Dr. Judson Brewer at Yale University operates a program to help smokers quit. Those who enroll in the program are asked to pay extremely careful attention to the full experience of smoking. He wants them notice details of the craving. Participants are taught to slowly walk through the entire range of emotions and sensations wrapped up in the experience of smoking. Through this practice of mindfulness, of paying attention to all nuances of the experience, smokers are able to create space. In that space they discover a number of elements to smoking that they find unsatisfying or disgusting. In that space they learn that their bodily sensations can and will pass. Dr. Brewer’s program of paying attention has proven to be incredibly effective at helping to move smokers to better health by letting go of their habit.
This technique feels like a practice application of the wisdom shared by Austrian psychologist and neurologist, Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who has said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Psalm 37 teaches this wisdom:
“Trust in the Lord…Commit your way to the Lord…Hope in the Lord”
“Quiet down before God, be prayerful before God.”
“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.”
Through the Psalm God is encouraging us to pause and process long enough for us to hear the promises of God. May we find that space between stimulus and response and in that space may we learn how to stand upon the grace of God.