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The Radiant Future of Macrobiotics

Interview with Verne Varona

Posted: The Macrobiotic Guide - July 2004



Q: Do you think, there will ever be a big change happening in the macrobiotic movement?

A: As a movement, macrobiotics, compared to other movements, seems to be lagging in the back of the pack; impoverished, often idealistic, predominantly Asian-oriented and rigidly holding on to its archaic ideology. Based on the way it appears, I think its appeal for the general public is diminishing, despite some recent celebrity press or its expositions.

The people who get involved in macrobiotics are coming to it from a compulsion to heal, philosophical interest or because of celebrity driven PR that promotes well-being. That's all fine and well, but ultimately, the most inspiring factor that can sustain macrobiotics will be truly healthy converts that do not come off fanatical, condemning or arrogant about their philosophy or other healing modalities.

Unfortunately, most macrobiotic counselors have learned a formulaic protocol, which seems severely aged and almost mechanical; 'here's the circle, here are the grain/vegetable division, make this dish three times a week, make this beverage two times a week, this is the should column, this is the avoid column,' etc. It might be, in many cases, necessary to offer guidelines and sometimes, very specific recommendations, but what I see is an enormous amount of stress being generated by the people trying to maintain this and it becomes all too consuming. Frankly, opposite than it was intended.

By some of the writings I've seen and the way, in some quarters, macrobiotics is still taught, the movement has a hint of fundamentalism to it. It is often explained in a polarizing way, listing things good and bad with laws and just punishments ("violating the order of the universe"). I believe much needs revamping. There is something archaic about the dietary formula's because they're based on models of conception, not the practical biochemical reality of modern people's condition.

I think we have to really stop holding on to this image of what macrobiotics should be and get real by understanding that genetics, emotional stimuli, the environment, and the need to respect spiritual practice, all play an important part in our health and that everything is not dependent on our daily three square, condiment usage or masticating until you're blue.

So many deaths from apparently healthy macrobiotic people have all indicated this reality and it's really time to get in the face of people who are claiming their deaths to be due to eating too many flour products, or excess salt or, whatever mono-ideas are being expressed. In the grand picture of things, this is such small thinking.

There is an almost childlike simplicity to some of the recommendations that defy the realities of our conditions, the modern lifestyle and of what we know to practically work. It has been said by a well known teacher of macrobiotics that Leukemia is one of the easier cancers to heal with macrobiotics. A friend of mine, 57 year old European man, was recently diagnosed with leukemia and had very high leukemic cell counts. Really high. In fact, it had spread throughout his body and had also (this discovered later) infiltrated his marrow.

He was severely anemic and could hardly catch his breath, which was causing obvious cardiac stress. A counselor over the phone told him that he just needed to "yang up" and that Leukemia was, "easy to cure." Such armchair amateur advice really flies in the face of survival, instinctive and real. I'm no fan of western medicine, however, it's technology, symptomatically, has saved my life and many others in crisis. Sometimes, this is necessary. But simplistic and dogmatic attitudes, and the gross dismissal of everything western or medical, can be often dangerous.

Q: What can be the bright and radiant future of macrobiotics ?

A: I think it might begin with examining semantics and rethinking Ideology.

For a bright and radiant future of macrobiotics, I think the word "principle" needs to be added to the word macrobiotic, as in "macrobiotic principles," as opposed to just using the word, macrobiotic--which invariably sounds like a club, cult, movement or something having extreme exclusivity, where members harshly judge other, have a certain look, speak a certain language, etc..

I think the principles of opposites, or whatever you want to call them; yin and yang, zig and zag, Benny and Barbara, etc., are important to convey in words simple and direct. Instead of the typical way that they're conveyed, which seems so superficial. I do not see this wonderful and inspiring principle being exploited as it can in so many domains. It is expressed in a linear way, superficially categorizing opposites as a label and not the essence of it's dynamic laws, applications or depth.

We're not just relating to two extremes. When we say, "oh don't mind him, he's just being very yang." To me, this is really a statement reflecting a very superficial statement that reflects gross yin/yang ignorance. What happened to descriptive English? I used to have an unspoken rule with my daughters when they were teenagers that they could not use the word "interesting" or "weird" to describe anything.
My daughter would say, "my boyfriend is just acting weird..." And I'd say, "All right, give me another word that better describes him..." and then I'd get a more elaborate meaning or the real story ,or feeling, behind what she was attempting to say.

It's pathetic how lazy we've become. And this does insufficient justice to the complex layers of yin/yang that are always present. Someone may act "yang" which might look like aggression, but it might be fueled by their yin fear that could be fueled by food and drink that is overly yin, or more acid based. So, it's not all that fair to relate to things with such a simple label. I see the same tendency in other movements, meditation movements, Scientology, etc., where the language supports exclusivity and this, I believe is not a spiritually nourishing tendency because it separates‹see, I could have just said, "yin," but "separates" makes it more clear, and this makes a solution more approachable.

On one level, this is purely an issue of semantics, however, it seems that semantics is sometimes the very thing that stands in the way of promoting macrobiotics common sense principles. The biggest concern I have in promoting macrobiotics, is how much macrobiotic thought centers its philosophy around energetics. In the extreme, this becomes a futile ideology, because 3/4 's of the world cannot relate to this.

We are a physicalized and material society with fairly small numbers that realize an energetic or spiritualized perspective. I'm only lamenting on our need to be more compassionate with people that think in this common vein. If we can appeal to them on their level, or at least respect this level by being able to speak that language, they might find more inspiration to experiment more ambitiously.

The need to express what we say in scientific terms, for whatever is available that they can relate to, then this is one of the ways we can restore credibility. We must learn to talk to people not at them. For those that are teaching the physicalized health aspect of macrobiotics, the need to know basic nutrition--as we know it, despite it's rapidly changing face--and the realistic limits of what we express as health belief systems, should not only have energetic reference, but physicalized as well. We're just talking about some standards for macrobiotic education; learning a bit of science, chemistry, physiology, etc.

When you approach a crowd, as an educator, your teaching, to make the broadest impact, must address every level of what Ohsawa originally outlined as the seven levels of judgment; explaining how things can work mechanically, sensorially, according to our developing likes and dislikes (sentimental), our intellect, ideology and a level of thought that embraces any or all of these levels (supreme). Instead, you have teachers spouting off very theoretical information that does not always make sense, not practically at least, and centered on one or two levels. This automatically excludes others.

For example, telling a nutrition class that scallions have "upward energy" makes little sense to the scientific mind. Do we have to cater to people's pre-disposition to science? Not exactly "cater," but be respectful of their limited comprehension, sensitivity or belief systems, if we truly want to influence them. Making gross references to "discharging" and "cleansing" really belittle our positions, because these are frequently buzz words for, "I don't know." Granted, there is a discharging mechanism as well as a cleansing one, but all too frequently, they are used in general contexts that mask our own ignorance--or fear.

Counselors need to say, "I don't know," sometimes and stop playing doctor long enough to realize that the solutions we've been presented over the years are, in themselves, somewhat idealistic and plainly deficientat least for our absorptive abilities. And, the truth of the matter is that we're learning as we proceed. We may need more oil, omega-3's, some regular animal protein, less grain, more or less salt, more fluid, etc. There is no cookie-cutter formula, but in many cases our needs go way beyond standard macrobiotic recommendations.

The cancer deaths of many long-time community members and macrobiotic teachers do not devalue macrobiotics, but should force us to look at a larger picture than has been emphasized; one the embraces, the environment; our stress levels, stress susceptibility, or management ability; our emotional self and the need for self-expression; our passions--or lack of; our relationships and our family connections; and so forth. All of these factors have the power to dramatically influence our health. Hearing that someone died because they ate too many flour products or ate tempura several times weekly, are statements that cry "cult" and smack of clear fanaticism. It's just too far-fetched in my belief.

I address the physical/health side of macrobiotics here because the advice is so readily available, pervasive and standard. I recently heard a comment that a female celebrity made about macrobiotics when questioned why she did not eat a certain part of her meal at an awards function: "It's not macrobiotic--and I'm eating a strict macrobiotic diet." Comments like this drive me up a wall because they reflect poor teaching; relegating macrobiotics to a good and bad philosophy.

Additionally, we've learned all kinds of things from recent cutting edge nutritional science--things that can help up when we're in need of support. Sometimes, people need the initial boost that may come from concentrated food sources, whether it be a temporary supplement, green powder, intravenous B12, it all has a place--and depends on the individual and where they're coming from.

There are many reasons for the slow growth of macrobiotics as a movement, but in particular, I see it as being overly food obsessive, and rooted in the cultural expression of the Japanese, which, in case you've not noticed, happens to be a culture 180 degrees from our own.

We need more cultural references--from other cultures, and we need a re-vamping of a macrobiotically principled approach to eating (emphasizing generalities of Principle Foods: grain and vegetables and beans; Secondary Foods: sea vegetables, bean products, animal protein, oils, supplements, fruits and natural sweeteners and Pleasure Foods: anything enjoyed in small volumes).

I think we also need to lose those ridiculously complex 12 Theorems of the Unifying Principle and Seven Principles of The Order of the Universe. They, in their essence, are brilliant, but few understand them. Number one; because of their wording, and number two; because no examples are given.

Therefore, probably 95% of the people that see these "laws," walk away thinking it reads like some cult manifesto. We devalue these profound laws by not explaining them clearly and practically. This this information needs to be re-interpreted, because it's deep meaning is lost in the outlined way it's being conveyed.

Q: How can new and old students of macrobiotics bring about positive change?

A: By meeting regularly and addressing these issues, redefining the texts and coming up with new marketing strategies, etc. You see the same old speakers at all these camps and expo's. It's great to see old friends, but we need to include people that are not towing the party line to broaden our vista's and also to bring in others for exposure to what we can offer them.

I remember in Boston in 1971 when Erewhon began to carry cheese. Many in the small knit community were protesting, but it brought in people that would have never otherwise entered the store and they began asking questions about products that were new to them, They saw seminar announcements and consultation flyers and found new inspiration.

Another thing is the poverty mentality I see so rampant among macrobiotic institutions, teachers, etc. Few see the value of spending any money to attract new faces, print better marketing brochures, sponsor events, etc. The reason I hear for this is, "but, we have no money!" And then I think, OPM! What's OPM?--Other People's Money. We need to find sponsors, use whatever 501 (c) non-profit organizational status we have among numerous organizations and pitch people with money to chip in. It's all about marketing, ultimately.

I'm currently doing a film about food. It's a documentary, but feature length and the budget is about 250K. Do I have this in my account? Hardly, but I know other's do. So, my partner and I have written a hilarious script that gets right in the face of food companies, kids, adults with food compulsions, advertising and marketing, etc., and put it into proposal form. And, there seems to be no shortage of people who are coming through saying they want to invest and really get behind putting a conscious message in an entertaining package for the millions.

So, we have to become better marketer's. We've got a great billboard. but it's in the desert and no one's driving by to see it. Media can be very powerful, but there's no power in struggling financially, so we need to give people who are like-minded projects to back that offer them strong purpose, potential profit and something that can be entertaining at the same time--and they'll want to invest--for which they can also get a tax write off.

The point here is not about me and my projects, but that we have to reach out in to the real world that we are so critical of and feel separate from, and ask for help. And do it in a way that leads and inspires, not condemns and faults. There has to be some kind of marriage, because the truth is, we need each other.

Q: In your mind can macrobiotics ever free itself from of it's old image? all changes

A: This is difficult, but possible. What has to be done is something that I think might require Herculean effort--re-doing all the books out about macrobiotics, especially the Ohsawa works that still recommend the number seven diet to cure all ills. I personally think that Ohsawa was brilliant, but the writings (and translations) are a product of 1940-1960 macrobiotic concepts that contain tremendous and profound insight but still ends up making macrobiotics look a bit bizzare with advice that is simplistic, if not dangerous.

Whenever you see a negative article written about macrobiotics, they're still quoting that material. The excuses I hear from some is that the material is out there "out of respect for our Japanese teachers" efforts. Well, conversely, if we really wanted to respect them, we'd try to bring macrobiotics into the 21st century, as I suspect Ohsawa would have done anyway. But modernizing the material with a more gentle and flexible approach seems to be a good place to start. This is my take.

The real spirit and soul of macrobiotics was a hearty willingness to live an adventurous life full of challenge, good will and a growing sense of self-mastery cultivating a daily sense of fearlessness by virtue of faith through the challenges they face and self-reflection they practice. Instead, you find people who are diagnosing you with or without your permission, making gross health, historical and philosophical judgments, acting condescending in their manner and communication while demonstrating questionable morals and ethics.

I think this is really a learning curve for many teachers, as it was for me, but at some point, there needs to be a graduation. Many teachers are still very busy avoiding their own stuff essentially saying, "do as I say, not as I do" in terms of their own addictions (cigarettes, coffee, poverty, power--standard "holier-than-thou" stuff), and making theoretical excuses for their behavior that even they could not possible believe. This does not set an inspiring example.

Q: How is finance at the root of most of it?

A: All the gossip and back-talk I see going on seems so petty; " this teacher is not good," "that person's school is not a real macrobiotic school," "this teacher is not teaching the real macrobiotics like I am, " "that person cannot cook medicinally," etc. I wonder what many who support themselves with macrobiotics would do if they could not make a living from it? The lack of alternatives can sometimes create very competitive and conflicting attitudes that border desperation to remain in the fray.

You don't find a lot of cross support among peers. And I know of some counselor's charging some very high fees and making their clients dependent on them, something that the original goal of counseling was designed to be completely opposite. I know of one counselor who insisted that this particular cancer client donate $1500 for "future telephone follow-up that's crucial to your recovery" before any more counseling was done. Since there were no other counselor's in the area, this person felt this was the only alternative. I've heard some really nasty stories.

The most common was a lack of follow-up to personalize consultation recommendations. This makes people bitter and alienated. They end up judging an entire movement based on the greed or lack of compassion of one individual. So, yes, there's a bit of financial fear to all of this, no doubt. If you really think about it, in regard to Ohsawa saying that "if you really know yin and yang, you'll never be out o a job," such an attitude does seem a bit contradictory.

There are so many wonderful philosophical, spiritual and health aspects of what we know as "macrobiotics." No movement is without its fanatics, its critics or its icons. But when these overwhelm it's message and essence, we lose the purity, the distinction and of course the teaching. If it is to be a "unifying principle" as Ohsawa called it, we must find ways to unify, not only with each other, but with our audiences. The first step is exactly what The Macrobiotic Guide seeks: the opening of dialogue. Thanks for the opportunity to speak.

Verne Varona has been a 34 year student of Macrobiotics and has authored, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods" (Prentice Hall Press). He is presently producing a documentary, "More Than A Mouthful ‹How America Eats" and lives in the mid-west where he watches corn grow and continues to write.

Feedback & Update to the Verne Varona's Interview

posted: 03/12/2004

Below is from Phiya Kushi & Verne Varona

From Phiya Kushi

I read with great interest your interview with Verne and the subsequent comments from various people. The issues being raised have been a concern of mine for at least twenty years. I think it is extremely healthy that such dialogue occurs and it certainly points to something that I see as extremely important in order for the macrobiotic movement to evolve to the next level. To me what I see, is a strong need for people to come together and reach a consensus on the various issues. However, I believe that people may not be quite ready to do that yet until they are willing embrace each other, not make each other wrong, and value, first and foremost, what can be reached by consensus and for the greater good of all.

In order to get an accurate perspective, I think that the phenomena of the Ohsawa legacy should be looked at in the larger context of the general evolution of humanity on the planet and, in particular, the baby boomer generation. To me, many of the critical issues that were or are being raised are not just a problem of the macrobiotic movement but of many movements popularized in 60s and 70s. People of that era were searching for and ready to embrace new ideas. They found them in ideas teachings by Ohsawa, Kushi and other eastern gurus.

However, such ideas were all done so without any fundamental change or evolution in the way people think. As a result, what were practical ideas that stemmed from ancient oriental traditions of non-judgement, non-ego, became new tools for enhancing the ego, being more judgemental and creating more criticism, division and separatism. What you have is two different groups of people speaking different languages not knowing how to fully translate things into each owns language. In other words,
much of the problem is more a comedy of errors and miscommunication; a clash of paradigms and value systems. It is all quite humorous from that perspective.

I can appreciate and agree with the view that macrobiotics, as it is today, is stagnant, and needs to change in order to become more accepted by the general public. I think it is helpful to remember that what is "macrobiotics" today, was very different during the 50s and 60s. Back then "macrobiotics" was the offered as the biological foundation that was integral to Ohsawa's Unique Principle which was his interpretation and refinement of the principles behind ancient Chinese and Japanese philosophy, science, culture and way of life.

The introduction of these ideas under the over-arching banner of "macrobiotics" to the west included a reverence for natural foods, the natural environment, various spiritual disciplines, energetic and
traditional folk medicines, the use of food as medicine and yin and yang philosophy and its application in a variety of fields. Today, many of these ideas have become extremely popular and successful. Whole Food Supermarkets are everywhere, organic agriculture is now a government department,
the environmental movement now includes governments around the world, oriental spirituality is an integral part of the modern world, alternative medicine is used everywhere and one can find multiple sushi
restaurants in every major city.

The integration of East and West is by and large a success, as result of Ohsawa and Kushi and many other people. What has not yet flourished and still carries the "macrobiotic" moniker is the use of food as
medicine and yin and yang philosophy. In other words, over the years, "macrobiotics" has down-sized in scope and meaning. Many people who used to study with Michio in the 60s have long since moved on and applied what they learned to various fields with great success.

Although they may have widened their diets and distanced themselves from those who claim they are "macrobiotic" they still know the impact of food on health and how to apply yin yang principles to various
situations. I don't think there is anymore that would please Ohsawa or Michio.

So nowadays, what is left is a "macrobiotics" that is loosely defined as some type of way of life, a dietary approach and an oriental philosophical system. And, it is stuck because people don't know where to take it from there and when that happens there is a tendency toward in-fighting and back-biting. This is true regardless of the movement or social phenomena and is not particular to the macrobiotic movement.

Where people struggle is in conveying the grandeur of macrobiotics and become frustrated by those that seem to portray macrobiotics as something less than what they think it is.

Here is where the tug of war is.

There is a natural linguistic pull to downsize the full scope and meaning of macrobiotics and its frustrates those that have read Ohsawa and studied with Michio in the early days because they know that there is a
much grander meaning and intention behind all of this. I read this frustration in Verne's article and in many of the respondents. I, too, have been frustrated by this - until recently. I used to try to come up
with novel ways to define and promote macrobiotics such a way that it could encompass the highest and grandest vision.

I now think that this is the wrong marketing approach. I firmly believe that "macrobiotics" must be further down-sized in its scope in order to become fully accepted by society at large. But instead of down-sizing
the definition toward a narrow grain-based dietary approach, I believe that it should revert back to the definitions provided by Dr. Christoph W. Hufeland, who wrote the original macrobiotic book in German in the late 1700s. In other words, I believe that what presently falls under the category of "macrobiotics" today should be divided into four distinct categories which are as follows:

1. Food as Medicine

(this is the specific use of food as a curative measure and continues the lineage of the Shoku-Yo Kai of
Dr. Sagen Ishizuka) The basis of food as medicine therapy can and should incporate both western conventional nutritional science and yin/yang science. The purpose and intention of this category or thrust is further develop and understand the use of food and food based remedies for clinical use and for achieving optimum health.

2. Macrobiotics as the art and science of longevity.

Because macrobiotics has been associated with "food as medicine" and with the introducing yin and yang principles, macrobiotics, as a legitimate science and field of study, has never been able to take off. It is obvious that people can die of accidents, war and natural disasters and other man-made occurrences and the prevention of these forms of deaths should be
included in a field that concerns itself with longevity. Macrobiotic can truly be a fascinating subject, if it can remain true and distinct to its own goals. Whereas the goal of "food as medicine" is optimum health,
the goal of macrobiotics is longevity, which is very different. Sickness, as Hufeland pointed out, can be the means for prolonging life. Ohsawa stated it terms of the experience and overcoming of difficulties as
making one stronger.

3. Yin and yang as a valid scientific paradigm.

What is also confusing in macrobiotics is the additional burden of having to introduce of the yin/yang paradigm (Verne put it as doing away with those ridiculously complex 12 theorems and 7 principles).
By keeping distinct macrobiotics as the study of longevity from the introduction and development of the yin/yang paradigm view will help both to flourish on their own. At present, the yin/yang view is not taken seriously because an objective standard and consensus has not been established. At this point, what is "yin" and what is "yang" is one persons word against another with, by default, the buck stopping with Michio ...all the while Chinese medicine says it is all reversed and that Ohsawa and Kushi got it wrong.

There is no wonder why the scientific community is not rushing to fully embrace yin and yang as a legitimate scientific perspective. In order to overcome this there must be established a uniform and standardized approach of yin and yang that everyone can agree upon. A few years ago I came up with an idea to develop what I call a yin/yang quotient such that everything in the universe would be given a numerical yin/yang rating. Similar to measurements that we use everyday for time, distance,
weight, temperature, etc. and that are essentially arbitrary but agreed upon, we could also come up with a measurement for yin/yang factors in things and phenomena. It would take time to develop but I think it
is possible.

4. "One Peaceful World" or the social and spiritual movement towards world peace.

Clearly, one the main intentions of Ohsawa and Kushi has been to foster a greater understanding between East and West as a means to promote peace and avoid destruction by world war. In macrobiotics today this comes off as the moralistic fundamental righteousness that seems counter productive to freedom. By keeping macrobiotics (as the study of longevity) distinct from the spiritual and social development toward world peace it also allows for both fields to flourish.

Longevity is obviously not dependant on moral values and spiritual disposition but peace is. Here is where a "way of life" can be identified as fostering peace and sustainability on the planet. Such a way of
living and being can include but is not necessarily focused on longevity, food as medicine, or having everyone consciously understand and apply yin and yang in their lives. Instead, it is focused on how to live and behave such a way that includes one's impact on others and the world. Presently there is work being done in this area by many people. I, personally, find the work of Spiral Dynamics to be an important part of this effort.

By making distinct the above four categories from what is now called "macrobiotics" I think there is a freeing up that will allow each area to flourish in their own way. To further expand on the "Food As Medicine" area I am developing a new effort called "chefdoctor" ) whose aim is to bring the idea of "food as medicine" to the forefront of the healthcare industry. I am also interested in seeing those interested in yin/yang getting together and really hashing out a standard and uniform consensus as to what the heck is "Yin" and what the heck is "Yang" and who is going to decide. In conclusion, I think that macrobiotics, as it is today, must and will eventually, whether I do anything about it or not, reduce itself into these groups. Indeed, after much consideration, I believe it is the only direction it can go in.

In the interest of brevity and although there is much more that I have been thinking about that I would love to share, I will save it for another time. I did want to address a couple of points that were raised by
Verne and others.

There is much truth in cultish fundamentalism that Verne is critical about which should be addressed. In fact, to me, it is much more apparent than just a hint. It is loud and obnoxious. But this fundamental
attitude is not necessarily limited to the macrobiotic movement. It is symptomatic of many movements that came out of the 60s and 70s that could loosely be called the "New Age" but it is also still alive and well in all the major religions around the world today and even more so. In macrobiotic circles part of this fundamentalist attitude has also included the unnecessary negation of medical science, again pointed out by Verne.

I think this fundamentalism occurs (as well as many other problems) because people do not normally look at the logical structures that we use to arrive at our own conclusions. Looking into logical thought
structures has been an ongoing interest of mine especially when someone asked for "evidence" of this or that. Most believe that science uses only one form of logical process but that is not true. Even scientists do not make such distinctions which can then create a phenomena where different branches of science argue over different pieces of evidence. Also, religion has a distinct logical structure which can found in
non-religious areas. I have, for the moment, identified five distinct logical systems.

These are:

1. Intentional Manifestation. This is the logic of religion where everything has a purpose or intention. In other words "it is that way because it (God) was intended it to be that way". This logic is also
found in the idea of karma and new-age statements such as "There are no accidents". Many macrobiotic proponents see macrobiotics in this way, which explains why there is often found a "fundamental" streak. They may have merely shifted and applied their logic of religion to macrobiotic theory and principles.

2. Deductive Reasoning. This is the logic of mathematics and physics. It is the logic of infinity. This logic produces evidence that is absolute and precise. It either IS or it ISN'T and there is mathematical proof.

3. Statistical Probability. This is the logic of finite yet uncountable sets. It is the logic of gambling, economics, epidemiology and produces evidence that is imprecise but is "most probable."

4. Functional Analysis. This is the logic of closed static systems and is used in mechanics, engineering and clinical medicine. This is the logic that people most commonly refer to as "scientific." It produces evidence based on explicative trial and error in a closed (laboratory) setting.

5. Historical Determinism. This is the logic of dynamics systems and is used in the study of the weather, the environment, social phenomena and other open systems. It is the basis of chaos theory and produces
evidence based on cause and effect. It is also the logic of yin and yang.

By recognizing these different patterns of logic one can see that, indeed, yin and yang belongs to the same thought process that is used to study, for example, hurricanes and tornadoes or the rise and fall of
civilizations. The yin/yang perspective of the human body, unlike the medical logic of functional analysis which views it like a machine, sees it as a dynamic system that is constantly in flux and influences and is
influenced by its environment. Each logical system has no value above the other.

They all have their uses and their limitations. But when a Doctor of Medicine asks for evidence, he/she is most likely using the logic of functional analysis which is different from when a priest or an epidemiologist or a mathematician or a meteorologist asks for evidence. Keeping such logical perspectives distinct is valuable when asked for "evidence". An appropriate response would be: "What logical systems are you
using?" Understanding these logical systems and knowing where yin/yang logic falls under is helpful for me to identify how people think and when they are displaying a fundamental attitude.

Let's work together and move things forward to the next level

Phiya Kushi

From Verne Varona

Personally, I received over 250+ emails--and they're still coming--from readers and all of them very supportive of the interview. Whether they were supportive or not really isn't the issue--that they're voicing an opinion is the result and to that end, I'm happy my interview inspired that.

1. One of the letters mentioned that I was not honouring our elder teachers, "for all that they've done in the past..." Not quite. Truly, I am infinitely grateful, particularly to George Ohsawa, Michio Kushi and
Herman Aihara, whose hard work and tenacious devotion to spreading these teachings influenced virtually millions of people, directly as well as indirectly; through writing, counselor training, cook books, seminars, summer camps, product distribution, etc., that made ancient Japanese products now American household names as well as natural food industry standards. I remember being at one of Michio's in the early seventies when he said that we were very fortunate to have the teachings of various masters (he was alluding to Jesus, Lao Tsu, Buddha, etc.) before us in convenient book form as a way to challenge our thinking and grow from their reflections.

In fact, Michio had saidthat because we had their entire life's work in our hands as written word, we therefore had the potential to become "much higher" then them, by having such universal teachings at our fingertips and by being able to implement their theories in times where survival is not the critical and obsession of our daily life.

So, I have no criticism of Kushi to offer other than his marketing strategy for macrobiotics. All of our Japanese elder teachers did phenomenal work, but while we were a captive audience to such novel ideas in the 60s and 70s, catching up with the times means to continue refining their work. You can see, by studying Ohsawa, where Michio added his own refinement. So, we get his take, but that's Michio Kushi's perspective and it cannot not be carved in stone. Considering macrobiotics consistently
talks about change, this seems to be a valid point. I honor our teachers for their insight, their dedication and their tremendous devotion of energy to a cause they believed in.

2. I did not suggest we "lose the 12 Theorems," but revamp them in less academic language so you don't have to be a physics major to understand the terminology. How many people really know what bifurcation means? It's about language; not sounding intelligent for the sake of bravado, but simplifying it so everyone can understand. I distinctly remember a quote from Michio that I once heard at a lecture in early 1970--"Unless we can express ourselves in words that are simple and direct, we run the risk of becoming slaves to concepts..." That's something to chew on.

3. My comments about macrobiotics being a movement that is dying, is in reference to the structure, hierarchy, economy and marketing of the movement itself. That point was clarified by explaining that we need more references than just one culture, namely, the Japanese. You know, I've been reading some information about fermentation lately, and if you just tell people to eat pickles, specifically umeboshi, tamari-daikon, etc., it can seem so foreign.

However, fact is, almost every developed agricultural society had some kind of fermentation with their meal. Even in the South Sea Islands, it was popular to take the breadfruit plant, scoop out it's sweet contents from its shell, mash it, put it back into its shell that was now bound with a cord, dip it in seawater for a bit and then bury it in the sand for preservation. This method allowed them
to continually obtain small amounts of fermentation as a meal addition--for digestion. I believe that we need to incorporate more variety into our teaching styles and examples from other cultures to give these teachings more of a universal mood.

4. I am not really suggesting that we burn Ohsawa's books, but consider editing some of the content that just does not jive with our times. For my money, George was one crazy, genius of a risk taker, whose spirit leaps off the pages of his books and I am deeply indebted to his dedication and writing about macrobiotic principles. I've heard several tapes of his lectures from the early 60s and George had this baritone, and sometimes, bass honey voice--fluid, warm and with a resonance that just grabbed you by the throat and said, "Hey--don't even think about not listening to me!" His laugh was deep, infectious and commanded attention.

But some of the food references, particularly in Zen Macrobiotics about
curing certain conditions in ten days sound rather ridiculous. And, the word "cure" is the problem. It was used loosely and really meant "that the road to cure begins with the elimination of certain foods and lifestyle practices as well as the inclusion of whole foods eaten with a sense of balancing extremes..." In its current context, it sounds fanatic.

5. I am passionate about spreading macrobiotic teachings, but in a way that doesn't clobber people over the head and attempt to motivate them with the fear of sickness or the judgment of doctrine. I believe it can be done in the context of teaching people history, the meaning of a purposeful life, the expression of feeling, the value of creativity and nurturing of culinary arts; learning where our food comes from, how to
prepare it and where its power lies.

Verne Varona

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