If you don’t have a regular mindfulness practice, or even if you do, you likely find yourself on autopilot a lot of the time. Autopilot involves doing things without paying close attention to them. It can look like being distracted, getting constantly lost in thought, or making decisions by default instead of desire.
When was the last time you took a shower and immersed yourself in the feel of the water running over your skin, the smell of the soap as you lather it between your hands, or the sound of the water as it hits the floor?
When was the last time you completely lost yourself in a meal? You might have noticed the way your food looked on your plate, and the different textures and colors. When did you last notice the rising aroma as you put together a perfect bite, not just the first time but every time? Or raised it slowly to your lips, and ate noticing all the different flavors across your tongue?
When was the last time you went outside and noticed every detail you saw, listened only to your breath, wondered at the fragrant moments of beauty that surround you?
Okay, and when was the last time you did that without your phone?
If you’re always on autopilot, you miss a lot of the pleasure the world has to offer. It’s the same with sex. So many people find it challenging to stay present during sex, and yet sex on autopilot is just not that good. For one thing, one study found that for women (to use the researchers’ language around gender) respondents, those who were distracted from erotic thoughts reported it was harder to have orgasms. For another, it’s hard to have a good time doing anything if you’re fixated on tomorrow’s to-do list, that message you forgot to send, or that dirty sock in the corner of the room.
Sometimes mind-wandering looks a little less clear. For instance, you might become a sort of spectator to your own experience and start to think about what your body looks like, worry about your performance, or wonder if you’re taking too long to have an orgasm.
You might become preoccupied with whether you’re doing it right (even if you know there is no “right” way to have sex) or what you’re supposed to do next (even if you know there’s no one answer to that either).
No matter how you find yourself on autopilot or distracted during sex, mindfulness can help. Being mindful and learning to be present during sex can allow you t