Sunday, April 9, 2017

Just can't let the bad stuff go....

On and off throughout my life, I was a cigarette smoker (this may surprise you as it doesn't really fit my persona). The on-again, off-again trend began late in high school. There were periods where I smoked for years, and then there would be years I was smoke-free. 

After gathering enough data about my cigarette usage through this weeble-wobble, love-hate relationship, I began to realize that I felt much happier when I was a non-smoker.  Smoking made me irritable and I would build life around the habit. I also used a smoke-break to plug holes or fill gaps I wasn't interested in exploring in "real life" like stressful moments as a coping mechanism, boredom, or a full belly. And, I felt guilty about smoking...even tho I really did enjoy it (probably because I associated it with void-filling). 

So, here is this thing that I know is bad for me on so many levels. 

  1. It's unhealthy for my body (cue endless research, both personally and professionally... yes, I would get sick more often as a smoker than non).
  2. It makes me irritable.
  3. I feel bad about smoking.
  4. It sways my thinking (coordinating life around when I am going to smoke).
  5. No, nix #4... it actually hijacks my brain.
  6. I know I am happier when I am a non-smoker.
But, letting go of this thing that I know is no good for me, isn't easy. And I wonder, why the f*&# is it so hard to stop??? 

It is incredibly hard to let go, and leave it behind, even knowing all about the itemized list above. 

Well, here's the thing.  Smoking just is.  It's neutral. It's not good or bad or anything. It just exists. What makes smoking "bad" is the meaning we put on it, the data we collect, the feelings we have, the emotions we bury with it, the patterns and conditioning that we now attach to the habit, the ways we use it to numb ourselves.   

I think the most dangerous "side effect" of my smoking addiction was how I used it to numb myself, to avoid pain and discomfort and to develop less than healthy coping mechanisms for life. 

There is a poem I heard recently at a mindfulness seminar, and I think it'll beautifully illustrate what I wish to say next... 

The Guest House
by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Pain comes to us bearing gifts just the same that joy does. We never know what lies at the front door, but if we welcome it, or at least allow it, we may uncover the wisdom asking to be seen and shared. We are here to have a human experience, yet so often we are trying to avoid the emotions and feelings that come along with that. 

To give up something - person, place or thing - even though we know it is not good for us, we must commit to change, to welcome the unknown or at least accept it, and all of the human experience that comes along with that. Fear of the unknown can be crippling, and so often we stay in the clutches of something that isn't good for us, just because it's what we know and it's safe because of that. 

What many of us may not realize is that until we fully feel our emotions, they stay stuck and trapped inside us. In order to release something, we must fully feel it.  We do not have to attach to it, or identify with it, but we must let it move through us... when we are numbing ourselves, avoiding pain, building life around vices, and justifying our behaviors when we know that something isn't right for us, we are dimming our own light... we are breaking our contracts and promises we made long ago... we are resisting our own highest good, perhaps, and not embracing this beautiful life experience at its fullest. 

To feel the joys of life, we must be open... and that means we are open to feel all of life. 

After quitting, I realized the discomfort faded slowly and the pain was only temporary. But the benefits were so great, once I got through that initial pain period of withdrawing and driving myself mad, I couldn't remember why I ever smoked in the first place. 

Change = discomfort.  

But just like setting a bone, the pain is only temporary and once it is over, you are left with the permanent gift of having something being right - and healthy - for you in the long run. 

Emotions come like waves. Joy comes and goes, pain comes and goes. Each is temporary... taking turns, like the waves in the ocean. This is all part of our humanity; this is why we are here. We did not decide to inhabit Earth as feeling, thinking Humans... just to find every which way to kill ourselves, numb ourselves, dumb ourselves down, avoid the experience we signed up for, and cruise through on auto-pilot.  We came to have a physical experience and to feel... to really feel... and that includes pain, pleasure and everything in between. 

Yes. Giving things up is hard. Even when we know they're bad for us. 

But... what's even harder is living your life, knowing you haven't really lived at all

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