Thank you, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, for taking the time to participate in this interview. You have a tremendous amount of valuable information on health and life transformation to share with people. In addition to being the founder of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center
in Arizona and author of Conscious Eating
and Depression Free For Life
, you are widely considered one of the pioneers of the raw foods movement. So let's start with the basics and ask the obvious questions most readers might be wondering about: Why live food? Why the Tree of Life? What's in it for them? Why is it worth the effort to pursue a raw foods lifestyle?
Cousens: That's a very good question. The bottom line is: Because it feels good. We don't know how long we're going to live, but if we're going to live, we should be in a totally healthy place. I've been on live foods since 1983. It's a very long time, and I'm in my sixty-third year, and the result of that is I'm more flexible than I was when I was captain of an undefeated football team at Amherst College, in the National Football Hall of Fame, and I'm stronger. I could do 70 push-ups then, and on my sixtieth birthday I could do 601.
Mike: I heard that on an interview you did, and I was stunned. That's a lot of push-ups.
Cousens: Then, my wife who teaches yoga, said, "If you're going to do that, I'm not going to teach you yoga because it makes everything tight." At my age, there is more focus on flexibility and fluidity of movement, but I needed to complete that. But what am I saying? I'm saying, "What is this guy in his sixty-third year doing that is surpassing flexibility and strength when he was 21, a national-level athlete and in the Football Hall of Fame? How did that happen?" That's not supposed to happen, right? I attribute a certain amount to live foods, so why? Why do live foods work? There's some really interesting research that came out about two years ago, and it was a culmination of, since 1930, many, many researchers who basically found that the less you eat, the longer you live. The less you eat, the longer you live. That's not new. In the fourteenth century, Coronado, who was about ready to die when he was 48 years old, lived to 102 by having moderation in his diet. A teacher came from Africa, taught Father Benedict, who was physician at the Barcelona School in Italy, a medical school in Bologna. Then, he taught it to the pope and, you know, they got the idea. It emerged again in the late 1800s the live foods, also the less you eat. They found with every animal, the less they eat, the longer they live. They've done it with worms. They've done it with, you know, mice and rats, so what's the message? The message is: The less you eat, the longer you live. Then, this other doctor came along and did gene technology with rats. He underfed them (by) only 40 percent, and he found that, within a month under the 40-percent less diet, there was a 400-percent increase in anti-aging genes. Literally, the diet was turning on the genes.
Mike: It was activating what was there all the time.
Cousens: We have what's known as genotype and phenotype. Genotype is your hard-core hard drive; phenotype is your software. You can't change your genotype, but you can change the expression of the genotype, which is the phenotype. So basically, your anti-inflammation, anti-aging, anti-cancer, antioxidant genes all got turned on. That was Dr. Spindler at the University of California at Riverside. Now, what's happening? This is very important: When you cook your food, you lose 50 percent of the protein. It becomes coagulated and you lose 78 percent of the vitamins and minerals. If you go live, you can eat half as much and still get the same amount. That's a 50 percent reduction in your input, so you're now achieving undereating, without at all feeling like you're undereating because we need that much live food. It's still a lot of live food.
Mike: I definitely noticed that here and experienced it myself. You get full on about half the amount of food.
Cousens: That's right, and that's the beauty of it, so now we have the easy reversal of aging, because what has research showed us? You can actually reverse aging. It wasn't just that you slowed it down; it actually reverses.
Mike: Take years off. I think it's also relevant for people to know that you were traditionally trained as an M.D., correct?
Cousens: Yes, Columbia Medical School.
Mike: So for you to espouse this food philosophy, if I may call it that, is in a sense, really exceptional because you have the technical training, and yet you've gone so far beyond it to understand the real relationships between foods, the human body and the human spirit. How did that happen for you?
Cousens: Well, ever since I was four years old, I wanted to be a healer and that translated as a medical doctor; that was all I knew. In the 50s, that's all you knew. When I was at Amherst College, I had already published papers in biochemistry and biophysics, so I already had a biochemistry background. When I went to Columbia Medical School, I saw that they actually didn't have a clue about the relationship between how to get the health and how to make people healthy. What they had a clue about was how to make pathological diagnosis. That was pretty good, but to get from pathological diagnosis to being healthy, no clue. I also saw that many of the patients had significant psychological problems, so as a third-year medical student at a medical ward, I really saw this. I began calling the psychiatric consults all the time, and many cases were cracked open because we had a psychological consult. I would tune in: This is a psychological problem. It's manifesting physically, but it's psychological, so I became a psychiatrist and family therapist.
Mike: And you practiced this for many years.
Cousens: Yes, and I still do. It's a holistic thing that allows me to do that whole model. Then when I finished in psychiatry, I began to see that the mind was affected by what you ate. Then, we saw the body is affected by what we eat; in fact, the mind and body are one, so that's how I kind of got to a more holistic point of view. We only had one, one-hour nutrition class at Columbia.
Mike: One hour in four years of school?
Cousens: Yes, and it was about biochemistry. It was a biochemical approach. Dr. Rittenburg was a Nobel Prize person, but he didn't talk about food. He just talked about biochemistry, which was my language at the time, but nevertheless, there was no training. There's no training about being healthy; there's only training about use of drugs with the focus on pathological diagnosis. Even that was narrow because they didn't see the connection between body and mind.
Mike: Even today, many in medicine still debate just basic mind-body connection. It strikes me very interesting that you came at this with the attitude of a true scientist, an observer of nature.
Cousens: Exactly, exactly.
Mike: You let nature tell you what the truth was.
Cousens: That's exactly it. You know, you used the word true scientist, and that's very good insight because most doctors aren't scientists. They're good: They get trained, they're smart, they say to take this drug for this problem, but they don't see the bigger picture, and they don't look to see what the all-around results are. What are the results 10 years down the line when I give this person this drug? Then, there's the drug to counter the side effects of that drug, and the drug to counter the side effects of that drug, so it got clear to me that I was approaching it like a scientist. I'm going to say, "What's my goal?" My goal is to create health. Then, being on a bunch of drugs to suppress symptoms was really not the way to approach it.
Mike: Along that line, you've had thousands of people come here to the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. Do you have any statistics or anecdotal evidence about the number of people who were able to so safely get off those prescription drugs because those symptoms had vanished? Is that an area you're comfortable discussing?
Cousens: Well, if I said 100 percent ...
Mike: People wouldn't believe 100 percent.
Cousens: Now, I wrote a book called Depression Free for Life, and my result with natural healing and off medication is 90 percent, and that's for the treatment of depression and manic depression. Manic depression, maybe 80 percent, but 90 percent for depression and that includes psychotic depression. That's the place where I have an opinion, but the rest of the time basically, let's say, unless a person is really taking some medication that it's very, very dangerous to take them off of I'm going to get them off most of the medication because they're naturally going to get healthy. The medication is making them unhealthy, so why keep them on that? So, let's say a 90-percent success rate with depression.
Mike: What's required on the patient's part? What level of commitment to...
Cousens: Well, they have to live it. Depression Free for Life means you have to do the five-step program. You have to build up your nutrient minerals with amino acids, specific amino acid supplements. You have to have the proper vitamins and minerals to make your brain work right. You have to have the proper lipids, again, to make your brain work right, for brain function. You have to balance your pH because your brain won't function if you're too alkaline or too acid. Then, you live the lifestyle. We put all those together, and that's live foods and fasting; fasting clears the brain. There was research done in Russia with schizophrenics, incurable schizophrenics, and they water fasted them. I don't do a lot of water fasting here, but they water fasted them for 28 days, and in Russia they don't have supplements.
Mike: You do juice fasting here, so people know.
Cousens: Yes, and what happened was that 65 percent of the incurable schizophrenics started functioning normally. The only time they relapsed was when they ate meat. That's because they have five times more 6-hydroxy-skatole, which is a toxin they could metabolize in the meat, and then it creates dysfunction in the brain.
Mike: And that's in all red meat?
Cousens: All meat. So, for example, take schizophrenia; it's very difficult to treat, and you get a 65 percent cure rate with fasting. Now, another example of that: I had a lady from Mexico in her mid-20s, who had been at a hospital for five years for depression, suicide and so forth. She came out here kind of to get a break out of the hospital. She could barely walk, she was 80 pounds overweight, and she was so toxic with everything. She was on medication, so over a period of few weeks, we started her on a fast. She was just too toxic to do anything; she couldn't do anything. After two weeks, her mind began to clear, and she ended up fasting for 85 days. In that time, she lost all her weight. She became this very beautiful young lady because she was in her 20s. She required no medications, she had happiness for the first time in her life, and she has never had a relapse.
Mike: She stayed on the live foods diet?
Cousens: Yes, the best I know; she's back in Mexico. But what's the point? The point is: The food we eat affects how we think, and how we function physically. So if you're eating junk food, you're going to get a junk-food brain. In her case, she was more sensitive to it, so these were things to put her back on track. You know, not everyone fasts for 85 days, but this is a special case, and it was very significant.
Mike: What does the Center offer people here in terms of support to give them the safety, the support and the environment to succeed at this? What do they get here that they can't get at home in their own kitchen?
Cousens: How I got started here was that I was a very successful holistic physician in Petaluma, California. I realized that I could tell people, "This is what you should do," but the success rate, compliance rate was a lot less. Why? They haven't had the experience. I realized that people had to have a living experience, and so that's how the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center got started. This is a living experience of what it's like. If you want to feel good, come for a week and you'll feel good. Then, we added support. Okay, if a person just comes to the Tree of Life and they just want to visit, there are classes in food preparation, meditation, yoga, sprouting, so suddenly, they become empowered. Then, we have people who want to go further, which is, of course, what we like to see happen. We have a sacred relationship course because how you are in your relationship affects your life immensely. We have a course in conscious eating, which is how in a week you really become an expert in food preparation for yourself, not to run a restaurant. We have the spiritual fast, the spiritual detox and a 10-day program, and they're phenomenal because, if a person's addicted to coffee or tobacco, you know, well, you fast for seven days, and you lose the cellular memory of your addiction.
Cousens: Then, your stomach shrinks a little bit, and you don't want to go back to what you've been eating; you want to go forward to maintain that sense of well-being. We're just doing some research here looking at organ systems and, you know, looking at the aura, looking at a special way, Kirlian photography and a diagnosis of status of the organs, the mind and the whole system. We're finding, after five days, people who have lost their center start to come back into coherence because the spiritual fast, which is like our flagship in a way, brings people back into their holy rhythm. You know, most people have lost it. They'll say, "What is life about? What's my rhythm? Who am I?" These are questions. If you want to heal fully, you have to have some connection to the spirit at some level. We have Native American things here, we have yoga, we have Kabbalat Shabbat those are the big traditions that we teach, that we expose people to, not that they have to follow any of them because the message is: "It's all what?" You don't have to follow any of them, but you're seeing it from three different perspectives.
Mike: I find a remarkable amount of freedom and non-structure as a visitor here. A person can really come and do what they choose. They're never forced to do something they don't wish to do, and even in terms of the spiritual nature of what happens here, people can participate or wait.
Cousens: Exactly. We set it up so people have to use their own free will, and they get a taste of, "Oh gosh, I feel good." Their energy's flowing and, "Maybe I'll go to meditation. Maybe I'll go to ..." You know, it's like we create an open space so people can focus on getting in touch with who they are. That means they have to make the choices and take the responsibility.
Mike: That's very smart structure. I mean, you know human psychology, too. Once a person makes a decision, then they internally convince themselves even more strongly that it's important for them to pursue. It's different than dragging somebody in.
Cousens: We're not interested in people doing this out of fear, because I say or somebody else says. It has to come from within. We'll supply the education, but you make the choices. We have another course called the Zero Point, which helps people with their addictions and their relationship difficulties, and is based on the premise of the personality as a case of mistaken identity.
Mike: I love that quote.
Cousens: They really get that in four days. We have that, and we also have the assene training here, you know, for people who want to pursue it in a particular way. Then, we have two yoga-on-fasts workshops a year. We have the 10-day detox for people who are really toxic. You know, it's a special high-input detoxification program where we use a lot of different adjunct inputs, like the special oxy bounce, where we increase oxygen, lymphatic massage, infrared sauna just a lot of input into that thing.
Mike: When you say someone who's really toxic, can you be more specific? What do you mean doing coffee and cigarettes, or what?
Cousens: ...or having them come off drugs. (When people) have been taking a lot of medication, you know, their consciousness is not ready to do the spiritual fast. After they've done the seven-day fast and they kind of clear, although some people do sequences up to 21 days, then it helps a lot. I had another lady from Mexico with her arthritis, this, that and the other thing. She had a lot of chronic disease; that was our focus, and nothing was moving quickly. You know, she didn't think she could do 21 days; she was just going to do a week. She just came here to lose weight and kind of get in touch, but she just soared. You know, after 21 days participating in all the programs, she was perfect; she was like a different person.
Mike: Just 21 days.
Cousens: Just 21 days. It's really amazing, so people can do it; it's really not that hard. So, those are the courses, and then we have the world's first live food master's program in vegan live food nutrition. We also have an apprentice program in vegan farming, and the vegan live food kitchen apprentice. It's a three-month program, and by the time you graduate, you can really run a kitchen. I mean, not your personal, private kitchen, but you can work in a restaurant.
Mike: You can run an organic farm maybe not a huge farm, but a plot of land.
Cousens: Yes, so we are into empowering people with all the basic skills to live a natural life.
Mike: It is so important to know that what is really special about what you have happening here is you ask people to make these decisions themselves, to take on the responsibility to empower themselves. In the medical world, they never hear that. They hear, "No, this pill will fix you. This surgery will fix you." In fact, they're often discouraged to teach themselves. There's even, you know, "Don't educate yourself; we know better." Here at the Tree, it's exactly the opposite. It's "Learn, experience, transform." I think that's remarkable.
Cousens: We give people a lot of space. We're not exactly a medical spa; (we're) more of an oasis for awakening, but you can go to spas that have a menu, and you are just busy all day long, but you're never going inward. We create this space for people to get in touch with who they are. It's very, very important.
Mike: So, what happens next in a bigger way? Suppose the number of people who want to come here gets multiplied by 10 over the next two to three years. Where do you take this, Gabriel?
Cousens: Well, right now we are in the midst of raising funds to do several things to accommodate that venture because we're kind of growing organically. We came and we started out here in tents in the platform you saw.
Cousens: That was our kitchen. It was a big army tent. So, we're going one step at a time. Basically, what I earn all went into this place, so we live just like everybody else, very low on the scale. We're planning to do a juice and tea bar down here and a gathering place. We just have one more step to fix things up here. Then the next thing we already have plans to do is to do 48 rooms at a time, which is as far as I want to go. I don't want to do more than that. This is a cultural thing, so a Café Theatre and a store up on the land, which would be 4 buildings with 12 rooms each, the range in the medicine wheel, so that's our plan, and to have a big yoga meditation center up there. It's going to cost about $2 million, but the right circumstances haven't come about. As more people come here and we get more known, I know it will manifest in some way. As I say, we already have it drawn out; the housing all drawn. We also have the building, which is a dome structure. We just have to raise the money; however, it's going to come. It'll come.
Mike: It will and, you know, the character of you and the center here is not flashy; it's very humble. In some sense, there's not a lot of self-promotion.
Cousens: It's true. We're also going for that kind of middle-American person who is looking for, you know, the top-end spa. Although we really give the services of a top-end spa, we don't have the facilities of the palatial, top-end spa.
Mike: This is not a place to come to just be pampered from the outside.
Cousens: Definitely not, and that's why we don't like to list ourselves as a spa. We're really a healing center.
Mike: Are there other centers that are even close to the model of what you're doing here?
Cousens: Not really. A lot of people use the words holistic, but there's no other place. It's a center for awakening, and that's how to become your original self again. You see, most people are born originals and die copies. Here we want people to be original, to find their original self. It's unique in that, you know, we're living it. It's not like, well, a person says, "I'm going to meditate." I'm teaching the meditation. It's very different.
Mike: Right, and you're not going home to a 10,000-square-foot mansion on the beach, either.
Cousens: Have you seen our house?
Cousens: It's right down the road. We're in a rental. All the money goes into here.
Mike: That's the authenticity that comes out here. You know, I think people are looking for what's real and to find that in their own lives, to have some guidance and some models for what to look at. I mean, to come here and interact with the staff members and the guests, you can't help but begin to soak up some of that energy, some of that authenticity.
Cousens: We require of the staff that it kind of be their lifestyle because how can you teach veganism if you're not a vegan? How can you teach the lifestyle? So, everybody's living it to an extent, not that they have to of the staff, they are models, not just my wife and myself, but everyone.
Mike: So, how do you reach a person who is a meat-and-potatoes kind of man or woman, and their only knowledge of vegetarianism is some girl downtown who tells everyone they should be vegetarian? How do you reach a person like that and bridge that?
Cousens: Well, as a meat-eating football player, I didn't even meet a vegetarian until I was 28. Up until then, I thought steak and potatoes, so I have some understanding of that transition, but really, maybe half the people that come here are still eating meat. See, we're a transition, and I'm going to say that part of our art is how we can help people make that transition, so it's very open, just like you're saying, I mean, it could be anything. If you want optimal super health, Yes, this is what you want to do, but it's up to you; you don't have to do this. You can come, you can get Whole Person Healing, you know, a three-day workup, you can see what goes on, try it and see what happens. If you're feeling better, it's the pleasure principle. So, I would say many of those people don't come ignorant. They come knowing that we're going to help them make that transition, and they already kind of have an interest that way; otherwise, they wouldn't come.
Mike: Once they do, let's say, a nine-day or seven-day juice fast, once they reach that point where they're at a greater level of purity at the physical and biochemical level, then in your books and your material you talk about how that sets the template for not just better nervous system function and mental clarity, but a spiritual awakening and spiritual clarity. Can you speak more to that and explain this?
Cousens: Yes, a few things happen particularly when you fast. You lose your interest in going back to the same way because you know something has begun to open up your life in meaning and value. We are beings of light. Now, we are all clouded up with this gunk, you know, so we don't have that experience. When you start to do the live food diet and you start to do the fast, the gunk kind of clears, and you start to get this ... I'm going to call it the divine kiss. It just feels good. Feeling good motivates most people, and that goodness is connected to spirit, as well. We can't separate the body and the spirit. What we eat affects the mind, and we've known that for thousands of years. In ayurvedic, they know that if you eat a certain diet, you could create a kind of a criminal mind, called a tamasic diet. When you eat a very riotous diet, you build warriors and get them all aggravated, ready to do battle that's your sugar, your coffee and your meats. Then, you have a Sophic Diet, which calms calms the activity of the mind and takes you into yourself.
Mike: Those are low-glycemic juices.
Cousens: Yes, It's food made with love. That's part of what our kitchen does because we have a full-on restaurant. It's open to the public. People can just come by for the Sunday, or any day, but Saturday and Sunday we have a nice, beautiful brunch and 100-percent organic food we made with love. We guarantee our food: If we can't get organic, we don't carry it, so if we can't get it, we won't be able to offer that. We have pretty much good organic sources. We're growing a lot of it ourselves, particularly greens; we're really good at that. Vegan means no meat or dairy, live. It's 100 percent live here there's no compromise and well-hydrated, low-glycemic and high-mineralized because minerals are frequencies of consciousness according to their constitution. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they say there's one way to eat. Well, there isn't. We have 25,000 different genes and somewhere between 100,000 and 1.4 million genetic variations. You think there's one diet for all that? Of course not, so we try to help people tune into whether they need a high-protein diet, a low-protein diet, this-that variations and then eat in moderation.
Mike: Is there an assessment phase when people come here to determine whether they need a high-protein or low-protein diet?
Cousens: It's part of the Whole Person workup. We have a special test that I designed and we help people find that out. We have an interview, as well. The interview is listed in Conscious Eating.
Mike: That's one of your books.
Cousens: And also Depression Free for Life.
Mike: Just a note, too: You also have Spiritual Nutrition. Are there any other books coming out soon that people should know about?
Cousens: My next book is Spiritual Fasting, but it's not soon; it'll be a year, probably.
Mike: Some of the things I really enjoyed seeing in your work were your comments about dark field microscopy: What you can visually see in the blood and how that reflects the diet and the effect on the human body. Now, this is something that traditional medical doctors typically shun, but do you practice that here?
Cousens: Yes, I was in the lineage of Dr. Enderlein, who created this with 60 years of work in Germany. I was trained under a medical doctor from Germany. Okay, what I do that's important is I don't make a diagnosis with it. I just give people a picture of their blood. They can see it in a microscope, and you don't have to be a genius to figure out the toxicity. You can see everything clumped together, but I don't make a diagnosis.
Mike: That's an important distinction.
Cousens: Yes, because there are people out there making diagnoses. I don't think you can make a real accurate diagnosis. I have lots of tools to make a diagnosis, but you can see what toxic blood looks like; you don't have to be a genius or a medical doctor to figure that out.
Mike: If the red blood cells are collapsed, and they're all running around in a group, that's not a good sign.
Cousens: So I use it more that way rather than diagnostically.
Mike: You talk a lot about genetically modified foods, and why it's very important for us not only as individuals, but even as societies to really rethink this, so why is this important? You see people eating corn all the time. What's wrong with genetically modified corn? What do they care?
Cousens: Most countries around the world have much resistance to it and why? Well, there are many levels on which it's a problem. There's the genetically modified corn, which may have human genes, fish genes, whatever. Okay, it's kind of an aberration, and our bodies aren't really programmed to handle it; it's not natural. It may biochemically look kind of like it, but actually when they've done the studies, it isn't biochemically the same. They are different; they've got different genes, so that throws the body off a little bit. Now, there was a really interesting study by Dr. Pusztai in Scotland. He fed rats genetically engineered potatoes and, within 10 days, they had liver problems, heart problems, brain shrinkage and adrenal shrinkage.
Mike: That's astounding.
Cousens: Yes, and he lost his job for it because the big companies, you know. But the scientific communities said it was very good research and he was reinstated to his job.
Mike: Oh, interesting.
Cousens: So here's the point: The original seeds are our genetic heritage. We're linked with the seeds. They have our whole history; they have everything we all are. When you start tampering with that, you're creating an aberration in the field. You're distorting the field and that affects people's health. Soy, which is heavily genetically engineered, is now in the top six allergy foods. It wasn't like that before, because (now) people aren't able to handle it, but these things move slowly. I could take cyanide and die in a moment, so that's the problem; people don't see down the line where this goes.
Mike: It's delayed cause and effect, and if it's a 20-year delay, people never correlate the cause.
Cousens: All they know is we've got more cancer.
Mike: Right, and they think it's genetic sometimes.
Cousens: Yes, sometimes definitely. So that's one problem with genetically engineered food: Our bodies are not designed to handle it, and it causes distortion in the body, chaos in the body. We can think about disease as chaos in the field; that's a different way of talking about it. Healing is bringing coherence to the field.
Mike: Coherence, and I see your staff is bringing more coherence to every lunch through intention. I'd like you to speak to this some more, but let me pose a question to you here that is about, I tend to call it, the homeopathy of foods. Now, these foods have water; there is energy. What energy are people getting from warehouse foods, processed foods or slaughtered animals, and is that a legitimate concern that there is an energy, not just the chemistry?
Cousens: Yes, it's a good question and the answer is yes. Now, what do we mean? First of all, food has water. Water has been proven to be a transmitter of vibration. You can project love in the food or in the water, and you would change the structure. When we pray over the food, you get love, you get peace, and you're eating that; it's a literal vibration that's in the water. Just the opposite happens if you add anger and pain into the food; that's a problem, and when an animal is killed, it has fear that goes into the energy of food. Fear, misery and cruelty go into the energy of the food.
Mike: And yet, people can even pray over their own meal and enhance it; they don't need a circle of people.
Cousens: You want to pray before, and even a kabalistic scene tradition; you pray afterwards, to give thanks.
Mike: What about this great respect, this honoring of nature that I see here and this companionship between individuals and nature? How much of a thread through the teachings and the experience here is that?
Cousens: It's a big thread because nature is a reflection of God. Nature is not God, but it's a reflection of God, and we're taught in the cabal that God is like the hand in the glove of nature.
Mike: What a great metaphor.
Cousens: It's taught that we are put here to study the planet and thereby know God. Now, that's one aspect. That's more mental, but nature also has a tremendous silence: You gaze at a tree and take in the silence of that tree; you gaze at a flower and you take in the energy of that flower, so you're taking in nature that way.
Mike: Do you teach or believe that planetary health is inextricably tied to personal health?
Cousens: Definitely. Our body is a small planet vibrating with a larger planet, and so if we eat organic foods, what happens? You're building up the soil because the pesticide and herbicide are basically creating an addiction of the planet, of the planetary soil. Whereas organic does just the opposite, it builds up a healthy soil that's very important for us. Genetically engineered food is a problem because it's polluting all the other organic foods on the planet, which is no small deal because they don't know what they're doing.
Mike: Right, they experiment.
Cousens: I'm not criticizing because they don't know what they're doing; because no one knows. I'm criticizing because they're acting as if they do know what they're doing. We don't know; this is a very serious thing that's happening.
Mike: There's all this cross-pollination going on out there.
Cousens: Yes, I mean there's corn in Mexico that they generically engineered, and 60 miles away other corn gets pollinated. It's no small thing. Now, you're ruining thousands of years of corn that has been growing in relationship to the people, and you're creating an aberration in the field what we eat, how we eat. You know, there are maybe 40 to 60 million people starving; we don't know exactly. It's an estimate, and it's estimated that if only 10 percent of the meat eaters in the United States became vegans, there would be enough food to feed those 40 to 60 million people, so meat eating is kind of like hoarding those resources.
Mike: Yes, you have to grab land, cut down rain forest for grazing land.
Cousens: You waste the water. A meat eater indirectly wastes 4,500 gallons, versus 300 for a vegetarian.
Mike: Yet around the world in many cultures, especially in Asia, for example, they almost look at Western culture and think, "We need steak; we need McDonald's; we need Marlborough cigarettes." They worship it, in a sense. I mean this is a prominent way of thinking.
Cousens: That's changing a little bit because the United States is the way it is, but it is that way. It's really strange because these cultures have lived. Maybe they're out of touch to me, but they're not causing massive imbalance.
Mike: Right, their indigenous diets were far healthier. If I may ask a different question then, how do you make this practical for a working person, let's say, living in the United States a mother who has children, who has a day job? How does she take any of this into her life and integrate it in a meaningful way, given the time limitations?
Cousens: Well, first of all, it doesn't take a lot of time to prepare live foods, (except) if you're going to be fancy, it takes a lot of time. I prepare a lot of the recipes in Conscious Eating in 10 minutes for my lunch; that's it. You need a blender, you know, and what's the benefit? How much time do you spend running to the doctor? Sure, how much time do you spend running to your doctor, dealing with your kid's earache and tonsil infections? You don't really have very much of that eating non-dairy live food, so it saves time in the long run, but in the short run, surely, it's not that hard once you get some basic skills. You could put out a meal in a very, very short amount of time. I mean, how difficult is putting a salad together -- boom, boom, boom, put in a little nuts. Breakfast? Fruit and a smoothie. It's very, very easy.
Mike: Yes, there's no cooking time involved. You don't have to preheat the oven.
Cousens: Actually, less time.
Mike: What about at the gardening level? I can't help but see how labor intensive it is to really do it right, to grow organic foods? You know, for society at large, how do we as a nation, or even a community, do that?
Cousens: The same way we did it before. What did we do before we had shopping centers and supermarkets?
Mike: We had a very large percent of our population farming.
Cousens: That's one thing. The second thing is we will eventually get to a place where we'll be teaching farming: How to grow your own little greenhouse for a family of four. We're going in that direction; probably in another year will get to that place. If you can't do farming, you have two other options. You, for example, can contact a local organic farmer, and he will give you a certain amount of produce each month or each week. You just pay him a fee for the food. You support him; you get the food; you don't even have to go to the stores.
Mike: And it's all seasonal.
Cousens: Yes, so that's a very nice way to do it. You can learn to grow your own, or just go to the health food stores and, you know, they're big now. You can get organic food in a lot of the supermarkets you know, so it is available. As a mother, you still have to go to the supermarket, okay, so just buy organic versus the other. Big deal, what's the difference? By the time your children are two years old, they have half the pesticides and herbicides in their system that would be equivalent to being carcinogenic. A child who eats organic food has one-sixth the pesticides and herbicides of a child who is eating commercial food. We're doing a study about mothers' milk, and I'm not very happy about it because they are saying that it's so toxic. Now, I want to still say very clearly that taking mothers' milk is still better than doing anything else, but we're trying to figure out how to detox mothers, you know, before they get pregnant so that their milk is really good. Now, a vegetarian mother has one percent of the pesticides and herbicides in her breast milk as a meat-eating mother, so this is pretty important stuff.
Mike: Indeed, indeed. I mean that infant is depending on that for everything, nervous system growth ...
Cousens: Everything, and so we're talking about what's practical. For example, the study in Lake Michigan: I grew up in Chicago, and mothers who had fish more than one time a month excuse me, who just had fish one time a month because it's so polluted now had children with lower Apgar scores, which are reflexes when you're born, and lower SAT scores 16 to 18 years later.
Mike: Is that from the heavy metals?
Cousens: Well, I mean, the implication is that there was more toxicity than they started into the world with, and it affected their IQ and thinking ability from the get-go.
Mike: How do we function as a society when our children are so poisoned?
Cousens: We're doing poorly, you know. I mean, we have kind of a situation where people aren't doing that well, and our society is being weakened; there's no question about it. Hyperactivity is rampant, and then they put all the kids on drugs, so Ritalin is the equivalent of long-acting cocaine. That's kind of out there; that's not my statement. The fact is, in the last 15 years, it's hit you know, the poor brain function. The poor phenotypic expression from eating junk food over generations has not really begun to manifest. So, you talk about time spent. It's a lot of work to raise a kid with hyperactivity and dysfunctional this, that and the other. It's a lot of work, so wait a second, what is time saving? People realized that the number one cause of death among kids 15 and under was cancer? That's not normal.
Mike: Is that the case?
Cousens: Yes, it is. Besides suicide, the number one cause is cancer. Why? Kids are so toxic that their bodies can't handle it, and they get poisoned; they get cancer. That's what we're talking about.
Mike: In addition to the time, it's money, too. I mean, what's the cost of being sick? What's the cost of one day in a hospital bed?
Cousens: What's the emotional cost of having your child die of cancer, particularly brain cancer?
Mike: When people say organic foods look expensive, they need to do all the math the 10-year equations, not this week's equation.
Cousens: That's kind of really the point. There's a picture in my book, Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine, and it contrasts two sets of children who are in Mexico some are living in the mountaintop and some are living in the valley, everything else is the same. The kids in the valley couldn't even draw a picture. They had more pesticides because of the way pesticides are going downhill; they're not going uphill. They had lower reflexes, poor memories, poor social interaction and poor gross motor function. Literally, the kids in the mountaintop could draw pictures, you know, whereas the five and six year olds in the valley could barely squiggle, so that's the difference. That's the price people are paying to poison their kids for a few bucks, and it isn't a long-running question much more. In fact, I think it was the Philippines but I'm not sure, that they stopped doing pesticides and herbicides on the rice because the medical costs of treating the workers from the poisoning was greater than any profit they would make from the yield, so it's bigger mathematics.
Mike: A common theme of everything that people experience here is looking at the big picture: "What am I affecting, how is it affecting me and what's the long-term here?"
Cousens: We're really preparing people to be models, to affect their friends. It's just a very "one- person-at-a-time" type thing, and it just spreads as a wave going out.
Mike: Well, I want to say on the record that we have about five minutes or less here, but I want to say that I'm very glad to know that you're here, that you exist, that this place exists and it gives me hope to know that maybe we have a shot at actually living in relative peace on this planet, peace with nature even. Not just peace among people, but peace with nature. I'm really touched.
Cousens: Well, thank you for being so open to what we have to share and being willing to share that because that's how it spreads. I mean, if we're going to heal the planet, we all have to participate. There's a Native American saying, Mitakuye Oyasin which means "To all my relations." It doesn't mean your cousins, aunts and uncles. It means all the animal life, all the plant life, the living Earth itself and also the humans. It's peace on all those levels, and then we can heal the planet. I am convinced we will heal the planet. It's not maybe; we will heal the planet.
Mike: How does that unfold? In three minutes or less, what does that look like?
Cousens: It starts with the individual. It starts with an individual eating a healthy way, living a healthy way and thinking healthy thoughts. Then, as the mind gets clear, being able to create what I'm calling the global brain. The global brain already exists. We can fill it with TV, fear, misery, cruelty and greed, or we can fill it with love, sharing and compassion. I believe that the more we fill it with love, sharing, compassion and peace, in time, everybody will get it, and it doesn't take that many people, you know, maybe one percent of the population. We have to do it by practicing. People are now beginning to pay attention because they're seeing their kids being sick. The rate of cancer is unbelievable, and you're not going to solve it by figuring out some kind of drug; you've got to change your life. There's an old Chinese saying: "If you keep going in that direction, you'll actually end up in that direction." If you're going to eat junk food, you're going to get junk-food minds, junk-food people and junk-food children, and you're going to pay that price. If you go organic, you're going to get people who live organically, think organically and have a long-range view of things. See, that it's, as they call it, seven generations. You have to have a seven-generation view, and that's what makes the difference.
You know, we're very open. There's a book called Culture Creatives; I don't know if you've heard of it. There's about 50 million people in the United States who are open to these kinds of things, but don't have as much access, and we're really modeled, in a sense, to inspire the culture creatives to go to the next step in their lives. They're not all vegetarians; they're not all this; they're not all that; they're just people who are open to living a more thoughtful life, and our job as an oasis is an awakening to support them in leading a more creative and thoughtful life.
Mike: You're reading an interview with Gabriel Cousens, M.D., founder of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona, also a raw food enthusiast and a spiritual... how would you describe yourself?
Cousens: Teacher, physician of the soul.
Mike: There you go. Thank you so much for taking this time.
Cousens: It's a delight to speak to you. I really appreciate the interview because your questions were so thoughtful and perceptive, so thank you.