To live life you’ve got to accept life…accepting life means taking what comes, good bad and ugly…changing your life is up to you…not changing your life is also up to you. Karma and destiny need serious work. Increased consciousness, finding emotional imbalances or the reason for these imbalances equals tough. Letting go of fears and developing the ability to give love unconditionally, also tough, tough, tough. Honesty, tough. Self reflection, tough. No matter how you look at it, it comes down to the responsibility of each and every one of us on an individual basis to change, thereby changing our world. Period.
Death is the process of transition (I like that word) between being in the physical world to being in the spiritual world as birth is the process of transition between being in the spiritual world to being in the physical world. Both worlds exist simultaneously. The physical world is the classroom for the spiritual world.
Recently, this passing into the spiritual world has become a much discussed topic within macrobiotics. For years most assumed that practicing macrobiotics was some sort of guarantee of longevity. The problem was putting the cart before the horse. It hadn’t been tested, so to speak, in the real world of macrobiotics. More macrobiotic people were getting cancer. How many we dont really know. At first, as in the case of Tony Sattilaro, the reasons justified this. Couldnt follow the program as it was laid out, didn’t do their own cooking, lapsed back into previous habits, etc. But these were people who first became sick and then turned to macrobiotics. What about those who were macrobiotic first? Anyway, chronic degenerative disease and the issue of death and dying became a reality within the macrobiotic world.
The splash of cold water in the face came several years ago when Aveline Kushi and her daughter Lilly each developed cancer. After a year of dealing unsuccessfully with it macrobiotically, Aveline turned to conventional treatment and is still alive today. Lilly didn’t survive.
This provoked much discussion in the community, and while Aveline spoke in general terms publicly, there was not much said about on a deep personal level. Good if your customs lean towards privacy, but bad from the “sharing-your experience-so-others-can-understand-more standpoint.” As teachers, do we forego some or all of our privacy when it comes to teaching from experience?
Earlier this year Herman Aihara passed on after a massive heart attack, almost a year after a couple of minor strokes. Here again, the insight was minimal. And again, a lot of talk and speculation afterwards. Maybe its that the strength of what you teach is what you leave behind. Maybe.
And the passing of some others; Dr. Spock, Donna Wilson, Meryl Kolevzon, Linda Berman, Jacques DeLangres, Ken Burns, and Murray Snyder. Others I know of that are still around with or after bouts with chronic degenerative disease include Leroy Sanchez, Christine Pirello, Duncan Simms, and the discussion is still at a whisper. Of course, maybe its meant to be this way and radiates only to those who need involvement.
I became very interested it this path I was going down. Having had a chronic degenerative disease myself and subsequently dealt with and accepted the emotion of fear up to that point, I began to meditate on what this meant. I am grateful for my disease because it became my greatest teacher so far and led me to macrobiotics and beyond. This beyond includes the spiritual world.
My recent intuition is that if you had a healthy life, death, too, would be healthy. Evidences of this can be see in most cultures of the past. The person makes their amends and leaves to pass on in peace, not eating, only drinking until it shifts. Today the modern ritual is so somber and creates fear for the living, a product of a materialistic world…no one wants to leave.
Last January I found Murray Snyder. Murray was dealing with cancer. I presented him with some of my at-the-time feelings regarding life and death and expressed interest in the moments of transcendence (including height and depth) and how it corresponds to what hed been taught on one hand, and experienced on the other. Murray was gracious and receptive to the idea of developing a dialogue discussing this and whatever else came up..
For seven months we communicated, more in the beginning, less as Murray became weaker. We covered a lot of ground, way too much to cover here, but the essence of Murray and what he went through during this highly personal phase of his life on earth can be seen here, not as the “way” but as insights that others may find valuable.
The following perspective comes, in most cases, verbatim from our discussions. Much of it is from an article and/or book he was writing; the article was planned for Macrobiotics Today, the book was tentatively titled, “The Man Who Lost His Voice and Found His Soul”.
Murray came from living a hippie lifestyle outside of L.A. in the mid sixties to life on a houseboat at Gate 6, north across the bridge from San Francisco. He begins:
“I loved every minute of that experience and came to my involvement with Macrobiotics through a host of intense and profound personal spiritual experiences during this time. In 1970 I met Kushi and then decided to go to Boston to get serious. That’s when I became Mr. Natural.
Many years of experience later the doctor turned to me and simply said “It just what I suspected Murray”. With that statement, confirming what I had feared and what I instinctively had known for months, my life took a radical change and my world started crumbling down.The irritations on my right vocal cord was cancer! Now, I was faced with the question which I had helped countless people deal with in their lives. You have cancer; what are you going to do about it?.
Here I had followed a macrobiotic vegetarian diet and lived a healthy lifestyle for twenty eight years. I exercised moderately, chose ecological and healthy items for the house and personal use and in general acted in accordance with what I thought were positive and healthy choices. So why was this happening and how did it get to this point?
There were no accidents in this universe. Somewhere along the line there was a cause for the current circumstance. The reality of this disease was setting in. What irony that here was my greatest asset–my voice, my ability to move people with speech–was the location of my cancer Why not somewhere else? I know there is more to this then just some physical mass growing in my throat. What is the emotional, vibrational and spiritual connection? I know intuitively I have to find out the next step for myself. I was advised at this stage of my cancer the only safe and sure method was a complete laryngectomy and the installation of a voice prosthesis that would allow me to speak again.
Ive thought for a long time there is a predisposition to all illnesses and health problems one gets in life. Whether one materializes those problems depends on a large extent how they choose to live their life and to some extent, their inherent destiny. Yet there is more to our make-up then just our physical constitution.
While I may appear to handle stressful situations well, on a vibrational and emotional level, they effect me very deeply. Over the years, I’ve had my share of stressful situations in my personal life as well as my professional one. Dealing with and watching the suffering deaths of my Mom and Dad certainly had a big and deep effect on me. While I am at peace with my parents passing, I can only imagine how it affected me. Ive always been emotional in my expression. I would react quickly to upsets and just as quickly if they are not totally let go of. I was about to wander into an area of my inner make-up that would explain and reveal to me many answers to my present circumstances. I was also real good at putting things off when it came to my health. It is not out of fear of doctors or I think I know more then them, but more from a standpoint that I can handle it or its not so bad that I cant live with it.
As I looked back I began to see a pattern Id never thought of until now. When I was a kid Id always spit a lot and had to clear my throat often. When I would exercise or played basketball the frequency increased. Of course, I never gave this a thought nor did it even seem odd at the time. In the mid 70s I started to give lectures more frequently. Often I would get sore vocal cords (not a sore throat) after hours of talking.The cords seemed to be inflamed but it would usually go away in a day or two. At that time I just wrote it off as overuse.
My voice went in and out of “normal” until it took a noticeable change in 1994. It started to sound raspy. My wife Jan was by now getting very concerned and urged me to see a doctor. I, as usual, was looking elsewhere. I went to a Chinese herbalist and a Chinese Qi Qong master who was a medical doctor/acupuncturist. These treatments had some short term effect but the problem kept getting worse. I finally scheduled that first visit to the doctor in August of 1995.
I wanted to treat the cancer naturally first. I rationalized and agonized putting off the biopsy because of my schedule of classes and appointments. I didn’t want to take a chance on my voice sounding worse. It was like a business decision, not a health decision and in looking back was not a wise move. Later I would really beat myself up over this decision. What was I thinking?
My own procrastination got me into this predicament. I saw clearly what this character flaw had cost me. Regardless of what caused my condition–food, drink, lifestyle, karma–I had neglected to make a choice when it was in my power to do so.
After grieving over this point for a few days, I accepted that my past mistakes were in the past. To go on blaming myself would just weaken me emotionally and physically. At that moment I learned a valuable lesson. To look honestly at yourself and see mistakes is essential. It is equally important, however to let go of guilt and accept the past without judgment. The past simply was. I am living in the present moment and it is here I need to exercise my judgment. This was a new beginning for me. Despite all the pressure, I felt a sense of completion and inner serenity. Later I thought how funny it sounded when I heard someone ask “so what food caused this problem”?
I was not afraid of death. My worst fear was losing my voice. I was filled with anxieties about what I will do, how will I earn money. I felt such a sense of loss that no words came to mind. Yet, I can honestly say I never felt the victim. This I have personally learned through my many experiences with healing over the years and this is what I communicate in the work that I do. It was fortunate for me this was already part of my consciousness.This is to me what I have called the “Heart of Healing”. Now here I was faced with putting this approach that I was teaching into practice to try and save my own life.
What irony, here I was the teacher/counselor, someone who has for 28 years talked to and guided thousands of people all over the world in regards to health and well-being with cancer. How do I explain that? If what I was doing was so great and so wonderful and so truthful then how can I get this disease? A fair question and one I have dealt with many times in explaining other peoples conditions. But this was different now because it was me I was explaining.
I decided to write a personal letter to those people involved in my life. The words came from my heart . Little did I realize what the reaction would be. I was blown away with the heart felt love and concern being expressed to me. This was such an intense experience for me. This time love was coming from a different level than I was used to. People were were telling me as a person how much I mattered in their life. Everyday I was crying over the responses. When I allowed myself to feel that, it lifted me beyond my limited condition, body and mind. I felt enveloped with the light of the universe and it moved me (still does) into the healing process. I was in the throes of experiencing what would become the most powerful part of my cancer experience.
I realized that love heals, love is all there is and every time you feel it and express it, life becomes so much more beautiful and whole.
As the weeks unfolded I got much more insight into the workings of Karmic cause and effect, thoughts, actions, past life experiences, and all the invisible vibrational input into ones experience having a direct bearing on health. I came to realize that while food and diet played a role in my overall health condition, that this was perhaps only one of the causes of my immediate problem. My past relationships and various thought wave patterns more then likely set up the forces that led to this crises. While at any time I could have recognized and changed the outcome, I didn’t see it until I did.
At last the why question was put to rest. In the spirit of being in the now and dealing with the situation, why doesn’t even matter. I let it go.
I then began to meet and work with some unique and wonderful healers. A Russian healer in Brooklyn began to outline what it was in me that was causing so much inner turmoil. He said I have very high ideals and was more spiritually oriented in my work and life, but I directed everything inward. I would try to live up to those ideals and expect everyone else to but no, I never could nor could anyone else. I would internalize and create resentment and upset toward myself. This he pointed out is the beginning of disease.
“Ideals even high spiritual ones are not God”, he told me, “drop the attachments to a high ideal.” He was not referring to any religion or set of morals but to the universal sense of Spirituality. “All experiences are for the higher good, it is as if God (Love) is sending you an opportunity. Make Love first and then follow your path.” He showed me how I was not allowing love to be a part of the situation. All of that comes back to me, this is my Karma.
I found it very powerful and it explains a lot. He left me with this insight: Give thanks to God first, pray to God first and then let your spiritual goals filter into your choices, but always remember it is not these goals that are important, but the light and love from the source. Everything is coming from there so go directly to the source. This was a big breakthrough for me. To follow something without a concept or ideal, to do something without a conceptual framework of it being good and worthwhile. Just doing it as direct from God and placing no importance on it more than any other.
These healers all indicated that while the surgery may be necessary at this time, it should not be viewed as a negative or limiting experience. So after all is said and done, the tumor is still there and no “miracle” cure for me. How fitting and yet how just. Im now resigned to the operation.
It was somewhere around November of 97 that Im realizing from the many experiences I was going through that healing was an altogether different phenomenon than just the release or discharge of symptoms or pain, or even the recovery and return to balance of ones condition. I was seeing it on another level.
Healing doesn’t always mean the patient even gets physically better. It was very clear to me that for one to release pent up emotional and spiritual blockages and to move through to a place of inner calm, peace, and even a state of grace, is in fact healing and affecting ones soul movement in the now and future. And this may happen when the body is indeed dying and the persons life is coming to an end.
Finally, one magical day in November, I found the answer to the meaning of surrender. It was coming as I swayed back and forth while sitting on the floor contemplating. Finally my arms shot up in the air and I blurted out “I love you cancer”. Love my disease, love the cancer, let it be, dont try and destroy it, but allow it to move to where it belongs in this universe. In truly accepting who I am and where I am at, I have to accept everything about me. I began to allow myself to be the way I am. I had no fear in this place and also no resentment. After all these years I began to see what true surrender is all about. No conditions, no pleadings, no promises, no intentions, no guarantees. Love, just Love, with no conditions.
I opened my heart and accepted fully my treatment and what I had to do. I am still responsible for the choices, and their result, but whatever they may be there is no inherent right or wrongness about them. “Anything can be used for medicine sometime” Ohsawa once said. Parts of me are evaporating and some new version of me is being born. I look at who I think I am and see myself growing into another mind set that feels like the person I was always meant to be because I am now allowing myself to experience my freedom with more openness.
On December 4th, 1996 I went into the hospital and had the operation. Just before the incision I felt a part of me wanted to scream and say stop, wait a minute, but I just relaxed and let it go. I just drifted into a calm place. I am convinced I was in a state of grace during this time with my guardian angel watching over me.
I felt OK for awhile, mainly physically. Taste and smell almost didn’t exist. It was hard to eat or swallow. Food takes on a whole different picture when your sensual enjoyment is cut off.
From January 5th to February 14th, 1997 I had to go through thirty rounds of radiation in 6 weeks which put me through even more inner turmoil then the surgery I resisted doing this but after checking it out, I accepted it as part of my therapy and finally agreed to go through with it. During this time was my most unusual experience with food ever because of a non-existent appetite. One result out of that experience is today I eat freer and am more relaxed about food then ever in my life.
I’ve always been blessed with seeing the positive side of a given situation. I’ve always been able to see and create some way to move forward and create a better situation. But I’ve never faced a situation like this before because my abilities to do that have been reduced and I have to reach down and find within me new ways to move forward.
I can see why I got this disease. I held onto so much, kept it hidden from the world but let it fester within me. Letting it out surgically is only superficial, I still need to let it go vibrationally so as to create a new pattern which will effect cells, organs, as well as thoughts and feelings. I’ve never been more aware of this process than now. I can see that cancer brings to me exactly what I need to do to change and alter my direction and move on in the way I always wanted to. To live with a deeper and more aware sense of life.
In early December, 1997, after having a chest x-ray and MRI, the doctor informed me that the cancer had metastasized to both lungs. After the initial shock and consultations with medical doctors, holistic healers and personal friends, I began an intensive regime of herbs, supplements and nutritive combinations along with my diet as well as some body work to see if this protocol could stop the spread. I feel fine except for shortness of breath when I exert myself physically and a slight twinge in my upper left chest.
So here I go again deeper into the reality of life/death. Each day this is etched in my mind and I get to choose how I wish to experience my day. What a glorious process our life is and what a delicious choice to make consciously. Gratitude is such a funny experience.
Do I feel cheated? Absolutely not. The value I got out of what I did and choose to follow speaks for itself in what it has given to me. Where I am at. Exactly where I belong. But the question needs to be looked at differently. If I did feel cheated it would be because I thought that something outside of myself was going to do something for me. Macrobiotics didn’t fail me. I made mistakes, I failed myself and out of that experience I grew and continue to grow. Sure, at times, I expect something and want something or someone to do something for me. But somewhere along the line I see those expectations cause me inner turmoil.
That is one of my life lessons to get. I always had very high ideals and spiritual aspirations that I could never live up to and as a result put a lot a pressure on myself. I internalized that emotion and held it in for a long time. Get this connection? Sure food played a role in my condition (But for the record, in 30 years I never ate meat, chicken, eggs, cheese etc. There were other foods I indulged in but I don’t think they are by themselves a cause of cancer. But that’s another discussion) but may not have been the cause
. Am I angry? No. I have anger but I do not walk around in anger at all. Who would I be angry with? It’s always me who is the source so usually when my anger arises it is by being disappointed by not living up to ideals for myself or in others.
Am I in fear? Am I fearful? No. I do not experience any fear in my daily life that I am aware of. For the last 2 years I have come face to face with my own mortality time and time again. I have fears which manifest as worries or my inability to make changes I know I should. That’s how fear comes through me. And yes I’ve experienced fear but it is manifested differently. I see it in my resistance to do something I know is good for me but I choose not to do it. I see it in my stubbornness. I see it in my habits that don’t support my well being. Oh yes fear is all around. I am especially sensitive to seeing, feeling and even hearing fear(s) in clients I see or people who react to my condition. How would you feel when a doctor tells you they are going to cut your vocal cords out and then a year later the cancer has spread to your lungs and there is nothing we can do so go home and get your affairs in order. What feelings run through you and how do you act? I don’t fear fear. But I have found that my fears are not on the surface but embedded in my make-up and covered up by some of the ways I choose to act and live. Interesting isn’t it? I also feel so much more empowered and have so much more courage to face myself and life as it is.
I did not fear the surgery though I had anxieties about doing it. I do not fear death and dying though I don’t want to suffer. I’ve lived before and died before. It’s the living that’s harder to work out. But I see pain and fear in most people.
There are only two emotions. Love & Fear. All else is an offshoot of those. But mostly people hide from their inner fears. They cover it up with either doing something or taking something. When I stopped that and just sat there with my upset, I get to see there is nothing to really fear as whatever is coming to me is for my benefit if I so choose to perceive it that way.
One other point. We do not always know how or why something happens to us. And there are lots of situations where even in doing all the wholesome things we can, shit happens. Why? Maybe we find out maybe we don’t, but how in that moment we deal with it and move on is crucial to our ongoingness. I find this so interesting. If many macrobiotic practitioners keep on insisting on finding food to be the blame for all sickness, upsets and reasons why something goes wrong they will set themselves up for lots of future misery. As much as I have studied yin/yang for over 30 years I realize the teaching of yin/yang via macrobiotic books and teachers is like simple kindergarten stuff compared to the Chinese classics. Let’s not fool ourselves here. Listening to people run around saying this is too yin or too yang sometimes is like listening to small children trying to figure out the Sermon on the Mount. While the value of the 7 theorems and the 12 principles is most useful and Universal, one most make a personal commitment to delve much deeper into its understanding. Or else one walks around using it in a grossly superficial way and becoming a parrot of some book or teacher as to what it all means.
Disease is a truly possible transformational experience, but only if one allows that to be the possibility. Life just is. We are the ones who determine how we will perceive it and use it to further our journey. There are no bad experiences and, of course, there are a myriad of experiences that we get that causes undo suffering. We all make choices and that is the beginning of what our experience will eventually be, sooner or later. We do have control of those choices but only when we are aware and conscious of them. Even then something maybe already be in the works to bring upset from some other circumstance we inadvertently created in the past. There is no GOD directing this action and no GOD listening to our pleading and answering some and rejecting others. That is human logic or illogic as it may be. What is referred to as GOD is so much more then most people can fathom that there is a need to bring it into human concepts. LIFE was created and we were given free choice once it (GOD/SOURCE) decided to manifest itself as form. From there it is our ball game and we answer our own prayers as well as create our own destiny. Of course, we are also nurtured from the light and love from the outside, such as giving friends, high energy substances and the infinite vibrations surrounding all life. With ultimate experience being the remembrance and realization of who we are and what we are capable of, we then actually begin what was and always will be real human life as creator manifested.
Personal usage is just that and I feel is not a license to start everyone in counsel to do it the counselors way. It doesn’t bother me what anyone chooses for their personal needs and most of the time it can be a great learning experience of either how to or how not to do something. Most people I counsel do need something more than daily food. All the positive modalities out there are usable when done with common sense and proper guidance. Once again Ohsawas line “anything can be used for medicine sometime”.
If most macrobiotic practitioners would really listen to the teaching and basic principles then their practice would be a wide open love affair with the world around them and allow them to pick and choose anything, and I do mean anything, that works in any given situation. That is being and living in NOW and very freeing to experience. Think of it, no judgmental opinions about yin/yang. Just sense it, feel it, be aware of it and then do it. All with total acceptance and assumed responsibility of the outcome, either way. Additionally everyone needs to do the inner work. Here is the only place real transformation can take place.
As to pride, I always see that as ego gratification. Like my great wife or child who did this or that. Or I am above asking for help because of who I am. When I say I have no more pride I don’t mean I don’t have a sense of self worth, it means I am more able now to do what I have to without judging it as beneath me or above me. Believe me it feels good to not react when someone offers something and you just judge it on it’s merits.
I have to ask a question. Why do people choose to use the word believe to make their point or convey their position? From where I sit now I either know something or I dont. Where does believe come in?
Most people, I feel, use believe to support something they hope is true but dont really know experientially (especially the belief in God). This still allows fear to reign. Now I know many people use the word to communicate. I feel it is important to pick the right word to make ones point. There are too may opportunities for misunderstanding in today’s language. Remember Ohsawas motto (again with that guy) “Dont Believe”. The truth of anything is not a belief in it but a perception and an experience of it. This is most important when getting to the heart of anything. What do you really know and how do you know it. Knowing dissolves fear. You cant want to have no fear. You either have it or you dont. Fear is also a great way to get motivated and in truth fear is something not to fear but to use that energy to move off being stuck. And you can deal with and dissolve fear anytime you are willing to face the truth and let it be what it is. LIFE.
I see health and healing in a very different light these days and I am so thankful to all of you who have shared your light and showed me the way. While there is the big “WAY” as in God or Tao or the Great Spirit, on a human scale there are an infinite amount of “ways” for each of us to find our alignment to the universal one. This is the journey each human must take alone and while we may share and express our experience, no one can live our journey but ourselves. I find much joy in this realization. To all of those in suffering and facing a life crises, I want to say to you, follow your heart, listen to its message of love, take care of yourself and NEVER QUIT. (Introduction to “Healing Muses” by Murray.)
I am amazed at the strengths and insights I’ve witnessed in counseling many sick people. I am amazed at what the human spirit is capable of when it is left to fly free. Facing a crisis is the most intense way to get into the here/now there is in human life. Most choose to escape the crises. I want to live it and, to be honest, I want to come through it. But whether I will or not is OK also. That is where I work at playing these days. Do everything I know to do but let it go and just be me. What a game. I call it the master game.”
Over the ensuing months Murray kept having his challenges thrown at him. The more determined he was, the more difficult the task. The cancer spread and the pain took over. There is nothing that compares to physical pain. Its the winner in the battle with consciousness. Murray finally truly let go. He had consciously chosen his path. He was free of the physical world. We were friends for too short a time. We shall meet again. Godspeed.
This was one of Murrays favorite songs Forever Young by Bob Dylan.
“May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.”