Bear Graves
Making Time for Mindfulness

Some time back, what amounts to be an every-other-day task was informally assigned: "smoke a bowl of this and see what you think." As far as duties run, it sure beats a 40 kilometer forced march with ruck sacks. Then again, we have tasted some legendarily bad blends that have come pretty close to a coin-toss between finishing the bowl and the aforementioned trek in "leather personnel carriers." Thankfully, this was not the case when Adam and I took a handful from a coded zip lock, packed, fired, and then looked at each other. Both of our eyebrows arched, indicating that we had just become two pipemen with but a single thought (some would argue "two pipemen with almost a single mind between them,") "Now THIS is good!"

We both sat back and eased into the zone, the state where thought quiets, shifts from the multitude of frustrating, banal mental gremlins that seem to be constant workaday companions, to the simple act of enjoying a bowl to its fullest (pretty much, ideally, what pipe smoking is all about). After almost 20 minutes, I realized that I hadn't typed a single word (Crap). Bowl still in play, I went back to giving my employer at least something for my wages, but that which was transcendent only a few minutes prior was now a semi-automatic act. Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of this transformation is that the latter state has become pretty much the rule of the day. There used to be a tagline in a cigarette brand's television and print advertising of the 60s, "Are you smoking more, but enjoying it less?" I had to admit I was, but was I alone in this feeling? After a few inquiries on my part, many of my cohorts admitted that their best bowls almost never happened on the job, unless they fired up while taking a step away from the desk. Josh went as far as to even remove the break disclaimer, his best bowls were at home in the evening, or on the weekend.

Recently, I was on a Skype teleconference with cinematographer Chad Terpstra and producer Jeremy Rush, getting a few "behind the scenes" glances at their quest to create the world's first documentary about pipes and pipe smokers, a work entitled Father of the Flame. Towards the end of our talk, we found ourselves on the topic of isolating that which makes "this thing of ours" (no offence to any members of La Cosa Nostra out there) different from other forms of imbibing the noble weed. Rush opined that, at the very core of pipe smoking, there is (or should be) a continuity of the spirit first expressed within the manner, use, and respect that Native Americans demonstrated towards tobacco. Whittled down to its essence, smoking a pipe wasn't something that one did simply out of habit. A smoke was a special activity, and one undertaken with a mindfulness that included a consideration of time, place, as well as an appreciation for nature's contribution to the moment.

Rush's words hit home. While I know myself well enough to acknowledge that I will never limit my imbibing to important occasions, I can make enjoying a bowl something born of intent and conducted in contemplation, rather than a barely noticed reflex triggered by taking a call or getting off my bike. With this thing of ours, when it comes to getting back to the basics, there might be something to be said for the fundamentals established centuries ago.

Category:   Pipe Line Tagged in:   At Smokingpipes Newsletter Pipe Culture


    • Jason Anderson on August 11, 2014
    • The wonder and mystery that is pipe enjoyment, like all journeys, is often a quiet and solitary one. Well done!

    • R. Bear Graves on August 11, 2014
    • Thank you, Mr. Anderson, To quote Adam Hochschild: "Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short" Smoke in peace, R. Bear Graves

    • Keith on August 11, 2014
    • On this evening's news of Robin Williams' passing, and this timely blog post, I must say, the pipe took on a special place in my emotional history. Listening to John Rutter's Requiem, sitting on my back porch swing, Nording in one hand, bourbon on rocks in the other, I contemplated all of his movies that have influenced my life over the years. The pipe's subtly sweet smoky note of Cornel&Diehl's Sweet English with the hot bosky bite of the bourbon (to borrow a phrase), plus a modern choral masterpiece just fit the occasion.

    • R. Bear Graves on August 12, 2014
    • Keith, Thank you for your contemplative and eloquent response. Last night I followed your lead, after a fashion: a tot of Buffalo Trace and a bowl of C&D's Chenet's cake out on my third floor balcony. I recall the rise of a young comic phenom, during my time in the military. The show was "Mork & Mindy" and many a time a squad mate and I would quietly trade quips from the last show, in order to stave off sleep deprivation until we were relieved from perimeter guard duty. 37 years later and the memories have not dimmed a whit. The world has lost someone quite special. Bear Graves

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