Dear Ms. Nash,

I have enjoyed your poetry on KPFK and am familiar with your from my involvement with Shinzen Young's teachings and my Yoga classes at Insight Yoga in Pasadena. (I think I spotted you at Shinzen's recent retreat there.) I know you are conducting the Mindful Eating class this weekend, and am very interested in attending, as I love eating mindfully whenever I remember to do so. I don't know yet if I can clear my own music teaching schedule, but am trying to move my lessons. I hope to be there.

I wanted to ask you a question that may seem bizarre or inappropriate, but it is very serious to me, and I ask it in all earnestness and sincerity. You teach mindful eating; do you or anyone with a solid background in mindfulness meditation teach mindful sex? I am curious about this for a specific reason: I find mindfulness and sex to be mutually exclusive. Mindfulness diffuses and dissolves sexual arousal for me. I think I understand the meaning of mindfulness, having taken Goenka's 10-day retreat and meditated in Shinzen's various suggested practices, but can't seem to apply them in this context. Mindfulness expands my enjoyment of food enormously, but not sexual activity. I would like to think that there is hope for integrating the two, which is why I'm asking about instruction.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

S


Hi 'S'

I would have to say that mindfulness and sex most certainly go hand in hand – i.e. Mindfulness will greatly increase the satisfaction & fulfillment of the sexual act – but, no, I do not teach that and my suggestion would be to either apply the a lot of the principals that I’ll use in the food class, or check out any tantric class – which I assume would work, at least, with some aspect of heightened awareness in the sexual act (depending on who’s teaching it – as I’ve heard vastly different stories of what was handled & how in those.) I’m afraid I cannot recommend any specific class, though.

My other suggestion would be to take a movement class – Continuum would be one, where the focus is on fluid movement – a kind of slow motion moving meditation – which brings mindfulness into the body with movement (since there is movement with the sexual act) and then any movement of the body – sexual or not – can be a mindful dance of sorts.

There’s an earnest answer for you.
Hope to see you on Sunday if you can make it.
With Metta,
Steph

PS I just re-read your email and the phrase "Mindfulness diffuses and dissolves sexual arousal for me" also indicates to me, that what would happen (with the suggestions I mentioned) might be a changing of perspective of what the sexual act is and/or an expansion of your definition of mindfulness. In my experience, mindfulness absolutely heightens the sexual experience (for both the man & woman (although it is nice when both are being mindful) and if you want to hear Shinzen speak about one particular strategy of using his techniques listen to him talk of how to get a massage. That's not necessarily the strategy I use, but it would absolutely be applicable for sex. FYI Steph


Dear Stephanie,

Thank you so much for your generous and thoughtful reply. You've given me a lot of food for thought to eat up mindfully. Your conviction and certainty make me want to return to the drawing-board and reconsider everything about this topic. I think you are definitely quite right about needing to expand my definition of mindfulness. I know from my limited experience with Shizen's meditations on body sensations that there is a broad spectrum of angles from which to approach practice, from sensations associated with relaxation all the way to those associated with pain. I was so intent on my bodily sensations during such activities that desire and arousal actually went away, making the act impossible for obvious reasons. I assumed that was why S.N. Goenka would tell his students that it would eventually be necessary to become celibate, and that we would enjoy it. I was always rather perplexed at Shinzen's many references to being in bed with one's lover. It now occurs to me that there may be other objects of body sensations on which to attend mindfully that don't involved "seeing the sensations to their own extinction," such as being mindful of the pleasurable sensations. When occasion may arise, I'll try to investigate such an approach. Thank you again for taking my question despite never having met me. I look forward to meeting and studying with you sometime soon. It is proving difficult to change my schedule this Sunday, but I hope to take another of the upcoming classes mentioned on your website.

Thanks again,
S