Smoking--The Ego's Stumbling Block
"Choosing," by Janaka Stagnaro
I am struggling to quit smoking.
I want to understand the ego's part in smoking. In my meditation I ask this question and I feel like the smoking is keeping me from becoming more than intellectually enlightened. What are your thoughts.
Thank you for your question.
The ego is very, very clever. Remember the ego only appears to exist by giving you thoughts that reinforces the idea that you are separate from All That Is. Now with your smoking it is doing a two prong attack. First it got you to begin smoking cigarettes, one of the worst drugs to be addicted to. Maybe you started smoking because other friends' were smoking ("Don't be left out. Be one of the cool ones"). Perhaps it was to rebel ("Don't let them tell you how to live your life. Who cares about tomorrow and your health down the road--live for today.") Or perhaps smoking was a way to calm your nerves--or at least appeared to do so ("You need this to bring peace to your life").
Now you want to quit and it is very hard (the tobacco companies design the cigarettes that way with their chemical additives). And now the ego can keep you in shame for not being able to quit ("Look how weak you are! How worthless! You'll never be able to give this up!" etc.)
The key here is to keep up your meditation to go beyond your thoughts and come to that still place where there is only the knowing of your divine nature, that has existed before you ever smoked, has existed while you have been smoking and will exist when you quit. In that way there is no shame. Now there is only a challenge to better the health of your body and mind. The important thing is to never feel shame, even when you light one up again.
Sun Bear, a Native American teacher, advised people who smoked to make each puff sacred, for tobacco is seen as sacred to the Native Americans and has been used for ceremonies for centuries. The Spirits of this land are drawn to it, but become disappointed when they see it is just another human who is unconsciously smoking without any reverence. One of the big problems with smoking, and with any addiction for that matter, is the habitual unconsciousness around the act. Make it conscious. Make all acts conscious.
My wife has been in the field of tobacco regulation and cessation for a couple of decades. Her advice on the physical side of quitting smoking is the following. Just quit. A lot of people, once they have made up their minds, can just walk away. "Do or do not, there is no try," as master Yoda advised Luke. If that seems impossible (the whisperings of the ego) then find a cessation class in your area and get the support of others. This is a spiritual truth that company either lifts us or pulls us down, especially if we are still struggling. And lastly, if those two do not work, use patches or nicotine gum. Call Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (1-877-822-6669) for more information.
So through all this remember your intrinsic Divine Self and see this as an opportunity to strengthen your will forces. You can do it, if you want. Don't let the ego tell you otherwise. Eventually, in my view and experience, any mind-altering substance should be dispensed with, so one can have a clearer, free mind.