The Sleeping Tiger


On my journey to health and wellness, I’ve had the opportunity to study with many great teachers.

One of my favorites was Michio Kushi.

Michio pioneered the Macrobiotic movement in America and founded the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts.

It was there, at the Kushi Institute, that I received first hand guidance from the master of Macrobiotics himself.

He taught us about the Order of the Universe, the connection between the quality of our food and the quality of our health, and the importance of striving to create One Peaceful World.

One day during our studies, we had a Q&A with Michio and I got the opportunity to ask him about flax oil.

I had been reading a lot of information about flax and I started incorporating it into my diet while I was living at the Kushi Institute.

I said, “Michio, what do you think about flax oil for a healing diet.”

He slowly shook his head and said, “No flax oil.”

“Why no flax? I’ve been reading so many good things about it.”

He wagged his index finger at me, “No flax oil.”

“But, what about the essential fatty acids? Everyone in the health and wellness communities is recommending it.”

He repeated, “No, flax oil.” And, then he slow-motion karate chopped the air as if cutting off any more of my questions.

“Awwww c’mon, Michio! That’s not a good answer.”

He sighed, “Tell me… what is your Chinese Astrological sign?”

“Monkey,” I said.

“Ahhhhhhhhh….that makes perfect sense.”

“What makes sense?”

“My sign is Tiger. I am the old Tiger sleeping underneath the tree, and you are the monkey throwing coconuts onto my head.”

Besides his wealth of universal knowledge, one of the things I loved most about Michio was his light spiritedness and a great sense of humor.

He was correct, by the way, on a “healing” diet flax and other refined oils can be hard for the liver to process.

Many years later, I attended an Integrative Nutrition conference in New York City. The audience was filled with health coaches on a mission to save the world from thier bad eating habits.

Who walks onto the stage but my old teacher, Michio. He shared with the students his standard lecture about food and the importance of adopting a Macrobiotic diet and lifestyle to create One Peaceful World.

At the end of his talk, he asked the audience a simple question.

“Why do you think you are here on the earth?”

The students in the auditorium began shouting out answers.

“To teach everyone about eating organic!”

Michio shook his head no.

“To make the world a better place!”

He shook his head no again.

“To save the earth!”

He wagged his index finger and shook his head, no.

“To stop cancer and disease!”

He shook his head no, yet again.

“To make a difference in the world.”

That was my answer and I was sure it was correct!

Michio shook his head no and then slow-motion karate chopped the air to signal us to stop.

He scanned the audience looking at all of us eager students, and simply said, “No… you came here to the earth, to play with your friends.”

Ahhhhh, the master teacher strikes again!

The older I get, the more I understand the truth behind his wisdom.

Yes, we are here on the earth to play with our friends.

Thank you, Michio, for playing with us.

Rest in peace, Tiger.

Michio Kushi

May 17th, 1926 – December 28th, 2014