Three steps to mindful smoking

Photo copyright Rob DeWitt.

Photo copyright Rob DeWitt.

Yesterday I wrote about using mindfulness to deal with the craving for tobacco. By coincidence, an old friend, Sagaracitta, has recently published an article on the same topic. It’s a long article, but it contains this handy suggestion for smoking with mindfulness (which I’ve slightly edited).

Before smoking

  • Scan through your body. Make a note of how you are feeling. Then contact your breath.
  • Without altering your breath, just be aware of three full cycles of your breathing.
  • Look at your cigarette packet. Read any warning labels. Just be aware of it.
  • Be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Pick up the packet. Feel it. Smell it. Put it back down.
  • Be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Pick up the packet. Take out a cigarette. Put the packet down with the cigarette lying on top.


  • Be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Pick up the cigarette. Feel it. Smell it. Put it back down.
  • Be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Pick up the cigarette. Feel it. Smell it. Light it without inhaling.
  • Holding the cigarette, be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Inhale slowly. Be aware of the sensations of inhaling. Feel the taste. Smell the smell.
  • Holding the cigarette, be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
    put out your cigarette
  • Exhale slowly. Be aware of the sensations of inhaling. Feel the taste. Smell the smell.
  • Holding the cigarette, be aware of one full cycle of your breath. Notice any feelings that are arising.
  • Repeat until you are ready to put the cigarette out.
  • Notice how much you leave on the cigarette before you put it out.
  • And be aware of one full cycle of your breath before you finally stub it out.
    put out your cigarette.

After smoking

  • Scan through your body. Make a note of how you are feeling. Then contact your breath.
  • Without altering your breath, just be aware of three full cycles of your breathing.
  • Make a mental note of how you found the practice

Why not try this and let us know how you get on?

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Is your meditation smoking?

When I was teaching meditation at the University of Montana I had a student called Connie who was very concerned about her smoking habit. In my youth I sometimes used to smoke roll-ups at parties and I sometimes even bought tobacco so I could make my own and not be cadging from other people all the time, but I never got addicted and so I had no experience I could share about giving up the evil weed. But I do encourage people to be mindful, and so I suggested that she really pay attention to the sensations and mental patterns that arose each time she was smoking a cigarette. It seemed like a long-shot, but it was all I had.

She reported that after taking up this suggestion she was smoking a lot less. It took her longer to smoke each cigarette, and she was less likely to light up again immediately after finishing one cigarette. I seem to recall that she said she was also more aware of the unpleasantness of smoking.

Anyway, I was reminded of that when I stumbled upon an anecdote where a smoker approaches a Buddhist monk for advice:

A young man who’s on retreat asks the head monk a question during their daily meditation interview.

“I experience a lot of craving for tobacco. Would it be okay if I smoke when I meditate?” he asks.

The head monk is shocked at the suggestion and gives the young man a stern lecture about the need to practice mindfulness.

The next day, the young man returns with another question.

“Since I spend a lot of time smoking, I was wondering, do you think it would be okay if when I am smoking, I smoke mindfully and turn it into a meditation practice?”

The head monk thought this was a very creative suggestion and gave the young man his blessing.

Of course, from one point of view the net result is the same, whether you smoke during meditation or meditate while smoking.

The reason this story works is because the word “meditation” is being used in two different ways. The monk is initially hearing the word meditation as referring to a formal activity in which an effort is being made to bring the mind to a point of concentration, and in which distracted mental states are being let go of. One of those distracted mental states that’s being let go of is craving, and so the idea of smoking during meditation is anathema. To smoke while meditating (in this sense) would mean giving in to craving rather than giving up craving.

The second time the smoker talks about meditation, he puts it in the context of daily activities, and the word means something more like “taking a mindful approach to whatever you do.”

If we’re going to do things that involve craving, such as smoking, then it’s a step forward to do it with more mindfulness. But it wouldn’t be a step forward to take something like sitting meditation and to introduce an activity such as smoking. Take meditation and add smoking, and you’re heading in the direction of craving. Take smoking and add meditation, and you’re heading in the direction of mindfulness and non-craving.

But does this work as a technique for reducing dependence on tobacco? Actually, it does. One person wrote to me from Australia to share his experience of working in a drug rehabilitation unit.

I have been teaching this technique in a group to help clients bring awareness to there smoking addiction, and behavioral dependance for the last 5 years. It has been highly successful with many people quitting and if not, certainly bringing a great deal of awareness to there behavior. We also apply this practice when we talk about how to change patterns of behavior in drug use.

And a recent study showed that meditation reduced tobacco consumption by 60%.

So if you’re a smoker, you might want to try being more mindful of the actions of smoking.

You might also want to be mindful of the cravings that lead to smoking. I’ve been working for months now at being mindful of the sensations of hunger, and it’s been a fascinating practice. I’ve learned that I used to treat the sensations of hunger as being a kind of emergency. At the first sensation of being hungry I’d feel the urgent need to go eat something. Now I treat hunger as just another sensation, and will often not eat until an hour or two of being mindful of my hunger pangs. And what’s really interesting is that when I’m mindful of my hunger it stops being unpleasant. Could this work for smoking as well? I don’t see why not.

If you’ve practiced mindfulness of smoking or mindfulness of craving nicotine, I’d love to hear from you.

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Mindfulness meditation can help smokers kick the butt

ANI News: Washington, Aug 6 (ANI): Researchers have found that smokers trained with a form of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) curtailed their smoking by 60 percent.

However, subjects in a control group that received a relaxation regimen showed no reduction.

Studies of smoking usually recruit those desiring to quit or reduce their smoking. Researchers approached this study differently.

They sought volunteers interested in reducing stress and improving their performance.

In actuality, the experiment was designed to explore how IBMT-previously shown to improve the self-control pathway related to addiction-would impact smoking behavior.

Among the volunteers were 27 smokers, mean age 21…

Read the original article »

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Flag down that rage (Business Line – Chennai, India)

Agitated responses cause everyday accidents – from dropping things to job-related errors and auto mishaps.

Bharat Savur, Business Line, Chennai, India: You’re striding down the street… you’re tense, preoccupied, and you trip on a curb and sprain your ankle. If it happens once too often, watch out. To untangle the mysteries of the twisting muscles, safety researchers tried to profile the `accident-prone personality’ as `someone who gets out of the wrong side of the bed, and falls out’. But surprise… they found the `accident-prone personality’ does not exist! Rather, anyone under stress can have an accident.

What kind of stress?

One of these comes “from life-changes,” says Dr Abraham Bergman, researcher, University of Washington, Seattle. Life-changes include moving to a new location (residence, school, office), illness in the family or divorce. The other comes from life-pressures; problems with parents, in-laws, school, job or finances.

The research elicited an interesting insight — four kinds of stress-responses predict accidents — smoking, insomnia, headaches and acidity. These agitated responses caused everyday accidents — dropping things, errors in judgement, job-related errors, tripping, nicking oneself while shaving or auto mishaps. At such times, “pay attention to your body’s ups and downs to avoid accidents,” stresses Dr Gay Luce, author of Body Time.

When we pay attention to our body we automatically alert our fuzzy mind. We become aware of what we are capable of at that moment and what we are not. Apparently, a large part of our stress settles in our unconscious. So, often, we may be more stressed than we think we are. For example, you’re the boss. You’ve just given your subordinate a thorough dressing down. You may think it hasn’t affected you. You’re not aware that you’re breathing a little faster and your head is buzzing. You get into your car. As you try to insert the key into the ignition, it slips from your fingers and falls down. Warning! That’s how stress steals over us.

In this state, it would be wiser to hail a cab. Or to sit quietly, breathe deeply, meditate or stroll around the campus until you feel different. Safety-researchers say it takes 90 minutes for the brain to switch from one mode to another. So, call your family and say you’ll be one-and-half-hour late. It’s worth it. Having a realistic sense of personal prowess — neither over nor under — prevents accidents.

Self-safety tip: Don’t light up a cigarette after an upsetting incident. Nicotine further unnerves frazzled nerves and moves your body into fifth gear. Instead, chew gum or mint. It refreshes and removes the bad taste in your mouth. Speaking of bad taste, safety researchers say our self-destructive attitudes leave a lingering unpleasantness in the body. This reduces concentration and interferes with our reflexes and… we set the stage for an accident to happen.

We can’t reverse an accident, but we can recognise and reverse our self-destructive attitudes. For example, you encounter a rude bank clerk. You can take the affront personally and rage, “How dare you?” This self-destructive attitude escalates your anger and, turning on your heel, you can walk straight into a door. Or you can good-humouredly shrug, “Having a bad day, huh?” and stroll serenely through the exit because you’ve chosen a self-constructive attitude.

Unfortunately, a destructive response occurs automatically. So, a constructive response has to be consciously and purposefully evoked mentally and physically as “a protective mechanism against overreaction to stress that leads to accidents,” say safety-researchers. Transcendental meditation de-escalates the sympathetic side of the nervous system. The pupils relax, blood pressure balances, heart and respiration rates decrease, blood-circulation moves towards the muscles and vital organs. All these physiological changes bring on “a state of profound rest and heightened awareness.”

Five months of daily meditation erases the knee-jerk need to mentally kick out at situations and people. Calm confidence replaces nervous aggression. Alongside, it is important to become conscious of our physicality — unexplained aches, discomforts, stiffness in the body suggest pent-up tensions flaring up. Likewise do changes in behaviour-patterns — drinking more coffee, eating or sleeping more/less, watching more TV. Unattended to, the body suddenly unleashes these tensions where we flail out clumsily and… ouch!

The waist-stretch exercise combined with meditation releases physical and mental tensions. Stand straight with your feet spread. Raise your left arm and point to the ceiling, palm facing the right side. Curve your right arm straight across your front waist. Now, bend from the waist to your right side as far as you can, extending your left arm parallel to the side of your head, and bend your right knee while straightening out your left leg. In this position, become aware of your breath. Now, along with the natural rhythm of your breathing, repeat `om’, `home’ or `calm’ in an undertone 10 times. Then, repeat the entire process on the other side. Five months later, you’ll be marvelling, “Boy! I didn’t sprain my ankle even once!”

The writer is co-author of the book `Fitness for Life’.

Read the original article…

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Cambodian monks use meditation to quit smoking

Cambodia’s Buddhist monks, dragged last year into the front line of the southeast Asian nation’s fight against smoking, are proving surprisingly adept at kicking the habit, campaigners said on Friday.

About a thousand saffron-robed monks were urged 12 months ago to quit smoking in a bid to get the general public in deeply impoverished Cambodia to follow suit.

Of that trial group, only 13 percent have lit up again, a very impressive level of abstinence, said Yel Daravuth of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

The United States-funded missionary group now wants to roll out its smoke-free monks project across the rest of Cambodia, where around a third of monks and two thirds of the male population are avowed puffers.

“The monks act as role models in society,” said Yel Daravuth. “We found that if monks quit, most laypeople said they would be prepared to quit as well, so we are targeting as many monks as possible to give up smoking.”

The guinea-pig monks even took saliva tests to prove they were not lying about not smoking. “Only two were cheating,” Yel Daravuth said.

And the secret of their success? Many hours of meditation, he said. Read more

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