Letting Cigars Teach Us How to Relax
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11: 28 – 30
I started smoking cigars when I was in the Army and overseas in Germany taking care of Soldiers and their families and also those Combat Warriors who were wounded in the bloodiest battle of Iraq, Battle for Fallujah II. We didn’t have time to do the “touchy-feely” version of making sure we were all okay after a 12 – 16 hour shift of getting in wounded and prepping them for surgery or their flight back to CONUS (Continental United States) for further treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. So our NCO’s (Non-Commissioned Officers) would wait for the opportune time when we were all gathered trying to decompress and hand out cigars. It didn’t matter if you had never smoked in your life, you took the cigar and you lit it knowing that somehow this was a right of passage during military service and that it was a bonding and relaxation experience aimed at keeping us in the right frame of mind to continue with caring for those who were worn from battle.
We didn’t have “Cigars For Warriors” back in 2004 – 2005 so we smoked whatever our NCO’s could get their hands on and we didn’t care. It wasn’t about what cigar we were smoking, rather, it was about what the smoking of the cigar could do for us. Those moments were precious to me as we sat around “shooting the shit” and busting on each other for whatever silly thing we could think of. Those cigars gave us the time to unwind and to forget about war, even for just a little while.
It was only natural then that when I got out of the military I turned to cigars as a way to control the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) that had taken hold of my every day life. I didn’t know much about cigars at that point, but I never forgot what they had done for me during those long days and nights overseas and I somehow understood that they were good for me.
One of the major keys to smoking a cigar is smoking it slowly. It is in the savouring of each puff and the attention to the flavors that we get our bodies and minds to settle down and focus simply on the experience. Life is hectic and getting more hectic every day. The world spins around us and if we do not take the time to care for ourselves we find that we are caught in the tornado of life and are missing out on truly living.
The VA has been good to me. They have treated my PTS and continue to do so to this day. The panic attacks and incessant anxiety have quieted some but they are still there. When my job or life circumstances pull me back into the storm I find myself yearning for a cigar. Not because of nicotine addiction, but because it is a huge tool in my arsenal of ways to calm myself and get back into the moment. The one thing I can struggle with however is how fast or slow I smoke my cigar.
I think most of you may be able to relate in that it can be difficult to slow down sometimes when smoking. It’s about getting things done. It’s about moving onto the next task at hand. It’s about the brain constantly darting from one thought to the next. Doing that with cigars removes the intent and help they can provide for us. When I rush a smoke I am not usually overly happy with the taste or burn of the cigar. Over time I have come to realize that I am doing a disservice to the cigar not the other way around.
This is where the “art” of smoking a cigar comes in. By slowing down and taking little breathers between puffs, we give our bodies and minds the opportunity to slowly disengage from the hecticness. When we slow down, we feel better, and we get a chance to pay attention to the cigar we are smoking.
Smoking cigars is like eating a gourmet meal. If we rush through it because we are thinking of what we still have to do, we lose the essence of what we are consuming. We may feel satiated but we don’t feel content. If we take the time to enjoy each puff, let the cigar burn nicely in between our puffs, we get to relish what it gives us. Not only do we feel satisfied when we are done, but we feel relaxed, calmer and yes, content.
It used to be that I would try to get a cigar in when I didn’t have much time. It was nice but it didn’t do what I know the good Lord intended cigars to give us. I then started searching for smaller cigars such as petite coronas, to allow me to get the smoke in without sacrificing the experience due to time. I have now even gotten to the point where I will skip the smoke and tell myself that I will take the time later to have a cigar when I am not rushed. Yes, I think in psychology it is called “delayed gratification.”
I’m learning to set a cigar down once in awhile and give it time to develop that slow burn that brings out the most flavors. By understanding that slower is better, I am allowing my cigar to give me its best instead of taking what I can get in a rush and missing out on the nuances and subtleties of the tobacco. I spend time on my iPad playing games when I smoke at times but I am also learning that it is good when smoking alone, to put all the technology away and just enjoy my surroundings.
Smoking cigars is very social and it is much easier to smoke slower when we are with a group of brothers and sisters. We chat it up and pause for laughter or sharing of thoughts rather than puffing away at our cigar for the sole purpose of simply smoking it. What cigars can teach us is how to slow down when we are alone. It is a time to reflect, to pray, to observe and to experience.
When we finally realize that there is a symbiotic relationship between our cigars and our ability to relax and unwind, we will begin to enjoy our cigars and what they give us at a different level. Some of my best cigars have not always been about the cigar being a “top 25” or the latest and greatest, but instead, it is about the breathing in and out, the slowing down of our tired psyches and the ultimate quest for the elusive rest and relaxation.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your cigar smoking experiences and what it is you do to make your herf time the best it can be. I am truly grateful for my NCOs who introduced me to cigars. I would be a whole lot more anxious and tied up in knots if it was not for my cigar life!
Until next time……..
Stay Smokey and Be Blessed! I know I am!
Queen Of Cigars