Macrobiotics, or the “great life”, is an orderly approach to all aspects of life. Through macrobiotic practice we learn how to make wise choices in our diet and lifestyle. This leads us to lasting health. Health is the basis of an active, adventurous, creative and fulfilling life. George Ohsawa and Michio Kushi have been the two most prolific teachers in recent history of the general principles and development of macrobiotics.
George Ohsawa and the Unifying Principle
George Ohsawa was diagnosed with TB when he was young. He had previously lost his mother to TB and vowed to find a cure for himself. He met Sagen Ishizuka who taught a method of healing based on yin and yang. He used Ishizuka’s principles to recover his health at 19. Ohsawa realized these same principles that are applied to health and sickness can apply to all of life. This was the beginning of modern day macrobiotics. He actively tried to stop World War II. Ohsawa was a peace advocate with the desire to create a peaceful biological revolution where each individual had the ability to transform oneself to a healthy, peaceful person. He also wanted to bring the spirituality of the East to the West.
Ohsawa developed and created the philosophy on his own. It was an amazing feat to come up with and express the Unifying Principle. Later came the 7 Conditions of Health, which is to this day still the most comprehensive, practical definition of health demonstrating the relationship between physical, emotional and mental, and spiritual health. One of his other foundational contributions, now called the Spiral of Life, describes our relationship to nature, the universe, and each other. His structural and philosophical foundation still guides macrobiotic practice today.
At that time, the daily practice of macrobiotics was very severe and restrictive to the point that it may not have had much of a future. In the principles of macrobiotic practice however, we must understand that change is the only constant. It is in this way that Ohsawa’s work makes it possible for the practice itself to adapt to the changing nature of people and the planet.
George Ohsawa’s Influence on Michio Kushi
Michio Kushi attended an Ohsawa lecture on world peace. Ohsawa asked Michio what the connection was between food and world peace, which baffled Michio (who studied law and international relations). Michio began to study with Ohsawa, who took an immediate liking to him when he observed Michio straightening everyone’s shoes outside of a meeting. In 1949, the year I was born, Ohsawa sent Michio to the United States to teach and spread macrobiotics.
Michio and Aveline Kushi relaxed and opened the practice, revitalizing and nourishing the movement. It thrived worldwide. Aveline developed macrobiotic cooking as a healing art, and Michio developed healthcare and diagnosis to a degree that resulted in many seemingly unbelievable recoveries in the 60s and 70s. Michio also further refined and developed the principles of macrobiotics and shared very clear and practical spiritual teachings. In 1966, just before Ohsawa’s death, he and Michio decided to focus the macrobiotic movement on cancer recovery. Their decision changed the direction of macrobiotics from a more spiritual transformation to a daily, physical practice with greater emphasis on diet and health.
Michio Kushi Mentors Denny Waxman
I met Michio in 1969 when he came to lecture in Philadelphia. Shortly before, I had signed the lease and began preparing to open Essene. I got to the lecture early at the Unitarian Church to wait for Michio and ask his advice on the store. “Keep it clean. If it is not clean, it is not macrobiotic.”
During the lecture, Michio spoke about world peace, the meaning of life, curing cancer, and many other wonderful, inspiring things. I received an invitation to a private lecture with a small group for the following day. Michio made the statement “I don’t want many friends,” which stopped me in my tracks. “I only want a handful of friends that really understand this way, and together we can change this world.” That phrase changed my life in the way that “What is the connection between food and world peace” changed Michio’s. I knew at that moment how I wanted to spend my life because I knew then I wanted to be one of those friends.
I was born on May 16, Michio on May 17. Aveline always insisted we were born on the same day, as the time difference in Japan is 12 hours ahead. In 1978, I met Dr. Anthony Sattilaro, the president of Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia and guided him to a complete recovery over the course of 16 months. When the publication “Recalled by Life” became an international best-seller, the macrobiotic and cancer connection strengthened even further. Macrobiotics became almost exclusively synonymous with the cancer prevention and recovery diet.
To this day, many people still think that one must have cancer to practice. This is in stark contrast to the original spirit of macrobiotics. Macrobiotics first attracted people who were seeking spiritual development and personal transformation. These people were also interested in creating a healthy and peaceful world.
The Kushi Institute Opens Its Doors
The Kushi Institute was started in the mid-70s by Bill Tara in London, followed by the Kushi Institute in Boston. People often ask me if I studied at the Kushi Institute. My response is “No, I received personal mentorship and training from Michio and Aveline and was one of the original Kushi Institute teachers.” Michio asked me in 1981 after 12 years of practice: “Have you ever doubted macrobiotics?” I said no and he told me I could now change this entire world.
In 1981, Bill Tara wanted to return to Boston and Michio asked me to take over the Kushi Institute in London, which I did for two years. This gave me a chance to develop my understanding and teaching of macrobiotics, as well as meet with people from all areas of Europe. I had a great opportunity to teach people and make many friends, which lead me to dramatic changes in my understanding and teaching. At that time, it became clear that the traditional eating patterns of many cultures was exactly the same. Japan was one of the many civilizations that followed this same pattern.
Following Ohsawa’s teachings, Michio started the East West Foundation in 1974 to further bring the spirituality of the East to the West. We opened a branch in Philadelphia. I returned to Philadelphia in 1983 to take over the East West Foundation again. In 1984, we hosted a huge seminar with 600 attendees at the Friend’s Meeting House.
After the seminar, Michio did a marathon counseling session at the East West Foundation, and afterwards he told me there was no need for him to return to Philadelphia again. All my clients whom he counseled during that marathon were so balanced that there was little he could recommend. Aveline said to me that I had more recoveries than Michio. I was ecstatic and felt I had finally become a macrobiotic teacher and counselor after 15 years of study and practice. Of course, we continued to invite Michio and Aveline twice a year to Philadelphia for many years to come.
The Need for a New Macrobiotic Approach
My happiness was short lived by my frustration that so few people could truly see the transformative benefits of macrobiotic practice. Shortly after that, the macrobiotic movement began to struggle. Many centers worldwide closed. In 1992, I moved to Portugal with my family to create a land-based community near Lisbon. The project failed within the first year. Sitting on the beach one day in 1994, I had a realization that we had been doing everything backwards.
The realization was that starting from a negative cannot lead to balanced and lasting health. Many people began to refer to macrobiotics as the “no-no” diet. How could that lead to balance or lasting health? One of my long-time observations is that both imbalances and balances perpetuate themselves. When we become imbalanced, we make worse and worse choices over time. It is an automatic process. However, the opposite is also true. So, if you add more balanced things into your life, there is no real need to concentrate on restrictions or taking away.
The process of adding is open-ended and can always grow. This is the foundation for the Strengthening Health Approach to macrobiotic practice. Our goal is to change the overall percentage of unhealthy to healthy until the healthy creates a new pattern of balance. The Strengthening Health approach means we add to our eating habits and diet, activity, and lifestyle practices. I have strived for this to become the new, modern direction of macrobiotics. The direction of adding and opening and inclusiveness can be applied to every area of life, which essentially can open connections for like-minded people globally. A more relaxed and open approach makes macrobiotics practice more effective.
Denny Waxman and the Strengthening Health Approach
I created the Strengthening Health Institute to refine and simplify these underlying principles of macrobiotic practice to make them available to ever-larger groups of people. This eventually lead to the 7 Steps, which is a blueprint to macrobiotic practice that helps create balance and openness in all areas of life. When we come from a position of imbalance, we usually do not make choices that bring us to balance. There are more benefits when we understand where to initially prioritize our efforts when changing direction.
The Strengthening Health Institute seeks to continue with the spirit of the Unifying Principle and philosophy, and to also adapt macrobiotic practice for today. Our unique viewpoint uses the 7 steps to create a two-fold balance: one with eating and lifestyle practices, and the other with our eating choices. The stronger our understanding of the core principles, the further we can adapt macrobiotic practice without losing the direction. The Strengthening Health Institute is dedicated to leading the way to yet again refresh and revitalize macrobiotic practice.
Join the Strengthening Health Institute for the Next Evolution of Macrobiotics
Our world is in crisis and we need a method for macrobiotic practice that can easily complement and combine with other like-minded efforts and practices to create transformation in health, education, agriculture, and technology.
The Strengthening Health Approach to macrobiotic practice combines eating habits, activity, attitude, and lifestyle practices with the macrobiotic way of eating. This is a major difference from other approaches to macrobiotics. Our approach provides a framework and a clear direction for macrobiotic living, whether for personal practice or guiding others. All other details of macrobiotic living and education can operate within this framework.
Other programs offer much information and detail, but little context that guides an individual to integrate macrobiotic practice and understanding into their everyday life. The SHI approach emphasizes creating health over alleviating sickness. With this open-ended approach to health, students are able to continuously integrate other complementary lifestyle practices into their life. The goal of the practice is to continuously evolve with your life.
Programs and Goals
The Discovery is a one-day introductory seminar designed to get people new to macrobiotics up and running, and introduces students to the SHI approach. There is a general Discovery and also themed approaches: anti-aging, fertility, and diabetes.
The 4-day Strengthening Health Intensive provides the key points for starting to create personal and family health. The education provided helps people become more confident with creating healthy meals for themselves and their families. This seminar provides an in-depth understanding of the Strengthening Health Approach to macrobiotic practice.
The next level combines the Strengthening Health Intensive with the first two modules from the Master Your Health (MYH) course, which we call The Macro-on-the-Go Core. This course is for those not yet ready to commit to the year-long MYH, but are interested in the essence and uniqueness of the SHI approach. Combining the Strengthening Health Intensive with the first two modules of the Master Your Health course sets the strongest foundation for practicing with this approach.
This course shares the essential understandings that guide the Strengthening Health Approach: approach to cooking, diet and lifestyle practices, diagnosis, shiatsu, and healthcare. The other modules of the Master Your Health course go into finer detail. People who already have an understanding of other approaches to macrobiotics will find The Core transformative.
The year-long MYH online with two onsite modules expands cooking, philosophy, diagnosis, shiatsu, and healthcare. After completion of these courses, a student is qualified to guide people with the most common, non-life-threatening health issues such as: allergies, high blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and digestive issues, raising happy families, to name a few.
We also introduced the Macro-Life Mentorship Program in 2016, which is not a professional training program. It is a program designed to help a student in their personal development of applying macrobiotic principles in their life and work. This program helps people understand how to practice macrobiotics in every way. It is amazing to see how each student’s health, understanding, and cooking progress throughout the year. We are planning to run this program again starting in June 2017. The Macro-Life Mentorship Program is a perfect complement to the MYH.