How to Bring Heaven to Earth

angel-1008397_960_720At the Smokers Freedom School we suggest that we are all on a pilgrimage to higher consciousness, and thus that quitting smoking is not the real goal, but rather the happy by-product of our unfolding maturity on this pilgrimage.  So what does “higher consciousness” look like? Where is this pilgrimage taking us? Glad you asked. Here’s one little “thought experiment” that can help us answer that question.

How to Bring Heaven to Earth:

 Just for fun, let’s say you died and went to heaven. (This is already a fun thought experiment, yes?) (more…)

Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong

Came across a great video on YouTube with this title, (and link) “Everyrthing We Think we Know About Addiction Is Wrong.”

Gives a great framework for why the Zoom-Love Practice actually works to help smokers walk away from the smokes. “The answer to addiction is connection.

Just saying…

Freedom from “I Need A Smoke”

ball and chainEvery smoker has experienced the inner voice,  couched in the words of the inner monologue, “I need a smoke.” In response to these inner words, depending on the circumstance, the smoker either grabs his or her smokes and lights up right there, or goes outside and lights up, or decides at the next closest opportunity, I’m going to have a smoke.

Thus, a day in the life of most smokers.

At the SFS, our first and last homework is always to not fight ourselves, not be at war with ourselves;  (more…)

Quitting Smoking is Not the Goal

goal post     The goal is higher consciousness, which means simply a more relaxed life, an easier life, a less stressful life, if only a little more relaxed, a little easier, a little less stressful. If today is a little less stressful, more relaxed, a little easier than yesterday, isn’t that progress towards  higher consciousness?
As mentioned a gazillion times, smoking is at root habit of attention. Our attention has been caught in the smoking loop, perhaps for decades, like one of those irritating computer glitches. “Wrong log-in or password. Please try again.” So we try again. Same thing. “Wrong log in or password, please try again.” Arrgh. Isn’t that how it feels when we keep trying to quit but not succeeding?
Wrong log-in or password. Please try again.”
When we put our attention on smoking or not smoking our attention is still on smoking. This is the wrong password.
So what’s the right password? (more…)

WARNING: About E-Mail Coaching

I’ve recently had a few more folks sign up for e-mail coachingcoach. This morning it struck me I  should offer this warning.

WARNING! :  I love to work with folks one to one via email.  I see myself as standing at the top of the high dive board. You’re ready to dive. You are crouched, head down, arms back. On your mark, get set, get set, get set, get set . . .

It’s my job to just give you a little elbow nudge.  Plop! You’re done. (more…)

Confessions of Love from a Stop Smoking Coach

Was in the coffee shop with half a dozen old and new friends yesterday, after a nice hike in the woods. Someone mentioned that I had gone back to work. “What’s your work?” one of my new friends asked.
Oh-oh. The cat is about to be let out of the bag.
One of the problems of being head coach at the Smokers Freedom School is that many of my old and new friends who still smoke, when they hear what I do, get worried, back away, think I’m going to judge them harshly. Thus, they often quickly change the subject. They worry I won’t like them. Or worse, that I’ll try to coach them. Being head coach can sometimes be a damned lonely job.
(Other times, when a friend hears what my day job is, their eyes light up. “I need to talk to you,” they say.) (more…)

How to Stop Smoking: With or Without Chantix, Nicotine Patches, Hypnosis or Duct Tape

The tips, articles, essays, jokes, guffaws, double-dare ya wisdoms and insights that you will find on these pages come from thirty years of working with the smoking conundrum (smoking both tobacco and/or weed, marijuana.) The main tip: Relax, take a deep breath, let’s find a way to make this quitting biz a lot more fun, and a lot easier than what the well-intentioned “professionals” generally make it. Please feel free to contact me with any additions, subtractions, questions, disputes, comments, corrections, personal stories or breakthroughs. I’d love to hear from you. With great respect: Bear Gebhardt, Head Coach, Smoker’s Freedom School. Contact me at: bear@smokersfreedomschool.com

How to Quit Smoking in 5 Easy Seconds with the Quick Love Practice (Prayer)

Step 1: Just be your ordinary self.

Step 2: There is no step 2. So just repeat step one.

Disciple: What is enlightenment?

Zen Master Huang Po: “Your ordinary mind.”

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God [love, peace, beauty] he created them; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1-27

Most of us most of the time are unconsciously running away from our ordinary selves, and are habitually at war with our ordinary minds. We run away from our ordinary selves by running after more money, more fame, more sex, more security, a clearer house, better friends, faster car, and/or peace and justice for the poor and overworked. There’s lots to run after, here on this planet.

We run after these things because we have been led to believe that more of these things will make us happier than we are now. And they do make us a little bit happier when we get them, for a moment.  But the happiness from these things fades very quickly, so we’re off and running again.

Not only do most of us run after all these things be most of us are also at war with our ordinary minds simply because the mind itself always running, first here, then there, chasing after one thing, running away from another, angry with this piece of life, wanting more of that piece.

So to give ourselves a little rest from all this running we stop, take a break, have a smoke, just trying to relax a little, enjoy life a little. Who can blame us? (more…)

Dying for a Quit Date

“I probably won’t quit until the day I die,” one old Marine guy grunted during one of our classes. We were talking about setting quit dates. The old guy had tried to quit a “hundred times,” he said, and was now trying it again. He was new to the class.

“How do you know you’re going to quit even after you die?” a lady in the class asked.  The old Marine looked at her somewhat dumbfounded.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“I heard that after you die you still have all of your old habits and all your old desires and everything. You just can’t do anything about them.”

“Oh geez,” the old marine said, or words to that effect, as he slouched back in his chair.

Whether one is free or not of the tobacco habit after one has gone to one’s reward, (the research is still sketchy) it’s nevertheless clear that many smokers have learned to think of their “quit date” as their “death date.” (more…)

Your Smoking = Your Privacy?

One of the quirky challenges of helping people get free of the smoking habit is the intense privacy of this habit.  On occasion, at social gatherings, I’ve experienced a smoker’s immediate withdrawal and defensiveness if I’m introduced as a stop smoking coach, as if I had been introduced as a pick-pocket or tax collector.  My very presence seems to be an immediate threat to that person’s well-being.

Here’s why: the smoking habit, as with all addictions, is first and foremost a habit of attention. And as Michael Goldhaber pointed out in his seminal essay, Attention and the Net , our attention is our last bastion of privacy. (The goons might herd us at gunpoint into a stadium and broadcast propaganda at us, but we could put our attention on our shoes, denying them their audience.) (more…)

I want to quit…don’t want to quit..want to quit…

In the “quitting season,” it’s useful to recognize that the mental and emotional energy for quitting–indeed, even interest in quitting–comes and goes, waxes and wanes. One day you’ll be very excited, passionate, determined to get the job done, to be free, sooner rather than later. The next day, or even the next hour, the interest, or passion, is low, or even non-existent. So it goes.

Simply recognizing this pattern in your own experience is itself a useful recognition, a useful step. This pattern appears in very short time periods– I really want to quit at 10 a.m; at noon, I couldn’t give a hoot about quitting. And it appears over much longer periods. I quit several years ago, but started again, so maybe next year I might quit again.  Again, simply recognizing, admitting to your own experiencing of this obvious pattern can be a useful step.

Paradoxically, a zen-like way of quickening the freedom process, once this pattern has been recognized, is to intentionally think and act in direct opposition to your current “phase” or mood of quitting. (more…)

How to Quit Smoking: The Basic Physics 101

If you are addicted to smoking you have what might be called a “charge,” like an electrical energy charge, infusing and surrounding your smoking identity. As with any electrical charge, the” smoking identity charge” maintains its presence through a continual balance of both positive and negative qualities, i.e., “I want a smoke, I don’t want a smoke.” Sometimes the positive comes to the surface, sometimes the negative, but both “sides” of the electrical charge are always present. That’s the nature of the bio-chemical electrical process.
Traditional approaches to quitting smoking would suggest that it is your duty, your responsibility and challenge to give more energy and attention to the negative side of the charge— I don’t want a smoke – and less energy and attention to the positive side, I want a smoke. (Actually, which side is positive and which is negative continually flip-flops, depending on the day, the time, the company, who’s judging, how many beers you drank, etc. But for our purposes here we’ll simplify.)
Trying to quit smoking by giving more energy to one side and less to the other is why most traditional approaches fail. (more…)

One Minute Quit Smoking

A recent essay in The New York Times told about a fellow’s journey to freedom from a two-pack a day smoking habit. His friend had told him about a stop smoking program where he learned to “count to 60” whenever he wanted to have a smoke.
“That’s how long it takes for the craving to pass,” his friend had told him. The fellow thought he’d give it a try.
“On the morning of Q-day, [quit day]… he wrote, “starving, caged rats started gnawing at my gut the moment I’d finished my breakfast coffee. I felt faint. One, two, three …
“And when I got to 60, hallelujah! — a sweet, holy miracle took place and it was just like [my friend] said it would be. I didn’t need a cigarette any more. …Naturally 20 minutes later the rats attacked again, and again I drove them off with a smart 1 to 60. I must have done about 40 counts that first day — the number of cigarettes I would normally have smoked.

“The next day I only had to do 30, and progressively fewer in the following days. Also, as time went by I found I no longer had to count to the full 60. (more…)

How to Short Circuit the Smoking Habit

unplug from smokes

When we want to quit smoking, at root we’re hoping for a little more “well-being.” This is natural. This same hope for well-being rises up in all other areas of our lives.
Some of us want to be movie stars, some of us would just like a job at the post office. We assume one or the other job will lead to more well-being. Some of us (secretly) hope to find or get a little closer to that special someone; others of us would (secretly) like a little more distance, a little breathing room from someone. Again, we assume these changes in relationship might lead to a little more “well being” Many of us, looking for well-being, assume we need more money, like winning the lotto. A few of us, seeking well-being, yearn for our money lives to be a little simpler.
We can see that all of our actions, inside and out, are basically aimed at either attaining or preserving well-being. For each of us, what this “well-being” looks like differs, and changes in different seasons of our lives, and even on different days. In one moment our actions toward well-being might be as simple as taking out the trash or doing the dishes. On other days it may be major surgery or filing for divorce, or a marriage license, or a fishing license.
With smoking, it seems much more obvious (more…)

How to Stop Smoking in 15 Easy Years

Yay, it’s here!

After threatening to write this book for many decades, How to Stop Smoking in 15 Easy Years— A Slacker’s Guide to Final Quitting arrived on my doorstep this week. Twenty copies!

I’m tickled with this book. In all humility, I know it’s different, and easier and fresher and funner than any other stop smoking book on the market. (I think I’ve read them all.) I’m also tickled with it because I know it works. My friends and clients tell me so.
My publisher says I should give away these first twenty copies to people who might write a review on Amazon (or for the New York Times! Or who are simply willing to tell their friends.) I’m happy to do that. I’d also be happy to give away a few copies to anybody who actually needs a copy to dissolve their own smoking addiction, and truly can’t afford the low cost Amazon and/or Kindle price tag. So if you fit into any of those categories, e-mail me here: bear@smokersfreedomschool.com I’ll get a copy to you soon.

I’m tickled. It’s here. Let the fun begin.

The Easiest Way to Quit Smoking

Okay folks, I’ve been away for a while— doing my day job (as a stop smoking coach!) I’m happy to report that I’ve recently cut back my hours there so I can spend more time here. Look for more regular, and more radical approaches to stepping away from the smokes. Here’s a warm-up:

Just Be ”= the Easiest, Most Natural Way to Quit
Over the year’s I’ve collected and refined over 30 different tools—or “steps”—that I share with smokers at particular points along their paths to freedom. I suggest different steps in response to a person’s own particular needs or personal concerns at the moment. Where I work they have independent evaluators who have found that what I and my colleagues have been doing has been very effective for many people. Yay.
Still, when all is said and done, quitting is in fact a “one step” process. At the physical level, that step is made when at some point you don’t pick up a smoke ever again. Physically, if you don’t have a smoke in your hands, you’re a non-smoker. (more…)

Addiction and Non-Duality: How and Why to Space Out

Here’s Why to Space Out:

• Addiction is always an addiction of attention.
• Freedom is a freedom of attention.

• Attention is love.

• Attention in its natural state is space-like. (Unbounded love.)
• Attention short-circuited, is planet like. (bounded love)

• Our education, our culture, our physical experience all lead toward short-circuiting of our attention, e.g., short-circuiting of our love, such that most of us, most of the time, experience our attention as planet-like.

• Addiction is attention in its planet-like (short-circuited) state, caught in a particular gravity pattern, revolving around a particular star or two (e.g., tobacco, sex, money, fame, booze, or daily soap operas.)

• Simply remembering our natural state, (e.g., love, space-like attention,) again and again and again until it again becomes our daily experience, is the mechanism for resolving addiction. (more…)

The Secret for Freedom from Cravings

Is it possible that the Ahh of that first puff might be a Portal to Freedom?

Let’s say you’ve been wanting to quit, and you’ve actually been doing pretty good. But now, doggone it, the craving is so strong that you’re really tempted, and in fact, you’re going to have a smoke. You tell yourself you really need a smoke, maybe just a quick, sneaky one, to help you get beyond this stupid craving. So you cave.
You find a smoke, be it near or far, find a match, quickly light up, take a deep first inhale, then exhale. Ahhh…back home again. What a relief!
Let’s freeze frame this moment, this feeling, this relief after the first exhale, because it’s this that you’ve been wanting. So let’s look at this moment, this feeling, this relief more closely.

In that moment after the first exhale, you feel relief. Why? It’s not the nicotine, because the amount of nicotine you get from one little puff is quite minimal. In fact, many people who are using the nicotine patch, or nicotine gum or lozenge still have the craving for a smoke. Yet they, too, get that same relief from the first puff. Their nicotine levels are already quite sufficient! So it’s not the nicotine that provides the “first puff relief.” It must be something else that makes us go, “ahhh.”
Let’s move now to the second puff. With the second puff, if you’ve been wanting to quit, you start to beat yourself up again. “Oh shoot, here I go again. I’m smoking! What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I wanted to quit so bad…thump, thump thump.”

Back to the “freeze frame” of the first puff, or more precisely, the exhale of the first puff. In that moment after that first exhale, you are no longer wanting a cigarette because, (duh) you’re now smoking one! In fact, you don’t want anything. In that brief half moment, you are happy to be right where you are, doing what you’re doing. We mistakenly assume that the relief came from the cigarette. In fact, however, the relief is a relief from wanting. Again, after that first puff, you are no longer wanting.
Alas, starting with the second puff, or the third or fourth, the “wanting” starts up again— this time, wanting to quit! So the relief from the smoke is no longer so sweet. So what often happens, you have another one, and another one, trying to get that “first puff relief,” that first “ahhh.” Again though, the relief did not come from the cigarette. The relief came because of the momentary absence of wanting!
Curiously, this is what we truly “crave”: the absence of wanting! We want to be “want-less!”
Sounds goofy, but isn’t absence of wanting what we also want when we envision being rich, or being in love, or being famous or in perfect health? We’re envisioning a state where our wants have all been met! We envision lying on a tropical beach in our perfect body next to our perfect lover, supported by our perfect bank account which came from our perfect job. And of course, our perfect family and perfect friends are all watching on admiringly. In such a scenario all of our wants are met! Ahh, success.

To succeed in quitting smoking we make it easier on ourselves if we magnify—and multiply– our other ordinary “ahh” moments. Ahh, a new day. Ahh, a warm shower. Ahh a cup of coffee.. Ahh, a glass of water. Ahh, a phone call from a friend. Ahh, time to go to bed.
As we practice being at ease with where we are in this moment, doing what we’re doing— not wanting something different than what is right here—our wants get light, more friendly, and effortlessly dissolve and flow away. Our “wants” will continue to come and go, rise and fall as long as we walk the earth. But maturity comes when we directly experience that what we are looking for is the “ahhh” itself, the want-less courage to be happy where we are, right here, right now. (Ahhh….) When we clearly recognize—indeed, experience—that the “relief”— the “ahhh” that we get from a smoke is relief from wanting, and that the smoke is only secondary, we begin to sense the true nature of freedom. Sensing the nature of freedom, freedom itself begins to grow. Ahhh….

The Smoker Identity Is a Hitchhiker!

Let’s pretend that when you were younger, just for fun, and to have an adventure, you picked up a hitchhiker– the smoker identity. You were a brave, fun-loving soul! Ahh, youth!
Naturally, when the hitchhiker first hopped in you asked, “where you going?”
“No where special,” the hitchhiker replied. “Where you going?”
“I’m just going to school,” you said, or to work or to the party, or wherever you happened to be going at the time.
“That’s fine. I’ll just tag along,” the hitchhiker said with a shrug, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
So the hitchhiker tagged along, and actually fit in quite well with you and your friends, maybe even with your family. Whether you were being serious or having fun, were stressed out or relaxing, the hitchhiker made no complaints, hung in there with you. You became great friends. Over the next weeks and months, the hitchhiker quietly, unobtrusively moved in with you.
“We’re going out to dinner,” someone would say. “Or on vacation, or off to work, or to the store. “
“That’s fine,” the hitchhiker says, no matter where it is you’re going. “I’ll go with you.”
“But I’m going to church,” you say, or to the synagogue, or to grandpa and grandmas, where such hitchhikers are not invited.
“That’s okay,” the hitchhiker says. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll wait outside.”
So it’s been a number of years now. A lot of years, that the hitchhiker has been tagging along, no matter where you go. Even just staying home, the hitchhiker is there. And lately you start to realize that the hitchhiker has been steadily, quietly, borrowing money from you. A little bit at a time but it adds up. Five bucks or so a day. Every day. And even though you yourself don’t need to go to the store, the hitchhiker wants to go to the store, to spend your five bucks. So you go.
And not only has the hitchhiker been borrowing money every day, the hitchhiker has been quietly, almost unobtrusively borrowing other things from you. At first, it was little things, like a shirt or blouse that came back with a burn hole in it. And little bits of time– five minutes here and five minutes there. And you see that the hitchhiker has borrowed some of your reputation, which also comes back somewhat soiled.
Lately, though, you realize that the hitchhiker— your old pal, your friend—has also been quietly stealing from you. You hadn’t noticed the theft at first. But now you realize the hitchhiker has been stealing your sense of smell. And your sense of taste. And even more dramatically, the hitchhiker has been stealing little bits of your attention. Whenever you are doing something, even late at night, the hitchhiker calls, demands a bit of your attention. And when the hitchhiker demands your attention, you go.
And worst of all, lately, just lately, you realize the hitchhiker has actually been stealing your very breath! What you use to live with! What you need to live with!
“Give it back!” you shout. The hitchhiker shrugs, and turns away. You’re not getting it back, at least not from this hitchhiker. It appears as though this hitchhiker has no qualms about borrowing more of your breath, even if you don’t have any to spare!

Enough’s enough. The question now is how to evict this hitchhiker. How to get this hitchhiker out of your life.
The answer is really quite simple: start living your own life again, doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. And next time you see the hitchhiker, with thumb upraised, don’t stop. Don’t pick up the hitchhiker.
Take back the room—even if it’s just the garage, or the porch– that the hitchhiker has been using. Don’t loan the hitchhiker any more money. You don’t need to fight the hitchhiker. Just don’t feed the freeloader. Don’t answer the bum’s call. Get your life back. When the hitchhiker calls, don’t answer.

A Craving is Like A Buzzing Bee

Yikes! A bee!

Yikes! A bee!

      You ever get a bee in your bonnet? Or in your hat?  In your car?  All of sudden, you’re not thinking of anything, else, right? Everything in your life, except that bee, is immediately back burner. You need to do something about that buzzing bee and you need to do it now. When you have a bee in your bonnet, life is suddenly very intense, and uncomfortable, or potentially uncomfortable, and that potential makes it uncomfortable right now. You feel you need to do something.

      For a lot of smokers, quitting smoking is very similar to having a bee in their bonnet, or a bee buzzing around in the car with them.  Life is suddenly very intense, and uncomfortable, or potentially uncomfortable. They feel they need to do something about that buzzing, “right now.” Nothing else really matters.

    Contrary to popular belief, it is not the lack of nicotine that makes a quitting smoker so jumpy. The use of nicotine patches or anti-depressant drugs such as Zyban can be helpful, but, so far, these substances lead to success in fewer than 30% of the cases. Even with nicotine levels at “ordinary,” and with stress levels reduced, the “bee in the bonnet” feeling persists, and smokers go back to smoking in order to let the bee out. The “relief ” which a smoker feels with his or her first cigarette, after an unsuccessful quitting attempt, is exactly the same relief as when the bee flies out the window. “Whew, thank goodness that’s over.”

    So, what is it, exactly, that makes a smoker feel as if he or she has a bee in the bonnet, a bee in the car just as soon as the Quit Date arrives? If we could figure out where the bee comes from, we could go a long way to making it easier to quit, yes?

      From careful research, and long discussions with smokers and ex-smokers, it seems clear that the “bee in the bonnet” comes in the form of a simple little question that our attention gets hooked on, that the smoker continually asks. That question is: “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” 

     Should I or shouldn’t I have a smoke? Should I or shouldn’t I give up on this quitting business? The answer to the question, of course, is logically no, don’t have one, don’t give up. That’s obvious, that’s easy. So the smoker answers, “no, of course not, I won’t have one, I won’t give up.”  And then the question comes up again, and then again, and then again, should I or shouldn’t I?

     Here’s the rub: To answer, no, is obvious, but just to answer no does not stop the question from recurring!   Smokers don’t enjoy the question because they don’t enjoy either answer (yes I should smoke, no I shouldn’t smoke!) And what do smokers do when they aren’t enjoying themselves? They have a smoke!  The recurring question is the bee in the bonnet!

     Researchers have consistently found that the reason most smokers give for trying and failing to quit is that they were unable to resist the “cravings” they experienced shortly after stopping.  A craving is basically a thought repeated over and over, LIKE A BUZZING BEE! (Good news: this bee doesn’t have a stinger!  It may be a craving for chocolate pie or a craving for a ski trip or a new Ferrari. A craving is a thought repeated, again and again, until finally action is taken or— here’s the freedom– the “craver” consciously decides to change his or her thinking patterns.   The key words here are consciously decides. In the minutes and hours and days after quitting smoking, the thought– in the form of a question– continually arises, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” Most smokers assume it is their job to just keep saying no long enough for the question to finally go away.  Of course, that works, sometimes.

     More directly, though, the conscious decision to drop the question itself, and put attention on something else, is a conscious decision to drop the craving, and thus drop the habit. We are inherently free to drop our cravings, or to drop thoughts we don’t enjoy to think!  Of course, we are also free to develop or nourish our cravings.

    Non-smokers don’t ask the question, “should I or shouldn’t IThe habit of asking this particular mental question is the basic habit that smokers are breaking when they quit smoking. The secret to quitting is not so much in correctly answering the question, “should I or shouldn’t I?” The secret is in not asking the question at all! Dropping the question lets the bee out of the bonnet.   Then, whether to smoke or not smoke is simply no longer the question.   The bee is gone!                                                  

What Does a Non-Smoker Look Like?

A client confessed recently that he could not envision himself as a

Just like everybody else?

Just like everybody else?

 non-smoker. He had cut down considerably over the time that we had been working together, but was not able to “get over the hump” to completely walk away. “I’ve been smoking for over forty years,” he said. “I don’t know who I’d be without these smokes.”
His complaint is not unusual.

So together we looked more closely at where we were going with this whole “quit smoking” business. How would it actually look to be a non-smoker?
From the outside, of course, what a non-smoker looks like is obvious. We were sitting in my office. He was not smoking. Physically, what a non-smoker looks like is exactly how he looked: just like anybody else. A non-smoker looks like anybody—fat, skinny, tall, short, old, young, beautiful or more natural. Just no smokes in hand!
So what does a non-smoker look like on the inside? It took a while to let the smoke clear (so to speak) until we came up with this: a non-smoker is free of the necessity (habit) of always thinking about smoking and not smoking! That’s what a non-smoker looks like inside— same as everybody else, but not thinking of smoking or not smoking. A non-smoker’s mind is at peace in regards to smoking or not smoking.

So what would that be like? Eureka! Every smoker already knows, hundreds of times a day, the peace of not thinking about smoking or not smoking. In the shower, or laughing at a joke, doing the laundry, talking with a co-worker. Every smoker already knows what it looks like, feels like, is like, to be a non-smoker, e.g. to be free of thinking about smoking.
Most smokers assume that “not smoking” is something they will do sometime in the future. But in fact, not smoking is something that happens hundreds and hundreds of times a day. We interrupt our “not smoking” by smoking. “Not smoking” is not something that happens in the future. It’s already everybody’s natural state of being
Quitting smoking is not something we do. Quitting smoking is ceasing to do something. Not only outside, but inside. Outside, we cease to pick up a smoke. Inside, we cease obsessing about smoking, and not smoking, or anything to do about smoking. We simply remain in our natural state, our natural peace. We cease breaking the peace!
So what does it look like to be a non-smoker? What does it feel like? Every smoker already experiences this, every day. But it is so simple, so obvious, so right in front our noses, that we overlook it. “So what do I do?” the client asked?
“Just stop breaking the peace,” I suggested.

When That Little Thief Finally Leaves

thief

Trust me...

The metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by man.” —-Ortega E. Gassett

Here’s a metaphor: Imagine as a kid you started hanging out with neighborhood pals, one of whom was a lot of fun, very likeable and adventurous, but also a little bit of a petty thief. Over the years most of the other kids moved away, or went on other paths, but you and the petty thief continued to hang out. In fact, the thief moved in with you. Again, this was okay because he (she) was a lot of fun, likeable, adventurous, and a pal whenever you needed a pal. And relative to this pal’s petty thievery— well, you’re no prude, though you yourself don’t steal things. (You know stealing’s silly.)

So here it is, all these years later. The thief/kid is still living with you. In fact, you have breakfast together every morning. You work together. He (she) comes home with you at night. Goes on vacation with you. To family reunions and funerals. Goes out to eat with you, goes to the grocery store, and to the doctor’s office. This kid— no longer a kid— goes everywhere with you.

And you’ve long recognized and accepted that your thief friend is not opposed to stealing from you. Not stealing a lot, but a little, every day. Petty thievery. First, of course, your petty thief friend regularly filches a bit of your cash: sneaks in and takes three to five bucks off your dresser, every day, including Sundays! It used to be just a couple of bucks, but in the past couple of years, the daily filch has been steadily growing, (with no end in sight!)

And then he (she) occasionally steals a shirt or a blouse, or a pair of pants – accidentally burns holes in them, then quietly returns them to your closet. But you’re used to this— you know what the thief is up to. You’re used to it.

Lately, though, you’ve started to notice that the thief is getting worse, stealing not only money and clothes, but even more valuable things. You’ve noticed that the thief regularly nabs for himself (herself) little bits of your time. He (she) doesn’t nab a whole lot of your time all at once, but he (she) steals your time regularly, five minutes here, five minutes there, throughout the day, every day. Even when you’re with friends, or family, the thief often steals time away from them. Or when you’re working on a project, the thief comes in a steals some of your project time. Or your TV time. Your movie time. This thief just won’t let up!

And now lately, and worst of all, you’ve noticed that the thief is starting to steal little bits of your breath! Starting to steal the very air you breathe! Again, not a lot, all at once. But regularly. You’re noticing you don’t have as much air as you once did. And the thief doesn’t give it back! You’re starting to suspect that, as time goes by, your thief friend wouldn’t have any qualms whatsoever about stealing all of your air, until you didn’t have any left for yourself.

So enough’s enough. You’ve grown impatient with your old friend, this petty thief. She’s not that much fun any more. She’s actually an annoyance. And an expense. Increasingly irritating and obnoxiously invasive into your life. You’ve decided to throw the thief out.

People have sometimes asked me, “What am I going to do with myself, if I don’t smoke?”

The answer: What will you do, without that petty thief in your house?
Nothing different! You’re just going to live your regular daily life, but a lot more freely, more comfortably, without all the cost and inconvenience and hassle of that long-time roommate.

It’s not rocket science. You might miss that little thief for a bit. But that little thief won’t miss you! Enough’s enough.

It’s time to evict that childhood buddy, that thieving friend. Enough’s enough!

How Attention Keeps Us Addicted to Smoking, and Attention Is the Key to Quitting

What does it mean when someone says, “Pay Attention!” Aren’t they asking for what is most real of us, most precious, most intimate? Our attention is our aliveness! One researcher called attention, the “last refuge of privacy.” So when someone demands, “Pay Attention!” they’re demanding a lot! They‘re demanding our very life.

Cigarettes demand our attention, so cigarettes and attention are intricately linked. We can observe that after smokes first caught our attention, we then accidentally trained ourselves to use our smokes (and chews) to adjust our attention, to take control of our attention. More specifically, we accidentally trained ourselves to use tobacco to:
a. reclaim our attention from the all the things in the world that want our attention;
b. to help us focus our attention on what we want or what the world wants;
c. to help us rest our attention from all other demands on our attention;
d. to help us keep our attention (our personal privacy) close at hand.

Therefore, when we try to quit smoking, or chewing, it is actually our attention that feels lost, out of control, that keeps flying back to the smokes or chews, looking for relief. We find it difficult to keep our attention off the smokes or chews because we assume smoking is what makes us feel real, in control, alive! Yet it’s not really our smoking, but our use of smoking to control attention that makes us feel so real, so in control, so alive.

A GREAT DISCOVERY: WHEN WE DIRECTLY MANAGE, DIRECTLY TAKE CONTROL OF OUR ATTENTION, WE NO LONGER NEED SMOKES!

So how do we begin to directly manage, directly take control of our attention?
Rather than just letting our attention flit aimlessly around in response to whatever the world happens to be presenting in this moment (inside our outside our head!) or trying to keep our attention focused on what somebody or something demands it be focused on, we first recognize that our attention is arbitrarily framed by ourselves and others. With a bit of observation we recognize that when we enjoy these arbitrarily created frames of attention, we feel in control of our attention, and feel as though we are moving toward more health, wealth and service to others. When we aren’t enjoying our arbitrarily created frames of attention, we feel out of control, feel as though we are moving away from health, wealth and service to others.
Thus, it seems wise and appropriate to simply ask, whenever necessary, “Am I enjoying this moment ( or to be precise, am I enjoying my arbitrarily created frame of attention) yes or no?” If yes, great. We’re in control. If no, we have two options:
a. change the subject of our arbitrarily created frame of attention to a subject we enjoy more; or
b. keep the subject, and change—recreate– the frame of attention so that we enjoy the subject more.

As we consciously place our attention on what we enjoy— intentionally frame our attention in a way we enjoy, moment after moment, day after day, (which is how we honor our attention, love and nourish our attention) we discover that we are able to easily move our attention at will to what is best and most pleasurable, and away from what is worst and most painful.
By directly adjusting our attention, and the frames of our attention, so that our attention is focused on what we enjoy,==and doing this dozens of times a day—both the need and the interest in tobacco gracefully, effortlessly, spontaneously fall away.

What are we really getting out of tobacco? Basically, it’s a momentary relief for our attention. Our tobacco addiction helps us bring our attention under control, bring our attention back home. When we smoke, our attention is once again “our own.” It’s a habit of attention.
As we begin to directly nourish our attention by intentionally placing it on what we enjoy, inside and out, framing it in a way we enjoy to frame it, we discover that our natural power returns to us. We discover we are always at home, always in control of our moment-by-moment experience. And thus our addiction shifts to become an addiction to the wonder and joy of life itself, in this moment, as we live it!
Isn’t that what we were doing with tobacco anyway! Tasting the wonder and joy of life itself, in the moment? When we bring our attention back under our control by using our own joy as the “control stick,” we cut out the middleman—cut out the cancer sticks! By habitually placing our attention on what we enjoy, framing our attention in a way we enjoy, we move toward health, wealth and service to others. Directly managing our attention, paying attention to our attention, is a delicious, empowering, enrichening habit to indulge! When we do it, tobacco addiction fades!

I Ain’t Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm No More

A non-combatant’s view of the book selling wars

I’m tickled to announce that my new book, Practicing the Presence of Peace, has just been released by Pathbinder Books. It’s currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and from fine bookstores near you, if you actually go to the desk and ask them to order a copy!) What a treat. What a moment! I’m tempted to sit back and smoke big cigars.
But no. According to publishing traditions and business expectations, the publication of one’s book is just the first step. An author then signs up or gets drafted into the book marketing wars! According to tradition, I’m supposed to start battling— elbowing, nudging, cutting in line trying to get ahead of the other 180,000 book authors who will publish a new book this year. We’re all supposed to fight each other for a spot in The New York Times Review of Books, or for an invite to Oprah, for strong approval by Library Journal, Book List and Publishers Weekly, or, lacking these, maybe just a quick mention in the Wheatland County Haybale Times.
But, as you can tell by title of my book, (Practicing the Presence of Peace) I’m a grizzled non-combatant. I’m really, really tired of the wars— all the wars, whether it be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on obesity, the war on tobacco— ad infinitum with this war biz. I’m tired of them. Wars don’t lead to peace. Only peace leads to peace. So I’m not fighting any more wars. And I encourage others to likewise drop out, refuse to join. “The only way the wars will end,” Napoleon observed, “is when the soldiers refuse to fight.”
So what to do?
Simple: Be at peace, both personally and professionally.
I can decide (and it is a decision) to be at peace with the 180,000 other book authors. Not only at peace. I can rejoice. What a wonderful time and place we have all come to— we brothers and sisters in the book publishing biz. What a rich, fruitful, dazzlingly colorful era for writers and readers. Why fight this? No need.
All publishers quickly (and secretly) acknowledge they have no idea how to make a best-seller. A rave review in the New York Times or a strong review in the Library Journal may indeed help sales, in the short run. The one and only sure-fire sentence that an author can utter that always results in a best-selling book is this sentence: “It’s nice to be back again, Oprah.” Without the opportunity to utter such a sentence, successfully selling a book is dicey. There are no guarantees.
So we might as well enjoy ourselves in the process. Let’s not beat ourselves up, or others up, about what we or they could be, should be, might be doing to promote our books more vigorously, more widely, more expertly, elegantly, professionally, perfectly. Of course there’s more we could be doing. This is my fourth book. I’ve learned that there are always more things to do than I or my publisher can do, or did do; always things we should have done, might have done that we didn’t. Welcome to earth.
This time I’m going to trust that each of the 180,000 new books has its own sweet and perfect destiny, and will find its own natural audience. I’m learning to trust that each book does have its own energy, its own place in the sun, whether that’s in a hidden valley in Idaho or on the main streets of London and New York.
As far as promoting our books, it’s the new millennium. Let’s just do what we enjoy to do, what’s fun to do, what seems right and natural and easy. Sure. There are those who want to make this book promotion business into a war. They’ll argue for pre-emptive bombing and sudden invasions and massive funds employed to support our cause. To paraphrase the scriptures, “The poor (the war-makers) will always be with us.”
I’m not going to listen to them this time around. Or as Bobby sings it, I ain’t going to work on Maggie’s farm no more. This time, I’m going to make the promotion of the book as much fun as was the writing of the book. This way, my real peace and prosperity are already immediately in hand.

Our basic theme: Beating up smokers doesn’t work!