a conversation with Michio Kushi
and excerpts from three of Michio Kushi's books
From ONE PEACEFUL WORLD : Michio Kushi's Approach to Creating a Healthy and Harmonious Mind, Home and World Community
From ON THE GREATER VIEW : Collected Thoughts & Ideas on Macrobiotics and Humanity
From SPIRITUAL JOURNEY : Michio Kushi's Guide to Endless Self-Realization and Freedom
TMA: Mr. Kushi, everybody knows about your work with macrobiotics, but you do a great deal more than that as well. Michio Kushi: When I was young, childhood and youth time, we were facing a war, so when I was growing up, I wanted to have world peace. When I was at Tokyo University as a political science student, I wanted to have a world federation, world government, to have world peace. I studied that subject in Japan immediately after the war, and then three years, four years later, in 1949, I came to America and studied about world federation and world government issues in a Columbia University graduate course.
a Conversation with Michio Kushi
While I was studying about world peace, I started to notice that even though world structure, world government, might be made, unless humanity is really getting the healthy and peaceful mind, there is no use. Without that, the world becomes turmoil and problems. Therefore, I started to change my direction: how to make the people's way healthy and also more peaceful of mind. I had to study from the beginning what this humanity is. Then I began to see that two factors are important to us all. One is environment; another is what we eat.
Environment includes all aspects of the natural environment of the universe, and food means not only day-to-day foods, but also whatever we are taking in, such as in hearing, seeing and experience.
Physical or mental stimulation are all-inclusive, but among them there is a factor that can be freely controlled and managed by the individual. In other words, our free consciousness can be applied 100 percent for managing what we select. Among various factors such as cosmic rays and solar radiation, and air and water as well as sound and also various external stimulations, vibrations, there is one factor that can be managed 100 percent by the individual person. And that is, what we eat from day to day. From that viewpoint, I could see it depends on personal selection, personal application, personal desire for what we eat that will make the difference in our ability to adapt to the environment, our ability to make ourselves healthy or have a peaceful mind . . . or our ability to make ourselves very sick or lead a chaotic life. From that point of view, I started to study about diet.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, I could see that in America, diet had changed tremendously since 1900. Since that time, nutritional theories have placed more emphasis on animal protein and animal fat as well as simple sugars, simple carbohydrates . . . and also they spray chemicalization in all agricultures. That was back in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking at that, I could correlate the increasing degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancers and arthritis, and family troubles and social chaos and crime increase, and so forth. I could see that other countries also had verysimilar tendencies. So I decided to change the way of eating, not only in America but for the entire world. I wanted to begin in America because America leads other countries. So, here I began the so-called "natural food movement". That philosophy is macrobiotics. The natural food and organic food movement began, and various select small companies were formed, such as the first natural food company in Boston called Erewhon, and also the journals, restaurants, et cetera, began.
Education is most important, so I've been involved in constant lectures and writing. Because of this education, thousands and thousands of people came out, carrying what is now called the natural food movement, the organic food movement, and also alternative medicines and various other things.
Meanwhile, I have been traveling with my wife in Europe and Asia and many other countries, spreading this way of thinking. Macrobiotics is the name of philosophies, the name of the way of life. That word came from ancient Greece, before Socrates, to describe a healthy way of life that many philosophers used. The name was also adopted in order to explain the ancient Oriental countries' way of healthy life, which was adopted as well.
My teacher in Japan, Georges Ohsawa, was also advocating diet and health. He used the words, "Zen macrobiotics" because originally in Zen, they were eating grains, vegetables, et cetera, and avoiding animal food, dairy food and sugar, and so forth. However, his presentation was a little bit too restricted. In order to adopt it into a wide universal way, we have to have much wider interpretations. So I had the so-called macrobiotic diet as the standard diet, plus environmental adaptations and individual changing and climate change and so forth, all variations. In that way, the macrobiotic movement began.
TMA: I remember reading Ohsawa's book in the early '70s, You Are All Sanpaku, and thinking that it shouldnŐt be called "macrobiotics" but "microbiotics" because you could eat hardly anything.
MK: Yes, that's right. "Macro" is very large, and "biotics" is life. That is all-encompassing: social factors, political factors, economic factors as well as the individual use of physical, mental, spiritual factors. They are all included.
The target is everyone's health and the peace of the world. The means to carry that macrobiotic movement could be natural culture. It could be organic agriculture and organic food. It could it be alternative medicines. It could be the invention and development of new energy. It could also be developing the spiritual aspect of humanity. That entire scope falls under the name of macrobiotics. The various means are there. Natural foods people may not call it macrobiotics, but they actually have been serving forth macrobiotic philosophies. It has been the same thing with alternative medicine.
TMA: Now in your two books, On the Greater View and The Spiritual Journey, you talk more about spiritual exercises and such.
MK: Yes, together with the good way of eating which makes our bodies very flexible and clean, and recover from various degenerative diseases. At the same time, if we do certain exercises, the breathing exercise, certain ways of physical exercise - as I wrote in the Book of Do-In and Palm Healing and others - if we adopt those methods, they can serve to accelerate our development from a stagnated mental and physical condition to be more free and flexible, to have a more peaceful mind and also quality of spirit.
My seminars and my writings are not only about diet and sickness. There are many factors I have to deal with, of course, because of many problems such as crime and diet, and also spiritual development and agriculture and food processing, and environment issues.
TMA: What kind of work will you be doing here in Chicago?
MK: Chicago has been our friend. Beginning in 1980, I visited Chicago many times and gave seminars. Meanwhile, macrobiotic friends are increasing in Chicago as well as throughout the world. Now that that is so, I'd like to present to the many friends, the many people, number one, how to deal with health by proper eating - and at the same time, how we can develop our spirituality, our mental peacefulness, and contributing to the world through the macrobiotic way of thinking and the macrobiotic way of life.
Excerpts From Three of Michio Kushi's Books
From ONE PEACEFUL WORLD: Michio Kushi's Approach to Creating a Healthy and Harmonious Mind, Home and World Community
by Michio Kushi with Alex Jack (St.Martin's Press)
We all share and are nourished by one common planet, the earth. For thousands of generations, the majority of the human family has lived together in relative harmony on this small sphere as it spirals through space. Before the spreading rays of the dawn and under the revolving canopy of the Northern Sky, millennia of parents, children, and grandparents have shared the harvest and saved seeds to plant the following spring. From the earliest campfires in the Ice Age to the fertilization of the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley, from the caravans winding along the Silk Road to China to the Pilgrim ships landing on Cape Cod, humanityŐs traditional food has consisted largely of wild and domesticated whole cereal grains, vegetables and roots, seeds and nuts, local fruit in season, and a small amount of fish, game and other animal food. Through times of plenty and peace, and seasons of war and want, human beings have learned to adjust to their natural surroundings or move on in quest of a secure and more joyful future. Only in the last century have we run out of new land to settle and cultivate. Only in the last generation have we devised a technology to extinguish the flame of life itself.
As we enter the twenty-first century, there is a growing sense of impending collapse. Cancer, AIDS, and other degenerative and immune-deficient diseases are multiplying. Terrorism, regional conflicts, and lack of meaningful arms control and disarmament agreements have resulted in widespread pessimism and despair. The pollution of the environment and the spread of biotechnology pose serious threats to the continued existence of many species, including our own.
Years ago the elders of the Hopi nation prophesied that a "gourd of ashes" would fall from the skies and destroy the North American continent unless we learned to live in harmony with the land. In the Bible and the writings of Nostradamus and other prophets, others see signs of coming apocalypse. Yet every prospect of doom and destruction is accompanied by the opportunity for reconciliation and rebirth. Prophecies of war and strife are warnings to humanity to awaken before it is too late. They are not irrevocable. They will be fulfilled only if we continue to shun a natural way of life, especially a natural way of eating, which is the foundation of human culture and civilization.
Macrobiotics - the way of peace through biological and spiritual evolution - does not require legislation, treaties, demonstrations, violence, power politics, or ideological battles. Peace does not begin with any political party, religious movement or social platform. It begins in kitchens and pantries, gardens and backyards, where the physical source of our daily life - food, the staff of life, our daily bread - is grown and prepared. From individual hearts and homes, peace radiates out to friends and neighbors, communities, and nations.
Whoever takes charge of the cooking is our general, our pilot. We need no weapons, no shields, no offensive and defensive powers, just will and self-reflection. Brown rice, miso soup, whole grain bread, fresh vegetables - these and other whole, unprocessed foods are our "weapons" to turn around the entire world. The energies of nature and the infinite universe are absorbed through the foods we eat and are transmuted into thoughts and the actions that spring from them. By becoming one with our larger environment and observing the universal laws of change and harmony, we are quite capable of restoring balance and order to our planet....
To all of my friends and associates around the world, as well as people everywhere who are true peace promoters, I am grateful for your heartfelt efforts and for the opportunity to be together with you on this beautiful planet with all of its wonderful difficulties. I pray that we can always love and help each other and together realize One Peaceful World.
From ON THE GREATER VIEW: Collected Thoughts & Ideas on Macrobiotics and Humanityby Michio Kushi (East West Journal)
Women and Earthly Energy
While men are primarily influenced by heaven's force due to its greater attraction to their male chromosomal charge - earth's force predominates in women. The female reproductive organs develop a more upward and inward structure, while the male sex organs develop in a more outward and downward manner.
As the more powerful earth's force passes through the body of female in the womb, it meets the force of heaven flowing in the opposite direction. When these forces collide, deep within the intestinal region, they create a pair of spirals which later develop into the Fallopian tubes and ovaries. Since the influence of heaven's force is less, the female develops a clitoris rather than a penis. When a collision occurs in the area of the heart, the resulting spirals of energy eventually take the form of mammary glands and breasts. In men, this collision creates a pair of spirals which become nipples, but not expanded breasts.
Heaven and earth's forces run along an invisible channel located deep within the body. The seven centrally charged regions along this channel of energy were called chakras in ancient India. The intensive charge of energy that they produce is distributed throughout the body, activating and giving life to all of its functions.
Thus energy flows from heaven and earth through the human body, but it can become blocked and stagnated. Through extremes of eating, inactivity - both physical and mental - and other material and spiritual factors, tumors and cysts can form, infections can easily arise, menstrual periods can become irregular and painful, and the emotional life suffers. In the following sections...some of the more common manifestations of energy blockage will be examined, as well as natural ways to "unblock the energy".
From SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: Michio Kushi's Guide to Endless Self-Realization and Freedom
by Michio Kushi with Edward Esko(One Peaceful World Press, Becket, MA)
Daily Spiritual Practices
(transcript of a seminar lecture)
All of the great spiritual teachers of the past said that there were no mysteries; it may appear that there are, but if you know the order of the universe - God's law and its mechanism - those feelings disappear, and you know that spirituality is very practical. Consequently, you can create your own self-mastery so that you do not need to depend upon a teacher or master.
When I see you this morning, I see many clear, clean faces, which shows that you are eating well and have been doing so for several days. I hope you will continue to do so during this seminar, taking 80 percent whole grains and grain products, including occasional noodles and bread, a small percentage of beans if you desire, and 20 percent vegetables, both land and sea, using various cooking styles according to your desires, including sauteing, boiling, steaming, and others. This is the first point. Second, actively practice during this seminar, and also afterwards, developing yourselves continuously.
Food is the most important point, although many spiritual teachings do not talk about it. In the future, after the seminar is over, you may eat various foods, including binge-ing, but to keep up your spirituality, keep whole grains as the majority of your food. Even when you travel and have to eat in restaurants, still eat mainly grains, and chew very well. This will minimize the poisonous effect of any poor foods that you take in, and help you maintain spirituality.
Many people do not know how to chew, even though chewing is basic to life. The standard bite is 80 grains placed in the mouth at one time. Try counting them once to see how much this is. It is a small volume. Vegetables can be an equivalent volume. After putting this amount of food in your mouth, put your chopsticks or utensils down and chew, not up and down, but around so that your teeth and tongue move in a circular, spiral pattern.
The ability to move the jaw in many different directions is unique to human beings; animals can chew in only one direction or another, but not in all of the possible ways, comprehensively. We must take advantage of this flexibility, as it is the source of our spirituality. When you chew this way, food becomes well-mixed with saliva and also completely crushed, even if your teeth are not good. Thorough chewing strengthens your digestive organs, increases the utilization of food, and makes your physical condition better. Chewing makes it possible to get by with less. In Japan, chewing is called Kamu, a verb with a sound that is similar to the noun for the word "God", which is pronounced Kami.
After food, the next point is to make your posture straight. It is difficult to attain spirituality if we slouch or are hunched over. Poor posture is due to unhealthy organs; as you continue to eat better, your condition will improve and your posture will straighten. Third, whatever things you have for personal use, including clothes, tools, or houses, should, as much as possible, be made of vegetable quality. If you use a wool blanket, do not put it next to your body, but place a cotton sheet under it. The same is true of nylon and other synthetic materials.
Cotton is a vegetable-based fabric, and is good for regular use, as is jute. Silk is not as good, as it is animal quality. When you really want to develop spirituality, even your outside garments should be of vegetable quality. It is for this reason that priests change their clothes before conducting spiritual ceremonies. This is considered a custom and the reason for it is largely forgotten. The reason is to maximize spiritual sensitivity.
Fourth, the best environment for spiritual development is one that is quiet and clean. Quietness is very important for spirituality. From infinity, short waves are coming with infinite speed straight to the depths of the earth. Horizontal, long-wave vibrations in our immediate environment disturb this primary force. This is especially true of the vibrations produced by machines and electronic devices. If the television is turned on, for example, these short waves are still coming, but they cannot be heard as well. In ancient times, people went to the mountains to meditate and achieve a quiet state.
If you slam your front door, you disturb yourself as well as others. Whenever you wash dishes, cook, or clean, if you make no sound, this is smartness itself. A person who enters a house and makes a lot of noise is revealing a lack of spirituality; even cats and dogs do not make unnecessary sounds, and man as he naturally is does not make any, either. Also, if you take off your shoes before entering your house, please arrange them in an orderly way. Put them where people will not be disturbed by them. If you are sloppy or disorderly, your spirituality is conceptual, not practical. Even though you eat well and meditate, if your daily life does not reflect a sense of order, these things have little effect on your spiritual development.
The next point or caution is that everything should be considered as spiritual existence, including material objects. All things are manifestations of the infinite universe or God; therefore, everyone and everything is one with you. This is the most important foundation of human relations; to respect others as spiritual beings and never use them for profit or gain. All things are a condensed form of spiritual energy. Therefore, when you talk with your parents, relatives, or friends, treat them as spirit. Treat your pen, paper, house, kitchen utensils, and foods not as material tools but with a similar respect.
Our body is made of condensed energy and exists at the center of the spiral of creation. We came from and return to infinity - the source of the relative world - and exist as an infinitesimally small point within the endless ocean of infinite expansion. The further out we go on the spiral, the more pervasive the influence becomes. We receive much more invisible, vibrational food than we do the material types of food. At the level of material food, we eat only two or three times per day; we breathe more frequently, and absorb even more vibrations. We receive infinite expanding force all of the time; every second, without interruption. When we receive infinity constantly, without interference, this is the state of health or spirituality.
You are within God; and the point of spiritual training is to prepare yourself to receive this influence to the maximum degree, so that it is coming without blockage or interference, and to feel and manifest infinity in your daily life. Through training and practice, we try to achieve a state in which we can most easily receive infinite force, which we can also call the grace of God....