It’s a good time to be alive and in love. Scientists and researchers are finally beginning to study some of the things that cause us to fall head over heels in, or out for that matter, of love. And one of the great things that I am personally thrilled about is many of these new ‘discoveries’ corroborate the ideas and theories developed over the millennium by ancient societies that loved sex!
What better time to give you a few new insights into what makes love thrive than at that Valentine’s Day time of year. I’m hoping that this gives some of you new hope, new solutions to old problems, a new perspective, insights into your own love-machine or just some fun ideas to jump-start your romantic month ahead. There is a lot to cover so this will be an over-view but I can promise you that we’ll visit these subjects again, in more depth.
Desire: Finally research is being done with women, not just men, and the finds are pretty interesting. You knew of course, that almost 95% of women link sex with love, connectedness and that their partner likes them as a ‘person’. Many women report that they have a hard time getting excited about sex when they feel unattractive. And about 25% of women use sex to pull themselves out of a ‘depressed mood’. This activity has everything to do with brain chemicals.
Studies are also beginning to look at the details of the old Masters and Johnson cycle of desire, arousal, excitement, climax and resolution. They are finding that for women, arousal may occur before desire. This is subtle and pre-cognitive and it represents new thinking. Any one of her senses might be aroused. A woman might see, hear, remember, or feel a brush across her arm and within split seconds begin to be aroused. She may not notice cognitively that she is aroused, though, until a bit later when she is feeling desire. She might then go back to seek a bit more arousal to increase her desire levels before she moves on to the excitement phase, which is when more heavy petting, touching and genital contact would occur.
Brain imaging is helping to illuminate many different attributes of our body, mind and sexuality. This in turn can lead to education and practices to help us understand better what is happening in our bodes and to stay tuned-in to the more subtle signals from our brains. Tantric practices help develop presence and focus so that we can better pay attention to what we like, need, what turns us on and when it turns us on. Slow, loving build-ups with plenty of touch, kissing, breathing, eye gazing, teasing and playfulness strengthen and extend the build of energy. This physical build through sensual touch may be the better answer to female arousal and desire issues. We can better be the masters and mistresses of our own universe when we stay in the moment and pay attention to detail.
Neurotransmitters: During arousal, and the eventual sexual act, levels of the neurotransmitter Dopamine are increased to very high levels in the brain and body. This is a feel-good chemical. Upon orgasm (more precisely for men; ejaculation) the levels plummet to lower than their base-line levels, sometimes for up to a week or more. This can lead to many states of consciousness that are not the most desirable, for a person or their relationship, because of the loss of Dopamine. These can include anxiety, depression, and irritability. Men have a steeper decline than women. The Taoists prescribe male orgasm without ejaculation and I believe that this is the reason why, though they never had the science to identify Dopamine or the other neurotransmitters and hormones that course throughout our bodies. Along with the drop in Dopamine will go testosterone levels, one of the hormones that fuels passion and energy.
There’s an addictive quality to the Dopamine highs and lows that surround orgasm and ejaculation. On one hand the desire for the increased amount of Dopamine for that feel-good affect moves a person to seek sex but immediately after sex the low levels can cause a grouchy, irritable person/s to appear. These events may be separated far enough in time to not allow the mind to connect with what is happening to either the person or the ‘couple’.
While the Taoists had a good solution in non-ejaculation for men, and one that is important for Tantric practices as well, I believe that there is another practice that can help alleviate and mitigate the low part of the cycle. Not only does this practice keep the low part of the cycle at bay, it, in theory, would increase the levels of Dopamine and Oxytocin and keep them at elevated levels for as long as the practice is kept up. From personal experience, I can corroborate this.
First I’d like to explain Oxytocin and its importance in relationship before I describe the practice. Doctors considered Oxytocin to be the Love hormone. It is present in our bodies, in large amounts, when we give birth, nurse our babies and during orgasm (one out of three isn’t too bad men!). Scientists have recently discovered that it comes in smaller volumes at other times like when we smile, are friendly, crack a joke, laugh and so on. In other words it’s the social chemical, the bonding chemical, the glue that holds people together in friendship and in love.
Scientists have also recently discovered that Oxytocin improves our ability to interpret social cues, specifically through looking into the eyes of another. That means that the person ‘on’ Oxytocin can ‘read’ another person more accurately. Oxytocin is surely produced during lovemaking, eye gazing, laughing and being playful, breathing together while looking into the eyes of the beloved, touching and more. It bonds you to your lover/partner. You understand them better and can be more empathetic and caring.
Back to the practice I was mentioning. The practice to keep Oxytocin and Dopamine at high levels all the time is to make love three, or at least, two times a day. But only for just ten minutes, except for maybe in the evening. This is like going to the gym or reading the morning paper except that the benefits will be much greater for your relationship. The rules are that you end on time, that the man doesn’t ejaculate, that you have intercourse during this time with eyes wide open and that you breathe together. That’s it. So if you choose to ejaculate in the evening men then this practice will bring your Dopamine levels back up for the day. Women, if you orgasm fine, but because only about 15% of all women orgasm through intercourse alone, orgasm may not be a big worry for most of you. Regardless, I’m of the school that the more orgasms a woman has the better, so go for it. I think this out-ways the dip in Dopamine and actually connects you more to your partner. This is primarily because of the attention and loving attitude that surrounds this practice – the Oxytocin release! It’s the kind of thing women thrive on.
So, how does this inform our love-play? Do more of all these suggestions above. It’s about to be Valentine’s Day. How about designing a day around creating more Oxytocin? A deep talk over coffee in the morning with a lot of eye contact and laughing (this is of course after you make love but don’t ejaculate men). Make sure you find a topic that nudges you in this direction. Then go to a matinee and see a great movie that’s a comedy with a message. Then cook a simple, lovely light dinner together with both of you participating. Create an evening celebration of massage, erotic touch, Champaign and dessert and of course Tantric Sex!