Trust the process.
If you follow the NBA at all, you've no doubt heard that phrase.
I'm not a Philadelphia 76ers fan, not that I actively root against them, it's just that I'm not from Philly. The Indiana Pacers are my team. Loyalties aside, however, the team's mantra, "Trust the process," is a memorable one — made all the more so by Philadelphia's imposing, 7-foot, Cameroonian center Joel Embiid.
The phrase centers on building and refining. Positive results don't happen in a vacuum; they're born from planning, intentionality, and work. Personally, I've never played professional basketball, and I certainly never will — not much chance for a 5'11" guy with barely a six-inch vertical like myself, even if I was raised in the Hoosier state, the Mecca of basketball. That said, "Trust the process" is an applicable phrase beyond the field of sports.
Relationships require process: The journey from first date to first anniversary is one of growth and depth. Education is much the same: Thank God one's first semester doesn't look the same as senior year. Smoking a pipe similarly necessitates process, as many of us well know: From portioning tobacco and rubbing out flake, to methodically packing and testing the draw, to administering a charring light and paying attention to puffing cadence as one enjoys the bowl, the process of pipe smoking is one of routine, with steps that all combine to create and affect the entire experience, and to neglect one of these steps or not to give them appropriate attention potentially results in a less than enjoyable smoking experience.
Earlier this week, a dear college friend inquired about how to smoke a pipe, having become more intrigued by the hobby and interested in improving his technique. In explaining my own, personal pipe-smoking process — how I typically pack a pipe, etc. — I reflected on elements of the process I often rush through or don't give proper care. The times when a lit bowl underperforms, requiring more relights or perhaps suffering from too tight of a draw, often result from my neglect of the process itself.
The irony is that my attempt to more quickly enjoy pipe and tobacco, thereby neglecting the necessary process, actually results in a less enjoyable smoking experience.
In my desire to enjoy a pipe, it's not uncommon for me to hurry through packing a bowl and administering a charring light and final light: I fill the chamber haphazardly and without care; the charring light is disuniform; and the final light is rushed and fails to entirely light the top of the packed tobacco. Uniform and complete lighting is one area that I especially need to pay more attention to, and the times I more effectively light the tobacco the first time, the fewer relights I realize I need and, thus, the more pleasant and relaxing the smoking session.
The irony is that my attempt to more quickly enjoy pipe and tobacco, thereby neglecting the necessary process, actually results in a less enjoyable smoking experience. More relights and a poor draw lead to frustration and to focusing more on correcting the faults of the neglected process than enjoying the intended fruits of the process when done well.
The process required in smoking a pipe and the technique it necessitates are some of the aspects many of us pipe smokers enjoy most about the practice; it promotes slowing down and tending to a task. Rather than mindlessly acting as a passive participant, a pipe smoker intentionally and carefully engages with a pipe and tobacco for the best results — much like how cooking from scratch differs from, say, preparing a microwave dinner — and such a characteristic adds a relational aspect to the hobby.
While the process of packing, lighting, and smoking a bowl may seem tedious and even bothersome at times, it's this routine that truly makes pipe smoking enjoyable and yields the most gratifying results. Like basketball, education, and personal relationships, successful pipe smoking relies on a solid foundation of distinct, proven steps. Life itself is a blend of constant practice and growth — from childhood and adolescence, to adulthood and further maturity — and all good things in life benefit from a process, especially pipe smoking. Trust the process.
What are the aspects you enjoy most about the pipe-smoking process? What are those you perhaps neglect most? What are some techniques that you're improving on or that you've found best for enjoying a bowl?