Macrobiotics is a healthy, holistic way of living a balanced lifestyle. It is a vast subject, and not just a diet. It basically comes down to the fact that the world (the earth and all thereon) is a constantly changing holistic system that is ever striving for balance. It not only covers diet, but balance in body, soul and spirit, which is the main theme of this Wholesome Balance website. Many people in the West do not truly understand the Macrobiotic diet. Some think it is mainly grains and salt. Others think it is just rice and vegetables.
This is partly due to a small faction of the main movement that got rather fanatical, which gave it a bad name in some circles. They obviously did not understand it, because the macrobiotic way is one of non-fanaticism, and it is still extremely valuable and helpful throughout the world.
The actual word macro-biotic originates from the Greek and means “great or large life”. It is based on The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, the oldest-known book of Chinese medicine. It is attributed to Huang Ti, the legendary Yellow Emperor (born c. 2704 b.c.), but was probably not written down until about 500 b.c. The Yellow Emperor is believed to have ruled China during a golden age and is considered the ancestor of all Chinese people. It was developed and made popular in this century in the West by people like George Ohsawa, Michio Kushi and Herman Aihara.
Harmony with Nature
Man, as a part of nature, needs to live in harmony and co-operation with it. This includes eating foods from the area in which you live. This is due to several factors, the main one being the balance of what they call yin/yang. For best health we should eat foods which are well balanced. Extreme yang foods like red meat, eggs and refined salt, unless you live in an extremely cold (yin) climate, takes your organs out of balance. They also make you crave extreme yin foods to get you back to centre, like sugar, hot spices and alcohol. This ties in to the page Balancing Our 4 “Bodies” because when our physical body is not in balance it makes it very difficult for us to remain centred and balanced in our thoughts and emotions. A strong yang condition e.g. too much meat, makes us very susceptible to anger, aggression, intolerance, impatience etc. A very yin condition makes us susceptible to being weak-willed, gullible, spineless, absent-minded and impractical. A great book on this subject is Macrobiotics and Human Behavior by William Tara (1).
Foods that help us remain centred are whole grains, vegetables, vegetable protein, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables, miso, pickles etc. For those who are not used to this diet it might seem quite uninteresting at first, but there are books full of interesting and delicious macrobiotic recipes (see bottom of page). It is a bit like learning a new language.
One of the most popular macrobiotic foods is organic short grain brown rice. It has the same percentages of proteins, carbohydrates and fats etc. as the human body, and is an excellent staple food. It is also very good for fasting. See the Brown Rice Fast page for more details, including a recipe.
Another important factor of this diet is that our organs need different types of food on a regular basis to keep them healthy. The five main types are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent (like ginger) and bitter. Because the change in seasons also causes a change in the yin/yang balance of our surroundings, it is also recommended to change your diet according to the seasons, which is explained in most books on macrobiotics. The way you prepare food also changes it’s balance e.g. more heat, pressure, time and salt make food more yang.
A Balanced Way of Life.
Besides diet, macrobiotics includes a whole way of living, including physical exercise, the diagnosis and natural healing of unbalanced physical conditions, a good balance in ecology and the environment, art, recreation and spirituality. For instance, one of its most important principles is appreciation or gratitude, which brings freedom and happiness. Many rich people have been unhappy, depressed and even committed suicide. Macrobiotics encourages appreciating absolutely everything, including pain and disease. Why? Because experiences are our real teachers and they help us to see our weaknesses, so that we can take corrective action to get back into harmony with nature.
Faith is another principle of macrobiotics. It is not a superficial belief or superstition, but a clear understanding on our Oneness in this cosmos and the laws of nature. We understand that when changing to a healthier diet, especially after the first 3 months, our condition may temporarily seem to get worse. This is either due to your body expelling toxins and/or your cells resistance to a new intercellular fluid, or your inaccurate application of macrobiotics. (See also the Detox section on the Wholesome Diet page.) With faith you will not give up but trust the process. And if the condition keeps getting worse, it will not make you rigid or stubborn in your misapplication of macrobiotics but guide you to seek proper help.
Another principle of macrobiotics is Do-o-Raku. It means to live in the enjoyment/appreciation (Raku) of the Tao (the order of nature or Do-o in Japanese). Do-o-Raku also means hobby, so it is living life as an enjoyable activity.
On the subject of macrobiotics and spirituality, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, spiritual leader and world renowned author said: “As pertains to diet, however, thus far on my road to the Inner Buddha I have found the Unique Principle of the Yin and the Yang, which is the foundation of the macrobiotic diet, to be a sound and practical guide to balancing the daily regimen. And the macrobiotic diet I find to be the closest approximation that can be made by Westerners to the diet of the Eastern adepts. If we would attain the adeptship of the Christ and the Buddha, we should also imitate their eating habits. For then we’ll be made of the same stuff they’re made of.” – (Reprinted with permission from Pearls of Wisdom Vol. 32 No. 30, July 23, 1989 by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Copyright © 1989 Summit University Press. All rights reserved. Website: www.summitlighthouse.org) She also gave a course on macrobiotics, and has held several seminars hosted by leaders in the macrobiotics field.
There is only space here to touch on this vast subject of macrobiotics, but it is worth studying in-depth. Below are some references for further study. Some of them may be currently out of print, but a bookstore or local library can possibly find a copy for you.
- Eating the Wu Way – For a Longer, Healthier Life by Steven Acuff www.stevenacuff.org
- Macrobiotics and Human Behavior by William Tara (Japan Publications Inc., Tokyo and New York, 1985)
- 7 Basic Macrobiotic Principles by Herman Aihara (The Grain and Salt Society, P.O. Box DD, Magalia, CA 95954)
- The Macrobiotic Way by Michio Kushi (Avery, New Jersey, 1985)
- Acid and Alkaline by Herman Aihara (George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, Oroville, CA. 1982)
- The Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook by Aveline Kushi (Avery, New Jersey. 1985)
- Key to Good Health Macrobiotic Kitchen by Cornellia Aihara (Japan Publications Inc., Tokyo and New York, 1982)
- Macrobiotic Home Remedies by Michio Kushi (Japan Publications Inc., Tokyo and New York, 1985)
- Healing Ourselves by Noboru Muramoto (Avon Books, N.Y. 1973)
- How to See Your Health: the Book of Oriental Diagnosis by Michio Kushi (Japan Publications Inc., Tokyo and New York, 1980)
Links to Macrobiotic sites:
- Kushi Institute – A leading macrobiotic educational center offering programs for general interest, health recovery and career training.
- Vega Study Center – America’s premier macrobiotic residential school founded by Herman Aihara.
- Macrobiotics Today – A leading voice of modern macrobiotics with informative articles, interviews, and reports.
- Sayonara Diabetes – The story of a mother taking the healing of diabetes into her own hands, based primarily on macrobiotics.