I met a young fellow the other day. He wanted to quit smoking and alcohol. He said he tried many times but ultimately, his habits always won over him and he could not keep off beyond a few days. He came to me and wanted to “know” God and stuff including meditation. I thought, given his state of affairs, he needed to get his life in order more than getting God. So, I shared my viewpoint with him. I told him God could wait; Hari is in no hurry. Besides, a virtuous orderly life is synonymous to God.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”All reactions to almost everything in life spring from one’s habits. Even being positive or negative is a matter of habit more than anything else. Habits can be changed provided there is serious inclination to bring such change backed by genuine effort. If you just want to change but are not willing to put in the efforts, chances are, you will only experience frustration and it continues to grow as the gap widens between your desire to change and the actual effort. To come off any form of habit or addiction, be it smoking, drinking, drugs, or any other, there are three methods. As follows:

1. The Rusty Iron Approach

Visualize an iron rod. Non-care, moisture and natural wear-and-tear have caused it to go rusty. Your job is to get it back to how it used to be making it squeaky clean. Before it is ready to be painted or polished, you need to run it through some washing, some scrubbing, some filing and so forth. It is a sequential process. The greater the care you exercise at each step, the better the results. Similarly, habits make your mind rusty. If you want to quit smoking or drinking, you can take it step-by-step. Read the posts on the practice of resolve and the practice of letting go for more on that front. The Rusty Iron method is the slow and steady approach; do not resolve to quit smoking forever.

That makes it a lifelong challenge. Just decide that you are not going to smoke for a week, or ten days or a month. Start with shorter duration first. Staying off smoking for even a month will initiate a subtle transformation within you. Once you have been off for a while, one day, just to test, walk into a smoking-area, full of smoke. Spend the next ten minutes observing people and the surroundings; do you think you will feel the urge for a smoke? Actually, you are going to feel repulsion for smoking. And that will trigger everything else for you to stay off smoking for ever. Try it to believe me. This is an effective method to not only quit smoking but any form of addiction or undesirable habit.

2. The Rotting Fruit Approach

Visualize that you were away for a month. Before leaving home, you forgot to empty the fruits basket sitting on your kitchen table. It had bananas, oranges, grapes and other fruits in it. You just got home, you unlock the main door and open it. The rotting fruits greet you with a foul, nauseating smell, the type that is unique to biodegradable garbage. The quickest method of getting rid of that smell is to remove the fruits and let some fresh air in. No amount of washing can save those fruits. If you are someone who can stand by his resolve, this is the method for you. You just have a remember that it is impossible for a cigarette to fly to your mouth on its own. In fact, you have to make the effort to buy it. Vow that you may die but you are never going to smoke again. From this moment on, not from tomorrow or day after, but from this very moment on. Congratulations, you just quit smoking.

3. The Flat Tire Approach

Imagine you are driving your car and you get a flat tire. Clearly you cannot drive on three wheels. So, you get out of the car, open the trunk and pull out the spare tire. You replace the tire and get going. That is the key: replacement. Replace your desire to smoke with something else, be it coffee, tea, juice, water, milk, chewing gum, candy, anything for that matter except another tobacco product. Over time, the craving for smoking will completely disappear. Yes, it can happen. Over time, your mind learns that my master, that is you, gives me something else when I ask for a cigarette. This approach can be adopted in conjunction with any of the above two.

The following exercises can help you in better reinforcing your resolve:

1. Learn to visualize: Remind yourself of the perils of smoking. It is not that you are unaware of the ill-effects but that you do not spend time visualizing your life with them. Sit down and visualize making trips to the hospitals, to the specialists, lying on the operation table, going through medication for blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments of heart and lungs. Comparatively and generally speaking, people in their sixties, seventies are seen smoking less often than the younger ones. Ever wonder why? That is because most of them have already been given a No Smoking ultimatum by their physicians.

2. Think of the benefits of non-smoking: You do not have to worry about using mouth fresheners, no smell from your clothes, and, who wants the additional savings?

3. Take it easy: If, at first, you cannot carry out your resolve, it is okay, it is acceptable. Do not be too hard on yourself. Chances are you took up smoking when you were really young. Your priorities were different at the time and so was your mindset. Do not punish yourself. Smoking is no crime. It is not a sin. What is important is that you stay persistent, that you emerge triumphant, that you actually quit it eventually.

4. Drop the thought: If you can learn to drop the thought of smoking each time it emerges, believe me, you will quit it in practically no time. Each time you feel the craving, engage your mind elsewhere. Resolve that for the next one hour you are not going to smoke. This is a really effective exercise.

5. Breathe. Slow down. Change: Learn to breathe. Slow down if you can. Change your lifestyle perhaps. Burn some scented oil. Remove clutter. You will feel light and free.

6. Whatever helps you: Whatever works for you, adopt it. Whatever helps you, do it. The goal is to be a master of yourself. So, carve out your own design. If you set your mind to it, quitting is one of the easier choices.

Once you cleanse yourself of habits you find undesirable, beauty in everything emerges naturally. God is hiding behind your tendencies.

Peace.
Swami

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