My History with Macrobiotics- Ehoes of an Era.
It all started in Mt Sinai Hospital Toronto, Canada September 1977. I , or perhaps more accurately said, my soul was floating above my bed looking down at my sleeping body. The doctors had misdiagnosed an appendix attack. My appendix subsequently burst and there I found myself above my ripped open body with tubes draining my abdomen below. My new rising reality was such a great feeling¾ free flying, smiling, higher and higher, up an away into the tunnel of darkness… when I heard a voice “What are you doing? –get back in your body-You have work to do.” My startled self squeezed myself back in my body. I woke up the next morning and said to myself:
Ok it’s time to take my life into my own hands. After 6 weeks of tests, an unnecessary exploratory surgery, I was released from the hospital a week before my Birthday Oct 31.
I moved to New York City in March 1978 to pursue my music career and began searching for a Tai Chi Chuan teacher to help me improve my health.
After my first 3 years of studying Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung, Nei Kung and Taoist meditaion with Grandmaster C.K Chu-practicing 5 hrs /day, I found myself wanting to more about how “Chi travelled through the body.
I started studying Shiatsu with Wataru Ohashi. In 1981 I took my first Oriental diagnosis class and learned about my Sanpaku (condition of the eyes and nervous system) and asked how do I change this both fascinating and scary situation. Ohashi referred me to George Ohsawa’s book, “You Are All Sanpaku” . Ohsawa said you can heal any health condition in 7 days. So I was now on NO.7 diet- Brown Rice – A very crazy thing to do considering my intensely active physical regime. 2 hrs Tai Chi in the morning, riding my bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan, Cleaning Apartments, practicing drums followed by 3 hrs of Chi classes rehearsing with my band at night and then riding back to Brooklyn. After 3 months my sanpaku was better but not good enough for me. I went to the Kushi Institute in Boston to study Macrobiotics as well. My Friend Barbara arranged for me to stay in one of the 10 or so Macrobiotic “Study houses” where people cooked, discussed and lived Macrobiotics while studying at the KI.
My first night there, Michio Kushi –The Macrobiotic man of the day gave a lecture and Barbara said –go up to him ask and him about yourself. I nervously approached him and said, Mr Kushi is there any light you can shed on my Sanpaku condition. He took my palms in his, looked , smiled, raised his eyes to mine and said- Don’t worry, it will take a long time to change this physical feature. What you must be more careful of is your love affairs.
Later after studying palm diagnosis, what he said made more sense to me, but for now I was confused. The next morning I took a Shiatsu class with Shizuko Yamamoto. WOW!!! This woman did some dangerous shiatsu. I soon understood why when she asked for a volunteer, nobody said anything and some people even hid from her gaze as she selected a subject from the room. She would walk, jump, pull and throw a person’s body until they concluded how strong they must be to survive such a forceful treatment. It was clear how she integrated her Aikido background into hands on Healing. She took one look at me and said: YOU are too strict. Go out and eat some chicken tonight. Be wider. You are not absorbing the nutrients of your new way of eating.
After further studies with her over the years I witnessed how she had a heart of gold. Shizuko loved Macrobiotics. Her students and clients were family for her. She lived in NYC and I would bring my Shiatsu clients to see her. She taught me how to recognize peoples’ health conditions in very specific ways through touch. e.g. what a fatty cyst in the intestines or ovaries felt like, or how to feel a person’s sensitivity to sugar based on the feeling of their supra spinatus back muscles- skills I never got from Group classes.
I travelled between NYC, Boston and Becket to study with Michio and Aveline Kushi as well as other senior teachers, like Bill Tara, MarcVan Cawenberge, Denny Waxman, Murray Syder, Bill Spear Steve Gagne and John Mann..
At the very popular Macrobiotic Center in New York City, I sat in on sessions either taking notes for the client consultations with the teachers listed above or acting as a consultation assistant answering questions for the clients after their counseling sessions. Cancer and A.I.D.S. were the most common symptoms at that time. Michio was surrounded by cancer. From my perspective now, it seems he would have had to developed high consciousness and health practices to avoid the ill effects of the environment that his life revolved around. “Cancer” perhaps became both a conscious and subconscious Mantra surrounding the Kushi environment.
A fascinating quality to Michio’s consultations (my favorite of all the counselors) was that he changed his personality for every client. Sometimes he was very stern and emphasized discipline. Other times he was humorous and very light. One East Indian man older than Michio had prostate cancer. After following Macrobiotics, he was in remission. He asked Michio in a timid little boy’s voice. “Michio may I have milk.” Michio came over to him, hugged him like a loving mother and said “yes my little Indri (his name) you have been such a good boy you can have a cup of organic milk every day. Indri responded like a little boy who had been given the greatest gift. “Oh Michio Thank-You I am so happy.”
Michio was surprisingly very wide in his recommendations to most people. My earliest almost hypocritical observation was that the books written on Macrobiotics were so “anal lytical” compared to the attitudes and recommendations of real consultations. Those narrow diets described in most Macrobiotic Books, were only recommended for brief periods of time. I learned from assisting Macrobiotic Consultations sessions that a narrow diet could shrink tumors in the beginning, but if carried on for too long, the tumors would become too concentrated –too hard to ever fully disappear. The timing of narrow approaches and widening a person’s diet are very important.
Another important observation was that eating too narrow for too long made people too sensitive to certain foods. One woman who healed her cancer through Macro rec’s couldn’t even eat a handful of raisins without breaking out in red pimples on her face. Steve Gagne, her counselor, recommended 1 raisin a week for a month, then 2 raisins/week for the next month and continuing in this fashion to help her body adapt to raisins and other foods as well.
At the time Blue Green Algae was becoming a popular recommendation(and big money maker) for a couple of Michio’s Senior Counselors. The stricter Macro folk asked Michio, “Is Blue Green Algae Macrobiotic? It too yin!” Michio rarely replied immediately. Instead he asked for our opinions. After about 20 minutes of heated discussions around it’s too Yin or too Yang and various other pros and cons Michio said, “Everything can be Macrobiotic. If it helps one’s health and supports their Dream/Life purpose then it is Macrobiotic.”
A student friend of mine was serving coffee and donuts at the local Mr. Donut shop near the Kushi Institute to pay her way through one of the levels. To her surprise Michio came in and had his favorite Honey Glazed donut and coffee. She had just heard him talk the night before on healthy Macrobiotic food. She approached him and said. “Excuse me, are you Mr Kushi?” He replied, “yes” and she said: “I saw you last night giving an inspiring talk on Macrobiotic food- how can you eat donuts and coffee?” He smiled and replied, Macrobiotics is about balancing food and lifestyle while being being both free and conscious of the effects of our choices.’
Michio was also very intuitive. He once guessed a man’s exact cholesterol level just by looking at him. At a teacher’s conference, each of the teachers came up one at a time to the front of the room and the rest of us were supposed to offer diagnosis and recommendations. Adelbert Nelison came up and said he had been having a rash after some digestive difficulty. Micho asked everyone to look at Adelbert and guess: “What was he eating” Nobody could figure it out. Michio looked at him for one minute and said 3 weeks ago you had shellfish- scallops and shrimp in soup. Adelbert was astonished and said yes it was after a boating trip he ate this and that is when his symptoms started.
It seemed Michio was his most inspired during the spiritual seminars. He would lead discussions an topics like “what is fear? How to die? What is the yin/yang explanation for how fish could come from rain. Why is the sky blue? He always elicited answers from the participants instead of just giving us information.
One night we were assessing the “Gospel according to Thomas” while comparing it to the Tao te Ching and Michio would ask us what the different phrases in the book meant if one considered Yin/Yang philosophy.
At one point he diverged and began talking about the different personality characteristics of Thomas, Mary Magdelan and the other disciples. I assumed he was using intuition in stating these very specific details. A friend who was more curious than myself, asked Michio after the discussion how he knew so much about these people. He replied” I was there”
While Michio was somewhat of a wizard-like inspiration, Aveline Kushi was more like the earthy wise woman. When she chanted in a group, her voice infiltrated all the different frequencies of the group. She was so powerful. AND such a great cook. She loved to inspire people to make delicious foods. Her cooking classes were so motivating because of her radiating enthusiasm for the deliciousness of well prepared Macro dishes.
Seeing Lima Ohsawa, Aveline Kushi and Shizuko Yamamoto together was an experience that lives in me forever. Lima’s stories of her and George Ohsawa in Africa with Albert Schweitzer, curing infectious diseases with miso soup, grains and Macrobiotic fare were miraculous. She reminded us that from the natives to Ohsawa himself, when people got sick she always asked “Do I give Yin or Yang?”
These women embodied the essence of both powerful will and feminine receptivity.
I had brief but very important lessons with Herman Aihara, Naboro Muramoto, Cecille Levine and Michel Abhesera after I moved to the west coast, All were powerful pillars of strength for the Macrobiotic Movement.
I am so grateful to have experienced the wisdom of these teachers first hand. while the original Macrobiotic teachers have passed on their spirit lives within me and and in writing this article I realize that I have been and will always dedicate my life to pass on the experiential learning style that was shared with me by them.
Some of my Conclusions on the Macrobiotic Way
- Macrobiotics is a flexible and highly sophisticated system of applying food and lifestyle principles that is best studied with teachers of experience . Use books for supplemental purposes.
- Intuition combined with acknowledging the 7 levels of 1) Dis-ease, 2) Vital Health and 3) Consciousness will create practical guidance for integrating Macrobiotics into daily living.
- All diseases and their Cures are manifestations of a distortion in the natural flow of the Forces of Nature (Yin/Yang and 5 seasons)
- By changing the energy flow through different foods, their preparations and lifestyle, disease disappears and Vital health results.
- There are no bad foods. Each food has energetic properties that when understood can be used to enhance the development of our Dreams and Life Purpose or not.
- Grains (both a seed and a fruit in one Whole istic form)- with their almost magic like effects, nourish the body mind and soul perhaps more than any other food.
- Our teeth are designed to eat 5 Parts Grains, Nuts Seeds (Molars) x 2 PARTS VEGETABLES & FRUIT Incisors), 1 PART Flesh (CANINE)
- Eating according to indigenous foods (locally grown) nourishes the people who live in that climatic and Geographic zone with health and appropriate life force. E.g. Eskimos who eat bananas will get symptoms because of the cooling effects of eating a tropically indigenous food.
- All diseases are the body’s healthy response to motivate healthy change and the evolution of one’s soul- the greater the dis –ease the greater the potential change/evolution
- Physical functions of the body/organs and systems have parallel associations to behavior e.g. 1) Low blood sugar caused by a constricted and heavy pancreas influences a person to feel “heaviness” in their life circumstances and relationships and vice versa.
2) Liver works quickly –over 450 different functions every minute. When our Liver is compromised we feel frustration and anger because our plans are proceeding too slowly.
- VITAL HEALTH is created through challenging ourselves PHYSICALLY (improving Food Exercise Sleep)
EMOTIONALLY (feeling more comfortable with being uncomfortable and vulnerable. Using emotions instead of them using us to create closer loving relationships.)
SPIRITUALLY Developing and using/following intuition more than intellect- even when the intuitive messages bring up fear and doubt. Surrender,- breathe- let courage show the way.