I get asked quite regularly what is a macrobiotic diet? I never know how to answer, I feel people want to hear what I do and don’t eat, but that is never accurate because macrobiotics isn’t all about what you eat. It is more of a philosophy than a diet, a way of life rather than a temporary fix, it is perhaps best described by Warren as an orderly approach to diet and lifestyle. I’ll often launch into a description about eating for energetics without mentioning yin and yang which makes peoples eyes glaze over pretty fast. I find though that whatever I say people still want to know what I do and don’t eat. So I’m starting a collection of the best descriptions and explanations about the macrobiotic diet here, so that I can get better at explaining it all in a few sentences.
I have made a playlist on youtube called mythbusting macrobiotics, which has the following video featuring Lawrence Kushi the son of Michio and Aveline Kushi. He is a professor of etiology at Columbia University and I enjoy his balanced description of how he found an avenue of science that met his criteria of ethical inquiry and also matched his personal interest in nutrition after being raised in a macrobiotic household. He describes how science is reaching similar conclusions to those of the macrobiotic community about the relationship between diet & lifestyle and disease occurrence across populations. It is interesting when he modestly states that many major natural food companies in the United States were founded by people who initially studied macrobiotics.
One of the things we discussed in our healing classes was the doctrine of signatures which is the theory that if a piece of food looks like part if the body then it has properties that are therapeutic to that part of the body. The word Signature derives from sig, signs and nature and doctrine is belief by a group. Lotus root was one of the first things recommended for my lungs, when sliced you can see it has hollow tubes running through it very much like the lungs. Yesterday I got an email from a friend listing some more examples of the doctrine of signatures that I wanted to share.
A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye… And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.
A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.
Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.
A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.
Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.
Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the b o dy.
Avocados, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female – they look just like these organs. Today’s research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods. Modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them.
Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.
Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.
Oranges , Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.
Onions look like the body’s cells. Today’s research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.
If you know of any others please let me know. I love collecting examples of the doctrine of signatures.
Our last day! I took a walk this morning around the back of the main house to visit the rice and the vegetable gardens. The rice looks immature at the moment, the stalks are pointing straight upright and are not drooping with their harvest. I had to go to see them before I left, I have never seen rice growing before.
Survived another five hours of cooking sessions. Today it wan’t a chore to cook at all, it was a chore to sample the six or seven dishes we cooked. Along with the three meals a day we are provided with, it was definitely a macro gluttony day. OK the two Friday night desserts didn’t help, I know, but it is our last night here.
Todays dishes included:
Chop Suey Stir Fry with Dried tofu
Scramble tofu stir fry
Oil Sauteed Tempeh
Chickpea hummus (made by hand in a suribachi, a group event)
Azuki beans and squash
Rice with black soybeans
I am glad the day started with Qi-gong exercises and ended with a walk into Beckett after dinner. Exercising helps. I have a feeling I am going to have to do more when I get home though.
Leaving tomorrow morning with a list a mile long of improvements and changes I want to make to increase my health and energy. Plan to use future blog posts to go into those changes.This was the best place to experience the three priorities in healing, mind (awareness), body (activity) and nourishment. The health trifecta. So glad I came, and met everyone who went through this with me. THANKS.
Lunch being served at the Kushi. One of my favorite parts of staying and learning here is spending time three times a day in the dining room. Attendees, volunteers, chefs, teachers and employees all eat together from the same table of food. In our shiatsu class today John Kozinski gave us a great way to express what macrobiotic eating includes. He called it the 7 habits of natural eating:
1) eat stable energy foods
2) eat mostly whole foods
3) eat natural foods ( no chemicals or additives)
4) eat more vegetarian foods
5) eat with the climate
6) eat with the season
7) eat with an understanding of the energetics of food.
I like this explanation, as it avoids labeling yourself with a name like vegan or vegetarian or macrobiotic. I don’t care much for labels, they mean different things to different people, perhaps bringing misunderstandings and assumptions. Best part of the day, tied with the squash soup we created this afternoon. If only we could create some kind of online tasting app.
Time is beginning to break down here. It’s Friday night, a week has gone by already. We have been working in unbearable heat. The heat and the pace and maybe the food had been doing strange things to me Yesterday I suddenly thought that it was pouring down outside. It wasn’t. Today I was reminiscing about a breakfast ( of oats, rice & fruit compote) that we had had earlier in the week. I was reminded we had eaten it just that morning. So much for the mental clarity I was hoping for.
I have lived for 6 days without carrying any money on me, and without driving my car. Many things that seemed so important for me to sort out while I am here, no longer seem so pressing.
Next week will be much easier I think. We will have less heat and more time off. I am so glad I came. But like Debra said I have learned a lot here, just not what I expected to learn.
Learning the beginnings of massage and the origin of the chakra system and the TCM meridians. Sensing energy exercise.
We spent time comparing the faces of celebrities looking for signs of extreme yin and extreme yang .
Evening, Health forum
This included 10 minute quick counseling sessions in front of the rest of the class. Putting my health situation out there is big leap for me. This is usually well hidden. To get help, you have to be willing to share and this was a safe space for me to do that. John k said I needed more protein and fats in my diet for strengthening. Fish four times a week, a cup of beans twice a day, 2 tsp of olive oil a day. He told me I needed a barley grass drink to help eliminate the toxins from the immunotherapy. I also need to keep seeing a counselor every two to three months for more detailed info. I have some plans for cooking more beans and plan to contact a counselor who had TAK and healed using Macrobiotics.
Managed to volunteer for some of the demos so I experienced some expert shiatsu from John K again. We practiced an upper body routine. My family will be well happy for me to practice when I get home.
Afternoon, lecture, extreme yang
Cooking class: Nishime, kinpira and seitan stew were miraculously conjoured up in cooking class with chef Chris. They were such winter dishes for such a hot day, but they tasted great anyway.
Evening, lecture, how to avoid toxins in everyday products.
Websites mentioned included, Be Well Stay Well and the skin deep database section of EWG The Environmental Working Group. I have some shopping to do as I intend to slowly clean up my use of products, which I suspect will be a long process.
Today I survived 5 and a half hours of cooking class, without incident. Two classes of cutting techniques and knife practice. We were in the Kushi chapel which has decoration and windows reminding us of previous prayers and wishes. If anyone knows my cooking history, this coincidence will not go unrecognized. I need all the help I can get.
My worries about having a high enough energy level are dissipating. I don’t feel too exhausted yet. It is hot, and it is work, but establishing enjoyable and mindful practice is not draining. It is enlivening. I could never had stood for this long 18 months ago. My stamina has improved so much since I started macrobiotics, to a point that extends beyond the amount of stamina I had before I was ill even.
We made pressed salad, boiled salad, steamed veg and thin matchstick pickles out of broccoli stalks ( that I usually throw away).
The pickles were so simple to make, they are a great way to get the good healthy bacteria that aid digestion and healthy gut flora into your system. Homemade ensures there are no sugars, or weird preservatives added. This will be a new adventure when I return home.
This afternoon we cut root vegetables and learned the coolest way to cut an onion without it falling apart. I can’t wait to practice. And no tears either. Crying when cutting up onions goes away after your diet becomes less yin. I didn’t realize until it was mentioned in class and it was one of those, oh yeah, I don’t cry anymore when I chop onions. Do you?
Two more lectures this afternoon and this evening. Time is going quickly, nothing feels like a chore. I was amazed how much I enjoyed using my new knife. I actually enjoyed cutting up veggies. Oh dear, life has changed.
Today we started cooking classes in the main house kitchen. The old stove is left in tact (above) but is not used. It forms one wall of the kitchen and serves as a reminder of all the meals that must have come out of this kitchen.
Our classes started with beginner mind. We learned the basic equipment you might need in a macrobiotic kitchen. Beginner mind is such a great way to start as we all came with different levels of fluency and knowledge. I learned a lot from this class even though I have been transitioning for 17 months and have been going to Warren ‘s classes regularly.
Other classes today were
Quality food selection
Menu planning and
Philosophy intro to yin and yang.
We were in classes from 7am until 8:30pm with breaks in between classes. A busy day.
A few takeaways:
When chopping Energy comes from your hara,. Energy from your center passes down your arm into the food.
Once a bean is cracked it loses it’s chi and will not germinate or will not grow. Same nutritional value but will not strengthen you.
Quinoa-not good for lung problems. Better to avoid quinoa. ME!!
Sad to hear that the price of quinoa has risen so much due to its popularity that the people who live where it grows can no longer afford to buy it.
Tekka will bring up your iron levels. I’m going to use this condiment while I am here and buy some when I get home.
Scallion juice for mosquito bites. These anecdotal snippets of information make cooking class so important. This healing information is only passed along through word of mouth. It seems like reconnecting with an old tradition.
We took a Field trip into the garden and found a wild burdock plant growing next to a wall.
Burdock is extremely strengthening, it’s a blood purifier and can easily be included in stir fries and an important macrobiotic dish called Kinpira. The length of the burdock root under this leaf is the size of the leaf, so it takes a lot of strength to dig it out.
Energywise I did ok with the long day. The food we have mealtimes fuels us. Some of my colleagues are having a hard time with discharging the food and drinks (coffee) that they are used to having. Hopefully they will start seeing the benefit of the clean meals by Thursday or Friday.
Reflections and thoughts from the leadership course at The Kushi Institute
The first night last night and grateful for…A fan! Warm night, punctuated by dreams and waking in unfamiliar surroundings.
Blue jays squawking. A rabbit on the way to exercise class.
We did some Do-In exercises from the book they recommended by The Do-In Way: Gentle Exercises to Liberate the Body, Mind, and Spirit ” by Michio Kushi. Some were familiar to me from yoga classes, but most were new. The instructor shared some anecdotal healing stories with us. One about how humming is effective at clearing nasal congestion. How a patient was saved from nasal surgery after drugs didn’t work, but just prior to going into surgery a doctor held a vibrator to her sinuses and the pain cleared up. We practiced humming while closing one nostril and my nose did feel clearer. We pulled on our toes and fingers and talked about how this impacts different organs in the body.
The session accentuated how experiential the learning is while we are here. You can read about this in the books and mentally know it. To physically know it and feel it is a different level of knowing. In German there are two words for this kennen and wissen.
One thing the instructor said which stuck with me was that Michio Kushi says the purpose of life is to play and we will do well if we approach our learning with this in mind.
Bread & fruit jam/compote
Greens with summer squash quarter moons
Discharge & transition
Even though I knew a lot of the symptoms of transition & discharge, we got some good information about how to healthily reduce the severity. One “did you know”…
A cabbage leaf can reduce the swelling or pain in any area of the body.
The Kushi is starting to feel like home already. The hearth photo is from the porch in the main house. I can imagine a cozy fire in here warming up autumnal nights on the porch, back in the day. All the participants in the course are bonding as we get to know each other and the staff and volunteers are beginning to recognize us, as we are recognizing them. The communal dining hall is small enough for us all to get to know each other.
Good energy all around.