Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame
It’s happened to all of us. Even if we really want to, there are just some nights (or some mornings, for that matter) when we don’t have enough energy to hop into the sack.
Or our partner wants to go again, but we only have enough energy left to roll over and fall asleep.
Or we simply have a low sex drive or non-existent sex life.
Is that what people mean when they talk about sexual energy?
It might be, although that’s more accurately described as just general fatigue, which can be caused by any number of issues. A sedentary lifestyle (or conversely, too much exercise), poor diet or sleep habits, high stress levels, or hormonal changes due to menopause are among the reasons you might not have enough energy for sex.
Others might use the term sexual energy to refer to what’s better called “sexual tension,” the sexual attraction or desire that might develop when two (or more) people interact and experience a strong feeling of being drawn together sexually.
But “sexual energy” means something very different to a growing number of sex educators and practitioners. In their view, sexual energy is a life force that exists in all of us. It’s inextricably linked to not only our sexual drives and desires, but to our connectedness to others, our sense of self, and even our creativity.
Sound crazy? It really isn’t. In reality, it’s not all that different from a revered Eastern philosophy that has had a major influence on Western views of sex.
Tantra and Tantric Sex
For thousands of years, tantra has been a key component of the Hindu and Buddhist religions. In simple terms, it refers to the beliefs that all life activities are woven together (“tantra” means “weave” in Sanskrit), thath all of those activities are sacred, and that a full understanding and practice of tantra can lead to love, happiness, connectedness, joy and ecstasy.
Practitioners of tantra use yoga, breathwork and meditation to enhance their mindfulness and awareness. They also incorporate those techniques into their sexual life, as an integral component of what the West has come to know as “tantric sex” – which is much more than crazy positions and the pursuit of hot sex. It’s all about the spiritual connection between sexual partners, not just the orgasms.
In short, tantric sex isn’t simply another way to have sex or satisfy a sex drive. Practitioners believe that the physical and mental aspects of life and sex are intertwined; spirituality and sexuality, mindfulness and pleasure can all be combined to reach higher levels of self-awareness, intimacy and sexual satisfaction.
What does that have to do with sexual energy?
Tantra and Sexual Energy
Tantric practice and tantric connections aren’t an Indian version of a Vulcan mind meld; they’re not meant simply to share thoughts and emotions (or to better understand them on an individual level). The philosophy teaches that we each have sexual energy within us, and that it’s an integral part of our life force. That force is said to be held in the sacral chakra, the center of creativity and sexuality. One school calls it kundalini energy, human beings’ inner life force which is the source of our internal power.
In fact, tantra teaches that life is sexual energy. The two cannot be separated – and sexual energy is much more than sexual desire or the calories we burn during energetic sex. Sexual energy drives us to be our best self, and it’s what’s ideally shared between two partners during tantric sex. Taoist sexual theories are quite similar.
That’s why it was important to understand a little about tantra before discussing sexual energy. Those who endorse the concept on a holistic level, rather than one based in religion or tradition, also believe that we all have sexual energy within us. And they believe that it can be used to improve our lives in many ways other than just sexual satisfaction.
How Sexual Energy Works
A quick disclaimer: we’re dealing with some abstract concepts when discussing sexual energy. It’s important to take a step back from “normal” ideas about sex and sexual activity, in order to get a good grasp of the subject.
Let’s start with the ideas that we’ve already touched on: humans are sexual beings, and we all have sexual energy within us as a natural component of our life force. During sex, some of that energy is transferred between partners to create a closer connection and greater understanding. And some non-gender-sensitive educators believe in the idea of polarity: “men” and “women” have different types of sexual energy, and the energy flow between “men and women” is particularly beneficial.
What about sexual energy and solo sex? During masturbation, personal satisfaction and enlightenment may grow and flourish simply through awareness of the flow of sexual energy within the body.
However, there’s a very different way in which sexual energy can be channeled and used for even greater purposes. Proponents of this idea call it sexual transmutation.
What Is Sexual Transmutation?
“Transmutation” is the conversion of one element into another. Elements like plutonium are created through transmutation when uranium atoms are bombarded by neutrons. In the fake “science” of alchemy, worthless substances like lead were supposedly converted into gold or silver via transmutation.
In the context of this discussion, sexual transmutation is the conversion of sexual energy into mental or physical energy, to be used for another creative purpose. That purpose can be almost anything: writing a story, building a doghouse, even going for a bike ride and appreciating the scenery you see along the way.
Does that seem too abstract? Here’s another way to approach the idea. As we go through life we experience all types of sensations. We may not recognize them as “sexual” in nature but remember, as tantra teaches, life is sexual energy. Watching a sunrise, a dog romping through the yard, or our child playing soccer all add to our feelings, our happiness and our energy – just as experiencing sexual desire or attraction add to them as well.
They’re all pleasurable sensations that contribute to a buildup of energy inside of us. And by definition, that’s sexual energy. The question becomes: what do we do with it?
- Some people discharge it through their emotions. The orgasmic feeling of release during sex is one way we release that sexual energy, but we may also release it by crying or getting angry.
- Others distract themselves with substances, sleep or repetitive, mind-numbing activities that allow the energy to dissipate.
- And still others sublimate their feelings and sexual energy, primarily through learned and ingrained senses of self-doubt and shame which stop the buildup of energy in its tracks before it can blossom.
But the healthier and more satisfying way to release that sexual energy is by recognizing it, stabilizing it (some call this “grounding”), and then channeling it into creative energy. This last process actually describes sexual transmutation: transforming the sexual energy we’ve built up, and then using it for other forms of pleasure and self-actualization.
There are similar explanations in tantra, where it’s believed that sexual transmutation can help practitioners reach the crown chakra and experience oneness with their existence, and in Taoist practice, where Master Mantak Chia teaches it can also heal the mind and body.
The book Think and Grow Rich by motivational author Napoleon Hill (available on Amazon) is often cited as one of the bibles of sex transmutation. Here’s how Hill sums up the concept:
“Sex transmutation…means the switching of the mind from thoughts of physical expression, to thoughts of some other nature. The emotion of sex contains the secret of creative ability. When harnessed and redirected…this force…may be used as powerful creative forces in literature, art, or in any other profession or calling.”
But exactly how do you do it?
Harnessing and Using Your Sexual Energy
Before you can practice sexual transmutation and use your sexual energy for other purposes, you have to be in the right frame of mind. And the first step is eliminating any negative thoughts or behaviors that may block the use of your sexual energy.
- You have to be open to the possibility that sexual energy represents more than just an innate need for ejaculation or orgasm. If you think this all sounds like mumbo-jumbo or mystical weirdness, you’re probably not going to get much further. Related: if your default mental setting is negative rather than positive, that’s something to work on before thinking about sexual transmutation.
- Your sexual health and wellness are important. If you have insecurity or shame intertwined with your sexual urges, thoughts and desires, you’re not going to be able to channel your sex energy. Some frank discussion with your partner or a therapist may be necessary, allowing you to be comfortable with your sexuality and your inner feelings and emotions.
- Self-love is important, too. That doesn’t mean rubbing one out before bed; in the broader sense, self-love means being comfortable with yourself. Most importantly, if you’re constantly questioning or criticizing yourself, you’re discharging your sexual energy. You won’t be able to harness and use it.
Ready to move forward? Here are the steps you can try.
- Before you can use your sexual energy, you have to recognize it. At the most basic level, most people can identify the feelings associated with sexual desire or excitement; getting hard or getting wet are certainly clues. That’s one form of sexual energy, but it’s far from the only one. This energy can also manifest as a sense of alertness and mental clarity, or feelings of “being more alive” and “connected with others.”
- Some people are innately able to recognize the sensations that signal an increase in sexual energy. For others, it requires practice. Breath exercises, meditation and activities designed to increase mindfulness and awareness can all work to help put you in touch with your feelings, senses and bodily responses – allowing you to feel the flow of energy throughout your body. Once you can identify your sexual energy, you’ll be able to use the skills we’ve just mentioned in order to transmute it.
- Enter a meditative state, using your breath, a mantra or your muscles to direct your focus inward. Take your time; this isn’t a down-and-dirty process. Once you’re fully relaxed and in the present moment, identify the flow of energy from your genital area through your nervous system as it spreads throughout your body. Gently wrap your consciousness around the energy, working toward a feeling of control. At that point, use visualization to identify the project or activity you want to use the energy for, and imagine the sexual energy moving from your body to the activity.
- Immediately plunge into the goal you’ve visualized. The rush of energy should be tangible. Just don’t confuse sexual transmutation with the surge of adrenaline that can accompany the start of a new project. The sexual energy you’ve transmuted should be longer-lasting, and shouldn’t be exhausted after a few minutes or even a few hours.
Your goal doesn’t literally have to be artistic, of course. You can use the redirected sexual energy to achieve a more fulfilling workout at the gym or plant a garden, just as easily as you can use it to create a painting or start your great American novel.
Or – you can use it to enhance your sexual experiences.
Sexual Energy Can Be Used For Sex, Too
The heightened self-awareness produced by sexual transmutation can also provide benefits in the bedroom.
To understand how that would work, we simply have to look back at our brief discussion of tantric sex. The pursuit of spiritual connection, mindfulness and pleasure is easier to accomplish, and more rewarding to achieve, when you’re able to harness your sexual energy and share it with a partner (or share the self-love with yourself).That may end with enhanced sexual arousal and some mind-blowing climaxes, but that’s not the goal; more important is the increased communication, intimacy and oneness that can result from the recognition and productive use of sexual energy.