The Macrobiotic Guide
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A Guide to the Macrobiotic Principles
by Verne Varona

 
 
 

Natural Laws of Life and Change

Intro

The principle without the technique is useless,
the technique without the principle is dangerous.
— George Ohsawa

I've always felt like a closet cult member telling someone that, "I'm macrobiotic." I could have said: "Hi, I'm part of the "Humu-Humu clan," and it really wouldn't have made any difference.

The general consensus about macrobiotics is that it's a debilitating vegetarian diet followed by food fanatics who end up anemic, frighteningly lean and blisteringly arrogant. They think they have answers for everything, do a lot of chewing and speak in a language exclusively their own.
And, nothing could be further from the truth. Well, on second thought...there might be some truth there.

Most people are grossly misinformed about the meaning of macrobiotics. Books from the mid-50's still in print make the outrageous claim that the most common debilitating diseases can be cured in ten days by exclusively eating brown rice.

This really doesn't help the issue. We're told that it was a translation problem, that the word cure really meant to "change the direction of" as in to move toward a healthier direction, but this is not spelled out. To new ears, the claims and excessive dietary emphasis in most macrobiotic books seems a bit over-the-top and one sided. In this author's opinion, it is.

The "suggested dietary recommendations" pie-plate template advises 50—60% of dietary fare consist exclusively of whole grain, which for a western culture (whose idea of whole grain is bread and crackers), seems foreign, impractical and, considering common tastes, agonizingly bland.

Yes, you can chew until your eyes cross and whole grains do become slightly sweeter, but this is a matter of established sensitivity more common to long time grain eaters. Between those that have zero interest in macrobiotics and those that are just itching to leap into a strict regime, there's a whole population of individuals in need a gradual transitional approach.

Beyond all the dietary writings of macrobiotics, the cookbooks, the food products, the disease-reversing claims and the general pre-occupation with healing, are some sound principles that have been ignored or misunderstood. I often explain macrobiotics to be a philosophy of dynamic living.

It provides foundational information about how we can better care for ourselves and recover from many debilitating conditions, achieve greater mental clarity, develop greater intuitive perception and help us to reframe the way we look at life.

The principles of macrobiotic philosophy are essentially, Natural Laws of Life and Change, common to many religions and spiritual movements. Once the insight from these principles is grasped, it can help make our lives more meaningful, adventurous and amusing—unless you're married to your E-Z chair.

On the back of many macrobiotic magazines in the early 1970s was a list of "macrobiotic principles and theorems" that always seemed intriguing, yet were abstractly described. The odd times these principles and theorems were written about, usually failed to offer a simple, non-jargoned explanation of their meaning and application.

Typically, they were cryptically described in archaic Asian phrasing, as well as in terms better known to physics majors. Many of these principles have become new age philosophical colloquialisms; adages that roll off the lips of many, but seem to be understood by few.

Over the years, from study and life experience, I began to witness them at work in my personal and professional life. These sagely whisperings from traditional cultures command observation and respect. Their roots extend far beyond the writings and musings of Ohsawa, Aihara and Kushi.

In these principles, you can hear the echos of the Old and New Testament, of Talmudic scholars, Buddhistic precepts and essential Taoism, as well as the inspirational works of Lao Tzu, Ishizuka, Kibara, Hufeland, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Russell, and so many more that share credit for their existence.

The evident repetition of these principles, over a span of time, makes them distinctively universal, because their core teachings all lead to the same lesson; that God, nature, the Universe and all aspects of creation are simply, One.

In several interviews recently, I've used the term, "Macrobiotic Principles," explaining that I'd rather say I'm attempting to live by macrobiotic principles than simply label myself as "macrobiotic." Subsequently, a number of emails called me to task to elaborate.

Before you are 30 macrobiotic principles. The payoff for learning these principles and being able to identify them, is the gift of living a great life (macro = great / bios = life).

Thirty principles, a great life...not a bad deal. Off-the-cuff, here they are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


1. Everything Changes


Surely, you know this... but it's worth repeating: Everything Changes. The condition of our health, physical tension and emotional conflicts are constantly changing . Everything is temporary, so nothing really remains stable; Whether it be in regard to structure, tendency or function, Everything Changes . This is an axiom. In nature, things are growing, or in a state of decay. Our friendships, work, passions, moods, fashion, good fortune, bad fortune, philosophies—anything else you can think of—are all subject to the cycle of change. Bank on it.

The Life Cycle itself is one of the most dramatic Law of Change illustrations. A tiny seed, compact and full of life, grows a sprout, which continues to expand and grow upward until it reaches its limit, at which time it turns to seed. Then, the seeds drop to the ground and the cycle is repeated.

Life is full of such cycles. The Moisture Cycle is another example: The heat of the sun causes water to evaporate and rise. When it reaches the limit of its ascent it condenses and it's heaviness, as rain, brings it falling back to earth. Mountains change into sand misfortune into fortune, ideas change into creation. The arms of the law of change have infinite reach.

Everything in our life, at any time, is subject to change. Now, doesn't that irritate you? This means we coexist with instability. Constantly. So, you cannot really control anything. Attempting to control things (something especially important for 'perfectionists' to remember), can only be fleeting and ultimately frustrating. Remembering this principle increases the worth we have for each moment and gives us added value for life. It allows us to be more engaged in the moment, more focused on the larger picture—because we can actually see it.

Everything changes—particularly the attention you will give to all of the principles mentioned below. Some will resonate with you, some will not. At a later time, based on your developing perspective (the benefit of a healthy maturity), others may take greater importance.

Understanding the law of change gives us patience and faith when it's needed most: in times of challenge. Of all phenomena, there is only one thing that resists change. That, is change itself. This is considered, by traditional folk wisdom to be the only absolute.


2. Nothing is Identical

This is good to know if you have a history of dating and are still soliciting telephone numbers from strangers. There exists nothing identical to anything or anyone else. Your new lover might look like your Ex—, but you won't find a carbon copy. Frankly, why would you want to?

No two things can be "the same," it is said. Therefore, everything in this world has its own uniqueness. No two snowflakes, autumn leaves, fingerprints, mountains, rivers, animals, both sides of the human face, even 'identical twins,' are alike. There will always be differences, no matter how subtle.

Even if two things—for arguments sake—are exactly alike, the fact that they are "two" separates them because they occupy different points in space and/or time. Nature has a sense of irony. While all physical objects are composed from atoms and molecules, the amount and combination of them in each will be unique. Knowing this might win you a lot of pub bets.

Consider this: If everything is really in a continuous process of change, then obviously, nothing can really be identical, anyway. Right? Does that make sense? My inner cynic says, 'who cares, why is it relevant and who are you to make gross evaluations?' But, I can ignore that voice. I'm sure knowing this principle can serve some purpose. Like when you reorder your favorite dish from your local restaurant and it tastes nothing like the last time. It helps cushion disappointment.

The origins of this principle is also common to many sacred texts from various ideologies. One recent find in my research was from The Madhyamika School of Buddhism:
Nagarjuna (second century A.D.), founder of The Madhyamika School of Buddhism, presented his Middlath ("The Madhyamika"—Doctrine of the Middle Way) with the following statement of what he considered to be the Eightfold Truth of Buddhism:

"Nothing comes into being, nor does anything disappear.
Nothing is eternal, nor has anything an end.
Nothing is identical, nor is anything differentiated.
Nothing moves here, nor does anything move there."

I rest my case. If it's good enough for Nagarjuna, it's good enough for me. Nothing is identical.


3. What Has A Beginning, Has An End

In the relative world, there exists nothing that begins without an end. Our lives begin with the advent of birth and end with inevitable death. Nothing is exempt from this principle. For me, knowing this has always been a saving grace. It bolstered my patience during low periods and during each of these times, because of my faith in this principle, I was able to endure through it all with patience and tenacity. Being aware of this beginning-to-ending cycle in daily life and nature's rhythms, affirms change. It's awareness keeps life more meaningful, more dynamic.


4. Everything in the Extreme, Changes to its Opposite -

When I began to long distance track as a teenager, this was the first lesson. Run too fast on a long training run and you may reduce your body's ability to transfer oxygen. You suddenly feel your muscles weigh a ton and you have to rest—or fall down. "Pacing," a key approach in racing strategy, is actually about recognizing and minimizing extremes for the benefit off greater endurance..

At 16, I did my first fast, complete abstinence from food, and ended it six days later by eating everything that wasn't nailed down in my kitchen. Everything in the extreme, changes to its opposite.

A cigarette burns hot, contracting as it reduces in size. At the extreme point of reduction it suddenly cools and becomes expansive ash. Everything in the extreme, changes to its opposite.

In the early 60s we all went mad for tab shirts, thin ties, tight pants, pointy shoes, short greased hair. By 1965, we were taking fashion cues from Carnaby Street, wearing bell bottoms, square-toed boots, wide polka dot ties and growing our hair. Let's also not forget the American mullet hair-do. What ever happened to that? How can you not look back and wonder, what were we thinking? But, there you have it--one extreme changing to another. Happens all the time.

Here's another example: When I officially started macrobiotics (1969-70), I was enrolled at Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Winter quarters as a clown college student (a very handy diploma to have on your office wall). When I decided to try Ohsawa's recommendation for fasting on grain, as opposed to nothing, I diligently consumed brown rice, tamari (natural soy sauce), gomashio (a condiment made from sesame seeds and sea salt that were ground together) and twig tea for 18 days.

Initially, ten days was the recommended course of "experimenting," However, being of sound body and fanatic mind, I thought I'd eat this way forever. Felt great, had no cravings and couldn't sleep more than 5 hours, at the most, so it felt natural and easy for me. At least, doing "#7", you got to eat.

At some point, 18 days into it, someone in the arena stuffed a banana in my face at a performance rehearsal and its taste literally possessed me. The sweetness was overwhelming. It kicked in my craving center and all I could think about was sugar—and my need to have more, immediately. I ran outside, jumped on someone's parked bicycle and sped to the grocery store about a half mile away.

Once inside the market, I grabbed a large pack of chocolate chip cookies (packaged in three columns), a quart of milk and headed for the curb. I ate the cookies, nearly a column at a time, guzzled the milk and then, sitting on the street curb with my legs half in the street, lay back on the sidewalk to ease a sudden abdominal cramp. Apparently, I feel asleep (or went into a chocolate chip coma).

My comrades from rehearsal eventually caught up with me and later described the scene: "Man, you were laying half in the street, passed out snoring, with milk spilling and cookies all over the place." Reactively, for the next several weeks, I suddenly became Party Boy, or, as friends nicknamed me: The Human Garbage Disposal. "Go ahead and dare me!" became my new diet motto. This was a simple, yet hard earned lesson in everything in the extreme changing to its opposite.

Which, is probably why traditional wisdom calls moderation the hallmark of good health. If we are moderate, we have more control. In some circumstances, extremes are necessary and can have their own healing component. But during such times we need a good understanding that can bolster our will, as well as practical techniques that will keep us from bouncing between extremes.


5. All Polarities Are Complementary, Yet Antagonistic

Common folk wisdom and old saws can take on an entirely new coherence when viewed though the principle of opposites. Some examples:

"You always hurt the one you love."
"The darkest hour is just before dawn."
'"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
"Work is the curse of the drinking class."
"The bigger they come, the harder they fall."
"There is some good in the worst of us, and some bad in the best of us."
"Pride goeth before a fall."

There are always extreme elements in any polarity, yet they are dependent on each other. Sometimes they're compatible, other times, seemingly antagonistic, and some times both. For instance, let's use a medicinal beverage analogy with umeboshi drink—a popular macrobiotic remedy for acid conditions (usually a result of excessive party food or overeating).

This drink is composed of the umeboshi salt plum ( sister fruit to the small apricot), tamari, kuzu, and the fresh juice from fine-grated ginger root. Although chemically antagonistic, the acid ginger compliments the drink by making it less extreme as an alkaline remedy. This makes the medicine more effective because it is slightly less extreme.

Think of the Tao symbol with one sheath of black and one sheath of white, yet within each is a bit off the other. I once had a philosophy teacher who described it by saying, "...in the overwhelming bright light of day we have the small shadows of scattered tree and rock, and during the deep black of night, we have the dim glimmering light of distant stars." Meaning, each duality contains a little of the opposite.

Recognizing opposites is the path to wholeness, because their balance produces the neutral state of one. This is why the Tao was called a 'monism.' However, nothing is exclusively of solely one entity.

There's a little of each in both entities. If you statically classify something as "yang" or to use a physics term, ruled by centripetal force, you are merely saying that the amount of yang in this exceeds it's opposite (centrifugal force, or yin) quality. You can't say someone is, "all strength." They must have some weakness. The degree this weakness is visible differs for everyone, but in some amount, it's always present.

The philosophy of opposites can be easily misunderstood, because speaking in terms of fixed classifications usually leads to dogmatic thinking. Its laws are not truly understood. There are always layers and depths to our superficial perception. To think in terms of black and white minimizes the unique complexity of how opposites interact and the layers between them. Between black and white, there is an entire universe of gray.


6. Opposites Attract, Like Repels Like

In front of us and everywhere around us, we are constantly witnessing polarity; the realization that everything exists in pairs—pairs of opposites; light and dark, hot and cold, strong and weak, passive and active, expansion and contraction. The "laws" (or balancing factors) that govern opposites are many. These laws can be used to manage our health, our outlook and our daily lives more effectively.

Let's use two magnets as an example. The north pole end will magnetically attract the south pole end. Many of us learned this in grade school. However, similar poles (North and North) will repel each other and make you look severely uncoordinated as you try to connect the same poles. In some cases, two of the same poles may be of similar energetic quality, but nothing is identical (see principle #2) and so, degrees of opposition always exist. In this case, you'd have mild attraction. So even this, is not fixed, as a principle. It is principle of general tendencies.

Examples of this principle are abundant in all realms including, human behavior, chemistry and food preparation.

One of the main principles of Homeopathy, is: "like cures like." This is quite different than repels. This is based somewhat on an immune stimulation so it cannot be examined in a linear light.

The essential thing to remember about opposites is they are always seeking balance. Discovering how to create balance in different realms of your life, using macrobiotic principles and the foundation of whole food nourishment, will reward you with a deep sense of independence and faith.


7. Healing Is a Body, Mind, Spirit Paradigm.

The foundation of macrobiotics is about developing the ability to recreate our health, judgment and sensitivity. It offers us potential solutions to discover new perspectives and insight. I think of macrobiotics as being a dynamic body, mind, spirit healing paradigm that heals you from the inside out; it makes you change the way you look at adversity and allows you a philosophical framework to rely on for guidance and support.

We heal physically by being aware how to create more balanced food and health practices that keep you strong, yet supple, in body and mind. Your being becomes more relaxed. You feel more creative inspiration. You recognize and are more willing to trust the voice of intuition.

Any repair we attempt to make in any part of ourselves, must also involve other parts. If we have a "physical problem" we should remember that there are also emotional, and energetic (spiritual) ways to solidify that healing. This is why it's macro and not micro -biotics. A large view means recognizing the value of including other healing modalities, as well as broader thinking and a committed will.


8. One Grain, Ten Thousand

From the Arctic circle to the sub-tropics, whole cereal grains have been used as a principal food source for thousands of years. That they have sustained world civilizations is living evidence to their strength and endurance and obviously why they have remained central to the diet of many modern societies.

Using the symbolism of one grain that eventually brings thousands more, we are reminded about gratitude and the need to give. Nature, forever productive and infinitely diverse exemplifies this principle: From One Grain, Come Ten Thousand.

Embodying this philosophy means to share ourselves with others; our good fortune, our feelings, service that we do for others, etc. We do this for the sake of giving and not receiving. The ability to give is our reward and gift—that is what we receive. However, like the abundance of crop that could potentially come from one grain, we benefit enormously on many levels every time we give.

One grain, ten thousand thinking supports the "no-waste" concept, emphasizing the use of whole food and not part in meal preparation. Another application of this was recently seen in the film, "Pay it Forward", where one simple, selfless act of kindness inspired so many others to be equally kind thereby, "paying it forward."


9. Vivero Parvo - "Take the Minimum Required"

Ohsawa used this Latin phrase to describe the ideal way for achieving maximum health; we take what is required—by our bodies for nourishment and in terms of what we surround ourselves with. This can be applied in a human health perspective as well as a social one. At the root of our consumptive mentality is a deep loss of gratitude, fear and physical imbalance.

One of the reasons we consume beyond our needs is because of its availability, or because we maintain moods of scarcity. Sometimes, our desire for being full is due to the growing realization that we are actually in need of some other kind of nourishment--we are feeling, simply empty. But, no food can satisfy this type of hunger.

Most of us have little idea about the origins of our food, how it is grown, how concentrated or refined it may be, or what kinds of nutrition it contains. The majority of people are primarily concerned with taste. Just like children. Several years ago, I pulled into a small gas station in northern Iowa around midnight. I went inside and waited for the cashier to key my gas fee into her register.

She was a young woman of tremendous girth with bad skin and the warmth of a Mason jar. Not once did her eyes meet mine. But, I noticed she was chewing. Vigorously. Whatever was in her mouth required major effort. This is the exchange we had:

"What are you chewing?" Continuing to stare at her register, she points to a cylindrical plastic container that holds, "Bubba's Hearty Beef Jerky."

I pick up the container and read the ingredients. My naivete' is showing; I am shocked. Aside from dried beef, there is an entire paragraph of chemical names as part of the ingredients, with sugar being the second ingredient after meat.

"Wow, do you know what's in this? It's all chemicals!" Now she turns to me; an isolated side rotation of her neck almost robotically. She tilts her head down as if peering over imaginary bifocals and shrugs her shoulders helplessly as she manages to utter two words: "Tastes good..."

For most human organisms, excessive fat, animal protein and concentrated sweeteners—our modern staple foods—might be temporarily satisfying but in excess, can be potentially deadly — except for my neighbor who is 91 and looks like he lives on baked scrap leather. He tells me he, "eats everything." Worse, he even enjoys it. Imagine that! But I've seen him eat. And they guy lives on garbage. But, he eats like a bird. No, not a vulture. A sparrow — big difference. He takes the "minimum." And, somehow, it works for him.

Ohsawa was an advocate of eating the minimum; staying slightly hungry, keeping active. If you have strong passions and things that you want to do in life, this comes naturally, because your are feeding a bigger appetite. But, if you are bored by your current life, what's the incentive to suddenly discipline yourself?

If we're discussing the volume of food we consume, I think it would be essential to explain what some of the culprits are that make us want more food. Yep! There are actually a number of reasons that drive overeating cravings.

There are some accepted psychological reasons for food obsessions and addictive eating that cover the gamut from self-esteem and social issues to the immediate impulse of using food as a way to get stinking numb. However, my contention is that if we remove the physical reasons, the psychological become so much more easy to handle. Maybe not entirely heal, but at least begin to feel a motivating clarity by witnessing positive physical change.

Consider the volume of food that you eat. If you put the pinky sides of each had together and cup your hands, as if scooping water from a stream, this hand shaped bowl is equal to the size of your stomach, only with a top cover. Consider the amount of food you had in your last meal and visualize that amount. Isn't it bigger than the little bowl your palms create? It's surprising to think about how much we eat.

More frightening to think about is what we actually absorb. The problem, in a nutshell, for people who are always overeating is not knowing what are the responsible factors for such a monstrous appetite. Here, based on a chapter in my book, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods" (Prentice Hall-Penguin-Putnam Books) are five possible reasons for overeating:

1. Low Blood Sugar - Contrary to popular macrobiotic recommendations, I don't believe the solution for low blood sugar lies simply in making a "sweet vegetable drink." It's a nice soup base, but throwing away the fiber (vegetable matter) defeats the entire purpose. It is the fiber that will regulate the blood sugar. Consuming only the liquid can slightly elevate blood sugar, but, then you have an equal lowering later on. For someone with noticeable blood sugar irregularity, it might be best to make a soup with these vegetables and either eat the whole vegetable in the soup, or make it into a puree'. Additionally, don't go more than four hours without, at least, eating a small meal. Fasting long periods throughout the day promotes low blood sugar and late night eating. In this tired state you may find yourself desiring coffee, sugar, tobacco--any familiar stimulant to get you over the energetic hump.

2. Excessive Salt or Animal Protein - Too much salt will not only make you want sugar or more fluid, but can stimulate overeating. Salt can have a depressive effect on blood sugar and a marked tightening effect on tissue and muscle. Like those old sailor's, who look like they eat small children for breakfast and have very crinkly faces, traditionally called Old Salts; presumably after living on the water, breathing salt air and no doubt eating a good share of it. Salt excess can be alleviated by either an abundant amount of fluid (for dilution), citrus, or simple sugar (for neutralizing). Sugars have the opposite reaction in our body: they promote inflammation. While it's busy fanning the fires of inflammation, Sugar finds time to annoy and paralyze our busy immune system while it discreetly robs minerals from the bodies different storage sites. Biological mutiny.

3. Inactive Lifestyle - Becoming more regularly active can increases your sensitivity to the subtle, and not-so-subtle, effects of overeating. Your active condition offers a more reliable barometer of good health and your physical limitation. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a running partner named Arty ("Hi, I'm Arty from Nu Yawk"), as we we taking a long run one early Sunday morning, prior to a track event. Nine miles into our run, he had a burst of thundering gas. No one said anything. About one-half mile later, he turned to me and said:

"Wow, took 9 and 1/2 miles to get rid of that. What if I had sat on the couch all day? I'll tell you whut woulda happened: One night at 2 AM my head would suddenly explode...thank God for long dirt trails..."
Such were the intimate exchanges we'd have on a training run.
It made me realize that we have the ability to condition our bodies and control our health so much more than we imagined. For most people the only control they have dietarily is the use of stimulants or depressants; they're tired so they drink coffee or have a cigarette. They're all keyed up, so they'll have an alcoholic drink. Beyond these extremes, few people really know how to influence their health, mood and energy level with food.

Physical activity can be a great neutralizer. Challenging your physical limitations might mean to walk longer distances, stretching in more advanced postures, hiking to increase heart rate or lifting weights to solidify bone mass. In a toned, active body, it's easier to exercise discipline because you know what works best for your body. Exercise also increases your will.

4. Poor Digestion - There could be an infinite number of related digestive conditions, but most of them are aggravated, if not caused, by long time acidity. This can come from: inadequate chewing, meal time tension, the need for fermentation with meals, a lack of enzymes to digest properly, parasites, etc. So, we often end up attempting to compensate by volume. Calm mealtimes, a bit of pickle with your meal, less volume, thorough, but not obsessive chewing and a bit of tea after the meal all insure good digestion.

5. Nutritional Deficiency - Lack of nutrients, good quality protein, oil, salt and the five tastes of salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent all conspire to foster overeating if we don't include these into our daily diet. A fixed template of a circle divided into percentages can only go so far? While you can use that initially, it takes consistent experimenting to find your balance—and this is a never ending research project because there are always different ways to balance excess and because your condition is constantly changing.

6. Emotionality - There are many emotional factors that are the basis for overeating or binge eating. If you feel that this is a component to your overeating, first, remove the dietary imbalance factors mentioned above that may be pushing you in this direction. Second, accept that your overeating needs to embrace an emotional perspective and either seek support or do some research to better understand more about these factors. Generally, we can easily anesthetize ourselves with the sensory pleasure of different foods, such as sugar, or by overeating. Stuffing your face literally shuts off the emotional center, at least temporarily, and insulates us from thinking. Sometimes, this can be a good thing. However, this soon wears off and we are no better for a solution. There are a number of books that can provide more insight, including, Geneen Roth's, "Feeding the Hungry Heart" and Jane R. Hirschmannn's, "Overcoming Overeating."

10. "Mea Culpa"

"Mea Culpa" is a Latin derivative meaning "My Fault." So, we're ditching blame. Try to recognize Your Role in Conflict and take responsibility for what you bring to all situations. Yes, the stimulus of caffeine might have made you a bit crazy and you shouldn't have really shouted at those strangers and smashed that parked little pink car you didn't like with that tire iron, but I doubt, "it was the coffee" that made you do it. You really can't blame the coffee. I'd rather think that it was whatever in you, unsettled and unresolved, and unexpressed that you ended up expressing as rage—only with an attentive audience.

Our modern society encourages blame; we blame our spouses, work management, friends, germs, sugar industry, pollutants, bacteria, viruses, etc. First, let's see how we may have a part in any adverse situation. "Don't point your finger," my grandmother was often heard to say, "there are always three pointing right back at you." To develop your spiritual perspective, first address, "Mea Culpa."

11. Make Friends Everywhere

In the early days of the Boston macrobiotic community during the late 60s and early 70s, Michio Kushi was always referring to macrobiotic people as friends. At a lecture he'd sometimes begin with, "Ah...tunight, men-knee mahcro-bee-ott-tic freenze here....dhat's great!" It always felt easier and more authentic to call someone a friend, than the more intense brother or sister--unless it's Easter and you're in church.

Greet people with an open warmth. Find a way to surrender a piece of yourself. You'll find enormous strength in doing this. Listen to them. Extend yourself. Play. There's a mirror in everyone you meet, family, friends, strangers; your work is to see it clear.

In the early 70's, if you were hitch-hiking across the country, or up and down the west coast, all you needed was one of those macrobiotic guides with that short list of "Macrobiotic Friends Throughout the USA." You could almost always show up at someone's door, and you'd be assured of a sizable dinner, easy chit chat and a comfortable futon before continuing your journey. Today, it's not as friendly, maybe because it's more common, or because people are more fearful, but a bit more camaraderie would be a big shot in the arm for a more recognizable and "friendly" movement. We all need friends. Make friends.


12. Every Front Has a Back

It's native intuition to know that there are always two sides to every story. Truth is impossible without lies, integrity meaningless without deceit. Each extreme provides a contrast that allows us to measure front and back. I'm crazy about technology. I wrote a book in the late 70s on an electric IBM typewriter.

I used to use little white powder tape to cover mistakes, but I can't tell you how many times I had to restart chapter sections because of a new paragraph or an afterthought section inclusion. Computers changed all that. Overnight. With cut and paste, a whole new world of speed, ease and convenience opens up. But, then, there's a potential health risk. Front and back.

Cell phones. Hard to imagine taking a long trip without one, at this point. But convenience always has a front and back. The thin shell of a skull that protects our brain cannot offer real protection when we are holding concentrated radiation barely 1/4 of an inch from our dense brain tissue. The damage is real. It's only matter of time before this is agreed on. I guess there must be a corporate quota of money to be made before warnings are taken seriously.

It's only instinctive to suspect that anyone offering you something of big proportion, will invariably require some kind of payback;. It's a "front and back" issue. We natively know what we see isn't always the whole picture. The archetypal homicidal gangster, with "cold steely eyes," who after a couple of drinks, begins to cry about how he misses his Daddy, reveals a sparkle of vulnerability into a chosen life of character hardness. On many levels of thought, energetic, philosophical and even biochemical, interactions of front and back abound.

Front and back always reminds me of "fine print." Finding yourself too excited about certain benefits initially promised but not aware of the fine print where you unknowingly agree to donate your first born for a yearly ritual sacrifice, is an example of being so overwhelmed by the front, you've missed the back. Happens all the time. Maybe not with sacrifices, but you get the point. Front and back always exist.

However, this certainly is not a call to walk cautiously through life, weary of being mislead, manipulated or taken advantage of. Actually, this will inevitably happen anyway. And, it'll make you more perceptive, savvy and aware of "seeing both sides" before making any firm decisions that affect your comfort or future.


13. The Bigger the Front, the Bigger the Back

Surprise! This principle is an elaboration of the one previous. We all know that front and back exist, but being aware of the front and back depth factor makes all the difference. The great degree of seduction you experience from something, is usually proportional to the detailed scrutiny you should consider before venturing further.

I have a neighbor who just started dating after a painful divorce and three years of self-imposed exile. Walking our dogs one morning, I explained the meaning of big front and big back. She thought about it for a moment and then her light bulb seemed to go off: "So, if I lust after this guy in my office who seems like Don Juan incarnated and makes all the right moves with romancing me, sending little presents, writing sweet poetry and slow dancing by the water cooler, then, after several dates discover he's a cross-dressing, inarticulate, stingy, germaphobe who hates women—is this a big front, bigger back issue?"

Everything grows in proportion. "Not you get, what you see," a popular teen expression, underscores the lesson of front and back.


14. Respect Your Elders

To me, this seems like the result of maintaining a one grain, ten thousand, philosophy. We owe deep gratitude to our elders. Any elder should be a respected part of the human community. Our courtesy, willingness to help and protect elders is how we express this gratitude. They are our teachers.

Something cruel and out of character that I once did--this will serve as my confessional--had a profound effect on my attitude toward elders. I was living in Southern California and flying along the left speed lane of the freeway in my ultra sleek convertible sports car thinking I'm too cool for words, when suddenly, this old man in giant wrap-around sunglasses at the wheel of a Buick (they're always driving Buicks!) enters my lane about 50 feet in front of me at half my speed.

I lay on my loud horn big time and nearly startle the prunes out of him. Matter of fact, it looked, from the way he was startled, like I almost inspired a heart attack. Mr. Cruiser spills into the next lane and I pull up along side, ready to wave my index finger in that condescending "naughty boy, no-no!" look and give him the mean Cuban evil eye, when he pulls off his sunglasses to meet my stare.

He looks just like my beloved grandfather and obviously is very shaken up. My intrusive horn brutally yanked him out of whatever world he was comfortably wandering around in. He's waiting for me to scream or give him the finger, but immediately I realize how insensitive and callous my actions were.

At that moment, I had the impulse to sob. I mouthed, "Sorry!" But, he only stared at me, expressionless. As I continued to drive I thought that no doubt, he was somebody's grandfather. And, no doubt, I scared him good. On one hand, he'll probably be more aware of entering fast lanes at a snails speed in the future, but on the other, I should have been more respectful, compassionate and diplomatic.

It reminds me of a piece of calligraphy that I have framed in my home. It's from Japan and I was told that the single character displayed means, "Entu;" to be like water. When water approaches a sudden block, it will, despite it's remarkable strength and tenacity, go around and make a new path. Why couldn't I go around this old man, instead of blasting him? I'm grateful to him. Despite that this happened many years ago, I always think twice about using my horn.


15. Embody Active Gratitude

I once read a quote from Michio Kushi that said, "Economy is the practice of gratitude." Reading that quote profoundly moved something in me; It helped me to understand a more meaningful way to express gratitude by being more socially conscious and conservationally minded. Offering thanks, giving to others, saying grace before and after eating, all constitute gratitude.

I heard a speaker recently say that our face is "public property--how much effort does it take to smile at others?" Smiling, offering warmth and practicing in all things, kindness, is a form of active gratitude.

Writer and popular American radio show host, Dennis Prager wrote a very inspirational book called, "Happiness is A Serious Problem." In the book, Prager explains that the most common factor happy people seem to share is a deep sense of reverence and gratitude. They have no expectations, so whatever happens they are genuinely surprised and grateful.

I'm not sure it's possible to be a modern person existing in a large metro area and live with absolutely no expectations, however, I suspect that the degree of attachment to expectations is the real issue. It's all right to have expectations as long as you maintain a frame of mind that really feels it's equally all right for those expectations to not happen. I have a friend who is a devout Christian Scientist. His motto is, "prepare for the worst, expect the best."


16. Ecology

Herman Aihara was fond of this principle and included it in his teachings to remind us that our original sustenance and nourishment comes from the soil. "Body and soil, not two," says an old Japanese proverb. The soil produces the vegetation that feeds the animal kingdom as well as humanity. We eat from our locale to become more attuned to our bodies as well as the elements.

An ecological perspective is also a social one—we live with a no-waste principle and realize that the way we manage our environment is reflective of our personal condition. It is one of many growth mirror's for us. Being ecologically minded is just not a trait that we mechanically demonstrate, it should be something that we feel; a concern for what we use and do not use and a concern for where it comes from and how we can replace it.


17. Self-Challenge

Develop the appetite to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Challenging ourselves builds discipline and will. Challenging our ability to care for ourselves was an integral part of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 'Self-Reliance" theory. I find goal making one particularly effective way of doing this. Every New Year's Day, under the categories of health, finance, creativity, relationships, work, emotional character, education, environment (home) and spiritual practice, I list numerous goals for each category.

Every month I do a brief assessment of what I'm doing toward realizing these goals as the year evolves. This monthly accounting keeps me motivated. And, positive results usually add even more incentive. The idea is not to simply produce, but to discover amusement while challenging our self-imposed limitations. What I do not accomplish, I re-list the following year if it still has appeal. How we feel about ourselves, deep inside, is the most primary relationship we have. Feeling accomplished, versatile and having a sense of personal pride enhances our self-image.


18. Cultivate A Sense Of Humor

Ohsawa called 'Good Humor' one of the basic conditions of health. Humor comes from the Latin word humere, which means, "to be wet, or fluid, like water." In Buddhism and Taoism, water imagery represents flowing freedom and perfect naturalness. If you think about it, humor has a watery quality that we can be most receptive to by "going with the flow," allowing ourselves the mental flexibility to be open and taken by the imagery of the comic, or the comic irony of a particular situation.

In foolishness or silliness, there is a sense of the sublime. Embodying this principle offers us a secret power in being able to lift our spirits at almost any given moment. And, it brings us to experience child-like qualities of our vulnerable, spontaneous and joyful self.

Feeling or expressing something humorous is a novel way to experience 'being in the moment.' Recall when you've really been amused or laughed aloud—were you thinking about your mortgage tax that's due? Were you thinking about your childhood and your cruel stepfather with his martial punishments? How about your overbearing boss—was he on your mind? Truth is, it would be difficult, because humor invites you into the present moment and then locks the door. Now, you're face to face with joy. And, it engages 100% of your intention (unless the humor is really bad).

Experiencing this and being mindful of it will help you become more consistently present in everything you do.

Humor can give us new ways to view uncomfortable circumstances, thereby becoming a coping tool. There are many events that occur in our lives that we really have no control over. For some, this sense of powerlessness can be grounds for frustration and depression. By developing a humorous outlook we find ways to minimize these situations to our best advantage. We must learn to laugh at ourselves a well as with others.

Obviously, humor does not cure all, but a sense of humor has a unique way of helping you navigate through life's daily disappointments and upsets. It doesn't really change anything for the long haul, but it usually makes everything instantly more tolerable and sometimes can give you a new way to reframe your situation. Humor, the Vitamin "H" of good medicine, is free, can be shared, and most definitely can be contagious! Can't ask for much more.


19. Non- Credo (Do Not Believe)

Hardly meant as an attitude of arrogant denial, non credo simply reminds us to not blindly believe. It teaches us that the most sustaining and meaningful ways to learn something is through your own experience. You can believe that you can climb a mountain and by looking at it carefully theorize about its terrain and where climbing difficulty might occur and how any emergencies would be handled. But to actually climb the mountain and experience anxiety, fear, the potential of death and finally triumph, imprints a deep conviction about your abilities that conceptualizing cannot. Belief is merely an emissary of the intellect. Non credo also means to challenge and question for a deeper understanding.


20. Growth is Spirallic, Not Linear

The most common pattern found in nature and all phenomena is the spiral. We see it in every day patterns; Autumn leaves headed toward the ground in a spirallic freefall; the helical form of DNA and RNA; the rings of a seashell, exhaust smoke coming out of car, sound waves, etc. Within the movement of a spiral, there is always a return near the place of origin, but in a more evolved direction.

Our personal growth parallels this movement; we get better, we get worse, we get better, we get worse. Growth is rarely linear. No one just, 'gets better.' Often, it's getting worse that becomes our best teacher and enables us to recover. This give us a point of measurability toward seeing a larger picture.


21. Seek Significance

The late senior macrobiotic teacher, Herman Aihara, used to give wonderful lectures on the meaning of life. Some of his inspiration was based on the writings of Vicktor Frankl, whose pivotal book from the 1950s, "Man's Search for Meaning," emphasized the need for living our lives with purpose. Often, in macrobiotic lingo, this is called, "dream." As in, having a big dream. What ever we seek that feels significant offers meaning; social meaning, personal meaning and spiritual meaning. Find ways to inspire life; ways that help, heal or amuse. Seek significance.


22. Cultivate Intuition

Intuition is one our essential characteristics. It's the ability to recognize impulse. We hear a certain voice inside of ourselves (among the many that exist there), and it offers a solution, advice or insight. If we listen to that voice, over a period of time, and trust its direction, we'll discover confidence from its accuracy. This occurs when we begin to recognize "the voice" and realize that it's the voice of intuition.

Continually, in small ways we can test ourselves: guessing who the letter is that sits in our mailbox, intuiting who is calling us when the telephone rings, maybe finding yourself lost one day while driving and finding your back without a map or directions. These are ordinary and simple games to use and test intuition, and in the process learn more about how we reason and how we intuit.

More complex intuitive-developing exercises include asking yourself questions and noticing your immediate response (intuition doesn't analyze or evaluate--it's instinctive), You can strengthen intuitive sensitivity by balancing rest with activity, reducing stress to comfortable management and a stable, whole food diet. When the body is more relaxed, intuitive faculties become more apparent. However, if your body is engaged in furious hormonal activity, as happens with the rising and falling of blood sugar, your sensitivity to energy outside yourself and as well as others, can become diminished.

Foods that elevate your metabolism or body heat, such as stimulants (caffeine, sugar, spices, etc.) contribute to blood sugar instability and heat up the body, making it less sensitive to intuition. Whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, moderate amount of oils and some fruit are good foods for regulating blood sugar.

There's a very fine line between intuition and fear. Your clarity of mind will be able to distinguish whether it's fear, or the voice of intuition. The intuitive voice is rarely an emotional one. It speaks calmly and clearly. Once you recognize it, you'll never forget its sound.


MACROBIOTIC PRINCIPLES RELATING TO FOOD

23. Select Local Foods

In the days before the importation of foreign foods, people were confined to eating foods that grew within their locality, just like animals in the wild. A larger percentage of the foods we import are not suitable for everyday fare because they grow in climates more suited to their nutrition. In warmer climates we tend to eat foods that are higher in simple sugar content, large leaf greens, less whole grain and less animal protein. As we go further north into more harsh climates, we discover the need for more salt, less sweet foods, more grain, vegetable stews, perhaps a small amount of animal protein for certain individuals, etc. These foods inspire warmth and offer more concentrated energy, as opposed to the more cooling effect of raw foods, fruits and spices.

I remember when I lived in British Columbia during the mid-70s, there was a growing vegetarian movement. Many of these young people attended my local lectures, as we ran a macrobiotic center. They were interested in the cosmology, but not the food. Their diets were strictly raw and fruit oriented. Fruit shakes (now called 'Smoothies'), fruit puree's, dried fruit, and nuts were their staples. For fat, they'd eat more oily dishes and nuts and nut sauces seemed to be an integral part of every dish. During the summer months and fall months, they'd migrate to the interior of the province to work as fruit pickers for the short summer season. However, at the first hint of BC's harsh interior winter, they'd flee to California.

Since they were vegetarian and not particularly fond of salt, aside from vegetables, there was very little of any strong alkaline substances in their diet and their bodies simply couldn't tolerate the cold. If we make our blood more summery, that is, filled with more sugar, it's more difficult to adapt to colder weather. If the local birds had access (and appetite) for dried mango, pineapple juice and plenty of cider, all they'd want to do in the fall is watch television and eat potato chips, instead of building nests, accumulating food and miscellaneous bird errands.

When I lived in my first study house in Boston during the early 70s, we used to have several house members that would constantly complain of the cold. While the rooms were indeed, cool, "cold" was relative to each individual. Eventually, it came to light that the complainers were the ones slipping out late at night and stuffing their faces with cheesecake. Then, they'd return home and raise the heat. Imagine that! Sneaky people, they were. Then, our household head put a sign on the wall above the thermostat: "Change your blood, not the thermostat!' That showed them good. Considering I was one of the complainers, it was an embarrassing, but memorable lesson.

Sometimes, it's not possible to select locally grown food and in that case foods grown in the same latitude can suffice. Make imported foods for the odd specialty dish and enjoy them as something you do for variety.

24. Categorize Foods into Principle & Secondary & Pleasure

This principle gives a grounding order to your eating. I consider Principle foods to be the basis sustenance foods such as whole grain, vegetables and beans. Secondary foods can be considered to supplement principle foods. They can be whole grain products, animal proteins, fruits and condiments. These secondary foods help add balance to our diet. Pleasure foods, for those in good health or recovering, can be small amounts of, "WYW." This is what I write on clients recommendation sheets when I counsel.

WYW means, whatever you want. Really? Absolutely! Take the smallest amount and allow yourself to enjoy it fully without fear or worry about dropping dead within five minutes. "Life is too short to stuff a mushroom," goes a famous quote. If you're really obsessing about a food, find it, seek the best quality, and enjoy a small quantity. No guilt or remorse is allowed. This is all after the fact. Sometimes those little pleasures, even a mouthful, can be "medicinal," providing a soothing homeopathic effect and literally stopping the craving instantly.

For people on a healing path, the concept of a Pleasure food category might be premature. I encourage them to reframe how they think about feeling deprived of their favorite goodies and realize that as a part of their healing, they are no longer eating. Instead, they just happen to be taking very tasty daily medicine for a brief period of time to assess its value. Consider it an "experiment." Sometimes, I'll ask a client on a healing regime who is having cravings for unhealthy foods, if they feel "deprived." If they answer yes, I will ask them, "what's the bigger deprival?" The bigger deprival is not satisfying your sweet tooth for 7 minutes, but life, itself.


25. Digestion Begins in the Mouth

According to legend, the archaic Chinese character for chewing is composed of the ideograms for God and Work. Perhaps this meant that by chewing you can digest more thoroughly, eat less, absorb more, maintain low acidity and find yourself more calm, more present. In this state, you're closer to spirit. I used to hear all these chewing commands from macrobiotic teachers and articles about how many times one should chew.

To this I say, 'get a life.' It always seemed like chewing 100x was the best and most approved goal. That might work for a while. But, one principle active here is that all extremes change into their opposite. Fanatic chewers often become gulp eaters. I suggest searching for some kind of middle ground. Mark Twain had an amusing idea. He said: 'Eat what you want and let the food fight it out." Sometimes, this advice can be therapeutic.

As someone who wrote one of the first feature articles in a national magazine on chewing ("Mastication" - East West Journal, Jan. 1975), I now think the pre-occupation with chewing is a bit tired and displaced. I see so many people at some of the conferences I've attended chewing diligently, taking forever and focusing intensely. I would suggest to focus on taste and allow that to encourage continued chewing, as opposed to strict mechanics. What chewing really does is expose more surface area of the food to saliva, allowing it to pre-digest foods with its alkaline enzymes. This is the first stage of carbohydrate digestion.

One helpful suggestion for better chewing is to separate the saliva from the food as you chew. I know this might sound a bit bizarre and overly technical, but it can make all the difference in chewing more efficiently and briskly. Usually, we swallow when we become overwhelmed with saliva. If you're continually swallowing saliva (and not food), as you chew, you'll be able to grind the food more effectively. I used to call this, "fluid separation." If you've ever sucked on a cough drop or a hard candy, you do the same thing.

You move it around, allowing the saliva to bathe it, and then park it somewhere to the side of your tongue as you separate the saliva and swallow it without downing the cough drop. It's somewhat instinctive, but being aware of this can make chewing quicker and easier. Now, for very busy people what I am simply saying in all of the above is to: Separate the fluid from the mass, swallow it and continue to chew.

I rarely recommend counting your chews, this just becomes obsessive. I recommend thorough, conscious chewing at one meal weekly where you chew a gazillion times per mouthful, continually swallowing the saliva that is being formed so you can continue chewing the same mouthful. That one meal each week, will continually make you more conscious of chewing in general. And it's really not necessary to take a vow of silence, play special music or act like you're involved in a ritual molar crushing activity.


26. Be Mindful of Acid & Alkaline Properties in Food

There's a lot of controversy about relating to food in terms of acid and alkaline elements. I once contacted a famous physician who had written a university text on acid and alkaline in the human body. I was excited to share my information about acid and alkaline food fundamentals. He wrote me back a brief email saying that, "concerning yourself with acid and alkaline is only useful in end-stage kidney metabolism." He may have overlooked the fact that over 3 billion dollars is spent yearly on antacids--a direct result of poor food combinations, emotional eating, overeating and acid-based foods.

Whenever I hear someone talking about, "acid blood," it's usually an indicator that they know very little about acid and alkaline. The blood never remains acid for very long—we're talking about seconds, here.

Whenever an acid is introduced into the blood, immediate mineral storages (from bones, tissue fluids, bile, spinal fluid, etc.) enter the blood to neutralize the acid so metabolism can continue in the alkaline medium it requires. Your bile may be weakened (which will affect fat metabolism), your cell fluids (intra and extra-cellular fluids) can become more acid and you can begin the frightening process of losing bone minerals, because the bloods needs for balance come first.

So, in reality, for what science currently know about blood, the blood is the last to suffer from acids. Measuring pH balance with pH test papers can only show salivary acidity or urinary stress. it's actually a very poor indicator of your internal pH within cells, other body fluids, etc.

In many of the raw food nutrition books, there is some very misleading information about acid and alkaline that seems derived from the popular Hay diet of the 1930's. They claim that fruits and vegetables are alkaline. This is partially correct (vegetables, for the most part, are alkalizing), as I devote an entire chapter to this in my book, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods," When you burn the vegetable to analyze its ash content for minerals, this becomes the determining factor on what is acid and what is alkaline.

This process of titration, is done in a lab. Unfortunately, the sugar of the fruit is burned as well and this is clearly not something that naturally occurs in the body during normal digestion. In the human body, we have to digest that sugar and despite the fruits mineral content, the sugar ends up leaving us with an acid condition. Fatigue is one of the first signs of acidity.

Excessive acid can have an inflammatory effect on tissue, causing tissue to swell and in turn aggravate joint health, promote tumor growth and weaken the bodies mineral reserves. Alkalinizing dietary factors in our diet come from the use of salt, reduced volume, physical activity, breathing exercises with emphasis on exhalation, vegetables and sea vegetables.

Acidifying dietary factors in our diet come from the use of grain products, whole grains (a mild acid that can be neutralized with soaking, cooking, use of salt and chewing), beans, excessive proteins, fruits, sugar, overeating, vinegar, etc. Following a dietary path of whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables with limited animal proteins (optional) and fruits, offers a wide balance that proves its merit fairly quickly.

27. Use the Five Tastes, Textures and Colors in Food Preparation

The five tastes are: Biter, Sweet, Sour, Salty and Pungent. Using these tastes in your daily food preparation can create a greater sense of variety and sustain more balance and satisfaction in your eating. What really makes Fish and Chips appealing for most people is what they put on it: sodium (salty taste), ketchup (sweet taste), vinegar (sour taste--common to Brits and Canadians), salsa (pungent taste) and cole slaw (cooling taste to balance pungent flavors).

The western diet is so filled with tastes that you cannot blame someone who initially sits down for their first grain and vegetable meal and asks, "don't you use any spices?" Different tastes, colors and textures offer a whole new world of variety and make the food more palatable. Eventually, you'll find that you might prefer simple tastes and don't have to doctor everything you eat with a myriad of tastes, but for certain occasions, medicinal dishes, introductory meals, etc., this can be invaluable. The one taste that I find people miss most when eating a grain a vegetable diet is the crunchy taste.

Ever order Chop Suey in a Chinese restaurant? It's a kind of gooey dish with cooked vegetables in a thickening (corn starch, arrowroot or kuzu) sauce. What makes this dish fun and satisfying is the dried noodles that they give you to add at your own discretion. This is a good example of texture use. Soup with oatmeal is not the greatest combination, because their textures are similar. but soup and bread is the yin and yang of texture. After eating pot-cooked brown rice with steamed vegetables for a number of days, someone new to whole food eating, will kill for a piece of bread. Textures are necessary. Sometimes, you may just be looking for a texture in your meal.

Colors cater to our sense of psychological appetite. If it looks pleasing on a plate, your appetite can increase. Plain lentils in a brown bowl is not very appealing to look at. It might look like something you'd find in a roadside toilet. But, there's hope! Using a colored bowl, a garnish of parsley and carrot and voila! You've dressed it up with more visual appeal. This can make a big difference to someone first attempting to eat grain and vegetables.


28. Avoid Late Night Eating

Here's a great experiment you can do. Eat a lot of food right before your got to bed. In fact, eat in bed and then go right to sleep. For one thing, you'll dream more. But, while your sleep might be cerebrally entertaining, you will feel as if a truck ran over you when you awaken—that is, if you can manage to haul yourself out of bed. And, your clarity suffers. In Chinese medicine, they say that the liver is the guardian of sleep. Deep, sound sleep allows us to enjoy wide awake, energetic days. That's a good thing. Eating before bed will invariably make you awaken feeling sluggish and craving a stimulant to get through your day. That's not a good thing.

But, sometimes, it's just hard to avoid, isn't it? You've been busy, no time to eat and you finally arrive home late, famished, but dead tired. So, what do you do? In this case, eat a very small amount, if necessary, and sleep slightly elevated. The reason many macrobiotic suggestions advise waiting three hours before going to bed after eating is because this is usually that amount of time it takes for the stomach to empty. For maximum clarity of mind and physical energy for your following day, not eating for three hours before you retire works well.


29. Quantity Changes Quality


Ohsawa was fond of this principle. I think this is a very undervalued principle. Quantity is not always related to overeating. Quantity also refers to nutrient excess; such as too much fat, protein or carbohydrates. Frequently, people place excessive importance on quality of foods. Often, in telling me about their current health, a client will say, "Basically, I eat really good food..." Or, I'll hear, "I eat super well!" These comments usually refer to the quality of their food; they buy it in health food stores, it might be organic, imported, etc. However, that's not the real concern.

Once, I had this well known client from the entertainment world. He had been diagnosed with an inflamed pancreas and balked at my suggestion to refrain from smoking marijuana. His face turned red scrunched up, like a kid whose toy had been taken away and after a moment's thought initiated this dialogue:

"You know how much I pay for an ounce?"
- "I'm really not concerned."
"But it's the most pure Northern Cal home grown--it's got so much resin, I could throw it against the wall and it'll stick..."
-"That's not the point. THC resins exist in the primo brand that you smoke just as it does in what we used to call during the 1960s, cheap 'headache pot' from Mexico. Quality is not the issue, here. It's concentration of nutrient—or in this case, resins. It'll still hinder immune function and promote inflammation."

Another time, I advised a former construction worker who was anemic and listless to stop eating fruit.
He had a four acre back yard and all kinds of fruit trees that he carefully tended. "But, you don't understand," he pleaded, "they're all organic and we use the best water and soil..." and he went on and on.

Finally, attempting to use a metaphor that he could relate to I said, "If I told you that right now, I'm going to hit you over head with a 2x4, but because I like you I'm not going to use knotty pine, and instead, I'll be using some fine polished spruce wood, would that difference be a consolation?" He looked at me like I was crazy (and apparently I did sound crazy) and then laughed.

"Guess it really wouldn't matter, would it?" Now we were both laughing. It's not about quality, I explained. Quality should be a given—get the best whenever possible. But, be mindful of nutrient quantity,--this is what makes a big and significant difference in trying to create balance.


30. Learn Food Preparation Fundamentals

"When you have helped to raise the standard of cooking, you have helped to
raise the only thing in the world that really matters. We only have one or
two wars in a lifetime, but we have three meals a day --
there's nothing in the world that we do as much as we do eating.
"

- Will Rogers (1879-1935)

The first responsibility of self-care demands we learn all we can to become more independent, self-nurturing and creative. Learning how to prepare food is essential. Cooking can become a very evolving art when you discover various balancing factors. Cooking brings out your intuition because when the beans are ready, they'll really tell you as will the grain or your soup. Well, they really don't talk to you, but there is a voice that says, 'you might want to add more miso to that..." to me, cooking is really about self-communion.

Preparing food for friends is an inspiring way to share some of yourself. Learn to select healthy quality foods and prepare them a variety of ways. You don't have to be Graham Kerr, galloping around his kitchen set with a ladle held high, but at least be willing to learn basics, make some foul-tasting cooking mistakes and develop your abilities in the process.

Even cowboys know how to make a good pot of beans...


And that Ain't the Last of Them...
There you have it: 30 principles for macrobiotic living.
Are there more?
Of course.
They will continually be reinvented.
And, why not?
Everything changes.


Verne Varona has become known as one of the most captivating and dynamic health educators in the country. For over thirty-five years, his lectures, workshops and media appearances have motivated thousands of people to take better and more conscious care of their health. He is the author of, Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods (2001, Reward/Penguin Group), being released in a revised edition during May, 2014, from Perigee Books/Penguin Group. Verne's second book, Macrobiotics for Dummies (May, 2009—Wiley Publications), is part of the internationally popular Dummies series and is a comprehensive work that embraces a flexible, multi-cultural health perspective on body, mind and spirit.

Email: vv@earthlink.net
 

 

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