X-Smoker, Seventeen Weeks

Just over seventeen weeks have passed since I smoked a cigarette, apart from the occasional cigarette I’ve dreamt about!  

I use various methods to help with the psychological effects of withdrawal: small amounts of the Nicorette Inhalator (which really helps, in my opinion) and a number of relaxation techniques. 

One of the most effective technique, I think, is the Progressive Muscle Relaxation devised by the late Edmund Jacobson, a psychiatrist and doctor, famous for telling the general public that they must relax (1934).  In PMR, the client or recipient tenses, then relaxes groups of muscles on the understanding that if tense muscle cause stress and vice versa, then the opposite must also be true – i.e. relaxed muscles lead to a calmer mind.  I’ve practised PMR at home by listening to an audio file for about three months and have noted distinct changes in posture, breathing and general muscle health (it actually feels good as well).

I also practise diaphragmatic breathing several times most days and have found this an excellent way to build up the lungs and chest after years of heavy and chain smoking. 



X-smoker: The Three Month Challenge

Initially, I didn’t want to blog about smoking cessation, as my blog concerns itself with the creative and performing arts – namely, writing, music and photography.  However, after more than two decades of heavy smoking, I had my last cigarette thirteen weeks ago and have not touched one since.  Therefore, I felt I should include a few notes about this in the blog. 

Just over three months ago, my local GP surgery arranged for me to go on a twelve week programme that included prescriptions for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and weekly carbon monoxide testing, and I supplemented the programme at home by using various Mindfulness meditations and diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  As a result of the combined efforts, my true lung age has already dropped by twelve years in a three-month period and my lung function is now considered normal.   I’m enjoying the benefits and the various meditation/breathing techniques and don’t really miss smoking at all, although I’m still using low doses of the Nicorette Inhalator.  I’ve also saved a fair bit of cash during those three months, and my asthma has stabilised with little need for medication and my blood pressure levels have dropped steadily. 

In all, pretty good news.

An NDE In Novel Writing?

Normally, I would say, “no way. Do not write about NDE’s in fiction under any conditions.”

However, I’ve searched my main character’s past and believe there are sufficient grounds for introducing one in his background following a near fatal accident the character had in his early twenties.  The central character is a tough guy, a former amateur rugby player, and somehow I feel that the experience will deepen his character.

NDE’s (Near-Death Experiences) can occur in a number of settings, often when a person comes close to death or when astronauts are training.  In some instances, a person may experience one during a faint.

Typically, the person “leaves” their body and observes scenes  from above.  Some people then travel down tunnels and/or encounter “spiritual” beings.”

Whether or not the person actually does leave their body is debatable. Mainstream scientists generally offer physical explanations. A small number of mainstream scientists, however, have suggested that consciousness as we understand it may not be totally reliant on the brain.  In other words, a person’s consciousness may literally separate from the body in certain circumstances.

Incredible stuff. Having read numerous accounts, I would say that some NDE’s sound like a mixture of buried memories whereas others are remarkable in the lucid recounting of details and the later clarification of events “observed”.

Here is a brief sample from my novel, a psychological thriller.

I get up and leave, shivering outside as I walk across the hospital front in the freezing rain, the northern winds biting at my fingers and face, the downpour reaching deep into my trainers and socks. It’s nearly half four in the afternoon, and already almost dark, more like late autumn or early winter.  An ambulance rushes into the front area of the hospital, lights flashing, and pulls to a halt by the entrance. For a while, I stand watching in a type of daze, remembering another time when an ambulance pulled up in the clearing at the bottom of Whaley Hill to take me to hospital after Vince Macarthur’s revenge attack on me. I was unconscious when that other ambulance arrived in the rain and fog, yet I remember it arriving and the female paramedic who treated me at the scene. I watched from far off, floating above myself before drifting into blackness; the thickest blackness interrupted by more floating in the hospital; seeing my mother and Mel in the hospital lobby with Wayne’s mother and father, even though I was lying on a hospital bed unconscious with my eyes shut. Then, blackness followed and no further memories.

In the distance, I hear voices above the commotion and sounds of the storm: Gordon and Barry calling my name, their voices like those interrupting a dream, yanking me back to the now.

‘You’re soaking, man,’ Barry says. ‘Want to catch pneumonia?’

Book Review: The ESP Enigma by Diane Hennacy Powell

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had an interest in the mind – in particular, whether humans have the capacity to experience life beyond the established physical senses.  Due to various reasons, I myself don’t practice techniques intended to develop ESP, but I have a keen interest in the subject from a scientific viewpoint.  I also believe that people are capable of experiencing life beyond the five senses and that neuroscience adequately explains the processes involved but not always the deeper reasons for the experiences. 

Diane Hennacy Powell’s book The ESP Enigma is perhaps one of the best books I’ve read on the subject.  The author has an impressive training in medicine, neurology and psychiatry at institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, and has published many articles in leading scientific journals.  Her style of writing is easy to follow.

Powell provides considerable information on the brain, as well as physics and quantum physics. In the earlier part of the book, she describes in detail various forms of ESP, providing examples of both anecdotal evidence and research carried out under scientific conditions. Without giving too much away, I have to say that many of the examples in the book were considerably impressive and definitely worthy of further investigation. 

While reading the book, I could easily envisage some of the people and subjects mentioned, and I found the material extremely refreshing and informative.  I would certainly recommend the book.