulfill our potential in life. Inquisitive exploration of the strange, novel, or rare helps us mature into wisdom and makes us interesting in our own right. When we are eager or excited to find something out, we activate a state of internal arousal that is contagious to those around us. The most probing thinkers of all are usually accomplished men and women to whom we are drawn as teachers or mentors. Great minds are curious, looking to solve life's puzzles or to appreciate the ordinary from new perspectives.
Like great thinkers, good listeners are curious. And curious listeners make good friends and lovers. We all know people who talk endlessly about themselves and never ask about our experiences or how we're doing. Such a person tends to be self-centered, a trait manifested by their making assumptions rather than inquiring, interrupting others rather than hearing, and completing others' sentences because they already "know" what others will say. Their communication style leaves us feeling frustrated and diminished.
But when we listen to others with interest and genuine care, we give them -- and ourselves -- a great gift. The person being heard without an imposed agenda feels validated, attended to, and liked. The person doing the listening gets the opportunity to practice compassion, empathy, and open-heartedness -- skills we all need to hone in order to be better, and wiser, human beings. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but curiosity with discernment and the real will to connect opens the window to deep love relationships.
Daily healthy sex acts
- Get curious today about the simple things in life. Start with anything you see in the natural world. Rather than focusing on what you already know, be inquisitive about what you don't know. Wonder at the blue sky, ask questions about how birds fly.
- How curious are you about the people in your life? What do you really know about them? Do you know your niece's favorite color? Your son's favorite band? Your partner's secret desires?
- Don't assume you know anything about anyone today. Ask questions, then listen with an open mind and heart.
Meditation 3: Familiarity
"Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends." -- Hāfez
We've all heard that "familiarity breeds contempt," implying that deep acquaintance leads to boredom and disrespect. This saying is often cited as an excuse for a wandering eye. But when familiarizing ourselves with a person engenders disregard, you can bet it's not intimacy that's the cause. On the contrary, disenchantment in a longstanding relationship results either when we encounter an entirely unfamiliar, inassimilable aspect of the person, or when we relapse to very familiar patterns that have always limited our ability to relate.
All relationships sooner or later seem familiar because they occur within our own customary emotional patterns. To be completely honest, what many of us fear is not our familiarity with someone else, but the other party's familiarity with us. We're afraid they'll discover or guess an inexplicable scenario in our history or a secret fantasy of ours which will make them reject us. How can we make our particular truths understandable, so they're as comprehensible to them as to us? Our own acquaintance with how we think and feel -- with our internal process -- will always sustain our capacity for true familiarity with others.
We develop the capacity for true familiarity with others through practical experience -- learning others' stories through direct interaction or through literature and movies. Similarly, in sexual relationships our touch finds familiar places and responses that create a soothing recognition. But if we do nothing to broaden our inner awareness, it's easy to invite familiar early programming, which may include an unhealthy taste for conflict and discomfort, into a new and promising relationship. To familiarize ourselves consciously with our past conditioning lets us engage in new ways of sharing through mental, emotional and sexual exploration. The healthy novelty such sharing continuously creates may give our age a new adage: "Genuine familiarity breeds content."
Daily healthy sex acts
- Today, recognize the enjoyable familiarity you feel for everyone in your life. Summon the warm glow of comfortable connectedness, and share it with new, unfamiliar faces.
- When you sense conflict or discomfort, familiarize yourself with your own internal programming. Might this situation correspond to an early event in your life? Become familiar enough to acknowledge your own inner history, and you will invite true familiarity into every relationship. To begin, simply internally narrate what's happening as it's happening: "I'm triggered," "I'm trying to hide a mistake," "I'm feeling this way towards this person."
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