THE BLOG
12/15/2014 08:43 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

What Cigarettes Taught Me

YES, I smoked cigarettes.

The first week of January 2015 will mark five years since I looked at my pack of Marlboro Mediums and made a deal with myself. I had been sitting out on my deck in the backyard, and if truth be told, kind of hiding. I was never exactly loud and proud when it came to this habit, which was telling in and of itself. And on that afternoon, when I glanced down and took an inventory -- there were only five or six cigarettes, all standing at attention. "OK, this is it -- you can smoke them all now or spread them out as long as you like, but when these are done... you are done."

I kept my promise.

Oddly, I didn't drink or smoke all the years I lived in Europe gallivanting around in the fashion world, and that was back in the day when everyone was still smoking everywhere -- it was totally the norm. I don't even recall picking up that first cigarette, but I do recall all the space it subsequently occupied in my life. I expended enormous amounts of time attempting to disguise it (though one must go to epic feats to actually disguise the stench of smoke that lingers on). I was a quasi-closet case in this department. Upon admission, people always acted terribly surprised to hear that I was a smoker -- "you don't look like a smoker." I bought into that and kind of hid behind the shroud of secrecy. If I don't look like a smoker, than I must not really be one, just visiting, just passing through. Well, tell that to my lungs.

This blog isn't about smoking, despite the above confessional. It is about self-care. It is about connecting the dots between all aspects of our lives. It's about listening... not to others, but rather to ourselves, not brushing that inner voice aside. A spiritual guide once told me that the lungs are where we hold our grief and that the act of smoking is a form of self-medication. That's not to say that I'm in any way stereotyping this insight and making a grand sweeping gesture upon all smokers of the world, however -- it did resonate with me. And it resonated in a BIG way.

What are we doing when we are smoking? We are taking a timeout, taking a "breather," gasping for air. Could we replace it with something else? Could we ask ourselves, what's going on underneath all of this? Am I harboring sorrow and medicating it? Can a puff on a cigarette simply be a puff on a cigarette?

I had been thinking of quitting for a long time. I had been thinking about my health -- and then of course there was that one incident forever burrowed into my memory banks, when my young son at the time discovered me crouched down and puffing away behind the garage. Arms crossed and furious, he asked me, "Do you want to die?" Needless to say, the sting of that moment left its imprint. Clearly there wasn't anything I could say about it, no clever retort -- "Oh don't worry, honey, Mommy will be fine." He was my voice of reason and intuitive self.

I did promise that this was not going to be a diatribe about cigarettes -- so let's just agree that it is my metaphor for the self-care sidesteps we take in our lives. Insert your own behavior or pattern -- the thing that distracts you and occupies space in your life. I believe that the more we detour, the easier it becomes to numb ourselves from the truth -- we are not operating in our true power.

We also need to take a look at how we are viewing this construct of "self-care" -- on some level, do you see it as something restrictive and therefore attach a negative connotation to it? When we hold it in a space of depravation we will be matched with the energetic pairing of craving it more.

And on another note -- self-care isn't a perfect practice. It's your life, you get to design it -- it can be modified each day. This is your script. It can be as simple as taking time to make yourself an extra yummy smoothie in the morning chock full of nutritional powerhouse ingredients, or taking a walk in the middle of the day. We can't all run off on meditative retreats and glamorous spas, but there has to be a way to infuse a bit of that into the lives we are living. We all know exactly what we need to do to operate on high volume and maximum speed, all systems go (so let's stop pretending otherwise).

The ending of one year and the beginning of a new is always an inspiring time to reassess the status quo, but the reality is that the dawn of a new day avails us of the same possibility. Each morning in bed, before you open your eyes set your intentions and re-design the blueprint. It's as simple as declaring, "This day is going to be the best day EVER!"

No more lies. No more hiding away in the proverbial backyard. Could you make a list of five easy-to-achieve self-care tactics to implement into your life, such as:

• Could you carve out 10 minutes for yourself to stretch and meditate? (NO excuses, get up earlier if you have to -- come on people, we're talking 10 minutes! Move your body and your mind.)

• Could you find a way to bring forth consciousness to what you are physically consuming and shift it just a tad? A morning ritual is an awesome way to start your day. Try a power smoothie on for size. (No excuses, if you're in a hurry, leave the blender in the sink to wash later and fill up a thermos for the road! Give your body a high-five head start.)

• Could you carve out 20 minutes to move your body during the day? (No excuses -- step away from the desk and go for a walk, get your blood pumping, breathe and clear your head! Give it a whirl.)

• Could you begin to let go of something that is dragging you down, dulling that sparkly essence of yours? (No excuses -- start with "one less of something" -- one less cookie, cigarette, drink, over-indulgence, negative behavior or thought.)

• Could you think about what you are doing / mentally consuming before bed -- what are you bringing forth into your consciousness and carrying into your dreams? Could you turn off the TV and read something inspiring? (No excuses -- drop the remote and think about feeding your mind something that supports your highest self. Sweet dreams.)

So what is your cigarette? What is quietly gnawing away at you, taking up residency -- what lesson has it gifted you? You know the answer to that question. Now, ask yourself -- am I ready to let it go? When you are ready... anything is possible. No judgment, no holier-than-thou attitudes, we're all in this together. Let's just start listening to our intuitive voices.

I still can't believe it's been five years. Thanks for the memories. Moving right along.

kristennoel.com