How Peppermint (and Poet Mirabai along with Her Eternal Lover) Helped Me Get Rid of My Nicotine Addiction: Fight a Toxic Weed Using a Healing Herb

This moving autobiographical piece on the healing power of herbs was sent to Manushi by DKM Kartha in response to my 'Open Letter' to PM Modi on the benefits of Ayurveda (Editor).

Here is an event from my life, that happened in 1985, which you can pass around (if you think it is worth doing that) among those who are suffering from nicotine addiction.  

I never shared this with anyone except my family members because of its miraculous nature (ours is an age where reason is predominant at the expense of other powers in us and in nature). But now I am 72 and I decided such things may help others and I have started sharing it with others.

Let me recount a "magical" event that happened in 1985.To be clear about terminology: I call it magical because most of it cannot be explained by logical methods or scientific causal theories, using my limited abilities at least.

I had been smoking for 17 years by the year 1985, and toward the end of it, I was smoking more than ever and there was an element of addiction in my habit and also non-enjoyment. I would call my action compulsive. A divorce had made the smoking habit more negative. Perhaps I was punishing myself by inhaling all those poisonous fumes? I do not know. Suicidal tendencies, some psychologists might say, can cause obsessive, addictive behavior.

In those days, I used to listen to poems of Meera, a 16th century Indian female mystical poet put to music by a female singer and composer from the south, Sreemati S. Janaki, and I might say that it was the power of the Saint’s sacred poetry which led to something that happened one early morning out of the blue. I woke up and realized that a voice had spoken to me just before waking up and it had said: "Fight a Toxic Weed Using a Healing Herb"

I realized in my half-asleep state that tobacco in the modern commercially treated version was the 'toxic weed' (300 chemicals are there in each cigarette), and one healing herb I had in my pantry: Peppermint, was the 'healing herb'.

I might add that Meerabai's Vaikhari had perhaps deeply entered me into the realms of Maddhyamaa, and then even to the deeper level of Pasyanti, where word/music is at a highly spiritual state and has no sequence or parts (niravayama-krama, according to Bhartrhari, the great Indian Sabada-brhaman seer!). At that level, Meera's sacred word, I imagine, gave rise to an idea, a sentence, or a mntra that saved my life!

I had the urge to smoke as usual, on getting up in the morning right then, but instead of smoking, I boiled some water and put some dried peppermint leaves in it and breathed in the steam for a few minutes with a towel draped over my head.  I was putting the words I had heard into action.  At the end of the inhaling for about 3 or 4 minutes, the urge to smoke was gone!  I was thrilled, but puzzled. I had my breakfast and then the urge came back, due to my habit of lighting up after breakfast, I guess.  I repeated the peppermint fumes breathing process and the urge went away again.

Also, during that first week of this healing practice, the moon was waxing and I imagined my lungs were clearing up like the growing disc of the moon and that simple "visualization" added to my optimism about kicking that horrible habit to clear my lungs of all the soot and tar and toxic mix it had collected from smoking and urban living.

During the first day the urge came back a few times, but each time it was weaker, and I felt great energy after breathing in the peppermint steam.  For a few days this "war" or, if you prefer "adversarial dance,” went on between Tobacco and Peppermint in my psyche-physique, and in my life, and I held my breath, speaking to no one about this mysterious event, and within a week I knew that the addiction had lost most of its power over me, but I had to continue the process of inhaling peppermint steam periodically when the urge returned.

The hardest time was at parties where I had a beer, and saw my friends rolling tobacco in cigarette paper and puffing the smoke in apparent ecstasy. My will became weaker then, and I felt like asking for a cigarette, but I chose to sometimes abruptly left the scene, or moved away to where non-smokers had gathered, and luckily my willpower slowly became stronger.

Within a year or two, I was running up the numerous stairs of the Dupont Circle metro stop in Washington, DC, which is deeper than most except the Moscow metro, as legend had it. I knew my lungs were gaining their power back. I did not pant and my lungs were bulging with joy and strength.

Until I started taking bamboo flute lessons from my mentor in DC in 1990, I did feel an occasional pull toward a cigarette, but I never succumbed. The deep breathing involved in the flute playing, I believe, helped my need for oxygen and that practice drove out the demon of addiction completely. I even started sermonizing to strangers about the evils of smoking against the drift of my usually silent and modest personality.

Now it has been 34 years since the magical plant event happened, and in between I have become an avid grower of peppermint and all kinds of herbs. My reverence for those humble creatures respected only by a few has reached epic proportions.These days I am reading books in Vegetal Philosophy which argues for respecting the plant kingdom, on which all beings are dependent for oxygen and food, shade and moisture and rain, healing, etc.  Another notable book is: Plants as Persons by Matthew Hall. Is not photosynthesis the most magical process going on the face of the earth? I grow things inside my home in my small Rocky Mountain town. We have several rosemary plants that have wintered over sometimes three years or more inside the house. We have several trees in the yard a lot of sage and lavender, and other herbs that show amazing powers. We have two ficus plants inside which is considered holy in India.

I am so thankful for the healing I received from the "lowly" peppermint which we have been using in our children's colds and for making teas and just for having them around without actually using them. I am sure they heal just by their presence in hidden ways. We do not need to consume them physically necessarily. I hope all humans develop an appreciation for the magic of the plant kingdom as I have, fortunately through my tobacco incident.

I also thank the devotional poetess Meera and the singer who put the mystical Meera songs to music which, I believe, churned up my mind and brought out the insight of the peppermint as a counter plant to tobacco, the killer plant (with all the 300 additives). Perhaps tobacco also is a healing plant in the hands of the right person in the right amounts.

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