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September 23-26, 1993.
Friday, September 24th.
1. Aveline Kushi's Cancer.
2. International Macrobiotic Congress.
3. Transition to Macrobiotic Practice.
4. Emotional Aspects of Health and Disease.
1. Aveline Kushi - Part Two.
2. Evolution of Macrobiotic Practice. Staleness and Rigidity.
4. George Ohsawa.
5. Age and Youth.
Saturday, September 25th.
1. Soy Foods/Allergies.
2. Danger of using other substances in Healing- On becoming Human.
1. Health Care Proposal/Clintons.
SUMMARY AND HIGHLIGHTS.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th, 1993.
Aveline Kushi's Cancer.
Rita Grobe began this discussion by saying how she was so shocked when she first heard about Aveline Kushi developing cervical cancer. She had attended a discussion at the Miami Winter Conference where she had heard Aveline say that the woman in a family should never eat animal protein because it was not good if she was going to get pregnant. So Rita assumed from Aveline's remarks and her attitude about it that Aveline always ate very well.
David Jackson said Lily Kushi, Michio and Aveline's daughter also has cervical cancer, which had been diagnosed about a year ago. Bill Tara said Aveline's cancer had been diagnosed about a month or so ago, although she had been having symptoms of bleeding for about a year. Bill said he did not know whether Aveline had pursued other forms of diagnosis or healing in addition to macrobiotic methods in that time or she had kept her problems to herself, although he thinks that she pretty much kept knowledge of her symptoms to herself and her immediate family. He was asked if she had told Michio and Bill said he didn't know.
She had tried making various adjustments in her own practice and life style without having any success and had eventually gone to a hospital for conventional diagnosis and the diagnosis was cervical cancer. She is treating the condition with chemotherapy and radiation, although he was not certain she had done chemotherapy. Bill said he had talked to her secretary last week and was informed Aveline was up and about and in good spirits.
Bill was asked how she had responded to him over the phone and he said that she expressed some confusion as to why she had developed the condition, and her primary focus of the cause was on food. Bill said he had received many phone calls from all over the world and the response, he said, told him more about macrobiotics than it did about Aveline. The responses had varied from disappointment to cynicism, shock etc. He said it seems we have been believing a lot of our own propaganda, which is very unhealthy. If we believe no one gets sick or dies, and that people practicing macrobiotics wouldn't get diseases because their lifestyles are perfect, then we are living in fantasy land.
Bill said he thought it more appropriate to rally around Aveline at this time, because he had never known any one who more selflessly gave of herself to help other people. She has really devoted herself and whether we like it or not, she is the matriarch of this movement, and she is in trouble. Whether we agree or disagree with her opinions we owe her a great deal whether we realize it or not.
Bill said of all the groups or communities of people he had come in contact with, the macrobiotic community exhibited more than any of them that we had to know the the answer to any question - did she eat too many cookies, or too much salt (general laughter), or was their too much emotion. He finds it interesting that as macrobiotic people we generally exhibit a lack of concern and sympathy for other people's problems. Bill said he did not know of any macrobiotic practitioner who is a teacher or counselor who has a 100% track record either in the diagnosis or treatment of people, or in their own personal lives.
Gene Modin asked if Bill knew whether Michio had seen anything and Bill said he included Michio in the preceding statement. He said that Michio is a genius at what he does, and geniuses tend to make big mistakes when they make them. He said he felt a little uncomfortable discussing Aveline's particular situation because he wondered how helpful it is to discuss anybody's situation after the fact. As far as eating macrobiotically in that sense of 'clean eating', there is probably no one, including George Ohsawa, who adhered more closely to what is the standard macrobiotic diet, and even going beyond that. Here is a woman who when she first came to America, lived on crackers for weeks because she couldn't find the proper foods; she has incredible will power.
Rita wondered for her own practice what she could learn from Aveline's experience. Does this mean we need to be eating more widely? Bill said it reminded him of the time a few years ago when in Europe several children eating macrobiotically came down with Vitamin B 12 deficiency and everyone started stocking their refrigerators with cheese and milk. He thought that response was going over the top. That is not an appropriate way to learn and as a group of people we need to look at the way we are practicing macrobiotically and be able to make distinctions between how we need to eat if we are simply living our daily life, and how we need to eat if we are attempting to heal a specific illness. In the former case, we may be imposing needless restrictions on our daily practice. Bill thinks that daily macrobiotic practice with respect to diet has been overly influenced by the dietary recommendations for someone who has cancer. There may be, for example, needless restrictions on fat and protein intake.
Sandra Baird said that as a neophyte to macrobiotics her response to this is that we may be overlooking that through her macrobiotic practice, Aveline may have waylaid the cancer for over thirty years. If her daughter, who was diagnosed with the same cancer at thirty, perhaps that means there is some family predisposition to this cancer, and Aveline, through her macrobiotic practice, staved it off until now.
Kate McCall said she appreciated this discussion because it gives us an opportunity to recognize that here someone is sick and we would perhaps be well served to acknowledge that Aveline is experiencing pain and suffering and to sympathize with her as well as to look at why we a practice macrobiotic diet. She asked if we practiced it out of a fear of getting sick, and so if someone gets sick who is eating this way, then naturally our response would be fear, because the general assumption in macrobiotic teaching is that sickness is not something that happens to you if you eat macrobiotically. We need to reflect on that.
Kathleen Demes said she felt that this discussion brought up the difference between eating conceptually and eating naturally. In the first case we eat what we are told we should eat, and avoid what we are told not to eat, whereas in the second case, we eat what we are taught to eat but we also pay attention to what our body is telling us to eat; if we feel we need to eat some fatty food, like yoghurt, for example, then we should simply eat it!
Mary Ann Davis said she thought it possible to go astray with that approach because in her own practice she found it necessary to not go with her own desires, simply because she is dealing with an illness, and she found the dietary restrictions very helpful. She feels comforted by her macrobiotic dietary practice - brown rice, miso etc are very comforting. When she goes on a little binge, she simply does not feel good. However, she also appreciates this discussion, in the sense of talking about being more open and relaxed in our dietary practice.
We then had a general discussion of the danger of assuming that because someone gets well when they adopt a macrobiotic practice, that there is a direct causal relationship between the dietary practice and the person getting well. Bill said in his work around the world he has met several people who had healed themselves of various cancers doing the strangest things, and in some cases, not doing anything, at least outwardly.
David Jackson said that most of us here in this room have a deep concern for the state of the world, of our fellow human beings and of our family, and we have a desire to assist people in changing their lives to a more healthy and creative life. In our desire to accomplish this in whatever way we know, we are interested in studying, in learning, about human nature, diet, and any aspect of humanity, so that we can deepen our knowledge and understanding to be able to be more clear about our own practice, and our ability to help others. So, David does not have a problem with studying this situation with Aveline, but not out of a negative or critical stance.
This reminds him of the time when Muramoto had to have a stomach operation a few years ago and we discussed it at the Pacific Macrobiotic Conference then, and we all learnt and benefited from the discussion. He said that Aveline's illness is occasion for both sympathy and self reflection. It does not bother him that we critique her situation because we might come up with new ideas and insights which would benefit us and possibly, the macrobiotic community in general.
So, David thinks that we need to look at this, and for him, it may not be appropriate for people to eat wider, but to think wider. He said that he knew Aveline did a lot of chanting, but does she do a lot of dancing. The response was that she dances a great deal. David said that when he thinks of cervical cancer, that is a more yang cancer, so there is some constriction, some holding in. When he saw her at various macrobiotic functions, his impression was that unless you knew her very well, she was very closed off, very introspective and he felt that she had difficulty in sharing.
Bill responded by saying that there is a lot of truth in what David is saying, but that he was also bothered by what he called the aspect of characterization; for instance, David said that Aveline doesn't dance, whereas in fact, she dances her little fanny off, as Bill put it; and David said she has this holding in whereas she has been often criticized for speaking out. What bothered him was this desire to characterize a person and we may be completely off base. That this is a very private thing in a way, and it is very arrogant, and we are all guilty of that, and he is trying to look at where that line is between study- where study is to look at what are the potential contributory factors to her developing cervical cancer as opposed to any other kind of cancer, and there is a lot there to understand- or, do we really understand the intricacies of the life of Aveline Kushi intimately enough to comment on why this particular woman has this particular disease, and he doesn't think that we do. And Bill probably knows her better than anyone in the room, because he lived and worked with her for a considerable time, and he doesn't know everything about her. So that, for instance, the fact that chanting and meditation, to which she has been devoted for many years, and something she has shared with and encouraged, is introspective, although a valid observation, does not necessarily mean that it contributed in any way to her getting this disease. Bill said that he doesn't know that we can even know that.
Steven Kapit said that for 30 or more years macrobiotic teaching has been here in the US and there are many macrobiotic books now available, and, in addition to many other aspects of life, these books tell you that if you eat this way you will clear up this illness, and if you eat this other way, you will get sick. So, if the matriarch of the movement comes down with cancer, you can't possibly help but ask that question-how?
Bill said that is true and he thinks this is a fantastic opportunity for those people who are in the macrobiotic "movement", and see the value in it, and wish to see it develop and grow. Specifically, our literature is simply not reflective of our practice. In all the books, from Ohsawa on down, there is only a small fraction that is actually reflective of daily macrobiotic practice. Bill said he specifically tells people not to read certain books and in fact, the last time he had an argument with Aveline was over the book, "Macrobiotic Pregnancy and Care of the Newborn", which he thinks is not a good book to read if you are pregnant! There is as a result a lot of confusion generated out of the poor expression as to an accurate description of what a daily macrobiotic practice is for most people.
So, the fact that Aveline has developed cancer is, in addition to the sympathy, sorrow, disappointment, cynicism and whatever other responses may be forthcoming from people around the world (incidentally, the participants at the conference jointly wrote messages in a get well card which we mailed to Aveline), an occasion for us to mature in our macrobiotic life and practice. What Bill meant by that is also, it is okay for us not to know; one of the signatures of the macrobiotic movement is that we are the 'know-it-alls'- Ohsawa was definitely that way, Michio is definitely that way.
Kaare Bursell said that Ohsawa used to make the point that if you said you didn't know, then you were a dummy. Bill agreed and said that as a result all of his students have that quality. Gene Modin pointed out that Ohsawa called his school "Maison Ignoramus", and Bill said that is one of the many paradoxes in life! George Ohsawa is one of those geniuses where you can read his books and on the very same page you can go from marveling at the brilliance of his thought and then ten lines later read something that occasions you to say, what an ass. We are going to discuss him later, but there are stories of him, verifiable in his own writings, where he is the kindest, most noble hearted of people, and there are stories, also verifiable, where he behaves in the most obnoxious, sexist and fascist way. What do we do that?
Kaare said that in terms of the maturing of macrobiotic thinking and practice, in his teaching he tells people right at the beginning that there is no cure for disease, and that the macrobiotic diet doesn't heal anyone of anything. He uses this as a starting point for discussion. Everybody probably starts their macrobiotic practice out of fear of getting sick, and Kaare thinks that is healthy, to begin with. But, in the course of our macrobiotic practice we ought to arrive at the stage where we no longer even think about getting sick. There is a quotation of Albert Einstein's which most people have probably seen as a bumper sticker-"You cannot both prevent and prepare for war". Kaare says that in actual practice, to prevent war is to prepare for war. So, in the case of disease, to go about trying to prevent disease is to prepare yourself for getting sick. We have to cease talking about preventing sickness and start talking about creating health. This is a wholly different perspective from the way disease is generally written about and discussed. Thus, in the macrobiotic literature and the way people talk about their macrobiotic practice, fear is the thread that runs through most of the writing and conversation. And fear creates an acid condition in the blood!
Bill said that we ought to be aware of not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Collectively, in macrobiotic practice all over the world, we are on to something not only in terms of health, but also in terms of ecology, environment and economy.
Kate said we have an over exaggerated emphasis on the physical body, and that in her case, if she starts to identify too much with her physical body then she finds that she starts getting uptight and rigid, and then she gets sick. So, we need also to address other aspects of the human being including our emotions, feelings, attitudes etc.
David said that the issue of Aveline's cancer is probably more to do with discovering a lot about how we hold it, how we feel and think about macrobiotic practice, and our expectations. And we have to break down some of the errors and myths in the books. But we are all going to go back to our communities and we are going to get a lot of questions, so we better have a response.
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International Macrobiotic Assembly.
Bill gave a short presentation about this meeting which takes place in Europe. This one is the 16th and is taking place in Kiental, Switzerland, from November 3 thru 7, and is run differently from this one in that it is agended. The agenda is determined at the previous year's meeting so that it gives time for people to prepare what they are going to say. It is a large event, with several hundred people participating, many discussions take place with many different nationalities represented. It is a very worthwhile event and Bill encouraged us if we were in the position to afford it financially and time wise, to make the effort. Bill left us with a couple of brochures to look at, as well as some informational fliers on his Nova Healing Arts program in Boulder, with the residential program starting in Spring.
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Transition to Macrobiotics.
Julie Musil introduced this topic because she has many friends of her age who are interested but somewhat put off and she wondered how we all made our transition. In her case, her parents sent to White Spruce Farm in Canada where they had a summer residential program run by Susan Sims. She found it a wonderful way because she was immersed in the total environment of being up in the mountains miles away from any stores etc., and everybody ate three macrobiotic meals a day with cooking classes and lectures etc. She had been reading a macrobiotic book for about a year without really getting into it, but up there it was very easy to get immersed and make the transition.
But for someone who has a regular job, 9-5, and is trying to do this, it is perhaps more difficult than is commonly talked about. Kaare thinks actually the transition period is about three years for most people, but in terms of getting started he did it virtually overnight. He was in Co. Donegal in the north-west of the Republic of Ireland and he drove to Dublin, purchased the rice, aduki beans , miso etc, went to his kitchen, deposited all the foods in there in a large trash bag and took it to the dump (today he would probably take it to the food bank). He had a cookbook called "Freedom Through Cooking" by Iona Teeguarden and used that for most of his first three years. He decided to start eating macrobiotically on a Wednesday, and started the following Sunday. He thinks the macrobiotic dietary practice is a vehicle for us to go through a radical transformation; the dietary aspect of macrobiotic practice is way overplayed, because it is the vehicle to undergo emotional, mental, and spiritual changes that are necessary for a total healing. And our lives should change radically; He said that his life today has absolutely nothing in common with his life before he started macrobiotics.
So, the curative aspects of macrobiotic practice are not the point- he said of course it is helpful in healing to eat macrobiotically, but no one can say that it causes people to heal; some people do heal and some people do not; and what is more interesting is to look at all the possible reasons why people both do and do not heal which have nothing to do with the dietary practice. And it is not ever going to be anything we can put in a formula, because we are all unique and fundamentally the whole process is a mystery.
What Kaare cannot understand is all these books being written by people who have very limited experience of macrobiotic practice; there ought some kind of tacit understanding that we do not write macrobiotic literature until we have been doing it for twenty years. Kaare said he didn't think we know anything about macrobiotic practice until we have been doing it for several years.
Kate McCall said it would be encouraging and refreshing to see those kinds of books written where we discussed the mystery of healing and wrote in a more relaxed and open way.
Bill Tara responded by saying that he was sure, because what he was concerned about if we do not have a set of practices that everyone can follow and if we go on about really not knowing what we are doing that this can be disempowering to people. One of the characteristics, in his opinion, of these eastern sects, for example, is the problem we have with our interpretation of eastern teachings. And the disempowerment people feel with professing of ignorance means that it is easy for them to be manipulated. One of the primary aspects of a sect is to have a set of rules and codes that are so rigid that no one can adhere to them. With regard to transition he thinks there are two important aspects, one of them being what we stop eating and stop doing, which he believes is the more powerful, and the other is what we start doing. The other is we make we the diet too complicated; it is not so important what we eat other than the fact that we establish a relationship with the food.
He feels very sorry for the people who go to have a consultation and they come away with reams of paper telling them about all these different recipes and how often and when to eat them. If you have that then your transition is going to be terrible. When Bill started there were no General Dietary Recommendations, and these were only put together because people began asking,'how much salt, how much rice?' they should eat.
Sherry Peale said that was fine to have a set of guidelines because you could always be flexible within them if you felt that you needed to eat something else. Bill said that is true if you do not, or have not been induced into, the mind set that says it is wrong if I do not eat this food, or I do eat that food, if that is what the guidelines say. So, if your body indicates to that it would be a good idea to have some dairy, and you have the impression that eating dairy food is the closest thing to entering the devil's territory, then you either not going to do it, or if you do, then you are going to feel so bad about eating it that we throw the baby out with the bath water.
Sherry said that there is not any one in the room who has not been through that process but hopefully we learn how to stay strict and we learn how to explore wider eating. Bill said that if someone tells him that they have never really eaten strictly, then he tells them that they had better do so. Because we have got to have something to compare with; if you only know how one extreme is, then that isn't very helpful; you have to know what the other is too. So, eating strictly is very helpful especially when we are starting our macrobiotic practice, and even occasionally when we are eating more widely.
The two books that came up as being probably the most accessible to people who are in the transition process are "The Macrobiotic Way" by Michio Kushi, because it is ghost written by Steven Bauer and he writes well; the other is Kristine Turner's "Self Healing Cookbook". Bill said that he thought the "Book of Macrobiotics", the updated version is also good but he doesn't think it is necessary to get started.
In terms of making a transition out of the dominant society around us, which has a tremendous amount of energy invested in cynicism, in that all of television is about things not working, things being cruddy, and how things always fall apart, and that is true in government, politics, religion etc. So, people are always looking out to see how we are falling on our faces. Thus, in terms of macrobiotic transition we should always be aware that when we do something out of the ordinary people's real investment is in seeing you fail. We need two qualities to aid us; the willingness to be unusual or eccentric, or even more so, a celebration of it, and maintaining a sense of humor about it. In the final analysis, it doesn't really matter if people think we are nutty!
Sherry Peale said she heard someone say recently "if you are one step ahead of the crowd, you're a leader; if you're two steps ahead of the crowd, you're a disturber of the peace, and if you're three steps ahead of the crowd, you're a fanatic".
Kate McCall gave us a brief description of her transition, where she got into macrobiotic practice very quickly and she did this in Los Angeles where the most rewarding aspect was meeting with people for macrobiotic pot lucks once a month. She feels this is where she did most of her learning, sitting around and discussing macrobiotic practice with other people at these pot lucks.
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Kate McCall went right into this subject because she felt that one of the most difficult aspects of her transition into macrobiotic practice ten years ago was the emotional rigidity she experienced in the macrobiotic community. She actually first got involved because she had a close friend who she didn't want to die and he didn't get into it as intensely as she did. Her account was that there was a woman who had breast cancer who was doing macrobiotic practice to help her heal, and she wouldn't show anyone, but she had this breast that was weeping and she was suffering incredible, horrible pain, and she was very close to this woman and no-one had any emotional support to give to this woman and it was awful. And she got the impression that the people in the macrobiotic community thought there was something wrong with you that you should feel bad about it. And the woman would go around hiding her condition from everyone and of course she died, yet she was eating strictly etc. And that didn't make her feel to good about the macrobiotic community, that they are too uptight, and they said that she was too emotional.
Kaare asked what was the response of people in the macrobiotic community and Kate said that they kind of shrugged it off by saying she didn't do it right, so, who cares. Which is how we could get with Aveline's situation if we are not careful. You know, write her off. For one thing, that woman felt guilty she had breast cancer in the first place, that she was wrong to have gotten it; and she was in a community where she was trying to do everything she could to make it heal, and she was told don't get emotional and you can't be eating right. And that is not to say that people in that community were bad people, they were trying to eat what was right but they also didn't know; there wasn't the openness for sharing are not knowing, and that we were experimenting and that we were emotional beings at the same time. And her weaknesses and her doubts she couldn't share because she was unable to confront the authorities of the macrobiotic community around me.
We discussed this and one of the aspects of macrobiotic teaching we have to keep in mind is that we have gotten most of it primarily from Japanese people, and this is said without trying to apportion blame or point fingers, and they come from a culture where emotions are not honored. We have to say are we ready to play that game; for Japanese people in a cultural and traditional context it makes sense (and that is debatable) but for us it does not, we as Westerners do not do well if we pretend we do not have emotions around any particular issue, person or event. Bill Tara said that particularly for those people who are going through the healing process, we are looking for among other things, the supportive aspects of community. And this is double edged, because the community is not only there to make us feel comforted and secure in this process, but is also supposed to keep us on track.
The essence of the discussion was that if we have emotions arising out of our relationships with people, or food, or events, or whatever, then it is definitely unhealthy to keep them all bottled up because those energies have to go somewhere, and if we don't integrate them, then it is likely they are going to cause problems, emotionally, physically and mentally. It's like we have this language in macrobiotic practice where we talk about a 'clean' diet, which automatically means there is a dirty diet. We have this idea of macrobiotic diet being some kind of a rotor rooter that's reaming out all this 'bad stuff' so that we don't have to deal with it.
Bill said that we really forget what we are doing because we get so caught up in the details of cooking and eating that we miss or are not even aware of what we are really doing, which is we are re-culturing ourselves. We are in the process of extricating ourselves from the morass of modern culture and are on our way to becoming some new culture, and we are doing this without any precedence in human history. So, when things occur which are awkward, or 'wrong', we tend to say it is something to do with the way we are eating, or what we are eating. Healing is about breaking cultural patterns, whether they are within the individual, the family or the culture at large.
Bill said that when he came into macrobiotics about thirty years ago, he and most of the people who came into it then did so consciously aware of the possibilities of transforming their lives, into a new way of being. Since then, beginning about fifteen years ago, this idea of macrobiotics has gradually receded and been superimposed by the whole cancer cure and health aspects of macrobiotics, in a very narrow way compared to what is inherent in a macrobiotic practice. Thus there is not the demand within the community for people to be constantly re-evaluating themselves and where they are in their transformative process.
Kaare said that when he started, after he read George Ohsawa, he told himself, that if what Ohsawa is saying is true, then if I continue to live the way I am living, then I am going to die of cancer. And he didn't want to die of cancer. So he continued his macrobiotic practice, but, what he found out was as he was eating and cooking this food that stuff started to come up in his psychology that, really, I am living this crappy life, and I am injecting cows with these poisons so people can eat this milk and this meat, and I am castrating calves etc., etc. and I can't really do this anymore. So it came to the point where he said he either had to quit macrobiotics or he had to continue to change his life, and he chose to continue to change his life, which necessarily meant he had to quit being a veterinary practitioner.
And at this point in his macrobiotic practice and understanding, his feeling is that disease, the symptoms we experience in our physical body, is not only the results of what we put in our body, and food itself may even be a very limited cause of what you might call 'stagnation'. We need to look at all our emotional stuff, we may be carrying all this acculturated stuff that may be inappropriate and that we are in denial about having to change, and that having to work through that is painful, it involves suffering, and it involves difficulty. We are not articulating that process in macrobiotic literature and as result people do not realize what they are getting into.
He said that he does dietary counseling, and what he assumes right now is that he does not do dietary counseling to cure cancer, because he thinks there is no cure for cancer. So his dietary advice is given in the hope that people, if they carry out the dietary suggestions will experience the phsycological consequences of eating a strict macrobiotic dietary regimen, will arrive at realizations about what they need to change in their lives, and then carry out those changes. But he cannot tell people about that because that is not what they are paying there money for.
Bill said that is a problem that people who are doing professional counseling have to deal with on a one to one basis. One of the assumptions built in to macrobiotic teaching is that if we eat macrobiotically then our emotions are going to automatically clear up. However, this is not true; some things about them might change, we may experience them differently and we may express them differently, but the fundamental pattern is not going to change automatically. For instance, if a person is brought up in an abusive family, and he or she developed a pattern of emotional responses to deal with that abuse, then one cannot eat their way out of it. Although eating macrobiotically may open up one to seeing and being more sensitive to those patterns and dealing with them better. But eating the diet doesn't automatically make one deal with them, we still have to have a willingness to acknowledge and deal with our emotional being, no matter how discomfiting doing that may be, if we are going to heal on more than just the physical level.
So this is a dilemma that people who are doing macrobiotic counseling professionally. And most people that come into macrobiotic practice are drawn to it by reading Anthony Sattillaro's book, "Recalled by Life", and by Elaine Nussbaum's "Recovery from Cancer through Macrobiotics", and if they seek out counseling, they are coming for dietary counseling. And so Bill said that the challenge for him is to meet their expectations about diet and also to widen their expectations about what they may need to do in addition to the dietary changes. What he notices as he attempts to do that, he loses more people. And if you are in the business of counseling, that is not good for business.
And if anyone talks to a person practicing a macrobiotic life, invariably we talk about what we eat, because it's easier. It is not so easy to talk about what inner processes we are going through in trying to reculturate ourselves based on macrobiotic philosophy and world view, because we are in the process of discovering what that may be!
The way Kaare solves this dilemma is to try to insist that people have follow ups and then broach the question,'what's going on?' but not relation to food, to other things that may be happening in their lives, like in their relationships, at work, whatever. But it is difficult, because people do not generally want to discuss it. And we do not present in macrobiotic literature the possibility that a person's physical symptoms may be caused by acculturated conditioning, and suppression of emotions is one example.
Kaare said that it is kind of ironic that he thinks it a real tragedy for the world and macrobiotics that Michio made the decision to focus on establishing macrobiotic practice as a "cancer cure", but if he hadn't, Kaare would not be doing counseling, which he enjoys and gives him a means of independent livelihood which is very wonderful.
Sherry pointed out, in an example of a lady of about 73 years whom she had counseled recently, who had had diarrhea for decades and toward the end of the counseling session, the lady expressed that this was very sad for her because her greatest pleasure was going out and eating meals with her friend. So the change to the macrobiotic dietary practice is already a radical change.
The discussion then got around to the idea of separatism, are we separating ourselves from the rest of the culture in our macrobiotic culture. The fact is, that we eat and hopefully, we can learn to think, in a different way than the culture around us, because it is fairly obvious that the culture around us is degenerating rapidly, and the rate of degeneration is increasing rapidly. So, yes, we are, not so much separating ourselves off, but are emerging slowly, as the dominant culture slowly awakes from the deep denial for radical change that is daily presented to it in the papers and electronic media, and they look around for something or somebody to turn to to help them extricate themselves from their enslavement to it. Thus, if we present and carry out to the world that we do this macrobiotic thing because we feel good doing it, we feel happier and get more enjoyment out of life doing it, then people are going to be attracted to it or not, and we cannot worry about whether people like it or not. Bill Tara said that he had for him a big realization many years ago, and that is it is not possible for us to make peace with everybody, but there are lots of people you can make peace with, and you do not keep banging into doors that are closed.
Julie said that what attracts people to discussing macrobiotic practice with her is the fact that she looks healthy to the people in her community an they ask her what she is doing. That is probably the most successful drawing card to people being attracted to macrobiotic practice -that we are having a great time doing it!
David said that in regard of the emotional aspects of macrobiotic practice the book by Kristine Turner, "The Self-Healing Cookbook" is being influential and people's perception of macrobiotic practice being more than just the diet is changing slowly.
In terms of emotional health of an individual or group of people, the primary indicators include are they creative? In the context of macrobiotic practice, are people creative beyond making good sushi? Do they write, paint, read and write poetry, sing, play an instrument, have a sense of humor, play with their children, have a hobby which has nothing to to with food? Those are indicators of emotional health. If we do not see that then we have to ask ourselves, what's missing? Something must be missing.
So, in describing macrobiotic people one generally gets the feeling and the perception that these people are unhappy. Bill related how he had gone to the macrobiotic camp in Vermont and there are all these people there who are just basically uptight, and the point is we have in the macrobiotic literature the tendency to explain what it is we need to heal in a very authoritarian, restrictive way. In terms of improving this, the second and third generation teachers and practitioners need to write books that are more reflective of our experience. Kaare mentioned he had been living macrobiotically for eighteen years and thus far it had been a tremendously enjoyable experience. And the tendency to have this reductionist approach in macrobiotic conversation of everything being related to what we eat, so that becomes the panacea for all problems of humanity, is really superficial and restricting. Whereas, the philosophy of yin and yang, which is fundamental to macrobiotic practice, and outside of people professionally involved in a macrobiotic livelihood, people do not apply themselves to learning it. And yet, it is one of the great treasures of the world, and is not exclusive to oriental culture. Yin and yang 'thinking' is present in Greek philosophy, Egyptian philosophy, in European Romanticism, it's even present in computer technology, although the language and terminology is different in each case.
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Aveline Kushi - Part Two.
At the beginning of the afternoon session it was decided that we had not said all we needed to say about Aveline Kushi developing cervical cancer. Kaare began by saying that if we look at the picture we have these two people who came to the United States in 1947 and they have done a lot of wonderful work and inspired a lot of people but one of the things that Michio and Aveline have told people is that macrobiotic practice is a way you can cure cancer and certainly it is not one of the things you do to get cancer. And so when we hear that one of the matriarchs of macrobiotics, because she is not the only matriarch of macrobiotics, there is Cornellia Aihara and Lima Ohsawa, and one of them has developed cancer in the context of macrobiotic practice being disseminated as a sound way of dealing with cancer, this has to cause us to self-reflect as to what does it mean. And the need to understand this has nothing to do with criticizing Aveline as a person, this has to do with critiqueing our understanding of macrobiotic thinking and practice. Kaare said that he didn't think we did that this morning, with the tenor of the discussion being more in the way of skirting around the issue.
Kate McCall said that she felt that Bill was trying to protect Aveline and trying to protect himself, in a way. David said he could understand that because Bill has had a close relationship with and has spent many years with both Michio and Aveline and now we still feel there are a lot of unanswered questions, and we are not criticizing Bill in all this, either. Sherry said that she wondered whether the fact that Aveline has spent so many years working with people who are sick and that she is in a place where she is always dealing with sick people and perhaps she takes on the energies of those people. And Sherry said she has heard Aveline say that she eats, as a wife potentially pregnant, very simply, because if she does get pregnant she doesn't want to have animal protein.
But, Kaare said, that is her perception of her macrobiotic practice, and he can recall the same thing impressing Gloria Swanson, in an interview she gave several years ago, about Aveline - and Gloria Swanson was impressed very favorably by what Aveline said. And Aveline said that the mother can never afford to eat anything but a simple 'clean' diet, because the burgeoning life in her deserves nothing less. So, if that is what a person is thinking, what does that indicate about their perceptions of macrobiotic practice. At least it indicates to Kaare that there is fear, and there is the need to be in total control of your health. Kate said that in the context of being a woman, then you are nobody except in the identity of being a vessel for new life.
And another thing we didn't bring up is that Aveline has the reputation for eating strictly with this tremendous will power in the context of all this international travel, going back and forth all over the US and the World, to Europe, the Far East, South America, Japan etc. Kaare knows that traveling at 600 miles and hour or more at 35,000 feet or higher definitely weakens the immune system and causes problems in calcium metabolism.
And of course, we have a tendency in this society, as part of the cultural conditioning which we are trying to erase in our reculturation. And we have to confront this tendency in macrobiotics if there is any hope of dealing with it in society. And the problem is that when anything uncomfortable happens in the macrobiotic community, someone dies prematurely, or beats up their spouse, or there is adultery and womanizing going on, no one wants to deal with it. Of course, the problem of not dealing with it amounts to a denial of it ever happening and then the whole episode festers like a psycho-social cancer in the community.
Thus, it is proper that we should discuss Aveline's cancer in the context of Aveline's practice of her macrobiotic lifestyle, and even the characterization of disease in macrobiotic thinking is that it is the symptoms of our way of life, and eating is only one of the things we do in our living day to day.
David said that he thought and his impression on meeting Aveline, which has been confirmed by all that was said this morning, is that her practice of macrobiotic eating is plainly inflexible and that no-one could possibly eat that strictly for that long and not develop physical problems. He thinks that macrobiotic principles are about being flexible and adaptable, so that in his case, as does Kaare and other macrobiotic teachers, he smokes tobacco and drinks coffee, and does not try to hide that from anyone and is quite happy to explain how a macrobiotic practice gives you the flexibility to do that without it being damaging to the body. That the body, if treated appropriately, has the flexibility to allow us to eat other things than what is in the strict macrobiotic diet, so it is no big deal if we eat something else if we want or feel the need to. And perhaps Aveline felt she needed to be this example whereby she had to be perfect, and maybe because Michio wasn't. But, that's her thinking process about what she thinks a macrobiotic practice is.
Kaare said that this ties in with the evolution of macrobiotics and his impression from reading George Ohsawa early on was that he had all these physical indicators to tell you if you were healthy or not; he had this list of symptoms like, you were always active and busy until you went to bed, that you immediately fell asleep on placing your head on the pillow, that you were never late, that you were always clean, your responses to people were always prompt and clear etc. and he assigned points to them so that you had like a check list to measure your health and vitality. This list totaled 100 points. Then, after forty years of practice, he added one more, and to this he apportioned 50 points, so that if you didn't have this one, even if you fulfilled all the other ones, you were still sick. And this one is "Never lie to protect yourself".
And here we have another person in macrobiotics who has gotten cancer. This is not the first macrobiotic teacher who has developed cancer and in the case of Ken Burns, died from it. In his case, when the obituaries came out in the macrobiotic journals and magazines, not one mentioned that he was a rabid alcoholic, except Kaare wrote an essay in his macrobiotic journal, "News from The River" called 'Without Shadow, Without Light' in which he tried to explain why he thought macrobiotic dietary practice as it is currently talked about in macrobiotic books was a major contributor to his being an alcoholic. And the reason he wrote the article was he was very angry at the total lack of concern and respect for Ken Burns that they were in total denial about it in all the articles he read about Ken Burns life.
The fact is that we have to deal with the shadow in our lives, and everybody has a shadow, so if we do not then it just has free reign, it has the whole field to itself. Mary Ann Davis said that a lot of our creative talent and poetic expression stems from the shadow side and it can be very beautiful and wonderful. Kaare agreed but said that if the shadow side is totally denied then what comes out is distorted and hideous .
So, Kaare said that here is another opportunity, notwithstanding our sympathy and sorrow for what Aveline and her immediate circle of family and friends must be experiencing right now, for us to look at macrobiotic practice, teaching, philosophy, ideas, theory and attitudes.
Now, do we really do a macrobiotic practice thinking we are going to get cancer as a result? No, we do not. Kaare said that he has long and has spoken about this on many occasions, at past Pacific Macrobiotic Conferences, and in public lectures, been a critic of what he calls the Kushi Syndrome. And this syndrome is "we know what macrobiotics is, and nobody else does", and the Kushi imprimatur is like, you can only be a macrobiotic practitioner if you are certified there. He is the only one of all George Ohsawa's students who set up a certification program. Now, why would he want to do that?
Kaare remembers the conversation he participated in along with Mark Mead, John Smyrni, and David that we had with Michio in 1987 at the summer camp at Great Barrington. At that time Michio was trying to get the Kushi Affiliated Network of Macrobiotic Centers as like the third attempt to have an organization under his influence. The Kushi people had even come to the PMC a couple of times to make presentations on it. Now the deal was that if you wanted to participate in this, the idea being that you would get a sticker like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to stick on your place of business, and then everyone who came into your business, whether a store or restaurant, or center or counseling practice would now know that you were safe, and had been approved by Michio, you had his seal of approval. In order to participate in this you had to give 1% of your annual gross income and in return you would get like a full service organization including Tax lawyers, CPA's, advertising, legal counsel etc. And Kaare's response was what the hell has this got to do with macrobiotic practice?
So, at the cafe where John, Mark, David and Kaare had gone at the camp to have a cup of coffee, around 2 o'clock in the afternoon, Michio walks in by himself. Now David has a personal relationship with Michio so he asks Michio to join us. Michio gets his cup of coffee and David asks him why he wants to to do this, and he had already tried with Macrobiotics International and another one before that. Kaare said this is what Michio's response was, and asked David to correct him if he exaggerated or was inaccurate: "You people who are doing macrobiotics out in the boondocks, you don't have any credibility, but I have credibility and recognition. Now, in my sphere I deal with the government of Yugoslavia, I deal with the King of Spain, I deal with the UN, I deal with the AMA and various federal beauracracies. Now, when I go into those places I am conversing and discussing issues with people who have a power base of some kind or other. However, I do not have a power base. So, this Kushi Affiliated Network of Macrobiotic Centers is my power base and in return you get my credibility and name recognition." Kaare said that at that time he said to himself, is this macrobiotics? This has nothing to do with macrobiotics. And he remembers saying to himself that Michio was finished.
Because Kaare feels there is a macrobiotic spirit and this spirit has to do with low key, grass roots, local community sharing of macrobiotic ideas and practices and he charges for his services, 100 dollars and if you want to pay that you get a consultation, but there are several other people who can give you counseling in the Bay Area, you can go to them, he doesn't have a problem with that. What he thinks is Michio and the whole Kushi schtick is about control- charging 500 dollars and you have to go to Becket, and you have to do the week long program, and their whole policy about referrals. And Kaare thinks this controlling aspect is a diseased masculine energy, overly macho, fascist type of energy.
Now, Aveline is part of all that and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this diseased macho energy is one of the factors entering into why she developed cancer.
Kate said to her this whole over-masculinity of society is what we have all been raised with so that if a woman wants to be successful in this society then that is what she has to become.
David related how he had had a conversation with Michio where he told Michio that this whole organizational bent of Michio's was not working and we need to rethink the whole way we approach the social distribution of macrobiotic information, because regardless of all the symptomatic ideas Michio might respond with, it is not working. In other words we have congress, we have the federal government, we have all these huge organizations and it is not working and we cannot expect to rework those same forms in a macrobiotic way and have any hope of success. We have to figure out a new way. Based on that, Michio and Aveline's life has been about creating a massive organization and taking on a leadership role and all the problems that go with it in terms of funding and politics etc., this is what they have gotten themselves into and in David's opinion this is part of her problem as well. And in his opinion, this is far from any interpretation of macrobiotic principles and how they might be interpreted in the realm of social distribution, and thus it is entirely possible that on a moral or spiritual level this causes problems of a degenerating kind which manifests itself physically. And he may be wrong but with this whole organizational approach and with the power that they think they have as a result is definitely a contributing factor.
And Kate wanted to get back to the emotional factor where if in all that has gone on over the years in her life in the type of organizational power structure that has been created there, if she has not expressed her feelings and emotions about this and that then those emotions go into the body, and these are what we call 'skeletons in the closet' and in any situation where that is the case, then it is going to have a perniciously negative influence. And we all do this, not telling our kids about something negative, because we feel it is better for them not to know. And those things always get out sooner or later so it is better to deal with them out in the open in plain sight of day as soon as possible. And Kate is finding out that in her own life these things that were kept from her in her family, for all the best reasons, have been a destructive influence in her life. And she has only recently found out about them and is still working through them because one of the consequences of not dealing with this aspect of human life in this culture, is, as a culture, we are sorely lacking in the tools to be able to deal with them appropriately.
David said that Aveline, like all of us, is not immune to problems, and that her going through what she is going through is teaching us; how many times have we said disease is a teacher?
Mary Ann asked about Ohsawa's conditions of health and Kaare reiterated that the last condition came about because Ohsawa had someone in his community who was, for want of a better description, a poisonous person. So he added the "never lie to protect yourself' as the final condition of health to emphasize that true health means we are also morally healthy, that we know we are morally accountable for our deeds, thoughts and words.
And Kaare said that this was not taught or discussed at the Kushi Institute when he was there and as it happened when a teacher at the Kushi Institute beat his wife and this got around the community and we were discussing why this could have possibly happened all people could say was "he's too yang". Now, it may well be that he was too yang, but that doesn't excuse his behavior toward his wife!
And the whole attitude there was that everything could be explained by saying whether a person was too yin or too yang. However, Kaare said, when it comes to morals and ethical behavior, then yin and yang do not apply, because if it were the case that everything were accounted for by yin and yang alone, then we would be as much in error as scientific materialistic reductionism is about understanding life. Kaare said that he thinks that macrobiotic practice as it is taught at the Kushi Institute is as materialistic as modern science.
David said we also have to understand that all these critiques, suggestions, etc., are our own specific ideas and they may not apply to everyone. So, for example, for someone it may be alright to fly around the world and do all they want to do and be able to balance that all in their life. These thoughts are all coming up in the context of what may be contributing factors to Aveline developing her condition. But she needs to reflect on what is valid for her, as we all do.
The discussion moved on to why Lilly Kushi, Michio and Aveline's daughter had developed the same condition as her mother, about two years ago, then we really didn't have any information about her life other than she is a musician, piano player and had been studying at a music school in Los Angeles.
Kaare said that he had always been critical of the Kushi's because he feels that the idea of certification is really a major disaster for the development of macrobiotic practice. Kaare remembers that when he was at the Kushi Institute, having gone there as a member of the second class in 1979, he talked to some people who had been in Boston for several years and they told him that the idea of starting the Kushi Institute had been a very controversial and polarizing issue in the community.
Kaare said that although he is grateful for the opportunity of going to the Kushi Institute, he runs into the problem all the time of people asking him where the best place is to study and whether they should go to the Kushi Institute. What he tells people is that they will learn alot, and mostly what they will learn is how not to practice macrobiotics, which is actually a very valuable education. And of course the problem is that we have this acculturation in this society where people, if they want to study, feel they have to go to an institute and get a degree, or get certified, because you must have that slip of paper.
And Kaare said, No! we need to do it differently. One of Michio's greatest statements that Kaare has always remembered, was that if we want a new society, our starting point in going into any particular line of activity or business, is we must do it opposite from what the society is doing. In Kaare's case, if people want to study and learn how to be counselors, he has a 12-15 2 hour tutorial program over a 6 to 12 month period, and he does it any place that is appropriate - in his home, at a coffee bar, in a park, whatever. This makes it a lot more affordable because he has no overhead, and can charge a lot less than the KI. Furthermore, he tells the students that just because they have studied and completed the course of study with him, this emphatically does not mean they are ready to counsel people. So, they ask him how do they know when they are ready? When someone asks them for a consultation! Thus certification isn't the KI giving you a certification, it is done by your local community. If we are perceived by the community in which we are living as doing work, then the community will support your work by people who have had a consultation with you recommending other people to see you- that is your community certifying you. Then you get away from this whole control and authority attitude.
Kaare said that if, in his opinion, Michio had had his druthers macrobiotically, then when the FBI came to him, after they had done their investigation - you know that this investigation that went on? Most people in the conference did not know about this. So, we are already moving into the evolution of macrobiotic practice. Here is some history!
Around 1985, there was a Senate committee set up to investigate medical quackery and fraud in the US, chaired by Sen. Claude Pepper, and when the initial hearings were set up to determine who should be investigated, one of our friends said that macrobiotic practice should be investigated because they are a bunch of quacks. This investigation also included chiropractors, massage, vitamins, acupuncturists and a whole slew of so-called alternative health modalities so beloved by the AMA. So, FBI agents posed as civilians and got and paid for consultations from various macrobiotic consultants, and taped them. Then they went over the tapes and after they had completed their investigation they went to Michio and said that for the most part the people they investigated were fine but there were one or two who were questionable, saying things like if you do this you will cure your cancer etc. The FBI told him that he needed to clean it up, but Michio, instead of being true to macrobiotic philosophy, particularly that aspect of macrobiotic practice that says we are each of us responsible for our own actions, and responding that it it is not his responsibility to police the actions of other macrobiotic practitioners, so that if these people did things that were illegal under the Civil Code, then the FBI should prosecute them, he set up certification.
So, what the whole process of certification implies is that once you are certified it is like getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and no one questions you. Whereas, the fundamental tenet of macrobiotic practice being that we are all personally responsible for our actions means that as teachers and counselors we encourage people who want to have consultations to question us about our experience and training etc.
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Evolution of Macrobiotic Practice.
In the beginning of macrobiotic practice in the United States the people who were drawn to it saw it as one of the tools for personal transformation and cultural change. And then in or around 1978-79 Michio made this decision to go after the AMA and the scientific medical research community to show them the efficaciousness of macrobiotic practice in dealing with cancer, and you reap what you sow.
Mary Ann Davis said that one of the aspects of reading George Ohsawa is his insistence that a person's prime responsibility is to heal themselves, without a consultation, a cooking class, a certificate and that it seems that it has now turned into big business. She was somewhat apprehensive about coming to this conference because of that, because there is no way that she can afford to go to Vega, for instance, and spend $1200.00 for a course. So it has gone away from the personal responsibility and more toward a business training quality.
Kaare said that he agreed but one of the reasons for this trend, largely set up by the deliberate policy of going after cancer, is that in the period between the mid-sixties and today, the trend of the health of the population has gradually become more and more degenerated and the rate of degeneration is accelerating. As a result people are more confused and afraid than they were in the mid-sixties. Now, as a result of macrobiotic practice and some other early pioneers in natural foods, there has been over the past ten years or so a tremendous increase in research and interest in nutrition. Thus there is in the culture at least a thousand dietary programs that people can choose from, and in their state of fear and confusion, if they have decided to make dietary changes, which more and more people are doing in larger numbers, they need a guide.
So macrobiotic practice has evolved in response to the needs of the people, David said, and he says he thinks we need more centers, or schools, or people like Sherry and Kaare and himself doing counseling and macrobiotic educational activities.
Kaare said that to him the next stage in the evolution of macrobiotic practice is the implications of macrobiotic practice in terms of the ecology, environment, economy etc., etc., because there is so much work to be done in explaining to people these aspects of macrobiotic practice. For him the best way to think about macrobiotic practice is that it is done by conversation, dialogue, giving lectures and cooking classes, in your own locality and guiding people and then telling them that they need to do this in their own communities. Thus it is local, grass roots and it will spread slowly and for the most part invisibly, and one day we will find out we have a transformed society. Because it is simply not possible to legislate peace and freedom, and all the social activists are barking up the wrong tree.
David said that looking at the evolution of macrobiotic practice as a whole in terms of the seven levels of judgment, George Ohsawa, or perhaps it was Michio, put these in terms of a time span that they last. For instance the mechanical level of judgment lasts at most a few minutes; the sensorial level, a couple of hours; the sentimental level maybe a few days and when you got to the idealistic level perhaps a thousand years. Macrobiotic practice is more on the idealist, religious level and so he is not so concerned in that respect because it is going to be here for a long time; but at the same time he is concerned about macrobiotic education and its influence in the community, and a lot of it is not necessarily what he would call macrobiotic teaching. But, nevertheless there is a slow evolution going on and the influence is being felt as, for example, in the five food groups.
One of the aspects in the evolution of macrobiotic teaching, which Kaare thinks is very retrogressive, is the recent trend toward explaining macrobiotic practice in terms of the physical sciences. Because it is not possible to understand the principles of macrobiotic practice, the dynamics of chi etc., in terms of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, so this whole "chemicalisation" of the human being which is taking place through nutrition science definitely signifies a devolution.
David said that this is unfortunate because there is even a big push within macrobiotic teaching to explain it in those terms, and this is very dangerous as it causes people to use many other things, like blue-green algae, and diluting macrobiotic teaching.
This is one of Kaare's problems with current macrobiotic teaching. He came out of the veterinary profession and as a result of his experiences as a clinician and surgeon he knows that macrobiotic practice has absolutely nothing to do with modern medicine, that there is not even the remotest possibility of building a bridge with modern medicine. And it is not as if we do not have any evidence that there is no bridge between modern medicine and macrobiotic practice. Christiane Northrup is an MD who practices macrobiotics and she has a medical practice in Maine. A few years ago she took several people who had been diagnosed by the medical profession as being terminal cancer patients. They went on a macrobiotic practice during which time Christiane Northrup monitored their condition with blood samples and MRI's etc and after five years these people were clear, and it was all documented. She wrote all this up in the proper scientific way for publication in scientific journals, and submitted her paper for publication in The Journal of The American Medical Association, in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British medical journal, The Lancet.
These august publications all turned down publication of her paper on the grounds that "this material is not suitable for our readership". In Kaare's opinion this is in fact the case, and if we are involved in a macrobiotic practice and we are teaching, giving cooking classes and developing our understanding of yin and yang, the dynamics of the life force, of what all this means in terms of ecology, economics, environment, social life etc., then we have to leave all that stuff, we have to basically unlearn it, because it gets in the way of understanding macrobiotic principles and practice. So Kaare feels that we should quit trying to influence society and then we will have more of an influence into society.
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Kate McCall introduced this topic by saying that when she began macrobiotic practice it was taught that the women stayed in the kitchen, she was the one who did the cooking, and she made all the decisions because she knew what was best for her husband. She felt that this was arrogant, and it was also sexist, but if it was true it would be fine, but it isn't true, and besides which that idea runs counter to macrobiotic philosophy. Then she heard about George Ohsawa and how he used to hit Lima, his wife from time to time. And that really turned her off.
She felt that the macrobiotic community felt limiting in that way. What Kate said, using George and Lima Oshawa as examples, because of their position in the macrobiotic community, and George is having his 100 anniversary of his birth, if he were still on the planet, celebrated all over the world this October. Now, what sexism means is how do men and women feel about each other, so that if George Ohsawa hit Lima, then that denigrated and limited her as a human being, and that she said that she learnt from George on those occasions meant that she limited him also. And Kate said that this is part of what is going on with Aveline and Michio. And this is something we are all going to have to work through, as is the society as a whole.
The discussion basically rounded out by saying that if a man and a woman gets together to share their lives together, then they discuss between them what are the various tasks that need to be done and who is going to do them and that they both understand that all the tasks in the household are valuable. The problem in this regard in this that this culture has denigrated those tasks that are to do with keeping the household together, the caring of the children, the cooking, the cleaning of the house, washing the clothes etc. and we need to recognize that these are fundamentally important tasks as the basis for family and community life, and value them as such.
And then we had various anecdotal stories of our personal experiences as husband and wife to illustrate how we deal with the problem of sexism.
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Mary Ann Davis introduced this subject, which we decided to do because it is the 100 year anniversary of his birth, and he inspired many of us to begin and continue our macrobiotic practice, and we have never had a discussion devoted to Ohsawa in the entire history of the Pacific Macrobiotic Conference. Mary Ann said that she found him very inspiring, but that she knew very little of him. What she knew was he was born 100 years ago into a Japanese family of samurai heritage and he was dying of a terminal tuberculous illness which he said was because of the refined western diet. He came across the writings of a Japanese doctor, Ishigen Sagen, who based his ideas on proper eating on the Sodium/Potassium balance in foods. Ohsawa followed Sagen's directions, his tuberculosis cleared up, and he then widened the discourse on health by having the insight that Sodium is a manifestation of yang tendency, and Potassium a manifestation of yin tendency and this opened up the whole of what he called Far Eastern philosophy and he had a great life, teaching, lecturing and writing about macrobiotics.
He had a yin constitution, and he used a lot of salt in his diet which made him much stronger. The reason Mary Ann brought him up for discussion because he has literally changed her life. What impressed David about George was his 'go for it' attitude, the fact that he was always very determined and never let any difficulty divert him from his avocation. He is a wonderful example, despite his flaws.
Kaare said he started reading George Ohsawa's trilogy, "The Philosophy of Oriental Medicine", the three volumes being 'Zen Macrobiotics', 'The Book Of Judgment', and 'Guidebook for Living', after he had been practicing macrobiotic eating for about a year, when he came across what for him was a very radical idea, something he had never heard from anyone before, which was that, to paraphrase Ohsawa, we do not deserve the status of human being if are not unconditionally grateful. Kaare meditated on this for a few weeks after initially rejecting it out of hand, and then realized that it is very easy to be grateful when things are going well, but to be grateful when things are a struggle and life is hammering you, that is indeed something to strive for. After three years of meditating on being grateful, no matter what difficulties he experienced in those three years, everyday, going through difficulties, emotional, mental, career-wise etc., "I must be grateful". Then, after having quit the veterinary profession, leaving is first wife and family, leaving Wales, he came to Boston in April 1979. He characterized his first three years of macrobiotic practice as the experience of being tossed and buffeted about in a maelstrom, and clinging to this piece of wood with the word 'macrobiotic' written on it, no matter what the world flung at him. Then one day in Boston, in May, toward the end of the day he realized something strange was going on, and couldn't figure out what it was until he realized he hadn't said the mantra "I must be grateful" that day, because he was already grateful. And from that moment on his macrobiotic practice and life has truly been a marvelous adventure.
So, for Kaare, George Ohsawa is, no matter his flaws, his blind spots, his shortcomings, the great inspirer, for he had a tremendous spirit, and he is the only person who has been able to express macrobiotic spirit in words. There are countless stories of George Ohsawa reaching people, who have never met him, in a deep, meaningful way through his writings, for he was an artist, which goes beyond talking about yin and yang and salt, to reach and inspire the spirit in each of us which is capable of overcoming tremendous odds and difficulties, to bring about a humanity and a culture that is real. So, Kaare will always be true to his spirit.
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Age and Youth.
The question was why is it that most people that get into macrobiotic practice are older. The response is that none us experience any real disparity in the age range of people we are seeing and really we didn't see it as an issue. So we closed out the day's session with a discussion that went from talking about children, and shiatsu and other types of bodywork.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25th.
Sherry Peale opened this discussion by saying she had been eating soy foods for years and had lately been having some personal experiences with them that lead her to believe there is some problems with these foods, and she knows people who are testing positive for allergies to various soy foods. So she wanted to find out what our experiences and ideas were on this subject.
David said that with regard to soymilk he thought it was a strange food, and many people go to substituting their morning cereal with milk, with soymilk. He questioned that kind of thinking, as he said that the very idea of having milk with our cereal is largely the result of propaganda of the dairy industry.
Many of the products created from whole soybeans are so far removed from being whole foods that it is questionable they have any value to anyone other than the people who produce them.
Kaare said that tofu is so highly refined it is like eating refined white flour, and it has equally or more of a dissipating, expansive effect in the body, as well as having a very high fat content, that as far as he is concerned it really is a non-food junk food. Kaare said that the high visibility of tofu has come about because of modern culture's fixation with protein. This fixation with protein originally stemmed from an error that was made in the 1930's when most of the early research was done on how much of what nutrients are needed on a daily basis. The research was done on rats and when the amount of protein was determined for optimum growth, development and reproduction for the rat, in milligrams of protein per kilogram of weight, this number was transposed to the body weight, and surface area of the average adult. However, what was forgotten in making the calculations was that rats only take three months to reach maturity, whereas human beings take twenty one years; thus the amount of protein recommended for human beings is overestimated by a factor of 80. In actual fact the daily protein intake for optimum cell function of the average human being is only 28.6 grams or one ounce.
Kaare said that with regard to soy food he distinguishes between yin soy foods and yang soy foods also. The yang soy products, which are miso, and only the ones that are aged more than two years, because the so-called mellow misos are more yin, and tamari and soy sauce. All the more yin ones he tells people to stay away from, avoid like the plague tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, anything made with tofu. Tempeh is okay occasionally because it is whole beans and it is fermented. In terms of psychology, beans generally, and especially soybeans, because they are so heavy, are regarded as the vegetal bovine, since consuming them dulls the mind and makes one's thinking have more of tendency toward materialistic thinking. It's very interesting that in Ancient Greece, at both Pythagoras's and Plato's Academy, if you wanted to be a student there, you would only be admitted, if you qualified, if you agreed to not eat beans in any shape or form.
David related his experience with his son Aaron, who one summer got into the habit of drinking a product (I couldn't catch it on the tape) which had a lot of tofu in it. After a while he developed a skin problem, which, after he and Sharon, his wife, had investigated what it could be, and they found out this drink he was consuming had a lot of tofu in it, and they discussed it with Aaron and he stopped drinking it, the skin condition cleared up.
Kaare talked about allergies and said that it is very interesting that people always say they are allergic to something, fur, corn, pollen, whatever. In his experience of counseling people who have allergies, they clear up relatively easily once people get on a macrobiotic diet. He had known people who have had allergies for twenty or more years clear them up after a year or so. The macrobiotic explanation is that the allergic response is the dynamic of the body getting rid of excess yin substances - the blood and tissue fluid gets too yin from eating all the more yin foods like fruit and fruit juices, sugar, milk, honey, butter, chemicals etc., build up in them, and then a person in this condition is exposed to something very yin like fur or gas or whatever, and the body initiates the sneezing, runny nose, headaches, red and runny eyes, sore throat etc., in order to get rid of the excess yin.
The scientific explanation stem from the work of a research scientist who Kaare thinks is named Dr. Barbara Cunningham. She devoted her research to studying the effects of dairy food on the digestive tract. She found that the mucous epithelial lining of the intestine secretes, in addition to many other substances, an enzyme which she called "Secretory Immune Factor" and one of its functions is to break down molecules to below a certain threshold size by the time they get to the small intestine and are ready for assimilation.
The problem with dairy food is the molecules are vast compared to other molecules we ingest so that continuous intake of it eventually leads to an exhaustion of the function of the secretory immune factor, and then the vast molecules enter into the blood stream and the blood initiates the allergic response. However, the best way to look at allergies is yin and yang. Julie asked why is it that people have allergies to specific substances and we really did not know, except that it is possibly to do with exposure to a particular substance over a long period of time.
Then we talked about how people who have been practicing macrobiotics for a long time and still have their allergies, and all that means is that their practice is not appropriate in one way or another; they are eating too much grains, too much salt and they have locked a lot of the old stagnations in the kidneys, or liver, and they haven't done their ginger compresses on their abdomen and their kidneys. People in the macrobiotic community assume they are going to get better just by doing the dietary practice alone. Now, although people do generally get better just doing the dietary practice alone, fundamentally people do not get better in the long run if they do not do the ginger compresses, salt baths, hip baths. We have to remember that these stagnations have built up over a very long period of time, and if we do not do the treatments they simply do not get released. This is something that Kaare brought with reference to Aveline's condition. Anyone who can do facial diagnosis can see that Aveline has chronic intestinal stagnation, and she has been doing a macrobiotic practice for close to forty years! So, it's pretty obvious that people who are coming into macrobiotic practice must do a ginger compress regimen.
So we went over the ginger compress in great detail with both Kaare and David giving their methods so the participants who did not know about them could begin immediately they got home. It is recommended people do them for 16 weeks, 2-4 times a week. Kaare thinks it takes at least 120 compresses over the course of a year or a year and a half to get rid of the chronic intestinal stagnation. He also said that he thought the ginger compress the greatest invention in the history of humanity, bar none.
David mentioned that a lot of the current literature on allergies talks about undigested food particles, which is the result of our inept digestive functions because of intestinal stagnation. These undigested food particles in the digestive tract, which do not get transformed appropriately, are also a yin substance in the body. Thus they also contribute to the allergic response.
Food rotation was asked about and Kaare said that this is an abstract intellectual invention and thus has nothing to do with reality. The problem of people with allergies, especially chronic allergies, because of the condition and the way this culture is around illness, the psychological make-up of these people includes a deep-seated paranoia around their illness. One of the universal laws of healing is that the process of healing unfolds in such a way that we experience a retracement of the symptoms we have experienced in reverse order; thus, when people start a macrobiotic practice, they begin to retrace their symptoms and if they have allergies, then their allergic symptoms return, but here the body is getting rid of them. Thus, if people are extremely nervous about allergies, and people with chronic allergies tend to be that way, they tend to have a victim hood psyche around their allergies. With those people, a rotation plan may be beneficial psychologically.
We then got into a discussion about AIDS, because the syndrome is related macrobiotically speaking to allergies, environmental illness, chronic fatigue syndrome and candidiasis. Stephen Kapit mentioned that we indicated from the nature of our discussion that it is not possible to get AIDS from someone else; Kaare said no, we create it out of our way of eating, way of living, our emotional, attitudinal, and mental condition, our world view and our moral life. Stephen said that if that is true then the mass media is creating fear in everyone around this, their main interest is the disempowering of people. So, what is the significance from this point of view that AIDS began in the drug addict and gay community in the US. Kaare said that these communities of gay people were those that were indulging in the most yin extreme way of life.
Martha Cottrell, who worked with the AIDS people in New York from 1984-87 came up with seven co-factors that she found in these people's personal history that she deemed were part of the epidemiology of AIDS- appendectomy, tonsillectomy, chronic use of antibiotics, long term drug use, low complex carbohydrate diet, low mineral diet and high simple sugar diet.
It was asked what the significance of the virus is and Kaare replied that there are two macrobiotic theories concerning the significance of the virus. One is that the cells of the human organism were originally single celled organisms which over the course of time have become specialized and modified under the influence of the human spiritual organism to become heart cells, liver cells etc. The other one is that in each cell cytoplasm there are cell organelles which are responsible for various cellular functions which were originally bacteria or viruses, and again have become modified over time to perform these specialized functions. In either case, when the internal environment of the body becomes extremely intoxicated and poisoned, then either the cell or the cell organelle reverts back, that is, devolves, to the virus. Thus the virus is another symptom of the condition. In other words, as the body tissues degenerate and decay under the influence of dietary, emotional, mental and spiritual toxins, the decaying cells are transformed into viruses which then feed on the decaying matter.
The fact is that blaming the virus for causing the illness is erroneous and will never lead to a resolution of the disease. In actuality if a vaccine is ever found then it would be a disaster for humanity.
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The danger of using other alien substances to promote healing - on becoming human.
David Jackson gave a presentation on evolution of humanity which was a recapitulation of what Michio Kushi has presented in the 'Book of Macrobiotics', and we see humanity in the context of this larger view. The process occurred over a period of many millennia, and we go through this process as individuals in the womb. So, we as human beings are designed to eat whole grains and vegetables as our staple food, and if we start eating milk and meat as our staple food, then we are in effect going backwards evolutionarily speaking. Then he talked about the concept of spirals and the one to seven relationship of yang to yin, and he gave a description of the spiral of materialization and the spiral of spiritualization.
Then he talked about how the use of various kinds of artificial techniques for treating illness goes against this order of the creation, and that in so doing the human being who is so treated becomes retrogressive, that is he or she devolves emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. So, in terms of taking in elements in the form of vitamins and mineral supplements, it is inappropriate for us to take in these elements directly, we are supposed to take them in via the plants and whole grains. Thus blue-green algae, spirulina, wheat grass juice etc are inappropriate. Essentially, his point is that we should develop ourselves to the degree that we are not dependent on any substance outside of our daily food and our human spirit to heal ourselves and maintain our health. We need to allow the body to do what it is doing all the time -heal itself. Even herbs are an extreme food and should only be used very sparingly and only for short periods of time, because if they are used indiscriminately they will cause imbalances. Also, Kaare mentioned that herbs are only properly effective if a person is eating whole grains and vegetables as their staple food.
And it is very interesting that those macrobiotic counselors and teachers that do recommend all these strange foods, they do so because they have not healed themselves, because they have not fundamentally changed; they still exhibit probably the most disease inducing process in modern day humanity, which is scientific thinking.
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US Health Care.
We had a debate about the proposal by the Clinton administration to provide universal health care to every one in the culture, irregardless of the ability to pay. In other words, everybody is going to be asked to pay a certain amount per year in order to defray the costs overall. However, Kaare wanted to discuss the implications for the future of the culture of America as a whole if this is put in place.
Bill Tara said that it will put the government imprimatur on what is already in place. This health care package provides the strongest linkage that there has ever been between the AMA and the government; that is, the government becomes the single payer to medicine as is. Thus allopathic medicine becomes state medicine and Bill thinks this is intentional. Then the debate went on to discuss the cultural bias in the society against anything that is not part of the mainstream scientific world view. Then we went on to discuss the consequences of this health care package and one consequence will be that it will legitimize the high-tech medicine that is so expensive and destructive of the human organism. The economics of medicine will not change, not unless the whole attitude and philosophy of medicine changes. Thus, rather than actually doing what it is purporting to do, which is to control costs, it will actually cause health care costs to increase even faster than they are already. For instance, in 1981, health care costs in the US were $185 billion, in 1991 they were $750 Billion, and in 1992, $900 Billion.
David asked what could be the possible ways a macrobiotic approach could be involved when this package becomes law, in some form or other, which will probably take about a year. And he thought that Health Maintenance Organizations might be one way. He said we could present a package to the HMO or to an insurance company much in the same way that Dean Ornish is doing.
Bill responded by saying that the problem with that is the organizational, bureaucratic nature of those institutions does not change and their interest is to maintain the status quo. He said that it was not even remotely in the realms of possibility to change the mammoth structure of health care in the US, especially when the whole purpose of the structure is to maintain people with their sicknesses. And this can not long endure, because when you get a country that is so sick it spends 13% of the profitability of all the corporations and companies and individuals in the country on maintaining its sickness, then it is obviously falling apart.
Bill told us about the situation in Europe where there is already national health care in many of those countries and how alternative approaches to health fit in with the medical systems of those countries. The situation varies from country to country. For example, in Germany, medical clinics, subsidized by the government, employ alternative health practitioners, and there is also a large underground of alternative practitioners; in Italy the alternative health field is very large, and in countries like Holland and Belgium alternative health is very active, and it is tolerated by the medical establishment. In England there is a long history of tolerance of alternative health practices like homeopathy and naturopathy, although it tends to be restricted to the middle and upper middle classes because they are the only people who can afford it. In France, on the other hand, the establishment is openly hostile to alternative health, and several macrobiotic counselors have been put in jail, and there is one in jail there right now.
As for the implications here, Kaare said that he thinks that implementing this health care plan will be like putting the foot on the accelerator of the degenerative process that's already going on. Of course, if this health care plan is also a determined attempt to establish medical hegemony over the health care field by scientific medicine, then the possibility arises that macrobiotic practice in the sense of counseling, will be outlawed. Bill said that it would be very interesting for us if we were driven underground, it would force us to be very inventive and probably a lot stronger.
We finished up the discussion with a lot of anecdotes and stories that seemed to be more of a stream of consciousness meandering about this and that, family life, living macrobiotically, creating community, living in isolation and all kinds of day-to-day stuff that people wanted to share.
With regard to the health care package the interesting point made by Bill was that even if it is a policy decision to go with allopathic medicine as the medicine of choice, forgetting about alternatives, then if modern medicine is going to be cost effective, socially just and affordable, then it means that there has to be a restructuring of the medical industry, a restructuring of the pharmaceutical industry and also of the insurance industry, from the bottom up, and none of this is ever going to happen.
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We finished up the conference with a tribute to Herman and Cornellia Aihara, who direct the Vega Institute in Oroville. Gene Modin gave a description of them and their work and we all warmly appreciate and are grateful for their efforts.