In What Shall be Known as "The Downswing"

2011 was an amazing year.  It may be too soon to declare, but I suspect it will go down as one of the most formative of my life.  The crescendo built like an ocean wave, peaked in November, and by December, it all came crashing down, leaving me drenched and confused in a pool of standing water littered with the fractured pieces of what I had come to call my "self."

But the deluge that swept my life clean, though it may have left me battered, has been the greatest blessing.  The sudden lightness, the liberation, of having so much burden so violently ripped away is a high that I had never known, and I rode that high for a good, long while, alive with the thrill of destruction and attuned to the buzz of rebirth beneath the fresh, new ground.  But for we among the unenlightened, a high is not eternal bliss.  And even at our highest, we know, one day, we must come down.  The heightened senses falter, the moods begin to dip, and soon enough we're right back where we started, or if we payed attention, just the tiniest bit wiser than before.

Eventually, the wreckage settled and the debris was cleared away, but now that I have landed on solid, albeit muddy ground, the vantage has shifted to eye level and the surrounding emptiness unsettles me.  A destructive pattern of behavior has emerged and I believe it to be a response to the elusive nature of my own bliss and the disturbing quiet of the clarity it affords.  

This is a tantrum.  I am stirring up the muck.

It is true that I live in the live music capitol of the world -- a party town to be reckoned with -- but, like any good Ashtangi, I mostly keep to myself.   (Note:  I am fully aware that I use my practice as a way to justify my aversion to socialization.)  But once in a while, when the moon is full or the night is otherwise romantic, I do venture out.

About a month ago, a dear friend of mine took me to a great little spot.  We drank for hours, ran into old friends, heard incredible music, and pretty much had a great time.  Well into my fourth beer (a LOT for me), my friend pulled out a pack of smokes and HOLY LORD!  They looked so good.

My friend, knowing full well that I had quit smoking some time ago, did not offer me a cigarette....

I asked for one.  He obliged.  And it was AMAZING.  Like... Better-than-sex-oh-my-fucking-GOD AMAZING!

I felt awful the next morning, but it was nice to be able to enjoy a smoke at the time and not feel threatened by the cigarette, as if it had any sort of power over me.  Weeks went by without another thought about it until, a week ago, I found myself out for beers with some work friends.  Right around the time beer number one-too-many was ordered, I remembered that cigarette.  I wanted one.  Badly.  

I bought a pack.

I had two that night, took them home and, not knowing what to do, put them in my freezer.  I noticed that simply keeping them in my freezer made them so much more prevalent in my consciousness.  Throughout the week, I would think of cigarettes at random.

Last night, in a post-teaching energetic slump, I took another smoke from the pack.  I stood outside and gazed at the city-dim stars, burning Camel in one hand and glass of red wine in the other.  I smoked slowly and swayed in the cool night as that familiar nicotine high took a firm hold of my brainstem, slid down my spine and through my limbs with the seductive patience of a confident lover.

Five minutes later, it was done.  

My skin turned cold.  My numb heart echoed with an artificial rhythm inside my deadened chest.  I thought of all the years spent feeling just like this -- somehow used, betrayed, abused.  I looked back on the many years of life lived full of poisons masquerading as emotion, years with soulless patrons masquerading as my friends.

I went inside and retrieved the pack of Camels from the freezer.  Then I doused them in the sink and threw them all away.  Somewhat to my own surprise, I felt no sense of loss.


  1. good for you. we all struggle. You're making it. You will be ok.

    1. Thanks, Anon. Lucky for me, I happen to really enjoy the struggle.

  2. I can pretty much relate to all that has been written in your post, right from sequestering yourself, to beers and fag with friends, to a night of red wine and cigarettes to eventually throwing away the pack once and for all. God Bless You.

  3. I am not surprised that I read this blog post of yours today. My friend and I were just talking this morning of cigarette smoking in relation to a spiritual practice as were are both working on promoting The Gathering, A Spiritual Woodstock, week long retreat. She smokes but I do not. Our "boss" just lightened the terms and conditions of attending The Gathering. At first he wanted people to be free of all addictions: drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, etc....I spoke to him about this telling him he was cutting off probably more than half the number of people who are interested in Self-Awakening. At first his thoughts were that if one is really into their spiritual practice, they wouldn't be addicted to these things. I begged to differ! I know many people are addicted to one thing or another including food, sex, cussing as well as the above mentioned. So recently he posted a blog about loosening these restrictions a bit. Even if we are not addicted, we still indulge! I joked with him and told him I was going to sneak in dark chocolate! hahha!
    Thanks for your honesty! I can relate and so can others!
    Om Shanti!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Karuna. And thank you for asking your "boss" to reconsider his position. Each person's journey is unique. Many of us (that's an understatement) struggle with addictions, be they to substance, sensation, or relation.

      This does not mean that we are not sincere in our practice. On the contrary, these addictions offer a clear and elegant stage upon which to explore the nature of the self. I am forever thankful for the depth of understanding I have arrived at through my struggles.

  4. Loved this post! I am an ex smoker (not a non-smoker, I like remembering:) ). Denial is not something I handle well at all, however when this smoking addiction became an area of life that my ego actively loathed and loved at the same time it was not good; confusing and exhausting. I genuinely know my practice helps with this. Thanks for writing about this... You'll ride the wave out...

  5. Ha I hear you lady! Tough one. I occasionally have relapses too. It's human. They are getting less frequent and usually occur when I'm separated from my practice..... Good luck x

  6. Never quit quitting smoking even when you slipped off from your discipline once in a while. AS long as you keep trying, one day your body and mind would eventually get the idea that you don't need it anymore.

    1. Thanks for the advice, but this is not a matter of discipline. I made a conscious choice to smoke those cigarettes, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

  7. I just blogged about it, too :) I get what you mean about the OMGITSSOGDWHATAMIGOINGTODO! We forgive, and move on :)