At some point, the energy shifted away from the primal need for release and into a timeless space of communion—of mystical union. As we soul gazed, we breathed and moved together, as we had learned long ago. Riding the wave of bliss, as Margot Anand had called it, everything slowed and stilled. The air felt electric, surreal. Feelings were unbounded. Passion arose in waves of ecstasy, as our hearts melted and melded, beyond the body, beyond all thoughts, beyond all previous baggage, all history. There was no fear in that space of stillness. There was nothing lacking, no needs or wants, only unbridled acceptance of each other . . . and perfect presence.
—excerpt from “More: Journey to mystical union through the sacred and the profane” by Mariah McKenzie
I’ve been meditating for twenty years now. In that time, I’ve tried many different kinds and styles of meditation. I’ve meditated with eyes open and eyes closed, laying down and sitting up. I’ve practiced counting meditation and mantra meditation; zazen while sitting in a barren room looking at a blank wall and spacious awareness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with Mt. Whitney behind me and Death Valley before me.
I’ve come to appreciate that meditating is not about chasing my thoughts away; it’s about training the mind to focus—noticing when I’ve gotten swept away in thought and gently returning my focus, my awareness back to the object of meditation: my breath, counting, a mantra or whatever I have chosen as my focal point.
Because when I do, something magical happens. The room simultaneously quiets and buzzes with energy. The air thickens. Stillness is palpable. I am enlivened and present.
I first learned to meditate at a SkyDancing Tantra workshop. We’d been told meditation was an important part of our training. I didn’t know what to make of that. I was there for increased intimacy and possibly increased sexual prowess. What did meditation have to do with that?
Our SkyDancing Tantra teacher told us it provides clarity and that by quieting the mind, meditation allows freshness and innocence to return to the act of lovemaking.
I was to discover it was much more powerful than even that. When one’s partner becomes essentially the meditation object, when the act of sex is entered into deliberately, patiently, when, while soul gazing, the focus is returned again and again to the other and to the space shared together, a remarkable stillness experienced during deep meditation happens. And, it can be a shared experience.
Today, amidst a busy life, sacred sex is my favorite form of meditation. It’s an engaging activity that boldly draws awareness to bodily sensations happening right now, instead of thought. Holding the gaze of another also trains attention away from thought and back to this moment—as in meditation. Sacred sexuality is a natural playground for the mind to take a break—a portal to stillness. And, prolonging that experience beyond a ten second release is profoundly enlivening.
But you don’t have to believe me. You can consider an article in Scientific American called The Neurobiology of Bliss—Sacred and Profane. In it, the author notes that bliss has certain qualities including a diminution of self-awareness, altered bodily perceptions and a decrease in pain. Certain things aggravate our experience of bliss, while others enhance it.
Chief among the aggravators is self-awareness, defined in the article as the running critique organizing conscious experience—a default mechanism of the cognitive mind. In other words, self-awareness is the ongoing background stories and running commentary we are constantly telling ourselves—the harsh judgments, the ‘not so helpful’ critiques, the endless comparisons. I have heard one researcher put it another way: we are wired to suffer.
Escaping that continual self-observation is bliss. Often, we try to blunt it with drugs, alcohol, and escapist entertainments. If lucky, we’ve stumbled upon meditation—one of the few tools that’s been proven to reliably offer durable relief. We also overcome it during sex.
Pleasure (another marker of bliss) has been linked to altered bodily perceptions. Both sex and meditation each dissolve the sense of physical boundaries, albeit differently. Meditation alters bodily self-awareness by enhancing activity in specific brain regions. Sex does it through a heightened sense of being in one’s body, of diving into sensory awareness.
In sacred sexuality, we combine the two.
By soul-gazing and allowing our partner to become the object of our meditation, we return our attention again and again to our beloved, just as we do during regular meditation, and this helps us to dis-identify with the running critique that is normally organizing our experience. At the same time, we also bring a heightened awareness to bodily sensations, which ironically leads to a loss of awareness of the boundaries of our body and results in an increase in pleasure. The experience is riveting and we are more willing to embrace and stay with the present moment, less inclined to go off on thought.
If you stay with the practice—rather than reaching for the next—for release—the moment expands and is marked with a profound charged stillness. You will see that stillness reflected in the eyes of your lover—and they will see it in you.
Behold mystical union.
My encouragement: try this for yourself. Enliven your lovemaking. Participate, as my husband and I did so many years ago, in a SkyDancing Tantra class. See what happens when you experience sex as blissful meditation.
—by Mariah McKenzie, author of More: Journey to mystical union through the sacred and the profane