Powerful Voices in my Head
It was a fresh fall evening in mid-November, 2014. Three weeks had passed since I had made myself that promise, the same promise I had made several times before. But this time was different.
I was driving home after work and suddenly, out of nowhere, the voice in my head started to go: “Mmm, I think a cigarette would feel just great right now.” Before I was even aware of emotions or sensations in my body my mind was racing ahead: “Maybe I can stop at the closest convenient store and buy a pack, I will smoke just one and give away the rest.” One cigarette is nothing, just one and it will be okay, I have done very well so far. I am sure this is not failing.”
Suddenly I heard another kinder, wiser voice, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t give up!”… In that moment started to feel my body. I noticed my shakiness, my fast breathing and my heart accelerating. I felt my body talking to me. I decided to pull over and park the car, so I did.
I closed my eyes and. I remembered impermanence. “This too shall pass,” I said to myself. “Nothing lasts forever, just wait.” So, right there in the middle of the noise from the cars and the people walking by the main avenue, I started to settle down by focusing on each in breath and each out breath. One by one I saw them come and go — Anxiety, Fear, Desire — all of them dancing around my craving. And as I stayed with my breath and emotions, little by little they faded away.
Suddenly, I could sense a smile forming on my face. My breath was peaceful. My heart was tranquil. My body felt light. New friends had arrived: Calmness and Joy were taking their turns in this scene. Even Pride said hello. “It is gone! It went away!” I heard my wiser voice say. I felt happy and proud, but not the kind of pride we feel when we achieve a task. It was more of a feeling of acknowledgement and gratitude for having had taken better care of myself.
This time was different I had said. Before I believed in will power and control. Now I know those are just an illusion. This time I knew I was vulnerable and I took care of myself with my new best friends: mindfulness and self-compassion.
Craving cigarettes is no different from craving food or other substances or activities that we consume in a way that harms us and that we then try to avoid. Craving is an energy that is very palpable as a voice in our heads. Subtle, powerful, perseverant this energy can easily become actions that harm us. But mindfulness can help us. Remembering the impermanence of things, we can be patient and use our mindfulness skills to help us when craving shows up. Things always change. Self-compassion is the energy of love that can sustain us through the difficult moments. We are human beings just trying to do our best. Mindfulness and self compassion have helped me heal and transform myself to survive the challenges in life. In the end, it is only when we are willing to weather the storm that we get to the other side.
Claudia Vega, MD, Mexico
Have you ever felt the energy of craving sabotaging your plans of taking better care of yourself?
How often does the craving for certain food ends up in your consumption of it?