Through the Looking Glass

Mirror masturbation takes selfloving and self-pleasuring to a deeply conscious level, in which one becomes full witness to, and participant in, one's own erotic pleasure, sexual responses, emotional surrender, and, at times, sorrow.

Often an unexpectedly profound and pleasurable experience for solo sex, this is a most important and enlightening practice for those on the path of sexual awareness, or any form of spiritual growth and self-exploration besides the most conservative. It can be a catalyst in breakthroughs to self-awareness, self-esteem, personal confidence and orgasmic depth. All of these things lead us ever-closer to true intimacy, the blocks to which can be uncovered quite directly in mirror masturbation experiences, whether the experiences are assisted or happen alone.

Much of what we are dealing with in life and in sexuality are masks of false identity -- what some people call 'ego' and others 'personas.' In deep sexual experiences, the ego can suddenly fall away and yield to the presence of a more compelling loving force, literally, a sensibility in the presence of which love becomes inevitable. Almost exclusively, we invite this experience with other people rather than with ourselves; in their exposure and vulnerability, we cannot help but love them, and in our vulnerability, they cannot help but love us. This is one reason why it is so easy to fall in love through a series of authentic sexual experiences.

Yet when the love of the other is withdrawn, we often lose the enhanced sense of existence that the profound sense of being seen helped to create, and hence we can suffer a blow to that sense of existence created through the relationship.

Rarely do we turn the liberating experience of full awareness toward ourselves. Western thinking, influenced by the Greek and Judeo-Christian traditions and many others, has taken a harsh position on selfloving and selfpleasuring, keeping it as closeted and limited as possible, and associating it with humiliation rather than humility. Masturbation is considered in everything from fashion magazines to religious literature to be selfish and greedy, and it is a clear violation of the reprosex-only dictum, since pregnancy is impossible. Masturbation, and thus the whole experience of sex-for-pleasure of which masturbation is the epicenter, is made into a cause for embarrassment. The result has been a raging epidemic of sexual guilt, shame and self-hatred that expands into almost all areas of life.

Mirror masturbation experiences can initiate the process of going clear through this mental and emotional debris, straight to the heart of the selflove that is at the core of all love, and straight to the experience of the self that, as an erotic being, is at the core of all other erotic and creative experiences.

There are a number of ways to begin exploring, but as a general guideline, gentleness, compassion and taking it slow are sound practices. Many are quite adept at this form of erotic yoga; among those who are not, the idea will have immediate appeal to some people, will ignite curiosity in others, and a variety of 'neutral' or blatantly negative reactions in some others. Whatever your reaction, consider how innocent and natural an act of self-awareness this really is.

One possibility is to explore alone, nude, in a full-size mirror. If you typically have fantasies of pleasuring or being pleasured by other people, roll with them, though allow the visual image of yourself to become the subject of your desire and sharing. Both watch and be watched by this person; see and be seen. Allow yourself to be turned on by the visual experiences of nudity and erotic pleasure, eye contact, and vocal contact with yourself. Loosen up your face and watch your full range of expressions, exploring new ones as the feeling moves you. Some you will not recognize. Some will be a bit startling. They are all you.

Take the experience as far as you wish, and explore, if you can, the visual experience of yourself in orgasm with your eyes open (to see yourself come with your eyes closed, you will need to ask someone to photograph you).

A second possibility is to use a mirror large enough only for your face, which would probably best be hung in a position where you can see yourself from a close perspective and in a comfortable position. This experience will probably seem more loving and intimate rather than explicitly sexual, since the visual cues of nudity, body movement, and watching your hands touching yourself will be missing. Connect with the person you are seeing, and explore the stream of faces that go past your vision as you move through deeper levels of surrender. Say what you can, or what you need, to yourself. Get to know the person who is looking back at you, and feel the person within you who is witnessing your reflection.

It may be possible to have an experience of full integration of these two seemingly separate beings, much as we seek in meditation to experience divine oneness.

A third possibility is to try these experiences in the presence of a friend or lover. Your witness is primarily in a position of providing support, feedback and practical assistance with things like lube or sex toys. But he or she will probably have a distinct effect of catalyzing your surrender, and it may be possible to go deeper into yourself with a witness present than without. You will need to experiment. One benefit of exploring with a witness is that, during or after the experience, you will be able to get a more objective description of you and your journey. If you feel like sharing your ideas or feelings as the experience is unfolding, you will have someone to do that with. If you choose not to be alone, you will need to decide whether you want the company of someone of the same gender or the opposite gender.

Keep in mind that this person will accompany you through one of your most vulnerable experiences, so choose carefully.

Group experiences are also possible. Individuals in polyamorous experiences might find it beneficial to experiment with mirror masturbation in the presence of all the lovers in an intimate network or extended relationship. This process will help cultivate and enhance the sense of nonattachment and sexual autonomy that is necessary in multiple partner situations.

At a conference in Daytona Beach last year, I facilitated a workshop in which a group of 11 people, a mixed assortment of men and women ranging in age from 35 to 80, going through this experience together, though one at time. Sexually and psychically, it was one of the most unique, time-suspended spaces I have ever been in.

Remember that in all of these experiences, you are transgressing cultural boundaries and opening up new pathways within yourself, and entering an altered state of consciousness. It is not possible to predict how you will react, though the great majority of experiences have had loving and positive results. Slowly, you will penetrate your negative judgments, work off residual sexual guilt and shame, and move through body issues and your sense of feeling unlovable -- if you experience any of these difficulties to begin with. Give yourself time, try again, try different settings, and confide only in those who you feel are compassionate and loving toward you.

A diary of your journey would be something of a compersion treasure, something that you could share with your lovers and with which you could give your friends a window into themselves; a looking glass.

Many terms used in this article are defined in Options to Romance

Originally published as Through the Looking Glass on at