above cold mountain the moon shines alone
in a clear sky it illuminates nothing at all
precious heavenly priceless jewel
buried in the dust submerged in the body
This poem is from the 8th century Chinese sage Cold Mountain. I’ve been reading his poems recently, and this one really struck me. The idea that part of our nature could be submerged in our body, so buried in the dust thrown up by the hustle and bustle of the world that we have forgotten who we really are. But it is still there, a precious heavenly priceless jewel shining within us. And with a little effort, we can dust it off, polish it up, and let it shine again.
Of course Cold Mountain meant the buddha that is inside of all of us (according to Buddhists), or perhaps how our true natures long for the Tao, or the natural way of living. I do not read this “jewel” in a spiritual sense, however. I read it in an evolutionary one.
Our bodies evolved in a natural environment. And natural stimuli are most healthy for it. Wind in the hair, rocks under foots, a stream gently trickling by, prairie or woods stretching in all directions. This is how we evolved. This is what our bodies’ systems were designed to deal with. Natural environment, natural relationships, natural food.
Yet in this modern world of ours we replace natural relationships with artificial ones: living vicariously through tv shows, movies, video games and sitcoms. In this modern world, we replace real food with artificial food: candy bars, pizzas, hamburgers, cakes, carbonated and caffeinated beverages. In this modern world we replace natural sex with artificial sex: pornography and erotica. It’s no surprise we are socially inept, awkward and anxious, addicted to farming for likes on social media, but scared of face-to-face conversations. It is no wonder we are overweight, obese, and beset with a plague of heart disease and cancer. It is no surprise that we are porn addicts, preferring pornography to real partners. We have traded natural stimuli for artificial stimuli, and natural environment for an artificial environment. Our species evolved in conditions of scarcity. We don’t know how to handle abundance. Or, at least, the most ancient parts of our brains don’t.
You probably see where I am going with this: getting back to nature, letting nature provide the natural rewards you were programmed for, letting nature heal you from a need for artificial stimuli. And you may be thinking, “That’s all well and good, Mammothrept, but I’m not going to give up my tv shows and my hamburgers and go live in the woods, with a rock for a pillow and the sun for an alarm clock.”
Well, I am not asking you to. That is what Cold Mountain did, of course. But he went to extremes. I believe we can unearth that precious heavenly priceless jewel, our true rebooted natures, without becoming a hermit or a recluse. Just add several nature-related things to your daily routine and you should be good. That is what I did. And it is the foundation of my success.
As of this writing, I am at 134 days. You might wonder how I got there. Well, it’s been a long journey, and I’ve struggled. But I believe my success started when I started replacing artificial stimulation with natural. I stopped watching tv. I turned off the images on my internet browser. I took cold showers instead of hot ones. I exercised instead of eating a snack. I went for a walk in the woods instead of PMOing.
Gradually I felt my body settle into a more natural equilibrium. I stopped craving the vicarious adventures available in movies, tv shows and video games. I stopped wanting the empty approval of a like, or a response to one of my comments. I stopped getting urges for artificial sex (for the most part). From using porn-like fantasies to goose my reward system, the only thing I long for (for the most part, again) is a romantic dinner or a extended cuddle on a comfortable couch.
I’m not saying that you have to do what I did. What I am saying is that you should, as far as you can, replace artificial stimuli with natural ones. And trust your nature, that precious heavenly priceless jewel that has been buried under years of dirt and filth from countless PMO sessions. Your true nature knows what is good for it. Listen to it, and provide it what it needs.
Part of listening to your inner nature, I think, is realizing the extent to which artificial living has distorted your equilibrium. Part of this is the phenomenon known as hypofrontality, or the inability to control your actions and your behavior. Hypofrontality is an indication of addiction, and it mean you have a lot less inhibitions to consuming your addiction, even if you know it is not good for you. This is because your brain thinks your addictive substance, in our case porn, is such a good thing that it doesn’t want the rational part of your brain getting in the way of you consuming as much porn as you can. But you know that porn is not good for you. And so you will have to make accommodations for your addicted mind. This means not relying on your will to pull you through your urges, at least during the initial part of your reboot when your ability to make decisions regarding porn is still hijacked by your addiction. I recommend using your intentions to plan out what you will do in case of urges instead. Make a safety net. For some this can be porn-blocking software, like Covenant Eyes. For others it could be simply walking away from your computer when you have an urge, or doing some quick exercise like pushups or jumping jacks. For me it was instant attention to my breath and meditation when I first felt the urge. I supplemented this with browsing the internet with the images turned off. But whatever you do, it is important to have some sort of life-system set in place. You are going to be weak in the beginning. Addictions do that. But you can overcome your weakness through intentional planning.
Also, breathe. Deep breathing has been shown to enable us to control our autonomic nervous system to some extent, and as addiction is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, deep breathing can help re-balance our chemical and hormonal imbalances. It can dramatically cut down on urges. And it will make you feel energetic and full of life. The breathing technique I use is an adaption of the one developed by Wim Hof, the Iceman. Take 30 deep, full breaths. Don’t breathe out fully when you exhale. Each time you inhale, visualize breathing in your true nature, while when you exhale visualize breathing out your porn-addicted nature. After you have breathed in 30 times, exhale and hold your breath until the first signs of a tightening around your chest. While you are holding your breath, go to your reward center and focus on it. The reward center is in the center of your brain behind your eyes. The Taoists call this place the Crystal Palace. Focus there until your body tells you to breathe, then breathe in fully once again and hold it. Push your stomach gently in so all that oxygen rushes to your brain and enriches it. Keep your focus on the reward center. You are trying to stimulate it to revert to its normal function. Do this two or three times a day and you will find your urges dramatically reduced as well as feeling alive and eager to take on the world, and any challenge.
And most importantly, stay focused. Stay committed. There is no reason not to have a good life. But you will need strength to get there. Strength isn’t always a strong will that can resist any temptation. It is also planning what to do in case of urges. It is also cultivating calmness and peace within yourself so that the urges lose their importance.
I will leave you with some more wisdom from Cold Mountain:
i watch the ground of my mind
and a lotus comes out of the mud