Others have been promising to train macrobiotic counselors within a year or even as soon as four months. From my experience, I do not see how this is possible. In this blog entry I talk about the steps I followed to feel qualified to guide people with a full range of health problems. Later, I will talk about the differences and similarities between coaching and counseling. Then, I will describe the programs we’ve developed at SHI to train macrobiotic coaches and eventually counselors.
Macrobiotic practice is a continuous, ongoing process of learning, absorbing, applying, and revisiting. Like any other organic process, there is time that is required to integrate and become grounded in your own practice and ability to guide others. It is truly a life journey. Counseling is an expression of one’s own life and experience. The academic aspect of counseling is important within your overall understanding and application of the macrobiotic principles. Yet, it is only the beginning because the goal of counseling is to help another create a healthier, happier direction in life.
In my own counseling, I have three goals when meeting with a client. In the first stage, I meet with someone as a client, and use my understanding and experience to help them attain their goals for a healthier and happier life. In the second stage, I hope that a client will become my student and learn how to guide their own life and macrobiotic practice. Thirdly, I hope that over time, a person will become my friend that shares the dream of a healthier, happier, more peaceful society.
The following is the timeline of my journey to becoming a counselor. I hope you enjoy this and derive some insights for yourself if you are also aligned with becoming a coach or a counselor one day.
I never intended to become a macrobiotic counselor; it is something that just happened. Originally, I was guided by intuition and the desire to create a strong macrobiotic community. During my practice, I learned from others I had a talent for diagnosis and counseling from the beginning. Following the encouragement of others, one thing lead to another quite organically and here I am today.
I was friends with Michio Kushi’s main student who encouraged me to start formally counseling. At this time, I had been practicing for three years. Upon implementing this advice, I realized I had so much to learn to be able to guide people in a safe, helpful way. I attended Michio’s leadership seminar, which was a three month course everyday over the summer. It covered all aspects of macrobiotic practice and lifestyle, and included healthcare and counseling. This seminar was especially focused on ki development and spiritual practice.
After 1972, I began spending as much time with Michio and Aveline as possible. For many years after, I spent two weeks in the spring and fall at study houses in Boston. I attended any seminar that Michio offered in Boston and the mid-Atlantic region. I also traveled and assisted Michio whenever possible.1972-1978
I helped organize seminars in Philadelphia for Michio and Aveline twice a year and started the mid-Atlantic summer camp in the mid 70s with Murray Snyder and my brother, Howard. During this period, Michio would formally counsel my clients and I would work personally with them after he left. The personal contact with Michio and my clients was the most valuable because I had the chance to observe how he would adjust my recommendations. I would also assist him in his counseling sessions, take notes for him, and try to figure out his diagnosis and recommendations before he actually spoke.
In order to understand the healing process, Michio encouraged us to work closely with someone for an entire year. My first true counseling client was Mona Schwartz, who I had met in ’74/75. She had been diagnosed with idiopathic edema (swelling of the extremities from an unknown origin). I committed myself to Mona’s healing journey, giving her access to me 24/7 from beginning to end, for an entire year. She recovered her health and I in turn received the most valuable education on the healing process.
During this entire period, I did not spend such extended amounts of time in Boston, but constantly traveled back and forth. At first, I thought this was a limitation, but it turns out it was an important key to a successful, well-grounded macrobiotic education. I discovered that it is much like a natural pattern: you eat, and then you live your life. Having education mimic the natural cycles of the seasons, of expanding and contracting, or breathing in and out helps us to understand that macrobiotic practice is biologically based. Our understanding changes as we develop our health. There is no substitute for time. When I started the Strengthening Health Institute, I applied the principle of what I went through about learning and applying, of going back and forth to develop many of the courses.1978
I had been counseling for 6 years by the time I met and worked with Dr. Sattilaro to recover his health from terminal prostate cancer. Mona urged me to give Dr. Sattilaro the same care and guidance for his recovery. The experience with Mona and Dr. Sattilaro gave me the confidence in my healing ability to help people recover from a wide range of problems including so-called terminal illness.1980-1982
The Saturday Evening Post published the article documenting the story of Dr. Sattilaro’s recovery. Almost immediately after this, I began receiving many more serious cancer patients. My counseling became in even higher demand when “Recalled by Life” and an article in LIFE Magazine were published.1981-1983
I was in London running the Kushi Institute. I had the opportunity to meet and work with people all over Europe. I also began traveling regularly to many different regions. This period was crucial for the development of my ability and understanding of how to adapt macrobiotic practice to different climates.1992-1995
In Portugal, I discovered and developed the main principles that underlie the Strengthening Health approach. I also developed the Strengthening Health Intensive which eventually lead to the Strengthening Health Institute.1997
I founded the Strengthening Health Institute in Philadelphia. The goal of the Strengthening Health approach is to provide the understanding and tools to create a healthier, happier direction in life.1998
I first learned about 9 Star Ki from Michio in the 70s. He had a very broad, far-reaching understanding of its applications. I met Takashi Yoshikawa, who had a very detailed and specific understanding and approach to 9 Star Ki. We became friends and he offered to teach me. Over time, this understanding enhanced my ability to guide people.
The timeline provides a broader glimpse of how my counseling practice started and evolved. I would say the most valuable aspects of becoming a counselor have been constantly trying to create a healthy and balanced personal macrobiotic practice. Throughout the course of my counseling, I have found it invaluable to see and counsel many others. There is a continuous, on-going study of and reflection on all aspects of macrobiotic practice and philosophy. The close guidance of Michio and Aveline helped my ability to develop my practice personally and professionally. I also tried to develop my cooking as Michio taught that a good counselor is a good cook.
Please stay tuned for the next entries that get into more detail about coaching, counseling, and education.