I’d like to share with you this report from the Macrobiotic Teachers and Practitioners Conference recently in Lisbon.
No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Philosophy
I’d like to share with you this report from the Macrobiotic Teachers and Practitioners Conference recently in Lisbon.
No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Philosophy
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.
This past week, I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal to participate in two events.
The first three days of my trip, I participated in The GreenFest, a three day festival at the Estoril Congress Center. As you may guess, The GreenFest commits to annually showcasing and demonstrating the current progress and topics surrounding sustainability in business, technology and lifestyle. The practice of macrobiotics fosters personal, social and environmental health. One of these ways, for example, is the emphasis on eating local, indigenous foods which naturally reduces our carbon footprint. I was happy to be a part of this discussion in Portugal. At The GreenFest, I gave two presentations:
1) What’s Your Gut Telling You?
2) Live and Prosper with ‘The Great Life Diet’
The second three days of the trip, I participated in The Macrobiotics Teachers and Practitioners Conference with others from around Europe. I met new friends as well as reconnected with some old ones. The theme this year was “Macrobiotics from the Heart: the emotional and spiritual dimension of macrobiotic healing“.
Interestingly, I met a wonderful and creatively enterprising young woman, who graduated from The Macrobiotic Institute in Lisbon. She publishes a bilingual blog and has read “The Great Life Diet”. It is a great blog, friendly, and with many recipes and information. She informed me that in Portuguese, the title of my book translates to “A Fulfilling Life”. She’s going to run a contest on her blog asking readers what a fulfilling life means to them and the person with the most inspiring answer will receive a copy of my book in Portuguese.
The conference was a deeply moving series of discussions of which the topic brought us all together in a very encouraging, supportive manner. I was inspired to reconnect with others and see how they have evolved on their macrobiotic path as well as observing the convergence of our core ideas, despite the diversity of our practices(in some ways). This was revealed to me in hearing another teacher say what I have been thinking and feeling for many years: It is spiritual health that the practice of macrobiotics fosters, which gives guidance and direction to emotional and physical health.
The result and common theme of these meetings was how to make macrobiotics more open and embracing, and how to evolve macrobiotics as a model of health. We intend to have a group website for all of the participants to showcase the diverse applicability of the practice of macrobiotics as well as the overall unity and diversity of our teaching and practice. I had the opportunity to talk about the image of health that guides my practice as well as new directions for macrobiotic practice. I look forward to sharing these ideas about macrobiotic practice in the near future.
The trip to Lisbon was inspiring and full. I hope you enjoy the photos! Until next time.
Last week I traveled to Valencia, Spain to spend the week teaching at the Instituto Macrobiótico de España. My colleagues and good friends Patricia Restrepo and her husband Emilio Espi are the directors of the institute, Patricia is also the director Green Yoga, housed in the same building. Together, they co-founded the very modern and delicious organic restaurant, Kimpira, a block away.
I’ve recently received this story from a woman, Sheron, in response to my previous entry about T. Colin Campbell and her take on The Great Life Diet. Thank you, Sheron! She writes:
“There is nothing better than the balance of a Macrobiotic diet and lifestyle. I am committed to following Macrobiotics for the rest of my life even if I have to spend every minute of it in the kitchen. And, the most helpful book to come along in a long time is your The Great Life Diet. […] So, I do agree with you that The China Study has the supportive nutritional facts, and you have the way to put it all together. You seem to have a way of expressing the facts of a balanced diet and lifestyle in an uncomplicated way. Of all the teachers I studied with, and those whose books I have read, your understanding and presentation of Macrobiotics is the one that I can easily understand and apply.”
I am glad hearing six years after its publication that The Great Life Diet still applies to people’s lives today, despite how quickly popular opinion seems to change regarding eating. My intention in writing the book was to offer timeless, practical and accessible advice to those seeking diet and lifestyle guidance in a way that most other diet and lifestyle books cannot offer. It is now a time when the principles set forth in The Great Life Diet can come into more scientific consideration.
I’m just going to share some simple things with you in certain circumstances to help you get started on issues related to health and diet.
For those of you who are not going to change your diet, but have interest in improving overall health, consider:
1. Taking Time For Meals. Pause the activities of the day when you sit down to food.
2. Take Meals At the Same Time Everyday, Especially Lunch(which should begin no later than 1p.m.)
3.Get At Least a ½ Hour Of Activity Everyday(something as simple as walking suffices)
And for those of you just beginning the transition to a macrobiotic diet, here are two things that help to do immediately:
1. Plan Meals Around a Grain and a Vegetable
2. Start Eating Soup
I would like to thank Sheron again for offering such a heartfelt and honest response to my query regarding The China Study and its potential to provide the impetus to empirically explore the wisdom I have been sharing.
No Comments | Tags: Uncategorized
PMS is part of a cycle of hormones–expansions and contractions. Being aware of where you are in your cycle, what you’re eating and how you’re feeling as a result can guide you with managing PMS.
During ovulation, hormones are causing contractions to release an egg.
The other half of the cycle, hormones are building and preparing for the shedding of the uterine lining. When there is an imbalance during the building process, it is largely related to eating foods which interfere with the hormones being produced and secreted.
Animal and dairy products interfere as do baked, toasted and salty foods. Non-animal dense protein such as seitan does as well. Over indulgence in sugar, alcohol and chocolate at this time interferes too, despite possible heavy cravings. Cravings(to be discussed in a future post) are sometimes the expression of the cause of our discomfort.
Try this regiment in your cycle and see if any of the symptoms associated with PMS are quelled. If results are not immediate, it may take two or three cycles to notice the effects as the body adjusts.
4-5 days before the onset of shedding, eliminate the above foods and focus on foods that are light and refreshing such as:
-boiled grains and pasta
-salads, steamed or lightly cooked greens and vegetables
-light proteins such as beans
-fruits and mild sweets(malted barley, brown rice)
No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet
American society has a general notion that we are neither in control of our genes nor the environmental factors which cause disease. Under this assumption, many may be throwing up their hands and wondering: What’s the use of trying to prevent disease when it is inevitable?
A current medical assumption is that early detection of a disease in fact prevents disease from killing us. But does it? Unfortunately, this approach in western medicine does not save lives. In my experience, it merely prolongs life of lower quality. A nutritional biochemist, who I both admire and follow, by the name of T. Colin Campbell authored The China Study in 2005, explicating discoveries that could alter our way of life.
Two points(there are many!) contained in the book are ones I would like to relay to you most as they give evidence contrary to the current American diet and furthermore provide scientific support for the practice of a macrobiotic way of eating.
1. Diet can cause, or reverse, the majority of contemporary degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Epigenetics is the study of genetic expression, that is the study of mechanisms outside of our DNA that can cause a particular gene to express itself. The genetic propensity an individual has for a particular disease can, on a chemical level, be “turned on” or “kept off”. How can we control the expression of our genes?
Hopefully, you guessed that we have an enormous amount of personal control with our diets. The China Study proposes that although cancer is a result of many things, including toxic external environmental influences, the cancer gene that we may have in our DNA is likely to be “turned on” as a result of what we eat.
T. Colin Campbell made this discovery through experiments involving rats and the dairy protein casein, concluding that it was a very prevalent and potent carcinogen in our society. When animal and dairy protein comprises 10% or more of our diets, our genetic markers for cancer activate. When our intake of those proteins falls below 10%, those same markers deactivate.
2. Eating whole foods facilitates the absorption of nutrients, not isolated dietary supplements.
Mr. Campbell’s research shows that while taking a dietary supplement may have an unpredictable effect, a whole food works within the body to foster a better environment in which to absorb nutrients. In the book, he uses a case involving beta-carotene and Vitamin A in relation to lung cancer. It was discovered previously that people with higher levels of these nutrients in their blood were less likely to develop lung cancer, even if they were smokers. The results of a controlled experiment involving supplements with these nutrients shocked many.
Those taking the supplements actually developed lung cancer at a higher rate. This is because we cannot assume to know how the body will take in and distribute nutrients because the body takes care of itself in a healthy digestive system. The conclusion was that when integrating particular vitamins and minerals into one’s diet, a whole food(an example being a vegetable or whole grain) must be eaten to ensure the healthy, balanced absorption of nutrients.
A conclusion of The China Study is to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet. It is rare to see mainstream nutritional research promote such healthy habits. T. Colin Campbell’s contribution to the evidence of the efficacy and healthiness of a plant based diet gives so much credence to macrobiotics. Whereas science and research can offer proof or conclude something, there isn’t much in the book guiding people or offering methods of how to switch or change diet and lifestyle.
I find it is here where his research and my life work complement each other. If I can’t provide the evidence on why our current diet standards are so imbalanced and unhealthy, The China Study does. And if The China Study does not offer suggestions or guidance to a reader about eating healthy or practicing a healthy lifestyle, I can.
As contemporary society, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that we have inherited, both culturally and genetically. We have the developments and technologies of modern science that has greatly informed and changed our methods of observing the world around us. We also have a cultural history that spans at least 10,000 years around the globe, which also includes a vast knowledge and history of practicing health, mindfulness and awareness. It behooves me in my own practice to honor the insights given to us by the past as well as to integrate and utilize the techniques that technology offers to insure our health for both today and future generations.
I am interested in hearing your opinions and responses on this topic.
No Comments | Tags: Uncategorized
The trip to Taipei with Susan was a nice blend of research, vacation and adventure. The adventure began with the flight, when we tried to leave for San Francisco on July 10th; our flight was delayed due to the crash on July 6th– only one runway operational. We were originally supposed to layover at the Tokyo Narita airport, but ended up spending a night there because there was a typhoon. The typhoon was actually a blessing because it cleared the air of the oppressive heat. Imagine our surprise as we were threatened by another typhoon just as we were scheduled to leave! It seemed before the trip started, we were receiving omens, and even as we were departing, the violent storms of the season ruled the roost over the airport. But, they were no omens at all, just the endless joy of trying to get somewhere that is far away.
We did not stay in the city center, but at The Grand Hotel, in an area analogous to the suburbs here. It is very tropical and humid in Taiwan and the cuisine there reflects that. The leisurely part of our visit and the beautiful hospitality of our hosts made this trip memorable and exciting in learning more about applying macrobiotics internationally. Susan and I enjoyed frequent strolls through the neighborhood and the Night Market and took most of our meals around the area. I can say that although all of the markings of contemporary western diets are prevalent in Taipei—such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, as well as trends favoring meat heavy meals– we experienced some amazing traditional and contemporary cuisine. Furthermore, I observed that eating in a macrobiotic way comes more naturally in Taipei due to the availability of food and the cultural component of a Taiwanese diet.
A humid diet enjoys humid food because the foods insulate you from the environment. For instance, many of the sauteed items had a juicy and watery broth consistency to them. An enormous and outstanding vegetarian buffet offered at our hotel gave us ideas of the range of food, which included many rice and noodle dishes. One day, we breakfasted on rice porridge and oatmeal was often present. I found the oatmeal as quite satisfying and complementary to the climate.
Soups were also included with every meal, not necessarily soy based. We enjoyed noodle and vegetable soups alike. Most dishes prepared in the places we visited used pork fat or vegetable oil; our hosts were vigilant with helping us avoid dishes with pork fat. We tried to find Taiwan’s analogues to common American vegetables and found an array of leafy vegetables. Common staples included scallions, bok choy and watercress; I also remember sweet potato leaves and many types of cabbage. Other vegetables included sweet potato, taro potato, jinenjo(or mountain potato) potato and burdock. When we left, we were given a snack of steamed buns, stuffed with cabbage that were absolutely delicious and could keep for up to two days. We took these with us when we were traveling as well. Of course, there was a lot of fish and shellfish, but there was also warm unsweetened soymilk served with breakfast, not to mention tofu and seitan.
The Night Market was where we had to avoid eating. Young people spend much time at the Night Market and the smell of the oils in the food served there was too much. It was nice being a part of the throngs of people that came to the markets, and we spent much time perusing the strange objects we came upon.
Overall, Taipei was a peaceful place for us, save for the zooming scooters that seemed to abide by their own logic! We got to slow down, spend time with our client and each other, and delight in a place and climate where the macrobiotic diet is as natural to practice as is putting on shoes in the morning.
No Comments | Tags: Events
We hear about allergies often: casual conversation, the media, and conversation with our doctors. Although many people are aware of the wide variety of allergies, we still have a misunderstanding as to why they occur.
What is our body trying to tell us?
While allergies are often thought of as something we can not change about ourselves, they are really the body’s attempt to move in the direction of health. Allergies signify a chronic imbalance in our diet and activity level. When our bodies become too overloaded, we can not detoxify or eliminate the excess waste.
In macrobiotics, allergies are considered a blood related issue. What this means is that if our blood chemistry is compromised, we then become more susceptible to experiencing allergies. From my time as a counselor, people with exaggerated emotional sensitivities tend to become more prone to allergies as well. This concept can be linked to the Chinese association that water represents emotion. As blood is mostly aqueous, blood is ruled by water and in turn, affected by our emotional behaviors(and consequently our eating habits as our emotions affect them). A problem with our flow of emotion could in turn cause a a compromise in our blood chemistry. In order to promote health and prevent allergies, we need an ongoing way to monitor our body’s responses and inputs to somehow create more helathful responses to our food and environment.
Allergies are results of imbalances, but what is it about our environment and food that have made our bodies so vulnerable? A major contributing factor is our modern diets. The underlying cause of almost all allergies is an influx of dairy product and fructose. Since the 1980’s nearly all manufactured food has switched from containing natural sugars to the cheaper alternative of high fructose corn syrup. Other leading causes include a diet high in animal-based foods and also the increase of GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms. Other common food allergies include yeast, gluten and soy. A person that suffers from allergies knows that when we lose the ability to connect with the environment, we lose the ability to properly nourish ourselves. Our life becomes limited.
If you develop a systematic approach, you can overcome allergies. To start, practice a macrobiotic diet that reintroduces natural food so that you can keep track of the irritants. Begin on a strictly grain and plant-based diet, and as other foods are added one at a time, monitor your body’s reaction. This requires writing it down. If you have a strong symptom, chances are you should eliminate the food and try again after a month of eating as a macrobiotic.
In order to strengthen the lymph system and digestive organs, replace unhealthy food with these choices:
Miso soup (every day!)
Saute vegetables with sesame or olive oil
Quick steamed greens (every day!)
Unpasteurized sauerkraut and other naturally fermented foods
Another helpful strategy for allergy relief is through the skin and importantly, through the feet. These parts of us help to flush toxins if you do the right things:
Make a habit of using hot water with a handful of table salt mixed in to soak the feet for 5 to 10 minutes before you go to bed
Rub your body with a wet wash cloth every day, outside of the shower or bath
Allergies are warning signs. The same substances and behaviors causing allergies can lead to the development of a more serious degenerative disease.
Please, monitor your allergies and practice these suggestions to improve your relationship with the body’s natural response mechanisms.
2 Comments | Tags: Allergies
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.