Healing the World
Everything that Keiko Izushi has done in life has had one purpose – Healing the World – be it as a senior staff member for the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP), bestselling author, certified coach, or entrepreneur of a retreat centre in Bali.
Healing comes naturally to the compassionate Keiko. She was born as the second of three daughters to striving parents who experienced the poverty and hardship of post-WWII Japan. Her grandmother helped raise her and told her stories of hardships during the war, kimono sewing schools, and old times in Japan. These became her lullabies at bedtime, and later, her first Japanese book.
From 1988-92, Keiko completed her Masters in Economics in Mexico, following which she joined the UN. Speaking about the passion that drove her to be a part of the UNWFP from 1993-2020, she says, “In my teen years during the 70s and 80s – the Band Aid ‘We are the world’ age – this sensitive teenager reacted deeply to the skeleton-like starving children in Ethiopia. I wanted to send these horrible images to a Hunger Museum, just like Auschwitz, so kids in the future go to the museum and ask how humans could be so cruel. I wanted to bury the image in the past and make future generations happy that the bad old days were gone. That was, and is still, my passion.”
Keiko received the 25 years of service award (Golden Pin/ Longest service award) by the UNWFP which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. In her three-decade long UN career, she was a witness to much human suffering, especially vulnerable populations and children in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rohingya camps (in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh), amongst others. “I appreciate what my UN career gifted me, the countries I visited and worked in, and the wonderful colleagues I met while journeying towards a common goal,” she reflects.
A proud mother of a 26 year old son, Keiko also undertook two personal projects while serving abroad: 1. Supported an Afghan girl by financing her nose operation in Lithuania 2. Supported a babushka (grandmother) in Kyrgyzstan who inspired her to write the second book about grandmothers worldwide in English.
After working in the UN for almost 30 years, Keiko decided on an early retirement in 2020, first becoming a certified RTT (rapid transformative therapy) hypnotherapist (July 2021), Effective Results Coach (Oct 2021), and ICF certified coach (Sept 2022). She was also a TEDx Speaker in July (both 2021 and 2022). “The transition was somewhat challenging. I felt lazy not working 9-5 every day, and every day felt like a weekend. After retirement, I slowly learned to listen to my body and intuition, meditate, be in the here and now, be kind to people, and discover who I want to become.”
The beginning of the pandemic also saw her pen her second book: What Grandma Taught Me – A Worldwide Tribute to Grandmothers and Their Legacies. Published on 13 October 2020 (US Grandparents Day), the book became an international bestseller in no time, which led Keiko to her next adventure.
“In 2004-2005, I was a UN staff member working for emergency operation in Aceh, Indonesia, where everything had been destroyed by the giant Tsunami. I was in a tent working day and night attending to VIPs visiting the sites, looking after others, not taking care of myself. That is when my friends asked me to go to Ubud, Bali, for a healing week – to stop and find myself and my passion by doing yoga, meditation, fasting and drinking plenty of water. Ever since, it was my dream to create such a place for myself and so many others in need of such time and space,” she reveals.
When Covid hit the world, many people lost jobs they didn’t like anyway and began searching for their heart’s desire, reminding Keiko of herself 20 years back! This motivated her to establish the ‘Harum Sari Retreat Centre’ on her birthday, 19 August 2022, in Ubud, Bali. “Harum means smile and Sari means flower. I envisioned this place for myself 20 years ago. What I did not know was that its construction would lead to hope and create jobs for many in a stopped world,” she exclaims.
The retreat does the same — offering a place for self-reflection, fasting, detoxing treatments, yoga, meditation, and nature walks. You listen to your body and soul, seeing your values and priorities more clearly. You pamper yourself with massages, healthy breakfasts made with local ingredients and served by staff with authentic smiles, bringing a lot of ‘aha’ moments and self-awareness after one or more weeks of healing retreat. In the end, you realize life is so simple; it is easy and natural to be happy.
In our modern world where peace is difficult to come by, the retreat acts as ‘Food for the Soul’, especially for Keiko who says, “If not helping millions as I used to do as a WFP staff, at the Harum Sari Retreat, I want to heal one soul at a time. In life, something disappointing happens that can cause self-doubt, and the only thing you have to do is unlearn those blocks and believe in yourself. God is in everyone, every plant and flower (beautiful Bali Hindu thinking), funeral is a celebration (also based on Bali Hindu), and I would like my funeral to be a celebration of my life! Being here and now, pay attention to the small beauties around us, living in flow.”
The two years of the pandemic was actually a blessing for her; showing the way for Keiko’s new journey after experiencing the world with the UN. Resilient in her endeavour to alleviate people’s stress and anxiety, she tells us all that she hopes to accomplish in the near future: “What COVID revealed was that we are very similar at the level of human anatomy. I want to heal all human suffering, bringing people to their fundamental humanity that is filled with love. My RTT hypnotherapy techniques and coaching skills can help people be aware of their limiting beliefs, created over a lifetime, and know the power within to remove unnecessary blocks to rewrite their life script to be more fulfilling and rewarding.”
As our conversation comes to a close, Keiko insists on sharing ‘good news’ with our readers. Intrigued, we ask her to elaborate: “I have good news for you today. Your dreams can come true! It is said that a dream comes true twice. The first time is when you imagine it. The second time is when it really happens before your own eyes. You may say I am a dreamer. I hope someday you will join us imagining a peaceful and unified world and the world will be as one and peaceful,” says Keiko, inspired by John Lennon’s iconic song ‘Imagine’. But what she remains unaware of is how she has become an inspiration for many!