In 1981 my husband developed an acid stomach. His doctor ordered him to take Malox every day or risk getting an ulcer. When Malox gave him excruciating headaches we thought maybe corporate life was not for him - but - we had a baby and a mortgage to pay. Plan B - I went to the health food store to inquire about old folk recipes for acid stomach. There had to be something.
I had never been in a store like this. Bins of grains and beans that made a wonderful sound when my two-year-old dug the little shovel in to fill our bags. The sprout and cucumber sandwiches, and the simmering soups behind the counter filled the store with the most heavenly smells which informed my deprived brain of the importance of whatever was going on here. The store owner, Peggy, said:"Well, there is Macrobiotics - but that is a whole philosophy".
"Philosophy" - say no more! Cooking and food had never interested me. That changed after my first macrobiotic cooking class, my first consultation with a macrobiotic counselor, and after reading many, many macrobiotic books. If you want to change the world - stay home with your children and cook!
Not only my husband's acid stomach cleared up before the six week cooking class was over, but so did my two-year-old's runny nose, and my six year allergy to my own adrenaline that had me break out in itchy hives whenever there was any positive or negative stress in my life. A year later I started teaching Macrobiotics in Connecticut, and three years later I was enrolled at the Kushi Institue in Boston to study with Michio and Aveline Kushi in more depth. After that I started counseling not only allergic children, but people with cancer and AIDS in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Macrobiotics did wonders for my mediation practice. I could sit still for hours. The peace in my physical body due to a more balanced diet and increased awareness about the energies of food and preparation techniques, translated to a peaceful mind.
There also was more peace in our household than in other households, as my children lived on home cooked food that was calming and soothing, rather than fast and exciting like sizzling hamburgers, cartoon cereals and high octane fizzy drinks. While other mothers battled it out with their meat-fed little warriors and their irritable, whiny kids who were allergic to the dairy or fruit juice they were consuming, my children were wielding sharp Japanese kitchen knives cutting vegetables every night, and my ten-year-old decided he was going to cook dinner on Tuesday nights for all of us as part of his allowance chores. He then proceeded to cook complete Macrobiotic meals of soup, rice, vegetables, beans and condiments, including kale, to perfection, which is an art, explaining to me what he had watched me do all along. That was the first time I realized how much children watch every move we make to learn. If we don't like them when they grow up - guess what!
Macrobiotics as taught by Michio Kushi has influenced American culture more than most people realize. The founders of many large, influential American enterprises were students of Michio Kushi in the seventies and eighties. Nonetheless, Macrobiotics has too much of a religious flavor for some people - too many do-s and don'd-s - and it's own stories of cancer not just in Michio Kushi's own family, but among his followers as well, have added to its complicated image.
If I were to sum up the core teaching of Macrobiotics, though, and explain its main goal, it would have to be gratitude and humility. Gratitude and humility are of course completely independent of food, or the diseases we develop. Yet, it is amazing how a simple diet of grains and vegetables that does not burden us with the digestive struggle to get these foods though our system, can help us in this regard. Macrobiotics can greatly enrich one's life, but it does not seem a guarantee against cancer. Maybe if followed not out of fear of cancer, but out of curiosity about food and life, it will bring the most benefit.
Macrobiotics is both very simple, and extremely complicated, depending on how you approach it. As far as my husband's acid stomach was concerned - it was caused by eating too much meat, which we ate every night. We cut out meat for several months. Once his stomach had healed he ate meat again in moderation, maybe once or twice a week on business trips. He still eats meat about once or twice a month, now, when he craves it. I have added more fish into my diet, and enjoy coffee and chocolate in small quantities when I am in tropical California. I crave these foods less in Rhode Island where I live in the summers. The fact that most of my Macrobiotic counselors smoked cigarettes and some of them also developed cancer, has kept me following Macrobiotics with a non-credo attitude, which is George Ohsawa's original teaching, and gives me the freedom to enjoy any food at any time.
The ultimate secret to eating, is Gandhi's advice: "Chew your drinks, and drink your food". The simple and short advice on this website sums up nicely what Michio tried to teach us - by example - all these years.
The following three links will keep you busy for a while. There is a book list and a lot of other information to give you an idea about Macrobiotics.
The Macrobiotic Diet,
As my 82-year-old mother-in-law is about to start aggressive chemo for metastasised breast cancer - cancer and how to best treat it has been much on my mind. She would be most comfortable trusting conventional medical advice and has a wonderful doctor advising her. Western Medicine has saved my life more than once, so I am all for it. Ideally, though, East and West will meet some day and we will get the best of both worlds. Maybe it is already happening at this clinic in Spain, opening in September 2008, where Michio is combining his efforts with the efforts of Western doctors. This clinic was donated by a very wealthy Spanish father in gratitude to Macrobiotics.
I discovered most of the news I was looking for on this wonderful British website the other day and can highly recommend it, if you want to get more involved.