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A Happy Childhood, A Healthy Adulthood A Discussion on the Holistic Education for Children Relating to the Body, Mind, and Spirit

Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.

Man proclaims himself to be the “Master of all Creatures”. The primary difference between man and animal lies in their spirituality. In the last 200 years though, materialism has eroded man’s spirituality and his awareness of it. In fact, some people are no different from animals. The obvious areas that have become victims of materialism include the fields of education, medicine, and farming.

In every crisis, a savior will appear. In education, one such person was Dr Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf school, which has establishments in 36 countries. Dr Steiner was born in Austria in 1861 and died in 1925. He was a scientist, a spiritualist who made important directions in the fields of education, farming, medicine, architecture, literature, arts, education for the handicapped, philosophy, Buddhism, and Christianity. He created Anthroposophy, the study of human spiritual wisdom, which presently has schools and branches throughout the world.

In education, Dr Steiner, through his observation of the needs of a person as he progressed in life, suggested ways to aid and satisfy the needs of a student in the classroom. Man is a thinking person with feelings and aspirations. Hence, education must be the integration of a man’s head, heart, and hands.

Over 1000 Waldorf schools have been established since 1919. In the past 80 years, Dr Steiner’s educational principles have been widely recommended by educational systems, parents, teachers, and students in the west. Graduates from the Waldorf programmes have great success in enrolling into the best universities. In 1981, statistics by the German Education Department showed that the passing rates of students in Waldorf schools taking the national ARBITUR examinations were three times that of those from public schools; the passing rate rose to six times for students who completed the 12 years of the Waldorf programme. The American educationist, Joseph Chilton Pearce (author of ‘Magical Child’ and ‘Crack in the Cosmic Egg’) made the following commentary on the Waldorf programme: “This educational system is timely and most ideal for children and society. Amidst the current crisis in the educational system, Steiner’s method is extremely necessary.”

Dr Steiner’s view on education is that educators should put in their utmost effort to enable a person to find meaning and direction in his life. Hence, the system has three core fences: imagination, sense of truth, and sense of responsibility. Dr Steiner also believed that the real purpose of education is to enable students to realize the true freedom. This is made possible by developing their power of observation and their ability to decide. He observed that from birth to adulthood, man has to pass through three phases of education, each of which lasts about 7 years.

The first stage is from birth till the time the children shed their baby teeth. The key learning mode here is through imitation. During this period, it is important to provide a warm and conducive environment. Parents and those interacting with the children need to set personal examples, as teaching by example is more important than verbal instruction at this stage. Children need to feel the beauty and virtues in their experiences; the ancient Chinese story of Mencius’ mother is an illustration of the importance of the environment. During this time, physically, the child grows rapidly, and all the body’s resources are expanded towards nurturing a healthy bodily system. Hence, we cannot prematurely bring forward children’s learning of language and mathematics as this will deplete their resources for the rest of their lives, resulting in premature aging. History is repleted with examples of geniuses dying young. There have been instances of children who entered Harvard at 16 but died by 40 because their bodies started deteriorating after 35. Also, if children encounter too much suffering and pain when young, they will also face more illnesses in adulthood.

The second stage starts from age seven to adolescence. At this time, the child needs to look up to authority as role model. Hence, teachers play an important role here; for they can inculcate morality and respect in children with the help of fairy tales, fables, history, and stories of heroes. At the same time, this period provides opportunities for children to co-ordinate their limbs with their mind and feelings, and to learn arithmetic. Lessons for children of this age must start from an overall perspective and relate to things around them. For example, geography starts from one’s room, progressing to the house, the city, the country, and finally the world. Science begins with the children’s own creative drawings. During the first eight years of education, children are not given report cards but are provided with feedback based on their teachers’ observations of their growing-up process. One teacher is used throughout the entire eight years, with the exception of language and music lessons. In this way, the teacher can have a very thorough understanding of the children, and develop a relationship built from trust.

The third stage begins from adolescence to the time when the children turn 21 years of age. This is the time when the individual’s decision-making abilities are developed, when the external world is investigated, and when the realities about oneself and one’s values are explored.

In summary, children’s needs are – a moral world in the first stage, a beautiful world in the second stage, and a world with realities and truths in the third stage. Dr Steiner emphasized the need to respect the unique features of every child because the child is not a blank sheet of paper. The child’s talents can be detected from the traits of the mother, and his interests from those of the father. These observations can help children develop ambitions that they can aspire for and attain with ease.

The Waldorf system and thoughts, with its headquarters in Switzerland, have been established in Japan and India, where instructional courses are held for teachers in other major countries. Along the east and west coast of USA there are institutes and universities providing training for teachers. The address of the Rudolf Steiner College in North California is: Rudolf Steiner College, 9200 Fair Oaks Blvd, Fair Oaks, CA 95628; telephone: (916) 961 8731. Reference books include: “The Foundation of Human Experience”, “Education of the Child”, and “Kingdom of Childhood”. Steiner’s works are in German, but English translations can be obtained from: Anthroposophic Press 3390 Route 9, Hudson, NY 12534-9420.

You can choose to be healthy

Chiu-Nan Lai, PH.D

Health is a choice we make. Indeed, factors that affect our personal health also influence the health of the earth. Yet, why do so many people select lifestyles that result in cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis; the death of 20 million people from starvation annually; the destruction of one acre of natural forest every second; and the extraction of 1000 plants species every year. We have forgotten that we co-exist with 30 million species of plants and animals, nor can we distinguish between fact and advertisements.

To select health, we must make adjustments in our lives, and be willing to choose from only four species of food: vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. This is also the recommendation made in 1991 by doctors from the Ethical Medicine Group. We need to use fewer plastic bags, bring our own carriers or cloth bags for grocery shopping, and frequently be close to nature. For every new vegetarian, one acre of forest will be protected.

When I was speaking in Singapore and Sarawak in October 1994, I found out that the incidence of cancer was ten times higher in Singapore than Sarawak and the incidence of heart attacks was about six times more. Why? Singapore is a city and depends on food imports that are largely processed. Singaporeans tend to eat more meat including seafood. Chicken rice is also one of Singaporeans’ favorite local food. Yet cancer patients should avoid eating chicken as it will cause cancer cells to grow rapidly. In addition, imported vegetables tend to have agricultural chemicals.

In contrast, Malaysia has a higher proportion of people living a rural lifestyle, who grow their own fruits and vegetables in their backyards. They also eat less meat.

The questions fielded by 20,000 Singaporeans who attended my talks revolved around illnesses, particularly those which doctors claim to be incurable. Malaysians had fewer such questions.

Water quality in the two countries also differs. In East Malaysia, the water is clear as its natural state is unspoilt. The local consumes wild vegetables and fruits found in the forest. Very clearly, this shows the importance of nature to our health. The price of city living is too high. The people in Sarawak have a more peaceful disposition. They are contented and therefore more healthy. On the contrary, Singaporeans emphasize a high efficiency levels, which create stress in their well-being.

We must reconsider our priorities and choose wisely.

Taking Care Of Your Kidney

Chiu-Nan Lai, PH.D

The kidney is one of the most important organs. It is responsible for the body’s metabolism, toxin elimination, excretion, and maintenance of the balance of bodily fluids. All bodily fluids pass through the kidney 20 times an hour (the metabolic wastes transported by the blood are excreted as urine). The maladjustment of the kidney can trigger off lumbodorsal aching, edema, high blood pressure, urethritis, exhaustion, insomnia, hair loss, slow response, depression, fear, the presence of urotoxin in the blood and even mental derangement.

The kidney depends on 2,000,000 Nephrons to filter off the pollutants in blood. Everything that enters the body passes through the kidney. These include food, drinks, foreign particles, and toxins. The greater the quantity of the pollutants, the heavier the workload on the kidney. The first symptoms of an overworked kidney are kidney blocking and inflammation. Long-term effects are impure blood, calculus, and hypofunction. More serious conditions may be life-threatening, and dialysis will be required.

Prevention is better than cure. The best we can do is to avoid harming our kidney. Below are a number of factors which contribute to kidney maladjustment:

  1. Over-consumption of animal food such as meat, eggs, etc. High protein foods cause the formation of uric acid which strains the kidney.
  2. Over-exhaustion and lack of relaxation.
  3. Consumption of Western medicine, such as Penicillin.
  4. Pollution of the water, air, land, and sound.
  5. Over-consumption of alcoholic beverages, coffee, aerated and soft drinks.
  6. Cold and humid weather.
  7. Inadequate consumption of water.

To protect your kidneys, shun the above factors from your daily life. Eat more organic vegetarian food, have enough rest, drink Reverse Osmosis water. Choose a day every week where you consume only fruits and water for the whole day. Refrain from exposing your lumbo to the cold in winter, massage the lumbodorsal, and practice “Waidangong” or Qigong to fortify your kidneys.

Below is a 3-day kidney food-therapy originated from Turkey:

Crush a cup of watermelon seeds and mix it with 12 cups of water which has been boiled for 3 minutes. Leave 4 cups of mixture at room temperature, put the remaining 8 cups in the fridge. Drink 1/3 of the mixture every hour. For 3 days, follow the following diet programme:

Breakfast – watermelon
Lunch – yogurt, whole-meal bread/ rice and uncooked vegetables.
Dinner – steamed pears or apple sauce mixed with yogurt and soya milk.

After 3 days, continue to consume the watermelon seed drink and watermelon for breakfast for 14 days. After that, meals should be based on organic vegetables and fruits for best results.

Below is a folk prescription for kidney food therapy:

  1. For kidney failure resulting in one’s inability to excrete urine – drink boiled parsley roots in water.
  2. For calculus
  • Eat a dozen lemons a day for 5 days.
  • Boil a spoonful of desiccated (taraxacum?) root with 4 cups of apple juice for 10 minutes.
  • Drink 3 times a day, 2/3 cup each.

    For hypofunction, replenish Magnesium intake. Dark green leaves, grains, beans and peas are all rich in Magnesium.


Saving The Environment Begins With A Handkerchief

Chiu-Nan Lai, PH.D

When I was young, I used to carry a handkerchief in my pocket for wiping perspiration and my hands. Since attending high school in the States, tissues began to replace my handkerchief. Only those who love outdoor activities or sportsman use handkerchiefs.

Few years ago, an Australian doctor mentioned that Dioxane, a very toxic chemical, is produced when manufacturing and bleaching paper. This chemical has heavily damaged the earth and created many health problems. Dioxane can cause injuries to the central nervous system, cause the death of liver and kidney, damage the skin and lungs, and cause cancer. This doctor produced her handkerchief to demonstrate a way of protecting the environment. She explained that using the handkerchief to wipe the nose is hygienic as bacteria will not survive once the cloth is dried. A handkerchief could be used many times before being washed.

After learning this, I started to use the handkerchief again; the big squarish kind that is normally used for mountaineering. Initially I was not used to it, but it soon became a habit. I have not bought tissues for the past few years and do not feel the need for it. It is indeed very wasteful and environmentally unhealthy to have tissues being used so widely. This little handkerchief incident makes one realize that environmental protection and pollution is only a matter of changing habits. If we only spend a little more time to reflect on the consequences of our daily habits and choose a way that treats the environment with care, we could improve the environment we live in and avoid future calamities.

Food shortage is one of the many calamities we may face. Those living in industrialized countries could hardly imagine the pressure created from the scarcity of the earth’s resources such as water and land when agricultural nations enter into industrialization. In China particularly, when there is a population of 1.2 billion, when the nation begins to drive cars, consume meat and eggs, drink beer, the effect on the earth is nothing less than a catastrophe.

In 1988, Lester Brown from the Worldwatch Institute observed that when the densely populated agricultural countries progress towards industrialization, they can no longer be self-sufficient in producing food and have to rely on imports. This is due to the sacrifice of cropland for industries and roads. As their economy develop, the nation’s diet increases in variety; more will consume eggs and poultry products, ice cream, beer, etc. Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam are amongst the most densely populated countries and have developed into industrialized nations over the past thirty years. Statistics in 1994 showed that 72% of Japan’s food consumption were imported, Vietnam, 62% and Taiwan, 76%. When China becomes fully developed, food shortage could be predicted. Brown wrote an article “Who will feed China?” in 1994. Looking at the rate of food consumption in China, there is not one country which could satisfy its needs. For the period 1993 to 1994, China exported 8 million tons of grains. However, by 1994/1995, it imported 1.46 million tons of grains. In actual fact, its grain insufficiency was more than reported. However, to stabilize the increasing price of grains, the China government released its grain reserves. Projecting its demand, China would have to import 3 to 4 billion tons of grains by the year 2030; twice the amount of today’s total world export. Currently, there are ten developing countries relying on food import. Using the current rate of population increase, food import in 2030 will be the total of the world’s export in 1994. In addition, more countries such as India, Iran, Pakistan, Mexico are also increasing their reliance on import. We are facing a serious food shortage.

The world’s population of grain is hampered by the scarcity of irrigated agricultural land. The increase in the world’s population leads to an increased demand for food which will widen the gap between supply and demand. There are two solutions to this problem. We could either limit population growth or advocate environment protection via our diet, i.e., consuming grains and legumes as staple food together with greens and fruits. The reason for China’s conversion from an exporting to an importing nation is that with its increase in per capita income and with affluence, there is more meat consumption. Meat consumption increased from 8kg per person in 1973 to 32kg per person in 1994. Its total consumption is more than that in the United States. Besides, the government of China has encouraged increased consumption of eggs from the current 100 per head to 200 per head by the year 2000. This is very close to the 235 eggs per head in America. The target of rearing 13 billion chickens and the demand for 24 billion tons of grains is equivalent to Canada’s current total annual export.

In addition, beer consumption has increased tremendously. If everyone in China consumes a bottle of beer, 370 thousand tons of grains will be required. Production volume was 1 billion liters in 1981 and this has increased thirteen folds by 1994. China’s beer consumption is now more than that of Germany and second only to America. When we realize that our daily habit can either result in calamity or safety, we will choose to use the handkerchief instead of tissues, drink water instead of beer, take grains, vegetables, and fruits instead of meat, poultry, and dairy products. Should we create an Earth with enough food for each and every one, or one where only some has plenty to eat while others die of hunger?

The choice is ours. It begins with the use of a handkerchief, from a mouthful of rice, or a glass of water.