So I spent the morning hiding in bed from a cigarette craving, with a hot water bottle. It was lovely.

Of course I’m very well aware that I was actually hiding from myself, as essentially I am the cigarette craving. If I wasn’t experiencing some thought or desire that the craving obviously stems back to, then there wouldn’t be any craving and there wouldn’t be any need to stay at home in bed, rather than being out in the world enjoying my day off work.

I felt fine this morning when I woke up and did 15 minutes of meditation at 6:30am. There weren’t any cravings kicking around the place at that hour, but in the broad daylight of 9:30am the cravings seemed to be out in full force, knocking repeatedly on the side of my head and trying to get me to cave in.

A ‘theta-healing’ lady that I visited yesterday, told me that cigarettes (smoking) is just a smoke-screen from seeing some part of ourselves. Apparently there’s a part of me, or more likely, a sum-of-parts that I’ve not been brave enough to look at until now. Or perhaps I’ve been getting glimpses of it when I’m not smoking for those three days-a month, and each time I go back to smoking so I only have to look through the haze at it. It makes a lot of sense as to why I’ve been battling so hard with it. In fact, I actually have a pretty good idea what the thing might be.

Honestly? I think it has something to do with loneliness (or not being fully in the presence of myself). At this point I feel the need to be clear about the difference between aloneness and loneliness, as I learnt from my old friend, Osho. According to Osho there is a tremendous difference between loneliness and aloneness. “Loneliness is a negative state, it is the absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.”

So I’ve noticed that I often feel this craving to smoke when I am feeling this lack of self. Triggers can come from any direction and they get through the chinks in my armour at the points where there is a lack of self. When I am not fully present with myself, when I am needing or wanting some other person/thing/experience to fill the hole. When I don’t feel quite right. When I am full of me and sitting completely in my self, present, know and love who I am, then I have no desire whatsoever to smoke. I have no desire to have anyone or do anything other than whoever and wherever I am right now. I am already complete. Full of me. (I wonder if this is where the saying comes from ‘she is so full of herself’? I actually think it is a good thing and maybe the tall poppy syndrome thing has fooled us into thinking it is better to be smaller and deflated somewhat so as we don’t annoy other people with our full self presence…)

Anyway, I see that up until this time, and for many years, since I was 16 years old, smoking has been this filler. (At times there have been other fillers also such as alcohol and drugs). But over the last 3-4 years smoking has increasingly been something that I do not feel good about. It is a filler, but it only fills so much and there are still leaks in the hole. Smoking no longer serves to fill the hole adequately and it creates all these other icky feelings and thoughts that make it counterproductive.

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago and he pointed out that I’m simply addicted craving itself. The cigarette is actually meaningless, it has just become the ‘face’ of the craving. I identified this clearly when I was in Vipassana and I my head kept coming back to thinking about my ex partner. After many days of excruciatingly painful time spent in my head back and forth thinking about the relationship and wanting it and then throwing it back to the ether, I finally realised that this person was just the name that I put on this feeling of craving, this lack of self. I didnt want that relationship. It was not right for me. My craving actually had nothing at all to do with him. He was just the face that I put on my craving. It could have been anyone. It could be the next person I meet if I don’t sort this out before I go into another relationship! And in reality that isn’t fair to myself or the person that I am having a relationship with for them to be simply filling a hole that is supposed to contain the presence of myself.

Oh yes, this is real. Real stuff.


The Zen of Sweeping

Wooden floors need a lot of sweeping.

Initially I mentally groan at the thought of it. The effort of getting the broom out, lifting the rugs, moving the furniture and actually using my body on such a seemingly mundane act. But once I’ve started, I almost relish it. When I’m in the middle of it, swooshing the dirt across the floor into a neat pile I start to feel relaxed and almost at peace as I navigate the dirt around and gently get into those nooks and crannies. Its a matter of remembering to do it though, and actually getting started when I do realise that the floor needs sweeping (which seems to be quite often, almost daily, with wooden floors).

When I am in the process of sweeping, (if I haven’t caved in to using the vacuum cleaner with its noisy mechanical whirring), its almost a Zen activity. As I progress through the task, I feel my mind coming into a place of quiet contemplation. With each stroke of the soft brushes on the wooden floor, I am lulled into a place of no-thing-ness. That place that Osho talks of. The space between the exhale and the inhale.

There’s a Zen proverb that goes: “before enlightenment; chopping wood, carrying water, after enlightenment; chopping wood, carrying water”. I often remind myself of this when I get to a point where I start feeling like I want to run off and live in an ashram in India, or a hut in the hills of Northern Thailand. At those times when I feel that I cannot possibly be a spiritual being and still live in the world with all its needing and prodding and poking. When my mind feels tormented and I remember longingly the bliss I felt during that 10 day silence during my Vipassana retreat, I think of that proverb and remember that even the Buddha chopped wood and carried water, and lived in the world. Then I remember that that is what life is about, doing all these small things, but remaining in a state of mindfulness while doing it. This is the essence of enlightenment, mindfulness. Neither having craving, nor aversion to anything I do, but just being present with myself in each moment.

This is why I think sweeping is such a Zen act. It is like meditation. It brings the mind back into itself in a way that vacuuming cannot do. It focusses the mind into that smaller space, into the tiny specks of dirt, in the same way that the anapana breathing, of Vipassana meditation, brings the awareness of mind to that tiny triangle at the entrance of the nose. Fine tuning the mind.

The Zen of Sweeping

the rollercoaster

Its almost funny the loops my head has been going in over the last few weeks. Its like a roller coaster. There are two of them actually. Running simultaneously on a couple of tracks that are precariously close to each other. Which is probably why I feel like I am struggling a bit of late. Its exhausting actually.

One them is the “moving on from my ex” roller coaster ride. It goes from remembering the shitty things he did, and the reasons why I stepped away; to remembering the shitty things I did, and feeling remorse; to reminding myself how far I have come and that I have grown a lot in the last year (since we broke up); to feeling awesome for a few days/weeks/hours; to remembering “the good times” and the reasons why I loved him; then thinking about contacting him; then remembering what a shitty arsehole he was the last time we spoke (and reminding myself that if I contact him I would just be giving him another opportunity to use me as a stool to make himself feel taller); then back to remembering the shitty things he did, and why I told him to piss off in the first place.

Amidst all this, is another roller coaster, whose loops run in and out and are intertwined with the track of the first roller coaster. This ride is the “cigarettes and smoking” one. It goes from smoking; to hating myself for smoking, hating the smell, the way I have to wash my hands and have a breath mint after every cigarette; vowing to quit the next morning; to waking up the next morning feeling miserable (usually this will depend on which loop I am on in the “moving on  from my ex” roller coaster); and then starting to think about having a cigarette; within a few hours if I haven’t yet thrown my cigarettes away from the previous evenings vow, I will smoke one; if I have already thrown them away, I’ll start thinking about having one and will battle with my desire to smoke for a few days; then I’ll gradually start feeling better and better and congratulate myself as my personal power starts to grow and feel stronger and stronger (this phase can last anywhere from 3 days to a month although of late its mostly been 3-5 days). Then I’ll be feeling so good one day that suddenly I’ll think “I feel great, but the cream of this cake of awesomeness would be to have a cigarette, to celebrate this awesome feeling”. Then, because I know that is bullshit, I’ll push it aside, push it aside and push it aside… until finally the ‘naughty imp’ part of my brain will catch hold of that thought and twist it into “it would be really fun in a naughty kind of way, to ‘just have one cigarette'” and then I get excited about ‘being naughty’ and finally go and buy a packet, ‘just so I can have one’. Then because I have them there I’ll smoke them, because they seem to call out to me when I have them. And pretty soon I’m back to the beginning of that roller coaster, smoking…

These two roller coasters are happening simultaneously inside my head. Besides all this I’m trying to concentrate on the rest of the living that I am doing. Its no wonder I am feeling a bit anxious lately…