Background to Conversation with Buddha and TMichael on Smoking Cigarettes
Note from TM: This topic may be a bit off from the typical spiritual topics we talk about, but it’s one that I have been wondering about for some time from a spiritual perspective. Many people I know, including myself, have struggled with trying to quit smoking cigarettes. We all know about the health issues associated with smoking, yet continue. Is there an understanding about smoking cigarettes that could help people quit?
Master Buddha: It’s a good topic because it bridges the material and spiritual realms. On the purely physical level smoking cigarettes is well known to create a physical addiction. That is not so difficult to understand or accept.
It weakens the breath capacity and reduces the nutrients that can be carried by the blood. Additionally, it carries with it potentially harmful chemicals throughout the body. This is the part that is established. Just a small amount of common sense can grasp this and say that it is not necessary to smoke cigarettes to achieve good health and that to the contrary it degrades health.On the emotional and mental levels other addictions are at work. Smoking also creates an illusion of power. And this is much harder to give up than the physical addiction. Power can mean different things to different people, but I mean it I the sense that one feels powerful to do whatever one needs to do. If one feels weak in some way, he will compensate by finding some way to feel powerful. This is why so many people begin smoking as a teenager—a time in which a great sense of weakness is experienced. Others experience the attraction to smoking during emotionally upsetting moments. Still others enjoy smoking when they are drinking alcohol (this is more complicated because the source of weakness is not so apparent).
It should be obvious that real power is not gained from smoking cigarettes, but that is exactly what makes it a illusion. For those who derive power from it, it is real, and thus an effective illusion.
There is a proverb that states, “The best way to eliminate is to substitute”. In order to do this in a way that supports substituting real understanding for an illusion, one must understand that the apparent weakness for which the illusion is compensating, can be addressed through self-awareness and contemplation. Some people, when quitting smoking, will substitute another substance or activity that supplies the power they seek. This could be substituting one illusion for another; perhaps one that is less harmful in other ways. The real benefit will come from a true understanding of the weakness perceived in the first place, and then proceed to cure it. Some people can make the behavioral change without this deeper understanding I’m speaking of, and for them this is a success. For others it requires the deeper contemplation and cure. Most likely the underlying feeling of impotence, or weakness, is affecting them in other ways as well and this approach will be more helpful.
The worst thing that can happen is for one to come from an approach of judgment, self-loathing, guilt, shame or anger at oneself. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to unravel the complexities that lead to behavior that is inherently harmful. At one point, however erroneous, the smoking habit derived from an intent to cope by providing a power that compensated for a weakness. Seeing that error in choice and seeking a new one confirms self-love and care.
© TM 2015