Saturday, November 20, 2010

Since I can't Smoke, I Sit.

I quit smoking just over 16 years ago. When I smoked, I was a smoker. I identified as a smoker, and I enjoyed smoking. I smoked at least two packs a day. I smoked while showering. I smoked while riding my bike. I loved it. At the time I quit, I had a little baby daughter, and the reason I stopped smoking was besides smoking over two packs a day, I would also be drinking ten cups of coffee or so a day, and my heart was doing things like skipping beats. And it was making me lightheaded and faint. And I was afraid of fainting while driving my daughter to daycare, so I quit. I had the help of nicotine patches, and it worked. I didn't quit because it would kill me, or that the second-hand smoke would injure, or anything like that, although I knew these things to be true. For me, it was the prospect of fainting and killing my daughter in a car crash that motivated me to put down my beloved Zippo lighter and my cigarettes and pipes and quit.

One thing that I didn't realize at the time, but which I have realized many times since, is that when I smoked, I wasn't just smoking. When I was at work, at least, when I smoked, I did other things at the same time. I practiced deep breathing and relaxation. I contemplated. I enjoyed the weather outside (I remember smoking in Denver once, outside in 0F weather, bright blue sky, snowcovered ground. If not for smoking, I'd be inside the building, working.) I met new people and shared with them free of expectation of judgment-- when you are a smoker and someone asks for a light or a cigarette, you tend to give without question, having been in that position of need yourself at some time.

Anyway. It's not really smoking as an intrinsic thing that let me do things like deep breathing, and notice the weather, and meet new people and be generous to them, and allow them to be generous towards me. But it made doing all these things easier.

Since I started doing zazen in my tentative, rank amateur way, I have had some moments where it reminded me of when I smoked-- all the ancillary things that I had as side-benefits. I take time to breathe and tend to breathe more deeply when just sitting. I find myself a tiny bit more aware of what's happening around me, as the sounds of the world, the light, the smells, reach me more clearly when I sit. And I find myself more awake to other people and being compassionate when I sit.

I also notice all my negative anger and resentments and counterproductive procrastination issues, but I already wrote about that. Today is a positive post. In a way, my anger and resentments and negative emotions and behaviors have become clear enough to me, and are affecting me now like my fainting was affecting me 16 years ago. Then, I put down the cigarettes, and now I started sitting. I hope it works. I need something like nicotine patches of zazen to keep me sitting.

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