Bill, Ive read your
book, Natural Body, Natural Mind three
times now and it has become my go to
book whenever I need to figure out how to articulate
a theory or idea in a lecture or a class
sort something out for myself.
I find that its wisdom works for both the beginner
and the most experienced of those living naturally.
For me, its message about living well takes on
any number of issues that people face and strips
away all the excuses not to live a better life.
I love this book so much.
It sums up all I have learned from you over the
years and illustrates why, to this day, I consider
you my mentor and role model in the work that
few questions for you
you take the direction you did with this book?
By that, I mean that so many books on macrobiotics
focus solely on the role of food and disease.
In Natural Body, Natural Mind you
take the reader on a different journey, not downplaying
the role of food, but putting it in perspective.
What was your thinking?
First thanks for the kind
Macrobiotics has been closely identified with
disease for the best part of the past thirty years.
In the late 70s the focus on cancer within
the community was a huge turning point. Up till
then the focus of macrobiotic study was on the
development of human consciousness, the issue
The success of many people
using a macrobiotic style diet to reverse disease
was dramatic and inspiring, but the long term
results to our core principles were profound.
We went from a community of people focused on
the development of consciousness to a group focused
on the therapeutic benefits of food.
We became the diet and disease people. This phase
influenced the psychology and composition of the
community greatly. Those drawn to macrobiotics
were much older, more conservative and extremely
focused on physical healing or disease prevention.
The concept of personal
responsibility for health of early macrobiotic
practice was trumped by a new approach where individuals
were advised, in a very detailed way, what to
eat and what to avoid.
This was increasingly done with little or no demand
that the clients understand the rationale
behind the suggestions. This was a huge shift
in focus that gave birth to a different attitude
toward food. Macrobiotic practice became prescriptive
rather than a process of self-discovery.
The dominant macrobiotic
ideas regarding foods became an issue of good
and bad foods as opposed to an understanding
the relative qualities and effects of foods.
The low protein, low oil diets that were often
prescribed for those with cancer characterized
this phase of development and became the accepted
template for general eating. Eating this way was
referred to as a healing diet and
eventually became eating a clean diet.
By those criteria most healthy macrobiotic people
were eating dirty.
When I set out to write
this book I wanted to take the issue of food and
health and expand it into some of the areas of
life that originally inspired me about the potential
of macrobiotic ideas.
The way our ideas about food show up in culture
and the way that food impacts our emotional and
spiritual life have always been personally interesting.
This sounds ambitious, but this is really a very
Since my initial involvement
with macrobiotics I have been aware that the issue
of food is much greater than physical nutrition.
What we eat represents a whole range of attitudes
we have regarding our relationship to society
and the planet. It is one of those aspects of
being that says volumes about our politics, our
connectedness with our fellow humans and our spiritual
It is this connecting
the dots that makes macrobiotics unique
and valuable. There are many approaches to diet
that offer reasonable solutions to the question
of what we should eat for health. My feeling is
that macrobiotics takes the conversation to the
Chapter Two, The Authentic Self, you
talk about the gift of life and quote Meister
Eckhart on becoming one with the unknowable. For
those who have not read the book (yet
explain what you mean by the authentic self and
becoming one with the unknowable, since it is
such a large part of this book.
Tara: I use the term Authentic
Self to describe that aspect of our being that
most closely conforms to our personal potential.
This authenticity is often a secret that only
we know, it is the sometimes hidden passion in
our life. Some are living their passion but most
of us do not, it is locked away behind self constructed
Being healthy is synonymous with living a life
that is passionately engaged. It is allowing our
imagination, intellect and spirit to express our
own unique qualities into the world.
The interesting thing
about this is that when we are living our passion
- doing what we really want to do - we strip away
some of the more superficial aspects of our personality.
It frees us up to experience life in a way where
we become more fully engaged in the moment, more
intuitive, more vibrant.
The psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi, who I quote
in my book, refers to this state as being in flow.
We have all experienced this feeling; the trick
is in sustaining it. This is the state of being
that Oshawa referred to as Supreme Judgment but
it is really beyond definition, which is why I
refer to it as the unknowable - it is embracing
the mystery of life.
In Chapter Four, The Question of Consciousness,
you talk about breaking the spells and enchantments
of dreaming in our modern world. You call the
gift dangerous. Please talk about the ideas behind
getting past our self-enchantment with this gift
to dream and create and how to use it for the
benefit of humanity and the environment.
Tara: We are all storytellers
and story weavers; it is a central part of our
humanity. Stories are the way we organize information
about life and communicate feelings that are difficult
to describe in logical thought. We create stories
about who we are and why we do what we do.
Some of these stories have the ring of truth and
help us evolve and some are hollow and false.
These personal stories can either help us uncover
our authentic self or bury it. The personal stories
lie within the larger social mythologies that
we create about the big existential issues such
as why are we here? What is the purpose of life?
How should society function?
If we know that these
stories are simply guidelines and metaphorical
in nature it is easier to adapt to the changes
that happen around and within us. If we think
that they are accurate and literal descriptions
of a larger truth they can become destructive,
they become enchantments.
If we look at the issue of food we can see very
clearly the immense power that enchantments play
in the choices that are made.
The modern American diet
is powerful enchantment. The consumption of meat
and dairy to their present levels, the refining
and chemical enhancement of foods,
the lure of convenience - of fast, frozen and
microwaveable foods all depend on the glassy stare
of the enchanted shopper.
The power of advertising and the cowardice of
medicine and politics help to hold the enchantments
in place. No one wants to call attention to the
emperors lack of clothes.
Society holds on to these
beliefs and maintains the enchantment even in
the face of science and common sense. Look at
a fast food add on television. What is being sold?
It is not food being sold - it is a particular
cultural image that the food is attached to.
The neatly dressed multi-cultural, middle class
and healthy customers in the add speak to an ideal
of American culture but dont have much to
do with the people who really eat with regularity
in McDonalds. I have ventured forth into these
forbidden zones of dietary tragedy and know that
the real consumer is overweight, sad and lower
We identify with certain
foods no matter what culture we come from. I live
in Europe now and every culture has a way of eating
that is overwhelmingly influenced by social forces
and cultural enchantments, not by health concerns.
In all honesty I have
to give equal time to the macrobiotics and other
alternative ways of eating as well. We have our
enchantments too. The idea that you can eat your
way out of every problem or some of the more exotic
and esoteric ideas that are found in macrobiotic
thinking are also very powerful enchantments and
can be destructive.
There are certainly some macrobiotic, vegan and
vegetarian followers who become orthorexic
so obsessed with their food that it literally
makes them sick because they have fallen
under the spell of some dietary enchantment.
Pirello: When you talk about consciousness
and perceptions driving our actions, please talk
about the role food plays in creating
inhibiting that force in us.
Tara: In the mid 1970s
I was seeing many people for health counseling
in London at the Community Health Foundation.
At this time I had attended some lectures by Dr.
Jack Worsley and became friends with Dr. Sidney
Rose-Neil, both of these men were influential
in introducing acupuncture to the UK.
I was fascinated by the Chinese theory of the
Five Transformations and found it interesting
to apply the diagnostic theories to my clients.
I was especially drawn to the observations on
the connection between organ function and behavior.
This lead me to write my book, Macrobiotics
and Human Behavior, I think it was the first
Western book on the subject.
The connection between
what we eat and the degree of internal stress
that is created in the organ systems of the body
is most certainly a huge influence on our sensitivity
to our environment. We know this to be true when
the stimulus is extreme but we are unaware when
it is subtle.
A cup of coffee, a shot of vodka, a cigarette,
a bar of chocolate they all effect the
way we behave, thats why we eat, drink or
smoke them. Why would we assume that the rest
of what we eat or drink would not produce changes?
The brain is nourished
by our blood. It is the most sensitive of all
our organs to small changes in blood chemistry
and it is our organ of perception. What we eat
and drink has the largest influence on blood quality
this is only logic.
The question is how large is the effect of food
on thought, emotion and behavior?
I spend a good deal of time on this issue in the
book since physical health, emotional history,
family, and culture all play a role in the way
we perceive the world and how we act on those
Pirello: Please talk a little about
The Lessons of Wind and Water and
how our modern obsession with precision and the
need to have a sensible explanation for everything,
including matters that used to rely on faith have
inhibited our ability to be natural, authentic
Tara: The truly magic parts
of life cannot be expressed in an equation. We
experience the world in two complimentary ways,
thinking and feeling. Our present culture prides
itself on thinking.
When there is a problem we call in the experts,
form a committee, examine the facts, balance the
viewpoints and make a mess. Feelings have been
relegated to maudlin personal interest stories
and reality television. We lack the power of deep
feeling, intuition and instinct we dont
trust the more primitive nature of our impulses
unless they are rationalized in ideologies.
I say that yin and yang
is a feeling based approach to the world. We can
study all we want but the reality of yin and yang
is a visceral phenomena. It is something that
is felt, it needs no rationalization.
We might ask ourselves
if an issue such as global warming is a difficult
scientific problem that requires new technologies
or is it a tangible representations of our disregard
for life? Is cancer a phenomenon that requires
more study and a chemical cure or
is it an example of our childish attachment to
a way of eating and living that kills us? One
set of answers implies that we are doing nothing
out of line, don really need to change our
way of life and simply need to think things out.
The alternative choice means that we need a dramatic
change of heart and accept the fact that we need
to reassess our lives and make fundamental changes.
This proposition usually calls up the response
that, people will never do that. My
response is that not everyone needs to. It doesnt
take many people to be the catalyst for social
Being reasonable in the
face of danger is not always the smart way to
go. Obviously we need technologies and thoughtfulness
to solve these problems but it is probably unreasonable
acts that will turn the course of many of our
contemporary problems. I am saying that we need
to enliven our mind by allowing our feelings and
our intuition to have voice.
Pirello: You talk in the book
about the gift of food. In our modern culture,
we see cooking and even eating as another burden
to endure in our busy lives. Please talk a little
about the gift of self nourishment
physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
Tara: Well thats a big
a big landscape to travel through.
Let me just briefly say that in the last few months
I have had the opportunity to counsel many people
who have worked hard to establish the level of
financial and social recognition that defines
success in most cultures. I dont find them
any more healthy or happy that the less wealthy
people that I often meet.
Popular enchantments regarding
food and nutrition are driven mostly by commercial
enterprises. Concepts of healthy food are gradually
disappearing. They are being buried beneath concepts
such as super foods, micronutrients, supplements,
elixirs and protein powders.
The simplicity and sensibility of eating fresh
food prepared in the home has deprived us of a
direct connection to one of the most fundamental
sources of our health and well-being. When we
have to have our food and, increasingly, our water
processed by industry we need to ask ourselves
if this is really an improvement.
All the issues of health,
economics and ecology that trouble the world are
an outcome of a particular relationship we have
to the world we live in and where we place value.
Simple acts such as cooking food, moving our bodies,
creativity or play have been subsumed by the drive
to get ahead or more commonly to keep
our heads above water. This is a sad fact
and there are no magic tricks to change it.
The interesting thing
is that when the heart attack lays us low, a bad
diagnosis is presented or some personal tragedy
strikes we question were the true value of life
lies. After all, what is life about? If the purpose
of life is to earn and spend we are doing a good
If the purpose of life is to enjoy this beautiful
earth, to live vital healthy lives, to care for
each other and to celebrate the gift of life and
our personal potential we are abysmal failures.
The psychologist, Eric Fromm said that the decision
was between living a life that was about having
or being he was right.
The enchantment of Having
It All is a very seductive one. The word
economy means managing the resources of the home
the word ecology means understanding the
home even an optimist like myself sees the irony
in this. The task for us all is to participate
in the creation of a human ecology that provokes
a more humane human economy. This act means embracing
a certain eccentricity of body, mind and spirit.
The conventional and accepted way of life commonly
promoted is one that is moving in a dangerous
and unhealthy direction creative and life-affirming
eccentricity is called for. I firmly believe that
a macrobiotic vision for modern times has much
to offer in the development of this movement in
world society. It could be fun.
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Body - Natural Mind' by Bill Tara
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