Your partner can’t share vulnerability so intimately with anyone else. It’s sacred and one of one of the most powerful gifts a person can offer.

2013 I decided I wanted to become much better at sex. Like many men, I suffered from the embarrassing and rarely admitted to dysfunction of premature ejaculation.  There are more than 450,000 Google searches every month, and about one in three guys in the U.S. is dealing with the issue, says research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. I read up on the issue, I consulted a sex therapist, and tried many methods of self healing, and while I showed improvement, I was not satisfied having a body that was still out of my control. I found the experience to be stupefying. I felt hopeless. I felt less than a full man. I was self-emasculating.

My cure lied in practice. For many reasons, none the least of which was for sexual healing, I sold most of my personal possessions, gave my Acura to my daughter, put the rest of my stuff into storage, and headed off to Thailand. During the past year, I have had more sex at the age of 55 than all of my prior 54 years combined. I learned to train my body, ask for guidance, and excel at the art of sex. Here are some things I have learned from the experiences of this past year. I share them with you so you might be able to create your own brand of magic and mastery in the bedroom.

Guys, we have got to slow down.

The real joy, the intimacy, and love, are most viscerally felt in the many subtle and multifaceted activities that lead up to release. Sure, granted, the orgasm is a unique experience, often referred to as “little death” for one does take a short respite from normal waking reality. It is great. It is magnificent. But there was something even more powerfully available to me. By ratcheting down the need for a release, not only was I meeting my partner at her natural speed, but it also gave me time to ease into the experience, which did help with performance.

“Slowly darling.” One of my lovers constantly spoke this refrain to me, like a mantra. I thought I was already going slowly, but there was an entirely new gear that I did not know existed.  She taught me how to savor the tender moments, to languish in the mutual pleasure, and to find a gentle rhythm. I find it useful to focus on my breath, and keep it gentle and slow and deep. No rush. And when I did have a problem with premature ejaculation, all the foreplay leading up to intercourse allowed the experience to last much longer.

I also found meditation to be very helpful with my sex life. Go figure! As I meditated daily, I naturally found a quieter and deeper side of myself. My inner life became illuminated, which allowed me to more easily find my calm and deeper self during sex. There is an all-knowing presence within each one of us, and meditation allowed me to more easily tap into that inner wisdom.

Be vulnerable. 

Open your heart! What do women want from us? In my opinion, they want our humor. They want our touch. They want intimacy. They, just like us, want to feel something sacred. Jim Morrison of The Doors is quoted in an interview as saying:

JIM: “Listen, you two-bit fuckin’ actor, you underestimate the audience. You think they all want a better job, a house, two cars, money, that’s what you think but you know what they really want, Tom, in their lives, what they really want—”

TOM (Interviewer) – “Tell me.—”

JIM (a whisper) “…something sacred, that’s what they want, something sacred.”

The fastest route to a sacred space is to share myself boldly and unabashedly. It is quite a fearless stance to be willing to open your heart and express who you really are. One technique I will share to open up my heart is to speak in terms of “I.” For example, instead of saying “this is how people feel” I would say “this is how I feel.” I had to stop talking in the third person like a professor or teacher. No one is interested in my pontificating in conversation. Instead, I learned to share specific feelings, always starting with I. “When I am with you, I feel so much love in my heart.” Or even more bold “when I think of writing about something very personal, I feel scared.” Sharing my strengths and fears showed my vulnerability, it opened her heart, and her mind and body almost always followed.

Be Playful

Sex is not the time to be serious. It is, if nothing else, a glorious celebration of our bodies, our spirits and the amazing energy and intimacy we can co create with another human being. The sensations, the specialness, the connection, wow, what a powerful opportunity to be present with another person. Becoming self absorbed and obsessed with my performance is the quickest way to kill the moment and lose my sense of humor. The Way of The Samurai states this very poignantly:

Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall, there was this one: “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.” Master Ittei commented, “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.”

So let it go. Before I know it, the moment will pass, and I can then look back and evaluate and judge my performance to my heart’s content. Many of us do. But in the moment, play. Smile, laugh, tussle and play.

Be responsive, not reactive. 

Following is a great example of something that most men have experienced. Virtually all women I have met will not agree with me when I tell them they are beautiful. This is even more true of the culture in Thailand. The most gorgeous women simply will not accept their beauty. “I am just the same as any other woman!” I use to get distracted by this. I would get into a bit of a debate. I was being reactive. Now that I understand a bit better, I simply don’t interfere with her feelings. I will continue to express my feelings that she is beautiful and maybe one day she will feel it, and maybe not. Either is fine. We men must hold a larger perspective so that she can have her feelings, whether we agree or not, and have it be okay.

Stay connected

When I would take my partner dancing, she taught me one rule. No matter what, when she would look into my eyes, she wanted me to be looking at her, connected to her, no matter when she was ready to connect with me. We would dance, and I was always there as her dedicated unwavering presence. She would look around the dance floor, check out the lights, feel the rhythm of the music, close her eyes and really get into the sounds, and then open her eyes to see me right there with her. It was always a wonderful experience for both of us.

In the same way, sex is a dance. There is a much higher level of sexual pleasure in this heartfelt connection, than in her breasts or ass. I know a woman’s body is a wonderland, and there will be times when she will want me to explore and adore, but through it all, she wants to feel me, to feel my presence and depth. She wants to feel me at my most vulnerable, awake and alive. She can’t get that anywhere else. Give that to her. It is one of one of the most powerful gifts a person can give another.

Listen to your partner. 

In the dance of love, a woman will let you know what she wants and when she wants it.  For us guys, we are in a constant state of “Ready Go.” Most women are not. In most cases, she needs much more time to experience the intricacies her body and get her body ready for you. In general, women are much better at feeling their feelings. Think of it as if you and your partner are a car. We men are always revving in first gear. We can get to fifth gear almost instantaneously. It is like teleportation. She, on the other hand, in most cases, needs to go from first to second, second to third, third to fourth, and then fourth to fifth gear. As she goes through these gears, she will give clues, sometimes very clear clues, but more often than not, the clues are very subtle. Therefore we must become very good at listening, and feeling for her transitions. I had to learn how to listen not only to what she says, but also to her breathing, and to her warmth and the changes in her body. 

Rediscover your inner wizard. 

Every man I have ever met has an inner wizard, an inner wisdom, a magic all his own. Unfortunately, social conditioning, painful early life experiences, shame and guilt often tamp that inner wizard down. The good news is the wizard always lives. The wizard never dies. Bring out the wizard, and let the self-confidence he carries guide you and inform you during sex. If this doesn’t ring true for you, fake it till you make it. A real woman does not want to make love with a boy. If she wants you to, take the lead and guide. In my experience, she wants you to lead the experience so it is special, memorable, intimate, raw and deep.

Create a sacred environment

Buy some candles! Nothing sets the mood for lovemaking more than a candle lit room. I did not really understand this until I ran out of candles. Instead of a woman saying to me, “this is so romantic,” I heard crickets. If you do not have candles, throw a scarf over the light, anything to soften the ambiance in the room.  It allows your energy and her energy to relax, and in the relaxation, you can come together and both know where you are going. There are certain cues that tell a woman and her body that sex is about to happen–if she permits it. The most powerful that I have found is a candle-lit space. Believe me, creating a sacred space is a powerful aphrodisiac. 

Lighten Up.  Performance anxiety is your issue (not her’s).

If you feel stress about your competency as a lover, you must realize this is your issue and not your lover’s. How fast you do or do not orgasm is not such an issue for your partner. Your technique is not a deal breaker. I remember making love and feeling I had an orgasm too quick. Yet my lover was completely satisfied and wanted to do it again and again that evening. I was surprised. I thought to myself, “Really, didn’t you notice how fast I came!” I believe we men are hard wired to want to excel at anything we do. We are competitive by nature, and I discovered I often compared my sexual abilities to the stallion like performances I had seen in porn films. Those are movies. Superman does not exist. I had to give myself a break. I can only do the best I can. As Tom Robbins wrote in his wonderful book Jitterbug Perfume, “Erleichda” which mean lighten up or let it go. Brothers, take the pressure off yourself. Your partner already has.

Sex is one of the great joys of our lifetime.  If you believe in God, you have to give it to him or her for creating such a magical experience. For all the men I know, when they are making love with a woman, well, it does not get much better than that. To find a woman who wants to be intimate with me, it is such a gift, a treat and an unbridled joy. It is unfortunate that we brothers add so much pressure to the situation. Yes, we get in our own way. It was time for me to clear the decks of my mental debris and let nature take its course. Incorporate these ideas into your sex life, and I think you will not only learn quite a bit about yourself and your partner, but you can begin to enjoy the experience of sex much more than you thought possible, regardless of how you perform. This has been my experience and for it and am very grateful. You have your own experiences to write. 

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.