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What People Say About Macrobiotics > A Macrobiotic Quest by Evan Root


To put it simply, I was seeking enlightenment. This was the original impetus that brought me to macrobiotics. At age 17, I had eaten a bud of peyote which momentarily threw open the doors of perception revealing a brief glimpse into life's infinite depth. Perhaps guided by a little reading into Zen Buddhism and oriental philosophy, or maybe it was just common sense, or both, I felt that the answer as to how to find lasting enlightenment could not lie in a repetitious use of hallucinogens. Yet I did not know where it was to be found. I was in limbo. And, I was on the lookout.

Several years of later, something called "Zen macrobiotics" crossed my path. While at a dinner party, a bit of casual conversation hit my ear about people who were "eating brown rice and vegetables as a way to expand their consciousness". Something in my mind clicked, "Eating whole rice, oriental food, must produce mentality of oriental philosophy!". Quickly I found out where to get the food and a book, and I locked onto macrobiotics as my way, as the way to achieve health, happiness, enlightenment, and save the world.

I don't consider 'enlightenment" and saving the world a loftier impetus than other's reasons for getting into macrobiotics, although I did at the time. As I see it now, it is a symptom. George Ohsawa called it arrogance. The separated mentality, trapped in it's illusions of who it thinks it is, senses something is missing or wrong and wants something. Wanting and seeking of this kind can be another form of avarice. Trying to get beyond one's mentality with one's mentality is a neat trick.

In my beginning years, I was focused on the power of food and infused with a sense of inspiration. I was a missionary and a crusader. I traveled with my pressure cooker, rice and condiments in my backpack, ready to cook in any kitchen into which I was invited. I augured stints of fasting and diet number seven into my regime to accelerate my progress. 'Nirvana now' was the cry of the psychedelic sixties.

It had it's own expression in the young macrobiotic movement of those times too. There is a well known quote from Albert Einstein that goes "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes". In my particular case, everything had changed: my diet, my life style, my body, my opinions, and aspirations.

Yet in spite of these seemingly significant changes, without a shift in "mode" of thinking, I still drifted toward my own personal "catastrophes". Inevitably, I fell into a few pitfalls. Unable to eat my way out, I got stuck in some of them for years. I did not even know I was stuck until a vague sense of numbness gave way to a more tangible sense of desolation. What had surfaced in my situation stemmed from pretty standard ego stuff: feeling superior/feeling inferior, living life from a concept, concern with my image, investment in being right and so on.

I had brought this program to my practice of macrobiotics and so, after the initial excitement and convincing myself that I was "going somewhere and saving the world", after the "honeymoon", I was left with myself and my mentality and I was just like everybody else. New food, new beliefs fed into the same old program. In terms of finding the holy grail, I had come up empty. And empty was my cup for many years to come.

What occurred to me after years of macrobiotic involvement, all the while claiming to have the "magic spectacles", was that what I was seeking was not coming to me via a practice of macrobiotics. So eventually, I gave up. My life was unhappy, I was on the verge of divorce, and I was traversing a very dry piece of desert in terms of satisfaction in life.

I did not give up eating grains and vegetables. What I mean is that I gave up thinking of macrobiotics as my path or my savior. My path had brought me to a dead end, and I was certainly not saved. Here I lingered, not knowing what to do but to somehow just keep on keeping on. I had joined the ranks of those I once secretly felt superior to, working not to save the world but just to feed my self and my family, and keep a roof over our heads.

Now, with the advantage of hindsight, I see an important lesson in coming to the end of my sense of "specialness". I am just like everybody else. Sure, my fingerprints and coloring and personality are distinguishable. But I am not different. I am not separate.

After years of seeking a breakthrough in consciousness through macrobiotics, I had discovered that it is not possible. For a shift in consciousness to take place, it is necessary to abandon everything to which the mind is holding. Hold on to nothing: not to an idea or to an ism or religion, nothing , including an idea about nothing. Only when the mind is stripped of the conditioning that it brings to anything and everything, no matter how "good" the thing may be, is there freedom from the known and a lifting of the veil which covers the experience of reality. This too is an interesting paradox. Enlightenment is not an experience of something "else" or a place to "get to".

It is simply the cognition of what is, unobstructed by our conditioning. In my observation, the eating of a whole grain and vegetable diet helps to harmonize the body with this experience, but it is not initially necessary for the experience and therefore not primary in order of importance for the occurrence. In other words, a transcendental experience is available to all, regardless of diet.

It is worthy of note, however, that the sensibilities of the body after being overhauled by an awakening experience tend toward grains, vegetables and fruit and away from meat and rich food. So, although not primary in order of importance for the experience, it is harmonizing and therefore beneficial and potentially catalytic as it may, to some degree, ready the body for the experience.

When I let go of my identification with macrobiotics, it was not a rejection but a releasing. In fact it wasn't really so much a letting go of macrobiotics as it was a letting go of the "me" created by borrowed thoughts and opinions. If I had been a "true believer" about something else, I'm sure I would have had to release that too. It was just that so much of the "me" that I was carrying around had been tied up with "macrobiotic" thoughts and opinions. The words of the John Denver song, "Sweet Surrender" were especially poignant to me then: "There's nothing behind me and nothing that ties me to something that might have been true yesterday. Tomorrow is open. Right now it seems to be more than enough just to be here today."

I smile at the paradoxical nature of life. This freedom can't be found through macrobiotics. Yet I was involved with macrobiotics and this freedom found me. It will find you anywhere when you are lost and you are honest and you don't know and you know you don't know and you are available to listen instead of putting thought (which is always based on the past and therefore limited) in the space where receiving could take place. George Ohsawa apparently knew this.

This must be the reason he named his school "Center Ignoramus", the center of ignorance. Thought is necessarily useful for many aspects of life, but when it is left to it's own devices, unexamined and made the master rather than the servant, then we have reactivity and a future like the past. In this way reality cannot be perceived and so no true responsiveness in the present situation can occur.

There is something deep in the being of everyone, closer than flesh and bones, which is aware of our connection with a larger whole than the mind can comprehend. This can be forgotten or overlooked but not lost. Not just a link, this is our true Identity. A moment spent in perception approximating this reality is enough to begin to awaken to the True Self. The True Self looks on nought but itself. There is no "other". Perception coming into alignment with reality has been called 'the reality reversal'. Of course, it is not really reality that is reversing. It is our perception of the illusion of separation that reverses to align with the fact of our non separate identity. This is the simple truth of who you are.

Ohsawa must have known something about this too. For before he coined the name Zen macrobiotics for the west, he used the Japanese words "musoo genri" to name the philosophy that he was teaching. Musoo means 'not two', and genri means 'fundamental truth' or 'original principle'. So a fairly literal translation would be, 'the fundamental principal of not two'. This was translated into English as "the unique principal' , which can be misinterpreted as "there is only one like it" in a exclusive sense when it was intended to mean, "there is no 'other', life is not divisible".

That which is 'me' is in reality not bounded. I am the all and everything as well as the nothing and unmanifersted, and so are you. There is no separation of anything in reality. In this manifold universe, that which appears as differentiated all stems from one and still is one. Even in relative terms this expresses itself in that we are related and we are all in relationship.

When we can say, not from a conceptual ideal, but from the living consciousness that embodies the truth of Jesus's statement, "What so ever you do onto the least of them, you do onto me.", then there has been a change in mode of thinking and we are on the road to effectively attending to the dilemma Einstein speaks of in the earlier quote. It would take an unusual circumstance for someone to knowingly chop off his own foot.

As I look back on my early experience with macrobiotics, I see that one of the pivotal lessons I learned was in the pitfall of putting the cart (macrobiotics) before the horse (spirit). I didn't notice that when I was first starting out because I was so busy being psyched about the cart and its potential.

I was fixing it up according to the instructions: working on the wheels and the seat and streamlining the storage compartments et cetera. But when I was no longer "becoming macrobiotic" and for all practical purposes I "was" macrobiotic, when I had already put the cart kit together, then what? The cart was more or less ready to go, but I was not in touch with where or how or what for.

I was overly invested in the cart, very conceptual and out of touch with myself. The dry desert years of feeling like I was going nowhere (that's Erewhon spelled backwards) were inevitable.

When I was finally worn down enough to admit that my great "way of life" had come up dross and that I did not have the answer, the events and people in my life began to divinely collaborate to reunite me with my True Self. Once this commenced, I could see that I had put the cart before the horse, and I shifted priorities. Now that the cart is hitched behind the horse I notice that a balanced diet of grains, vegetables and fruits makes for an efficient, aerodynamic cart.

There is less "drag". But for me the call of the spirit to Self-realization is number one. So that leads me. I am pulled by that. I no longer think in terms of the "macrobiotic way". Words are already a difficult medium to communicate in. For me, it is enough to just say "life".

Interestingly, this shift in approach to macrobiotics, hasmade it easier to share with others. Firstly, I am never seeking to convert anyone. I do not push it. I don't know what is right for anyone else, but within each person is the wisdom to know and I have the faith that they will choose accordingly once they have enough awareness. At all of the workshops and gatherings that I host, we serve the very best quality macrobiotic style food that we can.

Spiritual awakening, self discovery, emotional healing (which often turns into physical healing) are the focus of the gatherings, and the food just fits in like a silent servant. Everything that people get from the food is experiential.

Invariably, those who are coming from unhealthy diets begin to make significant changes in their food choices and start to ask questions. At the same time, the people who have come from a macrobiotic background start to become unburdened of conceptual thinking and all the dogma their karma may have run into on the macrobiotic road.

This too occurs in a context of freedom and the simple process of experience replacing belief. Paradoxically, when life is not about food, the food can do a better job, and we bypass the fanatical food cult detour entirely.

By writing this, I do not mean to infer that this approach is better than any other particular way. Taking the emphasis off of food is simply an approach that may be helpful sometimes for some people. Certainly putting the emphasis on food can by very helpful sometimes too. This is simply the approach that suits what I'm up to.

Our essence is spiritual, and we are not separate. When we awaken to this truth, powerful force allies with us and we are charged with new life. Since living my life from the perspective of Spirit coming first, I have felt rich. And I have no regrets. Everything along the way was needed in just the dosages and durations I got for this particular pilgrim's progress. I am grateful for it all.

by Evan Root

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