I have to admit that I was inspired to write this article for a friend who is trying to quit smoking. She’s been smoking since she was 14 years old, so the habit is “well-laid in”. She asks me, “Why can’t I just wake up tomorrow a non-smoker?!”
I realize I have MANY more reasons to write this article because many of YOU are hooked by the wanting. It doesn’t have to be food, alcohol, or cigarettes, it could be wanting to be needed, loved or acknowledged. Whatever it is, it is an expression of a longing for something either more than or different from what you already have.
So let’s take a look at what YOU can do.
The following is a Mindfulness Practice to apply to whatever it is you are wanting:
1. Examine the Wanting Mind:
Just name the particular want when you experience the wanting mind, “Oh there I am wanting a cigarette (a piece of cake, praise) again.” When you become familiar with recognizing and naming wanting, then it will become easier to notice when you are captured, and therefore you will more likely be able to free yourself.
This is where I would like to remind you that meditation is a way for you to practice noticing how your mind works around wanting – it arises, you note it, and then let it dissolve. This is a highly effective way of observing desires and letting them go instead of being subjected to a barrage of wants.
2. Loosen Your Fixation:
Sasha T. Loring, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, describes fixation as such; “fixation is a narrowing of attention onto one thing that we are strongly attracted to or repelled by. If it is attraction, a very compelling momentum is created to get the object of fixation, including having thoughts about the object as well as feeling a physical sensation, something like a hole that needs to be filled.”
How many of us have found ourselves so fixated that we ignored the consequences? How often do I say “oh my tummy hurts!” Ask my girlfriend!
By using conscious awareness, you can separate the wanting from the getting. When you practice becoming more aware of your attention as an aspect of your mind that you can actually take charge of and use as a support, you can notice when it has been kidnapped and deliberately take it back.
3. Make Offerings
Now the practice I’m about to share is considerably different and not found in any diet or quit smoking book. But I think it is powerful. I tried it myself.
Offer the object of your desire.
If it’s a cigarette, who would you offer it to? Probably NO ONE! So why would you offer it to yourself?! Notice that you are one, interrupting your reaction to just pick up the cigarette and smoke. Two, it opens a door of compassion to your SELF. It’s those subtle moments of recognition that are the most powerful in our lives. By starting with our own mind, we begin to reverse the craving that often drives our behaviors.
So the next time you find yourself in front of your cravings or wants, ask yourself, “What am I doing here? What do I feel in my heart? Can I give it a name?” Your attention has gone to wanting, fixated on something external to fill your pain or dissatisfaction. Bring your attention back to being present with what you are experiencing. Sit down for a moment and hold that feeling in compassion. And you may want to say the following,
“May everyone have the food they need, the happiness they seek, and may they attain relief from the suffering of a dissatisfied mind.”