The Art of Noticing
Somatic sex education is about learning the art of noticing. Noticing what? Primarily, we teach the art of noticing body sensations. First steps in our work will be to attempt to notice what you are experiencing in your body at-this-moment. It may involve the noticing of the temperature that currently surrounds your body. It may involve noticing pain. You may be noticing a ‘floating’ sensation of your head balancing on your neck and shoulders. You may notice a distant sound that sends a minute tingle of sensation to your ear drums. You might notice stirrings in the sensitive nerve endings of your fingertips, the inside of your elbows, your upper thighs, your genitals. Whatever the body sensation, job number one of the Somatic Sex Educator is to help you notice it. The classic method of noticing is a body scan or body inquiry. You’ll be coached to lay down, breathe, and begin noticing body sensations in a methodical way, typically from tip of your toes to the top of your head. The practitioner will make simple, gentle statements calling you to notice sensations in your body. It will be done slowly, respectfully, with great care, and can be done fully clothed.
The body scan is about slowing down enough, enough to take notice of things that are happening in your body that you might not normally notice because of the activities that whirl about you on any given day. The techniques we use to help bodies allow the noticing of sensation are not new. In fact, many of them are ancient and come from Buddhist tradition. We deeply respect and acknowledge that tradition. They are now taught in mindfulness classes that are popping up at universities and medical centers throughout the country. What we recognize as somatic professionals is that great sex begins with mindfulness. And mindfulness begins with breath and focusing on breath as a ‘noticing’ tool. There are a couple of rules, though: 1) don’t judge the sensation and 2) when your mind wanders just acknowledge that it’s happened and invite your brain back to your body's actions of breathing and noticing.
DON’T JUDGE! Lack of judgment is absolutely essential! If you notice lower back pain, for example, simply be aware of its existence, of the sensation. Just notice it. Don’t allow your brain to say, “God, this back pain is awful! What is causing it? I wasn’t always like this. I felt good once. Why won’t it go the f@*k away??” If that happens, you’ve moved into judgment, making comparisons between a time when you had no pain to this time when you’re experiencing it. Perhaps you even start attempting to solve the back pain problem while you’re trying to relax and breathe. When you give in to the temptation to judge, you’ve allowed the brain to take over and this technique is about noticing sensations in the body, not giving attention to your thoughts. Your brain’s natural inclination is to measure, analyze, justify, compare and figure out stuff. Those are all great brain activities but they work against the body’s natural inclination to heal itself. By simply noticing, we give the body time and space to do just that: to heal.
BRING THE BRAIN BACK! The mind’s inclination to wander and to do “brain stuff” is to be expected. We spend most of our time each day involved in BS (brain stuff). When you first attempt to notice body sensations your brain is going to work against you. You will have a hard time keeping it from wandering. The best technique to counteract this is to simply (again, without judgment!) acknowledge that the mind has “gone away” for a moment, then gently beckon it back to your breathing. I can’t tell you how many times during the process of noticing body sensations that my mind has raced forwards or backwards in time and I’ve angrily tried to force my brain back to noticing. Don’t make the same mistake! Just acknowledge what’s happened and gently bring Mr. Brain back into the breathing process.
This is a practice. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll get derailed. I’ve practiced the piano for over 60 years. It’s never perfect. I still make mistakes. I still allow the brain to judge my performance during practice time because I’m not NOTICING what’s going on in my fingers and arms, i.e. my BODY! I may go over a passage ten, fifteen times and get it wrong every time! My brain will dump all sorts of crap on me for making mistakes. I’ll react emotionally and get all judgy about it...”Sh*+! Fourth finger! F*@k! Slower! Damn it! On the THIRD beat, not the fourth!” Or I’ll allow my mind to wander, thinking about everything and anything but what I’m doing at the keyboard. You’d think I’d learn, after all this time, that if I slow the process way, way down, breathe, and allow myself to NOTICE how it FEELS to get the passage “right”, the music will heal itself and my musical intentions (and the intentions of the composer) will be served.
Little did I know that I was practicing mindfulness all these years at the piano keyboard. Again, being mindful is a PRACTICE. You won’t “get it right” at first. It will take time. That’s why you have to practice it, daily if possible.
Dipping into our erotic energy is also a practice and it’s best done mindfully if you want to experience great sex. A somatic sex practitioner can be a great help to you in identifying that energy, or re-calling it if you’re having trouble finding it, or deepening your experience of it if that’s your intention. Our practice is trauma-informed, so if traumatic experiences (large or small) are creating any kind of blockage to your experience of sex, we can help. Don’t be fearful of working with a somatic sex educator. Your intentions are our intentions and they will always be respected.