Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Strengthening Health Institute (SHI) Graduate's Story

Sophia G.: Strengthening Health Institute (SHI) Graduate, 2010

Many SHI Comprehensive Certificate Program (CCP) students are relative newcomers to Macrobiotics. They have started eating well recently and want to learn more about the thinking behind the way of life or “diet” that has changed their health for the better. Almost all CCP students are adults with jobs and families who travel to Philadelphia to deepen their appreciation and understanding of something new and even a little strange to them.

Sophia G., who graduated from CCP in February, was decidedly different from most of her classmates. Sophia was only 16 when she started taking classes from Denny and Susan Waxman at SHI and Macrobiotics was not something new and strange to her. Her parents, John and Mary, have been eating a Macrobiotic diet for more than twenty five years. In fact, Sophia, the third of their seven children, was born in Japan where her parents lived for four years to study traditional cooking. Sophia has not only grown up eating this way but she also has been assisting her mother, an accomplished medicinal cook, since she was 12 years old.

So why did she come to CCP in Philadelphia to study?

Her family are Orthodox Christians who homeschool their children to foster their vocations or “callings” rather than to meet conventional education standards. Educational reformer John Holt called this cardiac intelligence focused parenting “un-schooling” and Sophia is a model “un-schooler.” Her two older sisters, one an athlete, the other a musician, are students at VMI and the University of Chicago.

Sophia, in contrast, hopes to be a nun in an Orthodox monastery. Her “studies,” consequently, are focused on her interests in music, church history and teaching, and on cooking. She makes pilgrimages to convents when she is not cooking for clients and studying the violin with her teacher at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School.

She came to SHI because her mom and dad, both graduates of the Kushi Institute in the 1980’s, thought it the best place for her to learn the cooking skills and traditional thinking behind Macrobiotics.

As John, now a literary critic but once a teacher and the director of programs at the Kushi Foundation Berkshires Center, wrote us,

Mary and I urged Sophia to take SHI’s Comprehensive Certificate Program as part of her un-schooling because we believe that Denny and Susan Waxman are the best at what they do. The great improvement in Sophia’s cooking skills and her greater grasp of the Principle at the heart of traditional cosmology from her studies there is all due to the Waxmans’ unmatched experience and ability to communicate what they know.

Sophia says:
My parents have taught us for as long as I can remember that the right way to understand food is as an echo of the Eucharist. I certainly didn’t ‘get’ this idea of food and cooking styles, though, that they are transparencies of the Principle that creates us all, until my year studying with Denny and Susan. I will always be grateful to them for teaching me how to see people’s conditions in this light and for encouraging me as a young person and cook! I will be applying the lessons and using the skills I learned at SHI the rest of my life.

Mary, Sophia’s mother, wrote:
I was blessed to study with Aveline Kushi, Shizuko Yamamoto, and Wendy Esko when I started cooking years ago and I knew the difference these women made in my understanding of food and health. John and I recognized from our experience that Sophia, a good cook by nature, needed the formal instruction and experience she could only get with the best teachers and cooks if she were to begin reaching her potential. And there are no better teachers and cooks in the US than Susan and Denny and no better intensive program than CCP.

Sophia’s CCP classmates realized very quickly that this very friendly if barely five feet tall young woman with long hair and braces was not a child. Her skills in Susan’s classes and the questions she asked Denny, Susan, and the other SHI instructors reflected her intelligence, big heart, and keen interest in the subjects at hand. Sophia loved and was a big part of the lively discussions during class and over meals at CCP during her year there. Since graduating, Sophia has been cooking for clients in Florida, New Jersey, Missouri, New York City, and Southern California.

Every CCP class is made up of people with stories as different and interesting as Sophia’s. What they all have in common, what brings them to SHI, is a light burning in them to learn more about Macrobiotic cooking and traditional thinking. If you want to join the discussions, acquire the skills, and meet thoughtful, challenging people like Sophia, contact the SHI office today at 215-238-9212!

Sophia G. was a recipient of a CCP Scholarship

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Controlling HIV with Macrobiotics

“I am HIV positive. Macrobiotics chose me to follow its Path and not the other way around. I was diagnosed in May 2006, two days after my birthday. I was devastated. Fortunately macrobiotics found me, and I have never had to take anti-retroviral medications.” – Alejandro Aguilera

Alejandro’s HIV symptoms began while on a trip to Turin during the 2006 Winter Olympics. It started as night sweats and a viral rash. Shortly after returning to the US, he caught a cold which kept getting worse. He had to change his shirt at least five times in one night because he was soaked in sweat. As symptoms progressed and being knowledgeable of HIV, he feared the worse. He wept. He had doctors test for everything else and went to three anonymous testing centers. Finally, he was running out of options and while waiting for the anonymous results, he agreed to be tested by my doctors twice. He had no insurance at the time. Out of the five tests, three came back positive for HIV. He then decided to accept the virus now living in my body. He contacted his attorney and closest friends to share the diagnosis. Eventually, in time, he would contact his family.

Alejandro recalled a young Minneapolis bartender suggesting macrobiotics. The bartender had tried it with much success in regards to his condition but had given it up. He also mentioned a homeopath and a bookstore in South Minneapolis.

Alejandro’s soul sister in Minneapolis, Daniella took him that weekend to see the homeopath. It was at “Present Moment” bookstore that Daniella bought his first macrobiotic text for his birthday: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack’s “The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health”. He went home and devoured the entire section on AIDS and found himself agreeing with the precepts and principles. He proceeded to empty his pantry into brown grocery paper bags, and recycled his teflon and aluminum cookware. The next day, he returned unused groceries back to the neighborhood convenience store and then went to Target to buy stainless steel cookware. His next stop was the Wedge Community Coop to buy “MACRO” food. The cashier turned out to be macro and this was the beginning of a mentoring relationship. She would give him first pressure cooker and his first Le Creuset pot. She would eventually take him to Philadelphia to see renowned, Macrobiotic Counselor, Denny Waxman.

Alejandro witnessed his viral load diminish from over 300,000 copies per milliliter of blood down to a bit over 9,000 copies per milliliter. He also has a fluctuating immune system, CD4 count that keeps him in very good health. He has only had the flu once since becoming macrobiotic, and the only symptom which reminds him of his condition (and his humble existence) is the hairy oral leukoplakia on his tongue.

Emotionally and spiritually, Alejandro moved from anger and punching walls, to fear and endless tears, to a place of peace, light, service and redemption. He now suggests to others that: “If you want to LIVE and fully embrace your purpose in Life, then give macrobiotics a chance to change your point of view. It did that for me.”

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Cancer of the Vocal Chords

James Kirman, 84, is a guitar player and singer, In 1997 James experienced a hoarseness in his vocal chords. He went to his Doctor who referred him to a specialist who examined him and suspected that it was leukoplakia, a pre-cancerous condition. James went into the hospital and had it removed and his doctor confirmed that it was indeed, leukoplakia.

6 months later he became hoarse again. This time he went to see Doctor William Lewis who said it was leukoplakia squamous cell carnicoma but not invaded and had it removed. 6 months later, again he had leukoplakia squamous cell carnicoma and again had it removed. 6 months again, he had it again and again had it removed. It would come back one more time and James would have a total of five operations to remove the recurring leukoplakia!

In 1999 and before the fifth (and last) time that James would go into the hospital to have the leukoplakia removed his daughter went to a health seminar conducted by renowned macrobiotic teacher and counselor Denny Waxman, founder and Director of the Strengthening Health Institute in Philadelphia. She told her father to go see Denny for a consultation and that’s when James changed his diet and began following macrobiotics.

Now, ten years later James is still eating macrobiotically. His leukoplakia has never come back and both and he and his doctor are convinced that it was because of macrobiotics. He now sings as good or even better than before and often performs in retirement homes to audiences younger than himself!

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