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


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.


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!