I had an interesting experience/conversation Friday evening before last, as I waited for a friend in a yoga studio. As I sat on the couch, two people came to speak with me. One had met me more than ten years ago, the other had met me within the last ten years.
The woman who has known me over the course of ten-plus years told me that she found I was more fun "back then" (i.e. when I used to smoke, drink, party, etc) and that now I'm not fun.
The other person, who met me about two years ago, was open-mouth shocked. "Wow! I think she's a lot of fun!" he said. (I think I am too). He was also shocked to know that I used to drink and smoke. People who know me now usually can't put the two together. (I can't even put the two together!) They see me as being very 'clean'. They see my early bedtime, early yoga mornings, lack of interest in loud music and crowds as the way I have always been. And I guess it is who I always was, under the smoke.
The time I automatically wake up now to do yoga (sadhana) is the time I often used to be going to sleep after coming home early in the morning or being up late doing whatever-I-was-doing.
My desire to not be out socializing in loud/crowded pubs, clubs, etc is not because I never did. It's because they feel empty and false to me. How can you really get to know that person you are shouting at over the music, clouded by smoke and numbed by intoxicants? But more importantly, how can you get to know yourself?
When I started practising Kundalini Yoga ten years ago, I changed and so did my life. On the morning of 8 January 2001 (3 months after starting Kundalini) I awoke and, as I sat up in bed, a clear voice said: "You will not smoke again." I can't explain the experience beyond that. It was very simple and it was not my imagination. The thought of questioning the Voice did not even occur. Clearly I was ready and the Voice knew it.
From that day on, I never smoked again (I used to chain smoke), never even had a craving. On that same day, coffee drinking (I used to have a few cups a day) and consumption of alcohol (social beverage) also fell away. I did not have to try to give up anything ... and I have not looked back. I do not miss them for one second. That day was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Probably saved my life.
I'm not being judgmental when I say this, because I understand on many levels why smoking happens ... but now when I see people puffing away, it looks like an illusion, like some mirage behind a veil (literally and figuratively). It hurts to look at it. I see packs of cigarettes in the grocery and feel my stomach churn.
When will they package a few deep breaths in a box?
I remember once driving through Manzanilla with a friend who was visiting and, on one particular inhalation that went very deep, I said: "Wow, I feel like I just smoked myself!" In that moment I realised: maybe that's why people smoke - to inhale so deeply (even though that breath is filled with toxins). We are so subconscious about our breathing. We breathe shallowly, we hold our breath for long periods, we take it for granted. Yet each breath is what keeps us alive.