Saturday, May 8, 2010

Books and ideas

Food and medicine are not two different things: they are the front and back of one body. Chemically grown vegetables may be eaten for food, but they cannot be used as medicine.” ~Masanobu Fukuoka

I spent a lovely chunk of the day in the windy park with fun, thoughtful yogis talking about this amazing little book:

The One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Some passages to remember... 

“Do nothing” stance to farming 
He talks about a “do nothing” stance to farming, teaching that the best methods for food cultivation are those aligned with nature -- minimal soil disruption (no tilling or weeding) and no application of chemicals (be they fertilizers or pesticides).

(This really resonates with me for thinking about medicine… what are we farming in our bodies? What are the best methods for health cultivation? Seems to be those that are aligned with our natural bodies - minimal disruption of bodily processes and no application of chemicals.)

Pursuing a subject in its wholeness
He condemned the “piecemealing” of knowledge by specialization; he believed that a subject should be pursued in its wholeness.

“An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing. Specialists in various fields gather together and observe a stalk of rice. The insect disease specialist sees only insect damage, the specialist in plant nutrition considers only the plant’s vigor. This is unavoidable as things are now.”

(This is why I like Family Medicine -- a pursuit of medicine in its wholeness) 

Seeking the essential nature of man
“Various religious groups have come to take up natural farming. In seeking the essential nature of man, no matter how you go about it, you must begin with the consideration of health. The path which leads to right awareness involves living each day straightforwardly and growing and eating wholesome, natural food. It follows that natural farming has been for many people the best place to begin.”

(Yes! Just like how the practice of yoga leads people towards these ideas of eating whole, local, natural foods) 

Human tampering
“Human beings with their tampering do something wrong, leave the damage unrepaired, and when the adverse results accumulate, work with all their might to correct them. When the corrective actions appear to be successful, they come to view these measures as splendid accomplishments. People do this over and over again. It is as if a fool were to stomp on and break the tiles of his roof. Then when it starts to rain and the ceiling begins to rot away, he hastily climbs up to mend the damage, rejoicing in the end that he has accomplished a miraculous solution.

It is the same with the scientist. He pores over books night and day, straining his eyes and becoming nearsighted, and if you wonder what on earth he has been working on all that time – it is to become the inventor of eyeglasses to correct nearsightedness.”

(Sounds similar to the huge cost of medicating people for problems we create through our poor lifestyle choices -- including the food we eat and the way we treat our bodies)

The four principles of natural farming 
  1. No cultivation: no plowing or turning of the soil... the earth cultivates itself naturally by penetrating plant roots, microorganism activity, animals, etc.
  2. No chemical fertilizer or prepared compost: this interference drains soil of nutrients… if left to itself the soil maintains its fertility naturally.
  3. No weeding by tillage or herbicides: weeds are important in building soil fertility.
  4. No dependence on chemicals: weak plants, disease, and insect imbalance develop as a result of unnatural processes. 
(I think these principles could similarly be applied to medicine and health of the human body) 

Naturally grown fruits and vegetables
“No matter how hard people try, they cannot improve upon naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Produce grown in an unnatural way satisfies people’s fleeting desires but weakens the human body and alters the body chemistry so that it is dependent upon such foods. When this happens, vitamin supplements and medicines become necessary. This situation only creates hardships for the farmer and suffering for the consumer.”

The Western Diet
“One might suppose that Western dietetics, with its elaborate theories and calculations, could leave no doubts about proper diet. The fact is, it creates far more problems than it resolves. One problem is that in Western nutritional science there is no effort to adjust the diet to the natural cycle. The diet that results serves to isolate human beings from nature. A fear of nature and a general sense of insecurity are often the unfortunate results.” 

(So true... we may talk about eating nutritiously but we rarely talk about eating with the natural cycle... this is one reason I am so drawn to the idea of eating locally)

“Sickness comes when people draw apart from nature. The severity of the disease is directly proportional to the degree of separation. If a sick person returns to a healthy environment often the disease will disappear. When alienation from nature becomes extreme, the number of sick people increases. Then the desire to return to nature becomes stronger. But in seeking to return to nature, there is no clear understanding of what nature is, and so the attempt proves futile.”

“Doctors take care of sick people; healthy people are cared for by nature. Instead of getting sick and then becoming absorbed in a natural diet to get well, one should live in a natural environment so that sickness does not appear.”

“When rice is planted in the spring, the seed sends out living shoots, and now, as we are reaping, it appears to die. The fact that this ritual is repeated year after year means that life continues in this field and the yearly death is itself yearly birth. You could say that the rice we are cutting now lives continuously…

The same thing that happens to rice and barley goes on continuously within the human body. Day by day hair and nails grow, tens of thousands of cells die, tens of thousands more are born; the blood in the body a month ago is not the same blood today. When you think that your own characteristics will be propagated in the bodies of your children and grandchildren, you could say that you are dying and being reborn each day, and yet will live on for many generations after death.”

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