So, this is not a blog about demonic ‘will power’ or training your mind or eating pills or becoming some athletic freak – all to quit smoking and drinking.
This is a blog about 2 real life experiences.
Conclusion – Part 1
Yeah – this conclusion comes before the post, because it’s important to set the context.
In life, if you notice, you will rarely quit something that’s nice and pleasing.
Example – we have all been through one heart break in life. In most cases, the boy or the girl leaves the partner – it’s rarely a ‘mutual’ parting…
Take even more mundane things – you will rarely quit a job that’s cozy and comfy – unless you get fired – a la – the job leaves you.
So, my real life experience is about making smoking and drinking leave you – rather than you leaving smoking and drinking (which frankly is impossible).
Till the age of 30, I had never had a single drink or smoke.
Then ‘dot com’ happened to me around 1999 with my first company ‘contests2win.com’…
Crazy times, crazier company!
For about 10 years (2001-2011), I enjoyed the occasional cigar and more so, the occasional cigarette. The smoke became a ‘morning’ thing (one ciggy only); then when my wife began riding with me to the office, it became a ‘night time’ indulgence.
I really liked my solo cigarette – and would go out of my way to enjoy it.
While travelling abroad, the weather, the company of my colleagues, etc would take the number upto 2-3 a day.
Now, the cigarette count never went above this 2-3 a day.
Well, this is the secret:
Around the time of the dot com bust of 2001, I did my first ‘Art of Living’ course.
Post the first (beginners) level, I did the advanced course exactly after a year.
On the first day of the advanced course, one of the volunteers there asked me, “So, do you smoke and drink?”
That person laughed and said, “Hahaha – let’s see what lasts longer – your commitment to meditation or your desire to smoke and drink…”
I never understood that joke for a long time…
In the past 10 years, I have been practicing my Art of Living meditation techniques like a FIEND. Come morning, day or night, somehow and some place, I make time to do my daily meditation for 30-50 minutes.
The result of this meditation is that around July 2011, Smoking QUIT ME.
I had a horrible cough in January 2011 that took 3 months to disappear – something that had never happened to me before. Naturally I did not smoke during that time.
Post April, the desire to smoke vanished in me.
I tried to smoke one cigarette in July 2011 (out of curiosity) and after 1-2 drags began to feel nauseous. I threw the cigarette away and washed my hands vigorously.
What I realized that moment was that the deep breathing and meditation had created a replusion in my body towards smoking.
I haven’t smoked a ciggy since July 2011…
I had my first alcoholic drink – an Orange ‘Breezer’ in London with a very good friend – Jay Zaveri in a beautiful pub on Edgware Road – London.
Yeah, imagine a ‘breezer’ in an English Pub being drunk by a fully grown up man 🙂
Since then I’ve had a soft corner for alcohol – it made me ‘happy’ (like it does to everyone else). In fact wine gave a completely new dimension to my palate and senses. Everything about wine intrigued me so much, that I ended up doing 2+ wine tasting courses!
In the past 5 years, I became increasingly fond of Single Malts and Whiskeys (Ballantine 17 being my all time favorite).
Around the time smoking left me, drinking still stayed and I enjoyed its company.
In November 2011, my wife and I visited Babaji’s cave in the Himalayas.
The trip was organized by Ananda Sangha and was lead by Daya Taylor (pictured below) and her husband Keshav Taylor.
The trip was magical and had a huge spiritual impact on us – see the facebook album here of the trip.
For about a month after I came back, I did not feel like drinking at all.
I resumed drinking somewhere in December 2011 and for the first time I started feeling a bit uneasy if I had 2 large drinks. (I could never drink more than three large pegs anyway!!)
My symptoms were extreme drowsiness at night (say 11-11:30pm) and then I would wake up around 3-4am and not be able to go back to sleep.
This would leave me groggy and ruin my entire day.
I just shrugged it off as ‘you gotta respect age and alcohol’ and continued merrily indulging in my weekend 7pm ritual and the occasional mid week celebrations.
Each time I was to fly out of India I would always book my 2 bottles of Ballantine 17 at the Mumbai airport before catching my flight (Mumbai Duty Free has a provision).
I was happily stocked up!
In May 2012, my wife and I joined a group of Ananda Sangha to visit 8 monasteries in Leh and Ladakh.
The trip was magical. See the facebook album of that trip here.
On the last day of that trip, after we had descended the steps of the last Monastery and were walking towards our bus, I began chatting with Daya (the leader of the trip). I have no idea why, but I spoke about my occasional tryst with alcohol.
Daya said, “Alok, you know that to meditate and to achieve spiritual glory, you will need to get rid of that ‘stuff’. Let’s work on it.”
This was the exact place where our conversation took place:
We returned home around the 7th of May 2012.
A couple of days later, one morning when I opened my wardrobe to select a shirt, I saw 8-10 bottles of single malts all sitting pretty in the corner.
Something revolted inside of me.
I felt that the bottles had no place in my wardrobe where I also keep my prayer beads & meditation mat.
That same day I packed my bottles, took them to office and placed them inside the cabinet of an empty desk next to me.
Since that day, I have not consumed alcohol.
Something inside me that wanted to drink has vanished.
I dunno what happened at that Leh trip, but all of a sudden, I just don’t ‘remember’ alcohol anymore (you know what I mean – on a weekend, when you go out, you think of ‘getting a drink’.)
A couple of times when I was in the USA this July, I felt a twang of temptation when a really fine bottle of red wine was ordered by my VC – Sumant Mandal. Strangely, that feeling passed very quickly.
– In my case, meditation and trips to sacred places blessed with saints and gods probably made my smoking and drinking desire go away. I think Daya blessed me with the intent to ‘work’ on my drinking habit and that had an instant effect.
– In your case, it could be something else! Maybe a hobby, a new sport, anything!
Oh, sure – you MUST try Yoga and Pranayam and any kind of meditation – that’s guaranteed to make you allergic to smoking and alcohol.
The message I am trying to bring across is that by luck, by chance, by design – make these habits leave you, rather than the other way around.
First Published on: Oct 8, 2011