Intimacy is more than sex, and sex is more than intercourse. Intimacy involves all the ways we share a deep and meaningful connection with our partner. There are several different types of intimacy: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, recreational, physical/sensual, and sexual.
If we can take a step back and broaden our perspective just a little bit, we can experience intimacy in countless ways throughout our day - through a whisper in the ear, a kiss on the neck, a little tap on the bum, catching a gaze across the room, or engaging in cute remarks. Taking in the scent of our partner, cuddling and spooning, and having meaningful conversations about happenings in our day can all enhance the bond we have with our partners.
Especially with the school season back in full swing, we become so busy that we not only lose sight of the opportunities to experience these points of connection, but we also seem to completely forget about the importance of connection altogether.
This fast-paced world does not allow for much time and space to comfortably slow down in any meaningful way.
Slowing down often doesn’t seem attainable, given all our commitments and responsibilities. It’s as if we are constantly trying to play catch-up, and in the free moments we might have, it seems more enticing to try to ‘get ahead’ instead of savoring that moment. However, it’s savoring moments that remind us that we are alive.
What would happen if you actually took the time to slow down and smell the roses?
Activating our senses helps us embrace and become immersed in the present moment - this is where our sensual self lives. When we allow ourselves to take a moment to pause and simply notice the different sensations occurring around us and within us, we remember what it’s like to be in our body. And, it’s our body that is the vessel for pleasure and connection within sexual moments. Therefore, we can consider sensuality a beautiful bridge into sexuality.
Let's Break It Down
Our sexual selves feed off curiosity, mystery, and adventure. It’s a part of ourselves that craves novelty and seeks to find a spark outside of the mundane. Sexuality speaks to the way we express ourselves erotically, and its focus is typically task-oriented.
Our sensual self is available to us in any given moment. Sensuality is a process of tuning into the body and deeply experiencing the different sensations occurring within us and around us. It’s the ability to be in our erotic energy without any pressure or expectation of having to do anything with it. When we feel safe and connected to our body, we can allow ourselves to open up and receive the pleasure and connection available to us within intimate moments, whether it’s with ourselves or our partners.
What do you know about masculine and feminine energy?
First off, it has nothing to do with your gender. Regardless of our pronoun, we all have BOTH masculine and feminine sides to us. In fact, these sides are very much related to the functions of the different hemispheres of the brain - one side with a focus on analytics and sequencing, while the other is more tuned toward creativity and perception. However, most of us tend to lean more dominantly toward one side. The side you tend to lean more heavily toward often determines your dominant energy.
Masculine energy is analytical, often impatient, assertive, logical, and all about taking action. Masculine energy values getting things done and making achievements, while feminine energy is nurturing, understanding, and all about feeling and intuition. Feminine energy thrives on being present and embodied within a given moment.
See a connection between our experience of sexuality and sensuality?
In our society, sex is often considered something that we DO - i.e., masculine energy - focusing on performing specific acts such as flirting, seduction, and intercourse. However, what would happen if we shifted our perspective? What if sex was a place where we can just BE with ourselves and our partners to experience pleasure and connection, in whichever ways feel good in that moment?
Shifting the focus from performance to pleasure significantly reduces the pressure many partners feel around intimacy. When the only expectation is the overall experience of mutual pleasure, couples tend to feel freer to explore, often tapping into their sense of curiosity and play.
Importance of Being Present
Recently, I watched an incredible documentary on Netflix called “Mission: Joy - Finding Happiness in Troubled Times” about two incredible thought leaders who developed a unique bond despite their differences. The film offered a wonderful lesson in being mindful of the places we are choosing to place our focus and energy. However, there was one study in particular that resonated with me the most from the film, in which the Dalai Lama was able to demonstrate the power of the human mind. In the study, researchers had regular everyday people and Buddhist monks receive an MRI of their brain activity while receiving an uncomfortable, burning sensation on their arm. The participants were informed of the heat that would be present during the experience, and the results were fascinating.
It turned out the everyday people experienced the pain/discomfort three times that of the Buddhist monks! How? Well, the brain activity of everyday people peaked before, during, and after the uncomfortable sensation, while the monks only responded to the discomfort as it was happening. The moral of the story: we literally cause ourselves needless suffering from the negative anticipation of an event to ruminating about the event after the fact. This rumination, about the past and future, keeps us from being able to tune into what’s going on right now.
If our mind is stuck in the past or future during intimacy, we are literally not available for the pleasure and connection present in the moment. To actually enjoy the sensations you’re experiencing in the moment, you have to learn how to check out of your mind and check into your body! Unless you’re not enjoying the sex you’re having, in which case you may feel that you’re not missing out on anything special; then that’s a whole other conversation 😅. Tuning into our senses (i.e., our sensuality/sensual self) can help pull us back into the present moment.
Here is an incredible technique that has been scientifically proven to help with symptoms of anxiety, specifically to help redirect the ruminating thoughts that occur within the anxious mind. Whether you are legitimately experiencing performance anxiety or struggling with insecurities about your body, or too busy in your mind thinking about the next set of tasks that you need to accomplish, it’s the busy thoughts that often impede us sexually… Enter the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique.
This exercise is intended to help you slow down to become more aware of your surroundings within the present moment by shifting your focus to each of your senses. As a result, we tend to reorient ourselves to what's happening right in front of us, rather than getting lost in the past or potential future. It helps to feel more grounded and centered, which helps to open the door to our connection to our bodies.
When you find your thoughts racing, here’s how the process works… Take a moment, breathe, and notice…
What are 5 things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface, or an object you never noticed.
What are 4 things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, or the feeling of the chair you are sitting in. Pick up an object and examine its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.
What are 3 things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.
What are 2 things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.
What is 1 thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavors.
As you flow through each of your senses, strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out. For instance, if you are focusing on the trees outside, notice the different colors and shapes of the leaves, as well as the way they may be moving with the wind. You can close your eyes to notice distant sounds and use your fingertips to float over the textures of your clothing and furniture around you.
When we are able to tune into the present moment, the next step of stepping into your sensual self is to start focusing the same kind of attention toward sensations occurring within your body… stay tuned for some exciting workshops coming up in a few months.
In my work, I have found that sensuality can be an incredible bridge into sexuality. By allowing ourselves to tune into our bodies, we can gain more awareness of what we need in essentially any given moment, and we can use this knowledge to start to take control of what turns us on and better manage the things that turn us off. Sensuality and sexuality are like the yin and the yang; they fit together to create a whole. Remember, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When sensuality and sexuality dance in harmony, make way for infinite possibilities in your intimate relationship.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Board Certified Sex Therapist
I have a passion for empowering ambitious women and committed couples on a journey of love and healing to rekindle passion and deepen connections. As the founder of Infinite Intimacy, I offer therapeutic services, workshops, and retreats to help clients be their authentic selves in life and relationships.