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Self-Compassion Meditation, with Sean Fargo

Most addictions arise from an effort to mask, avoid or escape from pain and suffering. What’s more, the shame that is common to addiction increases our pain, making it challenging to seek treatment.

In this episode, Sean Fargo speaks with Jeremy Lipkowitz, a mindfulness meditation teacher and coach who helps people overcome their addictions to porn and digital media. Jeremy is a teacher with Mindfulness Exercises and the host of the podcast, Unhooked: Breaking Porn Addiction. He explains how mindfulness and its heart-based practices can help free us not just from porn, but from any addictive behavior.

This podcast is brought to you by the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training Program. Learn more about this unique, online, self-paced certification program at mindfulnessexercises.com/certify

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • How most addictions are similar at the root level
  • Why shame fuels addictive behavior
  • How heart-based mindfulness practices help minimize shame
  • How mindfulness of feeling tones can help with challenging emotions
  • The unique challenges of working with porn addiction
  • Why building a more fulfilling life is a big part of recovery

Show Notes:

All addictions are similar at the root level

Regardless of the particular substance or behavior one may be addicted to, most addictions share a common source. At the root level, many of our addictions arise out of an attempt to soothe or escape from our pain or suffering. Addictions may manifest in minor ways, holding us back or leading to negative effects, or they can wreak havoc on our lives and the lives of others.

“So whether it’s porn or video games or junk food or Netflix or work or exercise; all of these things can be addictions in terms of something that we use to escape a feeling and that has detrimental effects or consequences in our life.”

How shame fuels addictive behavior

Shame, self-loathing and self-judgment (and the loneliness or sense of separation that follows) are all common to addiction. This feeling of unworthiness is often magnified by the shame of the addiction itself. Jeremy finds that mindfulness, especially the heart-based practices, are invaluable for addressing and healing this shame.

“For any addiction, whether it’s someone working with porn or junk food or anything, alcohol, learning how to love yourself and say ‘I’m not broken, I am worthy of love,’ that’s one of the first steps.”

Ways to address shame with heart-based mindfulness practice

Jeremy describes a number of helpful, heart-based mindfulness practices. These include loving-kindness, self-compassion practices and meditations on forgiveness. Learning to soothe and care for ourselves in a healthy manner can minimize our need to seek relief from outside sources. 

“When an addictive behavior crops up, what I like to recognize is ‘oh, this is a young part of me that is looking for safety. This is a part of me that is looking for security.’ [...] And so, can we learn to see ourselves as that hurt child that needs love and support? [...] There’s a number of ways to tap into loving-kindness. [...] The main thing is recognizing that when you’re in that place of addiction, you’re in pain. And can you treat yourself the way you would treat a friend? Or can you treat yourself the way you would treat a young, helpless child?”

The true purpose of mindfulness

When we open the heart and begin to heal our shame, it’s not uncommon for grief and other uncomfortable emotions to arise. We may feel deep sadness for our inner child and the care they never had, for example. We may feel intense anger around past trauma. This, too, can be met with mindfulness and the warmth of loving-kindness. 

“Grief, shame, sadness, anger; they’re all natural responses to difficulties that we’ve had. [...]  And these are really strong emotions and they can be very uncomfortable, and particularly, in the context of meditation it’s like, we don’t want to sit with it. [...] It’s so interesting, you know, we talk about mindfulness and a lot of people think, ok the purpose is to follow every breath and to be really concentrated. And I’m like, that’s not the point at all. The point is learning how to have a better relationship with what’s coming up for you. And if grief is coming up, don’t worry about the breath. Let the breath go away and learn how to be in relationship to grief.”

How mindfulness of feeling tones can help us heal

Working with vedanā, or feeling tones, in meditation is another means of deepening mindfulness of our reactivity and thereby encouraging greater presence. We label everything that arises in our experience as either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Responding to this awareness with compassion and equanimity can help expand our capacity to be present for it all.

“Anything that arises, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, can we learn how to sit with it? [...] The tendency of the mind when we’re not paying attention is that when something pleasant comes up, we want to grab onto it and hold onto it. And if something unpleasant comes up we want to push it away. So grief comes up, it’s unpleasant, and if we’re not mindful we think ‘oh, get out of here. Let me get back to my pleasant meditation.’ But a really cool way to practice is just to say, ‘Oh, this is unpleasant, and I can sit with it.’”

The unique challenges of working with porn addiction

Much of Jeremy’s current work is centered on helping people overcome addiction to porn. The secrecy and shame around porn addiction, as well as the nature of porn itself, makes it challenging to address. Jeremy describes the 3 As (accessibility, affordability and anonymity) that make porn addiction so ubiquitous, as well as some common barriers to seeking treatment. 

“Men don’t have a lot of emotional support. For women there’s a lot of women’s circles and women’s groups and going to therapy is more normalized. But because of the society we live in, the toxic masculinity, all of the stuff, men don’t have those emotional support groups in the same way. So for many men, there’s no one to talk to about this. And on top of that, it’s kind of exacerbated by the fact that it’s a shameful and sensitive issue. That even if men do have a place to talk about it, it’s very hard to open up about it, to say ‘Yeah I’m really struggling with porn addiction,’ or ‘I’m watching stuff that doesn’t feel ethical.’ There aren’t these safe spaces for men to talk about it.”

Why building a more fulfilling life is a big part of recovery

Overcoming any addiction is about far more than simply stopping the addictive behavior. The most successful, evidence-based recovery programs lean not on willpower but on complete physical, mental and spiritual health. Dr. Jud Brewer addresses this topic in episode #054, Mindful Weight Loss Through Habit Change

“In order to actually recover you can’t just stop the behavior and just try to white knuckle it. You actually have to build the inner tools and the inner fulfillment so that you don’t need addiction, you don’t need to escape. It’s like building a life that you don’t need to escape from.”

Additional Resources:

Jeremy

About Chris Germer

Jeremy Lipkowitz is a mindfulness meditation teacher and executive coach who overcame addiction, shame, self-judgment, and depression in his early twenties with the help of mindfulness meditation. He credits the practice not only with helping him let go of destructive behaviors but allowing him to connect with deeper meaning and purpose in his life.

Jeremy is a fully certified Co-Active Coach through the International Coaching Federation (ACC) and a Certified Teacher with the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program initially developed at Google. He also spent time living and training as a fully-ordained Buddhist monk in Myanmar.

For the past 10 years he has been teaching mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices at universities, recovery centers, and companies throughout Asia and the US. He is also a senior teacher for Mindfulness Exercises and the Connect mindfulness community.

His classes, courses, podcast and coaching combine his science-based expertise with the desire to help others discipline their minds and achieve genuine inner-peace and fulfillment.

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