By J.C. Peters
Trigger warning: Sexual assault mention
Masturbation! It’s the safest form of sex and a pleasure practice we all have (quite literally) at our fingertips. It can also be a really powerful form of meditation that can help us process powerful emotions and move stress through our bodies.
I started to use masturbation as a form of meditation when I was in the process of healing from a sexual assault. I wanted a way to come back to sexual pleasure and enjoyment without involving anything as scary as another human being. Masturbation meditation was one of several tools that really helped me in my recovery, but now I use it all the time to connect with my body and generally to help me feel my feelings.
I wanted a way to come back to sexual pleasure and enjoyment without involving anything as scary as another human being.
The basic practice is very simple mindfulness. The key is to open up to what’s actually happening in the present moment without judging it or trying to make it go in any particular direction. I focus on my breath and the sensations in my body. I breathe low into my belly and relax my muscles. I open my mouth. I don’t use porn or sex toys when I’m focusing in this way because I find they can distract me from the felt experience in my body in the present (don’t lose your noodle! There’s nothing wrong with using porn or sex toys when you want to. Just take a break sometimes so you can focus inward).
Most importantly, I allow my emotions to rise to the surface, good, bad, or otherwise. I don’t obsess about them or attach to them; I notice them and breathe with them. I let them be a part of the experience, and often they flow in and out just like any other thoughts or sensations. I’ve learned to notice when I’m avoiding a particular thought or emotion—if I’m doing that, I’ve tensed up on some level, and the pleasure won’t come. If I relax into what I’m truly feeling, my body can respond to my touch. In part, masturbation meditation is a practice of being honest with myself.
Most importantly, I allow my emotions to rise to the surface, good, bad, or otherwise. I don’t obsess about them or attach to them; I notice them and breathe with them.
Tips to practicing masturbation meditation on your own:
Take your sexual self-pleasure seriously.
Give yourself time and space to do it so it’s not a quick, shameful, get-it-over-with kind of practice. Respect this time for yourself.
Set the mood.
Some people need environmental cues of safety and pleasure more than others do to access pleasure. This could be candles, nice music, or simply a locked door and a silenced phone: whatever helps you feel calm and relaxed.
Focus on body sensations.
Thoughts will be present, too, but try to stay with what you feel. This could include the rise and fall of emotions. Stay in your body.
It’s very important to relax your belly muscles and breathe deeply right down into your pelvis. It’s easy to hold muscular tension here and that tension often relates to avoiding certain feeling states. Though we sometimes tense the belly when we are turned on, our orgasms can actually be more powerful when we relax this area. The breath is the key to letting the emotions flow. Let the breath change as you go, but do your best not to hold your breath.
Take consent into account.
I know it might sound weird to think about consent with yourself but the body speaks! Your genitals will respond to your touch or tense up against it. Don’t go in if your body is resisting you. Teach your vagina/penis that what it says matters.
Touch whatever you want to touch.
There might be different emotions held at the vulva (clitoris and labia) or the vagina (the internal tunnel leading to the cervix). Same idea for the head of a penis, the shaft, the testicles, and the perineum. Everyone is wired differently in terms of what feels good for them, so figure out what that means for you. There’s no right or wrong way. Explore whatever you like according to your curiosity and comfort level.
Don’t force orgasm.
Don’t get too attached to coming. You might or might not. Show up to experiencing pleasure and see how it goes. Stop if you need to.
Stay with it.
If you do orgasm, keep your hands on your body for a little while. You could keep your hand on your genitals or rest one or both on your stomach or heart. Breathe with the post-orgasm sensations— a whole new set of emotions might arise afterwards. Stay present.
Masturbation meditation is a fascinating practice.
The thoughts and emotions that pop up are like little windows into how I’m feeling and what my body is holding that day. Rather than being shocked and appalled at what my mind throws at me, I can get friendly with it and see if it will make its way through my cell memory in the cleansing experience of orgasm.
Cleansing is really the best word I have for it — it feels like things are coming up to the surface from the murky depths of my emotional body so that breath and (if possible) orgasm can skim them off the surface. Emotions that have been stuck in me for years have an opportunity to move.
There are lots of ways I’ve worked through my healing since the sexual assault, but I think this one — this vaginal yoga, if you will — has been instrumental in shifting my sexual self out of pain and fear and back into pleasure. The bad memories and painful emotions kept me away from sexual self-pleasure for a while, of course. But when I started re-entering that zone on my own terms, when I felt safe, when I wanted to, I started practicing the sort of radical self-compassion that is necessary to heal from a sexual wound.
But when I started re-entering that zone on my own terms, when I felt safe, when I wanted to, I started practicing the sort of radical self-compassion that is necessary to heal from a sexual wound.
It wasn’t always easy, but it worked — and it got a lot easier over time. Now it’s one of the ways I process my experiences, whether that’s old emotions related to the trauma or something annoying or awesome that happened this afternoon. It’s a way of reclaiming pleasure, connection, and a sense of home in my body after someone tried to take that away. Masturbation meditation helps make my body a little bit more mine.
This is an excerpt from the book Want: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media) by Julie Peters. See more at jcpeters.ca.
Julie is a writer and yoga teacher (MA, E-RYT 500, YACEP) in Vancouver, BC, and owns and runs Ocean and Crow Yoga with her mom, Jane. She is a staff writer for Spirituality and Health Magazine and has written for various other publications, online and otherwise. She is the author of Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (SkyLight Paths 2016) and WANT: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media 2019).
Learn more at www.jcpeters.ca or follow her at @juliejcp. Photos by Sabrina Miso.