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23rd PACIFIC MACROBIOTIC COMMUNITY CONFERENCE
at the Macrobiotic Grocery & Learning Center
September 19-23rd, 1991.
SUMMARY AND HIGHLIGHTS.
This gathering turned out to be the smallest to have participated in many years, since 1982. Twenty people came to the Oakland Macrobiotic Grocery and Learning Center and we enjoyed wonderful weather as well as probably the most dynamic, volatile and intense meeting we have experienced. Of course, in many the feeling is that the Pacific Macrobiotic Community Conference may have run its course and outlived its purpose and perhaps that generated the intensity. However, we shall see how it all unfolded as the report continues.
Friday, September 20th.
1. Supporting Prisoners.
2. Macrobiotic Directory.
3. A Short Story.
1. What can we learn from Nova?
2. Palm Springs.
Saturday, September 21st.
1. Developing Macrobiotic Community.
4. Supporting Sustainable Agriculture.
1. Re-evaluate Pacific Macrobiotic Conference.
Joya Sexton opened this discussion by relating that recently she had been contacted by an inmate who told her he and some other prisoners had recently become interested in improving their health and had tried out macrobiotics to the limited extent they were able to in prison and asked if they could get some support. She said she would look into it and she was interested if any of us had any experience of working in prisons or knew of anybody who had or is doing so currently.
The same person also called Donna Wilson and asked if she could send some material to him. He has since sent her a letter; she sent him an old Solstice magazine and the small Kushi Foundation macrobiotic pamphlet. Donna did say the prison regulations require books to be sent by an institution of business and they won't be allowed to be sent by an individual.
Kaare said that he was involved in a prison program which came about because one of the prison staff, a lady called Maria, came to one of his lectures. The program she was involved with was at a correctional facility in Clayton and it was a voluntary rehabilitation program for men involving psychological counselling (and was apparently very progressive, relatively speaking), who had been involved with drug dealing or committing crimes around the use or buying and selling of drugs. Maria asked Kaare if he would be interested in doing something and it turned out that he gave some lectures and a cooking class there.
He did this once a year for two years and then new management came in and they weren't interested and then Maria became frustrated with it and left. Of course the men couldn't use the kitchen while they were there. At the time of the lectures and cooking classes the response of these 50 or so men was very positive and enthusiastic. But, although they were informed about the existence of the macrobiotic center here, Kaare has not seen any of them come to follow up on what they were taught at the lectures and cooking classes.
Donna said she thought that not being able to use the kitchen limited anyone in prison who wanted to eat macrobiotically and all they could do was to not eat certain foods and the prisoner she talked to said that he had stopped eating dairy food.
Joya said she had met the person who wrote the book "Eating with Angels", Neil Scott, about his prison experience trying to adopt macrobiotic eating and he said that the prisons will not accomodate people with special diets. Kaare interjected that the reason the prisons will not do so is because they have contracts with various food purveyors that limit what they can serve to the prisoners to what the food purveyor provides.
David Jackson said he had a similar experience to Kaare's in San Diego although he knew that one of the prisoners there ordered food from his store.
Other possible sources mentioned to get information on what work has been done in prisons, because there is a history of it in macrobiotics, is Chico Varotojo in Portugal, a macrobiotic teacher who was at the K.I. in 1979 and he gave lectures to prisoners in Lisbon who then, after they got out, went on to start various macrobiotic enterprises there. Also there is the book "Crime and Diet" by Michio Kushi which has a lot of information. And the Tidewater Detention Center in Virginia did have a macrobiotically oriented eating program although no-one knew whether it was still going.
Bob Mattson said that Chico's success in Portugal came about because the prison authorities were interested in anything that might prove to be effective in helping prisoners rehabilitate. So Bob suggested that the only real possibility for success lies in approaching the prison authorities. He also suggested that if by any chance any of us are sentenced to prison to make the request at the time of sentencing that you have special requirements. If you get the judge to stipulate it in the sentencing process the prison that you go to has to comply with what the judge orders.
An organisation that has been working with prisons for years is the Quaker group called "American Friends Service Committee" and since they know how to interact with the prison authorities they may be worth contacting if anyone is interested.
We had several minutes of thoughts and reflections which really came down to whether any one wants to do get into the prison system, or any other institution that caters to the victims of this society, it is a matter if willing to do it or even having a caling for it, because there are tremendous obstacles. These obstacles have mainly to do with institutional inertia on the one hand, and whether or not individuals who are accustomed to being in a passive, servile position are willing, or even capable of exerting their own will to actually do a macrobiotic lifestyle, on the other.
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Bob Mattson said 2 1/2 years ago the subject of the Macrobiotic Directory came up during the course of the Pacific Macrobiotic Conference at Vega. It was decided that there was a need for one and Bob was working at Vega at the time and he used their facilities to come up with a list of names and addresses of people active in macrobiotic endeavours of one kind an another. When he arrived to work at the Oakland two years ago he began publishing the International Macrobiotic Directory.
He gave us a progress report. Last year, 1990, the directory had 800 odd entries which is a community based document because he solicits information from people who are travelling around. This year he has produced 640 copies in 10 months, about 10% are complimentary, 423 copies were sold wholesale ($3.00 per copy) who are steady copies, and 148 copies retail ($7.00). In the process he collected $2244.00 and spent $900.00 on printing and $155.00 postage and $85.00 on equipment. So he spent about $1200.00 and realised for himself $1000.00 profit. Thus it pays for itself.
He uses a word processor and not a computer. The listings breakdown out of the total of 1589 of where they are is as follows:
529 outside the United States, 1063 in the U.S.
(Here I had to turn the tape over so I didn't get the rest of the figures but I remember Bob saying that in the United States, California had around 220 listings, which is over a fifth.)
He went on to say he knew the PMC had a fund and he remembered asking Kaare what we were doing with it and being told that nothing was being done but if a worhwhile project came along then the money could be used to support it, if there was a consensus at the meeting. The directory as a project was really born out of the PMC and if it wasn't for the PMC the directory probably wouldn't exist. So he proposed that the PMC give him a grant so he can purchase a computer, and he was asking for $1000.00.
We left the discussion of whether or not the PMC would grant the money to Bob for purchasing a computer to later on in the conference, but everyone responded to his presentation with enthusiasm.
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A short story.
Donna Wilson read us a story which she prefaced with saying that she thinks that there is a lot to digest in it and that she seriously doubted that anyone would understand why she is reading the story, but that was okay because it may happen that in time that we do come to understand it.
The author is an Indian novelist, Narian and the story comes from a book called "Malgudi Days". The short story she read is entitled "An Astrologer's Day", since I will here summarise the gist of the story but we can go to the library and find a copy of the book and read it for ourselves, which is a good idea.
The story is about an astrologer doing his daily business of counselling people about their problems and woes in a village which is two hundred miles from his home village, which he left without telling anyone. On the day of the story he is about to leave to go home during the middle of the evening after dark when a man accosts him and they have a volatile discussion. They haggle about a price because this man is not satisfied with the astrologer, not wanting vague and general staements about his present condition in life but wants to know if a particular man he is looking for is dead or alive. The astrologer tells his enquirer that he, his enquirer, was stabbed and left to die in a well in a field near his village. The client responds by saying that he was only saved because a passer-by found him and rescued him from death. The astrologer even knows his questioner's name, which makes a big impression, and then tells him that he will only find the man he is looking for in the afterlife because he was crushed by a truck four months previously. His client expresses great disappointment at this answer, and the astrologer goes on to say that his client must return to his home village, which is north, and if he never leaves his village again, and never goes south, he will live to be a hundred years old. His client leaves and the astrologer returns home around midnight, and his wife is upset and enquires as to what has kept him so late in getting home. He shows his wife the money he earned, which, due to the haggling he had with his last client, is more than he normally brings home and she is delighted. As they prepare to retire, he tells his wife that until that day he thought he had the blood of a man on his hands for all those years, and that was the reason he had to leave his village suddenly and without telling anybody because on that day he and his friends had behaved badly, gambled and got drunk and quarrelled badly...
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David Jackson opened this discussion by saying that he had been in contact with the Kushi Institute, in the person of a lady called Mercedes. They get a lot of calls from all over the country all the time and David asked how they were referring people to counsellors, what was the criteria. He was informed the KI is no longer doing certification, it was being put on hold temporarily and anybody who has been certified in the past is no longer being put out as a certified counsellor. They are now referring people to educators, for further education. Michio had initially told them not to refer people to anyone at all as far as counselling goes.
However, the KI was receiving all these enquiries and the staff felt that since there was this huge need they should offer something to these people and instead of saying these referrals are counsellors, they are educators. This made Michio feel okay and the question was why had Michio terminated certification.
David asked Mercedes that question and she said that the KI was finding out that a lot of the more experienced, senior counsellors were recommending "funny things", like blue-green algae, chicken, and there seems to be a lot of confusion, which Michio doesn't like. It has been decided to redo certification with Carolyn Heidenry writing up the new process in the next issue of 'One Peaceful World', the journal the KI puts out. The KI is re-evaluating the certification process, deciding what it needs to be and updating it and will not certify anyone until they have been through the new process.
This is a huge problem for them at this point, and David speculated that it may be because they have gotten into trouble with some authority, or because there are all these books out with Michio's name on them and he may be getting some liability problems.
David was asked how he felt about this new development as someone who has been certified by the old process. He said he had been doing counselling before getting certified and that along with the discussions we had had in the past at the PMC, he felt that we get certified by the community we work in by the quality of the work being recognised by the community in the form of referrals. At the same time he recognises that a certain proportion of the population is very afraid at this time and recognises authority as a stamp of approval so he decided to play along and do certification.
Herb Sandel said that it seemed to him that this was a demonstration by Michio of him acting like the "pope of macrobiotics", a phrase he has heard before to refer to Michio. David said that he understood why Michio would want to do certification, mainly as a way of meeting the 'establishment' half way and going along with the authorities. Kaare wondered whether this was a move by Michio to protect himself. David said that he also wondered that because he knows Michio has settled laswuits in the past.
Terese Piccirillo said that she thought that Michio was doing it in order to get macrobiotic counselling to the point where it could be covered by health insurance to pay for people's counselling. She also said she didn't understand why the fuss over counsellors recommending chicken, because she has cooked for people who have been counselled by Ed Esko and Marc van Carwenberg, who both teach at the KI, who have been recommended to eat chicken and veal.
Richard Janopaul gave some perspective on certification in his field, Marriage, Family and Child Counselling which got certification 25 years ago, in California, and they didn't get third party insurance till later, haveing to go to the legislature to obtain it later on. Also the acupuncture people in California obtained licensing as a political deal; the behind the scenes story was that the asian community was strong politically and someone in Sacramento said to them what can we do for your community and there were several things they asked for and got, and one of them was licensing for acupuncture.
Now when you get licensed you get a lot of things including insurance but you also get supervision and quality control, and education requirements etc.
It's a whole philosophical question as to whether you want the state going in and policing it as against the PMC position of first of all changing our way of life to a macrobiotic practice, living and experiencing the process of those changes that occur, over a period of several years, while getting some form of training and education, of which there are many kinds available, and then starting to counsel and seeing whether the people with whom we work approve of it by the results they get in carrying out the suggestions given. If they do, then they tell their friends, colleagues etc about us and so we get the support and that is the process of certification.
We discussed the pros and cons of certification because it is obviously a dilemma for a lot of people and we also talked about the efforts of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to have legislation passed which is designed to monopolise the service of giving out dietary advice. They have been successful in at least twenty states and a lot of other groups attempts to do certification are to counter this move by the dieticians.
The ADA are working with the AMA on their intent and they obviously perceive any modality different from their own as a threat to their livelihood and instead of letting the marketplace decide what is a good product or service they want to eliminate the choices of what is available to their own. As a result of getting legislation passed to serve their own narrow purpose (which is essentially to guarantee their own economic survival at the expense of everybody else), among other practitioners some macrobiotic counsellors have been prosecuted, for example, in Illinois. California is probably the safest state to practice in because there is to be a stronger, active bunch of people here who are alert to what the dieticians are up to.
Kaare was asked if he had experienced any problems. This story has come up before in these meetings but it bears repeating. About five years ago Kaare was counselling a lady with breast cancer who coudn't decide whether to do macrobiotics by itself or to do it in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation. He didn't tell her what to do other than to suggest it would be better from a macrobiotic point of view not do it, but she had to make up her own mind. She put it off and saw her oncologist every three or four months and that was that. Then Kaare received a letter from a pathologist at UCSF medical school, where her oncologist practiced, saying that Kaare should recommend that this lady do chemotherapy and radiation because the type of cancer she had was very invasive, and the implication was that she could die soon if she did not.
Kaare was surprised that the pathologist should write to him, and puzzled as to why it should be so important that the pathologist get Kaare to recommend that this lady do chemotherapy and radiation. He called the lady and told her about the letter and told her that it was still her decision to make. Then, a few weeks later, because Kaare did not reply to this letter, having forgotten about it and essentially dismissed it, he received a telephone call from this pathologist, right in the middle of doing a consultation, and the pathologist was very irate and aggressive and harassing Kaare who said that he couldn't talk to him right now and put the phone down very swiftly without saying goodbye. Then Kaare forgets about the episode until another, much longer letter arrives from the pathologist. However, this letter, reiterating strongly that Kaare tell the lady to do chemotherapy and radiation, was also sent to the lady, to the pathologist's immediate boss, and the head of the cancer department at UCSF, and the Medical Review Board of Northern California. Well, this puts Kaare in a bit of sticky position, because he is still utterly non-plussed and confused as to why on earth this pathologist is so keen on getting Kaare to recommend this lady do chemotherapy and radiation. About a week or so later, on a Saturday morning, while he and Patty, his wife, and Lief and Alrik, their two children, are walking home from having had breakfast at the Cafe Mediterraneum, it suddenly dawned on Kaare, as in a flash of inspiration, that the pathologist was trying to entrap him.
So, he said, "Now, I know what this is all about", and he wrote a letter back saying that if he told his client not to do chemotherapy, radiation and surgery OR to do them, in BOTH cases he would be practicing medicine without a licence, which he cannot possibly do. He sent a copy to all the parties mentioned above and that was the end of it.
Herb Sandel said that maybe that was the solution which should be forwarded to Michio. Kaare responded by saying that he really can't be worried by what the ADA, or the AMA, or the FBI are up to because that is not what he is about and in his opinion that is not what macrobiotics is about. We are here, in the macrobiotic community, to serve the people in our own particular communities the best way we know how. Now, macrobiotics is not merely a method to help a person heal themselves, it is also about changing society. Thus, there is no possible bridge to made with the AMA, and to try to meet the authorities half way is to basically say that we respect what they are doing. As far as Kaare is concerned modern medicine is itself antiquated, irrelevant and a bogus, counterfeit science. And since he thinks macrobiotics is about changing all that, there is no possibility of engaging in the politics and legislative bullying that is going on.
Herb Sandel said he was shown an article in a publication by an attorney in which the attorney establishes the basis for their being no half way point, in legal terms, between a hard science medicine and a wholistic approach which is more subjective.
Kaare said that from the point of macrobiotic principles it is perfectly feasible for a person with a particular condition to be recommended eating veal, chicken or milk for a certain period of time. So, how can you possibly police it? It can't be done. Furthermore we are trying to live in a community that is based on trust and communication, dialogue and that is what the PMC is about. So, say someone calls Kaare and asks about David as someone to see for counselling in Arizona. Kaare knows David and trusts him but he doesn't say go and see him you'll be fine; no, he says go and see him and check him out. And Kaare hopes that people would do the same to him, because macrobiotics is about taking responsibility for our actions. So, the whole idea of the good housekeeping seal of approval, certification, justs puts everybody to sleep.
Donna said that in the sense of macrobiotics wanting to be given the seal of approval by the AMA or the legislative authorities it is looking to the past, which is what Kushi wants. They want to be accepted by a system that she wants to see removed from this planet (Kaare interjected "driven into oblivion"), so why would we want to be accredited by something that is no longer working. And the real contradiction here is that the real motivation for certification is to participate in their insurance. That to Donna is a real hypocrisy; you cannot stand in a place and meet the conflict of the new and still get the money from the old.
Terese said that the institutionalisation of medical science has a long history and it is based on taking the information away from people. It wasn't until they were able to burn the witches in Europe that they were able to get the early stages of the institutionalisation of medicine off the ground.
The other point of view of is that people are so conditioned they feel that they need certification if they are going to be validated as counsellors and people as clients don't feel comfortable if they see someone who hasn't been certified. So that it is okay to have certification as long as it is not considered to be something exclusive and it doesn't muddy the waters by getting third party insurance and the legislative stamp of approval.
Donna went on to say that for her the real issue is that the standard of writing in terms of the level of ignorance in macrobiotic literature is appalling. If macrobiotics is going to establish itself as something lasting we have to have peer meetings where all the literature is gone through so that all the factual errors in it are removed and the level of excellence thereby raised. The objection to this idea, not that it is a bad one, not at all, is that as long as Michio etc., is perceived as being the final arbiter of what is macrobiotic knowledge and practice then there is little chance of a self-correcting process being put in place.
David said that he was happy with the situation being as it is now; that the referrals from KI are to educators for further education and we concluded on that note.
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What happened to Nova?
Jerry Baldwin opened this discussion by saying that he and Margie Butterfield - Brown had visited there for two weeks in early September and got to know Michael and Wendy Arbuckle, Bill and Julie Tara, who are the principles involved in getting Nova going. Margie does tax consulting work and they were asked to look over the financial books.
Jerry said that they started the project in the fall of 1988 and his impression was that they had all worked very hard and did the very best that they could. One of the interpretations that he got out of it was that there certainly was a failure somewhere and he thinks that the failure is on the macrobiotic community as a whole and not on these individuals, because he thinks they did everything they could to make it succeed. And he doesn't believe that any of them gained financially from it.
It appeared to Jerry and Margie that, with the benefit of hindsight, that it coudn't possibly have worked the way it started. They anticipated that they would get more infusion in capital than they in fact got, to keep it going. Thus Nova is going out of business as of the end of September.
Margie said that one of the problems was that they were running three businesses, a restaurant, a lodging service, and a school and because of the lack of adequate staff, they always "band-aiding" their activities. They really needed 1 -2 million dollars from the outset in order to do the PR work and advertising they needed to do to fill up the lodgings, make staff quarters, and they never had enough capital at one time. It just dribbled in too small quantities and over to long time.
They didn't get their advertising out for the first winter so nothing happened then; they did get it out for spring and summer so they were alright then but when it came to the next winter they ran out of money and didn't get their advertising done and as a result they had nothing happening that winter. Winter in Estes Park is dead, about 50% of the businesses close down. Then they opened the restaurant as a macrobiotic vegetarian one and that didn't go over in the community.
We discussed why it failed and the reason given for the wealthier people in the macrobiotic community, with specific mention being made of the Hollywood, entertainment community of which certain individuals could have invested over one million, not investing the money - and this was the reason that Jerry and Margie didn't invest because they knew about the project from the beginning - was that it was a risky investment and in that type of project any money given would essentially amount to a donation. But Jerry said that when they got to know the principal people involved, who also included Carlos and Melanie Ferreira, they were prepared to do do anything within reason to help them financially, even to the point of financing their house, but once they saw the financial picture they saw that they was no way they could get them what they want.
What turned off a lot of people in the PMC when we discussed it two years ago was that in the original prospectus Bill Tara was to be the Director of the project with a guaranteed salary of $40,000.00 whereas he didn't put any of his own money into the project. So, where was the risk involved for him?
Herb Sandel said that from a business standpoint there were two things he coud identify that we could learn from Nova's experience; don't go into any business you don't know how to run, don't go to any business unless you are sure there is a market for it.
Kaare said that what turned him off more than anything else was that when he got the initial letter form Bill Tara asking for our support, it was so full of hype that his stomach turned, because it was so arrogant, it was so unctious, it was so slivery and after he got it he went to the center and saw Joel and asked him what he thought about it, because Joel had just got it and he had a similar response. Kaare said that he has personal problems with Bill Tara stemming from experiencing him in the past and whenever he has come away from those experiences he always felt that he could trust Bill Tara about as far as he could bodily pick him up and throw him, and Kaare is willing to admit he has prejudices and blinders, but he wasn't going to touch Nova with a bargepole and he certainly wasn't going to say that Nova is the greatest thing to happen to macrobiotics since Kushi stepped on American soil.
Jerry laughed and said Kaare obviously wasn't alone in having that response. David said that his response to the prospectus that Bill sent out was addressed to macrobiotic educators and emphasising macrobiotic education. On that point alone it was pertinent not to give support, because they were competing with the Kushi Institute and we all know what there financial track record has been. They are doing better now, but just barely and they have been in existence for twelve, thirteen years, so it came down to Bill's sales game and David has a similar experience to Kaare's, and it was followed by the financial prospectus which we saw at the PMC two years ago in San Diego, and there was Bill not having to put anything in himself. And David saw another Bill scheme coming along and he personally advised people to saty away from it.
Margie said that she got the impression from them at Nova that they weren't competing with Michio and the Kushi Institute because they had a different thrust of appealing to healthy and young people and being more open.
Donna said that at the first presentation they made at Miami in January, when Donna, David, Joel, Carl, Patrick and Meredith from the West Coast were present it was crystal clear that the intent was to pull power away from Michio abut he still wanted Daddy's approval. It was Bill and Mario Binetti.
Philosophically, from a macrobiotic perspective, what we can learn from the Nova experience is that they did not use an accurate understanding of macrobiotic principles to base their operation. David said that if you want to get big, then you start small, because yin creates yang and vice versa, therefore if you start big, you end up small. Kaare said that it was his interpretation of macrobiotic philosophy that if you want to change the community you do it from within the community. And they went and transplanted themselves to a community none of them had ever lived in before and they were trying to graft something on that didn't take. If you want to do something like that you do it within your own community and Kaare thinks that the KI will fail because they transplanted it away from a community which had the infrastructure to support the people going there and now they are way out in the boondocks with no surrounding community. If they had had the capitalisation to carry out the proper running of the operation it still would have failed and changed into something else other than a macrobiotic educational institute, which is what it was doing.
David said that we also need to do is notice that we need to change and we also need to change the way we do things and the mode they were using for this project was a really old mode. A big financial project requiring big investors etc., etc. Donna said that we should not overlook that the original spiel in Miami, the techniques for the selling was based on EST. Joya confirmed that by saying she was considering investing in it and she got phone calls constantly and she finally said to Michael that it sounded like he had been through EST training and it turns out that they are still involved in teaching it, giving EST seminars and workshops. And what turned Joya off was this constant harassment on the phone.
Donna said that what she has learnt if anyone wants to do any project is to ask yourself three questions; does it need to be done (is there a market for it); is anybody else doing it (if there isn't there is probably a good reason)?; and can you do it well. And Donna said that she questioned whether it needed to be done especially in the context of the way the economy is going.
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We spent some time discussing the upcoming Palm Springs Fall Health Classic and the conversation meandered around the logistical aspects and whether we should support an endeavour that is based on the star system, attracting people who may only be going for the jollies of a week in a fancy hotel listening to charismatic individuals giving their spiel. It was said that this is more a wholistic health week-end with macrobiotics offered as a fringe activity.
It seems that most people will be going from the macrobiotic community because this is an opportunity not to have to do any cookng for a week, and get a vacation and some entertainment and go to some lectures. So the question is whether or not any real macrobiotic education is going to be going on at Palm Springs or is it just a vacation for people who don't want to cook (there was a lot of discussion about food and food services in macrobiotics in here but it was somewhat irrelevant to the discussion). Most of the paricipants at the conference seemed to think that very few people who did not have any idea about macrobiotics would leave the Fall Health Classic and start implementing it in their own lives, but that remains to be seen.
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Joel Huckins wanted to discuss places to go for recreation where you can get macrobiotic meals etc., etc. Herb Sandel talked about an organisation called Serve Us which is really a clearing house offering members a network around the world where you can stay for a week-end or so. The incentive is that the people offering their homes don't have the time, money or inclination to travel so they offer their homes to meet people from other countries.
Nova had a vacation package but now they are out of business they are not an option. Joel was interested in the idea of a macrobiotic resort organised along the lines of Club Med., where there is a swimming pool, plenty of organised activities to choose from for recreation and where you could simply hang out and relax and not do anything if you didn't want to. And it was reasonably priced.
As we discussed this idea it became apparent that if five of the major cities in the country are unable to support a macrobiotic center and if many cities have a minimal macrobiotic food service business it seems unrealistic, given that Nova and Lady Diane's in Jamaica both no longer exist, that a macrobiotic resort at say $500 a week, could be supported.
The discussion then got into the vagaries of running a business and satisfying the customer and how to get them to pay for your services and so forth, and so on. And really the problems that business is encountering is the economy is changing so that only 20% of the population are actually increasing their material wealth and 80% are finding themselves being poorer each year(they may have more income each year but everything else is going up in price more than their income is increasing - the value of money is being eroded every year: what you can buy for a dollar today would have cost you 25 cents in 1960). So, people have to find ways of cutting their expenses and food is one place they can do so. Joel said that this was not a temporary situation and everybody agreed this was a trend that would continue as long as any of us are alive.
Donna said that we should come up with innovative schemes to help feed people that does not rely on the restaurant model or the separate kitchen in the home; we have to find new ways of eating together.
Joel is trying a new deal with his customers. He has always had a meal ticket where people by an open-ended ticket for around a 15% discount on the regular price. The new idea is a monthly subscription that costs 275 dollars for thirty days, three meals a day.
Another idea Donna has been talking about have a subscription deal which dosesn' involve any money; say five people who are eating macrobiotically get together and choose to cook a meal for five one night a week and they each choose which night they will cook. Then the other four on any particular night can go and pick up a meal or, if they can and it works out, stay and eat the meal at the home of the person who is cooking the meal. With all these ideas we are trying to take the real estate costs out of the meal business. And we should not advertise these as public meals but as cooking education services.
If you're travelling the main thing is to look around in the town or city you're in and you'll find places that will have dishes you can eat and also take a basic travel kit of miso, seaweed, umeboshi, gomashio etc. And anyone can then eat macrobiotically on the road.
Now, we began talking about running a business and how to serve people. The reason why this center here is alive and successful for eight years unlike all the macrobiotic centers around the country that have gone under is because this place serves people who want to eat good food at a resonable price and it serves the community in that way. Macrobiotic education here is a peripheral activity, where when people come in they pick up the flyer and they see in the bottom corner that counselling and lectures are available. If 3000 meals are served every month at the center, perhaps three, or four, and sometimes ten, and infrequently, 30 people will attend the lecture series. In other words, there isn't a market for macrobiotic education that will support an education center with all its logistical and administrative burdens.
The problem with people is they are looking for a model that is successful - this place is not based on any marketing or business plan. The key question is can you find the people who can do it; for instance, why is Bob Mattson doing what he is with the directory? Because he has initiative. So many people come into macrobiotics, and this is not a problem of macrobiotics per se, it is because people are not educated to take initiative. The education system in this country and in the Western world generally is not in the least inclined to developing people who can make free decisions based on their own initiative; the education system programs people for a position; then you get a ticket that says, oh, I'm a doctor, I'm an engineer etc, and then you slot in to this position and its all laid out, you fit in.
So, when you're talking about taking initiative, that's a whole different ball game. Now, in the PMC over the past years we have discussed and pointed out that there are so many things people could do in macrobiotics where they could perform a service and make a livelihood out of it. But few people have the initiative.
Donna said that the problem is that there are very few Joel's, very few Kaare's etc who quit their career or their profession and do this. There's too many people who come into macrobiotics who say, "what's in it for me?". So Herb asked Kaare what he was getting out of it, and Kaare said that he was having a great time. Kaare said that people look at him and say that he is a professional with a career as a macrobiotic counsellor and Kaare said that is a complete and utter misreading of the situation. What he is doing is living a macrobiotic life and make his experience available to people who are taking advantage of it and he is making a livelihood. Which is completely removed from the current modern way of selling your soul to some business or corporation until you are 65 and then you are too old and decrepit to care any more.
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Saturday 21st September.
Developing Macrobiotic Community
Herb Sandel opened this discussion by saying that he attended the PMC for the first time at the last meeting in San Diego and he was interested then in discussing how to tie the people in the macrobiotic community to each other, and since then he has developed it a bit further. At that meeting we discussed his idea for a newsletter beginning with the Los Angeles community. Since then he visited French Meadows and met a lot of teachers and leaders of various macrobiotic communities which are generally very small, somewhere in the region of 30 active people who come to potlucks etc. And these people mentioned to him their frustration and burn-out when bringing in visiting teachers to their communities.
And bringing in visiting lecturers is important because it has the effect, generally, of building up the membership and helps to inspire and revitalise the community. So Herb began to look at what it would take to help build these communities on a continuing basis. Four areas came to mind as being necessary to make this work.
One way to get people interested in macrobiotics is through education and information through lectures.
Second is an ongoing information source - having literature available.
Third is having food available at the lecture with either a dinner or a potluck.
Fourth is a year round information and support exchange network which would be the newsletter.
With regard to these two he began exploring the idea of a lecture series and spoke to five of the teachers up at French Meadows and they seemed to be interested with the idea of scheduling a tour and he thought of doing it himself. The publicity and promotion could then be handled from one central place and also negotiation with the lecturers and the different communities.
Herb gave an example of a tour going say from Seattle, to Fargo and then to Minneapolis.
Herb Would be starting the newsletter initially in the Los Angeles area and it would be a community oriented one dealing with the problems of where people can get the food, where they can get the utensils they need. The principle purpose is to reduce the tremendous drop out rate in macrobiotics. Also news of potlucks, food preparation sharing etc. It would be on a moderate subscription basis.
Richard addressed the problem of the high drop out rate by saying that his impression is that the problem is the result of a culture clash. We live in a milieu which is continually pushing people toward dairy, meat, sugar and its all pervasive in media and advertising, restaurants etc., and also food is the basis for human social life. So it is a very isolating process for someone to starting taking care of their health, eating whole grains and vegetables etc. The chief feature of Herb's initiative that Richard sees is the support, and by coming back on an ongoing basis on this circuit, is that it's going to be sustaining, supportive and involving for people. There is a lot built in to what Herb is proposing which is really developing a culture which supports the individual quest and responsibility for personal health, which is a struggle against the prevailing culture. It's like shovelling sand against the tide, and not many people can survive that very long, they get tired, the tide keeps whipping in and wipes that gesture out.
Kerry Loeb observed that most people that come into macrobiotics do so because they are sick, and very sick at that, which means they are already tired, confused, afraid and after their counselling session they may call back and say they just can't do it. So it is suggested they come to a cooking class or three and there they can find a support network, meeting people who are doing what they are doing, exchange phone numbers, which is a good beginning. But he thought that something ongoing along the lines of what Herb is mentioning would be very positive.
We then discussed various aspects of support, chiefly the center - network dynamic where a lot of people are saying and, there is a lot of evidence to support this position, that the whole idea of a center is dead, old and in the way of what we are most interested in, which is developing community. And that the new and most promising way to achieve, or to set in motion the process of developing community, is to get networks together which have a basis for continual dialogue, communication, exchange of information, directories etc. However, even the most primitive biological networks have nodes that are connected by a network of fibres. And probably the chief reason why all the centers have failed is because they did not put any effort at all into making connections with their community; in other words, they did not consciously develop a support base for the center. And that is also a marketing problem which we discussed earlier.
Then we got into a very animated discussion of how, when this lecture tour, the people who are involved in the various communities getting this process set up need to be supported by the speakers and lecturers so that their business activities are supported in their own communities. The teachers and lecturers need establish on-going relationships which develop the teachers and lecturers and counsellors out of those communities.
We want to avoid the usual problem which is the example that Joya gave. She had been counselling people in Santa Barbara and she knew Michio was coming to LA. She thought it might be a wonderful for these people to get a counselling session with Michio and she asked if they were interested and they said yes. So she set it up and they went, and what did Michio tell them- call Boston if you need any help. She did not get any support from Michio.
Debating this issue, on the strong input of Richard and Joya, was that when the lecture circuit is set up that the speakers who are involved must involve themselves personally and establish relationships individually with the key people who are involved in the local communities so that they collaborate on the various situations that will arise. The main point here is that unlike the current custom where counsellors and teachers come into a community, do a lecture and counselling and then leave never to be seen again, this lecture circuit must include supporting the local people who are central to the organisation and running of the dinner/lecture week-end etc
So we now got into a heated debate centering around the fact that many people think that macrobiotic counselling is fraudulent, a rip-off and a joke, in this particular debate Donna and Joel, and they are not alone, and on the other hand, some people, like Kaare, think that nobody actually needs counselling, because they can get it from the books. However, Kaare said that it is actually irrelevant whether anyone, who is involved in the teaching, education and distribution of macrobiotics, thinks macrobiotic counselling is a scam, because who ultimately decides is the client or customer. It's simply like any other business or service, you put it out or make it available and see what happens.
The main point was that if a person in a local community has a problem with a teacher then they must confront the teacher with it so that they can solve it.
Generally speaking most people thought the idea was good and that Herb should run with it.
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Kaare shared a column from that week's San Francisco Examiner entitled "Inside Biotech" and copies of it are enclosed with this report, which you should read now if you haven't done so already.
We discussed this and it was also brought up that Peter Duesberg, who also was one of the pioneers of virology, is being pilloried and ostracised by the scientific community because he says that AIDS is not sexually-transmitted, and that it is a result of a breakdown of the immune system.
Then the counseling issue wouldn't go away and we said that the main point was that people who come for counselling should be told that they have to learn and study once they begin their macrobiotic practice. The reason that macrobiotic counseling exists at all is because people want it, but the reason for macrobiotic counseling is to help people become self-reliant and independent so that the day will come when macrobiotic counseling is redundant.
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David Jackson brought up this subject by asking what any of us who have had experience of working with people who have candida have found is working or not working. His perception of working with people who have candida is the symptoms include a lack of a capacity to think clearly so they need even more support and hand holding than people with other types of illness.
Kaare said in his opinion candida lives in the intestinal wall, where it is rooted, and that the symptoms develop when the intestinal environment becomes sweet, acid and overly moist. The key for him is to get rid of the toxic mucous build-up in the intestinal wall because it is in that material that the candida becomes rooted. So the ginger compresses are very significant in helping the body rid itself of candida. However, it is a very delicate condition and he recommends people with candida to eat more widely than usual, at least to begin with, in order to allow time for the immune system to strengthen itself so that it can deal with detoxing more readily.
Kerry said that he felt the key was to recommend ways to strengthen the immune system which is where shiatsu, and other modalities like acupuncture, can be helpful. He also mentioned that a chiropractric practitioner in San Francisco he knows has found that grapefruit seed extract has been helpful with his clients; you take a small amount of the extract for 7-10 days and during that time the person feels very tired and is generally wiped out and then they feel a whole lot better.
Kaare said that the question for him was how was the grapefruit seed extract processed because in many cases of drug/substance therapy the effect is to narcotise the symptoms so that the patient actually feels better but the underlying condition that leads to the development of the symptoms is not addressed. So it would be interesting to find out whether the process would produce a more yin or more yang substance. Kerry said that he would look into but that in any case any other modalities would be suggested in addition to the diet.
David said that Michael Tierra was recommending people to take ten drops of Tea Tree Oil on their tongues for ten days, which is apparently getting results.
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Supporting Sustainable Agriculture.
Donna brought this up by saying she just wanted to state the principle of it which is that there is a 70/30 mix; of the produce that comes out of the ground when you're growing anything, 30% of it is taken for consumption and the remainder has to go back into the soil, if we want to have an ecologically sound agriculture. That will sustain the infrastructure of the soil so that it is built up and can be rich and vital.
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Bob Mattson's Proposal.
We then debated Bob Mattson's proposal but David Jackson wanted us to first do the next subject, which is re-evaluating the PMC, and since the PMC operates by consensus, we then went on to it.
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First Kaare gave a brief history: initially the PMC had been called the West Coast Macrobiotic Teacher's Meeting which began in 1980. The modus operandi of the logistics of the meetings was that a cook was asked to cook the meals, and they would total the cost of the meal and it was averaged out so that everyone participating paid their share plus paying an extra $5.00 per meal per person to the cook. Travel costs were also shared by a rather complicated process. The place and location of the next meeting were decided at the meeting.
In November of 1983, after the September meeting, when we had decided to have the next one in Los Angeles in February 1984, at the East West Center run by Roy Steevensz, we received a letter from Roy stating that the next meeting was to cost $50.00 each and that Michio, Herman, plus a whole slew of people were invited etc. This was a power move by Roy and we went along with it. At that meeting, with 100 plus people there, we had a bunch of speaches and seminars and debates, plus the workers at the center had a confrontation with Roy. Th upshot was the dissolution of the center in LA.
At the next meeting, in September of 1984, at the center operated by Gary Smith in San Francisco, it was proposed that we form the Pacific Macrobiotic Community, and after debating for two hours we decided to so, with dues paying members and a paid secretary who was chosen by the participants to be Kaare. After that meeting, the PMC Fund, under the care of the secretary, had $240.00.
We have had two meetings every year since, and in terms of the fund and participation at the meetings, the PMC reached its peak in Seattle in March 1987. 108 people came to the Seattle meeting and there was about 6700 dollars in the fund at the end of 1989. Since then it has gradually dwindled although around 89 people came to the meeting in Vega in March 1989. This conference, with a maximum of 17 or 17 people in the room at any one time marks the smallest participation at the meeting since February 1982. So, from the point of view of body count, the PMC appears to be dying. Before this conference there is, as of the last reckoning Kaare made in June, 4300 dollars in the fund.
During the conference in San Diego in the Spring of 1987, David Jackson, Donna Wilson and Kaare Bursell put together what was called 'ideas for an operation manual for the PMC which were put forward to the conference at the Fall conference in Oakland that year. The ideas were included in the report of that meeting and also published in 'Macrobiotics Today'. This is how they read:(These are now on the Pacific Macrobiotic Archives Page, so you can review them there)
Kaare said that the reception of these ideas at the time must be characterized as less than enthusiastic but they were only put forward as ideas for people to chew on in order to develop and modify them. People actually appeared not to understand it and Kaare feels it is one of the reasons that participation has slowly and gradually dwindled over the years.
The fact of the matter is that when most people think of an organization it is problematical when it comes to the PMC, because it is not an organization in the accepted sense of what an organization is, and it doesn't do anything. It doesn't have any agenda, it doesn't have any motive such as to get the legislature to pass this bill or that bill, to get funds to do this or that; it simply is a spiritual, intellectual, social gathering.
Margie Butterfield-Brown said that she observed there was a possible lack of communication in that not many people appear to know anything about it. These are uncertain times and this meeting is one more uncertainty and people generally need to be herded a little and kind of encouraged to come if they are going to come.
Kaare said that he sent out nearly 200 letters to all the people who had come in the past and he had done that prior to the last meeting and it hadn't made any noticeable difference. Donna also pointed out that the meetings are always scheduled at the same times every year - at the spring and fall equinoxes.
It was pointed out that perhaps its a matter of personal logistics - for example the Fall Health Classic is coming up in two weeks and these are recessionary times so people are having to make choices because they don't have the time or the money to go to everything.
We then discussed what really amounted to marketing ideas with the notion of a flyer being sent to the various centers being an idea.
Donna said she had been coming to the meetings since 1985 and had found them extraordinarily nourishing because you had the opportunity to be away for three days from running the business, you have six meals, you get to talk to your peers about whatever is interesting or of the moment and you came away from the meetings feeling inspired and nourished. She said the way the meetings are conducted came out of a dissatisfaction to the old patriarchal type of meetings. The ideas that came out of the midnight coffee shop discussions at the San Diego meeting were addressing discussions that had come up in previous meetings to do with endorsing blue-green algae, different sea salts, wondering about certification.
However, she said that she had not come away from the last two meetings feeling nourished and she suggested that perhaps it is time to dissolve the PMC, maybe its served its purpose and wouldn't it be great if we could consciously come to finish it rather than letting it kind of whither away slowly and die on the vine. It did what it set out to do, it got to a new way of doing meetings, it got away from the old patriarchy, it got away from endorsing and certifying, it got to some new places. For some reason it is not nourishing other leaders and practitioners - where are the Washington people, the Oregon people, the Mexico people; they're not here anymore, so perhaps they don't need it anymore. Perhaps it is time for us to consciously dissolve it, because everything doesn't stay the same forever.
David Jackson said that there is a tone to the meetings, which is present to some degree in the operation manual, a tone about a spiritual connection, and it seemed to him that regardless of who does or doesn't come, that is always fostered in whoever comes to the meeting, because of the environment that is created by the meeting itself. He feels it every time he comes and that has not left him.
Herb Sandel said he came to the last meeting in San Diego and he found the lack of structure that is characteristic of the PMC personally very appealing. When he was coming in on the bus for this meeting he asked himself what he was doing here. He said that two very significant discussions had occurred for him here at this meeting, the one David brought up about the certification program being stopped by Kushi which David had been informed of by the KI. He thought it was significant that they had talked to him as a representative of the PMC because they knew he was going to come to the meeting and this was the only place you could have gotten that kind of intimate knowledge and the discussion that followed. The other was the discussion on community that we had this morning. It also sounded to him that some people were tired of it, which was understandable if you had been coming for several years. And he agreed that the numbers, the body count, is not significant. He also said that it was interesting to see the new energy being brought to this meeting by people who were attending for the first time.
Kaare said the numbers weren't important. He said that when he and his wife Patty arrived in the Bay Area in late 1980 there was very little going on in respect of macrobiotic activities on the West Coast. At the time, Patrick and Meredith McCarty had their center in Eureka, Oroville was active with Herman and Cornellia Aihara, a small center had just started in San Francisco and the East West Center of Roy and Marjke Steevensz was active in Los Angeles. Then as the West Coast Teacher's Meeting evolved into the PMC at the September 1984 meeting in San Francisco it appears to him that the change over to the more open-ended, participatory meetings that weren't confined to just teachers freed up a lot of energy. It is thus no accident to Kaare that in Bob Mattson's International Directory that a quarter of the listings for North America are in California. Kaare thinks that the PMC is a significant spiritual fermenting place and time for macrobiotics and it continues to work its magic.
Richard said these meetings by their participatory nature really lend themselves to extroverts and in the past when we have critiqued the meeting in the past people have complained that they haven't felt they could speak because the space hasn't been there. So we may have lost those people who, as Donna says, you have to make an effort to get them involved because they otherwise get squeezed out and perhaps that is what has happened to a lot of people who used to come.
Joel said maybe they belong out there and it is up to us who are left to carry on the spiritual quest. His first inclination was to say we should quit this and go to the Fall Health Classics and the Florida meetings and all the people who make money off of macrobiotics are too busy to show up at these meetings. But always new people show up and they're interesting and every meeting is different and extraordinary.
Nancy Whitehead asked if there was anything to do, since we had discussed various topics that could lead to the PMC getting involved in various schemes, like getting into the prisons. Kaare said that the PMC is not an action group. It really is a spiritual, moral exercise in learning how to develop community, a place and time where people can get together, to share ideas and information, to critique one another and air out differences without it being a burden. The point is that in order for a culture to function properly it needs three levels, the level where people are active in the culture, the level of trade organisations and associations and the level of spiritual activity. At this last level there is no monetary aspect, no career implications, no political agenda and Kaare thinks this last level is something the world has difficulty grasping.
The western culture cannot grasp that there has to be in the culture a body of men and women who gather together without an economic, business or political agenda, simply to reflect upon, observe, question and discuss not only what is going on in macrobiotics but also the world. As far as Kaare knows there are no participatory gatherings of men and women who have no agenda. In the present world society, for instance, all the institutions are reactive - congress reacts to the situations that come up, the pentagon, universities, hospital boards are all reactive because there is no body of men and women doing the deep reflections and responsive deliberations to current events and problems which are insightful and illuminative. And that is what the PMC is attempting.
Then we had a discussion on how we might change the format of the PMC meetings and how to change it and these varied from simply showing up at the local Holiday Inn in Phoenix and simply letting everybody know in that region that we were having a meeting, to having a trav