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Some Observations on the some Benefits of a Macrobiotic Life

When anyone has made the decision to adapt himself or herself to a macrobiotic lifestyle for any reason, the overriding feeling is one entering of into totally unfamiliar territory. The question, which most people have, is, "what can I expect to happen?" And interestingly enough, this is the one question that is barely answered in any of the many macrobiotic books available, except "The End Of Medicine", where I give an overview of the general path of the process of healing as well as giving an overview of the stages of a macrobiotic journey.

I did not go into the details simply because the whole purpose of the book is to give people a map, a compass and a method. But, " the map is not the territory", each individual has to learn how to use the compass, as well as undertaking the method. In the book, the map is laid out in general terms. The compass is the principle of yin and yang and the method refers to the selection and cooking of food and goes into great detail on the ginger compress.

There are books by people who have healed themselves of various degenerative illnesses using a macrobiotic approach, most notably Elaine Nussbaum on her experience with uterine cancer in her "Recovery from Cancer through Macrobiotics", and Mina Dobic with breast cancer, in her "My Beautiful Life."

But there is not a lot on the basic question, what is so different about macrobiotic living anyway? Of course, how different it is will depend on the background from which a person comes to changing to living macrobiotically. I suppose I am pretty typical of most Western people in that I came from a heavy meat and potatoes, eggs and bacon, milk and sugar diet along with plenty of drugs of one kind or another like alcohol, cannabis, L.S.D., and other hallucinogens. Fairly typical of someone growing up in the "60's and going to university in Western Culture.

As a result I experienced the usual ailments like obesity, chronic back and hip pain, insomnia, fatigue, chronic dental problems, moodiness and irritability. At this point I am only 27 years old and already beginning to feel like an old man. I then find out about macrobiotic principles and how to apply them.

The basic idea is in order to be healthy the human organism has to be "in balance" and this natural balance is inherent in the physiology of the organism. What we need to do to maintain the natural health and harmony of the human organism boils down to two factors. One, we quit eating and drinking all those foods and substances that are extremely imbalanced with respect to the dynamics of the human organism, in terms of yin and yang. The other is we start eating foods which promote or support the inherent harmony of the human organism, according to yin and yang.

The immediate practical step is the change to a whole new set of foods, most of them either unfamiliar or completely unknown to you. The first step I took was to get a macrobiotic cookbook. The only ones I could get at the time (1975) was "Freedom Through Cooking" by Iona Teaguarden, no longer in print, and "Cooking For Life" by Michel Abhesera, although now there are a number of them ­ I recommend "The Natural Healing Cookbook" by Kristine Turner as the most user friendly. With the help of the cookbook I made a shopping list of what to buy. The next step was to get a large plastic bag and completely empty out my refrigerator and pantry of all the foods I was no longer going to be eating. So, now I had a completely bare refrigerator and pantry.

Then I took the bulging plastic bag and took it down to the dumpster ­ in those days where I was living food banks had not yet come into existence. More than likely there was no need as the level of poverty in those days was far less than it is today ­ for which we can all thank the Federal Reserve and the US Government, but that is a topic for another place. Then it was off to the only natural food store, about one hundred miles away, to load up on bags of whole brown rice, whole barley, oats, millet, kombu and wakame seaweeds, miso paste, umeboshi plums, sea salt, kuzu, and bunches of various roots and leafy green vegetables.

I get back home and after unloading and putting all the goods away, the first thing that struck me when I looked at the receipt was how incredibly cheap this food is relative to the normal fare. It was a real delight to realize that my food bill for the rest of my life was going to be reduced by at least 30-40 %! As an assistant veterinary practitioner I was earning less than $7000.00 per year, so any place I could reduce my cost of living was welcome indeed.

The next problem presented itself. I had to eat and I had no idea how to cook anything let alone grains and vegetables. My cooking skills, if you could call them that, were limited to frying eggs and bacon, and making toast. The task of learning how to cook whole grains and vegetables was by far the most difficult hurdle for me to get over.

My first attempts produced results that left me feeling that there was no way this food could possibly taste ­ of anything! At first, I just assumed it was supposed to have no taste and I ate it anyway. Gradually, as I became more at ease around the stove and my tastes began to change the food became very delicious to me. Of course, the main problem was finding the time to do the cooking while working full time, in my case sometimes 10-12 hours a day.

I made the time element more easily manageable by cooking enough of the whole grains and the soup to last for four days, and I would cook enough of the vegetables so I had enough for two meals every day. So, I ended up having to cook for 1-2 hours only every four days, and the daily cooking amounted to only half an hour. The rest of the time I simply reheated the already cooked food for breakfast, lunch and dinner ­ I did not eat vegetables for breakfast. In the winter I even found I did not have to refrigerate the food at all, refrigeration only being necessary during the hot summer months, the cooked whole grains and vegetables keep so well.

As I was having my daily food of whole grains and vegetables, and I ate very simply in order to keep the cooking as easy as possible, I spent what free time I had from being a veterinary practitioner studying any macrobiotic text I could lay my hands on at the time. There were very few available then, the four titles I had were "Healing Ourselves" by Naboru Muramoto, and George Ohsawa's Trilogy, "The Book Of Judgment", "Far Eastern Oriental Medicine" and "Guidebook For Living", all essential reading. Muramoto's "Healing Ourselves" is a classic and is out of print. "The Book of Judgment" is powerful enough to wake the dead, and since most of the world appears to be in a deep coma, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As I pursue my cooking and eating whole grains and vegetables, poring over these books while working full time, the first change occurring is my insomnia disappears in about three weeks and I am sleeping like a baby for the first time in several months. Soon after my sciatica, which had hitherto been so painful I could not even walk at all on some days, disappeared. Then the chronic lower back pain, which I had had for two or three years, is gone after seven or eight weeks.

Of course, this is all directly related to my weight dropping from 195-200 lbs to 130 lbs over the course of three months or so. And I am still the same weight today although I eat a great deal more widely that I did 28 years ago.

But even these amazing improvements in my physical condition were not the most impressive of all the changes that occurred over the first several months, and I do not have the space here to detail the many, many improvements in the physical aspects of my health. The most impressive changes to me were the radical improvement in my ability to think and the improvement in my emotional state. The improvement in clarity of thought, peace of mind and calmness of soul were a revelation to me.

So, here it is, 28 years and eight months after I began on my macrobiotic journey and of all the benefits that have accrued to me as a result what are the most significant? To me, the most significant is I have no fear of ever becoming ill with degenerative illness. Of course, I have not been to a doctor since I started macrobiotic living, as there has been no need. Also, I have not needed and have no intention of purchasing health insurance, which I think is a monumental scam.

To me, purchasing health insurance is saying, in effect: " I have no idea how to take care of myself, so rather than having to bother with the effort of finding out, I will purchase a lay-away plan to fund the costs of treating the inevitable illness which will arise sometime in the future".

In contrast, a macrobiotic life, which is a journey of understanding the principles underlying it, the result of thousands of years of human experience, time-tested and well thought ­ out by sages of yore, and learning how to apply them to your own specific situation. The essential feature of life to understand is the "art of making balance", for the whole of one's life is really a reflection or symptom of the degree we are "out of balance" or "in balance" with the order in all creation.

In actuality, this is the purpose of illness and the symptoms thereof. Yes, indeed, the symptoms of the natural process of illness are the indicators telling us the degree to which we have brought ourselves out of balance with the order in all creation. Simultaneously, the symptoms of illness are indicators of the process the human organism is undertaking to restore itself to its natural state of harmony, i.e., health. In other words, the process of illness is the process of healing. As Lao Tze, the Taoist sage aptly put it. "Truth is often paradoxical".

Simply stated, macrobiotic living is the art of learning how to eliminate the factors, physical, emotional, and psychological, which promote illness and adopting the factors that support the healing process. And we begin with food, for as the sages of yore stated, "therefore, for those creatures that have a physical body, food is the chief of all things. It is therefore medicine for all illnesses of the body." (In "The Upanishad", an ancient Vedic text).

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