Overcoming Harmful & Addictive Habits


I have been trying to quit pornography for the last few years. I have tried many things including having an Accountability Parter and setting up a porn blocking web browser, but I find myself edging my way back to porn by watching slightly lustful content until I eventually cave. Because it’s only a click away on my iPhone, it’s been very hard to stop. I was wondering if Yoganandya recommended any techniques to eradicate one’s attraction to porn? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

—Anonymous, United States


Dear Friend,

Overcoming addictive habits of any kind is not easy. Pornography, so widely available as such but also enflamed by the enticing images seen in entertainment, news, and advertising, is truly an epidemic. Ironic, too, isn’t it that as pornography surfaces and spreads, at the same time there is growing worldwide movement to respect and treat women as equals. It’s a both-and reality. Both are true.

The polarity of feelings, thoughts, and consequent actions is such that a pendulum is created which we push in one direction but then find it pushes back in the other direction.

While much has been written in human literature about how to overcome bad habits and I would be foolish to imagine a reply to your email can convey to you the entire human wisdom on the subject, I feel to hint that you might make discernable progress if you find your own center.

By reacting against your habit with disgust, self-loathing, or guilt you are pushing the emotional pendulum off in one direction but you are going to get a kick-back sooner or later.

I could list a hundred rationalizations about sex, women, relationships, and pornography but as Paramhansa Yogananda put it “reason follows feeling.” Never mind the fact that none of these women is known or available to you sexually; that they do this for money; that the industry is filled with exploitation; that it is all an immature fantasy, on and on and on I could go. None of these rationalizations will be very effective, however, against an impulsive habit towards a powerful urge and consciousness.

[When I was a pre-teen boy and had my first look at a Playboy magazine in the early 1960’s, I said to myself then and there that if it is not my lot to have such a sexual experience, partner or relationship, then I’m not going to bother just to look at these silly pictures.]

Let’s, then, consider several, more focused, ideas (in no particular order):

  1. Yogananda-ji said that when you succumb to an act or habit that, despite your good intentions, grabs you, keep a part of your mind apart from what you are doing. If you find yourself looking at P then gaze calmly without any thoughts or reactions. Train your mind to simply observe and not react. Notice your heart rate. Breathe long and slow. Bring your mind under control. And when you discover that it means nothing to you, close the “Page” so to speak and go on to other, more useful tasks.
  2. When I was a young, single man and a newly awakened devotee, I had the practice that any time I saw an attractive woman out in public, I would immediately chant (in my mind) “Aum Guru” and look away. There was no narrative, self-talk, or reason employed: just a habit that grew until I outgrew the need for the habit.
  3. Make it a practice, mentally, to view women (in general) as sisters and mothers. In your mind address a woman as “Mother” or, if she’s your age or younger, as “Sister.”
  4. Keep your distance from women, avoid casual touching and certainly avoid hugging.
  5. Do not look or gaze into a woman’s eyes. If, to be polite, you can’t avert your gaze, then look at her at the point between the eyebrows. (This will tend to calm and uplift you and very likely also, the conversation itself.)
  6. In your personal interactions with women (whether at home or work or school), adopt a respectful and slightly distant attitude: thoughtful in your countenance, reserved in your manner, sober in your responses. Women will respect you more if you don’t act in a familiar manner.
  7. Do not have prolonged and private conversations, emails, or texts with women. That bewitching and approving smile one moment is but the fury of hellish disdain the next.
  8. Develop more mature relationships with other men: sports, meditation, community service, and fellowship. You’ll find this far more satisfying and energizing.
  9. Don’t “bask” in the glow of an attractive woman’s presence. Move on; finish the conversation; go back to your work etc.
  10. If you are of a devotional temperament, pray to God in the form of Divine Mother. Read stories of Divine Mother. Focus on the uplifted, and blessed form of feminine wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy as an aspect of God. (The Christian depiction of Mother Mary is perhaps best as the Hindu versions are, well, a bit too shapely.)

The most important and central point I have to share is to be centered in your Self. Do not over-react to your faults, nor to your indulgences. Be centered. Be calm. Be watchful. Be circumspect. In fact, be mature and dignified. Pornography is a lie and one that degrades all who are involved with it. Stand up calmly and be your Self standing in the light of the pure love of the Divine Mother.

Be patient. Make haste slowly. Be a long-distance runner.

Joy to You,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA