Spirituality

Breath and Good Sex

Rhiannon No Comments

There is such a strong connection between breath and good sex.  I’ve written about it before in previous blogs and if you are a client or want to be a client, you’ll know that we work a lot on deep breathing and meditation.

At the 2017 American Association for the Society of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) Conference, Charlie Glickman (2017)  presented on somatic work with clients.  He stated the following statement:

“The key to really good sex is not technique: it’s breath movement and sound”.

Anyone who practices yoga or meditation will know about deep, rhythmic breathing.  And breath is a fundamental foundational exercise in the practices of tantra and orgasmic meditation. It’s an easy way to bring mindfulness, awareness, and connection to oneself and a partner.  Here is a GIF demonstrating a basic deep breathing technique.  Try it and follow along:

via GIPHY

I know what you might be thinking?  Good sex is so much more COMPLICATED than the breath- that breath and good sex might be connected but it isn’t that strong of a relationship.  I’ll challenge y0ur thinking on that by offering you a couple exercises to try with your partner next time you express yourself sexually.

 Deep Breathing Exercise (Solo or within a Relationship)

Sit or lay comfortably, either alone prior to a solo sexual session or prior to a partner(s) session.  Do deep, rhythmic breathing, or what this video calls “belly breathing”.  We suggest for 3-5 minutes and if you have a difficult time with it, do a guided breathing exercise (easily found on podcast app or this other video below.

Tantric Breathing: Breathing in Unison

Sit across from your partner comfortably so you can look into your partners eyes, some partners like to sit crossed legged, knee to knee, and some need more support from pillows and chairs.  Be comfortable- you will do this exercise for five minutes so I suggest you setting a timer.  Sit across from your partner and gaze into their eyes.  For five minutes, I want you to match each others breath while gazing into each others eyes.  Generally, one person will need to breath deeper than the others, because our lung capacity is different.  Try to breath deep together, increasing air flow and connectivity.  For more information, see my blog on Tantra Sexuality: Weaving Spirit and Sex

Tantric Breathing: Alternating Breath

Like the exercise above, but alternate breath: when one of you inhales, the other exhales. Do this for five minutes.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how to have Good Sex, listen to my podcast love.sex.ATX and the episodes dedicated to Good Sex at (love.sex.atx).

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Tantra Sexuality: Weaving Spirit and Sex

Rhiannon one comments

Tantra Sexuality: Weaving Spirit and Sexspirituality photo

Sit or lay down, with your partner or with yourself.  And breathe.  A deep, abdominal breath.  And do it again.  And just by breathing, you have the foundation of improving your sexual experience through tantra sexuality.

An area of interest of mine for some time now has been sex and spirituality, and how to gain a deeper experience of our spirituality, sensuality, and sexuality through the practice of a variety of techniques, and an area of increasing interest of mine has been tantric sexuality.

My colleagues at the Southwest Sexual Health Alliance invited Sally Valentine, PhD, LCSW to present to therapists on deepening the tantric awareness of practitioners and I want to share a little about the day.

So what is Tantra? 

“Tantra is where sex is transformed into Love and Love is transformed into the Higher Self”  Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, OSHO

“Tantra is the weaving of spirit and sex.  Through an awareness and consciousness of our energies we are able to shift our energy throughout our bodies, which can enhance our depth of connection with ourselves and our partner.  Tantra partnering includes honest communication, eye gazing, and fully tapping into our senses by means of touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing.  Practices of tantra include fully breathing, breathwork, visualization, and meditation” (Valentine Counseling, 2017)spirituality photo

A lot of the work I do in my practice weaves tantra naturally into couples and intimacy work, but to break it down to the average person, tantra involves four basic principles and four levels:

The four basic tantric principles that I weave into my work as an online sex therapist include:

1. Presence: Being in the moment, this moment

2. Open-Heart: Free of Judgment, unconditional Love

3. Reveres Sex: Vehicle for Higher Consciousness

4. Reveres the Body as Sacred and Divine

Tantra Practice has Four Levels

1. Body/physical: Tune into the senses/embrace the body

2. Mind/mental: Overcome old beliefs/shame

3. Heart/emotional: Let go of fear, open up to trust, giving, and receiving

4. Soul/Spiritual: Activate energy, experience of Self/Spirit

The four levels of tantric practice is exactly what we address in sex therapy at SexTherapy-Online.  All these areas are attended to.  I often get the question- What is Sex Therapy?  What does it look like?.  My answer can vary but you’ll usually hear me say something like “All my clients come to me for a sexual issue, but it is rarely ever really just about sex.  It’s about life.  Sex is just what brought you to me.  Life is what we will work on”.  These four levels are exactly what we address in therapy.  We will address all of these areas.

Why Tantra?

Tantra is a change agent and can facilitate sexual healing and enhance emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy.  Tantra promotes healthy communication, honors the self and others, and explores how attitudes and beliefs of sexuality affect sexual satisfaction.   Tantra promotes change by increasing awareness in energy through meditation, eye gazing, and breath work.

“Tantra is a mode of sexual healing and sexual healing takes place when the individual experiences safety and validation for their experiences.  Sexual education may enhance understanding of what had occurred.  Healthy sexual communication enables one to reach into greater levels of intimacy and increase sexual self-esteem.  This may be facilitated by psychotherapy, personal growth programs, and spiritual practices, such as tantra.  Some tantric practices that facilitate sexual heal thing and enhancement of emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy are (but not limited to)” (Valentine, 2017):

– honoring self and others

– sacred space

– healthy communication

– breathing

– energy awareness

– eye gazing

– heart connection

– meditation

One of the first and most basic components of of Tantra is Tantric breathing and is fundamental to a lot of our therapeutic work.  It might be annoying when someone says “Take a Deep Breath”, but there is science behind why that works.

Tantric Breathing Yogic Breath

Tantric yoga breath reduces anxiety and mental stress, strengthens cardiovascular system and stimulates the nervous system, improves oxygenation (allowing the lungs to work at full capacity, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood), helps expel toxins from the body and improves stamina and vitality. Below you will find some instructions on the tantric yogic breath.

“Take a full breath.  Breathe from your belly, concentrating on filing your lungs completely up.  Place your hands over your belly and feel your belly expand on inhalation and return back to normal when you exhale.  This is both mechanical (movement of their body) and visual, imagine that you are breathing all the way down to your perineum, knees, floor, etc.  Start with 2 minutes increase over time.”  (Valentine, 2017)

It might seem silly, but sometimes we need to start our sessions with some deep breathing to change the way our body interacts with our systems.  Deep breathing provides your body what it needs.

Just as important to the practice of tantra that breath is, eye gazing is also another fundamental exercise.

Eye Gazing

eye photoEye gazing is when you face another and look into each others eyes softly and connected and lovingly.  The importance of eye gazing is that it facilitates deeper intimate connection, increases oxytocin, decreases anxiety, in some case may increase anxiety (due to vulnerability, threatened, shyness, intrusive feelings), and may illicit emotions of joy, sadness, calm, and loss.  Here are some instructions below:

“Face each other and look/gaze into each other’s eyes, softly and lovingly.  (Is natural in ‘new’ love but wanes over time).  Poet, Rumi, calls it ‘consciousness of union’.  See/feel the depth and uniqueness of your partner.  Notice what feelings come up, notice what thoughts comes, notice your bodily sensations.  Allow yourself to be present and just ‘be’.” (Valentine, 2017)

Sexual Energy

Sexual energy is life force energy and sexual energy is innocent.  When sexual energy is open: it flows and increases vitality, creativity, healthy boundaries, passion, and sense of well being.  When sexual energy is blocked or closed: one may experience rigidity in the body, pain, emotional distance, and distress.  Tantra is about weaving sexual energy within oneself and others.

Sex is sacred.  Sex is spiritual.  Sex is being connected to oneself and others.  If anything you read interests you, feel free to reach out to me via the form below or give me a call and we can set up an appointment to begin your tantric journey.

 

Spirituality and Sexuality

Rhiannon No Comments

Professionally and personally, I have become increasingly interested in the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.  My clients and their lives, therapeutic processes, and recovery have also guided me to venture down a path to explore the relationship between spirituality and sexuality.

Recently, at the Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference, I attended a presentation by Dr. Warren Holleman, LMFT, a behavioral science professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center entitled “Spiritual Dimensions of Family Therapy”.

Spiritual Dimensions

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What does he mean by spiritual dimensions?  When we talk about spirituality we mention themes such as mystical, ehtereal, otherworldly.  Dr. Warren Holleman would define spiritual dimensions as “the deepest meanings and values by which people live”.

Spiritual Awareness

Dr. Holleman further explains about spiritual awareness:

  1. Spiritual awareness is what enables us to treat other people as persons, with dignity and respect.  Not as things or objects.  Not as items on our to-do list.  Treat people as I’s and Thou’s and not people as it.
  2. Spiritual awareness is what enables us to be fully present, wherever we are.
  3. Spiritual awareness helps us get comfortable with silence.
  4. Spirituality is not about blind obedience to religious authority or acceptance of cultural traditions.  Its about being aware, intentional, and often courageous in challenging the status quo.

What struck me about this list (and there were more, I just couldn’t type fast enough!) was that what you get from spiritual awareness is exactly what you need to have good, connected, satisfying, and intimate SEX!

So, this connection between spirituality and sex goes deeper.  Could a person resolve sexual issues, establish a (more) positive sexual identity, improve sexual performance and increase sexual satisfaction by developing themselves spiritually? 

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Spiritual Needs vs. Sexual Needs
Below is a list in Dr. Holleman’s handouts about concepts and needs related to spirituality.  As I read through the list below, I felt that most of these words could also describe the concepts and needs related to sex and intimacy.

Meaning
Love
Compassion
Self-care
Dignity
Community
Wholeness
Holiness
Connectedness
Stewardship
Solitude & Silence
Mindfulness
Serenity
Joy
Wonder
Gratitude
Righteousness
Healing
Integrity
Marriage
Generativity
Nature
Art
Stories
Prayer
A Vocabulary
Faith

I think what came to mind to me was how spirituality has many of the same needs and concepts of our sexual lives.  In general, we might not think of these needs in WHAT we get out of our sexual and intimate relationships, but rather what we would LIKE to get out of our sexual and intimate relationships.  One would hope that they could describe their sexual identity or sex life as having meaning, full of love, being compassionate, increasing a sense of wholeness and connectedness to your partner.  What a gift it would be if you could describe sex as a artful and joyful.  Intimate and connected sex leaves you with feelings of serenity, joy, wonder, gratitude, and healing.  Sex and intimacy shared in community with your partner or marriage is a beautiful and dignified expression of stewardship and role modeling to future generations.

What about masturbation as an act self-care in in silence and solitude, an opportunity to be connected to oneself and ones sexuality?

I also thought that if you were seeking any of these above concepts in sex and intimate relationships, and on the path to find this, perhaps it would be helpful to focus on exploring the spiritual part of your life.

Could the lack of spiritual awareness be affecting your sex life?  12-Step Groups believe that due to the a “spiritual void” in ones life, an addiction, compulsive, problematic behavior is created to fill it.  Only by connecting spiritually to a higher power, is it believed that one can resolve their addiction or compulsion.  Is it possible that if you are spiritually disconnected that it could be contributing to your sexual connection?

So seeing as many of us seek (or might now after this blog) sexual experiences that have all these spiritual characteristics, could it be just as valuable to explore the clients spiritual sides of themselves as their sexual side of themselves?

Developing Spiritual Awareness

When I begin working with someone, one of the first things I want to assess is how religion, spirituality, faith and God are present in your life.  Usually it is helpful for a client of mine to journal or discuss the answers to the following questions within the first few sessions:

What is the importance of religion and faith in your life?
What is your view and experience of God?
What is your experience of faith?
What is your experience in their faith community?
What is your faith community’s view of one who seeks help of a therapist?

This provides me with the framework on how to move forward attending to the spiritual aspect of a clients life.  If someone is struggling with a sexual issues, and through assessment and conversations it comes to appear that that the client is lacking a sort of spiritual awareness or “spiritual intelligence”, it may be appropriate to begin to work on this area for the client.

Dr. Holleman provides a great framework on developing spiritual intelligence and below are some great questions the client may want to begin working on in order to develop their spiritual intelligence.

Spiritual Intelligence (adapted from Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence)

1. General Spiritual Awareness
What are the spiritual needs and values of individuals, families, and communities?
What are the spiritual dimensions of living and dying, working and playing, health and healing?
What are the spiritual dimensions of human relationships, including families, friendships?
What are the roles that religious stories, practices, and institutions play in addressing the spiritual needs of individuals families, cultures, ethnicities, and economic classes?How does religious language, practices and institutions sometimes make it harder to identify and address spiritual needs and values?
What is the role that helping professionals play in addressing the spiritual needs of individuals, families, cultures, ethnicities and economic classes?

It’s important to have general spiritual awareness in order to have spiritual self-awareness.

2. Spiritual Self-Awareness
What are your own spiritual needs?
What ways do you address (or fail to address) your spiritual needs?
What are your spiritual weaknesses, blind spots, and “hot button” issues?

It’s important to have spiritual self-awareness in order to manage your spirit and recognize the spirit in others.

3. Managing My Spirit
Do you take time outside of work to address your own needs, including your spiritual needs?
Are you comfortable enough with who you are and where you are in your journey that in the interactions with others you 1) don’t drag them into your journey, 2) don’t use them as a means to your ends, 3) are fully present with them, 4) are fully respectful of others spiritual needs, values, and journey?
Are you able to establish appropriate connections and appropriate boundaries around spiritual issues?

Managing your spirit is essential for recognizing the spirit in others.

4. Recognizing the Spirit in Others
Are you aware of the spiritual needs and values of others, from their perspective?
Are you aware of how each individual addresses those needs?
Are you aware of the extent to which individuals understand his or her problems in spiritual terms, as having spiritual dimensions and implications, and as having spiritual solutions?

Recognizing the spirit in others is important for empathy and the ability to address spiritual needs of others.

5. Addressing the Spiritual Needs of Others (Likely for helping professionals, spiritual guides, spiritual leaders)
Are you able to empathize with the spiritual sufferings and joys of others?
Are you able to recognize which spiritual needs and values are relevant to others problems?
Are you able to help others identify or clarify their spiritual needs?
Are you able to help others address their relevant spiritual needs?Are you able to utilize others religious beliefs, experiences, and terminology in talking with them?
Are you able to help clients overcome the confusion and work through the pain that are sometimes caused by religious beliefs, experiences, and terminology?
Are you skilled in using spiritual tools such as spiritual reframes, religious resources, and spiritual rapport?
Are you skilled in rolling with religious resistance?
Are you skilled in recognizing and addressing spiritual abuse?

There are many other ways to develop spiritual intelligence, including story telling, prayer, meditating/mindfulness, and reading any of the below resources.  More will be written about in future blogs but those are just a few suggestions to start.  If you are seeking out a therapist who is open to exploring spirituality, sexuality, and their intersection in your life, please feel free to contact me using the form below.

Other resources:

Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Does God Exist: An Answer for Today by Hans Kung

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Gol

S21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence by Cindy Wigglesworth

Spiritual Intelligence: A New Way of Being by Brian Draper

The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy by Froma Walsh

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Chi Walking: The Five Mindful Steps for Lifelong Health and Energy by Danny and Katherine Dreyer

Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness, (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore

Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II