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Ten Life Lessons From My Father

May 28, 2015

There are many great lessons and words of wisdom that my father, Michio Kushi, gave me and countless other individuals whose lives he touched through his many lectures, books and private consultations. These select life lessons are ten out of hundreds that impacted and influenced my life for the better one way or another.  They affected important life decisions, guided me through challenging times, inspired me to strive to be a better person and to learn to always enjoy life under all circumstances.   I share them with you here now in the hopes that they may inspire and be as useful to you as well.

Never Sell Your Life

1.) Never Sell Your Life – (Always pursue your dream)

This isn’t a criticism on prostituting one’s self nor that money is evil but instead is a caution against making a Faust-like bargain of giving your soul to the Devil in exchange for untold riches and earthly pleasures. It is a suggestion to never compromise your principles, passion and dreams for the sake of money or for a cause that you don’t believe in. This doesn’t mean never getting paid to work or turning down money but it does mean to never settle for less than doing something that you feel passionate about and would do regardless of the money.

It’s fine to earn money and do any kind of work as long as it is part of a much larger plan that serves you and your own personal development and dream.  It’s also fine to work for a company (or a boss) whose principles you don’t agree with as long as it serves your own dream and purpose whatever that may be.  In short, work for yourself and pursue your dreams at all times even when you work for others. If you do, you will always have a job that you can never be fired from. Never sell your life.

I first heard my father say these words in one of his lectures when I was a young teenager just beginning to think about getting my first summer job.  That summer, I applied to work as a bagger for a local supermarket chain.  (This was long before the days of natural and organic supermarkets.) On my first day, a neatly dressed floor manager in a white shirt, dress slacks and tie gave me a tour and showed me around.  Afterward, we sat down and he explained to me about what made this supermarket different from it’s nearby competitor. He said, “The only difference between the two supermarkets is the service.  Everything else is the same.  You can buy all the same food there as you can here.  So the only thing that can set us apart from our competition is our service including how we dress and take care of our customers.”  I sat for a moment and thought about what he said and remembered my father’s words.  I realized that it simply wasn’t enough for me to work for a company whose only goal was making a profit by trying to serve their customers better. I believed that quality service should be automatic for all businesses. This supermarket had nothing more to offer and was simply trying to compete with and put the other supermarket down the street out of business. It was a sad and destructive game with no thought on creating a win-win situation. I told the manager, “Thank you, but no thank you.” and with that I quit the very day they hired me.

My father’s words instilled in me a selfish attitude about the use of my time and whom should benefit from it.  I would not allow this body of mine, this life of mine, to be used for things that I did not agree with. I wanted to work for a company that was making a substantial and fundamental positive difference in people’s lives. I wanted to work for a place where I could feel proud just by being a part of the company. I set high work standards early in life and have kept them ever since.

Erewhon employees gather for a photo in the 70s (Aveline Kushi is at the bottom right)

Erewhon employees gather for a photo in the 70s (Aveline Kushi is at the bottom right)

For my first job I ended up working for my parent’s company, Erewhon, the pioneering importer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer that launched the natural and organic foods movement. Unlike the supermarket, Erewhon offered unique food products that were natural, wholesome, informative and educational and were part of a larger vision, philosophy and goal toward building world peace. Erewhon had a mission that I was proud of and could work for.

Since then, every job I did, every position I accepted, and every company I worked for and managed aligned with my own set of values and principles.  These values and principles included never causing anyone any harm, suffering or unhappiness by:

  1. Never selling products that might be dangerous and harmful to others
  2. Never do any work that involved weapons, war or caused any suffering in the world
  3. Never working for a company that exploited others
  4. Never working for a company that did not put people before profits and encourage a win-win situation for everyone.

While my values and principles may have changed over the years – in fact, they are more stringent now than before – I never compromised them.  As a result, I have no regrets for any work I have done in the past and that fact has given me a profound sense of peace and satisfaction in my life for which I attribute to my father’s words “never sell my life.”


02---Never-Complain-About-Anything

2.) Never Complain About Anything – (Take responsibility for your life)

Many years ago my father said, “Never complain about anything unless you, yourself, can come up with a better solution that you, yourself, are willing to implement.  Otherwise, you have no right to complain.” He never complained about anything and whenever he had an objection to anything he always had a solution. His advice made a lot of sense to me and I have done my best to follow it ever since.

It should be noted that there are times when complaining has its uses and advantages. For example, it can be useful to complain to persons in a position to make a difference to change unwanted situations for the better. Also, Freedom of Speech is an important right in the United States and voicing one’s opinion is necessary for social change and responsible political action. Complaining to the right person can make a big difference and is an essential tool in politics today.

However, if we become overly dependent on others to make changes for us then we risk losing our own strength and power.  People who complain aimlessly and constantly to those who can’t make a difference become victims of their own doing. Without finding their own solutions and acting upon them they give up their own power to change their own lives.  They also lose the respect of those around them.

This lesson, to never complain unless I had my own solution, inspired me to be much more self-reliant by becoming better and faster at solving problems that came my way. It gave me greater responsibility, self-confidence, patience and creativity.  I became better at strategic and long term planning and was able to manage people and run businesses early on in life. I am very grateful to my father for this simple yet powerful and valuable lesson.

03---Never-Criticize-Anyone

3.) Never Criticize Anyone – (Be respectful to everyone always)

Similar to “Never Complain about anything” is to never criticize anyone at all. If you have a concern or issue with another person then deal with them directly about it.  Otherwise, never criticize them or anyone at all, publicly or privately behind a person’s back. Although I don’t recall my father expressly saying to never criticize others he very clearly demonstrated this by his own refusal to criticize anyone.

My father was a very gracious well-mannered gentleman who treated everyone with respect.  He always wore three piece suits as a symbol of his respect for everyone he met.  When he was out and about walking in town he would always greet everyone he met with a cheerful smile and a “Good Morning!”  He was always charming and would try to lift the spirits of everyone he met. When others challenged him, treated him disrespectfully and tried to publicly discredit and stop him he never complained about or criticized them at all.

I am not as charming or gracious as my father was yet his example continues to inspire me to never criticize anyone and to always treat everyone with respect regardless of how they treat you.

04---Never-Be-Angry

4.) Never Be Angry – (Be calm, tolerant and compassionate with yourself and everyone else always)

AIDS book coverI can count on one hand the number of times I can recall my father getting angry.  One of them was in the early 1980s when AIDS had been discovered in the gay population in New York City.  The News media were filled with stories of people blaming homosexuality and of homophobic healthcare workers unwilling to treat the afflicted.  My father was outraged and took it upon himself to travel to New York City every month from Boston to give free lectures and cooking classes to AIDS patients.  He shook their hands and hugged them. Many of the men in attendance broke down and cried because everyone else was afraid to touch them.  The result of his efforts can be found in his book, “AIDS, Macrobiotics and Natural Immunity.”  That was one of the rare occasions when my father became angry.

Unlike his macrobiotic mentor, George Ohsawa, who regularly scolded and berated his own students and many others, Michio gained a reputation early on of always being patient and never losing his temper so much so that Ohsawa intentionally tried to provoke and test him with a very nasty accusatory letter. Michio finally lost his temper and wrote back expressing his anger at Ohsawa. Ohsawa replied in jest by congratulating him on being human, because he, Ohsawa, sincerely had his doubts.

Being angry often can be viewed as a sign of being unhealthy.  In Oriental Medicine, anger is related to a weak liver. Excessive fat, alcohol, and sweets among other specific foods which tax the liver then makes one more easily prone to anger while healing the liver by avoiding such foods can make one more tolerant and patient.

However, when we do feel or have anger within us, then it can definitely be helpful to express it fully in responsible ways that do not cause anything or anyone harm or damage, physically, emotionally and psychologically. If you need to yell and scream then, by all means, do so by going out into the woods alone and yelling your head off to your liver’s content.  Just as crying can be healing then releasing one’s anger can help move stagnated energies within the body, but just do so responsibly.

Unfortunately, I have been angry more times than I care for and later regretted every time it happened.  In my younger years the anger and frustrations I experienced were often uncontrollable. Expressing and releasing pent-up emotions was healing and invaluable to me and I sought ways to do so constructively. Over the years, I became much more patient, tolerant and compassionate. Older now and, hopefully, wiser I find no reason to be angry at all. It took me a long time to finally achieve the tolerant, patient and calm state that my father maintained and displayed throughout his life.

So, if you have anger and if expressing it will make you feel better then don’t try to suppress it all. Let it all come out naturally but also try to find out the causes and triggers to your anger and learn to deal with them in other ways and if you keep at it and though it may take a long time, you may find greater calm and peace in your life and be more like Michio.  His example continues to be a source of inspiration for me today.

05---Be-Grateful-For-Your-D

5.) Be Grateful For Your Difficulties – (They make life worth living)

First, to clarify, “be grateful for your difficulties” isn’t a suggestion to be masochistic. Second, I am also aware that “difficulties make us stronger” is an over-used cliché and telling someone to be grateful in times of crisis is probably the worst thing to say to them and is definitely the last thing they want to hear. Anyone facing an unexpected and unwanted urgent crisis should be focused on nothing else than practically resolving the crisis itself. In that moment gratitude is not a useful sentiment to turn to at all. Furthermore, even when we aren’t faced with any major challenges or difficulties it is natural to avoid them whenever we can and as best as possible. However and as we all know, difficulties and challenges come upon us whether we like it or not and our view and attitude towards them can make a huge difference in our lives.

“Be grateful for your difficulties” is a simple and straightforward reminder to appreciate the unavoidable challenges that we all face in our lives.  Through our hardships, difficulties and failures we learn to value and appreciate the simplest things in life. In life threatening situations we become grateful for life itself.  Our difficulties also serve as reminders to examine ourselves and our lives and to question our long-held beliefs, values and direction.  They serve as opportunities to reflect on our past limitations and explore greater possibilities and new directions that we would have never considered or imagined otherwise.

When I came down with a cold or fever my father would often congratulate me for my good fortune. He was not being mean to me.  He never looked at sickness as a misfortune but instead as a friendly and fortunate reminder that something needed to be addressed and changed in one’s life.  I found out later that this attitude toward sickness was very much in line with the work of Christoph Wilhem Hufeland, the 18th century physician who wrote the first book on macrobiotics, “Macrobiotics: The Art of Longevity“.  In the preface of his book Hufeland writes:

“The medical art must consider every disease as an evil which can not be too soon expelled; the macrobiotic, on the other hand, shows that many diseases may be the means of prolonging life.”

By congratulating me for my illness my father was simply expressing the macrobiotic understanding of viewing illness as a means to help me live longer.  It was good fortune and I only needed to see it as an opportunity for change for the better.  Without my illness I would never have known that change was needed.  It was a difficulty to be grateful for.

My father did not limit the scope of difficulties to be grateful for to only health issues.  Every type of difficulty was to be appreciated from accidents, tragedies and economic hardships to relationship troubles, social problems and even war.  All challenges and difficulties we encountered was an opportunity for growth physically, mentally and spiritually.

Challenges and difficulties are not just beneficial for humans but for all living things as well. There is a story about my father that illustrates this point with regard to the difficulties and hardships of plants.  Many years ago I accompanied my father to a meeting of advisors for John Denver’s Windstar Foundation. In looking to build a utopian community in the Rocky Mountains there was a proposal on the table to create an experimental thriving Garden of Eden inside a protected Geodesic Dome.  The prestigious group of advisers that John had assembled all thought it was a wonderful idea except my father.  When it came time for Michio to give his input then, with unassuming grace, he gently pointed out that occasionally exposing the vegetation in the dome to rain and other elements naturally occurring in the Rockies might be beneficial for the plants.  He suggested that the dome should at least have a window that could open and close to let these external influences in from time to time.  Soon it became glaringly apparent to all in the room that exposing plants to the harsh Rocky Mountain climate all the time, from thunderstorms and even snowfall, was the best and most natural thing for the plants in order to thrive in that environment. The Geodesic Dome was not only unnecessary but was in the way of the difficulties and challenges that naturally helped the plants to grow and become strong and healthy. By suggesting a simple window in the dome, my father, in the gentlest way possible, exposed the folly of the whole idea.

In the pursuit of our happiness it doesn’t serve us to make enemies of our difficulties and challenges.  Like rain storms and bad weather they come and go often and we must deal with them whether we like it or not.  Indeed, they are an essential part of life just as much as are the sunny days and joyous times. By embracing our difficulties we can find happiness in both the worst and the best times of our lives.  Be grateful for your difficulties because in overcoming them they not only bring us joy but make life worth living.

06---Angel-Devil

6.) When An Angel Turns Its Back It Becomes A Devil – (Everything has or becomes its own complementary opposite)

I have heard my father say this in many lectures.  He has also said this in other ways such as “Every front has a back and the bigger the front, the bigger the back”, “everything turns into its opposite and back again” and “there are two sides to every coin”.  Although not as profound, we can also understand this concept as the process of weighing pros versus cons when making a decision. However, this statement about angels and devils adds a profound moral dimension that many do not consider and have a hard time grasping.

We live in a world defined by the simplistic morality of “good” versus “evil”.  It’s in our movies, stories and myths.  It’s in our religion and politics. It underlies all our laws and our society.  Many cannot imagine a world without enemies, be it a group of people to fight against, a disease or any type of unwanted behavior or phenomenon. If we aren’t fighting tyrants and terrorists then it’s drugs, poverty or cancer. We make enemies out of anything and look to heroes to vanquish our enemies. We become fearful and build arsenals of defenses so large that, if or when unleashed, destroys ourselves in the process of eliminating our enemies. We can’t imagine a world without this duality and therefore the statement “When an angel turns its back it becomes a devil” confounds us.

Yet, there are many examples of how angels become devils.  For example, today many individuals rely on medicines, pills, supplements and diets to cure themselves and stay healthy. But these things also make us dependent and enslave us just as much as they provide us relief.  A pill or medicine is both angel and devil at the same time.  It may bring us relief but it does not cure us.  An automobile is another example that is both a convenience and burden at the same time. We can go anywhere but then we are also burdened with gas and parking fees, maintenance and repairs costs, insurance and depreciation. In the beginning of a relationship we think the best of our new partner and want to be with them all the time but when the relationship goes sour we want nothing to do with them. The loving beautiful angel they once were becomes a devil, yet it is the same person. Similarly, a mother’s love for her child, on the one hand, is nurturing and selfless while, on the other hand, can spoil, be overbearing and hamper the child’s development.  A physician whose oath is to do no harm and who can save many lives can also become a most dangerous person, intentionally or not.  A policeman whose job is to protect the community and enforce the law can overstep the very laws he has sworn to uphold.  A company whose goal is to produce vast quantities of food is also the greatest purveyor of harmful food products. A country, whose foreign policy is to promote freedom around the world has, through its same policies, caused the greatest amount of war, exploitation and suffering. Angels are devils and devils are angels.

We often cite Hitler as the epitome of evil and Jesus as epitome of good.  While it is undeniable that Hitler’s Nazi Germany committed various atrocities the ensuing response to his actions and to World War II has been to create a legacy of heroes and a united and global stand for peace and vigilance against tyranny.  With regard to Jesus, whose life was devoted to compassion for all of humanity, then in his aftermath, how many have been killed in the name Christianity?  How many cultures and peoples have been destroyed by the spread of Christianity? How much hatred, bigotry and violence continues to be created toward women, gays and minorities in the name of Christ and other Prophets of Peace? The work of devils turns into the work of angels and the work of angels become the work of devils.

Many years ago someone once asked Michio what would he be doing if the world were “macrobiotic” already; if we had achieved One Peaceful World.  His surprising answer was that he would probably be selling junk food and promoting chemical agriculture.  His response exposed the relative nature of our morality.  The world today was heading toward global degeneration and destruction and the biggest game on the entire planet is to work toward creating a world based on natural order, health and peace.  But if the opposite were true – that we lived in a harmonious world of health and peace – then the biggest game on earth would be to move it back toward degeneration and destruction.

There is a larger dynamic at work here that transcends our simplistic morality. We can no longer say who is good and who is evil.  We all are complicit in creating our opposite. If we understand that angels turn into devils and devils into angels then, at any given point in time, we may know what to expect in the future and, perhaps, even influence this process toward a direction that we prefer.

When we begin to see that our world is much more dynamic and fluid than we imagined, then we can learn how to manage our own actions and achieve our goals. If I push in one direction then I may create an opposite reaction and result and the harder I push the greater will be the reaction to me. Similarly, if I drop a pebble in a pond then it makes gentle ripples but if I drop a big boulder then larges waves are created.

Aggressive and violent actions always produce a violent and opposite reaction and if stability is our goal then we will never achieve it through violence. Subtle and gentle movements allow us to better manage the unintentional reactions that we create and can therefore help us to achieve our goals much faster and easier.  Understanding the dynamics of angels turning into devils is a never-ending study and discipline and makes life a fascinating journey and adventure.

This journey continues to unfold for me and as it does I reflect on the influence and effects of my own past actions. Failures in business projects and relationships can all be attributed to the aggressive and bold actions I initiated in the past that ended up producing the opposite result of what I wanted. It took me awhile to figure out that remaining passive and simply accepting what comes my way produced results I wanted much faster and easier. My life has become much more satisfying and continues to be a fascinating journey and it’s all thanks to my father’s lesson that angels turn into devils.

07---Think-Big-Dream-Big

7.) Think Big, Dream Big

At our father’s Memorial Service my younger brother, Hisao, recalled our father telling him to, “Make sure your life’s dream is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.”  Our father’s dream was nothing less than creating “One Peaceful World”.

My father’s dreams and optimism had a tremendous positive influence on the lives of so many. He counseled thousands with terminal and life threatening illnesses and always found a way to inspire and uplift them. Many recovered and lived well beyond their original prognosis. Beyond this, his grand vision of world peace through a peaceful biological food revolution inspired many to pursue new careers in alternative healing, organic foods and macrobiotic education.

His large vision effected my life. When I was young thinking about what to do with my life in the future I asked my father for advice. I told him I was thinking about becoming a writer and he said, “Great!  You can be better than Shakespeare! If you want to be a writer then be the best!”  I thought he was nuts.  I could never be better than Shakespeare. Another time I thought about being an inventor and he said, “Great!  You can be the first one to invent a UFO or a machine that provides free unlimited energy” and he would go on and on suggesting many seemingly impossible inventions that would completely change life on Earth as we know it. I asked him once if I could be President of the United States and he replied that I would be a great President, far better than the current one.  “Why and how is that possible?” I asked. He said it was because I was much healthier and had much better intuition than the President.  The irony was that Nixon was President at the time and later I came to find out that my father had actually personally met Nixon in the 50s when he, Nixon, was a Senator. Whatever thought or idea I had about my future he always took it far beyond my imagination.  He did so to expand my narrow limited mind and have me think and dream bigger.  Though patronizing, he was sincere and, more importantly, I believed him. By his own example, he showed me that I could dream and achieve anything I wanted to.

SWS (School Within A School) High School photo

SWS (School Within A School) High School photo

Halfway through High School I became discontent with the direction my life was heading.  I was no longer interested in pursuing a normal education and career path.  I felt that following the conventional dictates of society was not going to change anything. I was interested in pursuing something much bigger and larger but I was not clear about what it was.  So I joined an experimental educational program that was being offered in my High School where students could participate in how their classes were being taught. It was new and different and the vision was bigger than the normal school offerings. I also enrolled in an  experimental college. Every major life decision I made involved looking at the larger picture of life.  I had big ideas and big dreams and they gave me the creative inspiration and courage to overcome whatever challenges and difficulties came my way.

I still have big visions and dreams. However they are tiny compared to my father’s dream. I asked my father once about his dream of One Peaceful World.  I asked him how long he thought it would take for it to be realized.  He sat there and thought about it for a long while. It seemed that he was making complex calculations in his head.  Finally, he said, “I estimate about 2,000 years.” 2,000 years??!! Whoa! His answer took me by surprise.  It wasn’t so much the number of years that surprised me but it was the fact that he devoted his whole life to working on something that he expected wouldn’t be realized for another 2,000 years.  I was amazed at his optimism, dedication and commitment to pursing a dream that would remain unfinished long after he was gone.  His immense vision and dream was and continues to be an inspiration for me and I remain joyful and optimistic that we will create one peaceful world one day and no matter how long it will take. Thank you, Michio!

08---We-Are-Insigificant

8.) We Are Insignificant – (The first lesson in understanding the Universe)

The first chapter of my father’s book, “The Book Of Macrobiotics” begins with the heading, “Life Is Vanity”. It is an introduction to the ephemerality of life; that life is but a fleeting moment and everything we do will eventually pass away. All of our ambitions, our achievements, our struggles and concerns come and go in the larger view of things. Whatever we do will eventually perish and disappear.  Everything we do is in vain.  That is the first section of the first chapter in the “Book of Macrobiotics”.  That is the first lesson in beginning to understand our universe and its order.

Michio also always talked about the universe as “One Infinity” and how we are living in it, how we came from it, and how we are returning back to it. An infinite universe is immense and our place in it and relative to it is pretty small.  In terms of scale, Neil deGrasse Tyson  (rephrasing Carl Sagan) in the TV Show, “Cosmos”, pointed out that if the entire history of the universe were mapped out onto one calendar year starting with the Big Bang at midnight on January 1 then all of human history would occur in the last few minutes of December 31.

Milky-Way---You-are-hereSuch immense ideas are very abstract and difficult to relate to and therefore are easily dismissed, I prefer to be much more to the point by simply saying this:  We are insignificant. We are nothing in comparison to the size and scope of the universe.  We are nothing and we should be humbled by this fact. We should be in awe of the immensity of everything else.

To bring this to a more understandable scale let’s compare the number of insects there are to humans.  It is estimated that the ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one.  For every one person there are 200 million insects on earth.  That’s a lot of insects.

But let’s not stop there because insects aren’t the most abundant life form on earth.  The latest estimate on how many bacteria there are on earth, (according to this article ) is five million trillion trillion. Bacteria and viruses far outnumber all life forms on earth.  At only 7 billion we humans are truly insignificant and compared to bacteria it could be said that we live for them.  They are the dominant life form, not us and when taking this into consideration then the idea of antibiotics seems like a foolish quixotic attempt to try and control something that we could never ever possibly do at all.

Once we accept that we are insignificant and that everything we do is in vain then what are to do about this?  We could become depressed and apathetic and no longer care about anything including our own existence.  This option leads nowhere but to our own arrogant self-pity.

There is another option and that is to stop being arrogant and stop taking our human life so seriously.  We are arrogant about our beliefs, our morals, politics, our religion and our identities. We take them so seriously that we will even kill and die for them. Yet they are as insignificant as we are and once we fully accept and appreciate our own insignificance; that we are nothing but an insignificant end product of an immense and dynamic ever-changing universe, then it becomes impossible for us to be so arrogant.  The universe is there for us to discover, explore and understand and the first lesson to learn is the humility of our insignificance.

Remembering the insignificance of my life has helped me in times of difficulty.  It helps me remember that there is nothing worth getting upset or depressed about, let alone killing or dying for.  It helps me to remember that there are always others in the world facing much bigger problems than me and even their problems are insignificant.  It helps me to remember that I know nothing and that there is so much to discover.  It helps me to remember to appreciate this immense universe that created my insignificant life.   It helps me to remember to enjoy life and be forever grateful for all that this universe provides.

“We are insignificant” is the first lesson in understanding our universe and our relationship to it. It is the first lesson in understanding the size, scope and proportion of things. Beyond this there are many other lessons toward understanding the “Order of the Universe” and how it moves and changes (including how angels become devils).  We can study, for example, how we are the product of our environment in its entirety including the foods we eat.  We can explore how we are affected by different foods and changes in our environment. We can look at how the earth moves and how it affects us.  We can ask ourselves why we have two eyes, one mouth and five fingers.  We can ask why Jupiter is so large compared to the other planets and why did ancient people build pyramids. There are so many amazing things to explore and accepting our insignificance and letting go of our arrogance is the very first step and rabbit hole to pass through in order to reach this magic wonderland.

09---Discover-For-Yourself

9.) Discover for yourself – (Non credo)

In his lectures my father answered many questions from students. He would give elaborate and detailed answers that might take the class on a fascinating and inspiring journey to the far reaches of the galaxy or back to ancient times and conclude with practical and simple actions like chewing your food 100 times.  However, there were also times when, in his typical broken English and a thick Japanese accent, he would respond to a question by simply saying, “Please discover for yourself.” Whenever he did this the room would fall into silent reverence of him, with everyone thinking of him as being a very wise sage who withheld answers and challenged his students to actively use their brains and think on their own.  Little did they know that his response really just masked his own ignorance on the subject matter asked of him by the student.  It was a clever little ploy that he used to encourage others to think instead of simply admitting his own ignorance and saying, “I don’t know.”  Fortunately, his ploy worked.  The students were inspired to discover for themselves.  I was inspired to do so as well.  Michio was wise after all.

More than just encouraging me to find answers to my own questions, “Please discover for yourself” had a much deeper meaning for me.  It was also a suggestion to never blindly believe anything that anyone said or taught including my father.  It meant for me to have a healthy skepticism about everything.  It meant to never blindly believe anything 100% and to retain at least 1% of disbelief. Conversely it also meant to never reject anything 100% and retain at least a 1% possibility that something could be true. It meant to have an open mind about everything and always maintain that nothing is certain. It meant that if I wanted to discover the certainty in anything then it was up to me to find it and no one else. It meant that I would have to learn how to learn. It meant for me to learn how to use my brain and all other resources available to me.  It meant learning how to ask the right questions.  It also meant exposing and confronting my own ignorance and to never be arrogant about knowing anything. It meant becoming a self-reliant and free thinker. It meant learning to trust my own instincts and intuition. It meant to “discover myself” and, last but not least, it meant to always retain a humble sense of wonder and awe for everything.

Everything is moving and changing constantly in the universe and what we know is also always changing. Never believe 100% in anything.  Always allow for a minimum of at least a 1% possibility that you or anyone could be wrong.  Let that percent of disbelief, of “non credo”, no matter how small, be your inspiration to “discover yourself”.  That percent of disbelief, doubt and self-discovery is your freedom, so never let it go.  May you always “discover yourself”.

10---Life-Is-Play

10.) Life Is Play

One of Michio’s favorite talks was to ask students what they thought was the purpose of life. They would stumble along with a variety of answers and usually settle on “making a difference” but then would finally be corrected by him.  He would simply say, “Life is play” and explain that everyone came to earth to play.  (Unfortunately, with his broken english accent some people were confused and thought he said “Life is Pray”.  But they would be quickly corrected by their neighbors who understood him), “Life is play” – and that was it and there was nothing more.

In other words, there is no purpose in life other than to enjoy life itself.  We can be so serious about life.  We fight wars and kill each other.  According to my father, why we do this is simply because we forgot that we came here to play. We became so absorbed and lost in playing our roles that we forgot who we are, where we came from and why we are here. We forgot that we are only actors on a world stage.  We forgot that there is no purpose in life other than to play and enjoy it and when we do remember this then we no longer take things so seriously.  We can rewrite the script and choose to play roles that makes us happy instead of ones that cause suffering. There is nothing to be gained or lost but our own enjoyment. Life is play and that is all.

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Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Closing with Haruo Kushi

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
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JOHN LENNON SONG “IMAGINE” AND CLOSING WITH HARUO KUSHI

As Hisao said, our father, all of our father, or grandfather, was a dreamer.  My brother, Phiya on the piano. And let’s all sing a happy song together, as we did with Dennis.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today, ah haaa

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You hoo oo, you may say I’m a dreamer
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed of hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You hoo ooo
You may say, I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

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Thank you once again, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. You’re truly a part of our family. Represented on the stage here are all of Michio’s sons, children and grandchildren and we truly welcome you as part of our family and celebrate this time and this remembrance. Thank you so much everyone who shared here this afternoon.  We invite everybody to a reception which is at the Marriot Copley Place as you know. It’s on the back of your program.  It’s probably still cold out there but hopefully you’ll enjoy the brisk walk.  There will be an opportunity at that time for other people to share their memories and their thoughts including my other brothers who you just heard from Phiya’s wonderful piano playing but you’ll be able to hear from them as well as everyone else who wants to take the time and opportunity to do so. And so, thank you very much. A handful of us will be available to say, “Thank you” – my uncle, Michio’s brother, Midori and the immediate sons will join us, join you towards the back of the sanctuary and, obviously, take your time to head over to the Marriot Copley Place.  Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done over the decades to really celebrate and carry the spirit of what my father’s life was about. We are all dreamers and we can change the world. Thank you.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Hisao Kushi

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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HISAO KUSHI

Uhh.  Hello!

I am Hisao Kushi. I am the youngest of the boys and it’s quite a sight – all of you here. I am, I guess here to talk about what it was like to be Michio Kushi’s son which as you can imagine was quite and adventure. As you can tell from all of these speaker and I am sure all of you have each had your challenges sort of trying to describe what Michio Kushi was like ‘cause he sort broke a lot of boundaries in terms of categorization.

So one of the challenges that I had and I know that my brother’s had is, as a kid, when you’re in school every year, every couple of years you have to take these standardized tests and, you know, you fill in last name, “Kushi”, first name, “Hisao” and one of the questions right there is: Father’s Occupation.  And that is a stumper right there, before you get to the test, that’s a problem.

So depending on the year I would pick a different occupation. So, one year I picked “teacher” because that’s what he did.  Lots of people came to our house, they learned stuff, went out into the world. He would travel around the world, he would give lectures he would…so, I’m like, “teacher”! And of course, that becomes a thing, you know, “So! What does your Dad do?”- “He’s a teacher!” – “Oh, where does he teach?” – “Um, you know, Europe.”  – “Is he a professor?” – “Mmm, not really!”

So, another year, because it became difficult to talk about him as a teacher, I wrote, and I remember this specifically, I wrote “author” and   remember because I wasn’t quite sure how to spell it. But I wrote, “author” but I figured well that would be pretty simple because he writes books. So again, it’s one of those things where people would say, “Oh what does your father do?” – “Hey, he’s an author! He write books.” – “Oh, great! What kind of books?” –  “Well, non-fiction? You know.” – “What are some of the books he’s written” – “Your Face Never Lies”.

As I got older, the answer to the question, “What does your father do” – I started to say, “He’s a philosopher”. And the thing is if you say, “philosopher” people are like – they don’t know what to do with that. “What does your father do?” – “He’s a philosopher.” – “Okay.” You know.

…he would say, “Make sure that your life’s goal, your life’s dream, is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.”

But I think that of the answers was sort of the most accurate because he was a big thinker. He was thinking about the big questions of the day. You know he would think about, “Why do we have five fingers? What is the nature of human violence? How do we raise people’s consciousness so that we end human sickness and tragedy?”

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One of the things that I remember him telling me as a kid, and he’s probably mentioned this to all of you too, he would say, “Make sure that your life’s goal, your life’s dream, is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.” Right? You know, dream big!  Try and get to sort of the fundamental questions and solve those.

And so, and his dream, as we’ve heard today and as we all knew, was a dream of One Peaceful World and that was a dream he shared with all of you and with us and allowed us to discover that it was a dream that we shared with him. And not only did he touch your lives, but his life was touched by all of you and so was all of us in the family. That made all of our lives including his much richer. It allowed him to do things the things that he wanted to do and that the world he felt called on him to do.

So, if I were answering that question today on the standardized test, and thank God I don’t have to, the real answer, and I think you’ve heard this throughout the speeches today is that he was a dreamer in a really simple and profound way. That was what he was at heart and for us, as his kids, the gift that he gave to us was the permission to dream big and to think about our place in the world and in the universe.  That is I think something that is unique in our upbringing and that was at the foundation of who we are and how we think about our place in the world.

And so, as a big dreamer and, he was also a man of action, so he could dream big but was constantly full of energy, it is, I can’t lie – it’s sad as – to lose that.  And so, I think it’s up to all of us to tap into those big dreams and to carry those forward in our lives.  I love you Papa.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Dennis Kucinich

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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DENNIS KUCINICH

Good afternoon. To Midori and the Kushi Family, to the members of the Kushi Institute and all of the Kushi organizations who are represented here worldwide – this gathering is really a testament to Michio Kushi’s impact on the world

I’m Dennis Kucinich and I first met Michio Kushi thirty years ago when he and Aveline made an extraordinary presentation about diet and nutrition at a church in the Cleveland area. Their insight about the relationship between physiognomy and health and dietary habits regaled that audience with the consequences of literally becoming what you eat, if you ate a lot of chicken, pork and other animal products.

As Michio and Aveline made their presentation and dramatically would extend their stomachs, as if to say, you eat a lot of cow products you’re going to have a big stomach. If you eat a lot of chicken you may end up with certain tendencies. Well as they made this presentation you saw the audience squirming in the nakedness of the anthropomorphic implications of appetites, speculating about the diet of the stranger sitting next to them, imagining human beings presenting subtly as barnyard animals. It was a moment of high humor worthy of James Thurber’s “A Thurber Carnival”, where animals acquired human traits. Michio and Aveline had made their point: You are what you eat, so take care.

Michio Kushi, perhaps better than anyone in the last century, understood the transformational and redemptive power of food, its relationship to personal health, environmental integrity and world peace. His East-West apostolate was a commitment to the transcendent power immanent in every moment, the communion of spirit and matter, yin and yang, which made the partaking of food a holy sacrament of divine nourishment of the temple of self.

Michio Kushi understood the condition of inner harmony of mind, body and spirit arrived at through the macrobiotic diet came from a quickening of vibration and light as the substance of food united with the person consuming it. Knowing that what is innermost becomes outermost, Michio Kushi took the theory of the unity of matter to a higher spiritual expression, that of human unity, that we are all one, interdependent, interconnected across an infinity of time and space.

The potential for human unity came from each individual taking responsibility for his or her own health, pursuing the diet of a compassionate, non-violent harvest, respecting, preserving all which inhabit the natural world from harm and so achieving the reconciliation with the natural world which the philosopher Thomas Berry said is the great work of our lives.

The great work of Michio Kushi’s life was to raise the consciousness of the world about the power of food, the essentiality of dietary choices, the path toward health which strengthens the body and liberates the spirit.

At this moment in human history where the biosphere is threatened by short-sighted agricultural policies which selfishly waste precious water resources, poison the land, befoul the air, pollute gene pools, it is the gentle spirit of Michio Kushi, which can lead us back towards a Garden Eden filled with fruits, vegetables and grains from the cornucopia of life, where all are fed and all live in harmony, and thus we can turn the myth of the Fall of Man into an At-One-Ment, a celebration of return to Grace, the achievement of Enlightenment – – One Peaceful World.

This was the vision of Michio Kushi, now it is his legacy, to be resurrected by us to help save the planet from destruction. To save it with regenerative agriculture, agro-ecological principles, plant-based diets and the rejection of war as an instrument of policy.

We who were privileged to share a day or blessed to share a lifetime with Michio knew his genius rested upon simplicity of thinking, of personal habit, of living, of eating. His gift for clarity enabled breakthrough thinking which accelerated evolutionary thought in human health, ushering in new insights into medicine and healing.

Michio Kushi’s philosophy and writings helped to make what was once called Alternative Medicine, mainstream. His partnership with Alex Jack produced world-acclaimed texts on disease prevention and the achievement of total health, principles which are now a bedrock of integrative medicine.

Michio’s message was not simply about the wholeness of food, it was about the wholeness of life: You do not have to suffer, you can live, enjoy a long life, and be happy. For some this may seem cliché, but for Michio Kushi, the attainment of health, happiness and inner peace was in fact a goal of life, as was love, the love of his family, especially his beloved partner and wife, Aveline.

And when Aveline passed, Michio faced a great crisis because his love was no longer with him on his journey. Those who knew him know that his health began to suffer. His vital energy waned. Then he met Midori and he was revitalized, summoned back to life. Through Midori he reclaimed his own spark of light and love, which he carried forth to his final days.

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In 1999, I had the honor of welcoming Michio and Aveline Kushi to Washington, DC, at the celebration of the acquisition of their collection by the Smithsonian. A few days later, I introduced Michio Kushi to a major committee of the House of Representatives where he testified how a macrobiotic diet could be a powerful therapy for women suffering from certain types of cancer. As he concluded his testimony he added, joyfully, disease prevention or recovery could be enhanced by singing a happy song, every day. And he gave the Congressional Committee and example like “You are My Sunshine.”

So, let us take his wisdom, and at this moment call forth that expressive power of his joy. Please join me, if you wish, oh yes, in singing just a few lines from Michio’s happy song, “You are My Sunshine” and let’s sing a few lines to Michio:

“You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine,

You make me happy,

When skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear,

How much I love you,

Please don’t take

My sunshine away.”

Our lives will forever be warmed by the mere thought of you, dear Michio.

 We abide in your light and your light abides in us. Thank you.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Michael Potter

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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MICHAEL POTTER

Greetings, I’m Michael Potter from Michigan, Eden Foods.  I say, “Hello” to the Kushi family and to all of you. We have lost, humanity has lost a friend, a teacher, a great man. Our condolences to the family and especially to Midori, his wife. I like to believe – I like to think  that Michio is in a more peaceful place now than he was here on earth now. Wendy Esko and I  were commiserating the other day after learning of Michio’s passing and we  concluded that Michio’s passing is the end of an epoch, about a 60 year epoch – 1954 to 2014 – 60 years.

I really do believe he is in a more peaceful place. And speaking about “peaceful”:

When I was a young man, a teenager – 18 years old, 19 years old – I was of the opinion and of the school of thought that revolution was a violent thing.  Political power grew out of a barrel of a gun – Chairman Mao – things like that and I was involved with radical elements in my community. And, thank God! My sister handed me a book, “You Are All Sanpaku”!  And I made a decision, as a teenager, okay, I’m not going try to change things by being violent.  I am going to change things more fundamentally, more completely, more thoroughly, more effectively by focusing on diet; by focusing on the wisdom that my teachers, my macrobiotic teachers shared with me.

The “Order of the Universe” publications that I was reading at that time, they changed millions of people lives. They changed the direction of medicine, education, diet, agriculture.  But, you know, I experience violent opposition to the change that wants to happen; that has been encouraged; that has been seeded by Michio. Ignoramus Press, by the Georges Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, I was reading similar things at the same time.

The impact on humanity of macrobiotic teachings would be hard to over-estimate, in my opinion. Macrobiotic teachings stimulate – has stimulated the evolution of humanity and there is resistance to it.

Immediately preceding the beginning of the natural foods movement were the teachings of macrobiotics that were released to us and carried to us.  After that, after the macrobiotic teachings happened, the natural foods phenomena began to happen all over the planet – Europe, Australia, Japan, United States.   Macrobiotics was the origin of the natural foods movement.  It’s largely been co-opted by big money interests, but that’s another story.

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Universal consciousness was changed by macrobiotic teachers.  Mine, yours, humanity’s consciousness has been changed and, you know, I watched as the planet changed. I watched as this universal consciousness was impacted by macrobiotic teachings.  It’s more than spoken word or written word in books and lectures. It’s a consciousness amongst humanity that was impacted by macrobiotic teachings Macrobiotic principles – thank God I learned of them.  You know I like to think that – I tell people –Eden Foods is a principled company – it’s a principled natural food company.  I don’t often get to tell people though that those principles are the macrobiotic principles as defined, shared and taught to me by Michio Kushi.

The New York Times was in my office a little while ago and she was trying to get some understanding from me, “How did things start?”  I don’t know how to answer her question accurately. I couldn’t even begin to think of a suitable answer.  I went in to my closet and pulled out a stack of old “Order of the Universe”s. I put them on the table and I said, “That’s what started Eden Foods.” She got it.

And, I just want to, you know – in this environment and with you all, I just want to share – you know, I was thinking about coming here and being with you all and it’s an honor and I was driving in my car – “What am I going to say?” and I heard a song, “How do you sleep while your beds are burning?”   Ladies and Gentlemen, our food, our medicine, our – you know – we are being poisoned!  By and we need to – our beds are burning!  How can we sleep? We have to address these matters agriculturally, food-wise and medicine-wise.  Thank you.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Toyofumi Yoshida

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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TOYOFUMI YOSHIDA

Dear All,

I am Toyofumi Yoshida of Mitoku Co., Ltd. In Tokyo, Japan. I was very shocked and saddened to learn of Kushi-sensei’s passing. I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his family.  As you all – as you all know, Kushi-sensei left behind so many great accomplishments through his lifetime work of macrobiotic. All of us gathered here today prove that. I am sure each one of  us has special memories with Kushi-sensei.  I would like share a little piece of 47 years of history between Kushi-sensei and Mitoku Co., Ltd.  Mr. Kazama who was founder of Mitoku, who was also my father-in-law, passed away three years ago.

Kushi-sensei and Kazama were introduced through a mutual friend. Kushi-sensei needed macrobiotic quality food in the US.  I was told that Kushi-sensei was very set in his mind and he needed macrobiotic quality food and that was that. Kazama was not so sure but he decided believe Kushi-sensei and started to look for products that Kushi-sensei requested.

Back then in Japan, big new machine and mass production line are in. Everything was about making how  many more you can make as faster than you can. Olden traditional making were almost gone.  Japanese yen was 360 yen against one dollar – US one dollar.  US dollar was worth three times more than today’s rate.  Yen was not traded freely. Export and import were very difficult.  Against all that my father—in—law had travelled and researched all over Japan for long fermented miso made in the traditional wooden keg.  Tamari and Shoyu made from whole soybeans not from defatted soybeans which was major in at that time. Wakame, Kombu and other seaweeds – they were not well known in US.  Everything Kazama tried to put into shipping containers.  Japanese government wanted to check.

Now Japanese food were widely known all over the world. Tofu, sushi, tempura and the other Japanese food become trendy. Who’d have thought non-Japanese will eat seaweed; having miso and shoyu in the regular household kitchen. Kushi-sensei did and believed almost 50 years ago.  We have received so many ideas from Kushi-sensei for making good products for offer. Good products to make people happy and healthy.

I, on behalf of Mitoku, Co. Ltd., and I think I can speak for Mr. Yuko Okada of Muso Co., Ltd., also and other companies like us, along with all the producers that are committed to make old and traditional products will continue to our work to help Kushi-sensei’s mission and his work he left behind.  Thank you. Arigato Gozaimashita.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Francisco Varatojo

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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FRANCISCO (CHICO) VARATOJO

Hello good afternoon! Midori and Norio, and Haruo, and Phiya and Hisao, thank you so much for asking me to pay this last tribute to your father. It’s an honor and pleasure. Everyone has spoke a lot about Michio in different ways. I will talk a little bit about my relationship with him and what I knew about Michio as a human being.

I got to know him in 1977, I believe August 16, 1977. I am not sure of the date, I am sure of the month.  I was 16 then. I was a young kid just starting macrobiotics and Michio, Aveline, and some of the children and some other friends, one of them – Bill Spear –  here tonight, here this afternoon, I’m sorry, were there.  So I went to the seminar. I sat in the first row and Michio called me on stage. I was extremely nervous, more than I am now, and I am a bit nervous. So, and you know we had this nail clipper demonstration – this famous counter-clockwise, clockwise things so – I got the counter-clockwise spiral and I thought he was reading my mind, knowing everything about my life, my past life, I really thought so! I was scared to death.  So, I think he put his hand on my shoulder and it was obvious I was pretty nervous.

You know he had this mantra, which he said to many, many people, particularly young people which was, “Please come to Boston!” So I think he spelled that mantra – I mean he used to say this to everyone. I remember him in, like, in all consultations saying, “Please come to Boston” and in classes. So, I got it too. And this was like an enchanted word – would actually made me fly to Boston a few months later, February actually. It was very, very cold like now, I remember. I landed in Logan Airport. It was 15 degrees Celsius in Lisbon and it was minus 20.  It was the coldest day of the winter, similar to the time we are in right now, for what was the biggest adventure of my life which was actually studying macrobiotics. Just out of, “Please come to Boston” sentence.

And over the years I was actually quite lucky to get to know Michio in many of his facets: Michio the father, Michio the husband, Michio the teacher, Michio the counselor, Michio the philosopher, Michio the politician, Michio the businessman.  Michio could embody all of these really well. I mean he was one time discussing politics and the other time he was closing a contract at the same time he was giving advice to someone who was sick. So, Michio had this personality who really embodied lots of personalities but I think for the ones, the ones of us present here – the teachers, the students, teachers who studied with him – I think Michio was, more than anything else, our teacher.  The one who drew spirals on the blackboard and the one who made the relationship with everything, like Evan Root was saying or taught oriental diagnosis or gave us consultations.

For me Michio was somehow, and someone else said this already, somehow my second father, not taking anything from you guys.  So it was like both Michio and Aveline were like my second parents pretty much literally I can think. He was always like, he was always like the big teacher. One of his capacities was actually this capacity of really drawing people. I remember people in his lectures, they would hardly understand his English, which was actually pretty bad most of the time, and – but they would feel drawn by his energy. They would feel drawn by his quality.  I remember one time we were actually in an airplane in Brazil and Michio stood up to go to the toilet or something and there was a lady who came out of nowhere on the plane and started, “Oh my God! You are a saint! You are something!”  and I thought, “What is going on?” Yet, she did not know him. She just picked up something and went after him and, of course as usual, I had to rescue him as a bodyguard, which was one of my functions very, very often– driving, bodyguarding, running away from places and so.

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If I would say something about him, Michio really had a huge dream.  He wanted everyone on the planet to eat well, he wanted a pristine environment and he wanted to discover transmutation and many of those things that some people are following right now. But he always wanted that with good manners and elegance. Michio had this thing about good manners and elegance. Like you, you had to shape up and dress well and speak well and be gentle.  So it was like, even in War he thought things should be, I don’t know, peaceful in war, I suppose – but with good manners. It was like – I think Michio really felt many times that he was like a Samurai and that his mission was the mission of a samurai and certainly his life does reflect that in many ways.

But he did pursue his dream relentlessly. I did work a lot with him and I met very few people with this drive and resilience. He was unstoppable.  Often times the second shift at home would start at midnight and when everyone was very tired. I remember working with him on proof reading some books. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. I was completely exhausted.  I am much younger than him. I was exhausted and Michio was reading and in my mind I was going, “He cannot be doing this right. We are too tired.  So, he is just pretending he is reading or something.”  And then he said, “Chico! We got to change this, this is no good!” I said, “What do you mean, Michio?” It was like a little sentence, something that was really not that important and he was really awake and I would say, “Oh boy, this is – this is amazing how he can do this! It’s amazing how he could actually have this incredible drive.”

He always – he was always wanted to change the world. He always had big plans for everything. He always targeted really high. He always targeted for the stars. Michio did never want anything small. Never, that I know of anyway.

But he had, and I really miss this, he had an incredible sense of humor.  Sometime peculiar. Sometimes a little not so easy to grasp. But he had a very funny sense of humor which he could use in consultations very often.  Not everyone understood what he meant sometimes. But I remember one time I had with him, which is not a big story, but was something that was quite impressive for me.  We were travelling together in Europe, after Aveline died, so we were just visiting several countries in Europe.  We had this dinner in which, you know how these dinners go, they take forever, everyone is asking questions and Michio would always say, “Yes” and there’s a point he says, “Chico!  Let’s go out.” So, I find a sort of a good excuse. We come out. It’s a very beautiful spring day and it’s very late. It’s about one o’clock in the morning. We come out to the street. We want a bench to sit but there’s no bench to sit so we both ended up sitting on the sidewalk dressed up in suits.  And, we sit down and Michio starts telling jokes.  You know these jokes about, “There was this Italian and a Jew….”.  He started, and I have never heard him do anything like that, so he goes – he makes up this joke and replaces the Italians and the Jews by the macrobiotic people and the Japanese. You go no, I know. And I started playing the game and I would add the Portuguese and we were laughing like crazy. We were laughing like crazy.  Then we went to the hotel and I said, “Gosh, I never heard Michio telling jokes! This was the first time.” This is and he actually – he knows jokes! He knew all these jokes about Japanese people, which I won’t say here. But he could be really, really funny about it and lately in these last few years, I would always call him on his birthday. So I would say, “Happy birthday, Michio!” and he would reply back, “Happy birthday to you too, Chico!”  We were not born the same day, by the way, and I’ll just have to stop at some point. He’s really funny.  And so, I will miss, I will miss, his… I will really miss his sense of humor.

I mean, I do think, and quite a few people have said here, that Michio really played a very important role in the contemporary world.  He did contribute to many, many, changes in the areas of health, of course, diet, environment, ecology, spiritual development, personal development. Michio really had an enormous task there and he did – I do hope that the coming generations would actually appreciate his work and that they would, they will give him the acknowledgement he deserves.  I mean, a few people have said this already but if it wasn’t for Michio and Aveline, and yes, of course other people too, but these two in particular, many of the things we do take for granted right now we actually – we would not have.  Like, Alex did mention eating brown rice at a hotel or even sleeping in a futon, or dressing in nice quality cotton, or actually having organic food. As far as I know both Michio and Aveline went to the farmers in America and paid a fortune just to be able to get organic rice that no one wanted to grow.

And they were really relentless about it. They were…and Michio really carried it with the energy of a samurai and he didn’t care much about his health. On respect to this his drive was a lot more important than how he was feeling. I’ve seen Michio sick a few times. I remember one instance he was in Lisbon for a seminar. He was visibly tired. He was actually feverish. He was – he was really not feeling so well and we had about four hundred people. So, I opened the curtains and I see all the people waiting. We’re late and Michio tells me, “Chico, do you think we can cancel?”  And I say, “Ya, Michio we can cancel but this is really going to be a problem. We have 400 people in the room. Cancelling this event is going to be very difficult but I will if you tell me so. I will go there and stop it.” He said, “No, no, no, no. no I will do it.” So we walked on to the stage and he was very tired and started warming up and warming up and warming up.  He ended up with a standing ovation.

So, I will just finish by saying that while I mostly admired on him was his uncanny capacity to actually jump from, you know, to transcend logical and intellectual thought and to tune in to his intuition and to have a glimpse of the spiritual world.  Michio could do it better than anyone else. So thank you very much Michio. Please rest in peace. Thank you very much.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Horriah Nelissen

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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HORRIAH NELISSEN

Hello everybody!  Dear friends, my name is Horriah Nelissen.  I am the oldest daughter of Adelbert and Wieke Nelissen from the Kushi Institute of Europe in Amsterdam. I will read a message from my mother, Wieke Nelissen, and in spirit of my father who recently passed in the beginning of September.

Adelbert and Weike Nelissen

Adelbert and Wieke Nelissen

Both Wieke and Adelbert, my parents, have seen Michio and Aveline as their great teachers and guides on their path of macrobiotics.  For their children, I am the oldest of five children, Michio and Aveline were like grandparents to us. For a long period of time Michio and Aveline were both present several times per year in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities where seminars took place. Their first encounter was in 1975 when Michio and Aveline visited Europe for the first time. At that time Adelbert and Wieke were already practicing macrobiotics for 8 years.  They started in 1968, learning from the book of “Zen Macrobiotics” by George Ohsawa. Their understanding of macrobiotics was little, limited at the time – writing down in a diary “Horriah”, me, “got one raisin! Oh, oh, oh will that be okay?”  I read that diary and, oh, I’m glad that I’m still alive!  They started already, the first macrobiotic food store in Amsterdam and sourdough bakery called, “Manna”.

And the first Michio Kushi Seminar of Europe took place in London and Michio was speaking there for a group of acupuncturists.  My father was there and he attended those lecture and he was so overwhelmed by Michio’s teaching that he immediately phoned home to all the workers of Manna Company which was already growing at the time.  They had to drop their work immediately and come to Paris where Michio and Aveline would teach next, as soon as possible.

Paris was for Michio and Aveline like entering the Lion’s Den since in France several of the old students of Ohsawa were teaching there and Michio was a little bit seen as an intruder with too many modern ideas about macrobiotics.  The seminar was very successful and Michio and Aveline took the most challenging step into the world of macrobiotically successfully.

That same year in the fall, Michio came for the first time to Holland and taught for over 300 very grateful students.  For Adelbert and Wieke Michio was it was like Michio and Aveline made order in their macrobiotic life – their daily experience.  Suddenly everything made more sense to them so that one raisin became a normal box, I think.

And it was in the beginning for them, for a long relationship, between my parents and Michio and Aveline. Adelbert organized more than forty times all kinds of seminars with Michio and Aveline with students from all over Europe in many different languages. You cannot maybe imagine, but it had to be translated always in maybe eight different languages for all the teachings.

The Kushi Institute of Europe was established in 1978 as an educational center for leadership programs.  Here are some of the absolute highlights of the seminars and conferences Adelbert and Wieke organized for Michio and Aveline.  In the 80s a conference for medical professionals was organized for the World Health Organization in Brazzaville, former Congo resulting in to a conference in France in Bergerac for very interested Doctors.  In Brazzaville Adelbert visited markets as preparation before Michio came and in small villages he would gather all different kinds of products as samples to present the macrobiotic standard diet to those World Health Organization Doctors. Even he found brown rice and tofu. So it became clear that in a poor country like Brazzaville, a macrobiotic standard diet was possible to eat.

In the 80s the Kushi Institute in Amsterdam organized a number of conferences on AIDS and Cancer.  Although Michio and Adelbert had various meetings with the Chairman of the Governmental Cancer Organization, the interest in healing power of macrobiotic food was very low at the time. Healthcare in Holland was so well organized, why would people take care for their own health if everything was paid by the Government? On the contrary and at the same time there were numbers of people very interested in the philosophy and the macrobiotic diet and also in family members, which became, at the end, one of the trademarks of the Kushi Institute of Europe.

Between 1980 and 2000 Michio and Aveline conducted several times, four levels of spiritual development training in the south of Holland in a monastery.  And other very popular seminars were “New Medicine for Humanity”, “The Destiny of Mankind”, “The Cause of War and the Art of Peace”, “The Essence of Macrobiotics”.

When Michio and Aveline came for the first time to Holland, Wieke and Adelbert made them taste sourdough bread from their bakery. Especially Aveline was immediately very fond of this traditional Dutch bread.  And also they introduced them to Tempeh. You might well know Tempeh by now, but Tempeh was originally a fermented soybean product from Indonesia, a former colony of Holland. And Aveline and Michio didn’t know this food – not originally Japanese.  So they decided to put this immediately, together with the sourdough bread, into the macrobiotic standard diet and now tempeh is spread actually all over the world.

Michio loved Amsterdam but not the weather.  Still some of you maybe also know.  He would always make a joke saying, “Welcome to the Winter Conference!” even in the middle of the summer. And once he tried to adapt to the Dutch habits by trying to ride a bicycle. But he didn’t come far.  After a hundred meters he gave up, actually.  In Holland you have also bikes with side wheels.  Maybe we should have given one like that.

The last time Michio visited Amsterdam was to celebrate his 80th birthday. Many of his old students gathered for a big party with delicious food and artistic performances of professional macrobiotic musicians and dancers. It was a wonderful evening during which everybody could express his or her gratefulness for Michio’s teachings. In Holland his many students and especially our family will remember and cherish Michio and Aveline for their wonderful teachings and guidance for so many years.  Adelbert always spoke so highly of them and always felt extremely connected with both of them.  May their spirits guide us all to One Peaceful World. Thank you.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Alex Jack

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

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ALEX JACK

Thank you Evan and Eric. I am not sure I am up to equaling their wonderful memories and presentation.  I’ve prepared some remarks including putting Michio in context, but I do have one amusing story that I would like to share with you.

Michio Kushi touched the lives of tens of thousands of individuals and families—often one by one—with his personal advice and guidance, as well as his lectures, seminars, and conferences. He transformed the lives of millions with Erewhon, his pioneer natural and organic foods company, and with his books, videos, and cassettes. He influenced billions with the breakthrough scientific and medical studies he inspired at Harvard Medical School, the Framingham Heart Study, and other medical centers that led to new national and international dietary guidelines and the transition toward a predominantly plant-based diet. He changed the way America and the modern world eats and heals.

And, parenthetically, I might add that just this afternoon as we checked in at the Marriot Copley Hotel, being a good macrobiotic, I looked at the – the first thing I did – even before looking at the television, was looking at the Room Service menu and I was delighted to find that among all the food that were offered was short grain brown rice, for Room Service!  Amazing!

Of course Michio changed – he set the direction for realizing humanity’s eternal dream of one healthy, peaceful world. As a catalyst for calm, steady, orderly change, Michio’s impact on our era is boundless. He and his devoted wife Aveline trained a generation of whole foods teachers, chefs, and food producers. They taught a generation of healers, physicians, and other health care practitioners how to diagnose, prevent, and relieve chronic and acute disease naturally without, for the most part, harmful drugs, surgery, and scans. They inspired the first prison projects to rehabilitate offenders with diet. Their students brought together warring Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle East. They introduced nondenominational spiritual training practices that led to union with the universal spirit, with God, or what Michio called One Infinity.

Like Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other great teachers of life, Michio was not always understood or appreciated in his lifetime. Like them, he had flaws and deficiencies. But in the unfolding chronicle of history, Michio will be remembered as one of humanity’s greatest prophets, healers, and spiritual teachers.

There are many teaching stories and memories of Michio, as we have heard this afternoon. In the years to come, they will be collected, circulated, and cherished. I would like to share with you just one treasured memory that illustrates his kindly spirit, merry sense of humor, and light, amusing teaching style.

 Michio, as many of you know, was renowned for his sharp intuition of food quality. From a single taste, he could discern every ingredient in a food or dish, as well as each step of its cultivation, harvesting, food processing, and cooking.

Kushi Institute Main House in Becket, MA

Kushi Institute Main House in Becket, MA

The first time I managed the Kushi Institute in Becket in the late 1980s, we had a staff dinner on Friday evenings in the then small staff dining room behind the kitchen in the Main House. We had just completed our weeklong Residential Program and that evening Michio was still counseling and joined us late after we had finished eating. It was the main dinner of the week, usually featuring fish or a special tofu or tempeh dish for those who preferred a vegan option. That night, as I recall, we had prepared cod, red snapper, or some other white-meat fish and were all relaxing after a rewarding, but long, intense week.

When Michio’s consultation was over and he joined us, we immediately made him a plate of brown rice, veggies, and sea veggies, as well as a generous portion of the fish. We had a congenial conversation while he ate, but soon we noticed that he was eating the rice and veggies, but hadn’t touched the fish. “Aren’t you going to taste the delicious fish?” someone asked. “It’s really fresh and tender.” Michio smiled and said very simply, “It’s not good.” “What!!??”, we all thought! It was nicely cooked, balanced with ginger, lemon, or daikon, and very delicious. Again, we remonstrated with him that we all enjoyed the fish, and he should have some to replenish his energy.

Without saying a word, Michio stood up with a bemused expression and went to the radiator where Marbles, the nearly blind calico cat was sleeping by the windowsill. Marbles was the last survivor from the former Franciscan monastery that occupied the Becket property for many years and had one barely functioning eye. Michio carefully awakened Marbles, picked him up and set him on the floor, and took a piece of fish from his own plate and put it on a saucer in front of this elderly cat. Marbles bent down and with his one eye, looked at the morsel. After smelling the fish, Marbles turned up its nose, fluttered its tail, and turned around and proceeded to resume its nap by the radiator.

We were all left speechless. Even old Marbles, the blind antique cat wouldn’t touch the fish and had better intuition than all of us senior teachers and expert cooks combined! He hadn’t lost his marbles after all. We had!

Without another word, Michio resumed his place and finished his meal. No one said a word. No one had to. Michio—a Tiger in the Far Eastern Zodiac—had gently proved his point. He was a genial big cat at heart, a tiger sleeping in the bamboo forest, as he liked to say, but one that slept lightly and kept an eye open to protect the other creatures of the jungle. Our ignorance was boundless! With that one wordless gesture, he showed us how infinitely more there was to learn. Truly, Michio was an amazing teacher of life.

Scientific and medical studies are increasingly documenting the benefits of macrobiotic and allied holistic approaches. Just before Michio died, researchers at Tufts University and Johns Hopkins Medical School approached us at Kushi Institute to cooperate in the first controlled, randomized clinical trial of a macrobiotic approach to breast cancer. In our last meeting with Michio in December, a few weeks before he died, Edward Esko and I went in to Brookline and reported on this development. Michio was thrilled. If successful, it would realize his and Aveline’s dream of nearly fifty years. It would contribute to a new treatment paradigm and help millions of women and their families. It is simply a matter of time, as Michio predicted, before macrobiotic principles and practices, though often under various names and forms, will govern society.

Like Moses, Jesus, Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Michio did not overcome his final challenge. He suffered a sudden health crisis brought on by too much speaking, counseling, and traveling during the last year of his life, as he went the extra mile to spread his message of enduring health and peace.

In a talk to the Levels students last spring, Michio shared a poem that he had composed about Jesus sacrificing his life for humanity. The poem went like this:

For One or for Them

I become Food

Nourishing Their Life and Dream…..

And I Die

In retrospect, Michio’s last poem was prophetic about his own destiny. Though he failed to cross the river Jordan himself, he led the modern era through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. He passed the torch on to us and the next generation to lead modern society safely through, what he called, “the Spiral of History” , into the New Era of Humanity. He was truly a man of the age and a man for the ages.

Farewell, dear Michio. May your spirit ascend peacefully into the world of light on the wings of our prayers and thoughts. May you become one with the universal spirit on your eternal spiritual journey through the stars. May we be in loving harmony forever. Thank you.

Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Eric Utne

May 17, 2015

This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.

Eric Utne reminisces about studying with Michio

Eric Utne reminisces about studying with Michio

ERIC UTNE

My name is Eric Utne and 47 years ago I stood where you couldn’t hear me and I had been sent here from Minneapolis by a friend named, ”Toad”, who told when I was sick, he said, “Hey Man! There’s this Dude in Boston who can teach you to be your own Doctor with FOOD!” and I went, “FAR OUT!” – quit Architecture School and found my way to Boston and Michio’s lectures in the Arlington Street Church.

The first night I came it was a hot summer night and I sat in the front row and I realized that Michio would invite the students sitting in the front row to read letters from students like Evan Root in Japan or Brazil or France telling about their studies and activities. So I hid in the back row – or it didn’t or I hadn’t – there was only about 50 people here so it was clearly the second stage of the macrobiotic community. I realized I was being a coward so I forced myself to sit in the front row and, sure enough, the next hot night, Michio called on me and he handed me a letter and it was from someone in Brazil writing about the Japanese community – the Japanese macrobiotic community in Brazil and their recipes for miso.

And I stood there shaking and within two sentences I was dripping sweat on the floor and within two paragraphs there was a puddle on the floor. And Michio was standing just like that [makes motion] and then he came and patted me on the back and he took the letter – it was single-spaced, onion-skin, 7-pages long – and he said, “Thank you, Eric!” and he never asked me to read a letter in front of the group again.

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Michio attracted a very interesting group of people.  Some people came because they were sick, others came because they wanted to learn about the order of the universe and yin and yang, others because they wanted to find a “natural high”.  All of us were looking for alternatives to the conventional wisdom and Michio was nothing, if not, unconventional.  He made us question reality and to reconsider it right from the most basic level.

A place opened in Michio’s house on Gardner Road and I asked if I could live there and he said, “OK!” and I remember a few things about living in Gardner Road:

Number one, I remember Lily’s laugh. Lily was always laughing and that house was full of laughter. Number two, I remember Aveline cooking shrimp, eggs and mochi for her children and then we got to eat brown rice, miso soup and veggies and I thought we were getting the better deal.

I also remember Michio being a father to Norio. I remember Michio sitting at the kitchen table and Norio in the kitchen and Michio saying, ”Norio, please, go to school! Please, Norio, go to school! Norio, please!”   I’m not sure if Norio went to school.

Another time during a hot summer of 1970, I was managing Erewhon. I had gotten the job because Michio had told the manager, Roger Hillyard, to hire me. Roger said, “I don’t want to hire you but Michio made me!” I said, “Why?” He said,”Michio said you’re going to be a world leader someday!” We both laughed.

And…But Michio saw something in me that I think a mentor does for his student. I felt seen by Michio.  Even though he never told me that, but through Roger and through his welcoming me into his home I felt seen and it was a kind of nurturing that made me blossom, such as I have.

One time, coming back from Erewhon, actually probably a number of times, I was so exhausted. I was eating very strictly, trying to be a good macrobiotic and for me that meant eating as simply as I could. In Gardner Road we would take our shoes off downstairs and then go up to the second floor where the household activities were, in the kitchen.  And I was so tired from working at Erewhon that I would fall asleep on the bottom steps – probably pass out. And then everyone who came home after me would just step over me and leave me there sleeping on the steps.

One time I was so unbalanced that my ankles had swollen to the size of elephant ankles.  I wanted to heal myself but I couldn’t figure out whether I was too yin or too yang and finally, after weeks of trying to heal myself, I would ask Michio.  I didn’t want to bother him.  He was a very busy man. But he was sitting at the kitchen table preparing a lecture and I said, “Michio-san? May I ask you a question?”  And he looked up at me and pulled out a cigarette.  I think it was Kent, I’m not sure. He lit the cigarette and let the blue smoke hang over his face and he said, “Yes! What is it?” And I said – I lifted my leg up on the chair next to him and I showed him my ankles and I said, “I can’t figure out what to do!”  And he squeezed them and he said, ”Very interesting, isn’t it?”  Then he said, “Take five umeboshi plums every day for five days and see if that helps.” Five umeboshi plums every day!!??  Is he trying to kill me? What I realized what he was really saying was, “I don’t know.  Figure it out yourself, you idiot!” What a great teacher he was!

I think Michio would have been a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize.

So after leaving Boston I put my name on a magazine and as a result of that I got involved in the Nobel Peace Prize. I was on the Board of the Nobel Peace Prize forum for years, for seven years, and I met many of the winners of the Nobel Prize.  I think Michio would have been a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize.

Michio started the organic and natural foods revolution.  As he understood that was the way to lay the foundation for peace, to create peaceful people. But he did something I think even more important than that.  Arnold Toynbee, the historian, said that the most important event of the twentieth century was not the invention of the automobile or the television or the computer or space travel.  It was none of those. It was the coming of Buddhism to the West; the meeting of East and West. And I don’t think there was any person in the last century who’s done more than to bring East and West together than Michio Kushi.

Now we all know about the Nobel Peace Prize but there’s another prize that is the highest honor that can be given in Japan and it’s the Order Of The Chrysanthemum.  I hope that Michio is honored with the Order Of The Chrysanthemum. I leave you with that.

We are all blessed to have met and to have known and to have been seen by Michio.  His legacy lives on!  Thank you!