Thinking differently about smoking

This piece first appeared in Holistic Bliss Magazine, October 2016.

For someone who smokes and seeks to improve their life and wellness, quitting is one of the most important and meaningful changes that needs to be made.

Smoking is often a cause of great struggle and distress in someone’s life.  It is almost always a source of conflict at a personal level, and can be the source of a deeper spiritual conflict. When an intelligent and caring person makes a seemingly voluntary choice to knowingly do something harmful, it creates a conflict at the level of their very identity.

Almost all the information we get about smoking is about why you shouldn’t smoke. But nobody needs to be lectured to about the dangers of smoking – everybody already knows why they shouldn’t smoke. The real question is how – how do I stop? This basic question is rarely provided with an effective answer.

We are often told how smoking is really about nicotine addiction, but this disempowering idea is a reflection of our medical system – a system which seeks label all compulsive behaviour as addiction, and then tries to provide a pharmacological solution.

With smoking, the real issue is habit. Habit is a subconscious pattern in the mind, and this pattern is not changed by the conscious decision to stop. This is why people struggle to stop, and why the habit persists despite the knowledge of harm and the desire to stop.

The habit of smoking easily becomes associated with a sense of relaxation, or stress relief, or some form of emotional support. It is this emotional entanglement that leads to a sense of deprivation and difficulty when someone tries to stop.

It is worth remembering that a non-smoker does not feel deprived because they don’t smoke. And for everyone who smokes, there was a time when they did not smoke. The mind and body already knows how to be free, we just need to clear the path. Clearing the path to freedom means seeing the habit for what it really is – a pattern in the mind that can be changed. With this empowering understanding, and by giving attention to what we try to get from smoking – whatever that may be – the way forward becomes clearer and easier.

It’s always a great privilege to help someone quit smoking. In my experience it becomes not only freedom from the habit and ending the conflict, but also a catalyst for other changes. It allows for a greater freedom in the expression of one’s happiness and true spirit, and the experience of a deeper peace.

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