Giving up smoking, a story to help you do it

Giving Up Smoking, a Story from Someone Who Knows.

I meditated for a story to help a friend give up smoking. This is what came to me:

I am taken to a place where yellow cadaverous bodies hunch over their knees, heads bowed. I can hear their rasping breath. Some of them have lit cigarettes in their hands. Others are leaning back in chairs, oxygen masks over their faces gasping for breath. Amongst them, dotted about, stand shining people looking healthy and triumphant. They are the ones who gave up smoking. One of them, a woman, comes over and takes my hand. She leads me away to a wooded grove to sit and tell me her tale:

It was fashionable to smoke when I was a young woman. I was a bit of a rebel. I had a cigarette holder. It was in the 1920s. I was a ‘flapper’. Nobody cared about the state of their bodies then. You just did what you did. Mainly it was the men who smoked. It was considered to be sophisticated, the very thing to do. I used to feel awfully proud of myself with my long cigarette holder and my fashionable gowns. I saw many an envious glance cast in my direction from, shall we say less adventurous or out going young women.

My father smoked a pipe. He used to fill the lounge with his smoke. Mother would leave the room when he lit his ‘bonfire’ as she called it. She hated his smoke and even more she hated to see me smoking. But to me it was a symbol of my fashionable life and later it became my friend, something I could do when I was in ‘between’. When I was bored or lonely, or just wondering what to do next, I could have a cigarette.

When I was twenty five and my father was fifty, he developed cancer of the mouth. It grew in the place where his pipe rested. At first he ignored it. He was in denial. There was much to fear from cancer in those days. Eventually my mother persuaded him to see the doctor. They operated on him and his poor face was quite disfigured. He had been an active socialite, present at all the local political party meetings and a regular at the club. He withdrew from society. The cancer returned again. This time it was in his throat. My father died tragically at the age of fifty three.

The amazing thing is that I continued to smoke. More than ever I thought I needed my friend, the cigarette. Our family was devastated by the death of my father. Suddenly it was hard to make ends meet. Mother’s health was not good. It fell to me and to my brother to keep the family afloat. I found a job as an administrator at the local hospital. I became friendly with the doctors. There was one in particular who very much cared about the health of all the staff at the hospital.

One day he gave us all a talk. He was an older man, in his early sixties. His specialism was cancer. He told us that he had noticed that cancers developed in the lungs and other parts of the body in smokers. He had made a study of the subject. He described the blackened, hardened lungs of smokers. No wonder they died of emphysema, he said. They slowly suffocate, or they cough themselves into oblivion with bronchitis.

He instructed one of the staff to wheel in a recently dead cadaver of a man in his early forties. He had performed an autopsy on the body. The lungs were exposed to view. In a bucket beside our doctor was a set of pig’s lungs. He pointed to them. ‘Look at those,’ he said. See how pink and fresh they are? That’s what my own lungs look like. Now look at this poor fellow.’

We all looked in horror at the man’s chest. The lungs were a mottled blue, black and purple. There was a large rough whitish growth visible in one of them.

‘What do your lungs look like, I wonder?’ said he. ‘Isn’t this enough to make you give up smoking and to persuade your families and your spouses not to do it.’

The memory of my father’s death, so untimely, came flooding back to me. For the first time I made the connection between cigarettes, illness and death. I suddenly decided that I wanted healthy pink lungs and to be able to breathe freely. I threw away my cigarettes, holder, lighter and all. I was not going to put my family through unnecessary suffering and sorrow just because of my rebellious habit. I would find other ways of passing idle moments. And I did.

And so can you.

Please tell me what you think of this story, I’d like to know if it is useful.

The Amythyst Necklace (story on ‘You Shall Not Steal’, North American Indian Lore), for age10 to adult

A story given to me by Calling Horse on the Eighth Law of the Red Man


The Amethyst Necklace

We all had certain belongings which were owned solely by us as individuals. Then there were things which belonged to the family and finally, tribal possessions such as the totem pole, the medicines and herbs, the magic stones or crystals and the ancestral belongings. These would be stored in the chief’s teepee and consisted of talismans, head gear, necklaces and sometimes even bones and teeth of ancestors. These things were venerated and could not be given away. They belonged to the whole tribe. They were very precious as they were believed to hold great power. They were not allowed to be used for trading purposes, but occasionally, wandering people who had usually been expelled from their tribe would try to barter with such objects. They had little else to offer. They could not carry very much in their travelling mode and so these small objects were precious to them. They had probably obtained these objects by stealing them, but strangely, people had no reverence for talismans from other tribes with regard to the sanctity of property. They still believed that the objects held power, but they did not think it wrong to possess them. If they had been objects from their own chief’s collection, they would have been very frightened of owning them, thinking that evil would soon be upon them in retribution for violating the tribal law.

I remember a time when a traveller came and offered us some beautiful gem stones which he said he had mined by digging in the river bed some way away. My mother thought they were very lovely. They were spears of amethyst. She exchanged some skins and food for the jewels and wound them into a necklace for herself. She was very proud of this new aquisition.
A few months later we were visited by a group from an adjacent tribe. They celebrated with us at our feast. Mother wore her regalia.

calling-horse-law-8-stealing1The visiting chief’s son’s eyes lighted on mother’s necklace

“Where did you get those from?”

Mother clutched at her amethysts and told them about the travelling man.
”Was he so high, with two teeth missing at the top front, and had no little finger on his right hand?”

“That was him.” said my mother, turning pale.

“Those jewels came from our ancestral collection.” said the chief’s son.

“Oh, dear, you had better have them back then!” said Mother, horror struck.

“No, no, they are yours now, you have exchanged them in good faith for skins and food. You were not to know they were stolen. Where is the rogue now, do you know?”

“He departed fairly soon after he arrived,” replied my mother, “and strangely, now you mention it, our chief has been complaining about some stones going missing too. He had some lovely turquoise stones which he used to place on the throats of people suffering from problems in that area. He could not find them to treat my son recently.”

It is very hard to survive outside of the protection of a tribe. One can see how travellers feel obliged to steal or rob. They are therefore not to be trusted. While they must be respected and treated humanely, people who are unattached and who roam freely have to be carefully watched in case they remove one’s possessions in the night. It is not a crime to travel alone but those who do are still under the watchful eye of the Great Spirit. They should learn the skills of the hunter or the miner or craftsman, so that they have something legitimate to sell. Then indeed is the travelling life blessed.”

So said the chief’s son as he departed from our celebrations.

Be Chaste in Your Thoughts and Your Deeds (Law 7, North American Indian Tradition)


It was our custom and indeed a very important rule of the Great Spirit that we should honour our bodies and those of other people. This meant that while it was all right to fall in love and commit ourselves to another, one had to be careful. One had to be very cautious about sexual activity because it leads to pregnancy and to all sorts of feelings of the heart. It could lead to jealousy, or even to murder.

I remember a time when a beautiful young woman, the partner of a great brave, had her head turned by another young man. This relationship started quite innocently, but soon the two would be getting together at every opportunity, often alone. It became clear to the husband that his wife’s attention was no solely for him. Others had started to make comments to him. 

One day he followed his wife on her way to the river with her friends to do the washing. He saw her slip away into the forest. He waited quietly and after a few minutes she was followed by the young man in question. Both then disappeared into the bushes.

The two disappeared into the bushes

The two disappeared into the bushes

Our brave could scarcely contain his fury. He decided to wait until they emerged from the undergrowth. Some time later his wife reappeared rather dishevelled and alone. When she saw him she jumped , but managed to smile fairly convincingly at him.

‘Hello my beauty,’ said he. I thought you would be at the river, washing!’

’Well I’
m just going now. I had to answer a call of nature.’

‘Well .
how about answering a call of nature with me then ?’ said he, as he drew her towards him.

’No, no, not now, later, tonight, there is no time now, someone might pass us.’

‘Yes, and I know who. I can smell him on your body. It is true that the river will wash him from your skin, but it will not wash his baby from your womb. Go from me. He can have you now. I don’t want you any more.’

No amount of pleading would change the brave’s mind. The other young man was not really interested in having the girl as his wife and she had to move back with her own family, a great disgrace. No one wanted to know her as a wife except for an older man whose wife had died. She resisted his invitations for several years, but eventually became his wife and looked after him in his old age. She never bore any children.

Her husband left the tribe to wander the plains alone. Finally he joined up with another tribe and found himself another partner, not as beautiful as the first but more faithful. She adored him and bore him two sons and a daughter. They named the daughter after his first wife, unbeknown to his second wife, because although he could not bear to live with her, he loved her still and separating from her had left a great hole in his heart. His wife could never understand his moods of great sadness, but he never burdened her with these memories. She and the children were happy to have a strong, kind and dutiful husband and father.