Every 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; our aim is to bring peace on earth, starting with our own immediate place on earth. Let there be peace on earth; let it begin right here, right now.
So when the inner voice announces, I need a smoke, Freedom School pilgrims are encouraged not to fight such a voice, ( saying to themselves, “I shouldn’t be thinking, I need a smoke”). At the same time, they need not be so quick about accepting or assuming the authority of such a thought. Rather, pilgrims are encouraged to simply give the thought, that inner voice, some space, even some loving attention. Here’s how:
When the thought, I need a smoke, rises up, simply observe the space in which it arises. Obviously, it arises in the space of awareness. There is something here, or someone here, who hears the inner voice announcing, I need a smoke.
What so often (habitually) happens is that the something or someone who hears the words, I need a smoke, immediately collapses in and around that thought, those inner sounds, and quickly becomes I need a smoke.
And yet, there’s a brief millisecond before awareness collapses around the thought, where there are two things present: 1.) the thought, I need a smoke, and 2.) the awareness, that something or someone to whom the thought appears.
What SFS pilgrims are encouraged to do is to extend the brief millisecond – to stay in that something, that someone, that awareness, and to treat the thought, relate to the thought, I need a smoke, gently, tenderly, even humorously, like a mother with her small child. Don’t become the child. Don’t become the thought. Don’t identify with the thought. Just be with it, lovingly tenderly. And then another thought arises, “When is Aunt Erma going to call?” Or, “I need to buy some new socks today.”
Whether the pilgrim smokes or doesn’t smoke in relation to the thought is not as important as the simple act of consciously, intentionally being more than the thought, wider than the thought, bigger than the thought.
Which is actually quite natural, because we are, after all, more than our thoughts. We are, after all, at root, awareness itself. We are that in which, to which, thoughts arise. It is in awareness itself that we discover our freedom. The pilgrimage we are on is the pilgrimage from thought-bound identity, which at its most basic level is a pinball identity since we have 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day; first this and then that and here’s something completely different.
When we collapse awareness around the thought, I need a smoke, we give the thought a charge of energy, and thus it grows stronger. As we gently stand back, cease to give the thought, I need a smoke, such a charge, it will cease appearing so often. Thus, step-by-step, we learn to be free. Step by step we discover our freedom from such a silly notion,” I need a smoke.”