Trevor Leggett

Literature & Zen Site

Making It Difficult

If one wants to give up a bad habit, but is not prepared at first simply to break it off, then a useful strategy is just to make it difficult. I saw a Japanese man, a heavy smoker, who had got the idea that it was bad for his health, and had evolved a strategy to control it. He was an artist, and artists smoke heavily. When he was at a party and wanted a cigarette, he would take out a pouch, from which he would produce a piece of metal, a flint, some indeterminate material similar to brown cotton wool, cigarette paper, cigarette holder, and a little tobacco.

Then he would roll himself a cigarette and put it in the holder. He would hold the flint in his left hand, with some of the tinder under his left thumb, near the edge of the flint. He would strike the metal on the edge of the flint and a spark or two would be produced. Sooner or later the tinder would begin to smoulder from one of the sparks, and he would bend forward to fan and blow on it, so bringing it to life.

hen he would take the cigarette holder and apply it to the smouldering tinder and, finally, light his cigarette. Then, while he was smoking, he would put away all the different implements in separate parts of the pouch.

He told me that this has reduced his tobacco consumption very much. The whole thing took about five minutes, but he said he didn't have a sense of frustration because he always knew he could have a cigarette when he wanted.

 © 1999 Trevor Leggett