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How can one avoid being controlled by sex desire?

Our Answer:
Sex is such a compelling drive that if we're not very careful, it can control us. Many become addicted to it. Fortunately, Krishna can help us overcome any obstacle, provided we're serious. We demonstrate our seriousness by doing everything within our power to succeed; success in anything depends on Krishna's mercy as well as our own honest endeavor.

The same way Krishna provides cures for every disease in the form of various plants and herbs (Bhagavad-gita 9.16), He has also arranged many strategies for becoming free from becoming controlled by our own sexual urges. According to our individual situation, we need to take practical steps. Avoiding detrimental things (nivritti) and taking positive measures (pravritti) can help us become free from situations that would jeopardize our ability to remain peaceful and control our senses.

Sexual impulses can arise in both the body and mind, so those of us trying to become free from sex addiction—or material attraction of any kind—must be especially aware of what we feed our minds and bodies.

Avoiding eating at night is recommended for anyone's overall health. Eating foods that require significant time and energy for digestion—such as grains—too close to bedtime means we'll have a quantity of undigested food in our system. This puts pressure on the sexual organs and can create sexual agitation. If you must eat anything within four or five hours of going to sleep, it's best to choose things that are light and easily digestible. It's also helpful to avoid rich foods, such as cashews, as well as fried foods and sweets. This may sound extreme, but if it helps us control our senses, it's worth it.

The pravritti, positive aspect of this is to regulate our eating schedule. The body requires to eat, and if we're accustomed to only eat balanced, nutritious meals of Krishna prasadam, and only then at optimum times of day, that can help us be satisfied in body and mind, so that we're not craving inappropriate things or hungry at inappropriate times.

Avoiding contemplating the objects of the senses—lingering looks at or thoughts about the opposite sex—is essential. Those of us who haven't had the benefit of good brahmachari training in our formative years may especially have difficulties with this. But the mind can be trained, and we can create beneficial habits by using our intelligence. We can practice not looking at the attractive features of the opposite sex, or looking away once we catch ourselves looking. We can set our Internet preferences—if we absolutely must be online—in Safe mode, which can at least spare us being bombarded with "adult" content.

The pravritti of this is to place within our vision as many images of Krishna as is practical. If we become habituated to looking at the eternal, youthful forms of Radha and Krishna, that will help satisfy our desire to see beautiful objects, so that we're not looking for satisfaction in the world of temporary, destructible matter. This is one of the benefits of Deity worship—it requires full engagement of the senses in Krishna's service.

Revealing our minds to someone we trust is a necessary part of recovery from any addiction, and of the process of Krishna consciousness. We should find someone we respect, someone more experienced than we, in whom we can confide. Isolation is a killer. If we feel we can talk to someone more advanced than us without them condemning us, who will encourage us in spiritual life, this can keep us free from discouragement and from feeling alone—both of which, if left unchecked, can make our troubles worse.

The main point is to do whatever keeps us alive in Krishna consciousness. The most important practice for elevating our consciousness is chanting the Hare Krishna mantra while trying to become free from offenses to the holy name. If we can stick to that process, resolve to do better, take all necessary steps, and pray for Krishna's help, we can know that we're doing the best we can, and that it's just a matter of time before we're finally free from all obstacles on our path back to Krishna.

Beyond these steps, we may wish to seek (or create) a group made up of those who are fighting similar battles. Many who join and regularly attend meetings—such as Twelve Step groups—find that the association of those with a common goal is greatly beneficial. In such gatherings, we get the advantage of hearing others' struggles, so we no longer feel alone. The material energy has forever been causing problems for everyone in this world. It's encouraging to know we're not the only ones with issues, and we stand a good chance of learning from others' experience facing the same issues we are.

Some helpful resources: