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Ready to Change for the Better

Greetings everyone. First off I want to say how happy I was to find this community and the tremendous amount of positivity I felt just reading through a few random threads here.

Years ago in college I was exposed to yoga, tai chi and meditation. I was immediately very attracted to how those practices made me feel mentally and physically, felt like they helped me strive for more positive thinking and healthy habits in my life, and practiced all 3 to a moderate degree for a couple of years.

Now almost 30, and a couple of failed relationships and professional struggles deep, I have become pretty far-removed from those practices and the benefits I once felt from them. I smoke an average of 10 cigarettes per day, smoke marijuana daily, have acid reflux, and have chronic back injury problems. I have actually been unable to work for the last couple of months because of a herniated disc in my spine. I have begun physical therapy for this, which is helping, but I digress.

Aside from my poor habits and addictions, I am overall happy in my life. Actually, I feel that during my short time experimenting (if I'm honest with myself, experimenting is really the extent of my experience) with those practices, I developed something of an emotional foundation that seems to "catch" me during periods of sadness or depression. This is a foundation that I don't believe I would have if I had never discovered any Buddhist practice.

For all of these reasons, I am ready to be humble and be humbled. I am ready to make a serious attempt to take my life back and really take control of my daily routines again. I know that no one can do these things for me, that I have to develop the strength and discipline to make the changes myself and solidify them as part of my daily life. That said, I am also admittedly afraid and anxious to let go of my addictions. Honestly, I am sweating and very uncomfortable right now just thinking about not having nicotine and THC in my system. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but on most days they are the first thing I turn to in the morning.

I guess I really am just wondering if any of you have any suggestions or advice for me on how to begin. Like I said, although I experimented with meditation, yoga, and tai-chi in my earlier days, I was really never educated on any of them past a beginner level, and simply practiced a "plateaued" beginner version of them for the 2-3 years that I continued with them. In other words I never continued learning, and slowly allowed them to fade from my life and be replaced by bad decisions.

I would really appreciate any feedback that anyone has to offer. Color me a "blank slate" open to learn. Thank you, and I wish peace and love upon all of you.

silverTigger

Comments

  • Welcome @eternal_novice Nice to meet you. =)

    I don't have advice regarding all of your concerns, but I can give you a couple of suggestions.

    As far as yoga and tai-chi, are there any beginner's programmes offered near you? I'd be inclined to be looking for them.

    Maybe a therapist or a programme like Narcotics Anonymous would be of help with addiction issues.

    Vastmindeternal_novice
  • Actually, was going to recommend marijuana-anonymous.org for the tough-to-kick THC addiction. You might also consider John Haspel's online secular Buddhism course for a solid grounding in shamatha-vipassana meditation rooted in the Buddha's teaching. Google his name and book "The Truth of Happiness." For a good and esteemed book on starting up (or restarting) a meditation practice in the absence of a teacher or sangha consider Bhante Gunaratana's "Mindfulness in Plain English." If you're on Facebook, also might be good to follow the page devoted to "the Skillful Teachings of Thanissaro Bhikhu," a quite prolific, always enlightening teacher on the ins and outs of practice.

    eternal_novice
  • Or rather "Bhikkhu."

  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran

    It's good that you have practice of yoga. It will help you in meditation. You should learn vipasana as @Dhammika said.
    You should also google vippasana meditation traning. You will find goenkaji's free training institute.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator

    Hi, @eternal_novice , nice to meet 'n' greet you.
    I echo @genkaku 's advice: Take it easy, and don't be too hard on yourself.
    I don't know what kind of a personality you have... a gradually-dipping-your-toes-in type, or a 'plunge right in both feet first' type.
    If you plan to go cold turkey with the things you seek to give up, then don't tell others - or yourself - that you have quit smoking. Use the term "I don't smoke". This creates a psychological affirmation in your head, of being a non-smoker, not of having 'given up' anything.
    Otherwise, it is as genkaku says.
    Find something which grabs you; read some books until you find one that resonates, and above all, keep putting one foot in front of the other.
    Nobody achieved a journey by standing still and playing it safe.

    BunksVastmindeternal_novice
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The problem for most people who want to give up smoking, is what to do with the hand that would normally hold the cigarette,..It's something that is often overlooked.... 'Coffee mug/wine glass/tea cup/beer glass in one hand and smoke in the other, this deeply ingrained habitual automatic response when picking up a glass or cup, needs to be fazed out and replaced with a healthier habit...One could even try carrying around a small set of Mala beads, using the fingers of the old cigarette hand one could count the beads as one chants a mantra ....

    To get jump started on the path again...check out youtube, there are numerous Dharma talks and teachers from all the different traditions....

    Metta

    BunksVastmind
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited February 2016

    Hello!....come on in. =)

    Good advice so far, so I wont repeat.

    Just take everything one day at a time. B)

  • Thank you all for your kind advice and encouragement :) It really helps to know that there are people out there that support you, even if you've never had the privilege of meeting in person.

    I am already compiling a list of reading material, teachers and programs that you guys have suggested. I found a pdf ebook that I downloaded years ago but never got around to reading; entitled "The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering" by Bhikkhu Bodhi. So far it is a very encouraging read.

    @federica I love the "I don't smoke" suggestion as a way of looking at things. I am totally going to try this.
    @Shoshin The coffee mug in one hand and cigarette in the other is definitely me! I find that sometimes the ritual of "the break" is almost more difficult for me to fight than nicotine sometimes. I just need to find other ways to take breaks throughout the day.

    What do you guys like to do for breaks at work or places where you can't necessarily sit in lotus or stretch out on the floor? I almost always feel very constricted in places where it is not the social norm to practice yoga or meditation openly. I think it is one of the main factors that led to me allowing those practices to drift out of my life.

    Again thank you all very, very much. You have no idea how much your words mean to me right now.

    personVastmindlobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator

    @eternal_novice said:...What do you guys like to do for breaks at work or places where you can't necessarily sit in lotus or stretch out on the floor? I almost always feel very constricted in places where it is not the social norm to practice yoga or meditation openly. I think it is one of the main factors that led to me allowing those practices to drift out of my life.

    There's this tendency to (mistakenly) believe that in order to meditate, or practice, it's imperative to adopt a certain position or stance.

    While it may be a helpful remedy, it's not necessarily true.

    I work in a retail environment: I normally work so that I am entitled to a mere 15 minute break in the afternoon. On a full day, I have 2 15-minute breaks, and one half-hour break for lunch.

    All the staff lament that the breaks are not longer, but it is what it is.
    I am a voluble, articulate and talkative individual, but I sip my tea in silence, listen to the chatter around me, and try my best to add no mental commentary of my own. I just 'absorb' the sensation and experience of drinking tea. I merely witness without involving myself in the chatter. Sometimes, i will take a book, sit apart, and 'read'...Only, I won't be reading. I will just focus gently on one word, and repeat it to myself, as a silent, peace-bringing mantra.

    Lotus positions or Yogic Lion poses not necessary, or even mandatory.

    Again thank you all very, very much. You have no idea how much your words mean to me right now.

    Oh I have to say, we're pretty cool at this with new guys and gals.

    You're very welcome, And you're welcome. Very.

    BunksVastmind
  • Ready to Change for the Better

    Indeed. I feel you are. Bravo.

    @genkaku provided excellent advice.

    The first thing is always patience, you will need time for that. ;)

    For all of these reasons, I am ready to be humble and be humbled.

    Outstanding.
    Always clip your own claws (lobsterian dharma).

    Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. How cool! With a few decades of practice you could end up a practitioner. Let us know how you get on.

  • At one time I quit cold turkey on drinking. And at another cold turkey on smoking pipes (which I chain smoked 1 per hour).

    From what I remember my teacher saying "don't be divided" helped me. Don't let one half of you need to smoke and the other knock yourself for the habit. If your going to smoke then smoke and be honest. Be honest of what you expect from the smoke. Be honest on if it delivers what it promises. For me alcohol didn't deliver what it promised and smoking pipes I mainly quit because it was compulsive and I had tolerance to the buzz. Also 'sitting with discomfort' helps unturn those habitual 16 turns as genkaku mentioned. Even if you eventually give in and smoke up still if you fight the craving as long as you can it is still good. The habit is limited but the effert you can make can just keep coming and coming. My teachers facebook educational page might be of interest to take a look. https://www.facebook.com/BuddhismConnect/?fref=ts

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I think it's great that you found us, @eternal_novice, and it's nice to meet you, too.

    The only idea I have to lend is the one about what to do with your hands when you decide to give up smoking. I've bought different healing gem stones and I thought having one to keep in your pocket and one on your nightstand / at home would give you something to do. In my parent's time, they called them 'fidget stones' and they are polished rocks, usually round or oval. I have a rose quartz heart-shaped stone that I use and you can get them in all sorts of colors. Go to amazon.com - they have a lots of stuff to look at - also, Krystal Love based in Australia has lots of cool gem stones.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Lots of good advice :) The one thing I will add that has helped me with things in my life, is to drop the identity label. Don't refer to yourself as a smoker. You aren't a smoker. You just engage in the activity of smoking. Don't let smoking, drinking, or anything else be part of your identity. If you separate from it as a part of your identity, it is easier to let it go. That attachment isn't as strong on a psychological level. When we label ourselves that way, it becomes who we are instead of something we do. I do it even with positive activities now. I run. I don't think of myself as a "runner" though. Because when I do that, it changes my perception of myself . I mean, if someone asks if I"m a runner, I just answer yes, lol. But I don't assign it as my identity. People who do have such an incredibly difficult time if they get injured and have to take time off. No different than the struggles people with addictions feel. We get addicted to our labels. We need them to communicate, but we don't have to BE them.

    lobsterBunksPer4umer
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @eternal_novice said:

    What do you guys like to do for breaks at work or places where you can't necessarily sit in lotus or stretch out on the floor? I almost always feel very constricted in places where it is not the social norm to practice yoga or meditation openly. I think it is one of the main factors that led to me allowing those practices to drift out of my life.

    Hello again. Happy Valentines Day (not suitable for @SpinyNorman) <3

    @federica advice is very pragmatic. Formal practice is usually done privately. However internal practices such as mindfulness, quiet chanting, right concentration, sitting on a park bench, non-formal walking meditation can be done esoterically/internally/secretly.

    @silver idea of a stone can be extended to a prayer bead or fingernail. In a bit of mild asceticism we can (one of my practices) press reasonably hard to bring ourselves into mindful awareness.

    Again thank you all very, very much. You have no idea how much your words mean to me right now.

    Well said.

    We do know because you have told us. Keep up the good work! :)

  • Hi, I sympathise, I don't have these addictions personally but know people who do.

    Good on you to try and kick the habit.

    My advice for what it is worth would be to try acupunture.
    hope you succeed.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited October 2016

    It's a shame @eternal_novice has only visited the forum twice; but we are always open, always here, for the occasional traveller or the long-stay enthusiast. In the words of the famous Windmill Theatre in London: "We never close".

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