Growing up in a Macrobiotic household, my upbringing wasn’t normal. For instance when I was in school in the 80s, I was the only one who had whole wheat brown bread and healthy alternatives to Snickers bars. We all know the look of a Snickers bar with the blue letters, red rim and dark brown packaging. Everyday I wished I had something that looked more like that, instead, my healthy version was bright yellow candy bar, not discrete at all. Kids would point at my food and ask me, “What’s that?” with a gross look on their face, that kind of look when they don’t really care what your answer is, they just want to make fun of you.
My parents did make it easier for me than it was for my father. Back in the 60s, his parents, Michio and Aveline Kushi, packed him brown rice balls wrapped in nori. Yes, that was the era of hippie love and the beginning of the wave of the natural foods movement, but nonetheless he was teased--a lot. Currently, there is a lot more awareness and acceptance of health food, one step at a time, one ripple at a time. We still have more ripples of health awareness to create around the world.
My grandparents were visionaries. After World War II, they devoted themselves to seeking world peace through educating people about the macrobiotic way of healthy living. A message that was before its time. I am honored beyond words to have been brought up in that environment. They pushed the envelope for how we relate to food, to the environment and to the world.
Macrobiotics…what is it? A few common impressions I hear from people are that its difficult to do, that it’s very strict, that it's something they would check out if they were really sick with cancer, or that it's about eating local and organic foods. Macrobiotics is all of that and much more.
Looking at the Latin roots, macro is large or big. And bios, the root of biotics, is life. The direct translation is Big Life. Macrobiotics is a way of life, a philosophy to support living a Large/Big Life. My personal translation is Big “Awesome” Life. Macrobiotic principles are simple and beautiful. The lifestyle can be extremely complex, yet it can be easy and liberating.
In a nutshell, the macrobiotic philosophy is a set of principles to apply to your life to live with fluid freedom in order to support your biggest wildest dreams.
Macrobiotics is ancient wisdom that is practiced around the world. Living in harmony with the local environment, changing seasons, and following the wise words of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”.
The modern macrobiotic movement grew out of the disharmony of the world wars and increase in diseases as a result of modernization and globalization. This triggered movements of returning back to the roots, to tradition. This trend happened in more areas than just macrobiotics. There also arose fundamental movements in religion; philosophical advancements of how to be more aligned with nature; the green movement in the 60s, protecting our water air and wilderness; environmentalism; a consumer movement that demanded a clean, safe and beautiful environment as part of a higher standard of living. An ecological consciousness grew in the 70s spawning defenders of wildlife and protection of endangered species. Although macrobiotics is often thought of as a diet, it is first a movement to create world peace.
The bit of history that is important to know is that the modern macrobiotic movement was born in Japan. Michio and Aveline studied with George Oshawa. They moved to the US in the late 40s and early 50s and began teaching macrobiotic principles. In the early days it was predominantly philosophical, spiritual and theoretical teachings on how to create a peaceful world. Food was one of the many elements taught. Overtime the emphasis on food grew stronger as our international food systems deteriorated. You are what you eat, every bit of it. Following macrobiotic principles has helped some people with diseases like cancer find health again. Macrobiotics views disease as being out of balance. Working with the energy of food and lifestyle practices; one can bring oneself back into balance and out of disease. Eventually, macrobiotics was seen as a strict cancer-healing diet. The thing is, It’s only strict if you are sick and out of balance, needing regimented guidelines to bring you back into balance.
But really, Macrobiotics is freedom. The basic principles of macrobiotics are based in yin and yang, the opposing energy forces that are in everything and everyone. Expansion/Contraction, Masculine/Feminine, Dark/Light, Left/Right, Up/Down. Thinking, feeling and seeing the world through the lens of energy is the key component. As I mentioned earlier, the modern macrobiotic movement was born in Japan, so the basis of understanding this energy was heavily influenced by ancient East Asian wisdom such as Taoism and the 5 Elemental Theory, which is the basis of acupuncture. The wisdom of viewing the world through the lens of energy is all around the world, another example is Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, balancing ones bodily systems through diet, herbal treatment, yogic breathing, practiced in India for over 5,000 years.
Macrobiotics isn’t just a diet. When I was young, someone once asked my cousin what food was macrobiotic. My slightly older and always wiser cousin explained, “Everything is macrobiotic, silly!” I loved his answer then and I continue to love it! It’s playful and so true. Everything is macrobiotic--all food, all things, everything in the world, the universe, the cosmos…it’s all macrobiotic. It all has energy that it feeds and nourishes us. Some things are more direct and obvious like the food we eat, but the thoughts we think, the relationships we have, the emotions we have, the way we carry ourselves in the world, if we listen to our heart's desires and life purpose…these are all macrobiotic, every aspect of our lives. Food just happens to be a really great way to learn about macrobiotic principles, partially because we all need to eat and because the food that we eat affects us directly.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MACROBIOTICS
-Non Credo: Don’t believe what anyone else says, try it out for yourself, use the wisdom and knowledge of others to inform you, but develop your intuition, your gut, to know how energy effects you.
-Beginner's Mind: Stay open to learning, always grow, stay curious, be humble
-Balance of Energy: Learn the energy of everything you take in: food, relationships, technology, environment, play time, creative time, career, finances, community, etc. Learn how to balance the energies to support your life and your goals.
-What is your Big/Large Awesome Life Look Like? Everyone has their own version. Are you living yours? Are you giving your gifts to the world by living your purpose?
BEST LIFE PRACTICES
-Before Bed and Sleep: Put away all electronics for a minimum of an hour before bed. In the morning, don’t jump on them right away. Sleep as long as your body needs, most of us need more time than we think.
-Morning Lull: (Wisdom from Lama Marut!) Allow yourself to sleep and wake up naturally, at least don’t use a crazy sounding alarm clock. Think of what you are grateful for and realize that life is precious, you never know when it will be your last day, so go and live it fully!
-ME Time: (also from another wise soul, but I don’t remember who, sorry!) Meditation and Exercise, find what works for you, but take time to meditate or pray as well as move the body in a way that is best for you.
-Self Care: This works in conjunction with ME Time, but do whatever else you need to prep yourself for the day to be able to be of service to everyone around you.
-World Care: Hopefully this coincides with your work. It can be simple or large scale, but make sure your work is something you love and that is benefitting the world in a positive way.
-Altruistic Service: Doing something for others with no expectation of getting anything in return. Anonymously is the best, maybe you want to slip some money into a health magazine at your grocery store or cook a meal for someone in need.
-Sing a Happy Song! And do something that lets your heart sing, like dance! My grandfather says the meaning of life is to play. Don’t take life so seriously, have fun, play!
BEST FOOD PRACTICES
-Eat Sitting Down: Take the time to eat without distractions and take a moment to give thanks for the food, for where it came from, and ask it to nourish you to be able to be there for others.
-Chew Chew Chew Your Food: 100 times each bite…or at least 30. Seriously, this helps a lot with digestion, slowing down, not overeating, the list goes on, but really you will only know the true benefits if you try it out…for at least three weeks.
-Eat Consciously: Local, seasonal foods that honor your ancestry, support your condition, your individual needs, and your goals
-Eat for the Future: Make conscious choices that set the planet up for the next 500 years.