What is Macrobiotics?
A Comprehensive Macrobiotics Definition
This is a follow up article on the macrobiotic definition posted by Denny Waxman. Below, we will detail the purpose and conversations behind what is a macrobiotic diet plan, why it was so important to create a universal understanding of macrobiotic practice and answer the question of what is macrobiotics for both those looking into it for the first time as well as those that have been incorporating macrobiotic meals into their lives for some time. So far, coming up with a practical definition of macrobiotics has been an exciting adventure and the following is a brief description of how it came to be.
Recently, there has never been a more broad openness to the connection and relationship between diet and health, food and the environment, and all of life. We have never been inundated with as many questions as we have over the last year or so; “What is the macrobiotic diet,” “What is the meaning of macrobiotics,” “What is the real macrobiotic definition” and “What is a macrobiotic diet plan?” seem like daily questions. The importance of these questions are two-fold.
First, macrobiotics has very important contributions to make to personal and planetary health for its practical dietary, activity, and lifestyle recommendations. Second, a comprehensive macrobiotics definition can be a powerful tool for unifying the international macrobiotic community. Since macrobiotics is about all of life, coming up with a definition that is clear and understandable for people unfamiliar to macrobiotic practice presents a challenge. Is this a challenge that the worldwide macrobiotic community can come together for to share with the rest of the world?
We believe new people are ready to learn about our way of life and we are excited to both share our perspectives and to continue this discussion with the rest of you!
In April, Denny began working on writing a blog about the evolution of the meaning of macrobiotic practice from the current approach of Susan, Denny, and the Strengthening Health Institute. Discussions with Carl Ferré offered additional technical corrections and Denny decided a comprehensive macrobiotic definition with the tenets, principles, and shared commonalities was needed to help people properly define macrobiotic diet & lifestyle practices. Carl had a similar interest, and had previously published an article in 2014 in Macrobiotics Today, which he shared with the group. From that point, Denny submitted a rough draft to Carl asking for his comments, additions, and revisions. After several rounds, the team of macrobiotic experts had arrived at a suitable definition.
After that draft, which was published in Macrobiotics Today, we invited feedback and suggestions from other well-known macrobiotic experts. Simon Brown recently made additional suggestions and revisions for the definition. In addition, Simon suggested that the definition become a topic for the international teacher’s meeting in Berlin at the end of October. This is something we plan to do in order to build true consensus among the community to accurately represent the meaning of macrobiotic practice.
Earlier this Spring, during a conversation between Denny Waxman, the founder of the Strengthening Health Institute, and Norio Kushi, son of macrobiotic expert, Michio Kushi, on the meaning of macrobiotic. Norio expressed the importance of coming up with a macrobiotic definition for the world.
George Ohsawa coined the word “macrobiotique” while he was living in France. Norio pointed out that the word in French has greater clarity because it automatically translates to “great life.” In English however, this macrobiotic meaning is not immediately apparent, which has in turn created a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. Norio felt it was important to come up with a comprehensive macrobiotics definition, and the idea appealed to Denny as well.
This conversation with Norio helped recall a previous attempt to align a definition of macrobiotics in 2007. The goal is to help people get healthy by answering the most common questions, “What is Macrobiotics?”, “What is a Macrobiotic Diet Plan?”, and “What aspects of life does macrobiotics pertain to?”
The following principles and values are based on the writings of the early twentieth-century philosopher George Ohsawa. His and our intention is to cultivate individual and world health, social and environmental consciousness, and a fulfilling life. Here they are written concisely in modern language to answer the questions of “What is macrobiotics?”. Books, websites, and social media have material for further study.
Way of Life
Gratitude – Developing a love of life, making the most of every moment, and being grateful for whatever happens whether it seems positive or negative, is an opportunity to grow.
One grain, ten thousand grains – In nature, one seed becomes a plant that produces many seeds, thus giving back and increasing. This is a metaphor to continuously act with generosity towards others in all aspects of life, thus giving back more than you receive.
Values – Learning to accept people as they are and appreciate each person’s life journey. Seek to make honest and positive relationships that fulfill the highest ethics and values in life.
Everything changes – By embracing change, humans develop. Macrobiotic living is a way to create beneficial change in life, evolving through experience and as the world changes.
Seven conditions of health – 1.Vitality. 2. Good appetite for natural food and life. 3.Deep refreshing sleep. 4. Good memory. 5.Cheerful pleasant outlook. 5.Clear thought and action. 7.Honesty and appreciation.
Self-reflection – Developing the ability to view life from the biggest perspective from a more objective and non-judgemental place. Living with self-awareness can guide each person toward health.
Intuition – An integral part of health, based on an inner knowing, that comes from a direct connection with nature and beyond.
Self-empowerment – The ability to influence your own life and health is one of the first steps to empowering yourself, leading to a creative, constructive approach to life.
Ecology and Food
Body and nature are not separate – What we do to the environment greatly affects us. Food and breathing are our direct connection to nature. Through daily meals, regular rising and sleeping times, and daily exercise, we realign with the seasonal cycles of nature every day.
Food – Consistent mealtimes and eating together promote health. A macrobiotic diet is based on combining healthy traditional food, including fresh vegetables, whole grains or their products, beans, fruit, nuts, seeds, pickles, fermented foods, herbs, seasonings, sea vegetables, and teas. Each person is unique and discovers the best food for health based on macrobiotic principles. Many thrive being vegan and some choose to include a little animal food. Macrobiotics is an open, flexible, and adaptable approach to eating that can include a wide variety of foods for social events and special occasions.
Principles for food selection – Prioritize food that has grown and adapted to your climatic region over many centuries or at least comes from a similar climatic zone. Prefer local and seasonal perishable foods from as close to home as possible and organic/natural foods with as little chemical additives as possible. Our food choices impact society and the environment.
Natural preparation – Use natural preparation, cooking techniques, and preservation methods to enhance the taste and quality of ingredients and to make nutrients more available. Cooking is a skill that can bring greater sensory and emotional satisfaction to each meal.
Order of the universe – Describes the way things comes into being in a logical progression through seven stages. This process forms the philosophical basis of macrobiotics.
Unifying principle of yin-yang– Illustrates the unity and diversity of all phenomena, connections and the relative direction of all things. Yin or yang cannot exist or be defined without the other. They are relative terms where things are more yin or more yang relative to something else. Opposites, such as day and night, complete and change into each other.
Five transformations – Phases of change based on times of day and seasons. They combine with yin and yang for further insight and refinement in making daily food, cooking, health, decisions, and lifestyle choices.
Living with curiosity – Learning to think for yourself. Macrobiotic education includes asking questions and developing curiosity to help explore life more deeply. Live with a beginner’s mind that is open to new and fresh ideas. Be ready to experiment and verify them for yourself. Study traditional cultures that have achieved health, longevity, and harmony with their environment.
Seven aspects of consciousness – Helpful guides for self-reflection as we grow and develop. These innate human qualities are physical, sensorial, emotional, intellectual, social, philosophical, and universal love that can turn antagonism into its complement.
Authors: Simon Brown, Carl Ferre, Anna Mackenzie, Isabel Moreno, Denny Waxman.
The authors would like to thank and acknowledge the many people who sent thoughtful contributions, including Mike Chen, Flora Laurent, Kristiane Ravn Frost, Micheal Rossoff, Lino and Jane Stanchich, Bill Tara, Nigel Walker, and Melanie Waxman.
Principles and Values agreed upon by the International Macrobiotic Conference 2018 in Lisbon by 50 teachers, representing many schools, institutes, and organizations.
Learn more about macrobiotics? Check out our macrobiotic courses!
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