By Alex Jack
Kiking off the 2020 Online Macrobiotic Summer Conference, Boston area frontline nurse Donna Clifford narrated a dramatic account of recovering from Covid-19 with the help of her macrobiotic way of eating.
Like so many first responders, Donna came down with the virus after an elderly patient she was caring for in her hospital sprayed sputum all over her. But unlike most caregivers, Donna quickly healed herself with the help of a healthy, macrobiotic diet. “I had mild symptoms and was ill for about a week,” she recounted. “I had no appetite and survived on diluted warm apple juice.”
When her appetite returned, Donna resumed eating whole grains, leafy greens, and other regular foods, as well as taking Ume-Sho-Kuzu, a traditional remedy that strengthens the immune function. Fully recovered, Donna is back to work in Salem, Mass. and reports that the outbreak—“the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen as a nurse over many decades”—has subsided, at least in the Northeast.
In mid-August, over 100 people from around the world attended the annual event, broadcast live this year on Zoom and sponsored by the nonprofit Planetary Health, Inc. In addition to Donna’s account, the five-day conference featured cooking classes from England, Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Japan, and several American cities; presentations on personal and planetary health; a Health Symposium with leading holistic and medical practitioners; yoga and qigong; Free Discussions among participants at mealtimes, and other special events.
The global pandemic emerged as a theme in the course of the online event. Among the highlights:
- Bettina Zumdick led a guided tour of mind, body, and spirit in her Power Point presentation and described how we can strengthen natural immune function at many levels
- In a presentation “Searching for Unity,” Tom Monte showed that the world lives in us and we can shape and influence everything that exists externally by our internal mind and spirit
- Dr. Martha C. Cottrell described how animal-based agriculture and food generates fear. The fear and dread the animals experience in the slaughterhouse are absorbed by those who eat meat and poultry, impairing health and consciousness. And fear of the virus itself suppresses immune function
- Warren Kramer pointed out that the back side of the crisis is that people are cooking at home now more and feeling better with simpler, home-cooked food
- In a talk on “Developing a Macrobiotic Food Ethic,” Bill Tara demonstrated that the pandemic is part of a larger pattern of decline that has already resulted in the extinction of 50% of the insects and sea life on the planet and sharp declines in human fertility. These alarming reductions have arisen not from a virus, but from the spread of modern civilization and its way of food production and distribution
- In a presentation on “Connections,” Denny Waxman described how society’s overprotectiveness is weakening natural immunity and spoke about the urgency of protecting health freedom
- In cooking classes from around the world, Lauribel Lopez from Puerto Rico, June Ka Lim from Malaysia, Sachi Kato from San Francisco, and Naomi Ichikawa Esko from Japan described how the crisis is affecting their respective regions and the kinds of natural foods they are using to protect themselves and their families
- Christina Pirello and her husband Robert noted that they may have come down with the coronavirus while traveling in Italy early in the year. They could hardly breathe for nearly a week but quickly recovered with the help of balanced food and remedies
- In a talk on “Alone or All One?” Edward Esko described how sound and chanting are a form of energy that can strengthen natural immunity. He also explained the relation of the microbiome in the lungs and large intestine and how balanced food, especially awned cereal grains, can strengthen intuition and health at many levels
- In a slide show on “Macrobiotic Responses to Covid” during the Gala, this writer gave a slide show on the probable origin of coronavirus in Yunnan, an agricultural province in China that has turned to monoculture and heavy pesticide use. The toxins disrupt natural checks and balances in the soil, allowing virulent new microbes to appear that are picked up by horseshoe bats and pangolins—two insect-eating mammals—that eventually got into the human food chain in Wuhan
Other presentations included Virginia Harper on “Crohn’s and Colitis,” Cathy Albanese on “Ethical Eating,” and a Health Symposium with Margaret C. Cottrell, M.D., Gayle Stolove, R.N., Donna Clifford, R.N., Judy MacKenney, and Evan Root. Ruby Aver and Karin Stephan led exercise classes.
As in recent Summer Conferences, the event climaxed with the presentation of the annual Michio Kushi Peace Prize for outstanding lifetime contribution to health, peace, and sustainability. In their keynote addresses, Lino and Jane Stanchich, macrobiotic teachers and counselors based in Asheville, N.C., described how they discovered macrobiotics. Lino came across a copy of George Ohsawa and Bill Dufty’s book You Are All Sanpaku while working as a manager of a Croatian restaurant in New York. Jane was suffering from severe arthritis while teaching school in Colorado and went to Lino for counseling. They went on to describe many remark-able experiences, and Lino led participants in a laughing exercise. “Laughter increases your T cells and strengthens natural immunity,” Jane explained.
The Kushi Peace Prize was also awarded to Michael Potter, a founder and president of Eden Foods, the principal macrobiotic food manufacturer in North America. Michael was also influ-enced by Ohsawa and Dufty’s book
while living in California in the 1960s and went on to build Eden into the pioneering natural foods company. He described how Eden set up a comprehen-sive testing system following the Fukushima nuclear accident and the great lengths the company goes to source and supply non-GMO products. Despite a lot of fraud in the organic food industry, Michael concluded, “the macrobiotic food supply chain is in good shape now, especially cereal grains. But the beans are a little dry this year.”
Christian Elwell, founder of South River Miso Company, was the subject of a feature-length film by Mark Leonas. Elwell, a pioneer in brown rice cultivation in the Northeast, gave a tour of his rice paddy in central Massachusetts and explained the importance of brown rice for spiritual development, especially rice with awns, the long hair-like antennae that channel higher frequencies from the infinite universe.
The five-day event concluded with the annual Summer Conference auction and skit. The auction raised nearly $10,000 for macrobiotic education. Items included online courses from Denny and Susan Waxman’s Strengthening Health Institute, Bill and Marlene Tara’s MACROVegan, and Edward Esko’s International Macrobiotic Institute, as well as virtual consultations and cooking classes with conference presenters.
“Self-Healing in Place,” the skit, hosted by Sheri DeMaris, Bettina, and this writer, offered a tongue-in-cheek look at how macrobiotic friends are coping with the pandemic. For example, from Russia, organic gardener Mariya Ivanova explained how people are wearing garlic and onion to enforce social distancing. And from the spirit word, Michio Kush appeared, channeled by impersonator Verne Varona. “Just to give update: The world of heaven is soooo wonderful. Everyone had the supreme judgment, everyone loves each other. Magical place, like big party. Hmmm? George, Lima, Aveline, Herman, Cornelia, Shizuko and many old friends all are enjoying the world of spirit. However, (he leans in, as if sharing a secret) I miss coffee—but, not so important. However, what is important, is, laughter.”
Planetary Health’s next event will be the Online Macrobiotic Winter Conference in mid-January 2021. For information, please visit www.macrobioticsummerconference.com. The Summer Conference was recorded in its entirety and is available for purchase at the same website. ¨
Alex Jack is the president of Planetary Health, Inc. His latest book is Spiral of History.