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. AMO says:

    Interesting post. Thanks for bringing it up. I don't think porn is inherently wrong, I indulge myself, and I DO think you should recognize that millions of women around the world use porn to masturbate. That said, I see a number of reasons for men to use a bit of self control and use it with care, like anything else.

    Porn is a non-participatory sexual activity. The woman on the screen is excited in spite of the fact that you haven't DONE anything to make her excited. Anything that is done to her she likes, even if it's painful or gross. She never complains, she doesn't need foreplay, she's never tired. When you're done with her, you don't need to snuggle or talk. Just walk away.

    This makes for a situation where it's easy to feel that being with a REAL woman is just too much work, too much trouble. These feelings might not even be articulated in the mind, just a natural place to turn when your wife or girlfriend or husband or boyfriend say's no. Rather than take the extra care of spending an hour on the couch holding your partner, stroking her hair, kissing her shoulder, encouraging her to be physically close to you, doing the things in bed you know s/he likes, giving your partner enough time to get ready to have sex with you, it's easier to just turn on the computer. For many couples, it gets easier and easier to not even ask in the first place. Young men in the computer age grow into adulthood watching women with breast implants the size of their heads do acrobatic tricks and endure painful and degrading behavior as if they enjoyed it. In porn it never really seems to matter whether the woman orgasms or not, she's a receptacle for the man's pleasure. With these images in their minds how are young men to learn to pleasure a woman? How are they, as you put it, to learn to GIVE…?

    • Ravi says:

      All of this is spot on. Thanks so much for exploring it. Although porn and masturbation aren't "bad", the bigger question is are they dharmic? Do they support vitality and full engagement with life, instead of fantasy? How can we say reality is meaningless if we have never given ourselves the time to disengage with fantasy long enough to really see? Who would we be without our stories?

    • tommy says:

      all i can say is "well put, my friend." i agree 100%

  2. ACIM Student says:

    I am a woman and I enjoy porn. I began masturbating at a very young age (8 yrs old) as I discovered my body. I am now 40 and since I have started practicing ACIM I have grown so much away from seeking to get which was a very big part of my life in my romantic relationships. I have shared my interest in porn with my mates in the past which was always surprising to them. I am grateful that I have learned that it is all meaningless and can appreciate it for what it is, and have even used it in sharing. It holds no true value in my dream life and I have lost interest although i still watch it here and there. Regardless of what I do, it's how much peace I feel within it that leads me to who i really am. I am at peace with it. :)

  3. Alyosha says:

    Geez! Let me get this straight. You are not interested in "morals or right and wrong". And you are not "saying that porn is good or bad." But masturbation — well, let's just call it a "state of Darkness".

    A little too preachy for me — kind of the New Age version of sin and hell.

    • Matt says:

      This is a really old post, but I just got to it now and feel strongly moved to reply. If you have ever meditated or done yoga, and then watched porn and/or masturbated, you will know exactly what he is talking about. Unfortunately, I have done a lot of both, and it never works. This article is absolutely not about moralistic valuation of porn or masturbation; he is describing what happens to you on an energetic level. My own (once again, unfortunately extensive) experience verifies this for me totally. It is impossible for me, at least, to maintain any kind of high level of clarity, joy – any real state of "light" – if I watch porn and masturbate the way we're talking about in this article. I would love for it to be different, but it's not. Calling it a "state of darkness" is not the same thing as calling it "wrong".

      • happydog1960 says:

        Rubbish. Complete rubbish. Masturbation is darkness = Masturbation is sin. Same old sexual repression dressed up in phony pseudo-Hindu robes. Christian morality in Buddha drag.

  4. J-G says:

    It seems interesting to me that most of the "Sweetness and Light" crowd, such as the author of this article, tout a woman's right to self pleasure as being an enlightened expression of self empowerment and ownership of her sexuality. Yet, for men to enjoy the same activity is seen as selfish, exploitative and base. Where does the justification for this double standard come from?

    And, as for this business of what is "Light" vs. what is "Dark"??? If that is not propagandizing, then I don't know what is.

    I am 100% in favor of developing one's Spirit at every opportunity possible, mentally as well as physically. For men and women of all ages, our sexuality and the ability to experience physical pleasure are very much a part of that. All things in moderation of course, is a key to keeping one in a state of balance and harmony. There are many paths to Spiritual enlightenment which delve deeply into the erotic areas of our humaness.

    As for this passive / aggressive tendency toward condemning a well rounded enjoyment of sexual pleasure based upon one's…. There lies the path to Darkness, Mr. Urso.

  5. candicegarrett says:

    This was so not the post I thought it was going to be! Loved it, loved your message and I think you're right on target.

  6. Dick Hertzer says:

    What a stupid and ignorant post. Am I the only one who sees thru it. "I'm not saying masturbation is good or bad, just darkness, lol. Of course this piece is judging and saying masturbation is bad. So typical of the Jewish mindset. May I have some more guilt please. Let me give you a real and not some conceptual new age crap. I masturbate and thanks to the internet watch more porn than ever. And my wife, who I have been married to for 23 years tells me she is amazed at how much better of a person I am. So my real experience tells me this lady does not know what she's talking about. FAIL.

    • Amy says:

      The post was written by a man.

    • dancing bear says:

      If you haven't tried avoiding masturbation for an extended period of time, then you haven't felt the benefits of doing so. Try your best at making up a real excuse for all of your time wasted pleasuring yourself. Hahaha

  7. DamaDe' says:

    I feel your intent and appreciate your writing about this topic. Its a wild cyberspace world out there! Swami Rama, master yogi of Himalayas, said, "Suppose this room was dark for over 100 years.. how long would it take to light it? Less then one second." –
    The opinions of folks will be beyond measure. The idea, from what I gathered from your writing is to go deeper & evolve for the sake of deep connection, union and sweet grace between two people. We certainly run the gamut from "skimmer" spiritualists with one foot in the Neanderthal knuckle dragging era to folks so "light" they almost seem as if they time travel to the Pleiades and back. I suppose I am somewhere between the two. The conclusion comment that "the Kabbalah has the ancient ’nads to put it all in a spiritual context, not moralistic," intriques me to enquire with this discipline/ school of thought. Shine on, man.. keep on writing!

  8. Jonas says:

    Very strange article. It started good, but then it went straight to hell. Masturbation is darkness…? Come on.

  9. John M says:

    Just as your ability to be compassionate and loving to others is equal to your ability to be compassionate and loving towards yourself, your ability to pleasure another person is equal to your ability to pleasure yourself.

    "Don't knock masturbation! At least it is sex with someone I love!" ~ Woody Allen

    "Masturbation?? I'd rather cut my f**king hand off!!" ~ Billy Connolly

    At the end of the day, I currently single, I am a man, I have sexual desires and I LOVE the female form…I don't do guilt and shame about pleasuring myself and I am not harming anyone by doing it.

    If I was fortunate enough to meet a nice lady, I would be sharing all my pleasure and affection with her and would have no need for porn…
    For once in my life I am actually being mindful and actively avoiding potentially destructive relationships that I would have jumped into in the past in favour of biding my time and waiting for the right woman….Pardon me if I please myself in the mean time. lol

  10. dharma_singh says:

    hmm – I am still trying to figure out the real reason for this article. It certainly has no relevance at all to spiritual development and offers nothing more that opinions. (in my opinion) Of course the author must know all of the reasons masturbation is considered healthy for both men and women physically, mentally, and emotionally. Porn may be an aid to masturbation but that's it. Why dwell on it? Why criticize? And what is this darkness and light thing all about? It's just masturbation – am I missing something?

  11. Jake says:

    A few thoughts. I generally agree, but not for exactly the same reasons. But all that aside, here are a few thoughts about this area:
    1. The darkness/light thing strikes me as off, mostly due to my Buddhist perspective. But I don’t have a clear objection to it necessarily. It could become overly solid and judgemental, but the fact is, there are relative good and bad.
    2. What about the porn industry? What about the people who profit, and the people who suffer? That side wasn’t tackled at all. I think it’s a significant part of the picture.
    3. Why doesn’t the author talk at all about his own experiences with porn and masturbation? That seems important- the personal side. Not that I’m offering to. But I didn’t write an article about porn and masturbation.

    Altho I almost did right there. Thanks for your post, sir.

    peace

    Jake

    • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

      Jake,

      Thanks for your reply.

      1) I read light and dark as love and fear.

      I believe that we are in charge of our experience here even if we don't realize it. I know that certain practices can bring the experience of fear or love. For example, practicing meditation, yoga, inquiry, giving and sharing helps me experience love, compassion and expansiveness beyond my ego self. Also when I practice defending and being obsessed with "me," I have experienced misplaced anger, misunderstanding, ignorance and violence. Even a sense of isolation and guilt.

      2) The porn industry is not my focus here.

      3) My own experience: Yes, I’ve tried Berg’s suggestions. My experience is that it works. If you’re interested in testing it out, give it a try!

      Men vs. Women: Berg says that women’s experience is different. On a simple physiological level, men and women’s response to orgasm is much different. Generally, while men experience a drop in energy (a refraction), women can remain in the heightened state near orgasm. You can read the Kabbalah’s take on women and sex in his book. This article is specifically about masturbation by men and how it might effect their ability to achieve deep spiritual states of Love and connection with their partner.

      • renegadecd says:

        <Men vs. Women: Berg says that women’s experience is different. On a simple physiological level, men and women’s response to orgasm is much different. >

        On the physical level the female orgasm is about love. Oxytocin is released, the hormone of love. The same one that is released when we give birth and nurse our babies. Anyone who has felt the letdown of milk will confirm that the feeling is almost identical to the calm, relaxing post orgasm state. Whomever we are looking at at the time of that release there is a hormonal boost to an overwhelming feeling of love for that person, which is why some women experience (misplaced) affection for the person that delivers their baby. And also the intended target of that love-bond; the baby that they look at when they are born, the baby at their breast, and of course, their lover. Because of this physiological response, the female orgasm is biologically 'inclusive' even if experienced alone. It is an experience of love and contentment.

        <Women can remain in the heightened state near orgasm.>

        If the Kabbalah has information, then I need to get myself that book and study it thoroughly.

    • Crys says:

      An excellent and intelligent reply. Porn is an industry and there are many who suffer by it. From the women who are objectified to the wives who feel they could never compete with these perfect, fake-boobed, air-brushed beauties who fulfill mens every fantasy. Masturbation seems normal for a young man exploring his body, but for men with mates?

  12. Jennifer says:

    Isn't it that the light that we achieve shines light on the dark? Both are needed to grow, right? So, now we should avoid the dark?? The dark is necessary for spiritual development, I believe. If we were to make the choice to not masturbate or have sex for the purpose of avoiding the dark that comes after, then we are making a choice out of fear. We are fearing what part of ourselves we might meet up with had we made the choice to go that route.

    • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

      Great point Jennifer- "the light that we achieve shines light on the dark…" And a free choice is not made out of fear or by avoiding the "fearful" but by bringing light to it. Light brings understanding and compassion which instantly clarifies…and there is no fear in that.

  13. chad says:

    Try telling this "masturbation=darkness" to the bazillions of teen boys (and girls too I imagine) who wank a couple of times a day because they have such high sexual energy and often no outlet with others. This just sounds so Old Testament to me. The message seems to be "if you masturbate to porn you'll never get to (heaven)". Porn of all kinds is so much more available these days thanx to the web–this is surely an inducement to masturbate–and back in the day they used to tell lads that they would grow hair on their palms if they touched themselves "down there." I say down with all moralizers who pretend not to moralize.

    • lisab says:

      Seriously… they wank all day because no one is open enough to talk about these things. They should be taught to focus that energy on other things without it being repressed. We need an entirely new concept about sex in this culture and perhaps education regarding early masturbation (where our brains start wiring our sexuality) is the place to start.

  14. Robin Turner says:

    In trying to avoid words like "good" and "bad", the author gets into a worse pickle by using "light" and "darkness". With "good" and "bad", it actually becomes clearer. So, sharing is good, right? And presumably enjoying things is good (unless it leads to attachment and so forth, but that's a different story). So enjoying things (in this case, sex) while sharing them with other people is generally better than enjoying them on your own. But that doesn't mean that enjoying something on your own is bad. Think about an online role-playing game. The nice thing about these games is that you can team up with other players, but no one says that doing solo missions leads you into darkness!

  15. chad says:

    Maybe it's more practical to consider the q. from a health POV rather than the ephemeral light v dark. Qi gong tells us that a man starts losing kidney chi after a certain age if he has too many orgasms, hence the teachings of karezza. OTOH I've read that Japanese males feel that they need at least one orgasm a day to stay healthy and vital. What gives?

  16. Jonathan says:

    As a guy, I normally dont think of sex as "giving" besides the fact that im giving her this juicy dick, but this is all for my intentions, "getting". This article helped me realize that I must appreciate my partner, or partners, and rather them giving me something, I have to give them something. If we are both in a nature of giving then its a win win situation. It is true that you will feel better after giving and not masturbating, one just has to be in the light to realize how beautiful it is.

  17. Dace says:

    Nothing is good or bad at its roots. Everything depends how we use it and on our true intentions.
    Sex is very physically spiritual adventure.

  18. [...] I read a provocative article on Elephant Journal (Pornography. Masturbation. The Spiritual Story No One Wants to Tell.) about the spiritual impact of selfish sexual practices. The author, Philip Urso, was inspired by [...]

  19. Amador says:

    Phillip,

    My comments come from my current ACIM understanding and for ideas that I share with Gary Renard.

    1) The focus of the Course is not change behavior but in perception. Berg suggest a change of behavior, if people decide stop masturbation it will be because they feel inspired to do so.

    2) What you resist persist. Is not now common knowlege that the more you try to.resist something gets stronger and a lot has to do with the unconcious guilt we have.

    3) Sex is neutral. Theres nothing right or wrong with it. It’s only a bodily function as eating, moving, speaking. Saying people stop masturbation is like saying stop eating in this certain way because it means darkness or fear.

    4) The lack of a blissful experince. Gary Renard talked about an experience when in Tibet people were interviewing a Tibetan monk. A bold woman asked him. How can you live without sex? And the monk answered back “Why would you like to have sex when you are living your whole day in a permanent orgasm” Our bodies do not provide us with this beautiful experiences, but attacking a bodily function is not going to provide them either. Up until people have access to this state of bliss so we can experience that sex, porno or masturbation mean nothing, is better I think not to ask people to give up(sacrifice) the hints of heaven we have access as bodies, of course wihen you have sex with someone you love the state of bliss is more at hand. But in masturbation you are not having sex with someone you love.?

    5) In the dream my body or someone elses body is the same ilusion, so the focus should perhaps be having sex without judment and guilt whether be yoursel or someone elses, the same when you eat an ice cream that you think is going to make you fat and you’ll feel guilty and miserable after you eat it.

    • lisab says:

      "3) Sex is neutral. Theres nothing right or wrong with it. It's only a bodily function as eating, moving, speaking. Saying people stop masturbation is like saying stop eating in this certain way because it means darkness or fear."

      This is seriously flawed. We are not animals and sex for us is not *just* a bodily act. It's a soulful, emotional thing (even if we try to make it not). Animals don't rationalize, judge, make conscious choices that go against instinct, etc. While we share some things in common in the mammalian world, we are NOT the average mammal. Our fore brain makes sure of that.

  20. rejean says:

    I don't see why all and everything could not merge in a high peack orgasmic pleasure… It IS Divine! All negativity about it comes from Ego system.

  21. [...] beg for it at the bar. We’d start going on dates with ourselves more often. We’d start giggling uncontrollably for the joy of this topic finally being on the table with our friends we trust, with our partners [...]

  22. Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

    In this 4 1/2 minute video on Ted a psychologist sounds the alarm in "the demise of guys." It get at the problem.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/zimchallenge.ht

  23. [...] men, it seems that intercourse with women almost always delivers orgasm. For women, only 29% report orgasm from intercourse with [...]

  24. philosophe22 says:

    Well said, Philip. Generosity is a lot easier as we feel more whole inside, and how we manage our sex lives has a lot to do with whether we feel a sense of lack or wholeness. Who would have thought? You may like this ACIM essay, "Sex and the Ego." http://www.reuniting.info/wisdom/sex_and_ego_a_co

  25. elaine miles says:

    poor article that may have had lots of potential to help those in conflict about the use of porn- pitfalls vs positive benfits; it turned into a totally negative take on porn- BTW, I am a woman with such a conflict

  26. eaglewon says:

    I think it's primarily based on how you feel about it. If masturbating leaves you with a sense of guilt, shame, uneasiness, let down, unmanly, spiritually depleted, then it's not good for you. If on the other hand you feel absolutely fine, confident, manly, spiritually invigorate, or have no feelings one way or the other, then it might be good for you. It all depends on your state of mind or present belief system. Whether or not it's REALLY good or bad for you will manifest itself in your life sooner or later, then you'll know.

    • lisab says:

      It depends on how it's being used. If someone is using masturbation as a quick ego boost, it's inevitably going to play out badly in their life and relationships as it's not a real fix to the problem of low self esteem. However, if we can love ourselves and give ourselves pleasure without invoking other imagery or focusing on someone who is not our partner (so that they entire act is void of ego grasping) masturbation could be a way of giving to ourselves so that we can better give to others.

  27. Roman Adams says:

    The only problem I have with this post is that it puts people in traditional and societal-based gender roles. What about gay people, specifically men, how does this apply to them?

  28. chad says:

    Besides the darkness, it grows hair on your palms lol. I should add that my doctor last year told me I should have more orgasms for prostate health and that masturbating is just fine, as if I didn't already know.

  29. Daniele says:

    Interesting article. I studied kabbalah for 3 years and did get something about resisting masturbation but on the other hand it was replaced with guilt and a focus on resisting.
    This brings up interesting questions. What if you are are single for a long period? Is it better to have more sexual encounters rather than masturbate?

    Having moved away from Kabbalah. I've had differenent experieinces.
    I think its more about the energy of the pornography. Some porno has 'dark' energy and leaves you feeling guilty or low after.
    Porno between two lovers tends to have more 'light' energy. There's actually nothing wrong with exploring the dark side I think you need to know both sides (however I wouldn't want to stay there).
    I think probably the best thing to do is be consciously present to what you are doing.
    When you are present and balanced then you can tell for yourself. You can avoid porn addiction or other negative effects of porn.

  30. [...] of our opinions of what we see, we are often affected on a primal, physical level by watching porn—whether it’s engorgement of our genitals, watering of our mouths or flushing of our cheeks. [...]

  31. Joe Lizard says:

    I'm not against or for pornography or masturbation but I find this article interesting because it makes arbitrary choices as to what is sharing, what is ego, etc….In reality there is no ego, ego is a word that alludes to something that is much greater than a snapshot in time definition. There is selfishness and there is selflessness and the balance between these two gives rise to the virtue of Justice…yes Justice is a virtue and therefore selfishness is good sometimes…Again many students masturbate to focus on school work…if Albert Einstein's wife didn't divorce him he would never have come up with some of the theories people now use to save lives….so again the human is arbitrary even writing this article is less spiritual than masturbating to violent porn if we really want to be analytical on both a subjective and and objective level…I find it interesting too that yogi's are really hierophants masquerading as intuits. Again, not trying to be offensive at all or even blunt, I'm just saying it how it is….who is the judge or the condemner of what is selfish? By the way I personally do not choke the lizard.

  32. Arina says:

    Wow, amazing weblog format! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for?

  33. Isabella says:

    What about people who do not have a partner presently? Those who are disabled? Those who don't seem to be able to find a partner? Are you preaching abstaining? This flies in the face every other person writing that masturbation is getting to know yourself, your body, what feels good for you? I smell morality here. Sorry but I believe that you are wrong.

  34. Nico says:

    I'm undecided about the rights and wrongs of porn and masturbation but my instincts tell me that any problems they cause are due to the self loathing instilled in us by society. I believe that nothing is intrinsically wrong only the perception of it.

    What disturbs me about this article is it's contribution to the seemingly endless demonisation of men. What men do is bad but if women do it, it's good. We are ying and yang, dark and light, demonising men brings us all down just as the demonising of women brought us down in the past.

    Teach men to love themselves and whatever they do they will do it well, and vice-versa.

  35. minding0 says:

    We are, all of us, at different stages on the path. With different desires, needs, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilties. Sexuality and being sexual, alone or with a partner, is a spiritually relative experience. That is why tantra isn't a four-letter word.

  36. lisab says:

    Wow, lots of strong opinions here. Awesome. These conversations need to be had.

    I don't think the Kabbalistic view is outdated. Actually, I think it represents ideas that we've lost sight of in a very self-centered, materialistic culture. Ideas we should try to get back to understanding in light of the many who are suffering exploitation and degradation due to a sex industry that feeds on human misery in order to make billions. Not to mention what these selfish inclinations due to personal relationships. I also think it's right in line with ideas of the ego and unwholesomeness that Buddhism encourages us to think critically about in order to escape suffering. Learning to think critically about selfish sexual impulses and then learning to utilize this source of life energy for the greatest benefit of self and partner can have effects that reverberate out to our children, their children, etc. We get a chance to essentially change the karma (psychologically speaking we influence our children with the lessons of our parents, their parents, etc) we pass on to our kids by being responsible to love. And none of this is about repression. It's about being willing to mature beyond childish motivations and give selflessly in order to serve lovingkindness. The payoffs are beyond anything delivered by pornography or selfish solo-play.

  37. JC Jaress says:

    What a preachy and judgmental article. Considers all experience to be one of two things…light or dark. Life can be a full experience of lightness and darkness where one is not scared or shamed in recognizing their humanness. Many people DO feel shame associated with masturbation and/or porn, but that is because they were raised in a society burdened by Judeo-Christian guilt. Hopefully, with a little spiritual and emotional insight, individuals may come to appreciate their embodied experience…only then will they know how they really feel about masturbation and porn.

  38. Amy says:

    Ok I finished it – I am nauseous. This reminds me of friends who "go counterculture" for a few years and then realize that being an individual and standing in ones own truth instead of stereotypes is hard work, so they write apologies for everything from the 'natural' feel of gender roles in marriage and sex to how women are more nurturing. I am a woman/man who has had sexual relationships with all sorts of people and the idea that women are the yin in sex and men are the yang – simply based on their genitalia is fucked up beyond all repair. This guy obviously has no gay friends (who are honest with him). He even butchers the concept of generosity by making it into a discipline – what kind of stunted person sees disciplining oneself to be generous as logical??? Generosity comes form a feeling of having something to give.

  39. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    I LOVE this!!!!!

  40. Jakar says:

    Remember the wise words of Elvis, "if you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair".

  41. shade33 says:

    Masturbation provides several spiritual, physiological and psychological benefits for both men and women. The issue of porn from a neuroscientific point of view is that it often serves as an extreme fantasy that results in psychological disassociation from the body, which is reinforced when dopamine floods the brain during orgasm. This rewires the brain's circuitry to orgasm more easily when this stimulation is sought out, which is why porn tends to become a habit for those who view it. In cases where the habit interferes with life, it becomes an addiction.

    Viewing porn to achieve orgasm is an act of unconsciousness. This isn't a moral issue, it's simply a cognitive one. It takes you out of the present moment the way any other distraction does. It's like watching TV while you eat dinner, especially the most delicious, mouth-watering meal you could imagine. I would rather fully absorb myself in the meal. The way meditation and mindfulness have immense benefits for our physical and spiritual health, so does "mindful" sex, whether it is partner or solo sex. It is up to each person how they choose to pursue their own self-development, but mindful masturbation/sex is very powerful tool. If one cannot experience arousal without porn, there is a pretty severe disassociation present that needs to be addressed, in that person's own time.

    I used to watch porn occasionally (I'm a woman), and considered myself to have a very healthy sexuality. But as I progress spiritually, I am finding it no longer is suitable for my self-development. By being conscious during my self-pleasuring routine, I find my sexual energy serves as an incredible source of creativity and love. I am sure those who orgasm from porn feel pretty incredible, because they just had an orgasm. But conscious orgasms are the only ones worth having for me anymore, simply because any other orgasm doesn't even compare.

  42. "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." Uh,NO.

    The idea that when you are focusing on yourself you are in a state of fear is ridiculous. This is one of the huge limiting beliefs and cultural conditioning that I see producing negative results in the lives of individuals.

    Focusing on yourself is important, valuable, and yes, spiritual. This is true with sexuality, with relationships, and with life in general.

    The erroneous thinking is in the separation of self and other. The big "T" truth is that you don't have to choose between yourself and other. Doing the very best thing for yourself, because of the inter-connectedness of all things, is the best thing for the other. When you see the oneness of all things, there is no struggle, and it becomes a natural way of being to take care of yourself and others with the same love and zest. Denying one to please the other is a painful experience regardless of who is in each position.

    It is time to do away with this limiting belief that we've held for centuries that our basic nature is bad, selfish and destructive and we have to 'fight our ego' and turn away from our 'dark nature'. We are BY NATURE moral, loving, compassionate beings at our cores, all we need to do is rest in our natural way of being.

    I guarantee that if you focus on your own pleasure and orgasm during sex, and your partner does too – your sex will be better. If you focus on your own happiness in life, and your partner does too – your relationship will be better. We thrive when we are interdependent, not codependent.

    I am, by my deepest core nature; Love. When I focus on me, everything around me is filled with what I am: Love.

    From a happily married woman with a thriving family & practice (who flirts, masturbates and watches porn),
    -Mindy Amita Ailsing,CPC
    Amita Coaching: Coaching Spiritual Beings Stuck in their Human Experience

  43. Veridiana Delgado says:

    Great aproach Phillip, but the title should be "The spiritual story no one wants to hear".
    Totally agrre with you, I had next to me people who had serious problems with porn adictness.
    Nice text!

  44. onipa'a ri says:

    Thank you so much for this article! As a person who was raised in an anti-masturbation religion (and witnessed a lot of guilt in my peers over it–) when I left, I became very open to/encouraging about/interested in developing my OWN healthy masturbation life. Then I fell in love with a man who was raised in the same religion and ALSO was very happy with his very active relationship with masturbation. (Including porn). After a few years into the relationship, though, we started to have issues with how he would often choose his fantasy life over our "real" relationship. I also started attracting a lot of women who were experiencing serious distress in their long term relationships because of their husbands regular relationship with porn. As spiritual, "evolved" women, we'd tell our selves that our body image shouldn't be affected by our men choosing to spend (sometimes hours) of their week with "another woman". Or let it get to us in the bedroom when it felt like that life was seeping into our relationship. But it was still having a negative affect and taking a lot of energy to try and just be "ok" with it. Most of these women would talk about this topic with shame "he would be so embarrassed if he knew i was talking to you about this but I need to talk to SOMEONE!" I saw this as a big problem and was really grateful that my partner was supportive of me discussing it with other people as I tried to wrap my mind around it.
    As for our relationship, he started to realize that it might be a problem. There were times when he masturbated and spent time with his "fantasy women" and would choose not to come spend time with me, yet still maintained that he wanted to remain in a committed, monogamous relationship. He was also struggling with depression. I asked him to try a "masturbation/porn fast" for two months and see if it had an affect. It did- some of the depression lifted, he felt more engaged in his "real" relationship, and he had more energy for other things.
    After the porn/masturbation fast, he slipped back into the habit. There's a strong pull there and it's so easily accessible– I have a lot of empathy for men in our culture currently because they are so visually "inspired" and semi-porn is everywhere, from FB to Instagram to a whole host of mens advertising. I now think about porn/masturbation in an entirely different way and totally resonate with this article. Also very excited about the new "Don Jon" flick! I think it's a serious issue of our times. Thanks so much for writing– i'll be saving this one and using it in my (haha probably TOO regular!) conversation about porn, masturbation, and it's effect on our relationships.

  45. Julie says:

    When you masturbate, you release endorphins. So if you are feeling a drug like sensation and it's coupled with an imagery of some negative imagery about women, you're coupling that feeling with the porn image/title of the porn. So I would think that masturbating to porn could led to a "dark state" temporarily since it influences the way you think and feel about sex. And if done often enough, into "darkness" meaning you would adopt this attitude towards sex and unfortunately women.

  46. The "ego" is not the opponent, although we should dispense with this word 'ego' because it does not represent the yogic tradition. Rather, the correct term with all its connotations is 'ahamkara', which literally means 'I becoming'. The ahamkara represents an individuated state of being, and while this can create a sense of separation that gives rise to disconnection and suffering, it is hard-wired into our physical being, representing for e.g. the functions of the immune system that differentiates self from non-self. So is the immune system opponent? After all, most people don't actually die of an infection inasmuch as they die from the subsequent immune response. The body would rather commit suicide than yield even a small part of itself to a foreign pathogen. So our immune system, like our ego, is there to protect, but when things go wrong, it serves to destroy. But none of this should suggest that the ahamkara or immune function is our opponent – rather, they are tools to be used wisely and with great respect, and give us insight into the nature of compassion and balance. As the Buddha said:

    “Whatever quarter of heaven I searched none did I find whom I loved better than myself. Just so are all others dear to themselves. Thus, wishing well to all, one should do harm to none.”

    - Saṃyutta Nikāya, 3:8

    As for porn, all sexual imagery is essentially divine in nature, representing the unity of the cosmos, male and female, that and this. Of course most people aren't aware of this and simply use it as a form of titillation, or unconsciously, use it as a way to feel more connected to their own power. Masturbation etc only becomes a problem if it interferes with dharma (duty). Otherwise, it is reasonably a part of kama (pleasure), and because none of y'all are actually brahmacharya yogis, but householders instead, pretty much all of the classical yogic injunctions simply don't apply. So relax. Nobody cares if you masturbate, and if they do, its their problem, not yours. For men specifically, ejaculation is tied into energy, so excessive masturbation simply drains you of energy. Otherwise, its not a moral issue in yoga, hinduism or Ayurveda, despite the pervasive cultural fear in India about semen depletion.

  47. bflatbrad says:

    Two sites worth checking out

    1 http://yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-ser

    2. http://www.reuniting.info/

    Good article but your use of pornography was not enlightening and a little confusing. From my experience pornography is the problem, not masturbation.

    Also a great book http://www.amazon.com/Cupids-Poisoned-Arrow-Relat

  48. Chris Morasky says:

    Oversimplified and overgeneralized. This post has some great ideas for connecting, but connection is about reaching into and blending with, and so it is a unique and personal experience. One man's poison is another man's meat.

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