Zen of the Quit

Quitting, Zen

What’s the Point?


Really; what’s the point of sitting still, in front of a blank wall, doing nothing, for 20 minutes twice a day? It seems like such a boring waste of time.

The point is that you’re training yourself to be completely present in each moment of your life. And while this will have far-reaching effects in lots of unexpected areas of your life, this blog (and, presumably, your reason for reading it) is about how the practice of zen can help you get free of your addiction to smoking and stay free of it.

So how will being completely present in each moment of your life help with that?

First of all, let me explain what I mean by “being completely present in each moment of your life.” It’s really simple (although it’s not necessarily easy); when you’re sitting, you’re experiencing whatever’s going on in and around you. You’re not planning your day if you’re sitting in the morning, and you’re not reliving what you did earlier in the day if you’re sitting at night.

Similarly, when you’re doing the dishes, you’re not doing anything but doing the dishes. When you’re mowing the lawn, you’re not doing anything but mowing the lawn. When you’re having a conversation with someone, you’re not doing anything but having that conversation.

Whenever you’re not focused 100% on what you’re doing and experiencing in any given moment, you’re not completely present in that moment.

OK, so how will being completely present in each moment help you get free of your addiction and stay free of it?

The times of greatest susceptibility to mindlessly feeding your addiction (or to relapse, once you quit) are when your mind is wandering: this is why you’ve been working on making your smoking a conscious choice, rather than an unconscious habit. (You have, haven’t you?)

One of the thoughts that comes up frequently in a smoker’s mind (and in a quitter’s mind, especially in the early days of a quit) is, “Boy, I sure would like a cigarette…” If you’re allowing your mind to wander, and you follow that thought, it’s pretty easy to talk yourself into acting on it.

On the other hand, if you’ve been practicing being present in each moment, when that thought (or one of its many variants) comes up, you can respond by consciously deciding whether or not you’re going to act on it, and then bringing your attention back to what you were doing when the thought arose.

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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