Interviewsand Articles


A Conversation with Shin-Ichiro Terayama: A Radical Healing Story

by Rahul Brown/Richard Whittaker, Nov 3, 2018



This conversation took place as an Awakin Call on May 19, 2018.
Rahul Brown: host
Richard Whittaker: moderator

Rahul:  The purpose of our weekly Awakin Calls is to share stories from change-makers from around the globe. Our hope is that these conversations will plant seeds for a more compassionate and service-oriented society while catalyzing our own inner transformation. Behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this beautiful space. We're grateful to them and to all of you, our worldwide listeners, for helping us co-create this space of deep listening and dialogue.
     Today we’re fortunate to have a remarkable luminary with us, Shin Terayama, dialing in from Tokyo, Japan. His personal journey and extraordinary life have been both inspiring and tremendously impactful. Having regularly worked twelve to fifteen hours a day, every day, to achieve success, he had a record of professional accomplishments and provided well for his family. He became the president of his own consulting firm in his forties. At the age of 46, he found himself facing the advanced stages of kidney cancer. His doctors informed him that he had only a few months to live. In 1984 he voluntarily checked himself out of a hospital to die at home. That was thirty-four years ago.
     Richard Whittaker is our moderator today. Richard, thank you so much for joining us.
Richard:  Thank you, Rahul. I hadn’t heard about Shin, and I read about him with great astonishment. I thought this is a story far more people need to hear about.
     Rahul and I had the pleasure of talking with Shin a couple of days ago on Skype. We were both really touched by his delightful energy. So Shin, thank you so much for being here with us. I think it’s 1 am in Tokyo. Are you feeling OK, even though it's so late?
Shin:  Yes, I'm OK.
Richard:  When we spoke earlier, I think you said that you run every day. Did you go running yesterday?

Shin:  Yes. And I watch the sunrise, even if it's cloudy.
Richard:  What a beautiful practice.
Shin:  When I had cancer, I thought, “Today is my last day.” So, I always say to the sun, “Today is the last day to meet you.”
     So, hello, everybody in the world! Richard, good morning! Thank you very much for giving me a chance to talk about my experience of healing my cancer 35 years ago. I'm now 83 years old. So at that time, I was 48 and I actually sent my love to my cancer. This is my most, most important message to you.

Richard:   Thank you, Shin. We want to hear more about this, but would you tell us a little about your life before the cancer appeared?
Shin:   I studied solid state physics in the university and joined Toshiba. I stayed more than five years and returned to the university as an assistant to the Professor. Then I found my own job, at a venture business. At that time, it was the beginning of the computer business. Many companies failed to introduce computers to their companies. So I was helping companies and people change their systems. I worked very hard from morning until night. I slept only two or three hours a night, sometimes in a sleeping bag.
Richard:  That's amazing! And I read that there were many cups of coffee every day.
Shin:  Yes! I was always fighting a sleepy head (laughing)...
Richard:  Okay. You were extremely busy. But in 1984 that life came to sudden stop.
Shin:  Yes. Before I was diagnosed in 1984, I was very tired. My shoulder and neck was very stiff. I went to the hospital, but nothing was found. At that time my friend advised me to join a yoga class, and I did. After the lesson was finished, the yoga teacher pulled me aside and said, "Your aura is very dirty. Your chakra is closed."
     I didn't know such words at that time.
    Then blood came in my urine and I went to the hospital to check. At that time a young doctor, he checks; he taps by his hand my body (usually they don't do that) and he found something hard, sticking out. A lot of doctors came and said, in very quiet voices, “It's urgent to have an operation!”
     I listened, but I had a lot of work to do and didn’t want to enter the hospital to have an operation. Then about five months later, my body deteriorated. So I decided to have the tumor removed. After that, there was chemotherapy and then radiation—so my body was very weak. The white blood cells decreased to less than 1000. I couldn't walk easily and I thought I would die soon. I didn't know that I was suffering from cancer because my wife told me, “You don't have cancer.”
Richard:  So you didn't know?
Shin:  I didn't know that. It's my wife's style. At that time in Japan, only 20-30% of cancer patients were told they had cancer. Many people were very afraid of cancer in Japan. About 37% of all deaths were cancer patients. It’s the #1 cause of death in Japan, and every year it's increasing. My body recovering from cancer is unique. And many people listen to my talks in Japan.
Richard:  But at a certain point somehow you learned you had cancer, right?
Shin:  That's right. My body was deteriorating. One night, I had a very strange dream. I was watching my body in a coffin. I was looking at my funeral from afar. It was a very big sign. Then suddenly, when I woke up, my senses had increased strongly.
Richard:  Would you say that your dream was the first time  a different kind of connection with reality took place?

Shin:  Yes. It was a very strange dream. Several days later I left my hospital bed and went to the rooftop of the hospital. I wanted to have fresh air because I was now so much more sensitive to smells. So I snuck away from the nurse station and went to the rooftop where there was wonderful air outside.
      Then the nurse was trying to find me and finally, she came to the rooftop. When she saw me, she said, “Don't do it! Don't do it!” She was very afraid I was going to jump from the rooftop.
     Five nurses came up and took me by stretcher back down to the hospital room again. The nurse reported to my doctor that I had tried to jump from the rooftop. So the doctor came and was very angry. She suddenly said, “Do you want to return to your home?” “
     Oh, yes!” I said, and I finally returned to my home.  

Richard:  Then not long after that, you were on a rooftop and watched the sunrise. Would you tell about that?

Shin:  This happened when I returned home. While I was staying at the hospital sometimes I used to see the sun, but not sunrise. When I returned home I couldn't eat anything. I couldn’t drink tap water because to me, it smelled very bad. I tried to find good water for me and also, at the same time, I secretly drank my own urine.
     I learned that from Robinson Crusoe. When I was small, I read through such books. Before my disease, I’d experienced fasting three times. So I knew that to not eat anything is better than to eat something. So I fasted for ten days with only water and my body was getting better.
     The other most important thing is my family has a wonderful loving energy. They gave me so much. So I felt so wonderful stationed in my family. That is completely different from the hospital, which gives a business kind of feeling—like for example, checking the temperature, always checking-checking-checking. I don't like such systems. It is like a business battlefield!

Richard:  Yes.

Shin:  Then, one morning I saw sunrise coming into the room, very bright. I realized that I am still alive. So next morning, I tried to see the sunrise, because the sunrise is the evidence that I am still alive today. Isn't it wonderful?

Richard:  Yes, every day you see the sun, you're still alive!

Shin:  Yes. Then I did it! The sunrise was so, so beautiful. Unbelievably beautiful!!  [said with great feeling]

Richard:  Can you tell us what happened with the sunlight?

Shin:  Okay. So watching the sunrise, I have a very deep breathing—inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. [very animated]
     It was so wonderful! Fresh air makes me so happy!! And I decided to see the sunrise the next day. The next morning I said to the Sun, “I am still alive! I am very happy!” It's very funny. It was a wonderful conversation. And with very deep breathing—in and out. I felt so much happiness.

Richard:  I can hear the depth of your joy in being alive, with the sunlight and the fresh air.

Shin: Yes, it's a joyful moment for me because I'm still alive, and I am getting better than yesterday without any medical treatment, without any painkiller.
     I will say something about my painkillers. When I returned to my home, the doctor prepared many painkillers for me. The cancer had metastasized into my right kidney and I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t sleep. When I was in the hospital I would always ask the nurse, “Please give me pain killer.” Then, when I took so much painkiller, my mind was very funny. So now back at home, when I touched parts that had pain, I felt, “This is my child.” I felt sorry, as I felt I had created my cancer by myself. I now felt, “It’s my responsibility.” So I felt sorry. This was my baby. This is a very important message. In the hospital, I could sleep without painkiller. When I returned home, I threw all the painkillers into the trash. I stopped taking them.

Richard:  This new relationship with your tumor, feeling that it was your own creation, that helped you and the pain went away—is that what you're saying?

Shin:  Yes. In your country, mothers say, “Pain, Pain, go away!” It's the same thing. I focused on that. And every day I didn't take any medicine, only drink water and urine, and no food. And I was getting better. Isn't it wonderful!?

Richard:  And by the time you’re now describing, you had already accepted death and you were no longer afraid of dying—is that right?

Shin:  That happened when I saw the sunrise. Earlier, I had a very strong fear because I have three children with my wife and I thought I would die soon leaving my family.
     Then I had the sunrise and the very deep breathing came. I also recited my favorite poem by Kenji Miyazawa. In it there is a very beautiful sentence, "Not being greedy, never being angry, one always keeps inner calm and peace.” Isn't it beautiful?

Richard:  Yes!

Shin:  This is a very long poem and takes about a few minutes to recite. During that time, I felt every day is my last day. But I am still alive! So everyday, I said to myself, “I am still alive! Tomorrow I don't know what will happen.” And the Sun smiled at me, and I smiled back. And during that time I had some “Ommmmmmmmm" [intones strongly] breathing.
     I found chakra was vibrating by doing such thing. Then I found all seven chakras of the body. Chakras are energy centers—of energy going out and coming in. Every morning I activated all seven by doing this poem. Chakras are very, very important to live healthier. And when they were getting much more active, I was getting much happier and much healthier. And I could do it by myself, without any medicine! Chakras are very important to heal cancer.

Richard:  To be open enough to allow that energy to penetrate inside, and to receive that energy, right?

Shin: Yes. And I continued every day—when it's rainy, when it's cloudy. I'm still doing such things. So, about two months later, one morning I had a very strange sensation in my body. When the sun came up, the sunlight came into my heart circle. It was amazing. Very strong energy came into a cave in my heart. It was connected from head to tail. Now I use the word kundalini, but then I didn’t know that. It's like, like astrological sex (laughs). You’re a man, so you can understand the male sensation of sex?

Richard:  Right.

Shin:  So I enjoyed it very much. But after that experience, when I returned to my apartment on the second floor, from the eighth floor, I saw everyone's head shining—everybody's aura!

Richard:  This whole story is just amazing.

Shin:  Then also at that time, I was able to eat small amounts of macrobiotic food.

Richard:  Would you talk about your first bites of food, when you hadn't eaten all those days? What that was like?

Shin:  Before and during my disease, I always ate meat, meat, meat. So my face was very puffy. But after I changed my diet to macrobiotic, without meat or fish, my face was smiling! Unbelievably changed. So I practice it very much.

Richard:  How did it go returning to eating? What do you remember?

Shin:  Hmm. It wasn't food. At first it was small amounts of apple juice. I sipped for 18 to 30 minutes—slowly, slowly. And when I completely drank the apple juice, my body was something energetic, by only from small amount of food—initiation of body! Maybe it's like for the baby when first given mother's milk. It's some kind of sensation like a small baby has of food.
     Then I could walk slowly, slowly—and still continued watching the sunrise. So getting better, I started walking—five minutes and then thirty minutes, then one hour. And my appetite increased very strongly. I went to a forest space in Japan for a week, a month. There I had very wonderful air, wonderful food and Yoga class—and I enjoyed very much.

Richard:  You've been sharing some of the most intense parts of your experience and then somehow you got back to your cello. And that was also important, right?

Shin:  Yes, yes! I stopped my cello for more than twenty years, because I was so busy. Then I started to practice my cello every day, and the cello sound healed me so much. So when I give a talk to many people, I say playing the cello is my medicine— without any bad side effect. I know the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation so much. And by operation, I lost my lung and kidney. I still have one kidney, but I'm enjoying myself everyday by practicing cello! Cello sound heals the body very much. Amazing power the cello has!

Richard:  Somewhere, I think you described that playing, that the vibrations and sound of your cello, was detoxifying every cell.

Shin:  Yes. And at the same time, I went to the public baths. My body was very cold at that time, and public baths have lots of warm water. After bathing for a half in the hot water, my body sweat so much. Sweating is cleansing so much. Also I had a hot bath and a cold bath. Hot bath is giving my skin so nice a soak. And after I get out from a hot bath, cold water, from head to toe is also activating.

Richard:  You discovered all kinds of things that healed you, and you were following your own intuition, right?

Shin:  Yes. Intuition! I think the most important message from my experience in healing cancer is that cancer is healed by using natural healing power. Now in Japan, people with cancer try to do such things, and many heal by themselves without any conventional medicine.

Richard:  In Japan, a lot of people are following your example? They're following their own intuition. Is that what you're saying?

Shin: Yes. All the time I'm saying, “Please don't imitate me! Please find yourself; try to find the best way. Please enjoy your adventure to heal your body! That wonderful adventure.”

Richard:  This is a wonderful adventure. That's a nice way to put it. Adventure is also discovery and opening to new experiences, I would think.

Shin:  Yes, Richard. You are so wonderful person! So every time I found something in my way of living, changing my lifestyle. So when people ask me how to heal my body, I say, “Congratulations! You are the man to heal yourself. You have the power in your body. Please feel something, a healing power in your body.” That is very important. If you can feel, you can heal by yourself. It's a key. So I usually say healing occurs by feeling something.

Richard:  Healing occurs by feeling something, is that what you said?

Shin:  Yes, yes.

Richard:  By feeling something. That's important because a lot of people have difficulty in feeling things.

Shin:  Yes. When people are very afraid of something—so much horror—healing power is very low. But when you are so happy, you feel so much healing power inside. Please enjoy! Enjoy! Joy is a very wonderful crest of living activity. “En-joy” is a very beautiful word! Enjoy it! I continued such a lifestyle for three and a half years after discharging from the hospital.

Richard:  Would you talk a little bit about your experience at Findhorn?

Shin:  Yes. I was invited as a speaker at their conference. People came to the conference. They knew that Shin was recovering from cancer by himself. They came to me, and everyone hugged.

Richard:  They all wanted to hug you!

Shin:  Yes! In Japanese custom, we don't have any such system.  

Richard:  It's no hugging in Japan?

Shin:  No. Hugging is spreading by itself. Yes. I think so. It is very funny—when people find me, they say, “Hug me!”

Richard:  When I was looking at you on the screen, a couple of days ago, I would have loved to hug you, Shin! [laughs]

Shin:  Wow. Thank you very much!  

​​​​​​​Rahul:  I would love to hug you both, as well! And I'm sure many on the call would, too. Maybe we can do one more question, Richard, before we transition into Q&A.

Shin:  After I returned from Findhorn, I went to hospital to check my x-rays. The cancer was gone.

Richard:  After the trip to Findhorn, and the hugging, there were no more tumors?

Shin:  No more tumors, and never happened again. Four months later, I went to the American Medical Association Conference and I met Andrew Weil. I have very strong connection to American people. Five months later in Bangalore, India the first International Health and Medical Conference was held, and I met Andrew Weil again. On my trip to India, a very smart boy was sitting next to me on the plane.  He was asking me about so many things. He was going to India from the US through Japan with his father and mother and his brother. At that time his mother had very strong pain in her knee, and I asked him is it okay for me to do something? He nodded, so I asked his mother. With touch, in ten minutes healing, this made her knee pain disappear.

Richard:   This was through putting your hand on her knee?

Shin:  Yes. And twenty years later, this same boy was invited to a Japanese Peace Convention. And before he was coming to Japan, he asked Saionji-san to find the person whose name is Shin and who healed cancer by himself. And Saionji-san— Mika-san—was like, “Yeah. I know him!” Unbelievable!

Richard:  Are you going to share who these people were who you met on the plane?

Shin:  Yes. He came to Japan last year and asked me about coming to India to Gandhi 3.0 retreat. I enjoyed it very much. The course is very, very, nice—giving unbelievable power!   All of the people were smiling, smiling, smiling...

​​​​​​​Rahul:  Well, it’s beautiful to hear from you, Shin. And for those of us who've been around a long time, we know the encounter with you on the airplane was a pivotal moment in Nipun and Viral and Dinesh and Harshida auntie's life [Mehta family].
     In many ways, I think we owe a lot to that encounter for all of the beauty that has come out of the ServiceSpace ecosystem since then. It was really one of the moments that blew their minds, and I think what you shared with them in that plane ride shifted their journeys in a big way, and we've all been beneficiaries of that.
And so we'll just go to the first question, if that's okay?

Shin: Yes, please.
​​​​​​Rahul:  Adonia asks: I'm wondering what one can do if she cannot love her illness. I suffer from a condition, but I'm too afraid to love it. So what can someone do in this case?

Shin:  For mother, when baby is hurt, baby starts to cry. But when mother has a loving consciousness in the mind, baby stops crying. So mother's mind is unconditional love. Not just love, unconditional love. It's so powerful. It's only give, give and give. Try it!

​​​​​​​Rahul:  Shin, there was another comment from Thu in Toronto. She says: I'm also learning how to love my cancer and will try your advice of meeting the sun every morning. Do you still hold your smile conference? And when is the next one? I would like to come.

Shin:  Wow. Wow. Maybe this September? I'll be in the US to join the conference called ISSSCEM held in Kansas City. If somebody wants to meet me, I will get some place.

​​​​​​​Rahul:  That's very generous of you. We may just have many new flights being booked to Kansas City, at this point. Here’s the next question.

Caller:  Hi Shin. It was really good to know about your very inspiring journey. I lost my husband two months back to cancer, and now I strongly believe in natural healing of body, mind and soul. I'm in the United States currently and I'm going to India in one month. That's where I live, in India, and I really want to help others who will need some guidance in this, and how to make them believe that natural treatment and unconventional treatment is going to cure you.

Shin:  Okay. Everybody is sure to die. See? Die, by yourself, by your effort! People may be very surprised to hear that. Everybody is sure to die, but soul does not die. Get some book, get the Book of the Dead. It's so helpful for people. And if the people cannot do by themselves, finally please go to doctor and pay the money.
     But if you can heal by yourself, you don't need to go to hospital or other people's help. Your body is your body. It's not other person's body. So all the annual health checkups, that's the special job of a medical doctor [laughs]. Is it okay?

​​​​​​​Rahul:  We've got a comment from Rashmi Kumar in Mumbai, India. She says, “I've also overcome cancer and I am so glad to be on this call today. Wishing Shin Terayama many more sunrises and a virtual hug from Rashmi in India.”

Viral Mehta:  Shin-san, it’s good to hear your voice after 20 some odd years. I was on that plane that you were describing earlier, from Japan to India. I'm Nipun's brother and it is so joyful to hear your voice again after so long. As Rahul said, the ripple effects of your unconditional love and generosity on that plane trip have been tremendous. They've not only changed so many other trajectories, but I just wanted to express my gratitude for the trajectory of my own life that was shifted so drastically by your unconditional love, and the way you shared about your own journey. In fact, I myself am undergoing some health conditions right now that are serious, and I feel so grateful because I feel the inspiration of your example.

Shin:  Thank you very much! So, you are still alive and when you are alive, give love, unconditional love! That's enough.

Viral:  It's a powerful lesson because, even though we haven't seen or talked with each other since then, that example from the plane ride still resonates for me today—and I do try to apply it in my own small way.

Shin:  Oh, good. Good. Go ahead with intuition.

Viral:  Yes, intuition—very much so. I have to say that, before I pass this to Pavi, the way we reconnected with you is because my wife, Pavi and I were at a bookstore and she saw the book Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil. She said, "Isn't that the book Shin is in?"
     I said, "Yes. But I haven't been able to find him in it." She opened up that book and it happened to be page 100, and there was your story! It so happened that a few days after that, Nipun was going to Japan. Pavi said, "You must tell Nipun to find Shin somehow." And you’ve shared the rest of the story. So, here's Pavi.

​​​​​​​Pavi Mehta:  Shin-san, it is so wonderful to hear your voice after hearing all about you all these years from Viral and Nipun, and the whole family. It's been a small dream of mine to have Viral be able to say “thank you” to you. And that dream came true today! So just very, very joyful.
     You know, the first time I met Viral, I think I heard the story of this man with a cello on an airplane, who was a physicist and who opened the minds and hearts in a new direction. So, life is amazing in terms of all the ways the threads connect.
     My question is related to your relationship with the sun that's such a profound part of your story. Just recently I’ve had that sense of wonder—at sunrise, especially. There's almost something that pulls me outside and can almost bring tears to my eyes each morning as that sun comes up. In your experience, what is the power of the sun? What is that healing potential and power that it holds? Can you speak a little bit about that?

Shin: If there's no sun, we are not living on the Earth. The truth is that the sun gives to all the animals, and all on the earth. So give thanks to the sun every time—even it's cloudy, you can find the power coming from the sun. “Thank you to the sun. Thank you to the sun.” That's enough. You think so?

​​​​​​​Pavi:  Yes, yes. That definitely resonates.

​​​​​​​Rahul:  Shin, just hearing you share that makes me grateful for the sun and as I looked out, here in Berkeley, the clouds cleared for a moment. The sun shone through as you were speaking. So, a beautiful coincidence.
     ​​​​And Trupti from India says: Thank you Shin for sharing your story. I fortunately had the opportunity to hug you in person at Gandhi 3.0. As a child, I had asthma. A few years ago, I suddenly got an attack and rather than going to a doctor or taking a medicine, I just observed my breath and realized that the emotion underlying my asthma was fear. And since that day, the asthma is gone. Since then, I have not had any physical manifestation. As I tune into the emotion, it gets healed.

Shin:  Congratulations!

​​​​​​​Rahul:  We also have a question from Gayathri who asks: What do the Japanese scientists and cancer researchers think of your approach to healing cancer? Especially given that you’re a physicist by training, and part of their world?

Shin:  Well, usually scientists are very stubborn. They have a very small area of focus—how they work, what they are studying. So I ask people to widen their focus, or go to much higher consciousness. But no use to say that to the scientists; scientists are very poor in consciousness.
     So when I meet, they need some help. It's very important to be quietness in the mind. So now in Japan, even with scientists, mindfulness is getting very popular. Forget everything, and very quiet time—they enjoy. Sometimes they change the mind but it's very difficult. They want to write something on notebook. Forget it! I usually say to such people! They are very stubborn.
     In the old thought, medical insurance is very popular. When from small child, if they suffer something, at once mother bring the medical doctor to cure something, and they give some medicines.
     Medicine is very dangerous. Conventional medicine is very, very strong, but at the same time, it's very dangerous, I think. Good medicine is food. Choose it. Even for the small burn, choose the food. But our intellectual people have no such kind of sensitivity to food. Sensitivity is to feel; it's an intuition. Contemporary people already forgot the importance of intuition. Intuition is to connect to the universe. Universe is the entity of the sun.
     So I'm leading a workshop called “The Smile Workshop.” Smile! Forget. Good. That's very tricky. But people change by working. Is it okay?

​​​​​​​Rahul:  Thank you Shin. One last thing. What we can do to be part of what you're doing in the world and to add more strength to what you're doing?

Shin:  Forget supporting! We are living on the same Earth, enjoying.

​​​​​​​Rahul:  Beautiful. We can certainly do a lot of smiling and enjoying and loving, and be connected to you and your energy in that way.     


About the Author

Rahul Brown seeks to bring deeper truth, love, and joy into his life and the world.  Along the way, he’s started companies and social ventures, while also serving as a senior executive in others.  In parallel with his entrepreneurial streak, he’s an avid volunteer who loves contributing wherever he can.  Some favorite organizations of his are the ServiceSpace ecosystem, Gandhi Ashram & Manav Sadhna families, and the California Vipassana Center—and more recently his very own neighborhood, son’s preschool, and daughters elementary school.  One of his favorite quotes is from Dr. V of the Aravind Eye Hospitals who said, “Intelligence and ability are not enough.  There must be the joy of doing something beautiful.”
     Rahul is currently spearheading a new venture that uses carbon markets to incentivize plant-based diets since meat-consumption is one of the largest and most under-reported contributors to climate change, species loss, and water scarcity.

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine.   


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