Using masturbation to find one’s own personal sexual pleasure can bring focus onto a present sensation, which like Mindfulness helps provide relaxation. So, back to that main question proposed at wine night; can masturbation be used as a form of Concentration Meditation and help to practice Mindfulness? That depends whether the individual feels that through masturbation you are paying attention on purpose, to something in the present, non-judgmentally. Unfortunately, masturbation has a lot of negative stigma around it, which makes us uncomfortable discussing the topic. In searching for articles on the topic, I found they mostly discussed males and often explained masturbation in a manner that seemed negative or deviant. I personally found myself deleting my browser history after my searches for fear of someone discovering I was reading up on such a strange topic. In order to utilize this method to practice Mindfulness, one cannot feel that they are doing something wrong, weird, strange or gross (examples of statements people have made when I have told them what I have been reading about). So I began to question myself, am I weird for making this connection? Thankfully, my answer came soon after my little one was born. Like many women after childbirth, I needed to discuss re-strengthening my pelvic floor. Many of the most reliable and educated women I know told me that kegals (an exercise where you squeeze and release your pelvic muscles – like holding in your pee) are a great way to rebuild your pelvic floor. I thought it was funny how easily people discussed an exercise that, in my opinion, is so closely related to masturbation, but do not discuss it in anyway related to personal pleasure. I decided to see a medical professional for help, and she explained that external sexual stimulation is one of the best ways to help re-strengthen the pelvic floor and can be done personally or by a partner. There was my answer, there is nothing strange at all about exploring positive self-stimulation, and in fact it is a completely normal behaviour that begins at an early age in human development. So, not only is masturbation not strange or deviant, but it has the potential to be beneficial to both mental and physical health, growth and recovery. On top of all these exciting findings further research led me to discover even more positive reasons to use masturbation to reduce stress and support our mental well-being! In addition to potentially creating an experience to help an individual practice concentrating on a present sensation, masturbation releases both dopamine and oxytocin (Mintz, 2014), additional benefits that are not found with other physical sensation practices. Dopamine and oxytocin are both feel-good neurochemicals associated with increased feelings of satisfaction (Love, 2014) and who does not want a rush of additional feel-good neurochemicals to help fight stress?
How does one masturbate Mindfully?
Some individuals use external stimulus, such as pornography or by focusing their thoughts on sexual encounters or fantasies, in order to take part in self-pleasure, but this is not Mindful. In order to practice Concentration Meditation, the individual must focus on the physical sensations of the act. This may vary from person to person, but an example includes: finding a comfortable relaxing place free of distractions or possible intrusions. This may involve lying down, propped up on pillows, in a comfortable chair, being in a shower, etc. To begin concentrating on touch, one can start by lightly running fingertips over arms and legs, paying attention to that feeling on skin. This can evolve to moving to more sensitive areas of the body and asking oneself; what are the sensations? This will be a very personal journey that involves staying in the moment and letting thoughts pass non-judgmentally through our minds in order to achieve a pleasurable state. The purpose of the exercise is to be fully in the moment, enjoying the presence of oneself.
In summary, this article began as a fun brain storm with friends during a stressful stage in life but resulted in the discovery of another modality to practice Mindfulness in a deeply personal way that may include both mental and physical health benefits. It is not suggesting that masturbation is for everyone, nor does it claim that it is the only enjoyable way to learn how to increase concentration and become increasingly mindful. It is simply providing alternative ideas for focused physical stimulation to practice being present in the moment.
If you have any questions, comments, or want further information I would love to hear from you. Please send me an email!
Campbell, M. (2017). Teaching mindfulness and compassion. Transpersonal Psychology Review, 19(1), 45–50.
Love, T. (2014). Oxytocin, motivation and the role of dopamine. Pharmacology Biochemisty and Behavior, 119,49-60.
Mintz, L. (2014). A touchy Subject: The health benefits of masturbation: A student guest blogger touts masturbation. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/stress-and-sex/201401/touchy-subject-the-health-benefits-masturbation
Research roundup: Mindfulness-based stress reduction. (2014, October 23). PracticeUpdate.
Scowen, P. (2014, July 18). We need to talk about masturbation, the last great sexual taboo. The Globe and Mail. Retrived from:https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/we-need-to-talk-about-masturbation-the-last-great-sexual-taboo/article19678627/
Society for Humanistic Psychology Renowned Mindfulness Expert Jon Zabat-Zinn Brings Message of Mindfulness to the APA. (n.d.). Society for Humanistic Psychology. Renowned Mindfulness Expert Jon Zabat-Zinn Brings Message of Mindfulness to the APA.