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 that our well-being would be enhanced if we quit or simply cut back. In fact, millions of research dollars and tens of thousands of research hours have confirmed that this is the case: well-being almost always increases with quitting, almost always decreases with continuation. Every smoker knows this. And yet…
In this brief moment, regardless of what we know intellectually, and maybe even have experienced physically, it feels as if our well-being increases with a smoke, and decreases with denial. And so contrary to our intellectual understanding, and our own common sense, in seeking well-being we light up another smoke. (It doesn’t work very well, or for very long, so we have to light another!)
So the question arises: how do we short-circuit this goofy, irrational, illogical attempt at well-being? The short-circuiting of our smoking habit would have to be more than an intellectual understanding that smoking doesn’t actually lead to well-being. We already have this understanding. The short circuit would have to be something we do that allows us to directly access our well-being. And we need to be able to do it many times a day, in many different circumstances.
Before we introduce this simple (yet radical) way to short circuit the smoking habit, it will be useful to remember that when we were young we first “tried out ” smoking in direct opposition, even defiance of logic, and of what we had been taught and told. Even though it wasn’t logical, or intellectually sound, we tried it anyway. And kept “trying,” experimenting, until we made it our own.
In the same way, this new “well being” action may not at first seem logical, may seem directly opposite of what we’ve been told, or even contrary to previous experience. The only way we’ll know if it “works” is if we try it out, and keep trying, until we make it our own, regardless of its logic or illogic. So what is this action that can short-circuit our habitual attempt at finding well-being through smokes?
Glad you asked. It’s quite simple: Radical acceptance of ourselves (for brief moments) exactly as we are. For a brief moment, we give up trying to change what is arising in our being.
And just to make this practice absolutely clear: we practice radical acceptance of whatever is arising in us right now. Not what we used to feel. Or as we hope to feel in the future. But right now, with all of our secret and not-so-secret flaws, urges, hopes, fears, worries, selfishness and selflessness.
For a brief moment, we accept everything about ourselves, both inside and out, as we are right now. For example: we accept our weight, our age, our skin tone, our hair, our health status, our money circumstance, our relationships with our family, our boss, our neighbors, our bankers, our politicians, be these relationships good or bad. For a brief moment we accept our lives, just as they are, as the perfect expression of well-being!
Granted, this is not logical, and certainly not what we’ve been taught. So we have to be brave to actually test out this practice. (Radical acceptance of ourselves exactly as we are, for brief moments.) We have been taught that for “well-being” we need a certain health condition, a certain bank-account, a certain inner calm, or happy childhood or significant other or… on and on. Consequently, most of the time most of us don’t accept ourselves just as we are. We are constantly pushing ourselves toward what we assume is some better condition, in our homes, at work, in our family relationships or our physical bodies or mental processes. Trying to “better” our moment is what we have been taught to do.
For most of us, a brief moment of radical acceptance of whatever is arising in us directly contradicts (short circuits!) all our inner habits. Yet this practice is the doorway to freedom (freedom from habits!) Radical implies we accept not only the positive, complimentary, admirable things that rise up in us, but also the somewhat dark, mean, selfish things that rise up. For just a brief moment, we deeply accept ourselves exactly as we are. We stop fighting ourselves. We stop trying to change what is here. (“Agree with thine adversary quickly!”) This seems dangerous. But in fact, it’s liberating.
Relative to smoking, we assume that if we accept ourselves just as we are, for a just a brief moment, we’ll continue to smoke the rest of our lives. And yet, I’ve worked with people who have smoked for 40, 50, 60 years who have been fighting themselves, rejecting themselves, every day for decade after decade. Accepting ourselves, for just a brief moment, just as we are, takes us back to our original being, our original nature. Original being is powerful, and not addicted to anything!
“In this moment, my life is perfect just as it is!” What an illogical thing to say. What a dangerous thing to say. What a silly thing to say. And yet… ahh, perfect well-being, just for a moment.
When we have a smoke, or at least the first inhale and exhale, aren’t we doing the same thing? “In this moment, my life is perfect just as it is!” What an illogical thing to feel. What a dangerous thing to feel. What a silly thing to feel. And yet… ahh, perfect well-being, just for a moment.
So this is the practice: for just a moment, we accept everything that is arising in us, inside and out; we accept ourselves just as we are. For a moment, we don’t change a thing. We allow ourselves to indulge in perfect well-being, right now, right here. WARNING: This practice is very addictive!
(For more practical details about how to short circuit the smoking habit, see my new book, How to Stop Smoking in 15 Easy Years: A Slacker’s Guide to Final Freedom.)