Life Sucks! Buddhism makes it suck less.

Even monks still have attachments. Now that is flavor country!

Beautiful post by Marcus over at Marcus’ Journal on the process of Buddhist practice. 

But this transition from smoker to non-smoker or from drinker to non-drinker is a long process which places you, for years in my case, in an uncomfortable kind of dual identity. Though a smoker, you long to be a non-smoker and struggle towards it. And though you might now call yourself a non-drinker, there’s still that annual glass of wine, and the cravings for it, that shows you’re not there yet. 

I was and am in a similar situation with both smoking and drinking.  I quit smoking more than 2 years ago (with my wife’s first pregnancy and the hopes of giving the fetus and child a decent smoke-free start at life) and I have been attempting to moderate, to a great extent, my drinking.  The transition from habitual ways of thinking to non-habitual thinking is an important one in Buddhism. 
 

Whatever the habit, the process of de-emphasizing the attachment is largely the same.  Notice that I don’t say anything about removing or eliminating attachments.  Attachments are a permanent part of our lives.  There is no getting past that simple fact.  What Buddhism does is help us deal with it. 

I thought this commercial from Nicorette was very similar to my struggle with attachments and clinging. 

In the commercial a young man is caught in traffic and sees another driver’s cigarette. “Man, quitting sucks,” he thinks to himself.  Nicorette, meanwhile, gets some small, faint and honest praise. It’s not a miracle drug, but it “makes quitting suck less.” 

Buddhism is the same way.  It’s slogan could easily be “Life Sucks.  Buddhism makes it suck less”.  While this may seem pessimistic to some (don’t even say nihilistic) it is true that life and quitting attachment sucks at times.  For me Buddhist practice, as well as a little help from Nicorette, helped me through it.  To be honest though I only used Nicorette for the first two weeks of quitting.  The Buddhist practice I found to be much more a form of “preventive” rather than “emergency” medicine. 

In Buddhism there are no miracles.  The miracles are inherit in ourselves.  Through practice and introspection we just get to realize it.  That is a fucking miracle! 

Cheers, 

John

Check out my review of the 12 Step Buddhist for some more info.

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8 thoughts on “Life Sucks! Buddhism makes it suck less.

  1. Well, that depends on one’s experience. I used to smoke. I enjoyed it quite a bit. There was a point where I turned it around with awareness of my actions. I made the conscious decision to have a smoke, not I absolutely had to have a cigarette. When the craving would arise, I would state with conviction that I *choose* not to smoke.

    Gradually, I cut down to the point where I would have one every month, then not at all. I went from a pack a day to one every other month–without external aids other than my own awareness of my actions. I never went from ‘smoker’ to ‘non-smoker’–that view is inherently dualistic. Instead, I would tell people that ‘I stopped smoking.’

    The other day I decided to have a cigarette. I got two puffs in and reaffirmed the decision that it really wasn’t for me anymore. I tested out my attachment to the activity and found that I really don’t need it because I don’t desire it.

    Quitting never “sucked” because I didn’t deny myself anything or went into an attitude of aversion. We all make conscious decisions at each moment to participate. When negative emotions flare up, if one is aware, one can choose to follow through or not.

    Its like the scene from ‘Fight Club’ and the line “I wanted to destroy something beautiful.” Ed Norton’s character had the awareness, in the moment, of making a decision. He chose to follow through with destructive behavior and inflict suffering.

    “Life is suffering. Buddhism helps you and others suffer less.”

    • Well, that depends on one’s experience

      Oh yes, it most certainly does! And that is one of the reasons I love my practice and communicating with people through this blog. We can all agree to the first three noble truths but its that fourth one that leads to so much excitement. We can each interpret and apply the Buddha’s teachings differently to release us from our attachments.

      I never went from ’smoker’ to ‘non-smoker’–that view is inherently dualistic. Instead, I would tell people that ‘I stopped smoking.’

      I agree. We never remove the attachments. We just de-emphasize them. I will always be a smoker as well as a drinker. My habitual mind still has those connections but they are becoming more slight with every passing day. But once we smoke or drink those connections come back with a vengeance. I think any attachment we have that is ego-driven exists in this same way.

      I could not quit the way you did. I tried but it just didn’t work for me since it was always, for me, a selfish act. It was when I was working towards the benefit to others that I was able to achieve a non-smoking state. The impetus being the eventual birth of my daughter. It did, however, suck for a few weeks to quit. It was hard but sitting and practicing (yes, bowing, prostrations, chanting and all that) helped me through it.

      While I worked for a goal in that case, I did notice that there was a “preventive” benefit for all of that work. So I continue to practice.

      Thanks for your comment, GK!

      I love Fight Club too.

      Cheers,

      John

  2. I too quit smoking because of my child. I quit when he was born and then began again my last semester of college, just a few months later.

    I smoked for another couple of months and then whittled down from cigarettes to a pipe. I quit cigarettes at Thanksgiving four years ago. The pipe was more trouble than it was worth but that’s not why I quit.

    I quit smoking the pipe because my son began to notice that I did it and actually mimicked the act one day and that was it for me. I was done. Smoking wasn’t that important to me but my son NOT smoking was.

    At that point Buddhism was just an intellectual pursuit. So I can’t say it helped me through the “suck.” What helped through that was my wife reminding my why I was doing it.

    I’m going to try to use similar methods to lose weight but now I plan to increase my practice to help me deal with the stress in a positive way.

  3. Great post — so true. I posted about “sitting with what sucks” just yesterday! It’s a lot about the experience of renunciation — when it’s very difficult, and when it is effortless. I, too, find that practice helps that effortlessness (that clarity in turning towards that which is wholesome) emerge somehow. What a mystery.

  4. I also quit for my son (before he was born) but also a bit because I wanted to live longer and be/feel healthier. I quit the attachments that I had with smoking (coffe+smoke, work break+smoke, drinking+) so I was really, really pissy for a couple of weeks. I didn’t use the patch or gum or anything. I just stopped smoking gradually over 2 or 3 weeks. And yes, it sucked.

    I agree with “Life Sucks. Buddhism makes it suck less” for the most part, and have found that Buddhism has shown me that disappointment is no one’s fault but my own. It’s been awhile since I’ve really felt “let down” by anything or anyone. Shit still happens, but it doesn’t suck so bad when it does.

    Cheers.

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