I’d Rather Masturbate Than Meditate: What is Erotic Embodiment Practice? Part 1

Before we dive into this series, it’s important to me to acknowledge the lineage of concepts in my field and to honor the contributions of my teachers and predecessors.  What I call Erotic Embodiment Practice is based on the mindful masturbation practice pioneered by Joseph Kramer, founder of Sexological Bodywork.  Joseph credits a community of erotic pioneers, particularly The Body Electric School, with the creation of this practice, and it has evolved over the past 25 years.

 

First off, let me be clear--I’m not knocking meditation.  I’m just a sassy bitch who loves a sassy title!  The benefits of meditation can be profound and include things such as stress relief, combating depression, and improved memory.  To make the connection between meditation and Erotic Embodiment Practice (EEP), I’m going to frame or explore meditation as mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the practice of focusing one’s awareness or attention on the present moment without judgment, simply noticing one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations.  You can mindfully do lots of things: mindfully walk (often called walking meditation), mindfully focus on a task, like washing dishes or running errands.  So why not mindful masturbation?  Personally, I’d rather pay attention to jerking off than washing the dishes.  So what if you could enjoy the benefits of mindfulness meditation through a regular practice of self-pleasure?  I propose that you can, and that’s what Erotic Embodiment Practice is all about.

 

In addition to the benefits of any mindfulness practice, mindfully engaging in self-pleasure has huge benefits that you won’t get walking in the woods or washing your dishes.  This is where I get to geek out on the neuroscience of pleasure.  I love being a sex nerd.

 

When we regularly engage in mindful self-pleasure, we are literally rewiring our nervous system and brain to increase our capacity for pleasure.  The fancy word for this is neuroplasticity, but it’s easily understood with what I call “the garden path analogy.”  If you walk through a garden, following the same path every day, you’ll wear that path into the earth more and more deeply over time.  It gets easier and easier to stay on that path—or rather, you get less and less likely to wander off of it.  Like that garden path, our nervous system functions using neural pathways.  Neurons that get used repeatedly stay connected in networks, aka neural pathways.  Neural pathways that don’t get used, get pruned.  Imagine that one day in your garden, you take a different route.  Maybe it’s the most pleasurable walk you’ve ever had in your garden.  If you never walk that way again, there won’t be any record of your most pleasurable walk.  The grass grows strong again, the flowers that bent as you passed them straighten up.  Nature fills in the temporary “groove” you made in the garden and that pathway is no longer visible.  Our brain prunes rarely used pathways just like nature fills them in in the garden.

 

When we mindfully focus on pleasure, we are strengthening “pleasure grooves” in our nervous system.  So it’s not just that, with focused attention to our masturbation experience, we get better at focusing on sensation and pleasure (“training” our attention and awareness like we might train a muscle).  We are literally increasing our capacity for pleasure by creating new pleasure pathways in our body.

 

Building these pleasure pathways doesn’t just take focused attention; it also requires consistent practice over time.  Think of that garden path: the more often you walk it, the more established it becomes.  Also, let’s keep in mind that we’re rewiring our brains here!  It doesn’t happen overnight!  No one learns to play an instrument or speak a language over night, or in one—even one very mindful—practice session.  In Erotic Embodiment Practice your body is your instrument.  Your eroticism is the language in which you are striving for fluency.  All embodied or somatic learning and transformation requires conscious practice over time.  We’re finding a new way of being—more orgasmic, more joyful, more embodied—one self-pleasure session at a time.  Stepping into a new way of being is no small project!  But it’s so worth it.

 

EEP is also practiced consistently over time to compensate for our brain’s evolutionary negativity bias.  Our brain really does focus on and remember painful, “bad”, or (what it perceives as) dangerous things to keep us safe.  We’ve all noticed this bias throughout our lives.  “Why can’t I remember the good things as well a I remember the bad things?”  Evolutionarily it makes sense.  But because of the evolutionary bias, for us to become people oriented towards pleasure, we really do have to try to deepen those pleasure grooves to increase our capacity for pleasure.  Researchers have documented that positive experiences must be focused on for 10-20 seconds to become a memory.  So slow down, savor those pleasurable moments, and know that you are slowly but surely rewiring your nervous system by doing so.

 

Don’t forget that the concept of pleasure isn’t limited to sexual pleasure!  Our capacity to notice, sense, savor and enjoy pleasure can be cultivated outside of masturbation practice.  Savor that bite of chocolate (don’t forget to stick with it for 10-20 seconds!) or the breeze blowing against your skin.  Cultivating pleasure outside of an erotic context can be revolutionary, and not just because I get secret joy out of engaging in these practices in places like the grocery store.  Who knew you could work on improving your sex life waiting to get the attention of the fishmonger at Whole Foods!  My delight in moments like those has led to the creation of all kinds of “joy practices,” as I like to call them.  But that’s the topic of another blog post!

 

So for now, start noticing.  Slow down when you masturbate and let your self really savor the pleasure your body offers you.  Notice what happens if you focus just a little more attentively on the sensations in your body when you engage in partner sex.  And maybe start to wonder: how might your life change if you committed to Erotic Practice the way you commit to your weekly workouts or to brushing your teeth?  Could changing the way you masturbate change your life?  As they say in television…to be continued…