“The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life.”
Most patients seeking my counsel typically want to have more orgasms, making their sexuality, goal-seeking. There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasure that orgasm does bring, yet there is some very curious chemistry happening with orgasm worth analysis.
When orgasm occurs, Dopamine (DP) our reward hormone, is released in certain areas of the brain. Prolactin, a satiation hormone, increases after orgasm. Oxytocin, our bonding/trust hormone, increases, but sharply decreases if behaviors such as cuddling do not occur. Androgen receptors in the Hypothalamus, of which Testosterone interacts with, declines after orgasm as well.
So what does this mean to you? Here’s what you may find for yourself if you really pay attention over several events of having orgasms. With drops in DP and increases in Prolactin after orgasm, you may find yourself feeling depressed, motivation and drive diminished, less inclined to loving behaviors, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, mood changes, headaches, sadness and distracted.
Biological Anthropologist, Helen Fisher PhD, has extensively studied human sexual behaviors and what is happening in our brains with sex. What she has found in her studies is that DP release tops off after 1-3 years in relationships. If you assess your own relationships, you may know this to be true. Things begin to be less exciting and sex seems to take more effort than when you first met and courted your betrothed.
My analysis of how DP, Prolactin, and Oxytocin influence the cycle of orgasms and the confusion over how it seemed so good at the beginning then diminishes into repetitive quarreling, really does seem to be pointing in the direction of neurochemistry that is imbalanced. Neurochemistry in balance does bring well-being and cooperation, yet the excess released in abundance during the first year or two soon to cycle into the rollercoaster ride as described above. It’s not surprising that most relationships begin to struggle with sexually related problems.
With this knowledge, you may ask, well now what? Don’t have orgasms? The answer is yes and no. Maybe it’s about re-thinking your sexual approach and what happens after the sexual act that has resulted in orgasm. Ultimately to gain stability and balance with your neuro-biological system will bring the greatest health and sexual benefits.
Stay tuned for the next blog on different techniques to help you understand where to go from here. For now though, keep track of your moods, motivation, and attitudes. Keep a journal and see if you may possibly have the DP related blues related to post-orgasmic syndrome. Until next time, may you have true pleasure in your life that brings you health and well-being.
Some sunshine is good for the soul, but I always make sure I wear a big hat.
Model Miranda Kerr has it right. Sunshine certainly has it’s gift to us in lifting our moods, getting us outdoors, feeding nature, and providing healthy doses of Vitamin D. If you have been like me in the past, I grew up in the sun and have spent and spend lots of time in the sun. Not as a sunbather, but being active and enjoying many outdoor activities.
Unfortunately, it did catch up to me. I recently had a skin cancer removed called a Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). My dermatologist said I’m about 20 years too early for this type of cancer. Unlike a more frequent and common type in my age group, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), SCC’s types have potential to spread. Thankfully, I had surgery and all is well.
Here are necessary guidelines to follow to reduce risk, but still enjoying time in the sun: Seek Shade from 10am to 4pm. Do NOT burn, Cover-up with UV-clothing if out in sun during those hours. Use broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen SPF 15 and above. Apply to skin 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours. Skin screenings every year and learn to examine your own skin and have it checked if you become concerned about a lesion.
One of the benefits of having some sun-exposure, is the rich source of Vitamin D3 that it provides. However, as we age our capacity to absorb and produce Vitamin D decreases. Plus, because many of us are using sunscreens, we aren’t deriving the sunshine’s benefit of D3. And sadly, the average American diet does not lend itself to diets with rich sources of Vitamin D.
If you are over 40, have your Vitamin D3 level checked. Low levels will sometimes be treated with prescription Vitamin D3 and others treat with daily doses of 2,000iu/day. If you prefer to get from your fish, milks (soy, dairy, almond, coconut), and cereals are common sources.
Optimal Vitamin D levels (between 55-75ng/ml) may help in prevention of Osteoporosis, depression, inflammatory conditions, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. But, of course, it just seems to make sense, that if we are following a healthy nutritional base, exercising, and getting outdoors to take in some of the goodness the sun offers, health prospers. So put on your sunscreen, a jacket, and hit the beautiful trails that our Sierra Nevada range offers. Big Love!
“It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct-- "Darling, could you stroke my vagina?"-- you kill the act right there. I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and don't call them.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Not only do women sometimes have a difficult time hearing the word vagina but talking about their vagina’s is even more stressful for them. So when women begin to experience vaginal dryness, there seems to be such discomfort and shame about what is occurring within their vaginas.
Vaginal dryness is the lack of lubrication often occurring around peri/post menopause; however, certain immune diseases, smoking, breastfeeding, pregnancy, chemo and radiation, medications, and douching can lead to vaginal dryness.
When women transition into menopause, the lack of estrogen effect on the lining of the vaginal walls causes the walls to thin and atrophy. The vagina during states of arousal enlongate and expand along with lubricate allowing for intercourse. As a woman reaches menopause and after, her vagina is slower in the sexual response and dryness may cause intercourse to be painful.
Women may experience symptoms of itching, burning, soreness, bleeding and pain during and after intercourse, urinary symptoms and urinary tract infections. Seeing your healthcare provider for a pelvic exam, pap smear, urinalysis, and lab testing is necessary to diagnose vaginal atrophy but also to rule out other possible causes.
Treating vaginal dryness with estrogen creams, tablets, and rings can be very effective and I prescribe these routinely for women. Options of bio-identical hormone replacement are also an option. I counsel women on the necessary usage of lubricants and moisturizers. Astroglide and Silk are very effective lubricants and Replens is a helpful moisturizer. It is necessary to avoid douching, hand lotions, hot tubs (prolonged and frequent use), bubble baths, perfumes and harsh detergents.
Often women express that it must be time for them to stop having a sexual life because of vaginal dryness. Remember that sexuality is an integrated experience not limited to a physical experience. A woman’s mental, emotional, and spiritual life are also very integral to her sexuality. As we all age, the sexual response may and will take a bit longer to reach, but knowing how to integrate the fullness of a woman’s entire being, not limited to a vagina, is the key to lubricating sexuality into a pleasurable experience. So ladies, despite the idea that vagina may not be a comfortable word, your vagina is designed to be a comfortable place for your pleasure, even when things change and you age.
A trembling in the bones may carry a more convincing testimony than the dry documented deductions of the brain.
As promised from a previous blog, let’s dive into the system of Kundalini energy and how it circulates helping to increase our awareness of sexual energy. Keep in mind, although Kundalini is often analogous to sexual energy, let me be clear that it is not ultimately intended to be an egoic self-serving, craving based system. The highest intention of this powerful energy is to become more aware and be of benefit beyond any conceptual idea of one’s sexual needs.
When finally we slow ourselves down enough, we can sense into something beyond our sense perceptions and a thinking brain that chatters away about this and that. Contemplating what that particular feel within the bones may be, is something the East has had woven into their traditions throughout time. Our more socratic views discount any possibility that something not perceived by the senses is unfounded. Yet despite such dispute, we only have to quiet ourselves enough to tap into this subtle energy.
Many of you may have heard the word chakras and channels. In the East, it is said, chakras are energetic wheel-like vortexes located from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In Vedic tradition there are seven, in Buddhist tradition there are four main ones and three secret chakras. From the chakras, it is said there are 84,000 channels distributing this vital subtle energy throughout the body. If you’ve ever experienced Acupuncture, this energy, or Chi, is what the practitioner is accessing.
So how does this relate to Kundalini? When we settle our mind-body into a calm state (the physical body is gross form of energy, think Physics), we can directly access this often very dormant energy, called fierce woman. As we cultivate awareness at this level, we can then learn techniques to stoke this inner fire and awaken more deeply to vitality and satisfaction. It is often referred to as Great Bliss.
When kundalini begins to move through the chakras it then circulates into the channels, which is a fortifying vital energy that interacts with the more gross energy of our physical bodies. So when you get that sense of something deeper within you, it is this source you’ve tapped into which then informs your gross physical energy body. We can all relate to the gut instinct; however, even that needs refining. Read more by Dr. Rick Hanson http://rickhanson.net/media/files/MindChangingBrain.pdf
With this basic level of knowledge, it is from here that one can begin to imagine this system and begin a process of deeper awakening. I hope each of you will take only 5 minutes a day to quiet your mind and imagine such a fantastic, organized current that can help you come alive.
In my last blog, I shared a little about a meditative practice that is the basis for moving subtle energy within our bodies. As I’ve contemplated on this weeks blog, I decided to deviate from the discussion of kundalini until next time.
Here’s what I’d like to suggest to you. Take some time to reflect on each of the following thoughts. While you are thinking of these thoughts, bring to mind your ideas about your sexual desire (or lack of desire). Now I want you to hold those images, ideas, and perceptions in your mind and hold your awareness of that desire while contemplating the following:
Your heart is beating, your lungs are breathing, you have five senses with which to perceive your life and a mind to process the inner and outer information. In this moment, realize the preciousness of each of these functions. Bring to the surface whatever sexual desire you have stirring and mingle this with how invaluable and delicate your life is. Direct that sensation of desire and the idea of your precious life into the center of your chest. Breath with this sensation for a few moments.
Next, think of how you’ve had moments in life where your sexual desire would arise and drift, arise and drift, as well as even lack any quality of aliveliness. Think about those sexual experiences and maybe how you’ve been attempting to keep recreating it, sometimes you can, and other times, you feel a sense of disappointment. But nonetheless, you want to somehow capture that desire and keep the cycle going. But you can’t, as the nature of desire is impermanent. It changes. It comes, it goes. Whatever begins to emerge from the center of your chest as you contemplate this, just add some breathe there and let it be.
What I know may arise for many patients while contemplating the transient nature of desire is a sense of sadness, anxiety, frustration, or numbness. Hold whatever sensation and feeling emerges with breathe. It is here where certain patterns and conditions manifest. So as we are very skilled at doing, we “figure out” ways to make our sexual desire more solid, more permanent, continuous. Through the striving and seeking and desperation to capture it, we feel more and more of the same frustration and anxiety. This is a very painful cycle, which makes us suffer and takes us away from truly enjoying our lives.
Because the conditions of this cycle are being weaved, we produce consequences to them. Examine how you have set up certain conditions in your sexual life and the consequences it has produced. Just notice what comes and let go, breathe. Whether it’s the man hooked on pornography that has now led to erectile dysfunction or a woman trying to avoid a sexual advance from her lover that leads to her acquiescing and experiencing no pleasure.
Practice looking at your sexual desire in this way without any judgment or criticism. Next time you find yourself curious about why your sex life is showing up the way it is (and really you could do this exercise with anything going on in your life), contemplate the above reminders and see what the wisdom of your own mind can show you. The wonderful gift in this is that once you tap into your patterns and see how your sexual experiences might not be as enriching as you’d like, you can change the pattern. In the words of Lao Tzu, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
Yoga has never been truly described for what it is. It is an art and a science with which you can leap over the pitfalls of life. It is a science, and knowledge, and art, where mind and body can work in union and spirit will back it up.
Over the next few blogs, I will be sharing my ten day retreat with you that should be of benefit to you. The retreat I attended was on an ancient tantric yoga method, called Tummo, which is a technological system to work with an "inner energy network". This has also been commonly known as Kundalini yoga. The particular method I will be referring to is from the Buddhist tradition.
I realize many of you may have no idea what this so called "subtle energy body" or "kundalini" is or if you do it conjures up ideas of silly jargon or crazy new agey nonsense. I have to admit that my more skeptical, analytical science mind is called front and center on this whole thought system. That being said, once I had the experience at retreat in working with this powerful energy and reading the "true" science about it, well, that skeptic took a watchful seat.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently published through PubMed an article title, "Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality". Although the sample size was small, it's still rather impressive when assessing this technique. Of course, all the neuroscience converging on meditation is speaking for itself. Tummo Meditation is uniquely different from mindful meditation in that the breathe is utilized more forcefully at times with very specific guided imagery techniques. This study is an interesting read. I've provided the link for you. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612090/
Tummo is within the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric tradition. It is considered a very high tantric practice that is rarely taught and holds to a very tight secrecy. This ensures that the method of teaching and transmission is kept in alignment with the origin of the practice. Transmissions are received from qualified teachers so the practitioner receives the full benefit from the practice.
The basics of this method provide access to a very profound energy system that is mostly dormant in our body/mind, so with breathe techniques the awakening of this vital energy is brought forth. When this is set in motion through breathe and meditative guided imagery this subtle energy circulates through a central channel deep within the core of our bodies. It is here where connecting sexual energy to higher levels of awareness can mingle and rise.
Because the word Kundalini may arouse (no pun intended!) the idea of having great sex (even though it can), let's not get trapped into leaving such powerful energy in a raw, superficial and fleeting experience. The ultimate intention is to move this subtle energy to higher levels of awareness. What this means is the more aware we become in our day to day lives, we make better choices.
My work in Sexuality Counseling is about helping heal sexual dysfunctions and I repeatedly see patients desperately grasping onto various sexual ideas that they feel at the time will finally make them feel better and their partner feel better. I see the deepest benefit that breathe and meditation with guided imagery can have. Attempts to find ultimate satisfaction with fleeting and limited sexual experiences often lead to the road of distress, despair, and suffering.
I see the practice of Tummo as a liberating force to free us from keeping our sexual desire at such elementary levels of momentary satisfaction. It was said during our retreat that ordinary orgasms we experience are about 0.01% of the ultimate bliss we could experience when we fully harness this subtle energy body. I can only slightly fathom what even a 10% orgasm would be based on this statement. Guess we would all be willing to sign up for this method of meditation!! Cheers!
I just returned from a meditation retreat, and my energy is more expanded, more spacious and up-lifted. You may be thinking, sure you just had time off and of course you’d be more relaxed. Yet the retreats I go to have a very vigorous schedule, along with experiencing moments of intense emotion, not to mention close quarters with people I usually don’t know. Also, there are chores to help with, whether in the kitchen, cleaning toilets or cleaning rooms. So not exactly a trip to the beaches of Hawaii sipping on mango juice and having room service.
Yes, yes, I teach, write, and speak a lot about meditation and here’s why:
· Research shows that meditation can increase alpha and theta brainwave activity, which these brainwave patterns are associated with deep relaxation. Theta waves occur during REM sleep.
· It helps with regulating moods by growing neurons in the pre-frontal cortex, which is our executive center in the brain. This center is necessary to access in controlling emotions and developing compassion and empathy.
· Accessing the rest and digest part of the nervous system (Parasympathetic Nervous System), breath becomes more expansive, rhythmic, and slower which in turn slows heart rates and relaxes blood vessels. This may have significant consequences to patients with hypertension.
· The adrenal glands that secret Cortisol, the stress hormone, get to take a big break during meditation. While accessing the Parasympathetic Nervous System, this feedback helps to down regulate Cortisol.
· There is some suggestion that meditation may lower glucose levels and reduce food cravings. I think it might be that through mindfulness practice we become aware of our behaviors, which includes what we put in our mouth. A good thing considering about 70% of our population is overweight.
· Immune function appears to improve and ward off infection better. Also pain management has been effective with use of mindfulness meditation. See John Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.php
My wish for my patients is that they will begin a practice even if for only 5 minutes each day. And for those doing a practice, here’s to your expanded well-being! From the teachings of Christina Feldman: Mindfulness of breathing is a practice of learning to harmonize your attention with what is, in this moment. Short, long, deep, shallow are all fine breaths. Trust your body; it knows what is needed.
Time=Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.
It’s already later than you think
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a patient that imparted the most beautiful wisdom to me about being in relationship. Relationship meaning all those people that we call family (whether blood related or not). She talked about the “plan” she and her husband of 20 years had for their life. Well, their “plan” was interrupted by his diagnosis with cancer and soon thereafter, his death. He was my age when he passed.
Some short time passed and she fell in love again and after four years with this lovely man, she came home to find him dead from a heart attack. In four short years, she lost two wonderful men. Now her mantra is “It’s already later than you think”.
Image the grief of loosing two partners that you dearly love. Her courage and wisdom inspired this blog because she touches a very profound wisdom teaching of being very grateful for the people we have in our lives in this moment as things are impermanent, changing and it’s always later than we think.
The reason I feel compelled to write this is because many of the patients I treat, tend to forget this very fundamental reality of life. That it’s impermanent, changing and at some given moment we take our last breath. Holding grudges, resentments, and casting blame, keep each of us from this truth that it’s always later than we think. There are daily tragedies we can read about in the paper or watch on TV to remind us that life has a tenuous quality to it. It slips away.
Remembering that the human condition reflects imperfections, flaws, fallibilities, yet it is exactly these qualities that hold a treasure. When we recognize such states arising within our relationships, be grateful. Be grateful, because life is asking you to expand and let go of our tendency to get angry, be resentful, judge, and criticize. Instead, breath because you still have the life force to do so (remember another person is taking their last) and think of all the good reasons this person, that you call “family”, is in your life.
Life is short and it’s always later than you think. Be wise with your mind and practice gratitude for your family. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean that you will feel good about your life and should the inevitable impermanence of life wonder upon your doorstep, you know you can greet it with humility and not regret. Be present. Be alive. Be grateful.
Joseph Campbell, author and lecture, known for his work in mythology and religion, has been an inspiration in my life and when I reflect on the statement, follow your bliss, I know this bliss is the essence of desire. Desire is desire is desire and how we channel that desire makes all the difference in our lives and what we create from that desire is evidenced in our lives by what is happening in the present moment.
Over the years of pursuing my educational studies, certifications, and Buddhist practices, it was following my bliss that was essentially guiding my path. When I finished my graduate studies and began working as a Nurse Practitioner, educating and teaching my patients about health was the driving force behind my work. The focused attention on disease that has plagued medicine, instead of preventive lifestyles, was discouraging and a drain to my bliss. I certainly acknowledge the necessity for management of a disease process; however, educating on how to stay healthy is a much gentler life path than treating disease.
After several years of practice, many patients were expressing sexual concerns of which I knew very little about. The educational process in Nursing and Medicine gave very little attention to sexuality, and certainly no attention on healthy function and pleasure. This led to my post-masters certification in Sexology with the American Academy of Clinical Sexologist. This was very helpful, yet still a great part of the education seemed mechanically based. When I met Gina Ogden, PhD, at a workshop at Esalen she was conducting, I knew I was on track.
Gina Ogden, PhD, author and lecturer, became my mentor and supervisor in pursuing my national AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapist) Counselor certification. Her work in integrating spirituality and sexuality is the focus in my sex counseling. Currently, she and I are collaborating on a project addressing the lack of education and assessment tools absent in Integrative Medicine that bespeak a multi-dimensional framework when evaluating and diagnosing sexual dysfunctions.
In the winter of 2007, I began my Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, a two year program at the University of Arizona, Tucson, under the tutelage of Dr. Andrew Weil. This program emphasized concepts in health promotion and preventive care. Why healthcare is founded on this premise is such a quandary to me because it seems so logical and effective, versus the way our current healthcare (disease-care) system governs the management of patient care.
Ultimately in following my bliss, I have a practice that truly integrates the whole person. We are multi-dimensional beings having physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences. As a health and sexual healthcare provider, having patients step into their lives as a multi-dimensional being and not as just a body, they will encounter an integration process that moves them in the direction of well-being. In this process, patients may for the time begin to integrate body, mind, and spirit. And this is the path to bliss. So today, acknowledge the whole person you are and tap into what you desire in life and then follow that and don’t stop!
In this article, professor Allen Frances presents a criticism from Tamara Kayali who discusses how including Female Sexual Arousal and Female Orgasm Disorders (FSDs) in the DSM-5 could be very problematic thanks to the overzealous pharmacology industry. It's no secret that sexual dysfunction is a hot button topic and most of the pharmacology industry is focused on developing the magical pill to fix all your (real and imaginary) woes. Kayali's biggest concern is that of potential "Pharma disease mongering" - the increase in marketing for these magic treatments will increase the number of women seeking treatment for FSD not because they have it, but because they are striving to reach unreasonable societal expectations set by the pharmacology industry. Hopefully when these women seek treatment they consult a sexuality counselor who can work through their experiences and offer a more holistic approach than doctors who have been swayed by the drug companies' marketing ploys.
Read the full article here.
Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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