We were asked to contribute our
thoughts on the future of macrobiotics at the teacher's
meeting in Lisbon.
I chose the topic of Being Honest
and here is my presentation. My intention here is to
initiate a topic that
I hope will lead to further discussion within the macrobiotic
I used this title in terms of being
honest with ourselves rather than each other. I think
human beings are prone to self-delusion and those of
us in the macrobiotic movement are no different. None
of what I say is intended to be a criticism of anyone
and is more a self-reflection and my personal observations.
I have certainly found myself in situations where I
have not been totally honest in my work within macrobiotics.
I have enjoyed nearly thirty years
of eating macrobiotically and I still have a passion
for the food, greatly enjoy the company of my colleagues
in the macrobiotic movement and have enormous respect
for my teachers. At the same time I hope we can all
gently challenge each other from time to time and stimulate
new discussions that in the macrobiotic spirit can stimulate
CONCEPT / INNER TRUTH
Macrobiotics has been based on
a lot of man-made concepts and in reality can we honestly
say any of these are true? They are our best attempts
to explain the universe we live in but to my knowledge
they are not universal truths. In this sense the only
truth we have is our own inner truth. Our reality is
how we feel. In terms of our macrobiotic practice this
could be how a miso soup tastes, how we feel after a
cup of kukicha, whether a lentil soup creates feelings
of warmth. This thinking was set out by George Ohsawa
in his principles of Non Credo, Everything Changing,
Being Non Judgemental and Not Being Dualistic in Thinking.
DO WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE TRUTH?
The big question is do we have
a collective truth. Do those of us who have chosen to
be part of the macrobiotic community share experiences
that can bind us to a common truth? If we all eat a
blanched salad will we experience similar feelings?
I have a feeling that we do share a collective truth
but this has been buried under our more conceptual thinking.
It may be that by putting the concepts to one side and
being more focussed on our experience of macrobiotics
our collective truth will become more apparent.
EXPERIENCE GROWS INTO WISDOM
BUT HAVE WE ACQUIRED A COLLECTIVE WISDOM?
Wisdom come from experience rather
than learned concepts. The macrobiotic movement has
been active in the west for more than thirty years and
there are families with three generations of macrobiotic
practice. My question is have we now acquired enough
experience of macrobiotics to say that macrobiotics
is what we actually do in real life rather than a conceptual
Put another way - AFTER ALL
THESE YEARS SHOULD THE MACROBIOTIC DIET BE A CONCEPTUAL
OR SIMPLY REFLECT WHAT WE EAT IN REAL LIFE?
Why not look at what people in
the macrobiotic community really eat and say this is
the macrobiotic way of eating rather than follow an
idealistic model. This does not mean people starting
macrobiotics cannot follow a particular kind of macrobiotic
diet at the beginning or eat a special version of the
macrobiotic diet to help with a health complaint but
this does not need to be macrobiotics in its entirety.
Why not be honest about what we tend to eat in real
life even if this does include ingredients previously
not considered part of the macrobiotic diet. Ultimately
we would have a more realistic definition of what macrobiotic
people eat and if we can do it there is more chance
others will be able to follow.
HONESTY MIGHT SPEED UP OUR MACROBIOTIC
A lack of honesty has meant that
the development of the macrobiotic values of eating
has been held back. People advocating a conceptual version
of the macrobiotic diet but then eating another version
themselves has meant that our collective wisdom and
truth has been retarded. Had we been honest enough to
highlight the difficulties in following an idealised
macrobiotic diet perhaps the diet itself would have
evolved more quickly and we would now have a form of
eating that is more based on real life experience.
IS OUR DIET ONE OF GUILT, DISAPPOINTMENT
Does having a conceptual diet that
is clearly too difficult to follow in the long term
even for those teaching or prescribing it simply lead
to feeling of guilt and disappointment in oneself when
eating one of the 'avoid' foods. Does the idea of good
and bad food lists lead to an unhealthy attitude to
eating and perversely lead to the very kind of rigid
dogmatic thinking George Ohsawa advised us to be careful
HAS A DESIRE TO FILL CLASSES
AND APPOINTMENT BOOKS LED TO OVERCOMPLICATING?
I wonder whether macrobiotics has
been affected by being defined by people earning money
out of it. It is only natural to want to be successful,
valued and appreciated but have our desires as teachers,
cooks and counsellors resulted in macrobiotics being
defined in terms that help us make money? Just as if
you let lawyers write up laws you will need to pay a
lawyer to interpret them, or if you let accountants
write up tax law you will need an accountant to fill
out your tax returns, does macrobiotics being defined
by teachers, cooks
and counsellors mean you need a teacher, cook or counsellor
to follow it?
DISTORTING THE FACE OF MACROBIOTICS
WITH FEAR AND CLAIMS.
Has our desire to fill classes
and appointment books meant we have fallen back on fear
and unsubstantiated claims? Rather than just honestly
say who we are, what we do and let people decide whether
to join in is it at all possible that we have blurred
the truth? Is it really, completely, true that eating
macrobiotic foods prevents or cures cancer? Is it absolutely
true that by not eating macrobiotically we will suffer
degenerative illness and a premature death? No of course
HANGING ONTO STUDENTS BY OVERCOMPLICATING
MAKING IT TOO INTRICATE AND DETAILED.
I am sure we have all been tempted
to put on the next level of cooking class, an advanced
course or a special higher teaching. This is a common
way to recycle students and keep a centre running. As
a result of this do we end up making a subject unnecessarily
complicated? Rather than mastering the basics do we
end up building something too complicated for most people
Has this resulted in a version of macrobiotics that
is so intricate that for many people it is intimidating
or something you would only do if you had your own counsellor
and cook? Has the endless recycling had a disempowering
effect on some students, taking away the confidence
and feeling that they have mastered macrobiotics?
FOR EXAMPLE MACROBIOTICS BECAME
A CANCER CURE DIET YOU WOULD ONLY EAT FOR CANCER.
By focussing on cancer during the
1980's macrobiotics became known as The Cancer Cure
Diet. In an effort to fulfil this claim the diet became
more and more restrictive until for many people it was
diet you would only eat if you did have cancer. However
even the necessity of this strict version of macrobiotics
may have been deluded. I remember working in the US
with various counsellors in the early eighties and finding
that some people had amazing recoveries but only followed
some of the recommendations. Did some people end up
spending hours in the kitchen everyday making special
teas and condiments unnecessarily?
We often compare our way of eating
with people eating junk food diets to show how much
more healthy and environmentally friendly our diet is.
Of course we always come out looking good but is this
really honest? Should we not take the bigger challenge
of comparing ourselves with vegans, the people of Okinawa,
rural Chinese or people eating raw food diets in terms
of health or people working with Permaculture in terms
of our contribution to the environment. It is possible
that cultures eating tomatoes, garlic, olives, some
meat or a little dairy food actually show up as being
as healthy as us?
WHAT IS OUR COMMON REALITY?
WHAT IS OUR COMMON TRUTH?
For me the one thing we have in
common is that we are all interested in THE STUDY OF
HOW HUMANS INTERACT WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT WITH A FOCUS
ON HOW DIFFERENT FOODS INFLUENCE US IN TERMS OF BODY,
MIND AND SPIRIT. And if that is all we have in common
that is more than enough.
WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY DO?
I think what we have to offer is
the opportunity try on George Ohsawa's magic spectacles
- essentially we offer people a different perception
to try on and see how it feels. If the macrobiotic perception
of life happens to lead to something like better health,
a closer relationship with nature or a different understanding
of human wellbeing then fine and if it leads to something
else that is fine too. We do not need to be attached
to outcomes. This might seem simple and basic but I
think it is more powerful to have one unified, clear
and honest thing we can do together in the name of macrobiotics.
By being true, simple, honest and
compassionate we might become more attractive as people.
Rather than claiming we have all the answers, perhaps
we would be more appealing if we show a more vulnerable,
open and emotional side. We have had a reputation of
being cold, judgemental, uptight, dualistic and unsympathetic.
It is one thing to win the argument but if we loose
the person in the process we end up with a smaller community.
THE FUTURE OF MACROBIOTICS
My personal view is that the future
of macrobiotics is in a simplified version of macrobiotics
that is honest to its core principles. This would be
a version of macrobiotics that would take an open view
of natural foods and apply our essential principles
of living-energy and nutrition to human wellbeing whether
expressed through yin and yang, the five elements or
modern language. Through this we would escape the good
and bad food lists and the idea that macrobiotics is
a fixed diet.
Our philosophies of non-credo,
being non-judgemental, avoiding dualistic thinking and
accepting that everything changes can be our own guiding
light rather than a dogma we preach to other and hopefully
out of this we will encourage each other into a gentle,
compassionate, humble expression of macrobiotics.
Posted March 2008
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Radiant Future of Macrobiotics
Interview with Verne Varona
for the definition of a Macrobiotic Dietary Pattern
by Carlo Guglielmo