Wow, it’s the shortest Ask Havi question ever!
If only the answer could be just as short … hahahaha.
Okay, here it is.
“Um. How did you quit smoking?
(she asked quietly and sheepishly)
Actually, the subject header of this woman’s self-described quiet, sheepish email said “quick question”. Which gave me a good laugh, because there is just no way that how I quit smoking could be a quick question.
Gather round, guys. Pull up a chair. Because I have stuff to say.
Obviously there’s no room here for me to spill out the entire contents of the massive book in my head on the subject. Or even a chunk of the three hour workshop I used to teach about this.
But the name of that workshop should tell you something:
“Thank you for not making me hate myself: the yoga way to quit smoking”
Yes, I have … oh, non-traditional thoughts on the subject.
But back to my own process … here’s some of what I worked on:
1. Taking out the shoulds.
This is probably the most important one.
The first thing you want to do if you are thinking about quitting smoking is to stop telling yourself that you shouldn’t be smoking.
The damage you are inadvertently inflicting on your body and mind through constant inhalation and consumption of guilt and anger is just as bad (if not worse) than the smoking itself.
Do not guilt yourself into quitting — it just multiplies the self-loathing, self-destruction patterns. Bad cycle.
Instead practice actively releasing guilt from your life. How?
2. Cutting down slowly and consciously.
Don’t start with throwing it all away. It works great for some people but for most of us that requires crazy will-power, and it might just catapult you into a state of resistance and weakness.
Take on small challenges. If your first cigarette of the day is usually right when you wake up, see if you can wait until after breakfast.
New rules: no smoking while walking. No smoking while talking. No smoking while watching television.
You want to be devoting every fiber of your body to really enjoying everything that you think smoking is giving you: the taking a break part, the calm part, the reassurance part.
Practice being there with it. How?
3. Bringing conscious awareness to ALL of it.
Start learning about your patterns. Figure out what needs are being met when you smoke.
- What are you avoiding saying or thinking or doing when you smoke?
- What are your mechanisms for dealing with criticism (both external and internal)?
- How good are you at taking breaks when you need them?
- How do you process anger and hurt?
- What types of things trigger your need?
- What do you need to know about this habit in order to release it?
And of course: all of this without guilt. You’re not blaming yourself for being human and having stuckified patterns. You’re just noticing when and how they’re showing up.
Practice learning how your patterns work. How?
4. Using Dance of Shiva, of course!
This is the thing that helped me the most, by far. Dance of Shiva (Shiva Nata) is an extremely powerful, extremely weird and fairly obscure form of ancient yoga brain training.
Yes, at the moment I happen to be the number two world expert in it, but when I started I hated it like nothing else.
But three weeks after I’d started I was done smoking forever.
The insights and moments of “bing!” that Dance of Shiva gave me made my patterns so painfully obvious that they just stopped working for me.
They just broke.
Dance of Shiva is the bomb. If you don’t have my super-genius Starter Kit, for goodness sakes take care of that right now.
Other bits of wisdom?
Celebrate all of it. You smoked one cigarette less? That is a big deal.
Bring more things into your life that are related to your goal of actually being able to be nice to yourself. Reminders. Signs. Phrases. Non-dorky affirmations.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Stay away from anyone who criticises you, nags you or whose company results in feeling bad about yourself.
Give yourself breaks in which you have 100% permission to do nothing for ten minutes.
Breathe. Do yoga. Keep your fingers busy. Ask someone to buy you a copy of the emergency calming techniques package and listen to one of the audio clips whenever you feel like smoking.
Remind yourself that you are doing this because you’re working on being the kind of person who can be nice to you, and that it doesn’t matter how long this process takes — as long as you’re in it.
Okay, so I didn’t exactly answer the question.
How did I do it? How did I stop smoking? Or — more importantly — stop wanting to smoke? All of these things.
Practicing Dance of Shiva for ten-fifteen minutes almost every day. Lots of yoga. Lots of journaling.
Lots of consciously trying to stop guilting myself. Lots of allowing myself to be afraid to stop. Lots of acknowledging how hard it was.
Lots of acknowledging fears I had around stopping (What if I get fat? What will I do when I want to avoid making an uncomfortable phone call? How will I comfort myself? Who will I hang out with?)
Lots of noticing. Lots of asking myself for help. Lots of agreeing to let it be hard and frustrating for a while. Lots of forgiveness for not being the person I thought I should be.
And when I was done, I was done. It stopped being about struggle and started being about being about kindness. I haven’t wanted to smoke since.
Does that help?
I really do know how much it sucks right now…wish I could give you more but…HUG!
Can I state the obvious? Oh good, because I’m going to.
I know you guys are super smart so I probably don’t need to say this, but just in case:
Even if you’ve never gone near a cigarette in your entire life, there’s stuff in here that will help you do a little disentangling with whatever habit or any pattern that you’re working on.
Just saying. :)