Pornography. Masturbation. The Spiritual Story No One Wants to Tell.

Via on Mar 19, 2011

A spiritual, not moralistic context.

There. I said it. The words that must not be named.

Pornography. Masturbation.

It’s our dirty little secret.  No it’s our dirty big secret.  12% of all websites are pornographic.  70% of men 18- 24 admit to visiting porn sites monthly. Men are doing a lot of looking.

And, a lot of masturbating.

I’m taking up this subject from the spiritual viewpoint.  I’m not interested in morals or right and wrong here.  I am not saying porn is good or bad. But I’m curious—what might be the effect of pornography and masturbation on men’s spirituality? I’m talking to the men here, so yes, women, you can leave now.

I take that back for a moment. My colleague, the yoga teacher Deborah Williamson (yes, a woman), might have an insight into this question. I regularly team up with her and Stacy Dockins to teach Advanced Vinyasa Teacher trainings.  There, she explains in simple language a surprising spiritual principle.  In this article I am going to apply it to masturbation and porn.  As Deborah explains to the teacher trainees at our events:

When you are teaching and worried about how you look, whether people like you, whether they noticed that little mistake, if they are impressed with your “spirituality” — when any part of your teaching is about you — you are being selfish.

Spiritually, when you are being selfish — in other words, about “me” — you are in a state of fear, contraction, reaction, shrinkage (no pun), and judgment.  Let’s call this state “Darkness.”   One well-known way to leave this state of Darkness is to shift your attention to giving, sharing, and pro-action, and to be for and about others.  Let’s call this “Light.”

Okay. So what does this have to do with sex?

This strongly suggests that if men want Light, they channel every sexual thought or action from getting to giving.

Right away you might remember a sexual experience where it was about getting, specifically about you “getting off.”  You may remember that after this experience, you felt a drop in energy, or even a disappointed, empty feeling.  Not just the sleepy physical energetic drop that accompanies male orgasm; I’m talking about a spiritual letdown, a drop into Darkness.  Maybe even vague feelings of guilt or shame.

In The Kabbalah Book of Sex, Yehuda Berg explains that whenever we listen to and act on selfish thoughts, we drop into Darkness.  In the case of sex, we do experience a brief flash of Light (the orgasm) but if the act is done from selfish motivations, a drop into Darkness quickly follows.  This could be after masturbation or after a sexual encounter that was not about giving but getting,   I won’t go into Berg’s detailed explanation here, but I will outline some of the ways he recommends for men to turn sex into Light.  By the way, Light has its benefits.  In Light, not only do your life and relationships start working out, but Berg reports that, as your Light increases, your experience of bliss can be 60 times more intense than your best orgasm.

The Opponent


Berg calls the ego “the opponent.”   All of your negative or selfish thoughts come from the opponent.  They are the opponent’s “test.”   How you respond to ANY of your negative thoughts brings you either Light or Darkness.  He likens this to a game.

If you resist your negative thoughts, you bring Light in the same way a Light bulb filament resists the flow of energy in order to reveal Light.  This is similar to the way space is filled with the sun’s Light, but we don’t see it until it is resisted (or reflected) by our own atmosphere.

It’s pretty simple.  When you resist your selfish thoughts, you make Light.  If you don’t resist your selfish thoughts, no Light is revealed, and you remain in Darkness.

Light-bringing sex for a man is about sharing all his sexual energy with his partner.

A few thoughts about how men can build sexual energy for their partner and resist the Darkness.

  • Masturbation. Masturbation won’t make you blind, but Berg explains that for a man, it will result in s spiritual Darkness.  Resisting the urge to masturbate will bring Light. And resisting the act will bring more sexual energy to your relationship.  You will be in a state of foreplay all the time. Living in a state of foreplay means that you will automatically be nicer, and that could solve a lot of stupid problems in your relationship.

  • Pornography. Porn is generally not about sharing.  It is selfish, and this brings Darkness.  Resisting pornography brings Light and also brings your partner more than ever into a sexual Light.

  • Flirting. Flirting with someone other than your partner is not about sharing.  It’s a short-term ego boost that brings Darkness.  Resisting the urge brings Light.

How women share (Okay, I know you women are reading this too)

Berg describes a woman’s way of sharing in a beautiful way.  He says that women make Light when they “receive to give.”   This means that they give fully when they receive pleasure fully from the man who is giving it.  They receive fully in order to give their partner pleasure.   This brings Light.  If the woman receives pleasure just to receive, she will feel empty or guilty after.  That’s what the Darkness of a selfish act produces.

Rings true to me

I’m no expert on the Kabbalah but I do recognize sound spiritual principles when I see them.  This all makes sense to me.

I’ll give you that it has an almost old fashioned feel to it.  The Kabbalah is an ancient mystical part of Judaism that reads the Old Testament as metaphor.  Even though it is “old,” everything I have read rings true.  And I love that Berg has the balls to write about this.

And I love that the Kabbalah has the ancient ’nads to put it all in a spiritual context, not moralistic.

Especially on this massive topic that no one seems to want to talk about.

Kissing

From Berg’s book:

“Breath is essentially an aspect of of a person’s soul.  When breath is commingled through passionate kissing, two souls unite.  And it cannot be simple little kisses.  The kissing must be hot, passionate and wild.”

About Philip Urso

Yoga Teacher Philip Urso loves to train yoga teachers how to teach exhilarating and unscripted vinyasa yoga classes. He co-founded Live Love Teach Yoga Teacher Training School with fellow yoga teachers Deborah Williamson and Stacy Dockins. His two 5-star podcasts on iTunes — A Crash Course in Miracles and Yoga Classes, Live Love Teach — have over two million downloads. Philip studies the dynamics of love and fear and teaches practical, reliable and lasting methods for choosing between the two. His Elephant Journal column explores these very themes. More info at PhilipUrso.com

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94 Responses to “Pornography. Masturbation. The Spiritual Story No One Wants to Tell.”

  1. Annonymous women says:

    So it would be better for singles to have a one night stand and give a stranger pleasure simultaneously (and run the risk of stds) than to masturbate? More enlightened? or if this is not the case, your saying that unless you are in a long term relationship, all sexual activity is "darkness". I smell a religious upbringing. When I masturbate, I feel relaxed and like I have released some tension. I like to masturbate and have sex with my partner. And often when I masturbate, I think about a woman's body. According to your little article I should be feeling "guilt and shame" and be in the "darkness"….. what crap. Don't project your judgements and guilt and turn it into some kind of spiritual philosophy. this smacks of a religious mentality, indoctrinated with guilt, shame and fear. As with anything balance is key. Porn addiction is a problem same as any addiction. But masturbation and sexual curiosity is natural and human nature and not to be ashamed off as "bad" – in my humble opinion.

  2. Daniel Barnes says:

    Interesting. Though masturbation in essence can make you blind yes thats correct i said it… Arousal comes from the external realms for men so this energy is easliy increased in this day and age. This could be primal or it maybe that some men have yet moved to higher states of being for example through base chakras. This maybe the reason the Koran does not allow woman to 'bare all as men are still trying to shed the egoistic mind that brings in – doubt power and the want to control. This is definatly something I myself am working through and I have found a simple statement in Hindu texts that state that there two 'Gates'. One being the mouth and the other our sexual organs. If we learn to control our tongues/gluttony we will have more control over our lower areas and 'lust'. There is a reason there is 'seven sin's, as each one when rooted in an individual will slowly allow the next one to flourish. Masturbation when semen is held within can be an amazing way to raise energy through the system and if the man has a partner this can be the 1st step toward a tantric relationship as it gives him time too understand 'himself' and can contain himself in intimacy. Great article though look into foods that increase sex drive garlic onion etc for a 'leg up' if you find yourself in the 'act

  3. Ramdas says:

    Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha These three Yamas sum up your article.

    Asteya—Do not take what is not yours. Pornography, at any level, depicts something which will never be yours. That moment will forever belong to those who lived it. Those who lived it can cling to the memory, stealing from the present moment. Those who did not live it can use it to create a dream, a fantasy which also steals from the reality of the present moment. Patañjali also wrote that memories and dreams are both obstacles to enlightenment.

    Brahmacharya—Sexual moderation for the married and celibacy for the unmarried. This can be expanded to moderation in all things. But why brahmacharya? How does practicing brahmacharya still the mind, which is yoga, how? Because it requires discipline, discipline to keep the mind focused on stillness rather than sex. A disciplined mind remains focused on what is present. A disciplined and present mind also means feeling every sensation, every move, every breath, every sigh without the distraction of the Playboy spread or without thinking being alone in the shower feels better.

    Aparigraha—non-hoarding/giving/sharing. A table for one is rarely as joyful as a table for two.

  4. omni says:

    It’s hard to be inside the moment with porn and fantasy.

  5. David Moreno says:

    Wow…not sure about this…. Why go to the Kabbalah when talking about yoga? (Or, Buddhism for that matter when talking about meditation?) Why not the tantric text? That which is resisted becomes neurosis. Even the Yama's and Niamas can make a practitioner more crazy instead of sane – least of all enLIGHTened. Yes, the energy can be used and enLIGHTend through integration and redirecting of energy (tantra 101) not denial or dismissal. Would also like very much to know where the statistics come from? Can you please tell me what studies you've used for these facts? Thanks, David

  6. James says:

    Out of the shadows
    By Patrick Carnes

    If you are interested in the spiritual effects of sexual behavior. Problem, explanation, and a solution

  7. Pawan says:

    This is interesting however it is important to realize that all these tendencies and sexuality are related to the body. If you are intangled in your body of course you will want to enjoy external pleasures, however if your spirituality has risen beyond your identification with the body then sexuality is just a mere instinct. Another thing I want to touch on that you keep mentioning Darkness, there is nothing wrong with Darkness infact everything came from Darkness its just that in the little story books they taught you as a child Darkness was Negative and Light was positive, there is no negative and positive. If you close your eyes everything becomes dark and more clear.

  8. Earthling says:

    I tend to agree with the view of this article, but I think we can get a bit more specific on the repercussions of porn and masturbating. Essentially what poster AMO mentions is where the attention needs to be focused. The "lightness" and "darkness" terms are vague and, as you can tell, enrage some readers due to that vagueness. We can start by agreeing that it's not a one-size-fits-all morality mandate, and that the influence of pornography does generate behavioural repercussions.

    Another site likened sexual urges as a power like wind or water: it has the potential to do both good and harm. This is the duality we all face — to be alive, and to be dead; to be joyous, and to be solemn. We are yet static. With these forces in us, we must know ourselves and be our own judge in deciding if pornography and masturbating is good or bad. We must accept that this self analysis will change over time. And we must not go dividing others into "darkness" because of our self assessment.

    For me, I work in a busy coffee shop and see a lot of beautiful faces. I need the stability to resist my sexual urges if an attractive lady walks in and be a helpful servant instead of a lustful procreator. For me, I feel pornography shapes the way I view people; it makes it superficial and that I forget to see their inner magnificence. And since I do not wish to scurry that view away, I resist masturbating. But there were times when masturbating was as common and innocent as exercise, and I would say that it has helped me in becoming a skilled lover.

    A time and a place; and know thy self.

  9. G4cee says:

    This is abrupt but what the hell…..I am somewhat confident in my knowledge about the human sprit, don't wonder how. I would be direct in my comment and ask anyone to try this for them selves. The term :masturbation make you blind really means "spiritually blind"- This means we become disconnected from the spiritual realm. When this happens, we are purely in a human, animal like state (our conscience is suppressed, usually for about three days. During this time, we open ourselves up to run into misfortunate events some may call bad luck….life seems as if anything goes, no purpose. Things may not seem right or "on track". A simple test to see the effects of this would be – try not masturbating or watching porn for four days. I bet you would see a big change in the days that follow. things may seem to flow in your life as if there's purpose. People and things would react to you good and naturally. This is living in the light., spiritually connected. Its just a simple test – try it.Email me for more info, always glad to help.

    • Hi G4cee,
      You wrote:
      - try not masturbating or watching porn for four days. I bet you would see a big change in the days that follow. things may seem to flow in your life as if there's purpose.-

      How would having s€x with your partner, while thinking of someone else fit in? What I am asking is what exactly is the essence behind it, what does, according to you make you spiritually connected?

  10. Julian says:

    Basically, when a man ejaculates he loses a certain amount of a finite energetic substance the Chinese call Jing. When a man loses too much of this his health and vitality will vastly decline. This is actually why some men turn decrepit or bald/grey prematurely. Mastrubation is a massive waste of energy.

  11. Emily Alp emilyalp says:

    FINALLY someone is talking about Yehuda and his genius … the genius of Kabbalah and lightwork–bravo! good stuff. thanks!

  12. mark says:

    "When you resist your selfish thoughts, you make Light. If you don’t resist your selfish thoughts, no Light is revealed, and you remain in Darkness."

    I would beg to differ. I have only known resistance to create conflict, to create dissociation, and separation. Resisting selfish thoughts will automatically ensure that you will indeed experience more of them. Perhaps I would use the word observation, or being aware of your thoughts, or being aware that you are aware of your thoughts. However, I see resistance as being part of our shadow that we fear to look at, observe, dwell in an make peace with.

  13. erica says:

    all i have to say is
    i love you
    and thank you for posting this
    <3

  14. mark says:

    Evidently the world needs more women to receive (to give)….

  15. dave95694 says:

    The notion that by resisting one becomes the master of something is wrong in my opinion.

    Resistance could well be synonymous with the buddhist form of attachment aversion.

    To have a constant attachment in the form of aversion present in life is not the way to an enlightened existence.

    Its a simple biological function anyway.

    Of course craving is an attachment too…
    :)

  16. Joshua says:

    This article, as well as most of the comments written in response to it, struck me as guilt-ridden spiritualism, distantly disjoined from my experience of either masterbation or pornography. I don’t look at porn very often, but definitely also think that it’s possible to enjoy it in a way that doesn’t disrupt spiritual development. For starters, simply remembering that the woman – and/or man, if that’s your thing – is real, lives a real life somewhere and is sharing her sexual experience with you, the viewer, already takes a big step toward cleansing the relationship you have with porn. Maybe she gets off on the voyeuristic aspect of it. I refuse to judge her for getting down on camera, just as I completely accept that many of the people who read this – even the ones who condemn porn or masterbation – probably watch it periodically. I think that the repressive mind that tries to mute anything that doesn’t fit a highly confining interpretation of what healthy sexuality is, probably also reduces the feeling of freedom that such a mind experiences when engaging with a real partner. I do think that watching large amounts could leave a distorted impression of women/men, or sexuality more generally, but that had much less to do with the act watching something than it does with our choices of what to watch and an inability to put a cap on how much we watch. Spiritual elitism masquerading as a definitive statement about sexual health is just a petty and small minded way of trying to negate human expressions that aren’t well-enough accepted. It’s like that king that wanted to put leather over the entire kingdom instead of just making some shoes.

  17. ASFO says:

    I loved it. =)

  18. senecakid says:

    After watching porn as long as I can remember, I gave up on it 5 months ago. It has been almost zero effort to avoid porn, because the benefits outweigh the cons for me, personally. That said, it hasn't been some dramatic spiritual change. I've felt slightly healthier and more 'alive', and my sex life has gotten better. I'm definitely more productive than before because I don't give myself that 'easy way out'. I masturbate less. And that's that. I didn't feel like I rose up out of some spiritual darkness. I am not at war with my ego.

    As with many others here, I get what this article is saying, but don't entirely agree with the approach/philosophy here.

    First, what I agree on: a switch in mindset from satisfying others to satisfying yourself can make a huge positive difference in all aspects of life, for yourself and everyone around you. Sex is one of those aspects. It appears simple to make the switch, but I think it's quite involved and takes time. Anyway, it is possible.

    Where we differ: masturbation in an of itself should not be viewed in such a negative way, and definitely not with any kind of "guilt" or "shame". That attitude is unhealthy. For the most part, masturbation is just another pleasure. Similar "empty" feelings that can occur in masturbation can happen with many other types of pleasures, especially the ones we indulge in alone. Masturbation hits us on a deeper primal level, but that would be the main difference.

    Also, I don't think so much emphasis should be put on "resistance", as if you are always at war with yourself (and ego). I think that is also unhealthy and unproductive. I think a much better route is just to encourage your good and unselfish side, and most all else will follow.

    Finally, in dealing with pleasures and selfishness and such things, I've found the best philosophy in Lucius Seneca's writings. Highly recommend "Letters from a Stoic", the Penguin Classic version. This is the only writing that has given me any kind of 'enlightenment'. Before you reject it based on the title, stoicism may not be what you think. It is basically the Western form of Buddhism. Give it a try. I've been re-reading it for several years now. It is awesome. Cheers!

  19. c.stafford says:

    excuse me people but I would be someone who paradoxically firstly dislikes sexuality and secondly cannot be other than sexual as a human and have had to masturbate for release, not pleasure as it always causing me to feel forced to be a sexual being which is not my wish, so what is a freak like me supposed to do I bet you don't know because your like been human and you know no other being?

  20. Rich says:

    Although the author claims to have a 'non-moral' but instead a 'spiritual' view of porn (definition?), the author uses shaming and judgmental language throughout "dark".

    Yawn.

  21. bliss says:

    this is very interesting post ._from a spiritual point of view ..it hit the right spot _the question is different though ..there is universal feeling of bliss at childhood …devoid of desire to be selfish_as we grow we seem to learn the pattern of events that happen biologically and societal conditioning (getting and giving)_by default we are biologically also conditioned to find that supreme bliss irrespective of environment ._

  22. bliss says:

    Himalayan yogis in caves with bare minimum to sustain life forces
    but the world as such is designed to be stringy to conceal this bliss or this world wouldn’t work and since any system more than one person is bound to involve complexities things will be messed up irrespective of opinions and thoughts
    practical solution:
    try to isolate yourself into nature(pristine yet safe) as much as you can and silent the mind in nature and enjoy the supreme bliss when ever possible

  23. bliss says:

    but dichotomy arises due to the fact that we are humans and have thoughts and needs that are separate from entire animal or plant world
    we cant live with it or we cant live without it
    agreed world is messed up (again only our thought) and the origin is always desire –women relationships children and I
    so its practically impractical to just feel great all the time without having dispassionate desire to feel one with self as if we never actually needed food water clothing sex masturbation women education porn drugs
    its not what one likes or doesn't like but a feeling of absolute bliss irrespective of all of the above …like the ones experienced by Himalayan yogi

  24. G-B says:

    As with all things in human nature, there are myriad paths to achieve the same goals. If Berg feels that masturbation is an impediment for HIM to experiencing deep states of bliss, peace and love, then clearly, he should take another path. But, to imply, nay to boldy state, that this is true across the board and make the Light/Dark associations, is grandiose and just a tad arrogant.

    Many people, around the world use various sorts of sexual stimulation not only for a "quick fix", but also for better physical and emotional health, to "keep the juices flowing" AND are perfectly capable of achieving & maintaining deeply significant relationships, love and spiritual bliss.

    I guess the bottom line I would make to you and Mr. Berg, is, "Speak for yourselves", and do not try to include the rest of the world in your broad strokes.

    Blessed Be!

  25. Brighton says:

    I really like where you are getting at with this article, but from a physical health perspective when you do not masturbate and you are not in a sexual relationship with a partner….well why does Utah have one of the highest rates of prostate cancer? The Mormon Church declaring that God has said "Do Not Masturbate". As men we need to keep the piping in good working condition. If you get to be in a relationship and do that, awesome. For those not in a relationship?

  26. Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

    Good point- let me research this to see that Berg/Kaballah suggest! No one wants clogged pipes!

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