Portrait of the Spreading of Joy & Health in 2014

Posted on by Denny Waxman
SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

The portrait of health has been painted over and over again. People say that in order to look like the portrait that’s painted, you need to follow sets of procedures in order to be healthy and happy. You are probably familiar with those procedures: Eat well in this way, exercise in this way.

Achieving health shouldn’t seem full of obstacles. As we draw near to the holidays, here are five gentle, joyous reminders of health and encouragement for spreading the spirit of joy and health into and through the New Year.

 

Spiritual Health Guides Mental, Emotional and Physical Health.

Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional, and physical health. When we are positive, open and curious for everything around us, our vitality shines. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. Physical training alone does not lead to mental, emotional, or spiritual development and refinement. So the process does not work in reverse.

 

Self-love and Self-care are of prime importance. The more you do and care for yourself, the more it spreads to others.

Care in our dietary choices and daily habits helps build a healthy community where we live. As we take care of ourselves, there is no separation from taking care of others at the same time. It can largely be said that our current mindset is one of self-interest that overlooks the needs of others in order to get what we want.  This also has broader, global implications for the health of the planet, the just treatment of all others, and our relationship to our communities. If we are caring for ourselves with spiritual health in our minds and hearts, the opposite begins to happen; we form healthier communities, we strengthen bonds, we nurture the environment and people in ways we may not even see.

 

Health is natural.

When nature is left alone to flourish and grow in its regular state, we see the abundance, diversity and beauty that results. This is a reflection of our natural state as well. Think of a healthy baby which is “unspoiled” or in a natural human state. We can’t help but be drawn to these children and share with them this joy as we remember and invoke our own natural states.

Consequently, it’s obvious to notice that 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.

 

Health is a direction not a fixed state.

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. And since it is a direction, no matter where we are towards health or sickness, we always have the opportunity to move towards health, no matter the circumstances.

 

To create these changes, two things must happen.

We need more healthy friends. These changes become useful and habitual the more we share and practice them. Surrounding yourself around more people enjoying a healthy lifestyle is key. Change will only come when you use your voice and express yourself about what you are doing, experiencing and enjoying.

 

Remember that health craves health in every sense.  This holiday, share your health with as many people as you can. Celebrate!

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Mental Health, Weight

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.

 

No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health

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.

No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health

Macrobiotics and Yoga

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I am a recent convert to yoga. It has been a little over a year since I attended my first class. I resisted practicing yoga for many years for some reason that is still not clear to me. It seems that since my 60th birthday has passed, I have found a new openness to many things that did not interest me before.

Last spring my wife Susan came home after attending a yoga class near our house. She started to talk about the class and the teacher. Her excitement peaked my interest and I joined her for the next class. I was hooked after my first class! It was an Anusara yoga class and the instructor was Sarah Robinson. I was immediately impressed by her warmth and expertise and have continued to attend classes whenever possible. At a recent class Sarah excitedly talked about an inspiring Youtube she had seen titled, Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur’s Inspirational Transformation! It is a Youtube about hope and the power of a yoga practice. I found the video to be highly inspiring and definitely worth the nearly five minutes it takes to watch it. Sarah was amazed at how many yoga instructors turned this gentleman away without even trying to help him. After watching the video I shared her amazement.

Macrobiotics is also about hope. It gave me hope when I needed to change my life. Before starting my macrobiotic journey I was not physically ill, I had a far more serious problem. I was lost and could not find any meaning in life. From the time I was a young teenager I was aimlessly searching for a meaningful direction in life. Reading George Ohsawa’s books, attending a Michio Kushi lecture and improving my way of eating gave me hope. these changes also gave me the clarity, vitality and confidence I was searching for to live a more meaningful life. Now, as a macrobiotic counselor, I experience the power and importance of hope in a different way. I can see my clients transform before my eyes when I tell them that they can recover from their problems if they are willing to practice this healthy diet and lifestyle.

I have also found that hope alone is usually not enough for a total transformation. Hope needs to be combined with beneficial lifestyle practices. In my macrobiotic healing practice over many years I have found that the combination of diet, orderly lifestyle practice and activity have the most powerful results.

No Comments | Tags: Circulation, Exercise, Macrobiotic Counseling, Macrobiotic Diet, Mental Health

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

Coffee: another addiction

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started drinking coffee in 1969, shortly after starting my macrobiotic practice. Michio Kushi, in his attempt to make macrobiotics more relaxed and approachable, introduced his coffee-flavored style of macrobiotic practice. Around this same time, I also heard that coffee shops were referred to as “penny universities” in the colonial days. I always liked the sound of this term. It conjured up images of the founding fathers brewing up and debating the ideas that formed this great country.

At first I did not like coffee much. It made feel nervous sometimes and kept me awake at night on other occasions. However, I grew to appreciate the mental stimulation, the flow of ideas, and the active conversations that grew out of coffee drinking. Over the years coffee became an integral and essential part of who I was. I started to feel that I could not teach or counsel without my cup of coffee. I almost felt that it was my obligation to keep me at my best.

Over the years I began to realize that coffee had another, somewhat darker side. It seemed that coffee actually made me feel more tired than energized. I loved the jolt I got from a good cup of coffee, but my overall energy and stamina seemed to be declining. Maybe it was age, but I really thought it was mainly due to the long-term effects of daily coffee drinking. The one thing that bothered me most about my coffee drinking was the addiction. It began to weigh on me that I simply could not begin my day without my cup of coffee. Over the years I had tried to give up all my addictions and coffee was still getting the best of me.

This thought process went on for a year or two until I woke up one day and realized that I did not need my cup of coffee. It was a revelation. I started to drink black tea and began to appreciate the subtleties of a well brewed cup of black tea. I began learn about the tea drinking culture and, in time, I did not miss my morning coffee at all. When I travelled I would drink some coffee and go back to the black tea on my return home. Then something interesting happened. A few people sent me articles on the health benefits of coffee. Also, a few friends questioned my choice to not drink coffee. As a result, I began to think about coffee again. I had heard that Rudolph Steiner was a fan of coffee and I began to read his essays on coffee and tea. According to Rudolph Steiner, coffee creates thoughts that flow in a logical order. Tea, on the other hand, creates more diverse thoughts. One day, while struggling with my blog, I tried an experiment and drank a cup of coffee. Sure enough, my ideas started to flow freely.

I found that now that I have reintroduced coffee into my life, I am more than satisfied with my one morning cup. I hope you enjoy the results. At some point I may wish to return to tea and if I do I will let you know.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotics, Mental Health

What’s So Great About Brown Rice Anyway?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started to eat brown rice in 1967 after years of indulgence in an almost exclusively junk food diet. Interestingly enough, one of the few foods that I liked in my junk food incarnation was kasha and bow ties, a typical Russian dish, which my mother made on a regular basis. Kasha or buckwheat is commonly eaten in Eastern European countries where my mother is from. There was something about it that I found both delicious and deeply satisfying. It wasn’t until I encountered brown rice in 1967 that I found another food that had a similar degree of satisfaction. I started to eat brown rice because of a challenge from a friend.

Doing that brown rice challenge led me to begin my macrobiotic practice over the course of the next two years. One of the first things I noticed after I started to eat brown rice on a regular basis was that many of the foods that I had avoided in previous years started to become delicious. For years I had refused to eat vegetables other than lettuce and tomato on a sandwich. All of sudden I became attracted to eating vegetables. The only thing I could attribute this change to was my regular consumption of brown rice. One by one, my diet began to widen with healthy foods. I also found that my cravings for junk foods were declining. Brown rice transformed me from a junk food eater to a healthy foodie, almost overnight.

As I became more familiar with brown rice, I discovered that it had some other very interesting qualities. Brown rice is the only cooked grain you can eat everyday and always find it delicious. I discovered this in the early 1970‘s when the crop of brown rice would not last the entire year and we were forced to try eating other grains. Try eating oatmeal or millet everyday for weeks or months and see if it is still appetizing.

Brown rice has two other attributes that I find even more amazing. Whatever you cook with brown rice cooks in the same period of time as the rice, even if it takes much longer to cook without the rice. Chickpeas, which can take hours to cook on their own will cook in one hour when pressure cooked with brown rice. It is the same with other foods with long cooking times.

Brown rice also combines well with and enhances the taste of all other foods. Brown rice combines well with all other grains, all beans, all seeds and nuts, all vegetables, all fruits, all different types of meat, poultry fish, shell fish, all dairy foods, and finally all different types of sweets.

Because brown rice has these unique capabilities, I think it is safe to assume that eating brown rice on a regular basis will also give us unique abilities. My experience is that brown rice helps us in all areas of our life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eating brown rice helps us to align with or understand the thoughts and ideas of others, even if they are divergent from our own. I have seen the power of brown rice in helping people to recover their physical health and also to re-direct their lives in many ways. These are bold statements and probably seem hard to believe. So now, I pass the brown rice challenge on to you. Try eating brown rice on a daily basis for two to three weeks. If you experience positive results (and I am confident that you will), please pass this brown rice challenge on to others.

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

Walking: Exercise for the Body and Mind

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Walking helps all aspects of our body, emotions, and mind in children and adults alike. Walking aids our digestion and improves circulation. It harmonizes the left and right sides of our body including the intestines, liver and spleen, kidneys, lungs, two chambers of our heart, left and right sides of our brain, and two branches of our autonomic nervous system. Walking helps all of these organs and systems work more harmonious and efficiently. It also stimulates bone metabolism and enhances flexibility.

In Oriental medicine, the digestive system and mind are considered front and back. They are one system. The digestive system processes liquid and the brain and nervous system process vibrations. Healthy digestion leads to a healthy mind, thinking, and learning ability. All natural, life-related activity increases our ability to think and figure things out. When you combine healthy eating with healthy activity you have the best of both worlds. These simple practices are all part of my 7 Steps to a Great Life.

Walking outside makes us feel better in every way– it clears and refreshes the mind and lifts the emotions.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Macrobiotics and Medicine, Mental Health, Weight

Learning From Isaiah: The forgotten step

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Recently my wife Susan published a blog on the importance of expressing gratitude, illustrated by a photo of our grandson Isaiah. Her blog got me thinking about the practice of giving thanks before every meal. It is something that I adopted in 1969 when I began practicing macrobiotics. It is something that I do whether eating at home or in a restaurant. There is no “right” way to give thanks. It is just the expression of our thanks and gratitude that is important.

This is a practice that my son Joe grew up with and he passed it on to his son, Isaiah, who needs no encouragement to give thanks. He puts his hands together and moves them slightly. You can see from the photo that it is a gesture of great joy and peace.

As I was thinking about this practice, I realized that it is the missing step in my 7 Steps to a Great Life. It was a realization that moved me. It made me think about how easy it is to overlook or take for granted things or practices that are so much a part of us- things that are vitally important to our life.

It also made me think that perhaps I should start doing this in other areas of my life, especially with those who are important to me. This photo of Isaiah praying and giving thanks will now serve as a reminder for me to look around and acknowledge all of the wonderful things that I have to be grateful for every day.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Mental Health

Ben Franklin’s Mistake?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I have endless admiration for Ben Franklin’s accomplishments and the way he lived his life. It is a marvel that one man could have left us with so many wonderful things. At the same time, whenever I think about daylight savings time, I wonder if Ben Franklin made one mistake.

All of life moves according to the sun. We rise and sleep according to the sun’s movements.
In an agrarian society, such as our own until the Industrial Revolution, everyone lived close to nature. At that time, an extra hour of daylight would have been a wonderful advantage and saved many expensive candles. However, it also moved us away from sun time. Now that we have become so disconnected from Nature and her orderly cycles, it may be helpful to realign again by living more closely to the sun’s movement. Our daily life has lost its rhythm of movement and rest that we enjoyed not long ago.

Our sense of balance in life comes from nature. This sense of balance is necessary to maintain or recover our health. There are two ways to recreate this sense of balance in our life. One is through dietary choices and the other is through an orderly day/night cycle and meal times. In The Great Life Diet I discuss the details to recreate this balance.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health