He’s my friend, he’s my escape. The Invention of the Century!
I don’t go for gadgets so much.
I have an old-school unsmart phone, smart enough for me. I have a second (or third?)-hand computer. I don’t have a car. I don’t even have a bicycle. But I just love this handy electronic creature, smooth on the outside, some intricate wiring inside. It is feeding me nicotine (I need it!); it is feeding me vapor; it is giving me all I would want from smoking and I love it for this.
Quitting smoking was one of the most Buddhisty times in my life.
I decided to quit and I just stopped and dedicated myself to the contemplation of the feelings that arose. They were all so clear! The attachment, the craving, the slipping-and-sliding quality of the way the feelings were present in my mind.
It was a period of very intense teaching for me. Until I concentrated so much on the teaching, getting elated by the way my awareness turned these moments full of suffering into wholesome practice, that I completely forgot about the importance of the non-smoking part of the whole thing, and one evening, going out with a friend, I bought a pack of cigarettes again. Talk about awareness…
Then came another attempt, in which I failed in a totally different way, rushing into the shop in a panic one and a half days after my serious resolution. This time it was not the easiness that defeated me but the stress of imagining that I would never again be allowed to smoke.
But finding another way to do something if the first few tries didn’t work out is still a Buddhist thing, so now I enjoy my smoke-free life with the help of my electronic cigarette.
I bought my first kit out of curiosity, not really thinking about the possibility of quitting.
I knew cigarettes were bad for me, I believed the warnings. I felt their harmful effects in my body. I smoked a lot, above a pack a day, for more than 20 years. I had coughing fits and, getting not only short of breath but positively dizzy or weak after a few minutes, I didn’t enjoy running or swimming anymore.
I hated the smell in my hair and in my clothes.
I wanted out but I didn’t believe I could make it.
So, when I tried my first few drags on the electronic cigarette, I never thought that this would be the end of smoking for me. I liked its taste; I liked its action and I kept using it over the day.
My remaining packs of old cigarettes—analogue cigarettes, as I’ve learned to say—I left close at hand on the shelf, so that I wouldn’t be worried about needing to go out to get some should I feel the need. But I puffed away quite contentedly on my new cig and the need never arose. After a few days of this, I started to think that maybe it would never do.
I left smoking behind me without the slightest effort or discomfort.
Hardships strengthen you and can fuel your practice, but what we wish for all sentient beings is not hardship but ease, joy and the cessation of suffering.
And I’m just grateful to be let off this particular form of suffering.
The best I can do now is to practice mindfulness of gratitude.
Bonus track: Walt Whitman, author of the line inspiring my title, reading his poem, America, home of the first inventor of the e-cig, Herbert A. Gilbert.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum/Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth