why am i doing this to myself?

Submitted by looking4balance on
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if nothing else, I commit to honesty here in my blog and to whoever is bored enough to read it :)

I know that addiction is mostly a chemically-imbalanced situation in my (tini-tiny) brain and i know its a very, very hard cycle to stop (via all the info on this great site). I wonder on some level though, how imperative it is to WANT AND FEEL you deserve happiness in general. I don't think hating yourself and wanting to do yourself harm is an aid in ending harmful addictions right? I don't mean the hating yourself AFTER the behavior, like guilt etc. I mean the hating as the CAUSE of the behavior. I just wonder. Despite all clear signs from the Universe that it didn't want me to harm myself, I was determined to cause myself pain. There were moments long enough to consider what I was doing and clearly had a choice in the matter. The internet connection kept dropping out as I was trying to access a porn site (sign) and it worked fine before that. There was so much cognition of what I was doing and that's what I truly find worrysome this morning. I had a binge on porn and masturbation until 3 am in the morning. there, i said it. I knew it would made me feel like crap for a long time after and it was against everything I am trying to do. All I can do now is just, without self-castigation, watch cause and effect work its mojo. WHY DO I HATE MYSELF SO MUCH to keep doing this? Am I really that bad of a person? Why do others deserve to be happy and sucessful and deep down I feel I don't deserve those things and keep sabotaging?

BIG sigh..i don't see any way to end this cycle without developing a feeling of compassion and value for my well-being. That must be the foundation I think. So how do we do that? With kitchy self-affirmations that i don't believe? I do think the answer for me is zazen and even though i did that last night, I still sat this morning and will keep sitting. I've read that in zen, there is no concept of sin, just going towards or away from ignornance. I don't want to put any expectations on sitting practice since goals are not what its about, but I do hope that in the midst of starting at those blank walls with my cramped legs for many hours, at some point, a spark of seeing that I am worthy of love and happiness just as I am, as is everyone and everything else in the universe, arises. And I don't want to just know this, I hope to FEEL it. Unless that happens somehow, I dont see how ending self-destruction is possible.

K, will keep at it..
peace (no zingers today, sorry)


zen vs. tantra

i know nothing about zen so don't want to say anything judgemental of it, but it does seem from fisrt impressions others have given me (and i realize first impressions are often simplistic and inaccurate) to be a somewhat severe and dry approach when compared to other wisdom traditions. If you really resonate with it (which you clearly do), then of course I hope you can stay on the path of doing zazen.

I myself only have experience with three meditation forms - Vipassana, Tonglen, and Guru yoga. Actually, I'm pretty sure that both Tonglen and Guru yoga fall under the Mahayana tradition. In tonglen, everytime we feel an emotion we associate as negative, we take it deeply into our heart and take on all of the suffering that other beings are experiencing, and breathe out relief of suffering to them. Likewise, when we feel anything positive, we breathe it out and away, sharing our joyful heart with the world, praying that all beings may be as blessed as we are. The basis of the idea is that beneath superficial feelings of pain and pleasure, there is a beating, sensitive, human heart that feels it all. So, unlike some practices that promote cheesy affirmations and are more a denial of what is really going on, Tonglen allows us to fully feel our self-hatred or pain or pleasure, and link this feeling to our basic awareness of humanity and therefore compassion for others.

In guru yoga, all life situations are seen as dharma teachings from the guru, and during meditation, the guru is visualized and identified with, until the wisdom-mind of the guru melts into your own and you realize the unity of your basic intelligence with the self-luminous cognition of the univers. There is just no way you could not be a fundamental part of the exquisite design and beauty that you already are as a part of this universe unfolding in the continuum (Tantra means continuum).

The Hinayana path of meditation has many useful techniques for personal liberation. And indeed we must liberate ourselves, but not FIRST. The major difference between the Hinayana and Mahayana paths is that the Mahayana path takes the goal to be the state of bodhichitta - dedicating one's life to the alleviation and suffering of all beings, rather than spending one's life only on one's own liberation. This does not mean that we have to stop suffering first to be able to know how to show others how. Rather, in our deep knowledge of the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as the immense joy of what it is to be human, we are able to actaully relate to what others are going through.

Next time you're falling into that trap again and feeling the suffering of having fallen in (if you ever do fallin again, which is likely, since the spiritual quest requires fortitude and the unwillingness to give up despite almost continual setbacks), you might want to try breathing in that pain as fully and directly into the tenderness of your heart as possible, knowing that it is the same pain and suffering that other men and women across the world are also suffering from in their addiction to porn. Take their pain. If you take it and don't resist it, eventually it will dissipate, and you will breathe out a very natural peace. The result is that you will feel aerated, not stagnant, stuck, and mad at yourself. Pema Chodron, in her book "The Wisdom of No Escape" has a nice description of the Tonglen meditation.

I don't want to sound like a proselytizer, but I do feel that of all the wisdom traditons I have encountered, Mahayana is best suited to the challenges of modern westerners, because Tantra is the practice of using desire for spiritual transformation.

Tantra, like zen, does not believe in sin, only ignorance of our own true nature, which is emptiness - the illusion is that there is any self-existence at all (this is not the same as saying nothing exists, only that nothing exists as its own thing). Taking the realization of emptiness as the basis, we see that everyone's suffering is everyone's suffering and everyone's joy is everyone's joy. It's like the butterfly effect. If you do not have the willpower to like yourself for your own sake, could you at least to it for the rest of the world, so that it may have one less person needlessy hating and therefore causing more self-hatred across the globe.

Mahayana Buddhism is so refreshing, so clear, and so gentle:
"Renunciation (literal translation: definite emergence) is not the same as giving up pleasure or denying ourselves happiness. It means giving up our unreal expectations about ordinary pleasures. These expectations themselves are what turn pleasure into pain. It cannot be said too often that there is nothing wrong with pleasure. It is our grasping, exxagerating, distorting, and polluting attitude toward pleasure that must be abandoned." (Intro to Tantra, Yeshe)

There are 3 prerequisites for practicing Tantra:
1) Renunciation
2) Dedicated heart of Bodhichitta
3) Wisdom of emptiness

"Tantra can only be practiced effectively once we have become disillusioned with our ordinary way of grasping at sensory desires."

Part of Bodhicitta is taking on Superior Intention - whatever you desire, you take the responsibility, "I shall bring it about." If you do not have the power yet, ask for inspiration from the Buddhas and the Dharma. The Buddha nature is your fundamental intelligence, so you only need to take refuge in your deeper, hidden wisdom. And the Dharma comes to you as your teacher in every situation. For example, when the internet connection was failing while you were searching for porn, the Dharma was buying you a little time. It caused a pause, a break in reality (also known as a Bardo), and you could have seized that pause and made a different decision.

From what I have seen, it seems the spiritual quest requires that we are willing to become very uncomfortable for awhile, even if it is the farmiliar comfort of self-loathing. I hope I don't sound high and mighty when I say this, becasue I am speaking from direct, personal experience of self loathing and the really perplexing tendency I have seen in myself to choose suffering over the temporary liberation I always say I want so much.

Clearly you don't want liberation quite as much as you say you do - YET. This pain, this suffering, is NOT a fallback or an erasure of the progress you made. Probably, the self-loathing is even more intense now, BECAUSE of your deeper awareness of how you really want to live. In other words, what you're feeling now is heightened because you are seeing it within the briliant light and context of your enlightened mind, which you have been cultivating. So, I hope you can see this very natural phase you've just gone through as another step, however painful, on the path that you are clearly taking towards liberation.

all is meditation

another thought - we usually separate what we do between "meditation" and "nonmeditation", but meditation is just having an attentive mind. So, viewing porn is a form of meditation, or mental focus. Maybe stick something on your computer that says, "Remember you are meditating," and decide decisively what you want to meditate on.

I always find it very good for me to remind myself of my intention before I turn the computer on, otherwise I could spend my whole life on the computer, and this without porn addiction.

I can't help but thinking that you just need to quite your job and move out to the country and do some soul searching in an environment that is not constantly molesting you with computer potential. A fast of sorts.

I could use a technology fast myself.

Zen vs Tanta, Round 2

Hey, thanks for taking the time to write so thoughtfully to my post. I can see the caring in your response. Thank you, you always seem to support my efforts...

I love a good chat about Buddhism, so allow me add my 2 yen, if i may...

I am fairly familiar with the Mahayana tradition, as it turns out. I participated in the Shambhala lineage tradition for some years of which Pema Chodron is and, of course, Trungpa Rinpoche was founder if. I've done Tonglen exercised before and it is a great suggestion, considering my plight. Maybe I shall give it another try. Also have many of Pema's books (she is such a great writer). I really do believe that fundamentally Buddhism is Buddhism, but there are different foci as you mention. Sure the Mahayana forms focus more on heart, Vadrayana more on dieties/energies, and zen focuses more on mind/emptiness, but they aren't exclusive I think and overlap to a large degree. I just found that visualizations, for me, just seemed like more 'my mind creating more of its own 'stuff' (albeit a lot healthier stuff!) I just couldn't get comfortable with it, so zen felt a bit more like home and the least 'religious' of the forms.
Like you wrote, whatever floats your boat :P

In Soto zen, as in most other forms, the middle path is promoted and the result of that not being the elimination of desire, nor grasping of it, but balance. I think anyone who goes deep into desire/craving (like porn users) develop problems and those to try to transcend all desire (celibates or..ahem,priests) find that that has its problems as well, since desire is healthy normal human function.

To that note, I think running away into the hills, away from the stimuli would only serve to strengthen its power. I do like your idea of putting a sign on the PC and making note of my intention. Thats a great idea. However, the kind of meditation done in zazen I wouldn't quite say has any parallels with being engrossed in porn, since (zen) meditation is the absense of entertainment and befriending of boredom, where as I see looking at porn as the exact opposite. I do agree that both can be states where we forget about normal time/space and also there is definitely intention involved in both activities.

I loved your statement [the spiritual quest requires that we are willing to become very uncomfortable for awhile].

I can't agree more, and without the willingness for me to experience discomfort, the pangs of addiction will always win. Also a break from technology in general is a good idea, however hard since I am computer graphics aritst :(
I am plugged in 24/7!

Thanks for allowing me to have this discussion and for your reply. Its really brightened my day a bit. Thanks!


I'm unsure why you say this:

"I think running away into the hills, away from the stimuli would only serve to strengthen its power."

From my experience - admittedly in other, relatively trivial areas - removing stimuli (or moving at least one step away from them) can have remarkable effects.

I always assumed others felt the same. I have friends who go on retreats and I thought their motivation was to be in an environment relatively free of stimuli they were finding stressful, which they would hopefully be less succeptible to afterwards.

(Maybe you've got a point, though. They seem to need to go on retreat again and again ...)

Of course, it might not be possible for you, anyway, given the nature of your work, to get away.

Nevertheless, I would be interested to know why you think as you do, as I've always believed the opposite.

Hi, thanks for your post.

Hi, thanks for your post. its a great question.

Let me say first that retreats are great and there is nothing wrong I think with taking a break from all the stressors in our daily lives whenever we can. The point in this case was about the idea of dealing with porn problems by going somewhere where there is no media or computers, etc. Probably would help for a while, but is that addressing the problem or avoiding it? Those temptations will still be there waiting for you when you come back, no? Wouldn't learning to feel the desire, experience it but not act on it be better?

I think by not facing something you give it more power. Like if you have a compulsive behavior when you are around say, bridges, and you do some crazy god-knows-what awful thing. Because of that, you will always move to towns that have no bridges and think you have solved the problem. But then they get even scarier cause you are admitting you are powerless around them, which is why the therapy there would be to get you OK with being around bridges, slowly until you can deal with your anxiety/compulsiveness around them. Sometimes yes, we are SO wigged out we need to get away to reset. But when you go on retreat, and i think everyone has at some point experienced this, you enter a kind of cocoon where everyone is nice to each other, food is healthy, no TV, the love is flowing...etc and that's awesome and refreshing. But that's not the world we live in day to day (unfortunately) and we have to come back to it. It's easy to be serene on retreat. But you cant live there and when you do come back, you get hit in the face with short-tempered people and loads of other crappy things and then you get pissy cause all these 'unenlightened folks' are ruining your good vibe. I would like to learn to be in the middle of all the chaos and still have my center. But maybe that's aiming a bit too high at this point, haha. I'm nowhere near that place yet, but i do think its possible though. I will get to a place where i can see a sexy ad, feel the desire, and then choose how i want to respond.

The shorter-winded version of what i was trying to convey (sorry) is you can't unlimately control stuff that happens around you anyway, so why not start dealing with your reactions/repsonses instead since that's really all you can control? That's why I wrote that...

yes, the kitchen sink period

I've seen a lot of people come back from retreats and be grumpy and complaining that they are no longer in their cocoon. I've been on only one ten day retreat and I did not find myself to be running away from anything (quite the opposite - when you are really left only with your mind, no one can save you or comfort you - no amount of nature or good food can anesthetize you to the sobering reality of your own brain and what it would rather think about than to not think at all.) When I returned from the retreat, I was living in New York City for the first time after having lived in New Mexico and I found the new skills of mental fitness I had developed to be very hepful in finding equanimity in the midst of my life in new york, which included drive by shootings, the arguments of the couple downstairs from me, and general frenetic activity.

I was suggesting a technology fast within an environment that may provide you with some nourishment of a sort you haven't experienced in awhile, and a break from normal habitual forms of behavior, so that other ways of being that may have gone by the wayside can communicate with you again. I say this because as I've mentioned in other posts, I'm noticing in myself that taking away a compulsive habit (which I use to fill space and deny my deeper boredom) is usually more sucessful when I have another way of being in time or space that is more fulfilling to, or creative, to replace it. And I've found that in order to be creative, I need material from meaningful experiences with nature and others. A life in front of a computer is an odd sort of "experience." I'm wondering how you feel about this, since you say you are on the computer 24/7, and yet you are a computer graphics artist and obviously bring creativity to your work.

I too spend a huge amount of time on the computer, since I am a graphic designer. I don't think this lifestyle is good for me at all, which is why I am studying massage therapy so as to communicate with someone's real flesh and blood. I guess my implicit insinuation is that porn addiction may not be the sole problem, it may just be a symtom of a certain technology-dominated lifestyle, and therefore, liberation may require completely reexamining your lifestyle. The retreat would not mean running away, but looking deeply into how you choose to live and whether you want to continue that way. I guess what I mean is that it is all part of a larger pattern.

I'm feeling presumtuous now, so I'll stop. In any case, I'm very glad that zazen is a path you are happy with. It's funny you thought the energetic, visual aspect of Mahayana to be an opportunity for the mind to fabricate more stuff (of course this is true, the ego is always out to appropriate the spiritual quest). Since I am a visual person, i find this method less dry (than say, vipassana) and more in touch with who I am.

Best to you on your path.

Morning! Reflecting a bit on

Reflecting a bit on all that you wrote, I feel you have some great points and I am leaning your way a bit more...

I guess you could say retreat can be like a 'mind-fitness' center.There are certainly great results from a focused effort in an optimum environment that we can't reproduce in everyday life. I guess the key in linking our two threads of thought is this. If used in that way you describe, retreat or getting away or whatever can augment how we handle things in our daily life, rather than as a permanent substitute (eg your NYC story). I was probably reading your statements as very absolute, which I tend to do.

Being in Japan now, there are many retreat areas/temples i could go to, but ironically, the work life and stress here are even greater i think than i experienced in the US, believe it or not. Talk about workaholics and also constant bombardment of media! I gotta tell ya. There are however some great retreat opportunities all over Japan, so if I can beg my boss to unchain my leg from this desk, maybe I can go! :P

I also agree with replacing a harmful habit with a more enriching one. Sometimes if i want to look at porn, I might go for a run or something. Better your mind be focused on something that at least helps your wellbeing rather than harms it eh?

Yes, i see that in this environment of constant working, my creative abilities have slipped. I can see the need for rest and healthy diversions to give my brain a break and also fodder for new creative insights. 100% true i think...

An 'electronic lifestyle' sure doesn't help in quitting porn addiction, but before computers, i used VHS tapes, and before that I used magazines, and before that..well I am not THAT old. This lifestyle makes it harder, but I don't think is the cause of the problem since many have this same job and aren't sex addicts. It just makes it sooo much harder I think for those of us that are, and seriously thinking about how this job affects my overall well being is a good nod.


Dear lofty, creative geniuses

I'm enjoying your exchanges, and have little to add, but I will point you to some material I found fascinating about how the ultimate solution to the sexual challenge is to channel the procreative energy through the throat chakra - in new forms of creativity.

It also says that prior to that, there is an intensification of interest in sex. Maybe we're all right on schedule...?



Yes, there's a lot to be said for learning to meet a stimulus and respond more appropriately to it, rather than avoid it altogether. I suppose what I wondered was whether the strength of mind required to change your habitual response to a particularly strong stimulus might be less formidable if you avoided that stimulus for a while. But, as you say, it could have the opposite effect.

I do know that if I watch the TV news every day and read newspapers regularly I get a lot more depressed about the state of the world than if I spend the time digging my garden or making love. I have in the past been a glutton for news and could easily become one again. Since I'm not able to watch and read 'the news' without it affecting me badly, I tend to avoid over exposure to it.

I think I do a lot of that sort of avoidance. I avoid certain people, who I know are going to wind me up the wrong way. I avoid music I loathe, places I find ugly. I don't read books I don't enjoy, or eat what I don't fancy.

I do commend you, though, for setting your sights high.

some avoidance is natural

As you wrote, we don't need to eat foods we know we don't like in the name of not denying any of reality, nor listening to music you don't like, of course. I guess it matter of degree as with all things. Too much avoidance is the flip side of grasping for too much pleasure and both serve to solidify ego no? Just as those extremes aren't good for us (since we crave balance for health), neither are their opposites, such as giving up things you really like and adopting things you clearly don't. Like you, too much news can really bum me out. But, some of that news is important and we can't ignore bad things are happening in our world. At the same time we don't have to immerse ourselves in the one-sided negatively the news bombards us with either. I think, if we can handle it, a middle approach is good. If we cant handle that, then I agree, for the time being, none is better than some.

running away from it all

My parents chose to live out in the boonies on a commune with a bunch of other like-minded people who knew that there was a way of life for them that was simpler and more meaningful than the frenetic pace of urban american life.

They have been criticized by their family members throughout it all, accused of copping out and avoiding the world's problems. But what I see is that they have successfully taken care of, and not exploited, over 400 acres of land for 30 years, and have shared all land-use decisions mutuall with 50 other people. In other words, they have succeeded in doing on a small scale what it would be great if humans could do on a large scale: take responsibility for their role as stewards of the common space, with the communication, compromise, and selflessness that that entails.

The mainstream lifestyle they left is still there waiting for them when and if they choose to go back, as you point out. The only difference is, they are not tempted and they have chosen not to go back. They made a clear break and they stuck to it. While this may be hard, I think that a retreat or vision quest, if done with the express intention of breaking a certain pattern, can be a direct step and clean break with no return to the previous pattern.

I only meant to point out that exploring other, healthier ways of being is not necessarily synonmyous with avoidance, especially if the substitute fulfills you in a way that is far more profound than the addiction ever did.

In the end,yes, we have to integrate it all in a realistic manner. The only problem is that the modern lifestyle, what we have come to view as "reality," is such an extreme that only extremes can balance it. I would like to think that we could just maintain the middle way while still living in such an extreme state, but I don't see how this is possible. We want to have our cake and eat it too, but in the meantime we're being gobbled up by the cake itself.

very nicely put

very nicely put :)

i guess its like meditation. Some think its about shutting out the world and its 'noise' and thus use it as a form of avoidance. Others think its about seeing that noise more clearly and without attaching any personal labels or preconceptions on it. I tend to think the latter is more helpful. But, continuing the metaphor, if people are screaming bloody hell outside and it sounds like armmadegon (sp?) si going down, even a seasoned meditator might get up and shut the window if its possible to do so. :)

K, back to work or I am gonna get fired haha!

Thanks for all these wonderful points to reflect on.
Have a great day!