Macrobiotics

When I was a much younger man, and feeling very old, I was immensely fortunate to stop in a health food store one day and ponder the rice. Long, short, round, white and brown. Mostly the brown. I was already a vegetarian, maybe a vegan, though I hated the word. It seemed silly – an exclusion rather than an embrace. (Life defined by what you do not eat). I needed to understand food, the body, the cell, healing, energy, life.

I had tried ten things – vegetarian, vegan, all fruit, all vegetables, raw foods (all resulting in various compensatory binges of salt, fried food, sugar or bread). Most of these oddball diets lasted a few days to a few weeks. I suppose I tried them and in doing so, learned what food is in the body, how it affects energy, feeling, psychology. But humans aren’t built for a mono-food diet.

I had tried a few things, and I was still looking. I stopped to look at the brown rice. When I was a kid, rice was a dry bright yellow thing that you poured out of a box and cooked in 5 minutes that tasted like salt and chicken broth. But that wasn’t rice. And what I used to eat for bread, that wasn’t bread.

A man came up to me, asked me what I was looking at. He was a cook. He practiced something called macrobiotics. He was friendly, he knew about rice. I talked to him cautiously; I didn’t want to end up in some Moonie cult. Turns out he wasn’t a Moonie, and was not really enough of a ‘joiner’ to be in any cult at all.

We became friends. Or, he became my teacher, and I rode by bike across town at 6 am to cut vegetables and talk about Yin and Yang, humans and society, belief and reality, politics and culture, liars and frauds and other politicians, movies and cinema and film; and of course, beans, vegetables, sea weed, seeds and nuts, food versus what was sold in the supermarket…and the expression of infinity in paired opposites in an un-ending universe.

Neat ideas. More than that, more than I can express.

(Thank you Jim, thank you Michio, thank you George).

What follows are some ideas that are almost always with me; ideas I hope you will enjoy.

And some links:

Macrobiotics… 30 Principles… Healing with Whole Foods…

The Seven Universal Principles of the Infinite Universe

1. Everything is a differentiation of One Infinity.

2. Everything changes.

3. All antagonisms are complementary.

4. There is nothing identical.

5. What has a front has a back.

6. The bigger the front, the bigger the back.

7. What has a beginning has an end.

The Twelve Laws of Change of the Infinite Universe

1. One Infinity manifests itself into complementary and antagonistic tendencies, yin and yang, in its endless change.

2. Yin and yang are manifested continuously from the eternal movement of one infinite universe.

3. Yin represents centrifugality. Yang represents centripetality. Yin and yang together produce energy and all phenomena.

4. Yin attracts yang. Yang attracts yin.

5. Yin repels yin. Yang repels yang.

6. Yin and yang combined in varying proportions produce different phenomena. The attraction and repulsion among phenomena is proportional to the difference of yin and yang forces.

7. All phenomena are ephemeral, constantly changing their constitution of yin and yang forces; yin changes into yang, yang changes into yin.

8. Nothing is solely yin or solely yang. Everything is composed of both tendencies in varying degrees.

9. There is nothing neuter. Either yin or yang is in excess in every occurence.

10. Large yin attracts small yin. Large yang attracts small yang.

11. Extreme yin produces yang, and extreme yang produces yin.

12. All physical manifestations are yang at the center, and yin at the surface.”

Liam

8 Comments

  1. Nice piece. We become the food that we we eat.. So it is crucial to not antagonize our energies with what we ingest.

  2. Thanks for telling your story, Liam, and including me in it. I’m especially proud to have helped you on your way. Jim

  3. Great story. Now tell us about food.

    It has taken me 40 years to finally listen to my doctor who said eating healthier (the more the better) and doing a little exercise is the way to go. And the vegans I have spoken to (I don’t like the name either, reminds me of Venus and aliens), when talking to me about what I eat and where I shop, always sigh when I mention buying from the local supermarket. As if to say, “Well, if you must, I suppose it is better than nothing.” That the food there is mostly processed, and that pretty much everything in the store is not natural but contains something “extra”. Chemicals usually. That you can’t even buy something as simple as fruit that hasn’t been sprayed, genetically modified, altered in some way.

    But I have also found that the body doesn’t like to change, nor to change to just one thing. The no-carb diet, the grapefruit diet, all lack something the body seems to crave. I don’t say want, because I figure if I crave it (In my head) it’s because my body craves it and tells me so. So we do go off and binge.

    I ran in to this recently. I was doing great eating a lot of the stuff you told me about, then my doctor told to me to switch to high-protein. Then didn’t elaborate on what that should be. The only diet similar to that, that I know of, is no-carbs, lots of meat. The only meat I was trying to put in my body was deep sea fish. High in Omega-3, supposed to be eaten three times a week or more. But because of his suggestion, I went out and bought every red meat. Now I feel lethargic, I am certain that after dropping down to 196, I am back to 205. I don’t have the energy to lift weights. Nor the desire to ride my bike. So I figure, screw him, I want my energy back. He was suggesting all Yin with no Yang and my body naturally responded by saying, “No!”.

    But part of my problem is that nobody taught me anything about food, aside from you, Liam. I had a limited selection, and was only doing a little research to find out what else I could prepare that I would enjoy enough to put in my mouth. I was doing fine with what I called lentil-guacamole. I ate it with carrot sticks instead of chips. But I was eating it all the time. It filled me up and seemed to contain nothing bad for me. Everyone said avocados are healthy for you, especially if you have diabetes. And the rest was fresh garlic, onions, peppers… All of that seemed good for me. Had fish as the main course. Why did I need to switch to all-protein?

    Tell us more Liam. Don’t keep the knowledge to yourself.

  4. PS: A Basic Macrobiotic Menu would include the following:

    1) A grain (brown rice, whole wheat, rye, whole grain pasta, corn tortilla, buckwheat, millet, oats; prepared as boiled, pressure-cooked, simmered or baked).

    2) A bean or protein (lentil, adzuki, red, black, white beans, soy, some soy products; or an occasional small portion of SMALL, cold water fish (not giant deep-sea fish which take in a lot of mercury and are 30 years old).

    3) Vegetables – three types (Cooked, raw, prepared in different styles, appropriate for the season):

    * Root – carrot, beet, radish, onion
    * Ground – cabbage, squash
    * Leaf – kale, collard, parsley, cilantro, other dark lettuces

    4) Nuts/Seeds – raw sunflower, raw or roasted sesame, raw almonds, raw walnuts

    5) Good Oils – green olive oil, toasted sesame oil, other cold-pressed non-chemically extruded oils.

    6) Condiments – good vinegar, non-refined apple cider, brown rice. Balsamic, occasional use. Spices (moderate), ginger, pepper, mustard, herbs, etc.

    Pickles and pressed vegetables (home made is easiest and best, all you need is two ceramic bowls, or better, a pickle press).

    7) Seaweed, or sea vegetables are also part of a macrobiotic approach. Nori (as with sushi and norimaki), kombu (kelp), wakame, and a variety are available. I use sometimes, when I seem to have cravings for highly mineralized food.

    8) Fruit – local, in season.

    How you prepare the all of the above has everything to do with you, your constitution, your health and preferences. Soup is an essential part of every diet – taking in nutrients with liquid, before eating improves digestion and absorption of ingredients, and helps you feel full when you actually are (we tend to feel more ‘full’ a few minutes or a half hour after eating, as the food expands and absorbs water; having enough liquid in the food helps you feel full when you actually are ‘full’).

    Here’s a general search for more information:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=basic+macrobiotic+diet&

  5. One word I would like to talk about is Placebo. I was reading recently about Qi, the Asian concept of inner energy and part of the martial arts culture and there was an article about how people have conducted investigations in to whether or not Qi can be measured, whether it is real or not. And then they mentioned acupuncture and stated that sham (fake) acupuncture seemed to have the same results as “real” acupuncture, suggesting a placebo effect.

    As I was reading it hit me that I often wonder if Modern Medicine with all of its pills, liquids and methods are placebos or not?

    I had read somewhere, possibly even here on this site, of a conspiracy by the media to make movies, usually Westerns, depicting Snake Oil Salesman to reinforce the idea that only approved pharmaceuticals should ever be used, never trust anyone selling Home Cures. That all Home Cures in movies never cure you. Or you always have a doctor saying things like McCoy from Star Trek might have said such as “Put away your butcher knives and leeches and let me save this man!”

    When I look back on medical cures over the ages, I can see where some are clearly crazy, and others probably worked. Mud for instance. Good old Mother Earth can be used to help with rashes, bug bites and so on. How much better is a bottle of calamine lotion versus some mud? Would a placebo affect change depending on whom it was offering the cure?

    If you got poison oak while hiking on a Native American Indian reservation and you were taken before an old and wise looking Native American who then produced some clearly home made substance and said “This will cure that right up!” Would you assume it was true? Would you accept it more or less than a medical doctor offering the same cure? More or less than a medical doctor offering some prescription drug remedy?

    Similar situation is you get a rash while in the Himalayas and a Tibetan Monk in orange robes offers you a cure, saying it is an ancient remedy. You call your doctor back home on your cell phone and he or she says you need a prescription to stop the infection and heal you. Which sounds more credible to you?

    So now I wonder about Placebos AND about the source of the medical advice.

    I guess for a long time I have had an inkling in the back of my mind that the cures we get sold are coming from people who went to the same schools as those who come up with stories like the Big Bang. These ever-changing tales of what’s going on. How everything, at some point was believed to cause cancer, and then not cause cancer, or caused heart disease only to later find out…sorry, we were wrong, it doesn’t cause heart disease, but stay tuned because we might change our mind again later. With enough advertising, just like with mainstream science/scientism, if enough of them say it, and there are no dissenting views allowed, and you only hear one side for long enough… does it become true in your mind? Is there much difference between placebo and brainwashing? Can you be convinced with enough repetition to believe something will cure you?

    Note to self: Investigate correlation between medical announcements and stock market.

    I am certain that many ancient remedies for various things that have been passed down over the ages have turned out to be good, solid and practical whereas many have turned out to be wrong. It would also be interesting to find out if placebos worked then as now? I assume they would. And I wonder if healers back then intentionally gave patients placebos, knowing they were placebos? I am sure every age has its snake oil salespeople. And I think ours today are the Big Pharma companies. Does this mean all products offered by Big Pharma are snake oil or placebos? I don’t know. I also don’t know how much it matters? If someone handed you a Tic Tac, told you it was a new sugarcoated cancer treatment cure and your cancer went away… does it matter to you?

  6. I like the attention to yin and yang energy, something that is only now breaking through in the West on a greater scale.
    From my understanding, the Yin side of things reflect these questions: Are you trusting that something will happen? Are you not pushing too hard to make things happen? Listening in the stillness? Are you creating the meditating space to let the answers come to you? Being connected to Yin side will feel very pleasureable. It runs very much in the bottom half of the body, the womb space, hips and pelvis. Very soft. Not so puffed up. More of a flowing energy in our body. One can have a clear purpose and want to take action and can breathe and soften and be “in the hips” and “feel soft and joyful” at the same time. The feminine essence is a sexual, human body energetic, that is soft, more flowy, in the hips.

    Masculine: Yang side of things with questions that reflect: Have you been clear on the steps (goals, actions) that you need to get you there, to make it happen? Have you taken action? Without stress?

    The two do embrace each other beautifully.

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