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franklin county times

Blowing smoke

There are a group of monks in Tibet that chain smoke.

You’re not crazy. You read that right. There are a group of monks in Tibet that chain smoke.

If your mind works like mine, you will now think of that 60 percent of the time you see someone puffing. I will remind you again, just in case you forgot: There are a group of monks in Tibet that chain smoke.

They say they smoke to “honor the darkness within.” The monks believe if we do not acknowledge that part of ourselves, it will become so repressed it will surface suddenly and consume our lives.

They see our darkness like a dragon in a cave. If you throw it a little something now and then, it’s good. If you don’t, the dragon will burst out the cave and burn your village.

My own dragon is bored lately. I don’t smoke, but I recently kicked a long-standing nicotine habit. I’ve also dropped energy drinks and coffee.

It’s amazing how much better I sleep and how much less anxiety I feel, but the benefits don’t drown out the dragon. I’m not used to the calm.

I’ve known nervousness so long, peace can be uncomfortable. The dragon wants to get a Monster and make up problems.

My dragon is hungry lately. I’ve lost weight this year by listening to my body and stopping when I’m full, but I still believe a good morning begins with chocolate milk, a good day has fried fish in it and a good night ends with ice cream.

My hip hurts less. I have more energy. I feel so much better – but the dragon thinks none of that matters because Big Macs are two for $5 again.

I wish I could tell you that is as demanding as the darkness within me gets.

I wish I could tell you that, but there have been times in my life when I lived in the cave and stayed out of the village. I wallowed in darkness until I couldn’t control it. The dragon called all the shots and kept the real me at bay.

By God’s grace, I escaped back to where I belong, but I’m still a long ways from the light I want to live in. That’s why I like remembering those monks.

They don’t quit, you know? They don’t stomp out a Kool and say “I’m not good enough to monk anymore. I’m going home.” They press onward, seeking God, seeking their own light.

They are as divine after burning one as they were before.

On my best days, a whiff of a Winston reminds me I’m not in this alone. It reminds me, while I’m trying my best not to pull in Starbucks, that a monk’s standing in a sand garden, digging in his robe for a lighter.

I hope you’ll remember him too. I hope you’ll remember you’re not alone. You, me and our black-lunged brethren are all out here together, battling dragons and blowing smoke.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.