At this point, our collective existence feels as if it's only made up of extremes and uncertainty. From a near-constant barrage of overwhelming headlines and the kind of institutional response seen during wartime, the widespread reverberations of the coronavirus outbreak has, understandably, left many feeling anxious and scared. But in a world where sanity feels as if it's in short supply, the importance of self-care and staying grounded in the present has become all the more important. And while there are a number of mindful wellness practices you can engage in — whether it be journaling or breathwork — we'd also like to introduce you to another possibility: Masturbation meditation.

Unlike traditional forms of meditation, masturbation meditation is a mindfulness practice that's meant to increase awareness of what's pleasurable for you, all while encouraging a slower, more intentional approach to the solo exploration of your sexuality. Granted, this doesn't just mean you can rub one out while watching Pornhub and call yourself enlightened — in fact, orgasming isn't the goal at all. Instead, masturbation meditation is a proven therapeutic tool that not only changes the way you feel in the here and now, but also alters the way you think about sex and yourself.

According to the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health's Dr. Janet Brito, the best way to begin is by scheduling a distraction-free time when you have the time, energy and mental resources to really get introspective. Starting with a deep breathing exercise, begin by resting one hand on your forehead and another on your chest before mindfully touching your head, arms, feet, legs and, eventually, belly — a process that's similar to traditional meditation's body-scanning technique.

Once you're feeling comfortable, it's time to move to your genitals. However, this type of touch is different from the kind you'd use with regular masturbation in the sense that one should use their breath or hand as an "anchor" to remain present in the moment. Additionally, there are plenty of audio guides available online that can help you get acquainted with the process.

Orgasming isn't the goal at all.

But aside from the obvious upsides — such as the immediate rush of pleasurable, mood-elevating endorphins — there's also a ton of longterm benefits to masturbation meditation. According to Dr. Brito, while the process helps people become more aware of what feels good, the technique is also about actively shifting the way you approach sex as a whole. As a practitioner, you'll learn how to center your focus on pleasure rather than performance, which means that it's also extremely helpful for those who have a tough time relaxing during sex or experience sex-related performance anxiety.

"The practice of masturbation meditation also focuses on non-demand touch, meaning the focus is not on achieving orgasm, or being goal orientated, but on exploring solo touch for one's own interest, learning about oneself," Dr. Brito says, explaining that it also opens one up to other possibilities within partnered sexual activities. "Masturbation meditation is like giving yourself a gift — a gift to be with yourself, to learn, to relax, to let go, thus to experience another type of pleasure, one where you are the writer, one where you set the rules, create script, and are free from expectations."

With that said, masturbation meditation has proven to be especially helpful for women who are uncomfortable with the idea of touching themselves in the first place. As Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus — an intimacy coach and sociologist who specializes in sex and sexual health — explains, she initially developed her masturbation meditation audio guide with the intention of helping women "move through negative thought patterns [about their bodies] in a healthy way."

Per Dr. Gunsaullus, masturbation meditation pushes practitioners to get to the root of their issues with sex by directly confronting, processing, and eventually overcoming deeply-ingrained belief systems — something that's especially important for women who "have been trained to view their body as the enemy or that self-pleasure isn't okay."

You'll learn how to center your focus on pleasure rather than performance.

"What people struggle with when it comes to meditation is that they feel like they're doing nothing, but that's the value of it — of retraining our brains in boredom and sitting with whatever comes up," she explains. "So doing it with masturbation, it's about trying to overcome shame or embarrassment. Using mindfulness skills, you're being present with whatever shows up, whether it's positive or negative."

Dr. Gunsaullus also says that masturbation meditation also has the ability to drastically shift the way you approach intimacy — something she believes will be all the more important once things return to normal and we're able to see people outside of our immediate households.

"We're already having a crisis of vulnerability in our country that coronavirus is just further turning on its head, and it's going to have an impact on [the way we interact intimately] as a society in the long-run," she explains, emphasizing that now is a "fantastic" time to start practicing masturbation meditation. And that's especially true if you find yourself spiraling because you're spending too much of your emotional energy on social media or following the news.

"If you have extra time on your hands, invest in your personal, sexual and spiritual growth. Get to know and like yourself better, which is what meditative masturbation is all about," Dr. Gunsaullus concludes. "This is a really uniquely ideal time for many folks to slow down and know themselves better at a deeper level."

Get started with masturbation meditation, here.

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photo via Getty/ George Peters

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