Today is President’s Day in the US, which means most of us are at work and post offices are closed — you can put off mailing your income taxes for another day. The holiday doesn’t give you a good excuse for putting off starting your taxes, but don’t panic: in this post we’re going to suggest that you relax. We’re also going to suggest a way of practicing relaxation that meditators have been using for a long time. In fact, of the tools for strengthening concentration during meditation, we’ve found this one to be particularly useful as a way to calm and focus the mind before and during sex.

You may have heard the instruction to “just let go” time and again and wondered, But how do I actually do it? The paradox of “letting go” is that you don’t do anything — if you’re trying to do something, then you’re not letting go. And, as Wendy has written, when your mind is agitated and scattered, it’s actually physically impossible to have an orgasm. Having an orgasm requires that we let go of our habitual defenses and become vulnerable.

Although we can’t “do” letting go, there are things we can do to make ourselves more susceptible to spontaneously relaxing and letting go. One we’ve found very helpful, both during meditation and during sex, is to connect with the thing you want to focus on and then to consistently sustain your attention on the object of focus.

Here’s a little more about how each one works:

Connect

Our bodies are capable of experiencing an incredible range of sensations. Yet we often go through our days numb to the very sensations we suddenly want to be able to experience when we’re having sex (check out “Pain Reinvented – The Habits of Feeling” for more on this). Without attending to our bodies, sex becomes a mind game — we end up trying to think our way to orgasm.

As you’ve probably found, this never works — stirring up your mind during sex, even if you’re trying to think about sex, will only distract you from what’s happening and keep you from getting to orgasm. But if you can instead connect with the sensations happening in just one area of your body (during sex, the groin is an obvious area to choose to focus on), you can begin to calm your agitated mind enough so that it can let in the pleasure of those sensations.

That’s all that’s needed: choose one area of the body where there’s no pain, and gently put your focus there.

Sustain

Of course, our minds being what they are, they wander. Even though you put your attention on one thing with every intention of keeping it there, check back in a couple of minutes, or even a couple of seconds, and you’ll likely find your attention on something totally different — some memory from the day, some worry, or whatever you habitually ruminate.

So, the second step is to sustain your focus. For me, it’s helpful to imagine that I’m sending a tiny, gentle nudge of energy toward the area I want to stay focused on. I find that my focus travels along with this nudge and lands at the spot where I want it, keeping the area in the foreground of my focus. I’ve found it can also be helpful to imagine gently caressing the area with my loving attention, letting the warmth of the caress flow into and through every pore.

It’s wonderful to do this when you’re actually being caressed — let your attention stay with every movement as your partner touches you. When you notice that the foreground of your focus moves to something else, gently bring your attention back so sensation is once again in the foreground of your experience.

I’ve noticed that sustaining my attention on sensations during sex can get really intense, especially as I’m about to orgasm. Then, I’ve found it helpful to find some rhythm to focus on. Usually, I try to coordinate my breaths with the movements of our bodies until the moment when orgasm can’t be avoided.

You can practice connecting and sustaining anytime — while you are driving (though maybe not in heavy traffic), try to notice the sensations where the seat presses against your body, and keep those sensations in the foreground of your attention for a minute or two. The more you practice noticing your body’s sensations, the easier it is to experience intense pleasure during sex.