“The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life.”
–Wilhelm Reich

Some of my most vivid memories of my early sex life are not of the satisfying post-coitus elated release, but the opposite. It is hard to forget the many years when sex was more a path of frustration than pleasure; when I was still figuring out how my body responded and why it often didn’t. In retrospect, I think it was my strong intention to find pleasure that kept me coming back to try again – of being willing to live inside the questions I had about pleasure even without many answers. And even now, some 30 years later, I often notice that it is this same deliberate attention, the essence of wanting to want, that gives me the courage to keep seeking out my own erotic truth.

And I don’t think I am unique. It actually takes a lot of time, practice, courage and resilience to find the keys that unlock our mysterious libido, creating a pathway to orgasmic pleasure. Not only are we all different, but we are continuously different, even from the self we thought we just got to know. So, there isn’t one easy answer, pill, or toy that we can rely upon to consistently unlock the passionate sexual response we long for. Many of the questions we ask about our orgasmic potential are not only a moving target, but they focus our attention outwards.

Where my sexual freedom really started to open up and really transform my ability to work with my ever-changing libido was when I began developing a curriculum of sexual education. As I began to understand my own sexual physiology, and the unique relationship between clitoral stimulation and the internal explosions of the g-spot, I also discovered a whole new range of sexual positions that really worked. The more that I followed my own curiosity and learned a vocabulary to describe my own pleasure, the more I was able to release the anxiety that had for so long overshadowed my orgasmic capacity.

The most important revelation about orgasm is that you can’t make yourself, or more importantly anyone else, have an orgasm. And in fact, it is often our efforts to cajole them into being that makes our orgasmic potential even more inaccessible. As soon as we set orgasm as the finish line, we unintentionally invite in the performance anxiety about whether we will be able to cross that line. This also explains why so many women opt out of expecting their own pleasure, and willingly substitute the orgasmic pleasure of their partner as enough.

It also offers a window into the myopic focus that many men get lost in when it comes to their sexual behavior. They too struggle with performance anxiety, and so focus all their attention on proving that they can climax, rather than experiencing the moment they are sharing. This same performance anxiety often also unwittingly creates sexual ruts, as we easily get lost in the same old groove that we remember worked like a charm before. When we spend all our time trying to recreate the last time, we lose the moment we are in entirely.

The good news is that the more orgasms you have, the more orgasms you’re likely to have in the future. Understanding the pathway to orgasmic pleasure rather than chasing the orgasm itself will create many a pleasant sojourn whether you get to the end or not. Try one of my tried-and-true ideas below and see if it doesn’t light the way.

1. Surrender

Learning how to surrender to the body’s erotic knowing, rather than persisting in willful attempts to control it, builds trust in your sexual response and helps you let go of anxiety. This is really important because our brain cannot simultaneously process anxiety and sexual arousal. Surrender by definition brings us fully into the present moment, and release can only happen when we are being guided by our curiosity and open to what we are experiencing in the moment. So, giving up our ideas about how orgasm should happen, not to mention the fears about whether it will or will not, is the first gate to awakening to our erotic path.

2. Solo Practice

Not surprisingly, many people have considerably more success achieving orgasm alone than with their partner, which is why masturbation is such a worthy practice. The better you get at honing your own orgasmic capacity, the easier it is to share them with someone you love. Think of developing your capacity for orgasm as a potent form of meditation. The more comfortable you become with your own body, understanding the mysterious triggers that ignite pleasure, the more easily you can surrender to the moments you share with someone else. Previous efforts to connect are rewired to an ease in slipping back into what your body already knows. Masturbation teaches us how to focus our attention inward where orgasmic potential begins.

3. Bodies in Motion

Bodies are built for motion. Nowhere is this more helpful than in the pursuit of our orgasmic potential. Although this may seem like stating the obvious, it is not a small percentage of people who tense up and stop moving in the context of sexual activity. There is way more than hip thrusting to experiment with. Try experimenting with moving your limbs, rolling your neck and stretching your torso while you explore each other’s bodies. This is why new or never-tried positions can trigger arousal points that you didn’t know you had. Wanting to understand and experience more of your orgasmic potential is also a great reason to try and fit in a little bit of core strengthening exercises into your life. Being able to hold onto someone you love from the inside feels both strong and sexy.

4. Breathe

It is impossible to not notice the fast, heavy breathing after orgasm, but many don’t realize how becoming aware of your breath early in foreplay can focus our path to orgasm like nothing else. Whether you tend towards long and slow breaths or short, fast inhalations, stop and notice how your breathing affects your connection to your body, your lover, and your orgasmic possibilities. Try changing your breathing pattern and see how that changes the experience. Better still, communicate with your partner and work on synchronizing your breathing with your movements together. This is an ancient Tantric technique that is remarkably simple, yet offers profound depth on the path to orgasm.