Sex Nerd Sandra on Mindfulness in Sex

I got to sit down with fellow sex educator, Sex Nerd Sandra, and hash out what the concept and practice of mindfulness is, and how it relates to improving relationships, reducing judgments, deepening intimacy, and enhancing sexual experiences.

The topics we cover include: The “Down Low,” Getting Touchy-Feely, Self Care, Awareness without Judgement, The Triangle of Thoughts-Emotions-Sensations, Your Patterns, Triggers, Sandra’s Trigger, Using Your Words, Tangible Feelings, A Pattern Interrupt, Run/Numb/Distract, Sandra’s Dark Shadow, Favorite Negative Emotions, Manipulation, Buddhist Science, Third Eye, Astrology “Personal Growth,” Brené Brown, Feeling Worthy, Dr. Who, Our Inner Geography, Resiliency, Dr. Jenn’s TEDx Talk, and Befriending Your Body.


~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sociologist

Why We Suck with Personal Growth at First

In 9th grade, I was bumped up from the 9th grade basketball team to the junior varsity team. This was a big honor. It also meant I was held to a higher standard of skills and techniques. I had always had a decent outside shot and was a good free throw shooter. But somewhere along the way I learned to shoot with two hands - a hand evenly placed on each side of the ball. This is not the proper way to shoot for best angle of release, velocity, and trajectory of ball.

Over winter break, my coaches "forced" me to start shooting the proper way, with one hand in front of me and the other gently supporting the side of the ball. This did not feel good and I was continually missing baskets. I recall a contest where we were divided into two teams to compete making free throws under pressure, and I felt responsible for my team losing. I was frustated with my lack of skils and irritated with my coaches for making me "fix" something that I didn't think was broken.

It's not unusal in the personal growth process for things to get worse before they get better. When we break our old patterns and less-than-evolved ways of doing things, we struggle. It's difficult to choose to struggle when we want to just go back to our old comfortable ways. We have to trust that the new, more nuanced way will serve us in the long run.

I know it was worth it. I was willing to stick through the discomfort and embarrassment of shooting poorly and feeling like I was letting my teammates down. After a few weeks of practicing the new way of shooting, my accuracy had improved tremendously. The more I practiced the better I got. And so goes personal growth.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist

New Year: Change Your Relationship

From:’s a few weeks into the new year – have your resolutions already fallen by the wayside? Did you swear off fatty foods, cigarettes, and excessive drinking, or commit yourself to lose weight, eat healthier, and keep a budget, only to find yourself slipping into old habits? These are all worthy intentions for the new year, but I think a different approach, especially when applied to improving sex and relationships, can keep you on track this whole year long.

Choose one relationship or sexual improvement goal this year, and continually work towards developing that. For example, do you and your partner struggle when it comes to communication? If so, each month create a small plan about how you’re going to work on that. Perhaps you could start in January with each writing a list of your needs, irritations, and resentments and kindly discuss them with each other. Then in February you can each choose two needs and present a plan on how they could be better met in your relationship. Each month you can add on a new component or communication mode. There’s no right or wrong way to do this; just keep plugging along.

Of if your goal for the year is to learn more about your sexual pleasure, desire, and arousal, choose a different aspect of this to explore each month. You could start with reading through Amazon reviews on books about sexual pleasure, and find one that piques your interest. Next month you could take a class, have a vulnerable conversation with a friend, purchase a new sexual toy, try a lubricant, etc. Anything that builds towards your big picture goal of sexual pleasure knowledge.

One of the most important ways to stay true to your new year’s goals is to have a plan and review it regularly for sustainability and accountability. Set your phone alarm for every Sunday evening as a reminder to review your intention and reflect on whether you’ve taken steps towards or away from that. Then write down ideas for that week of how you’re going to take a step in the right direction. Intentions are a work in progress, so continue to identify what works and what doesn’t for you, and apply that feedback to create success.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sex Therapist, Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist

Have a Beer with your Fear

(This was originally posted on October 31, 2012, as the Sex & Relationships Blog for Pacific San Diego Magazine.)’s Halloween, so why not have a beer with your fear? I don’t mean to say you should use alcohol to ecape your fears. But I do suggest you sit down with your fear like you would an old friend, and really listen to it.

We usually run from our fears through distraction, numbing, or reacting with anger to feel more powerful. We do anything we can to not feel the fear, regardless of whether the feelings come from a fear of pain, loss, humiliation, being unlovable, not smart enough, not man enough, not pretty enough, etc. Until we learn how to sit down with our fears and accept them for being there, like we would a friend, we continue to allow them to wreak havoc in the background. While it might not seem important in the background, this means our fears will influence our reactions, decisions, and ability to relate to others. Pretending that they are not there only makes this dynamic stronger and out of our control.

How can you break this pattern? By doing the opposite of what you want to do. When you want to escape or distract from an uncomfortable fear, choose to stay with the feelings and bodily sensations. Notice them, label them, breathe into them. Befriend your fears by accepting them for exactly as they are. Once you’ve sat and had a few beers with them, they aren’t so scary anymore. Cheers!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker

Jeans 4 Justice: An Unconventional Approach to Ending Sexual Violence

Sex is hot and steamy, yet it can have a dark underbelly of pain, abuse, and violence. Dr. Jenn interviews the founder of the San Diego nonprofit Jeans 4 Justice, Jess Johnson, about her work and passion. Jeans 4 Justice takes a unique approach to ending sexual violence through: sharing stories, cultivating leaders, and empowering communities...all in order to create healthy relationships and empower social change.

Learn about the incredible book "Half the Sky"

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Speaker, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Why Discipline (Not the Spanking Kind!) is Necessary

“I’m exhausted but I said I’d do it, so I have to do it!”
“I’m just not feeling it right now, so I’m going to have to cancel on you.”
Which of the above represents you? Are you into strict discipline of the self? Or do you make choices only through the lens of self-nurturing?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance between discipline and self-nurturing, or discipline and compassion. One of my intentions for the new year was to actively create a more mindful life, and one of my commitments in that regard is taking an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course through UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness. I am several weeks in, and am exploring the course for both personal and professional growth.
I have participated in some courses with a heavy emphasis on discipline, to the point that participants seemed scared to share dissenting views. I’ve experienced programs with so much emphasis on self-nurturing, that it allows for wallowing but not growth. I like the balance in the MBSR course. We have homework assignments of both formal and informal practices to cultivate mindfulness. However, within the structure of the practice, anything goes, even distractions and falling asleep. Mindfulness is not about “doing” anything, but about noticing all the nuances of being, including our reactions and judgments.
It is difficult to break ingrained habits, and it can be difficult to create new patterns. This is why discipline is necessary in the personal growth process. We need some structure and accountability to consistently practice doing new things, and being in new ways. On the flip side, discipline without compassion can keep our walls up. We can go through the motions without opening to feel the process. Compassion towards ourselves is important to stop us from beating ourselves up in the personal growth process, and learning to accept "what is" without judgment.
Do you have a “personal growth” project that has been a struggle? This could be exercise, more mindfulness, taking down time, being kinder to your kids, finding a passion, speaking your truth, etc. Look at how you can strike a balance between discipline and nurturing. How can you create a structure to commit yourself to this new practice, but grant compassion for yourself within that practice? I think this balance is invaluable in the realm of personal growth, and is foundational to creating sustainable growth.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

(Image source: