7 Minutes in Heaven: Practicing Mindful Intimacy

7 minutes in heaven: Practicing mindful intimacy

Remember that somewhat raunchy game we all probably played some version of, maybe in high school or college, involving a dark room and seven minutes of awkwardness and groping and… ahem… whatever else you might have gotten up to with whoever you happened to have been paired up with? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Or if 7 Minutes in Heaven doesn’t ring a bell for some reason, perhaps you remember its close cousin, Spin the Bottle?

Intimacy Is Designed to Be Fun!

Thoughts of these youthful games may bring up giggles or groans for you, depending on your own experiences, but it’s interesting to note that, once upon a time, playing and experimenting with intimacy and closeness was something that we did just for fun, just because it was exciting and new and left us giddy with all those feel-good brain chemicals our bodies are capable of generating.

Is Intimacy Still a Priority in Your Life?

It’s even more interesting to note that, later in life, as we get into loving, committed relationships that progress and mature, and the predictable rhythm of things like kids, carpools, and career inevitably sweeps us up, we often put the experience of intimacy and closeness dead last on our list of priorities. We may even unintentionally suck all sense of adventure and play out of the intimate experiences we do have by assigning sexual intimacy the same status as a household chore, on par with doing the laundry or making sure the toilet gets scrubbed once a week.

A First Step to Strengthening or Rebuilding Intimacy

Because the intimacy doldrums are a common pitfall that many couples fall into, a different version of 7 Minutes in Heaven—based on the concept of mindfully connecting with your partner—is an exercise that I recommend to many of my clients as a first step in rebuilding or strengthening a sense of intimacy in their relationships. Similar in some ways to a mindfulness meditation practice, this version of 7 Minutes in Heaven is about allowing yourself to be fully present with your partner in a moment of intimate physical and emotional connection.

Mindful Connecting Exercise

When I work with my couples clients, this exercise is tailored as needed to meet the initial shared comfort level of both partners, but it is designed with the idea that the intimacy level attained during each practice session should be incrementally ramped up upon successive repetitions. To give you an idea of how you and your partner might want to proceed, the following is a good basic starting point for many couples:

  1. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. (A dark room isn’t necessary for this particular version of 7 Minutes in Heaven, mind you, but some couples find that a dark space gives them more of a feeling of privacy.)
  2. Set a timer on your phone for 7 minutes, or whatever time frame you choose, making sure that the alarm ringtone and volume you choose is soothing and gentle rather than loud and jarring.
  3. Start with both of you standing face-to-face, holding hands, with your eyes closed.Couple standing face to face holding hands
  4. Focus first on the quality of your breath, slowly softening your breathing and changing it in any way that feels more conducive to intimacy and openness to your partner. Maybe that means breathing more deeply, or more slowly, or more through your mouth than your nose. Just soften.
  5. Next focus on the sensations of skin-to-skin contact at the specific points where your and your partner’s bodies are touching—noticing temperature differences, textures, and any muscle tension that might be present—slowly softening your touch and allowing your touch to take on whatever qualities that the terms “closeness” and “intimacy” embody in your mind. At the same time, begin to allow your facial muscles to soften into whatever expression feels like a loving expression to you.
  6. Notice your heartbeat, observing its rhythm and any changes in that rhythm that might occur. Keep a part of your attention immersed in your own heart rhythm as you begin to stretch out a part of your awareness toward your partner’s heartbeat, imagining that you are able to look into your partner’s heart with your eyes still closed, and that they are able to look into yours, and imagining yourself seeing, feeling, and hearing both of your hearts beating together. Let yourself imagine that you can feel whatever your partner is feeling in this precise moment.
  7. Continue this heart exploration together, staying with the experience of your heart rhythms beating together, feeling each other’s feelings together, and communicating without words, until your timer signals the end of the exercise. Open your eyes and make eye contact for at least 5 full seconds before you break physical contact.
  8. Many couples also feel inspired to conclude the exercise with a deep hug and a few moments of sharing their thoughts and feelings about the experience, to give things a sense of closure. However, when first starting out with this exercise, one or both partners may not feel ready to talk about their experiences immediately. Take things at your own pace.


Progressively Ramping Up the Intimacy

As you and your partner progress through this exercise, successive repetitions should  gradually increase your level of physical and emotional intimacy and connection, perhaps moving toward placing one hand directly on your partner’s heart and holding their hand with the other, then maybe later moving to a position where both of your foreheads are touching, or even into a standing embrace. At some point, you might transition into a position lying next to each other, perhaps side-by-side at first, moving toward eventually facing each other, and then toward entwining your arms and legs together in a full-body embrace. When you feel comfortable with it, begin to experiment with doing the exercise with your eyes open as well, and notice how the sense of connection intensifies. And, of course, the final, more advanced iterations of this exercise can and probably should, at some point, involve clothing-optional experimentation and intimate contact of a more explicitly sexual nature.

Embrace a Sense of Playful Exploration

There really are no limitations to what directions you and your partner can take this exercise, so have fun with it! Rediscover your sense of playful adventure and imagination in the intimacy arena, while simultaneously strengthening your existing connection with your partner or beginning the process of bridging any intimacy gaps that may have appeared in your relationship over the sometimes hectic course of everyday life together.

Leverage the power of your own 7 minutes in heaven to begin building the foundation of a lifetime of intimacy satisfaction in your relationship. You deserve it.

Trish Alderman is a Mind-Body-Spirit Coaching Practitioner at Unveiled Self and a professional member of the National Council on Family Relations whose work focuses on guiding clients through goal-oriented sessions aimed at in-depth personal and interpersonal self-improvement. Trish’s background, training, and experience includes integrative life coaching, hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP), mindfulness, habit-based behavior change, stress management and relaxation, performance enhancement for sports and fitness professionals, and relationship enrichment techniques grounded in the principles of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory.

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