I've been reflecting a great deal -- on my upcoming conference, on my work with patients and on how we as health care providers decide how to merge what we learn at these educational events into our practice. The burgeoning field of neuroscience meeting eastern psychology (more specifically Buddhist Psychology) has been a long interest of mine and now there are whole conferences that merge East to West.
Of course my Integrative Medicine Fellowship merged alternative medicine with conventional medicine and that has influenced my practice significantly. To me it seems to be a perfect fit to bridge what is being understood from neuroscience with what we know in human sexuality. As I counsel individuals and couples in sexuality I am certain that this connection brings more to our possibility of growth and experience as whole people.
Over the next few blogs, I will discuss Eastern psychology, mindfulness, neuroscience, and how I see these influences shaping my practice in sexuality counseling and Integrative medicine. As a small introduction, let's evaluate what we call “problems” and how those “problems” affect our sex function and health. In the healthcare world we call this "sexual dysfunction."
To understand where these so called problems originate, we turn to the mind. But the question becomes what do we mean by the term "mind?" In Eastern Psychology, the mind is referenced in a broader sense as an integrated being (thoughts, feelings, sensations) verses what we may call our thinking brain in the West. In Western Psychology, there is no firm definition of “mind.” Yet, we commonly use the word in our everyday language. I hear this all the time. “Oh I changed my mind,” “What’s on your mind,” or “I can’t stop my mind from these crazy thoughts." Often, this kind of talk is about the thinking brain. Perhaps this "mind" isn't always the thinking brain we assume it might be. Understanding our problems means it is worth asking a few questions of ourselves to explore how each person defines "mind" for themselves.
If we understand how we (as individuals) use the term mind, we can begin to understand how to apply mindfulness to our daily lives. We can begin to learn how to label so-called “problems” from our minds that create distress to our sexual well-being and well-being in general.
So just take a moment and close your eyes. Take three long breathes -- in and out. With continued slow breaths, scan your body from head to toe and contemplate your mind. Keep the inquiry of "where is my mind" active in your thoughts? Ask yourself questions like: "Is it my heart, or my toes, or my belly, or my brain, or my eyes or my skin?" Notice how when you bring attention to each of these areas there is a sense of mind there.
This sense that there is a center in each of these areas is commonly know in science as proprioception or “sense of self.” Yet the ability to locate an exact area of this “knowingness” that is occurring with such a questioning thoughtfulness is not fully understood. When we look through the lens of Eastern Psychology we glean a better understanding and where mindfulness is touched. Enjoy this investigative contemplation and look for the upcoming blogs on integrating East and West into Mindful sexuality.
Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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