On December 28th around 8 p.m., Susan and I were in a restaurant having dinner with some friends. There was a call on my cell phone from Norio Kushi. Norio and I have been close friends for many years. He wanted to let me know personally that his father had passed away that morning. He wanted to give me the details before the news went public. Knowing this day would come did not lessen the shock.
Michio and Aveline Kushi were my spiritual parents. They invited me into their family shortly after we met. Even though I am dedicating this memorial to Michio, it is difficult for me to think of and remember him without also appreciating and acknowledging Aveline.
I met Michio in February, 1969 when he came to lecture in Philadelphia before we opened our store, Essene. I got to the lecture early simply so I could ask him a question. I told him I was opening a macrobiotic store, and asked him if he had any advice for me. His words were: “Keep it clean. If it isn’t clean, it isn’t macrobiotic.” These words stuck with me forever, and I think his words were one of the keys to our success. The same effort we put into keeping the store spotless, we put into the quality of our food and the quality of service to our customers.
At 19, I was lost and confused, and had no idea about how I wanted to live my life. The one thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want to follow in the suggested path set by society. I had recently read George Ohsawa’s books that talked about a brighter future and how we could create our health and happiness, but I needed more. At the lectures, Michio spoke of everything under the sun, from the meaning of life, to how to cure cancer, to world peace. One, peaceful world was the central theme to Michio’s message. He taught that world peace can only be achieved through healthy people.
On the second day of Michio’s lectures in Philadelphia, I was invited to the home of Rod and Peggy House with about twenty others. At this gathering, Michio said that he didn’t want many friends. The statement startled me. Michio followed by saying he only wanted just a handful of friends who could really understand this way, and together we could change the world. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be one of those friends. Meeting Michio changed my life.
He had an amazing and indomitable spirit. In the early 70s, when I tried to expand the Essene distribution company too quickly, we ran into serious financial difficulties. As we were walking out the door on the way to a lecture, Michio paused and told me not to worry. He said that even if I lost everything, we would simply start again from my own home. This struck me deeply yet again, and demonstrated to me how clear and penetrating Michio’s insight and advice was in all areas of life. Incidentally, we were able to reach a settlement, close the distribution company, and save the store.
No one could keep up with Michio; he was relentless in the pursuit of his dream to change this world. He often talked about lighting fires as he endlessly travelled the world to inspire people and ignite them into action. Michio taught me that anything was possible and I always admired his vitality. His endless spirit continues to inspire my life and my own approach to healing. “The Book of Macrobiotics” largely sums up the heart of his teachings. I wanted to move to Boston to study with Michio, but Essene, being in Philadelphia, kept me there.
I went back and forth between Boston and Philadelphia to continue my studies and maintain my connection with Michio. Michio popularized study houses, which were houses run by individuals or couples where we could live, practice, and study together. The study houses made macrobiotic education both affordable and practical. I attended Michio’s leadership seminar for two months in 1973. In addition, I stayed at different study houses for two weeks twice a year. I also attended every new seminar that Michio created and sponsored his visits to Philadelphia. Through these regular visits, my friendship and mentorship with Aveline began to grow and became a crucial part of my life. During this time, it became apparent to me how Aveline was both a powerful stabilizing factor for Michio as well as a driving force for the entire macrobiotic movement.
In 1981, during my twelfth year of practice, Michio asked me if I ever doubted macrobiotics. When I replied “No,” he told me that now I could change the entire world. I was very blessed to have met Michio at such a young stage of my life. He told me on a few occasions that he was born too early to see the fruits of his labors, but that I would, and I took that to heart. He also told me that the macrobiotic movement would follow the development of this country, where the ideas started in Boston, but were enacted in Philadelphia. This is also part of the reason why I have chosen to remain in Philadelphia.
Michio had a powerful psychic ability that he used in his counseling. He had an amazing ability to see not only people’s specific health, but even certain foods they had eaten on certain days. I was often self-conscious that he would be able to tell I had been eating something he may not have approved of. His long term predictions were amazingly accurate. He painted a picture for society more than forty years ago that I would say that today, are precise. He saw in the 60s that we would continue down a path towards increasing degenerative illness, social unrest, over medication, and the further destruction of the environment. The vast scope of his teachings demonstrated very clearly the relationships and connections between diet, health, environment, and spiritual development.
The last time I saw Michio was August 3rd, 2013 at the Kushi Summer Conference in New Jersey. Michio scolded me among my peers for recommending sardines to a shared client. He asked me if I could help the client with plant-based recommendations alone, and if I was following up regularly to tell them to stop the sardines when they were no longer needed. The scolding was relentless and beyond intimidating and I did my best to remain calm and stand by my recommendations. I finally said “You know, Michio, that not everyone practices the way we like them to,” and that changed the tone. There was a running joke among the teachers about sardines for the rest of the conference. It was an experience that I am sure I will ponder for the rest of my life.
The last time I spoke with Michio was this past October. I called him just before Susan and I left for the teachers’ meeting in Lisbon to ask him if he had any messages for the group. He asked me to give his and his wife’s, Midori, regards and he hoped that everyone would study well together. These were the last words we exchanged. I always called on January 3rd or 4th to wish him and his family a happy new year, so I was very glad to have called him then. Otherwise, we would not have spoken.
There was no stone he left unturned regarding the education about all of health and all of life. Michio had a powerful presence and magnetism; people wanted to be around him. He had an amazing ability to inspire people and encourage them to pursue their dreams. People would travel great distances just to see him, and would also pay large sums of money for his counsel and guidance. He constantly tried to help people see and realize their full potential in both health and life.
It is my hope that the depth and scope of Michio’s contributions will be more fully understood. Before Michio, there was no natural foods movement because there were practically no natural foods. He encouraged the development of local, natural food producers and processors, food stores, restaurants, educational, publishing, and distribution centers. High-quality, natural foods as well as pickled and fermented foods are now widely available and sought after. He was largely responsible for introducing futons, the practice of acupuncture, shiatsu massage and making the work of Masanobu Fukuoka (the author of “One Straw Revolution”) known. His teachings have influenced people from all walks of life, across the entire range of professional and artistic fields.
We are on the cusp of a nutritional and biological revolution which is laying the groundwork for the age of macrobiotics. The future of macrobiotics is with those who can understand, reinterpret, and express the teachings of Michio, Aveline, and their associates for our times. Now that both Michio and Aveline have passed, I find it more important than ever to dedicate the next part of my life to mentoring the new generation of macrobiotic teachers and leaders. I want to align with those who are like-minded so that our combined expression conveys the attractiveness and timeliness of the spirit and teachings of macrobiotics.
It is hard to express the loss and sadness of Michio’s passing. I find it unfortunate that his work is not more widely acknowledged and recognized today, despite how many lives have been transformed by his life. However, I feel that recognition of Michio’s contributions to society will continue to grow, as will his memory. It is my hope that we as his students and associates can bring honor to the teachings that he and Aveline gave to us.
There will be a memorial service followed by a reception in Boston on January 31, 2015 to honor and celebrate Michio Kushi.
For many Americans, Lou Gehrig is remembered as the Iron Horse, playing 17 seasons for the New York Yankees, but for many others, he is associated with ALS, or amytophic lateral sclerosis. Between 1925 and 1939 Gehrig didn’t miss a game; his prowess as a hitter won him national acclaim. So when at the age of 35 his batting average slowed, it was clear something was wrong. Doctors did not diagnose Gehrig with ALS at that time, but did identify problems with his gall bladder. Three years later, Gehrig would be dead from the effects of ALS, a rapidly progressive, fatal disease that degenerates the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Today ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease and according to the ALS Association more than 30,000 Americans are effected by the disease. From a macrobiotic perspective, ALS is caused by an imbalanced diet and lifestyle. A diet that is rich in heavy animal foods, like meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, and other fatty animal foods, together with fruits, citrus, chocolate, cold foods, like ice cream, and iced drinks, has an adverse effect on the stomach and pancreas. Medications and chemically altered foods may also play a part.
I became interested in Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis of ALS after seeing a photograph of him with Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth. In the image Gehrig’s arms are crossed in front of his stomach, a sharp contrast to Foxx and Ruth, appearing open with arms at their sides; for me it was apparent there was a correlation between his posture and weakness in his central digestive organs, especially his pancreas. According to macrobiotic diagnosis, Gehrig’s posture, arms folded and slightly leaning forward, shows a weakness in the central digestive system, especially the stomach and pancreas.
I began to wonder what Lou Gehrig’s diet might have been like. After searching around the internet, I found a blog post, http://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/als-aka-lou-gehrigs-disease/ that described Gehrig’s diet as being rich in sodium and fats. His favorite foods were fried eel and shrimp, and he loved other fatty foods.
It seems that those involved with sports and entertainment are among the highest percentage of people to develop ALS. Athletes and performers often live chaotic lives. Because the pancreas thrives on order and regularity of meal times and lifestyle practices, it is important to establish consistency.
The foods that harm our central digestive organs also effect our motor neurons. The macrobiotic approach is to replace foods heavy in animal protein and fat with plant based protein and vegetable oil. It is important to have a very wide and varied macrobiotic practice. In addition, we recommend rubbing the body, especially the extremities with a damp, warm cloth morning and night to help circulation. To benefit from macrobiotics practices, an experienced and qualified macrobiotics counselor is needed to complement any medical treatment.
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Emotions are a bridge between the mind and body. When we eat local and unrefined food, prepared with care and love, our mind follows with flowing, harmonious emotions. Our natural state is a calm, peacefulness, flowing into joy. Healthy emotions allow us to deal smoothly with all aspects of life. As the seasons shift, as do emotions; summer is greeted with a full bloom of emotions, while winter may bring more solitary, subdued feelings.
Emotions are directly linked to our health; consuming meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, puts emotions on edge, causing them to surge or remain stagnant. For those of us living in temperate climatic regions, certain foods interfere with our ability to express emotions well, especially tropical foods, iced foods and chemicals. The most common are: banana, coconut, ice cream, yogurt, iced drinks, artificial sweeteners, and heavily chemicalized foods.
Foods that nourish our emotional health also produce health at all levels, including cardiovascular health. A plant based diet, consisting of grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and seasonal fruits creates a happy equilibrium between the body and mind. These same foods foster a direct connection between our mind and body, and the environment and nature.
Health is our default state. This includes body and mind; we want to exist with balance between each. The modern and contemporary lifestyle is creating a disconnect between our physical and emotional state and the environment. To return to a plant based diet means restoring the connection between the environment and our emotional nature.
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You may want to check out Colin Campbell’s review of the film “Fed Up”.
I would like to add some thoughts about singling out sugar as the cause of our health problems. Historically, the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of large-scale nutritional imbalance through the disruption of eating patterns and increased, large-scale food refining. Animal food, dairy and sugar consumption have increased since that time, together with the rise in degenerative illness.
Trying to stop something is rarely successful; the weight-loss industry demonstrates this. The only approach that can produce long-lasting heath is a varied and satisfying whole food plant-based diet combined with good eating habits and lifestyle practices.
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Mona Schwartz passed on Jan 2, 2014. She was 78 and had spent the last 30 years of her life in Derha Dun, India where she was known as “Mona Organic Schwartz”, a local hero. She was one of those people who was truly larger than life.
Mona was my first true counseling client. She wandered into Essene in the mid-‘70s looking for me in the hopes that I could help her recover her health through macrobiotic practice. We had a mutual friend who referred her. Mona, among other illnesses, had idiopathic edema (a.k.a. swelling from an unknown origin) a debilitating health concern that doctors were unable to help. Her body would swell to amazing proportions. At the time, I did not know that it was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. I would help her regain her health and she would become my very dear friend, advisor, and mentor.
I was not an experienced counselor at that time and I knew this would be my first real challenge and a valuable lesson as well. When she was standing there before me I had the first real test of my diagnosis; was she yin or yang? I told her that she was too yang and I could help her if she could follow my directions. She told me she thought that I was right because her sodium was too high. I guessed she must have read a George Ohsawa book and had some insight into yin and yang. Michio Kushi told me that if I wanted to understand the healing process, I had to follow one client from beginning to end. I thought to myself that Mona would be that person and I told her that she would have access to me 24/7 for one year. Mona took full advantage of that year and felt free to call on me day or night during that period.
Mona always seemed to have a life or death crisis of pain, swelling or difficulty breathing. Some of them may have been life threatening, but I just took each crisis as another day with Mona. Mona followed my advice to the letter. She almost never varied from what I recommended and tried to implement it to the best of her ability. The few occasions when she wandered out on her own and ate something outside of my recommendations, the pain she suffered put an end to that until I eventually gave her the okay.
She was a very social person and always wanted to be part of the tightly knit macrobiotic community that was in Philadelphia at the time. When we went to a restaurant Mona insisted on going along. I told her that there was nothing she could eat there but she didn’t care, she just wanted to be part of the group and enjoy the conversation and celebration. Mona would take a small piece of what everyone ordered and put it on her plate. She never touched a bite of it and was happy as could be just to see other people enjoying. It was indicative of her deep enjoyment of all of life. She knew her time would come when she would be able to enjoy the food without sacrifice to her health. Mona’s health steadily improved as the year was drawing to a close. Little by little, I told Mona she could enjoy certain dishes when she joined our outings. When I finally told her she was well enough to continue on her own, our relationship began to change.
Mona was at my house when Dr. Anthony Satillaro first came. Dr. Satillaro was the president of Methodist hospital and had terminal prostate cancer. I would help him together with my wife Judy, at the time, and most of the extensive Philadlephia macrobiotic community. After he left, she very strongly told me to look after him the same way as I had done for her. I told Mona that I wanted to see if he was really interested first. After a week or so it became apparent that he was serious. He would come to Essene everyday, shop and ask questions. At that point, I followed Mona’s advice and invited the doctor to start eating at my house. It was one of my first experiences with her powerful intuition and our changing roles.
Mona was starting to become my mentor. Of course Mona was always at the house as well. These dinners gave me the opportunity to subtly adjust Satillaro’s dietary recommendations daily and speed his recovery. It also gave me the opportunity to refine and gain a deeper confidence in my own healing ability. Around this time, Mona started to broaden her macrobiotic experience and spend more time studying and working with Michio and Aveline Kushi. She then spent time in Boston with Michio and Aveline and later moved to Miami to run the macrobiotic center there under their direction.
Throughout the years, we kept close contact whether she was in Boston, Miami or India. I do not recall the year she went on a trip to India, but she instantly fell in love and decided to move there. India was Mona’s pay back, her love, and her passion. She wanted to give back to the ancient civilization of India that has given us so much that we draw on in macrobiotic practice and philosophy. She would go on to start farmer’s markets, train chefs and teachers in macrobiotics and re-introduce brown rice. There is a wonderful obituary that I came across that will convey more of her spirit and accomplishments.
Over the years, Mona told me that I was not emphasizing something very important in my teachings. In her words, when you are sick you can take all of the help you need to recover. However, once you recover you need to pay it back ten thousand fold. This is the way of nature and the true spirit of macrobiotics that George Ohsawa taught. Of course I talked about this in my teaching, but I did not emphasize it and drive it home in the way I should have. It was a shortcoming that she constantly drew to my attention. Here is a Youtube video of Mona talking about her experience with macrobiotics.
Mona was a fellow traveler along the macrobiotic path. She’s a true example of transforming poor health into a great, exciting life. She first came to me for dietary advice. Though many recover with a macrobiotic way of eating and lifestyle, many do not continue to follow the spirit of health by giving back according to nature’s model. Mona’s transformation lead her to begin to spread and teach what she had learned. And then she decided to go to India to endlessly perpetuate the bounty she received from macrobiotics in its spiritual homeland.
In later and more recent years, Mona would always tell me it is up to me to change macrobiotics and make it more mainstream. She would scold me in her loving way and tell me that I need to make macrobiotics more spiritual and re-emphasize the aspects of personal and social transformation.
It is now a unique time for macrobiotics and its place in the world. Macrobiotics is a hub that can unify the whole-food plant-based movements and help them reach their true potential. I am sure that Mona will still be at the table with us enjoying our food and wine and discussing and strategizing the best way towards a brighter and happier future for all.
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In the photo here, Susan and I are getting into the holiday spirit. Meet Ichi, who is probably dreaming of sardines (his favorite food).
Susan and I would like to thank our families, friends and all of life’s challenges.
We would also like to thank those of you for your continued support of us and SHI. It is through you that we are able to continue the growth of sharing and advancing health.
We wish you all the best of health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year!
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I’ve recently received this story from a woman, Sheron, in response to my previous entry about T. Colin Campbell and her take on The Great Life Diet. Thank you, Sheron! She writes:
“There is nothing better than the balance of a Macrobiotic diet and lifestyle. I am committed to following Macrobiotics for the rest of my life even if I have to spend every minute of it in the kitchen. And, the most helpful book to come along in a long time is your The Great Life Diet. […] So, I do agree with you that The China Study has the supportive nutritional facts, and you have the way to put it all together. You seem to have a way of expressing the facts of a balanced diet and lifestyle in an uncomplicated way. Of all the teachers I studied with, and those whose books I have read, your understanding and presentation of Macrobiotics is the one that I can easily understand and apply.”
I am glad hearing six years after its publication that The Great Life Diet still applies to people’s lives today, despite how quickly popular opinion seems to change regarding eating. My intention in writing the book was to offer timeless, practical and accessible advice to those seeking diet and lifestyle guidance in a way that most other diet and lifestyle books cannot offer. It is now a time when the principles set forth in The Great Life Diet can come into more scientific consideration.
I’m just going to share some simple things with you in certain circumstances to help you get started on issues related to health and diet.
For those of you who are not going to change your diet, but have interest in improving overall health, consider:
1. Taking Time For Meals. Pause the activities of the day when you sit down to food.
2. Take Meals At the Same Time Everyday, Especially Lunch(which should begin no later than 1p.m.)
3.Get At Least a ½ Hour Of Activity Everyday(something as simple as walking suffices)
And for those of you just beginning the transition to a macrobiotic diet, here are two things that help to do immediately:
1. Plan Meals Around a Grain and a Vegetable
2. Start Eating Soup
I would like to thank Sheron again for offering such a heartfelt and honest response to my query regarding The China Study and its potential to provide the impetus to empirically explore the wisdom I have been sharing.
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American society has a general notion that we are neither in control of our genes nor the environmental factors which cause disease. Under this assumption, many may be throwing up their hands and wondering: What’s the use of trying to prevent disease when it is inevitable?
A current medical assumption is that early detection of a disease in fact prevents disease from killing us. But does it? Unfortunately, this approach in western medicine does not save lives. In my experience, it merely prolongs life of lower quality. A nutritional biochemist, who I both admire and follow, by the name of T. Colin Campbell authored The China Study in 2005, explicating discoveries that could alter our way of life.
Two points(there are many!) contained in the book are ones I would like to relay to you most as they give evidence contrary to the current American diet and furthermore provide scientific support for the practice of a macrobiotic way of eating.
1. Diet can cause, or reverse, the majority of contemporary degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Epigenetics is the study of genetic expression, that is the study of mechanisms outside of our DNA that can cause a particular gene to express itself. The genetic propensity an individual has for a particular disease can, on a chemical level, be “turned on” or “kept off”. How can we control the expression of our genes?
Hopefully, you guessed that we have an enormous amount of personal control with our diets. The China Study proposes that although cancer is a result of many things, including toxic external environmental influences, the cancer gene that we may have in our DNA is likely to be “turned on” as a result of what we eat.
T. Colin Campbell made this discovery through experiments involving rats and the dairy protein casein, concluding that it was a very prevalent and potent carcinogen in our society. When animal and dairy protein comprises 10% or more of our diets, our genetic markers for cancer activate. When our intake of those proteins falls below 10%, those same markers deactivate.
2. Eating whole foods facilitates the absorption of nutrients, not isolated dietary supplements.
Mr. Campbell’s research shows that while taking a dietary supplement may have an unpredictable effect, a whole food works within the body to foster a better environment in which to absorb nutrients. In the book, he uses a case involving beta-carotene and Vitamin A in relation to lung cancer. It was discovered previously that people with higher levels of these nutrients in their blood were less likely to develop lung cancer, even if they were smokers. The results of a controlled experiment involving supplements with these nutrients shocked many.
Those taking the supplements actually developed lung cancer at a higher rate. This is because we cannot assume to know how the body will take in and distribute nutrients because the body takes care of itself in a healthy digestive system. The conclusion was that when integrating particular vitamins and minerals into one’s diet, a whole food(an example being a vegetable or whole grain) must be eaten to ensure the healthy, balanced absorption of nutrients.
A conclusion of The China Study is to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet. It is rare to see mainstream nutritional research promote such healthy habits. T. Colin Campbell’s contribution to the evidence of the efficacy and healthiness of a plant based diet gives so much credence to macrobiotics. Whereas science and research can offer proof or conclude something, there isn’t much in the book guiding people or offering methods of how to switch or change diet and lifestyle.
I find it is here where his research and my life work complement each other. If I can’t provide the evidence on why our current diet standards are so imbalanced and unhealthy, The China Study does. And if The China Study does not offer suggestions or guidance to a reader about eating healthy or practicing a healthy lifestyle, I can.
As contemporary society, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that we have inherited, both culturally and genetically. We have the developments and technologies of modern science that has greatly informed and changed our methods of observing the world around us. We also have a cultural history that spans at least 10,000 years around the globe, which also includes a vast knowledge and history of practicing health, mindfulness and awareness. It behooves me in my own practice to honor the insights given to us by the past as well as to integrate and utilize the techniques that technology offers to insure our health for both today and future generations.
I am interested in hearing your opinions and responses on this topic.
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I’ve written two blogs about breast cancer, both describing what things to do in order to greatly decrease your risk of developing it. In Shining Light on Breast Cancer Prevention, I explained what lifestyle habits to practice, and in Pertinent Info. about your Health and Breast Cancer, I correlated the spiritual, emotional, and physical factors that contribute to the start of breast cancer. Today I am giving you the Top 5 Risk Factors in conclusion. Now you have more concrete tools in working towards avoiding breast cancer:
Top Five Risk Factors:
1) Irregular Menstruation & Constipation or Irregular Bowel Movements
Most women with breast cancer have either or both of these issues. When the body cannot eliminate excess and detoxify through the kidneys, intestines or reproductive organs, this accumulation may try to eliminate through the lungs or breast. This can set the stage for the development of cancer. Cancer can be developed through deficiency as well as excess. To be safe from breast cancer, keep your cycles in your ovaries and bowels on a healthy schedule.
2) Eating Dairy Foods (especially with refined sugar)
Eating diary, and I’m emphasizing yogurt because I see that many people overeat yogurt. According to Colin Campbell, casein, which is dairy protein, is one of the most potent carcinogens on the planet.
3) Excessive Emotions
The heart chakra regulates energy metabolism and circulation in the chest region. Excessive emotion creates a pathway for inflammation. This inflammation can be manifested in the development of cancer.
4) Lack of Emotional Expression
Since the heart chakra regulates energy, when someone shuts down due to grief, loss, and depression allows stagnation to build up in the area. A person cannot express how they feel, therefore they cannot renew the energy locked up in their chest region.
5) Not walking outside regularly
Walking helps because it settles strengthens digestion, calms the nervous system and rebalances the body on many levels.
If you show signs of these risks factors and harbor deep concern about developing breast cancer, I can help. Please set up a consultation with me so that I can show you how to dampen your fear of this disease.
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