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Special Features > Jan London

 Q 

How did you start with macrobiotics and how has macrobiotics helped you?

 A 

Back in 1982, while living in South Florida, I had been strictly following a natural hygiene diet of raw fruits and vegetables for 2 years. Once a week I would indulge in a baked potato. It didn't matter that I was always hungry or even that my skin had an orange hue (from the copious amounts of carrots and red peppers I was constantly eating). I was thrilled. For finally I had something to hold onto - a disciplined way of eating that could control a problem that tormented me throughout my 34 years - overweight (and the unhappiness I secretly endured). Then, one fateful day, I relented and allowed my sister, Harriet, to prepare a macrobiotic meal of brown rice and miso soup. 'Oh my God! This is the taste I've been looking for all my life!' I exclaimed. This seemingly simple food was speaking volumes to me. I instinctively knew this was not merely wonderful tasting food, but something much deeper. At that very moment, I changed.


Eager to know more, I read books and began taking macro-cooking lessons. I recognized the near reverence in the way the foods were prepared - that the energy of the cook directly effects the food - as well as the order in which they were eaten. Every action was significant.. What I had scrupulously read in the books was coming to life here in the kitchen and gathering momentum from within. I could not deny that this experience had touched my soul and I loved it more than I could say. Unknowingly, I was beginning to awaken.
During a cooking lesson, a vibrant woman with long auburn hair pulled tightly back in a bun, entered the room. This was Mona. She had started the Macrobiotic Center in Florida years before. She spoke of a Kushi Macrobiotic Summer Camp happening that June in the Pocono Mts. My sister and I would definitely attend.

For the next 6 months, I was happily cooking away, preparing recipes on seaweeds, grains, vegetables and legumes for my grateful friends. My life was changing. As June approached, I felt an urgency that provoked me to let go of my material things. I discarded my closet into a shopping cart, sold my furniture, kicked out my boyfriend and left Florida with only a suitcase. When asked what I was doing, I replied, "I'm going to the Poconos and from there, I don't know."

My sister picked me up at the airport in Boston and we proceeded to Open Sesame, the macro restaurant. It was 5:00 pm, just opening for the day. There were only 3 people in the restaurant - Mona and 2 other women. I was fascinated by them, and one in particular: She was beautiful, slender and dressed in elegant simplicity. Her dark hair was pulled tightly back into a long braid and she had a diamond in nose. (Such jewelry was unheard of in those days).

I recognized her confidence and sense of composure. Her look was beyond wise. "Who are those women with Mona?", I asked. "Oh, they're her friends from Hong Kong", Harriet replied. They acknowledged us with a nod. After dinner, we approached them. Harriet sniffed the air and asked the woman with the diamond in her nose, "What's that smell?". "Perfume", the woman replied curtly in her German/British accent. Her answer was effectively succinct and correct. Harriet backed off. This woman was powerful. My only thought was, "I have so far to go". It had never occurred to me before this, that I had anywhere to go. This woman was a mirror of my own refection.

When we arrived at the summer camp the next day, we decided to forego any classes and head straight for the kitchen to offer our services. On our way, we passed a remarkable sight. Now, we had come to this camp especially to eat the food and learn the cooking techniques. However, here, sitting on a freshly pressed white cotton tablecloth, were a group of well dressed men, women and 2 children eating not the camp food, but their own food! They looked like a vision, far removed from the other camp participants clad in jeans, cutoffs and t-shirts. In the middle of this group, was the woman with the diamond in her nose. My heart skipped a beat.

In the kitchen, I was teamed up with a handsome young man who was cleaning the rice. He was carefully washing the rice between his hands. This impressed me. He spoke with an arrogance about the poor quality of water and food being served at the camp and about his travels to far off places such as Katmandu. I was intrigued with this Austrian man's knowledge and understanding of macrobiotics that went deeper than what I had learned. I asked if there was anything else happening that summer with macrobiotics.

Yes, there was a Temple Training beginning in July for 2 months in the mountains of Japan. It was led by his teacher, a Taoist Priestess and macrobiotic leader. "If you go, it would be the most difficult thing you would ever do, but also the greatest experience in your life", he told me. I had to go. However, I would have to ask permission from his teacher. And she was there - a woman with a diamond in her nose. Her name was Mayli. I stopped breathing. I now had a reason to speak with this woman.

Later that day during a walk, I saw Mayli approaching. "Hello, my name is Jan London. If you have a moment, I would like to speak with you", I asked. "Of course. Please meet me over there, by that tree, at 2:00 tomorrow," Mayli replied with a smile.

At 2:00 the next day, I waited joyfully at the tree accompanied by my sister. When 2:30 approached, Harriet remarked that that woman was now rude and I would be a fool to wait. "I have nothing better to do for the rest of my life. I'll wait forever if I have to," I replied. Harriet left in a huff.
At 3:00 Mayli arrived full of apologies for her delay. Her rented car had a flat tire. Would I please forgive her? Of course. I asked her if I could join her Temple Training next month. Mayli asked, "How long have you been Macrobiotic?" "6 months", I answered. "Oh, I'm sorry, but that's not long enough. The training would be too strong for you," Mayli said. At this point, I was on the ground, begging her. "But I've been hygienic for 2 years. Really, I'm quite clean. Please can I go?" Mayli looked at me with compassion and with a slight smile. "Yes, Jan. You can come. Contact the 2 other American women who will be attending and you can arrange to go together."


Do you think I was happy? I hadn't a clue what I was about to embark on, but I knew this was my direction.
And it was true. It was my most profound and edifying experience. Through the strong, clear food and Taoist exercises I began to eliminate toxins from my body. While through the ineffable teachings, any illusions I had had about myself and the way I viewed life began to shatter. I was told that what I was experiencing would become more apparent as it's meaning amplifies and begins to resonate through my life.

On a physical level, the color of my eyes, which had always been brown, changed to hazel green. This was their normal, healthy color, indicating that had I not changed my diet and my way of thinking, I would have developed serious health issues.

On a deeper level, I began to blossom. And, as this flower, I continue to unfold.
I remained Mayli's student for the next 13 years in the Far East and in Europe and remain forever grateful.

 Q 

What do you offer and specialise in?

 A 

As a personal chef and cooking instructor, I recognize the importance of keeping the preparation and recipes simple, well balanced and tasty even for the S.A.D palate. For 2 years, I have been writing a natural foods column for Palm Beach's local newspaper, 'The Shiny Sheet', including color pictures of my original recipes. These articles also appear in 2 local magazines.

I also give weekly cooking demos at NutritionSmart in West Palm Beach. Recently, I have begun to change my direction, focusing on a wider level. I am doing recipe development for companies and, more significantly, I have nearly completed my cookbook. Yeah! My intent is to gather the best quality products available and to promote them, through my cookbook and beyond. Those companies who maintain high standards and integrity are becoming scarce as they sell out to large corporations.

It's a selfish motive - I don't want to lose my food source.

 Q 
What one piece of advice would you give to someone trying macrobiotics for the first time?
 A 
I suggest the individual approaches the experience with an open mind.

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