Better Sex through Mindfulness project

Other than the first two or three years after my epiphany, I’ve had low libido my whole life, so when I came across Lori A. Brotto’s Better Sex through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire a little over a year ago, I bought it and promptly started reading. Unfortunately I didn’t get far. The mindfulness it was asking me for felt out of my range.

I had assumed that mindfulness was a thing I’d be good at. I’m observant. I’m introspective. I’m a highly sensitive person. I have good physical awareness for both movement and health issues. So it threw me for a loop when a body awareness exercise felt difficult.

But maybe it shouldn’t have. Now that I give it some thought, there are also ways in which I can be rather disconnected from my body. Relatively recently I developed a tendency to hold my breath under certain circumstances and it took some time (and a trip to the doctor) before I figured out what I was doing. I always have a certain degree of muscle tension, especially in my neck and shoulders. And then there’s the big one: the nighttime jaw-clenching habit that I’ve struggled with for my entire adult life. Oh yeah, that!

There’s also the puzzling fact that I have no memory of my first orgasm even though I’m certain that it was with a boyfriend (pretty sure I know which one), and resulted from him giving me oral sex. I’m also certain that I didn’t dissociate in the moment, but my former sexual shame seems to have cast the memory of it adrift. In reading about dissociation (the current SB4MH prompt), I also brushed up on the related concept of emotional detachment, which is much more familiar to me, especially as demonstrated by my mother who I believe experienced some kind of sexual trauma as a child.

Although I set the Brotto book aside, I started trying to tune in more to certain physical sensations that I seem to habitually ignore.

For instance, I don’t really feel hungry when it’s time to eat, and I now wonder whether my lack of a sense of hunger is somehow learned and is an example of an idiosyncratic disconnect between physical sensation and awareness. It’s a real issue because it leads to issues and symptoms relating to low blood sugar, especially when I’m not able to eat on a schedule like while I’m travelling. This is something where mindfulness might really help.

I’ve also been paying more attention to the times when I feel (spontaneously) turned on. I’ve found that I rarely feel any arousal at all, and if I do, the sensation tends to be very mild and easily ignored. It’s usually only perceptible it in the morning when I wake up, and getting up to go to the bathroom or retrieve my vibe has often been enough to kill it.

In addition to working on this ‘remedial physical awareness’, I also started meditating. In the past I’d never got beyond a bit of dabbling but this time I actively sought out meditation classes as a way of building a foundation for mindfulness. I found a Buddhist class that was conveniently located and had a set of talks aimed at beginners. Perfect! While I haven’t quite gotten into a regular meditation routine, I now feel that I have the foundation I was after.

And with that, I think I’m ready to dive back in to Better Sex through Mindfulness!

As I read Brotto’s book, I’ll be using each chapter as a writing prompt as a way of encouraging myself to slow down, reflect, and engage with it deeply.

Below is the table of contents, which I will link to my posts as I work through it.

Introduction

Chapter 1. Sex in a Multitasking World

Chapter 2. Seeking Sexual Ecstasy – From the Couch to the Brain Drug

Chapter 3. Introducing the Raisin

Chapter 4. Becoming Aware of Your Body

Chapter 5. “Your Attention, Please!”

Chapter 6. How Mindfulness Works

Chapter 7. If You’re Happy and You Know It

Chapter 8. It Takes Two

Chapter 9. Tuning In to Pain

Chapter 10. You Have My Attention – Now What?

Chapter 11. The Next Chapter of the Present Moment

Masturbation Monday

reflecting and looking forward

“No peeking”, a Sinful Sunday photo from May 2016.

Well, 2019 was a year. Fortunately there was more positive than negative.

IBS-friendly diet and improved energy

In late 2018, I started managing my IBS using a FODMAP-based diet and by January 2019 I could tell that it was having a positive effect, and not only on my digestive symptoms.

The most unexpected — and utterly delightful — effect was that it largely resolved the fatigue that I’d struggled with for over seven years at that point, despite having undergone every relevant test my doctor could think of. As a result, instead of being constantly dragged down and only randomly experiencing the occasional unpredictable ‘on’ day, most days are now good days and if I get blindsided by some surprise fatigue, reverting to a conservative diet and waiting out my digestive process for a maximum of three days almost always resolves the issue.

For an accidental discovery, it’s had a huge effect on my day-to-day life. A few years ago, the combination of fatigue, poor sleep, depression and then antidepressants meant that I never knew for sure if I’d have the energy, cognition or focus to a given thing at a given time. (A few weeks after I tapered off the antidepressants in April 2018, the cognition and focus came back, but fatigue remained.) Eventually I got tired of disappointing myself so I just stopped planning anything and instead would decide on the day whether I was up for doing the thing. Which was me doing my best to cope, but it wasn’t very effective and it had exacerbated my inherent tendency not to make plans or have goals.

I now have the energy to plan and set goals, though I’m not actually very good at either of those things. So I’ll be working on that in all areas of my life, especially food (shopping, prepping, cooking), and sexuality (specifically exploring the factors that may be contribute to my low libido).

meditation

At the beginning of 2019 I started going to a weekly meditation class with a Buddhist group that meets conveniently near my place. I’d been thinking for some time that meditation would probably be good for my buzzy brain. And during my most recent meditation, I became aware that even though my brain is still far from quiet, it’s perceptibly quieter than it was when I started a year ago. It’s nice to feel that sense of progress.

I’m not practicing regularly at the moment but I’m working on making it part of my routine. And I’ll continue going to the classes because I find them helpful and I like the people: folks who are actively working on themselves to to decrease criticism and increase compassion are people I want to be around.

Wolf’s new job

Another significant change was that at the beginning of 2019 Wolf got a good contract job in a nearby city. For a change, we’re now both working at the same time, so things have suddenly gotten much easier financially, although he now has the expense of his own apartment and utilities. I’m in the process of paying out our mortgage early (we’re currently in payout limbo as the request has been made but the bank hasn’t withdrawn the money yet), so there’s a financial freedom on the horizon for us.

It’s not a secure enough job for me to consider upping stakes yet. But we’re making efforts to remain connected despite the distance, and he’s going to look for enjoyable things we can do when I come to visit to help with my project to have more pleasure in my life.

solitude

But with Wolf away, I’m once again alone here. It’s less than ideal but nowhere near as difficult as when he was overseas doing his doctorate: I tend not to get especially lonely; we talk on the phone every day and see each other every few weeks; neither of us are dealing with depression and/or anxiety the way we were before; and I still have support from Jaime.

Some time ago, I discovered that I couldn’t answer the questions “what do I like? what do I want?” in relation to sex. I now see that I struggle to answer these questions at all, for anything. I think this is largely because other people’s needs and wants seem much louder to me than my own. (It’s no coincidence that my epiphany occurred only after Wolf had been away for the better part of two years.)

But there is a mental quietness that comes from being by myself virtually all the time, enhanced by the fact that I keep the house literally quiet most of the time too. That literal and figurative quiet allows me to listen for my inner voice.

I’m going to make the most of my quiet time, keep trying to figure out my answers to those questions, and see what I can do to remain tuned in to my gut even when I’m not alone. I currently subject myself to a certain amount of mental chatter via social media, but I’m considering cutting down in order to be more deliberate with my energy; no decisions made yet on this point.

car theft

Our summer was marred by the theft and subsequent destruction of our car. Someone came in the back door of our house in the early evening and stole a handful of keys that were right there, including the car keys. I experienced a bunch of difficult emotions, chiefly anger, but in the end it didn’t hit me as hard as I (and others) expected. It was too much to process at once (similar to grief in that way) and I was concerned that perhaps I was at risk of burying the emotions rather than processing them. But I’m able to think about it now and while it’s still a bit sensitive, I don’t feel the need to avoid it, so I guess I’m OK.

Despite various anxieties I experienced that made it difficult to buy a new car, I did buy one, and I like it. Rather than getting a colour that would blend in, I got red because it’s my favourite colour, and despite the fact that some people judge drivers of red cars. Rather than getting a standard licence plate I got a personalised plate because it makes me happy to see it. It was an exercise in determining what I like and want, and prioritising my own pleasure.

I still have some anger, sadness and frustration about this episode, but I trust that it will ease over time and that giving it some attention today will help that process. We’ve taken some steps already for increased security and I’ll give some thought to some others, all with the goal of keeping my response reasonable and proportionate and not turning into an angry misanthropist in a walled compound.

looking forward

I’ve spent a lot of time over the holidays planning, which is unlike me. But I think I’m ready for planning and strategizing now in a way that I wasn’t before, thanks partly to the meditation I’ve been doing. (One of my common intrusive thoughts while meditating is my to-do list, so it would be helpful if I gave it its own dedicated time.)

This process of listening to my gut and planning has given me a clearer idea of what I want to do with this blog going forward. Having realised and accepted that I still have unresolved issues around sexuality, I want to work on those and I’m going to try harnessing the power of memes to give me a kick in the pants to get that stuff done 🙂

 

F4Thought