How to Have Mindful Sex

Slowing your mind is not just great foreplay, says Cheryl Fraser, it also leads to a deeper connection with your partner.

Cheryl Fraser10 April 2024
“Anonymous Kiss No. 1” by Samer Tarabichi

It’s our second date. We talk animatedly over Darjeeling and scones. I’m struggling to focus on his words, distracted by his ocean-blue eyes and wondering what our first kiss will feel like. Suddenly he leans across the table and kisses me slowly and very, very well. The traffic noise disappears. My body quivers with energy. All that exists is this moment, these lips, and focused, intense, erotic pleasure. 

Fast-forward ten years. 

We are making love. It’s…okay. We go through the routine—I touch him here, he strokes me there. I’m remembering the time we had hot sex on the ferry on our way to a meditation retreat, and he’s probably making his grocery list. 

We are having mindless sex.

Can you relate? Has your sex life lost the passion and pleasure you had in the beginning? When I ask couples this, the answer is almost always yes.

The research findings on sexual satisfaction in long-term couples are dismal. Up to 30 percent of long-term couples—pretty much regardless of gender or orientation—make love six or fewer times a year. Or not at all.

Those who do still make love regularly report diminished pleasure and intensity. A typical couple in my online passion program reports, “Honestly? These days sex is boring.”

Are you willing to settle for nonexistent or mediocre, mindless sex? 

I’m not.

As a psychologist, sex therapist, and dharma teacher, I’ve deeply explored how meditation can improve our sexual lives. I even wrote a book about it.

The reason sex with the same person over time can seem boring is not because your partner is suddenly unattractive or unskilled. He, she, or they are still as fascinating as they were on your second date. It’s your mind that’s bored and that makes lovemaking uninspired and repetitive. In other words, the problem is in your head, not your bed. 

To reignite passion, take mindfulness off the meditation cushion and practice it between the sheets. Regular sex is often the antithesis of mindful. We shove the present moment aside in a rush to the finale, escape into sexual fantasy, and focus on what we get rather than what we give. 

Mindful sex involves deliberately bringing focus and curiosity to your sensual life with your partner. Practicing mindfulness in bed can enhance your pleasure in many ways. When the mind is concentrated, the sensory experience of the object of mindfulness—be that the breath or the ripples preceding orgasm—feels more intense. Sex is simply better.

“Adam and Eve” ©1932 Pippo Rizzo / Mondadori Portfolio / Archivio Vasari / Alessandro Vasari / Bridgeman Images

The pace of mindful sex also enhances sexual and emotional connection. Surveys indicate the average sexual encounter lasts only seven minutes—and that is from wink to snore. By slowing down, you can tantalize and tease, exploring every bit of skin. What’s more, when you’re truly in the moment, it’s like time stops and you witness your beloved for the precious being they are. Your heart opens to love and compassion. I call this falling in love, with the one you’re already with.

What follows are three tips for practicing mindful sex.

Touch with Mindfulness and Curiosity

Mindfulness is the special sauce for an intensely pleasurable sexual experience. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and gently, slowly stroke your inner wrist with your fingertips. Pay close attention to the sensations.

What is your direct experience of this simple touch?

I’ve asked thousands of meditation students and couples to do this, and what they say is “It felt very intense” or “It was erotic, a turn-on.” 

Imagine bringing that same attention to the sensation of your lover teasing their tongue up your inner thigh… 

I invite you to lay with your lover and take turns giving and receiving sensual touch. Focus your attention on the direct experience without clinging or expectations. And bring curiosity, another of the mental factors of awakening, along for the ride. After all, we each have an entire body wired for sense pleasure. Yet most sexual encounters are what I call “nipple nipple crotch goodnight.” That’s not mindful; it’s mindless. Instead of limiting your touch to a few typical areas, try licking the back of your partners knees or trailing your long hair along their lower spine.

Slow Down and Let Go

Regular sex tends to be goal oriented (orgasm or bust), and it tends to race to climax in a linear path. Slow sex allows you to focus on the path itself. By making love without making orgasm the goal, you will naturally find yourself bringing more variety to the experience you are cocreating. You may kiss for longer, explore bodies more creatively, or switch sexual positions. There’s so much eroticism in this moment as you linger on the sensations of mouth on nipple, of fingernails grazing skin.

Reality Beats Fantasy, So Be Here Now

What do you think about when you’re making love? Perhaps like many people, instead of being fully here with your beloved, you’re lost in the distraction of fantasized sex with someone else (or planning your Caribbean vacation). 

If you want transcendent sex with your partner, increase your concentration. One beautiful practice is to remain conscious and present as you approach orgasm. Rather than zoning out on your own pleasure, stay connected with your partner’s eyes and breath. As sensations of orgasm move through you, imagine sharing this energy with them. In the same way, receive their orgasm when they share it with you. This can intensify your pleasure and your emotional connection. 

Be here now, with this lover, with this breath. Then linger together in the afterglow, bodies and minds entwined. Nowhere to go, nothing to be. Just this. The sense of your separate self may dissolve as you move from me to we to emptiness.

Ultimately, as with every other experience, great sex is all in your head. Quite simply, mindfulness can make you a better lover, and one who uncovers more pleasure and open-hearted love.

Given this, I decide to recreate that astounding tea shop kiss. I take a shower and watch the challenges of the day swirl down the drain. I meditate as I soap my skin. Then I beckon my mate to bed. I slow down, I show up, I take delight in the shape of his lips and the gleam in his ocean-blue eyes. I see him as new and exciting, for in this present moment everything is new. Then I lean across the pillow and kiss him slowly and very, very well. And our bodies quiver, together.

Cheryl Fraser

Cheryl Fraser PhD is a psychologist, sex therapist, and dharma teacher. She is the author of Buddha’s Bedroom–The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy and the host of the Sex Love & Elephants podcast. She created the Become Passion online couples immersion program. She is the resident teacher for Island Dharma on Vancouver Island and is trained in the Kargyu Vajrayana and Theravada traditions.