Ben Franklin, Creativity and Macrobiotics

Posted on by Denny Waxman

What good shall I do today?

Order and structure fosters health, vitality, and creativity. We can see from the recent Huffington Post article that various types of creative geniuses across cultures had specific routines for mealtimes, sleep, and work. Could it be that the structure of their lives was the key to their creativity?

Ben Franklin’s routine stood out the most for me because his meal and sleeping times closely parallels the schedule that I encourage in my book and seminars. The article does not go into the details of their diets, but Ben Franklin talks about his dietary habits in his autobiography. He became a vegetarian at the age of 16 and returned to his vegetarian practice throughout his life. He believed that grains promoted health and vitality. I also learned today that he was the first American to introduce tofu (tau-fu) to the Colonies by sending soybeans to John Bartram in Philadelphia in 1770.

Ben Franklin's Daily Schedule

Ben Franklin’s Daily Schedule

 

Creativity comes from nature. There is nothing more amazingly and wildly creative than nature itself. Our real creativity comes from aligning ourselves with nature, both with our food and daily schedule. Our approach to macrobiotic practice which encourages having a daily schedule may seem restrictive, but all of these creative people had one thing in common: a regular, daily schedule. We can see from Ben Franklin’s example that macrobiotic practice helps us get in touch with the creative spirit of nature.

 

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An Unobstructed, Natural Flow of Emotion

Posted on by Denny Waxman

A few weeks ago, I posted about a guiding image of health I refer to when considering a healthy body and mind and I touched lightly on emotions. In this post, I’d like to talk a bit more about how emotions are inseparable from our health.

A Sunset Sail in Key West

A Sunset Sail in Key West

 

Emotions specifically depend on liquids. Without liquid, we would have no emotion. Culturally, we can imagine it as: when are we more emotional? When do we visit bodies of water, and for what reasons? How does our language express the observation of emotions in others? What kinds of liquids do we use and for which purposes for expressing which emotions? Though these are all interesting questions to ask; I’ll follow up with some answers, as quickly as I can.

People tend to be more emotional during the full moon. People will contemplate beside a lake, follow the path of a stream to explore, bring a loved one or a friend to the bank of a river to watch it flow, or to intake the power of the ocean. When we talk about emotions, we can refer to an overly sentimental person as sappy, or wishy-washy and in the other extreme barren or dry. It is interesting that we drink beer at sporting events, wine for intimate evenings, tea or water to relax or calm down. Liquid carries these drinks into our bodies and the character of each one brings about different emotional states.

Water itself permeates every aspect of life, and the human body and the planet itself is composed mostly of water. Water is associated with the unconscious and is included in all types of ritual- be it something as simple as a celebration at a sporting event or a spiritual ceremony.  There are ponds and lakes–places where water gathers. And there are streams, rivers and oceans, which are places where water moves. This brings me back to the vision, or image, of health and the mountain stream’s emotional complement: healthy flow.

There are natural and healthy emotions.  Like a mountain stream in equilibrium, we associate streams with tranquility, curiosity, joy. This is our natural emotional state. Our natural emotions, when consistent, encourage a healthy flow in our body and mind together.  In an unnatural state, there is disruption. I am saying that emotions are not positive or negative, but that the state of our emotions is either natural and healthy, or disrupted.  In disrupted, unhealthy states, our liquid is either stagnant or surging.  Stagnancy, or lack of movement, can be expressed as desensitization, depression or numbness. And surges, which seem like “boiling over”, can be expressed as aggression or hysteria.

Emotions also depend upon temperature. Emotion expresses itself when liquid comes to the surface of the body and evaporates. This partially explains how people living in or visiting hotter climates express emotions more readily than in colder climates where we may need to be “warmed up” first. The use of more fire in cooking raises our temperature. Outdoor cooking, such as barbecue, brings out a lot of emotion. Other ways of raising our temperature is in the use spices, stimulants, and alcohol. The opposite, cold, interferes with our ability to express emotions smoothly. Cold affects our bodies through ice, out-of-climate foods and chemicals (especially artificial sweeteners). Extremes of both hot and cold have disruptive effects on our emotions and in turn, our physical and mental health.

It follows then that the state of our emotional health has the capacity to affect the course of our overall health, either in a more natural and healthy flow or into more disrupted and unhealthy flow. Because health craves health, a flowing and joyous emotional state helps us flow with healthy habits. This season is a perfect time while in the company of family or friends to return to our natural state of tranquility, curiosity, and joy.

 

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Macrobiotics from the Heart

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I’d like to share with you this report from the Macrobiotic Teachers and Practitioners Conference recently in Lisbon.

Macro Meeting Lisbon Report

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The Image of Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman
noname

Family Vacation at Lake Paupac

Nature continually seeks balance. We can look to the natural world as a model for our health as we ourselves are a part of nature, inseparable from it even. An image I follow in my macrobiotic counseling practice to guide others to return to health is that of a mountain stream.

In this mountain stream, water flows uninterrupted in a perfect amount and at a perfect rate. Within this equilibrium, the water constantly cleans and renews itself. It is fresh, slightly alkaline and full of oxygen. Water comes from the clouds and atmosphere surrounding the mountain, it bubbles up from under the ground and flows down the mountain, and reaches the bottom. Each drop goes through the water (hydrological) cycle and returns to the sky again, in a beautiful, perpetual loop with the mountain. Though the water coming to the mountain may have evaporated from an ocean or a river, in the process of becoming part of the stream, impurities disappear, as they themselves “go with the flow”. They transform into different things, bond with other things, settle in the sediment, become rocks, etc. As long as there is unimpeded movement through the volume it carved for itself over a long time, the stream as a whole takes care of itself.

However, things can cause a stream to lose its pure vitality and balance.

*Lack or Excess of Water Affects Flow

1] Say there is a drought. Imagine the earth beneath the stream loses moisture, and is overdrawn due to lack of rain as water previously saturating the soil drops to a lower level. Though the original source of the water may have been pure, the water putrefies in stagnation.  The stream becomes a network of puddles that are now breeding grounds.

2] Imagine heavy snows all winter and in the spring, the snow melts and tumbles into the stream, causing flooding. The flooding erodes the banks of the stream, dredges in sediments that were previously undisturbed and inundates the natural filtration system of the stream.

*Interfering Elements Affect Flow

1] A storm comes. A tree falls. No one hears it, but it falls over the stream, slowing down the flow or perhaps blocking it all together.

2] Perhaps a boulder rolls into the stream and settles there. The water, as it’s flowing, hits the boulder and “splits” apart around the boulder. On the edges of the boulder where the water suddenly changes course to converge again on the other side, sediments and other impurities, collect along the edges of the boulder and build up.

A healthy stream is one whose flow is in balance. I enjoy this image and example from nature because the stream is very much a reflection of our own bodies. For health, there is a balance between the food we eat, our digestion of the food and the circulation of its nutrition. Food is the water, digestion and circulation are the volume of the stream and flow of the water.

*Lack or Excess of Food Affects Digestion & Circulation

1] When our food is too simple or we are not eating enough, then our bodies can stagnate and degenerate, even if the food is natural and unrefined.

2] When we eat foods that are too rich or excessive, our bodies become inundated with things we can not process as well, also leading to degenerative illness.

3] Food of poor quality affects our nourishment, digestion and circulation.

4] Our emotions also behave like water in that they can flow through us, and affect us. Anger is a surge and depression a stagnation. Healthy emotions, on the other hand, like healthy streams, clean and renew us.

*The Trees and The Boulders in our Bodies

1] Blockages in our body can come from clogged arteries, fatty deposits, calcification, chronic overeating.

 

We can recover our natural sense of balance by aligning ourselves with nature’s orderly cycles. Orderly cycles such as the stream, but there are other rhythmic cycles too, such as that of the sun and moon. If we align ourselves to wake up and go to sleep with the natural rhythm of the day and night, our bodies and emotions align more naturally to the “flow”. If we align ourselves to practice having specific mealtimes, we align with the rhythm of the sun. Aligning in this way also helps up to be more aware of how the food we eat affects us physically and emotionally.

Health is natural and our bodies are always trying to clean and renew themselves  and we lessen the burden when we are aware and tend to our food, digestion and circulation. With our unique approach to macrobiotics at the Strengthening Health Institute, we teach people to apply these principles to create lasting health. We can use our diets, eating habits, mental, emotional, spiritual practices and activities as tools to seek and find the balance that nature seeks, much like the mountain stream.

 

*If you are interested in learning more about me or scheduling a consultation, please visit the home page of my website here.

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Our Trip to Taiwan

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Susan and I are on our way to Taipei, Taiwan at the invitation of our client. We will be there for about a week to support her on her journey back to health.

We are also going to explore new foods and cooking styles. This will help us to further understand the application of our macrobiotic principles in tropical environments. So many of the vegetables and other foods she has described are so different from the ones we are using to here.

Over the years I had the chance to offer seminars and counseling in many countries, both east and west, north and south. These travels and experiences helped me develop my understanding of the best practice of macrobiotics in each of these regions. Now this opportunity to visit Taiwan will further help Susan and I make our approach to macrobiotics truly international.

We look forward to reporting on our new adventure after we return. Please also check out Susan’s latest travel blog.

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Year End 2012

Posted on by Denny Waxman

At the end of every year I like to write a list of the ten most important social, environmental and personal events of that year. It is a practice that I learned from my teacher, Michio Kushi, many years ago and have found it to be a valuable practice. It serves as a basis for personal and social reflection and helps us clarify a direction for the future. The second part of this practice is to write your own list of goals for 2013.

Interestingly, nature had different plans for me this year. I was under the weather with a cold or flu for nearly three weeks. This was very unusual for me considering if I ever get sick it is for two to three days, not weeks. As a result I missed the holidays and years end for the most part. Most of these year end events remain clouded in mist for me. It is only now, a week into the new year, that I am trying to catch up and regain some clarity in my life.

The events that come to mind immediately are a bit staggering, Super Storm Sandy, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and California Proposition 37 that called for mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

In Oriental Diagnosis, which is an integral part of my healing practice, the small or part shows the large or whole. Our hands, feet, eyes or tongue can show great detail about our overall health condition and direction. This principle applies to social and environmental situations as well. I think that Super Storm Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary School are indications of the conditions brewing socially and environmentally. It is unfortunate that these type situations will probably worsen for the foreseeable future, as they have continued to in our recent past.

I also find it amazing that Proposition 37 almost passed despite enourmous opposition from Monsanto and related companies. This indicates a change in society that will become an enourmous power over the next several years. Our right to know and our ability to choose health will become paramount.

The most important change that I have observed in society is not limited to 2012. These ideas became more observable a few years earlier and now are in the mainstream. I am referring to the relationship between diet and health. It is now widely accepted that our diet is the number one factor affecting our health and now trumps environmental and genetic factors. The second change is the relationship between food and the environment. It is finally becoming known that our daily choices in diet and lifestyle have an enourmous affect on society and the environment. The power of change is in our hands with every meal.

What is not widely known is that these ideas developed out of Boston, Mass from the macrobiotic teachings of Michio and Aveline Kushi. These ideas of local, organic, unrefined and plant based foods combined with having the ability to create our own health changed and fueled my life since 1969. They are more relevant today that ever. Now that 2012 is behind us we can start to live the lives we would like to see with renewed passion in 2013.

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Further Thoughts on Brown Rice and Arsenic

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just read Chuck Lowery’s response to my thoughts on arsenic in brown rice with great interest. I can understand his points and also wonder if he is underestimating the power of brown rice. I have no desire to start a long debate on the merits or limitations of brown rice within macrobiotics or any healthy lifestyle. My desire is only to express my personal reasons for continuing to eat brown rice and why I also continue to recommend it to my family, friends and clients. At home we have implemented the recommendations from my blog except that we still use the soaking water from the brown rice.

Brown rice has a number of qualities that I find endlessly fascinating. From my personal experience brown rice is the only whole grain that we can eat on a regular or daily basis and never get tired of it. In my early macrobiotic days I tried eating a number of other grains exclusively without any brown rice and found that I grew tired of them quickly and could not wait to get back to my brown rice. When I cook any of these other grains with brown rice I never get tired of them. The other grains I tried eating exclusively included barley, millet, bulgur and oats.

Brown rice can grow in both water and dry land. When including short, medium and long grain rice, it also grows in a wide variety of different climates.

Anything that you cook with brown rice cooks in about the same time as the rice, even if that food takes a much longer time to cook on its own. For example chickpeas can take up to three hours to cook on their own and cook in about an hour with brown rice. It seems that most other foods align with brown rice. It is not the same with other grains.

More importantly, brown rice enhances the taste of all other foods. This is completely unique. Any other food cooked with brown rice tastes good. Brown rice combines well with all other grains, beans, vegetables, seeds, nuts, fresh or dried fruits, sugar, rice syrup, maple syrup and other sweeteners, poultry, eggs, fish or shellfish, cheese and other dairy products, herbs, spices and seasonings. In all of my years in practice, I have not been able to find an exception, though some are likely to exist. Brown rice has the ability to complement, embrace and harmonize with all foods and seasonings. I find this truly amazing!

It has been my observation over many years that eating brown rice gives us the ability to see the relationship between the part and the whole and to understand how they relate to each other. This relationship between part and whole is the basis of macrobiotic cooking, healing and lifestyle.

It seems natural that we would receive these unique qualities by eating brown rice on a regular basis. The situation with arsenic in brown rice is not new. I find it concerning that many people may choose to stop eating brown rice out of fear without understanding the situation fully.

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Seven Things I Believe In

Posted on by Denny Waxman

These are some things that I have been thinking about recently that I wanted to share with you.

1. Everyone has the right to health and happiness. Unfortunately in our country the majority of people do not enjoy these basic rights. There is a severe lack of the understanding of the basic principles that create strong and lasting health. So much of the information available is confusing, misleading or just plain wrong. Many people also do not have easy or affordable access to healthy food choices.

2. Your body wants to be healthy. Health is more natural than sickness. It takes about 10% to 15% of the time to return to health as it did to become sick. Even if we have spent a lifetime abusing our body and getting sick, our health starts to return quickly from dietary and lifestyle adjustments. As a macrobiotic consultant, my clients often tell me how amazed they are with their health improvements in a short time. Even after two to three weeks they report sleeping better, better bowel movements, more energy, more enjoyment and satisfaction from their meals and feeling more positive, motivated and inspired.

3. Health is a direction in life. Health or sickness is a direction not a state. Every day we are moving towards health or sickness. Health is not a static condition. It develops though our daily habits. Sickness is the same. The combination of a good diet and eating habits, activity and lifestyle practices over time move us towards health. We all have the ability to improve our health on all levels day by day through these lifestyle choices. It is unfortunate that most people are unnecessarily moving towards sickness each day due to a lack of understanding of these basic principles.

4. Health is simple. We do not need to do special or complicated things to be healthy. Good food, good activity and a good attitude are the basis of strong and lasting health. Good food means a varied plant based diet, local when possible. Good activity includes anything that is life-related; walking outside, taking the stairs, cleaning, dancing, yoga, mindfulness practice, meditation, outdoor recreational activities and sports for fun and self challenge, rather than professional sports. The Strengthening Health approach to macrobiotics helps create a good attitude. A good attitude means that we try to be positive and open to the possibility of change and creating lasting health. It also includes the development in the confidence of our ability to create our own health.

5. Lasting health is a spiritual condition. Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional and physical health. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. This process does not work in the opposite direction. Physical training alone does not lead to mental and emotional development and refinement.

6. Your daily choices influence society, the climate and environment. What you do for yourself, you also do for others. The process of self love and caring through our daily choices, activities and attitudes also influence others. Eating a plant based diet ensures that there will be enough food for everyone on our planet. There is enough food when we eat the grains and beans directly rather than feed them mainly to animals. Eating a plant based diet preserves precious natural resources, especially water and land. It also greatly decreases pollution and green house gases that contribute to global warming. According to recent research most modern diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many common cancers are preventable or reversible with a plant based diet. There are many other benefits that I will discuss in the future.

7. Two important changes have occurred in the last couple years that will allow large-scale change to happen. I have wondered for many years if these ideas can become mainstream and start to create large-scale changes in our society. I have hoped I could see these changes in my lifetime but often doubted that I would. Due to recent changes in our attitudes I now believe that I will be able to see and experience these changes. The relation between diet and health has become mainstream. Recent research alone has shown that eating less meat alone can make a major difference in global warming. This is a social, environmental and health practice that is open to all of us. More and more people believe that they can make a difference through their daily lifestyle choices.

2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy

Thoughts on Japanese Foods

Posted on by Denny Waxman

As part of the macrobiotic way of life, we have enjoyed a rich cultural, philosophical and spiritual heritage from Japan. This heritage has guided many aspects of our life from our approach to cooking and eating to our overall view of life. Some aspects of this way of life, from futons to tofu and miso soup, have become mainstream. Many of the ingredients we use such as miso, shoyu and umeboshi enable a moderate to good cook to produce outstanding meals.

We also have the challenge of developing a local practice of macrobiotics by reconnecting with our local foods and traditions. I think that many people within macrobiotics have been moving towards a more local practice over the years. At the same time, local food processing and seaweed harvesting have been increasing and great strides have been made in quality and taste. This is a natural progression that is necessary for us to grow and develop our capabilities more fully. It is also necessary if we want to align with the basic premise of macrobiotics that we are one with our environment.

In my experience, some of the foods produced in Japan still have a greater healing ability than the ones we produce here. I am confident that over time that will change. Many years ago, a long-time Japanese friend told me that America has already conquered Japan in terms of tofu. He thought that American made tofu was the best. What he said rang true for me. However, we can adjust the quality of tofu day by day. Miso, shoyu and umeboshi are a different story. It takes months or years to adjust them. The time it will take to perfect these products is much longer than for tofu. After all, these foods have been perfected over hundreds or even thousands of years in the Orient.

I find the contrast between the delicacy in taste and nourishing and strengthening qualities of many of the foods from Japan amazing. It is ironic that these same foods also give us the greatest protection from radiation and other environmental pollutants. These foods, including brown rice, Azuki beans, miso, umeboshi, seaweed and kukicha tea are truly unique and amazing in terms of taste, nourishment and health benefits.

I have always understood macrobiotics as a process of redefining and reinterpreting traditional practices to see if they are appropriate and beneficial for the future. This approach gives us the ability to take what is best from the past and develop it further for the present and future. It has been my long-time dream to preserve traditional food processing from both east and west. It would be wonderful to have some of these people in Japan, who have become masters of their craft, guide us in the production of these traditional foods on our own soil. I think that this collaboration and cooperation could lead to even more unique foods over time.

Because of a lack of accurate reporting from the media on both sides of the ocean, we do not really know the degree of pollution in our foods, land or water. I think it would be a big mistake to over-react and avoid foods coming from Japan completely. It is possible that we could be going from bad to worse by doing that. I have come to rely on certain people for high quality and safe foods in the same way that people rely on me to guide their health and that of their families. I am also trying to share this information openly so that we can all make informed choices.

I am not endorsing any one person or company. I am trying to keep an open mind and I will continue to study and research this situation. After regular conversations with my brother Howard Waxman of Essene,we have decided to continue to use both Japanese and local products. I have also been in contact with Michael Potter of Eden Foods. Please read the wonderful NY Times article about him and review the link to the Eden website for further information about Japanese food safety.

We know from this wonderful philosophy we have inherited that all challenges are opportunities. It is my hope that people with understanding and integrity will join together to maneuver through these difficult times. I firmly believe that an open and informed dialogue is the best approach to guide us into the future.

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

How to Have a Healthy Vacation

Posted on by Denny Waxman

We often think that vacation means letting our health go. In many cases this is what happens, although it doesn’t have to be this way. The principles for a healthy diet and activity on vacation are the same as at home. It seems to me that vacation should be to enhance our health and leave us feeling renewed and refreshed without thinking about loosing the pounds we just gained.

Here are some things you can do to complement your enjoyment and relaxation. They are based on things that my wife Susan and I do on vacation. These practices can actually enhance rather than detract from your vacation.

Try to eat you meals at regular times. Especially try to start your lunch before 1:00 pm. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar and cut down on sweet and fatty food cravings.

Try to have grain based meals even if they are not the highest quality grains. You can choose white rice if brown is not available, oatmeal, polenta or vegetarian or vegan pasta dishes. These choices are more widely available than ever before.

Try to have cooked vegetables or salad with your meals. You can always order a vegetarian omelet without the egg. Vegetable dishes complement the grains and leave you feeling more satisfied than eating the grains alone.

Look for vegetarian soups. Be careful about this one because some restaurants think that chicken stock is vegetarian.

Go camping and cook on a wood fire or lightly cook on charcoal. This is the most delicious food anyone could eat and the price is certainly right!

Walk outside for at least a half-hour a day. Research has shown that walking outside can help regulate your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and cut down on sweet cravings.

Finally, don’t forget to give your body some external care and do your warm water cloth body rub!

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Diabetes, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health