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Our lives are a gift, a gift from the heavens, a gift from the earth, a gift from the universe. Do not expect, demand or think that you are owed a life or anything in it. We have done nothing to cause life to happen. It is a gift from the universe, we did not create life, we did not create earth and we did not create the heavens. So we must regard life as precious and most of all, treat it as a gift. When we treat life as a gift,we know our place in the universe. Then we will appreciate and we will take care of our life, the life of other humans, animals, plants and the earth and sky of which we are subject to and reliant on. Knowing our place, we can then do what we need to do and we will be in harmony within ourselves and with our surroundings. continue reading
Much of the following statistics and material for this article was taken from Chien-Fu Liao’s lecture on oncology, Chien-Fu Liao is a medical doctor in Taiwan.
According to the WHO )World Health Organization), cancer is the second
leading cause of death worldwide. There were 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, almost 1/6 of all deaths are caused by cancer. The WHO states that 1/3 of all cancer deaths are due to five main causes: 1) Lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables 2) Lack of movement and exercise, i.e. sedentary lifestyle. 3) Alcohol consumption 4) Smoking 5) Overweight. Following are statistics by the WHO as causes of cancer:
Poor dietary habits, 35%; Smoking, 30%; Infections, 10%; Sexually transmitted
diseases, 7%; Occupational hazards 4%; Alcohol consumption, 3%; Geographic location, 3%; Pollution, 2%; Chemical poisoning 1%; Medications 1%; Other causes 4%.
The word cancer evolves from three ancient characters or ideographs in Chinese,
all pronounced “yan.” These characters refer to shape, appearance, and density which mean rocks, irregular in shape and hard. There are an additional two characters in Chinese, Zhong which means swelling and Liu which means remain. These two characters mean cancer denoting in the meaning the swelling that remains which cannot be dissipated. In Japanese, the word for cancer is “gan” and the character meaning is a “hard gathering, or hard mountain.” The word tumor was found in the oracle bones from the Yin Ruins in China long ago. The TCM description of cancer belongs to the category of swelling/tumors in TCM. Though there are no specific discussions or chapters devoted to cancer in ancient texts, there are specific references to its description and treatment methods. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic mentions several terms for different types of cancer, referring to the different internal organs. From the Tang and Jin Dynasties, various records of treating cancer have been found.
Zhou Hou Bei Ji Fang (Emergency Formulas to Keep Up One’s Sleeve) by Ge Hong in 341 A.D. has recordings of external treatments and internal herbs for abscesses, swellings, and masses that are hard as a rock. According to Zhu Bing Yuan Hou Lun (General Treatise on Causes and Manifestations of All Diseases) from the
Sui Dynasty, records of “Fan Hua Chuang” can be found. This disorder is similar to what we know today as skin cancer. In 1171, in the Song Dynasty, the word “Cancer” first
appeared in a book called Wei Ji Bao Shu written by Dong Xuan Ju Shi. He describes the condition manifesting as a non-ulcerating reddish purple swelling with slight pain and no apparent cause. In the Song Dynasty, Yang Shi Ying provided a detailed
description of cancer in his book Ren Zhai Zhi Zhi Fu Yi Fang Lun. The description included swellings that were above the skin but deeply rooted underneath and multiple clusters of deeply internalized masses. They were frequently found in the abdomen for men and the breast or upper body for women. Yang not only recorded the characteristics of cancer but also the locations in which it appeared most frequently and its severity. His description contributed to the understanding of how cancer develops. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were even more records of the TCM pathology, differential diagnosis, treatment and prevention of various cancers including those of the esophagus, stomach, breast, lung, and reproductive organs.
Allopathic (Western Medicine) relies on objective numbers and findings whereas
TCM relies on subjective presentations from the patient to make a differential diagnosis. A TCM diagnosis is reached according to symptoms of the internal organs and tissues and 8 principle differentiations using appearance of the patient (eyes, skin, hair for example, pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, skin color, and sound or voice. The treatment plan can then be designed accordingly. Many more things can be learned from this method than just what can be seen in radiological studies and laboratory reports. These allopathic methods of diagnosis are also useful, to be certain, do not discount them. But, these are not enough findings to be able to treat the patient in whole.
According to TCM, cancer is no different than any other disorder in which a skilled practitioner must take into account the following to make a diagnosis: 6 types of pathogenic qi (life-force energy), 7 emotions, internal imbalances, improper diet, internal organ and tissue disharmony, constitutional deficiencies, etc. These imbalances in the body lead to obstruction in the channels and causes qi and blood stagnation, along with toxic phlegm accumulation, finally resulting in the growth of abnormal masses. Deficiency is the foundation of cancer formation. Together with other dysfunctions of醫the body, masses form and become malignant. Cancer belongs to the categories of Zheng Jia「(Mass Accumulation). It is not a simple localized condition, but rather a complex involving systemic deficiency and localized excess. Systemic deficiency means just that, the body is deficient (lacking), in its power to maintain as a healthy, whole organism. Though there are various types of cancer and each manifests differently, the fundamental principles of the formation and metastasis of cancer is the same.
The main causes of cancer according to TCM are: 1) Zheng Qi deficiency (the body’s defense mechanism is weak.) 2) Qi (life-force energy) and Blood Stagnation 3)Phlegm/damp accumulation (phlegm can lodged anywhere in the body, in the organs, in the interstitial tissue and muscle, etc.) 4)Toxic Heat Accumulation 5) Zang Fu (Internal organs) Disharmony. Zheng Qi deficiency refers to the overall deficiency of the body’s defense system and organ functions.The development of cancer is closely related
to the body’s Zheng Qi. Disease (unwanted pathogens or any abnormality) is only able to attack when the body is weak.
Zhang Yue Jing, a famous TCM doctor in the Ming Dynasty once said, “Spleen and Kidney deficient patients often have disorders involving stagnation and masses.” Dysfunction of the internal organs is a key cause of cancer. After cancer has formed in the organs, it destroys the function and Zheng Qi of the body. This is the reason patients often become more deficient as time goes by. In the initial stage, qi becomes deficient. In the secondary stage, blood and yin becomes deficient. In the last stage, yang becomes deficient. Surgery and radiation greatly injure qi and yin and
give cancer cells the opportunity to spread quickly.
Qi and blood are the foundation of health and their abundance reflects the health of the organs and their functions. Various scenarios can impede the proper formation and flow of qi and blood, leading to stagnation and finally to the formation of masses. Due to qi and blood stagnation and organ imbalance, the channels become stagnated and
fluids cannot disperse properly, thus forming dampness. Due to the action of heat, it becomes phlegm. Bear in mind, we are talking about systemic phlegm here, not just in the lungs or nose. According to TCM, mass formation is due to phlegm, in either the upper, middle or lower channels in the body. Phlegm and damp accompany the flow of qi and can be carried anywhere in the body.
Toxic heat accumulation is formed from prolonged excess heat and stagnant heat.
Together with phlegm, damp and blood stasis, masses form deep inside the body,
in between organs and visceral tissues, causing complications. These pathologies usually do not appear alone, but rather in combination.
Western medical diagnostic methods of diagnosis can often add additional insights and increase our accuracy of the diagnosis. Classic treatment methods for cancer utilize EVERY possible way to achieve a “cancer free” status and prolong a person’s life. Therefore during treatment, the goal is to KILL every single cancer cell. Therefore, in seeking to eradicate cancer all together,Western medicine strengthens the effect of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment methods. However, there is still no guaranteed solution. Metastasis and recurrence are two difficult hurdles to overcome. Most patients suffer from a poor quality of life with Western medical treatment. Others die from the aggressive treatments.
The TCM perspective and treatment focus is NOT on the cancer itself but, rather, it treats holistically. The focus is on the health of the individual. Differential diagnosis, disease differentiation, herbs, acupuncture and dietary therapy can reduce the suffering and side effects from Western medical treatments. TCM can enhance the body’s own immune system and prolong the patient’s life and QUALITY of life. For those patients who cannot receive chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, Chinese herbs offer a great alternative to strengthen the constitution and to prolong life. Comprehensive TCM Treatments consists of:
• 藥 Herbal recipes to cook for meals
• 氣 Qi Gong
• 針 Acupuncture
• 按 Massage
• 敷 External Application of Herbs
• 精 Emotional/Shen Treatment
• Herbal Medicine
To enhance the immune system, one needs to regulate the organ and channel functions; tonify yin, yang, qi and blood. This can strengthen the body, slow disease
progression and inhibit the development of cancer. The concept of “Restore Balance” includes many methods. This is one of the most important concepts when treating cancer. RESTORE BALANCE. Malignant tumors and cancer can destroy normal
tissues, leading to the disruption and dysfunction of the organs and eventually to poor absorption of nutrients, disruption of the metabolism and an impaired immune system. The main treatment strategy is to strengthen the digestive system and tonify the qi. Symptoms of malnutrition, emaciation, poor appetite, fatigue can all be improved.
There are many anti-cancer Chinese herbs which
1) Clear heat and toxins
2) Invigorate blood and remove stasis
3) Soften and remove masses
4) Toxic herbs to clear toxicity
Surgery can quickly remove the cancer but it is only suitable for beginning and mid-stages. Surgery CANNOT prevent recurrence and metastasis of cancer. Therefore, it cannot achieve any long term goal. Furthermore, anesthesia, blood loss and trauma
from surgery can severely damage the body, disrupt the internal organ functions and injure qi and blood. It is best to use Chinese herbs before and after surgery to reduce the risk of side effects and promote recovery. The most suitable herbs to be used before or after surgery include tonics for the qi, blood, Spleen, Liver and Kidney. Two weeks prior to surgery, the patient should start to strengthen his or her body. It is important to improve organ functions, especially the Liver and Kidney, with Chinese herbs. This can ensure a smoother recovery and avoid more serious or lasting side effects. Chinese herbs can speed up the post-surgical
recovery. Surgery can greatly injure both qi and blood manifesting in qi and blood or qi and yin deficiency. Nutritional qi and immune qi disharmony or spleen/stomach symptoms may occur. A TCM differential diagnosis is required prior to prescribing herbs.
Toxic side-effects of radiation are directly related to the location, area and dosage of
the treatment. Systemic reactions generally involve gastrointestinal disturbance and RBC reduction. The use of TCM herbs can increase and generate fluids, clear the toxic heat generated by the radiation, help heel the tissues. Radiation itself is toxic heat and needs to be treated to help the patient recover from the radiation itself.
The proper prescription and use of Chinese herbs for chemotherapy and radiation side effects is very useful and will help the patient recover their immune system, build and generate fluids and blood, and improve the digestive system. This is VERY important, not to be underestimated, how much building the body needs to do just to combat these typical Western medicine therapies. These herbs are very powerful to help the body recover and the herbs themselves have no ill side effects. They will only improve the body, if a qualified herbalist does the prescribing. The herbs can improve the liver, help it repair, improve the bone marrow and bone production from the bone marrow suppression effects of the chemotherapy, The herbs can help to restore the spleen, stomach, liver and kidneys and even improve the regrowth of hair. Utilizing the concept of restoring balance, Chinese herbs can increase the treatment effects and
reduce the toxic side effects of chemotherapy. The advantage of using Chinese herbs is strengthening the immune system, reduce the rate of recurrence and
metastasis and improve the quality of life and prolong life.
Faulty diiet and nutrition is the number one reason for cancer at the very beginning, so this cannot be stressed enough. Persons with cancer must eat a vegetarian diet with lots of cooked vegetables. Vegetables and fruit should make up 80% of the diet for people with cancer. But cooking should be for a very short time, 3-5 minutes. The food should not be raw. All meat must be stopped as it is one of the main sources of toxin from food. No fried food! Only whole grains, no refined or processed or canned food. The vegetables and fruits must be bought whole and cooked. They should be organic. Since cancer is an excess toxin, the source of it is mostly the food we take in and the chemicals we breathe in or absorb through our skin. Cosmetics are a great source of these chemicals, used heavily especially by women. All commercial perfumes, colognes, perfumed soaps, hair dyes; these are all sources of chemicals that are causing cancer. The use of pesticide, hair spray, hair mousses and herbicides in farming and in the gardens and lawns is another great source of causing such imbalances in the body of humans, animals and plants. Look for the diet therapy for cancer in the next article.
Preventing and treating depression with food and Traditional Oriental Medicine
A healthy diet not only keeps us better physically, it also keeps us happy mentally. Indeed, we are much more than just a makeup of chemical reactions and processes of the different organs. The beings on this planet are very complex and modern science does not have it figured out and probably never will. There is just so much unknown when things are analyzed in a pure chemically and physiologically-based assessment of life. It is much better to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know and just learn to follow nature. Observation of nature and observation of the consequences of our actions is one of the best ways we can learn and improve.
The point here is that, no, we are not a mind separate from the body separate from the soul. Modern Western science’s divisiveness of the human beings and all other beings is not the Gold Standard. It is not only off in so much of its assessment and findings, it may even be the “black, dirty oil standard” in certain aspects. While some of the modern science seems to be correct, not all of it is. Furthermore, what we need today in science is good, objective science. When it comes to health, we have some of the most subjective science as never before in our history. The conglomerate pharmaceutical companies and agricultural chemical companies such as Monsanto and others perform clinical trials which will always make them look good. In healthcare, objectivity has really been thrown out the window.
Ancient scientists and medical practitioners developed and learned by observing the ways of nature and understanding that we are only part of nature, and that they needed to live in harmony with it. Very wisely, they knew they could not CONTROL nature. This is how modern science started out, but, alas, has lost its way due to ego.
The modern method to treat mental depression is quite barbaric. Prescribing drugs that are literally uppers and downers (Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications) which have multiple harmful side effects is nothing short of torture. While some people do get relief from them, the payoff is long-term damage to their health, including their mind. It would not surprise me that one day, the anti-psychotic drug industry themselves will find out that these are one of the major factors causing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
So much for “slaughtering” the conventional treatments for depression. Let’s take a look at how we can treat this naturally.
The gut and the brain:
The gut is often looked at in Oriental medicine theory and in Asian culture as the second brain. A person who is very fearful and not brave, in the Chinese language, is described as a person who “has no gallbladder.” In the Japanese language, the “hara” (gut, or abdomen) is looked at as the center of knowledge and bravery and is the control center of the human being, more so than the brain. Thus, there are phrases like “hara-gei,” reading the other persons position or thoughts. This “hara-gei” was very important in battle and it is considered very important in business dealings in Japan. Most Americans know of the term “hara kiri” which was the method of self-destruction in the feudal era of Japan. If one can tear out their own guts, this was the ultimate show of their commitment and earnestness to their duties and beliefs. This was not done out of fear, depression, or giving up, but out of bravery and the “guts” to uphold their responsibilities. That is why “hara kiri” was an honorable method of death, rather than execution style. Even in the West, we have the phrase of “guts” to refer to bravery.
It seems that all cultures of the world, in ancient times, realized the importance of the gut. Oriental medicine has never forgotten this. In Oriental medicine, the digestive system is the center of the human being and animals, it is the little “earth” within us.
So our digestive system is center to our health and this time, in this article, we will discuss its role in our mental health in particular.
Simple sugars and too much fat are substances that weigh us down, literally. Simple sugars, such as refined flour products and industrialized white, brown, corn and a myriad of other foods that are processed and refined so highly that these all become simplified sugars, give people a five-ten-minute boost of energy and then brings them down leaving them feeling fatigued and depressed. The reason for this is that simple sugar energy is used up immediately. Grains and other plants were not meant to be taken apart and refined. Whole grains and whole vegetables must go through many stages of metabolism before being broken down into useable glucose. Whole grains offer a slow release of energy because they are being broken down slowly. They also turn into glycogen for storage in the liver and muscles which the body can call upon when needed. With simple sugars, there is no storage capability of this energy. It must either be used up quickly or turn into fat, because it can’t be stored in the form of the simple glucose molecule. Thus, refined grains and flour and simple sugar drinks and sweets not only make you depressed, they make you fat. We know that the biggest hog of glucose in the human body is the brain. So what happens to the brain when people do not have the glycogen storage and the slow release of the usable glucose? Brain fog, depression, inability to think and make decisions, etc. The brain becomes “hungry” and deficient, as well as the body. Recently there is considerable evidence that the high sugar diet of the modern people is a real culprit in the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Whole grains, such as brown rice, contain many B vitamins so important for nerve and brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium are also very important so seeds and nuts are essential for these. Look at the magnesium content in pumpkin seeds and the essential oils they contain, for example. These foods should be accompanied by fermented products, such as pickles, miso, whole wheat sour dough breads, natto, unpasteurized naturally fermented soy sauce, and other fermented vegetables. These fermented vegetables, beans and grains are natural prebiotics which help your body produce the probiotics necessary in your digestive function. The problem is that the modern diet is all DEAD; dead sugar (nothing can be more deadly than that) and processed, dead food, which is no longer really food. If your food doesn’t rot easily, it is not food. Good food rots rather quickly. So eating fresh, whole food is paramount. Fermentation extends its life and yours!
So for depressed people, a diet of whole grains and vegetables and beans will help as they provide the nutrients necessary, the slow-release of energy and all without the heavy, sticky fat. The sticky (saturated) fat of land-animal food bogs down the system. It is sticky and heavy, literally, as it sticks to the gut, the intestines, and the arteries and muscles. It makes people feel “stuck” like sugar makes people feel “down” and heavy. In older times in the West, fish has been called “brain food” and there really is something to that. The type of long-chain omega fatty acids and the high protein and calcium content without the sticky fat are nutrients the brain really needs. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for the brain as well as the nerves and muscles. Clams and fermented products like miso and natto contain B12. Don’t forget beans! There is considerable modern research that the brain needs the essential amino acids that beans offer for feeling happy.
There was a time here in the West, in the 1980s, when psychiatry used supplements of L-tryptophan to raise levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, to reduce depression and resolve insomnia. L-tryptophan is what the body uses to produce the messenger chemical serotonin. Serotonin is one of today’s most deficient neurotransmitters. All of the essential amino acids are necessary for good health of the body, mind and spirit, but the big powerful five are: 1. L-tryptophan 2. GABA 3. DL-phenylalanine 4. L-tyrosine and 5. L-glutamine. Most beans are high in these and depending on the bean, different amount of these amino acids in different beans. Azuki beans are especially high in L-tryptophan and L-glutamine. Eggs, fish, barely, beets, cabbage, parsley, wheat germ and miso contain much L-glutamine.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that is nature’s stimulant. L-tyrosine stimulates the production of catecholamines, an umbrella category of neurotransmitter involving dopamine, L-dopa, epinephrine and norepinephrine. With enough catecholamines it’s not problem to bounce out of bed in the morning enthusiastic and alert. In contrast, people who need L-tyrosine may drink multiple coffees or colas daily or some other energy foods and drinks. They are often diagnosed with ADD, lack energy, concentration or ambition, are apathetic and may start multiple projects and finish few of them. Again, don’t forget the beans!
If a truly whole foods diet is followed with NO sugar and NO processed foods and organically grown foods, most cases of depression would not even exist. The key here is TRULY following a whole foods diet. No supplements are generally needed.
The other factor besides diet is regular exercise and getting outdoors enough. This is essential for individuals who easily get depressed and/or anxious.
If following good dietary practices are not enough, then Traditional Oriental Medicine can step in. This medicine can help these cases in most instances with the proper Chinese herbal formulations. Chinese medicine has the experience of several millennia, not just centuries, not just decades. It has had time to develop and practice on millions of people. It has shown to be effective in any century. Not only herbal medicinals, but dietary knowledge which they put into practice. Acupuncture can also be effective. It has actually been scientifically proven that when the needles are put in certain acupoints in the human body, the relaxing neurotransmitters are awakened and more of them get released in the brain. No wonder why some patients remark that they get a relaxed, euphoric feeling after their treatment. Your Chinese medicine doctor should also be able to guide you in taking steps to help yourself through diet.
Food, exercise, fresh air, breathing exercises are all the natural remedies for depression and anxiety. The shogun and feudal lords of old Japan and the rulers of China always had their own doctors living in their castle with them and they were usually drinking Chinese herbal formulations as well. They also exercised outdoors often and/or rode horses. Those that did these practices lived longer than their counterparts who did not.
Food literally makes us happy, but it should be a stable, everyday happiness. If it is not doing that, you may need to look into why it isn’t. Remember, your diet needs to include prebiotic food and the best are fermented foods. Include some alive, fermented food in each meal or at least two meals of the day. Eat for your happiness.
Yours in health and budou,
Dr. (Shihan) Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
6th Degree Black Belt Okinawan Karate & Kobudou
By Dr. (Shihan) Bolz
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor, 6th Degree Black Belt
You may think by the title of this article that it is going to be about fantasy, manga, anime, or video games, but read further. It seems that today, more than ever before in history, we need to live like a good samurai.
In feudal Japan, the samurai were some of the world’s most fierce, most loyal to their lord and cause and bravest of all soldiers that have ever lived and fought upon this earth.
In Japan, around 1603, the Tokugawa government took over and a long period of peace began, known as the Edo Jidai (Edo Period). In the mid 1800’s Japan began having more contact with the Western world when the Netherlands started exploring in Japan and the United States began to send ships over there as well. In 1876, it became against the law for any samurai to wear their swords on the streets. So from the 1600’s on, more and more samurai were without jobs; that is, there were no wars to fight, they were not needed in war. The samurai still practiced their skills, however, as that was still their work, even though they may have been unemployed. It was all they knew. Very skillful samurai were retained in the castles to protect the local lords still, but only a few were needed for that. The only skill these soldiers had was their sword fighting skills. Those that were retained in the castles by the local lords took up the high arts such as tea ceremony, writing and painting, besides practicing their combat skills. They became highly refined and highly educated. Not all of them were fortunate enough, however, to be retained by their lords. Many were let go. Thus, many became masterless. Many were homeless. Some began making their living by challenging duals so their own sword schools would become famous and then opening their own swordsmanship schools, or dojo in the town. These were called machi dojo, or town martial schools.
The merchant class admired the ethics, discipline and bravery of the samurai and would send their children to these schools to teach them manners, etiquette and discipline. The children, who usually were sent to the schools in their teens, thought they were going to learn how to be great fighters and dig into the sword fighting immediately. In reality, most of the students did not get to even touch a sword for three years.
When the student entered the school under the tutelage of the master swordsman, they were taught many things about living. The student had to wash clothes for the master, mend clothes, learn how to cook for himself and his master, how to fish, how to clean the fish, how to wash the rice, how to raise vegetables and rice, how to take care of the futon, sweep and scrub the floors and all the drudgery of every day life. Pretty soon after entering the school, the student would start to complain. “How unfair, the master is is an eccentric old man who can no longer move well. We had come here to learn how to use the sword and become a master swordsman, what is wrong with this teacher? Is he mad?” These were common thoughts that the these children who became adults later wrote about. But at the time, for these children, it was not fun and neither parents nor master listened to them. The parents did not go and take them out of the school. Those that questioned the master would go visit him. The parents began to understand the master if they didn’t already. Remember, though, that most parents put their kids into these schools to give them a better education.
After one year of this, the student began getting more used to the life. After two years more accustomed to it, and after three years, they would be so used to their comfortable life that they fully accepted it. Then one day, when the student would have never guessed, the master brings him to the dojo and allows him to touch and pick up the bokken (wooden sword). Shocked and feeling surprised and honored, the student picks up the wood sword. The master begins to teach basic moves. The student always began with the bokken first, before using the live blade.
This was the usual method of becoming a student of the martial arts in those days. The students and the parents began to realize that the master samurai indeed was teaching the way of the sword and the way to be a good samurai from day one when the student first came to the master. The master was teaching the student how to survive, these were all survival techniques! Besides becoming proficient at household tasks and taking care of one’s own life, the student was also learning patience, perseverance and the ability to bear situations without complaining. They also learned etiquette and manners.
There is a saying in Japanese, “Ishi no ue ni mo, san nen.” “If you sit straight on a rock and that is all, you will be used to it after three years.” Thus, the three years of basic training under the master samurai. After three years of practice, people will be used to the situation. That means everything just takes training and patience and you can then do it. This was the greatest lesson of life that the master samurai could teach the student, more important than learning how to fight well with the sword, in the peaceful era. But of course, the student did learn the actual swordsmanship too.
This method also took great understanding and wisdom on behalf of the parents. They did not go to the master’s house and scream at him or take their child away. They kept the child going, they didn’t give in to the child’s complaints. This method of learning also teaches people to not blame others for their situation, but to accept and take care of their own life and do whatever they need to do to survive.
The employed samurai took on great responsibility for the life and safety of their lord and the people belonging to that castle. So much so, that they constantly put their life on the line in battle. They did not blame others, that would get no where. It indeed would literally cost them their life.They met the challenges and consequences of their own actions. The faithful never blamed their lord. The few that did go against their lord did it the good old fashioned honorable way-they fought to the death, or if they lost and were still alive, then they were ready to take their own life. They felt responsible.
This history of the samurai way of life and spirit still permeates in Japan at a subtle level. The Japanese are known the world over for their resilience and ability to survive as a people and for their patience. Parents to this day send their children to the “machi dojo” (town martial arts schools) so they will learn discipline and manners and become more refined and educated. Of course, as Japan is becoming more modern and more Westernized, it has more and more spoiled people, but as a whole, there is still this essence there.
This is also a story to point out that self defense goes way beyond hand to hand combat. We need more than ever today, in the United States of America, to become samurai. We need to practice self defense against diseases of all kinds, and especially against the disease of complaining and blaming others. It is time we become samurai and take the responsibility upon our own selves for our situation in life. It is time we cook, clean, mend, take care of every day matters seriously. It is time we truly cook, not buy already prepared food in the store, not buying green salads already washed and stored in plastic. The nutrient value and life-force is almost gone in these things. It is time to study about food and how it is raised before we purchase. It is time we practice self defense and when it comes to health, that means prevention. Cooking is a duty of the samurai warrior as well as that of the samurai warrior’s wife. The samurai’s wife also had to learn the basics of handling a knife and spear; it was needed for survival. We need to become proficient at all the basic tools of life, not just a single career. The career will not be stable if you don’t know how to take care of your health. Health begins with cooking whole foods, organically raised by either yourself or a local farmer and honoring the food and earth that sustains your life.
Self defense means defending ourselves against physical disease and the mental diseases of unrest and anxiety that comes from superficial living. Self defense against the disease of lack or self responsibility. No one is responsible for our welfare but our own self. It is time to have self pride and honor. The homeless samurai who were very hungry would walk around with a toothpick in their mouth, it has been said. That means they were not prone to want hand outs and they did not blame someone else for being hungry.
It is time to stop blaming others and ask what we can do for others. At the risk of sounding very old fashioned, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Old values are stable values and the values that President John F. Kennedy spoke of and that of the Japanese samurai of an even older era, are never out of fashion. It works in any era, no matter how smart we think we are. It is time to realize how smart we are not. It is time to think about how to be a good samurai.
This was a journey as the last straw in search of a true follower of a true natural farmer, a master, a saint of the land, who once lived and practiced his farming for over 60 years in cooperation with nature. He was one of the few persons who wrote about his path to enlightenment through farming and one who actually understood the way of farming with nature. He was a philosopher and had such wisdom that saw the fallacy and foibles of the modern scientific era and how it was and is destroying nature. He was the author of a famous book that was translated into several languages and in English it is called, “The One Straw Revolution.” He was a Japanese man who lived in Iyo-shi, Japan. He also wrote several other books, another one that has been translated to English is “The Natural Way of Farming” available through Kodansha Publications.
I met this man almost thirty years ago when I was living in Kochi-shi, Kochi-ken, Japan. A friend of mine knew this humble farmer and knew I was interested in nature and in the restoration of natural food and natural farming and the health of the entire planet along with all of its beings. He was Fukuoka Masanobu (family name is written first in the Japanese language. the given name is second and I have used the Japanese here), a man of enlightenment, a Buddah in his own time. At that time, we sat on his mountain, drinking tea in his old traditional Japanese style farm house around the “irori” in the middle of the room. An “irori” is a fireplace and a cookstove in the middle of the room. It is like a square little sandpit. A large hook hangs from the ceiling to hang the cooking pot over the fire. This was very important in the traditional house because this is where the family gathered around at meal times to have good conversation and wonderful cooked meals right in the center. It served well to boil the water and make the tea with our conversation at that time. Our conversation was about farming, the land and the environment and the state of the world. He did most of the talking and we did most of the listening, my lifetime friend and partner and our mutual friend.
Mr. Fukuoka is no longer with us, he passed away at the age of 95 on his farm. But his farm was a mountain. It was a mountain of which everyone had said could not possibly be farmed in a natural manner as the soil was very poor. Mr. Fukuoka proved that it could grow enough food for humans. He did not till, no, never turned even one inch of soil, ever. All he did was throw seeds out randomly of many different species, from eggplant to daikon to carrots to rice to…….so many more. Then he put down straw for mulching. He said that his was the lazy man’s way of farming and also much less expensive. He did not put anything in rows and furthermore, very importantly, he did not put one species of seed in place. He mixed all the different types of plant seeds and literally scattered them randomly among the current grass and weeds. In nature, there are no weeds, all are plants, and in nature, many species grow together and live in harmony. Mr. Fukuoka was trying to copy nature. He did get harvests. I saw them. The daikon I saw were very big, crispy and healthy, then I saw blades of rice growing among weeds and many other vegetables scattered here and there, no order, all chaos, as a typical modern farmer would probably say. It was beautiful. When he harvested, he never harvested it all. He always left some crops to go to seed and reseed themselves. Once he established this, he never planted every year. Nature did the seeding. He never weeded, he never plowed, he never sowed, he never watered and he absolutely never used any fertilizer and and of course, never any herbicides or insecticides. He painted and wrote poetry on his mountain in that house, often. He remarked at how hard the other farmers were working and how much money they spent. They needed tractors, plows, rakes, fertilizer, chemicals; he marveled at how they were breaking their backs, had no time for family conversations and sometimes still could not make enough money.
Not only did he see most of his neighbors in this plight, but he also saw the destructive method that modern farming is to the environment including all of the lifeforms of the earth, from the tiniest bacteria to the humans and large animals. If you want to have a better understanding of what I am talking about, please obtain and read, the book, “The Natural Way to Farming” by Masanobu Fukuoka.
Back to the present, this trip, July of 2016, my mission to try to find a disciple of this master of natural farming. While there are many organic farmers in Japan, I wanted to find his disciple, one who could follow this truly natural way of farming, much more natural than just organic.
After having landed in Tokyo and meeting a friend there and then visiting old castles in Matsumoto, Kanazawa, Nagoya and visiting old temples in Kyoto and Nara, we finally went to Kochi City on Shikoku Island where I had lived years past.
Besides this trip being a search for a disciple of Fukuoka Masanobu Sensei, this was an exploration of all organic framing and traditional Japanese cuisine using only whole foods organically grown. What I found is that there is much more demand for organic whole foods and there are many more small-scale organic farms in Japan than the United States. I have also learned that there is great concern among the people in Japan about the GMO (genetically modified organisms) farming push in the United States. About 97% of all food in Japan is NOT GMO and the Japanese government is so far listening to its people. Do know, however, that the majority of farming is still chemical-based and is based on monoculture, the same as in the United States.
There is also a rise in the interest and use of Chinese herbal medicine both by the medical profession itself and the lay people. Some medical doctors in Japan have observed many side effects from the use of modern pharmaceuticals in patients and are studying Chinese herbal medicine on their own. They are trying to reduce the prescribing of these medications as a whole, also. These days the allopathic medical schools in Japan have added two semesters of Chinese herbal pharmacology to the medical curriculum.
The Japanese government itself seems more concerned about the health of its citizens and how to prevent and reduce the heavy doctor and hospital bills, especially since there are many aged people there. Also, the government and medical profession are concerned about the high incidence of modern diseases such as Alzhiemer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s disease, stroke incidences, diabetes and heart disease. As most of you may already know, the Japanese government foots the bill for all of these financial burdens (it is socialized medicine) and it is beginning to bankrupt them. Therefore, the federal government as well as the prefectural governments are interested in preventative health, such as promoting exercise programs and life-style recommendations, including diet and including recommendations of more traditional Japanese foods which they now realize are much healthier than the modern Western diet which they have adopted. This includes not ascribing to genetically modified organisms because it is so against nature. The further we have gotten away from nature, the poorer the health of the humans, animals, plants and the earth itself. This, more Japanese people understand, it seems, than Americans.
After getting settled in Kochi City, where I have friends, it was easy to get a network of referrals to many small-scale organic farmers because friends of my friends are doing such. Because of this, I had the opportunity to be taken to different farms. These farms are not easy to get to. Japan is a country that is 85% mountainous and all these farms are in the mountains, tiny roads and well hidden. The countryside, I must add, is stunningly beautiful because of the lush, thick vegetation and trees on all these mountains. Japan is a country of heavy rainfall and lots of sun and humidity in the summer. All excellent for raising food crops as well. A big problem for many farmers is that rice consumption has decreased in Japan and the price of rice is going down. It is difficult for them to make a living, so many sell out and move to the city. Young people can’t make a living farming, either. As in the United States, most farmers are aged 65 years and above. So I met some of the happiest people I know on their small organic farms, 82 years old, 75 years old, etc. Amazing people. While I can not possible tell of all my adventures in this short article, I would like to make the point that there is quite a consortium and network for organic farming, especially on Shikioku, and organic fresh markets as many of them are publicized with where and who is operating them and maps are included. There was no one, that we could find, that was practicing the “One Straw Revolution” farming, however.
The last farm to visit was a trip to Iyo City, about 80 kilometers from Kochi. We had contacted Mr. Fukuoka’s son, Masato and he welcomed us to come and spend some time with him. Masato is 73 years old, about the age that his father was when I had met him. He is practicing organic farming, but not the truly natural method of his father’s. Alas, Masanobu’s mountain is all wild; weeds, some wild vegetables and the old farm house on the mountain is falling down, a wreck, and dangerous to go inside. But all of it so beautiful. It was nostalgic, it was moving to my heart to see fallen clay pots lying by Masanobu’s old house. I peaked in and saw a remnant of what appeared to be the “irori.” There! There! I thought to myself, there is where we had tea. There is where we sat at the foot of the master and listened! It was here he had drawn a “sumie” (Japanese ink painting using brush and India ink) for us so many years ago, which now hangs framed in my house here in the United States. How could he not still be here? This ghost of a house and this ghost of a mountain……….. Now, we are listening to the son talk about this mountain. “None of us could make a living on it like my father,” he said, “none of us.” After walking, reminiscing and listening on the mountain, we all had a lunch at the local corner cafe, so fresh and all traditional.
His son, Masato, remember, is 73 years old and has delegated most of the farming, to his son. His son (Masanobu’s grandson) is farming down from the mountain, in dedicated mono-crop fields, and is doing most of the farm work now. We did not meet the grandson, Masato called him to see if he could get away for even five minutes to meet us, but he couldn’t reach him on his cell phone.
After coming down from the mountain, Masato took us to the tiny house which is being built of all wood, all natural, and no chemicals which he is building as a memorial to his father. The wood is all used wood, but looks totally new. He does realize his father was and still is quite famous among certain sectors of farmers the world over. To this day, he still gets some visitors from foreign countries. Masato does not speak English, and, rightly so, is not interested in people who don’t speak Japanese. It is too difficult to deal with them, he says. I don’t blame him. Who would want anything else besides this beautiful countryside of peace? He and his son sell their crops and he has juices boxed up in the barn for sending off to local stores. One of my friends bought cases. Of course, not me, I had to go back to America and these things would not be allowed.
So, no natural farmers………except some farmer back in Kochi told me that the closest follower of Fukuoka Masanobu is now farming in Nara! That is the trip for next year!
Now, let’s learn something from this. The reason I am sharing all of this with you is because I want you to understand what is occurring in our country and want you to know how you can become healthier. We are what we eat, there is no doubt about that.This is the way nature is set up. It is all about the transformative processes which must not be skipped.
We are in a crisis in this country with our food and the federal government seems to be part of the big problem. The GMO business is getting stronger and stronger. Most of our seeds are becoming this. Corn, soybeans, wheat, salmon. Here is why GMOs are being produced by Monsanto and sold to thousands of big farmers:
The seeds are being genetically modified so that they can be resistant to the chemical compounds which are being used for herbicides and insecticides. The idea is to be able to raise the wanted crop while killing the unwanted plants (called weeds). The problem is, these chemicals they are selling to the farmers and which they are using are very dangerous both to the plant, insect, animal and human life. Why are the honey bees dying out? Guess what, without them, no open pollination and the farmers need them; but it is the very farmers using these chemicals that are killing them. Farmers are pressured by salespeople to buy these GMO seeds and the dangerous chemicals; they are told they won’t make money without them.
But there is more. For example, Monsanto is now making a second GMO soybean seed to withstand even more dangerous herbicides than RoundUp. The first GMO soybean was created to withstand RoundUp, so that when that herbicide is sprayed, it would kill the weeds but not the soybean plant. Well, three years later, the weeds have adapted and have become resistant to RoundUp. Now, doesn’t this show the beauty and power of nature? It is so powerful. Good for the weeds! This second GMO soybean Monsanto engineered can withstand dicamba, an herbicide which is illegal and has not been approved for use by our EPA. The dicamba, when sprayed, drifts over to fields of farmers that have not used the GMO soybean and it kills their crop! Thousands of acres of other soybean farmers’ crops are being killed and could slash those farmers’ yields. This hurts these farmers financially and they are already in their leanest year since 2002, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The GMOs created by Monsanto and fostered by other agrochemical companies are upsetting the entire eco-system and harming the environment, including humans. In addition, it will never end if this is kept up because the weeds will mutate to resist the chemicals and agrochemical corporations will just make more dangerous and toxic herbicides and insecticides and ALL crops will be GMOs (that means YOUR food) and we will be more and more prone to sickness and disease.
Please refer to the August 3, 2016 Wall Street Journal article in the business section for more information on this soybean story. Please also research more about your food crops.
There is also a recently enacted labeling system put out by the FDA for our food products. Alas, the only requirement is that the label be a scanning bar code and smaller food companies are exempted from labeling. The best solution is to buy certified organic by the CCOF or USDA, because organic farmers do not use GMO seeds. Also, most of the tables at farmers markets are NOT organic. Look for their certification. To be safe, buy all certified organic whole produce and cook it yourself; the same goes for meat if you eat meat. Stop buying packaged and canned food.
Take the next step and grow your own, but make sure the seeds you buy are organic and non-GMO! Now go further and write all your senators, Congress and the President and tell them you don’t want GMO food. Call them. Speak out. We can’t give up. The BEST proof to the FDA that you want healthy food is to stop buying the unhealthy and buy certified organic. Our government seems listen to Monsanto and the other big agrochemical corporations on this mostly, but if you don’t buy Monsanto’s product, they will fail. We have only one life and one body and mind on this earth, let’s make it a healthy and fun one. This is the last straw and our last chance.
Dr. (Shihan) Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
6th Degree Black Belt Okinawan Karate & Kobudou