Zen of the Quit


What is “non-attachment”?


One of the primary concepts of zen practice is the concept of “non-attachment.” What is non-attachment, and how is it useful to someone who’s quitting smoking?

Non-attachment is basically not attaching your opinions to the circumstances of your life, or having specific expectations about what’s happening, or what you hope is going to happen.

Someone once said, “Expectation is disappointment waiting to happen.” And this is true; if you turn that around, you’ll see that if you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed.

Way back at the beginning of this blog, I quoted the Third Patriarch, who told us not to search for truth, but to simply stop cherishing opinions. Here’s an example: Let’s say you lose your job. You might say, “well, that sucks.”

But that’s just your opinion; it has nothing to do with reality. The reality is what happened happened, and it will have consequences that you can’t predict. One of the possible consequences is that you find a new job that’s much better.

If that happens, did losing that last job suck, or was it a stroke of good fortune?

Or let’s say you quit smoking, and after 3 days, or 3 weeks, or 3 months, you’re still having strong cravings. Maybe you’re feeling discouraged because you expected it to be easier by now. Having that expectation set you up for disappointment when it wasn’t met.

The quit takes as long as it takes. It gets easier when it gets easier.

As Joko Beck once said, the only thing we can count on is that life is going to be what it is. Think back to Suzuki Roshi: imperturbable composure is accepting each of our experiences as if recognizing the face we see in a mirror as our own.

When we have imperturbable composure, we can accept that the process of quitting is what it is for us in each moment; nothing more and nothing less.

More on this as we go on.

(If you're feeling a bit lost, it may be helpful to go back to the first post and follow along in order.)

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