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.


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!

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

  1. Ilka Wilkinson says:

    I am currently reading the book “The Enlightened Smokers Guide to Qutting” for the tenth time and enjoying it as much as I did the first time I read it. I am happy to have found this site as well.

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