Our past selves exist only in our minds and our refusal to change is clinging on to ghosts of the past. Even this moment right here and now is sadly gone, and is gladly replaced by a new here and now. The past can only live in our minds and so does the future, we can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future, we can only change our perception of the past and our aim into the future. We need to allow our old selves to symbolically die so our new selves can rise from the metaphorical ashes. We can choose how we view the past, either as painful and humiliating or as a series of learning experience. We can choose to view the future as a series of insurmountable obstacles or a whole lot of opportunities for growth. The fourth dimension, time, can be explained with an analogy. For a cigarette addict not smoking is a mental exercise just like the first time at the gym for a beginner-bodybuilder. The brain can be said to be a muscle like other muscles in the body, the brain is not only one muscle, it is a few muscles. Different muscles in the brain, different parts of the brain, need practice and repetition to grow and become proficient at certain tasks. If we see smoking as a muscle, we know that the smoker has been working hard on building the smoking-muscle, those parts of the brain that deal with smoking are active and strong. The beginner bodybuilder understands that it takes time and effort to build muscles, and the smoker will understand the abstaining from cigarettes takes time and effort. In our minds we hold on image of a future shaped by our efforts in the now, eventually that future will materialize if we put in the required effort. The smoker has been using the smoking muscle in the incorrect manner, muscles are not meant to harm the body, and the smoking muscle leads to bodily harm because it used in the incorrect manner. The smoker knows that the smoking muscle can be retrained into the non-smoking muscle, the correct function of the muscle. We just need to do the correct workout routine to transform the muscle into its full potential, strong, lean and alert.
Our present self will find it very difficult to abstain for an hour from the first cigarette in the morning, or even the second cigarette, while our future selves will have a hard time understanding how our past selves didn’t choke to death from smoking cigarettes and how we were able to smoke so much. We keep in mind the fourth dimension. We have now developed the mental capacity for, and our brain muscle has become accustomed to, the exercise of non-smoking. Now we come to the most profound choice of them all for us smokers: either we choose to wake up and take charge of our now hugely muscular brain and live our lives fully aware, or we choose to go back to the familiar solitary confinement cell in the prison of the nicotine-induced coma. Why is there a bitter taste to this choice? The monkey is losing its best friend, the cigarette, and feels sad. The monkey is unable to imagine the future without the cigarette. The human mind understands that a harmful relationship needs to end and it needs to be grieved and finally let go. As the monkey slowly lets go of the grip to the smoking tree, it grieves, it heals and holds a firm new grip to the non-smoking tree as it watches the smoking tree burn to ashes. The monkey has survived and it has surrendered its will to the human spirit. The monkey is tamed.
As long as we don’t overdo the time limits and end up punishing or unintentionally hurting ourselves, we will slowly move towards a smoke free future self. It would be unwise to decide to postpone our first cigarette for 16 hours on our first day. When we are able to postpone our first cigarette for 16 hours then we have reached the day-mark and it is time to go to bed without smoking. When we are able to abstain an entire day from smoking we can opt to smoke before bedtime or continue with the time limit method with days instead of hours. When we manage to wake up in the morning, spend an entire day not smoking and then go to sleep without smoking, we imagine that we have beat the smoking habit and that we are free, until the urge to smoke returns the next day stronger than before. The monkey will not go down without a fight, the monkey will fight us at every turn as if it’s life depended on it, the old self is literally, metaphorically, fighting for survival. The monkey will fight any and all attempts at taking away its only relief and escape, the cigarette. The monkey will not allow itself to be tamed without a fight. A monkey that resists taming is a healthy monkey, a sick monkey doesn’t resist at all. We can expect the monkey to fight us at every turn and the reward is all the fighting energy of the monkey will eventually be ours to command. The will is a slave to the wild monkey, the tame monkey is a slave to the will.
When we have reached a full day of non-smoking and go to bed without smoking, we can choose to smoke the next morning. It is permissible and it is not a sign of failure, it is actually a learning opportunity. We can spend that day as regular smokers without undue guilt or shame. At the end of that day we can look back at two consecutive days; one as nonsmokers and the other as smokers. We can now compare the smoking life with the non-smoking life using fresh memories in our mind and decide which way of life feels better. This decision will not be final and irreversible, it will be decision on the direction we want to take in life. Do we want to move towards life as smokers or do we want to move towards life as non-smokers? We are not quitting smoking. We can compare life as smokers with life as a non-smokers and live both lives simultaneously, just as we would compare two apples we are holding in our hands, one fresh and the other rotten with worms, and we can compare smoking with non-smoking. No other decision in our lives will be as well informed as our decision on smoking: To be or not to be a smoker, that is the question. It will be like buying a pair of shoes knowing full well in advance there will be no chafe when we go on a mountain hike. We are free to choose if we want to smoke or not, because we have become free from the habit and the monkey has been tamed.