Relationship thoughts

Sometimes I think that for women, their lives revolve around their relationships. Is this just a gender stereotype? I don’t know! Observing my female friends, knowing myself, and noticing how often we all talk about relationships, it seems like we all place very high value on our relationships. I just finished reading “Kaleidoscope” by Herman Aihara, and he discusses some interesting points about marriage and relationships in general. I can’t resist the opportunity to reflect more on the irresistable topic of personal relationships!

In his article, Aihara compares relationships to eating brown rice. He says,

“[Marriage] is like the brown rice taste – it’s not a hot dog taste or a Chinese restaurant taste (very spicy and oily). If you take that every day, you get tired of it. If I go to a French restaurant every day, I get tired quickly. But brown rice, if cooked well, chewed well, becomes more sweet. You barely need to chew gourmet food – it’s already tasty. So your marriage should be like brown rice – you have to chew very well. If you are very flashy, pretending to be like prince and princess, it doesn’t last long. Better to work hard to just make a nice home; then it lasts longer.”

I loved this idea as much as I love brown rice, a lot! It shows a lot of commitment and love.

Other important factors that he mentioned were:

–Choosing a healthy mate. Having a sick partner causes the healthy partner to carry all the burden of cooking, cleaning, childrearing and bringing income into the household. (See more in other postings for ideas of what health means.)
–Having decent income or adequate financial support.
–Having similar interests and hobbies. Aihara says, “If you are interested in macrobiotics, you had better have a partner who is interested in macrobiotics. Romance may not last long, but caring lasts long. Try to find interest in your partner’s hobbies and activities. Give up some of your own pleasure for your mate.” That means if your husband/boyfriend loves to watch loads of TV, including something like football, you should sit down with him and watch it together, even if you don’t really enjoy football yourself. The important thing is to try and share the same interests. It could end up being a fun, enjoyable experience to share together.
–Having respect and humbleness towards each other. Without respect, all is lost. To respect each other, act in a respectable manner. Honor and maintain your commitment to each other (e.g., loyalty, fidelity, honesty), your good character and behavior. Work on raising your own level of consciousness.
–Attending to one’s diet. Share at least one meal together every day. Eat together peacefully. Follow a good macrobiotic diet.
–Accepting each other and being happy with what you have instead of thinking “There is something else better out there.” If you simply leave your partner, you could end up in another difficult relationship.
–Communicating and having an open and listening mind, as well as keeping no secrets from each other.
–Avoiding complaining, and instead talk things over sincerely. Speak with your whole heart, for another’s benefit.

My parents have been married for over 35 years, and though no relationship is perfect, nor without its ups and down, they continue to live happily together, with their love growing all of the time. They are not following a macrobiotic diet, but it seems they naturally do many of the things on this list.

Anyway, for me, these are wonderful ideas to think about. I hope you will leave comments if anything inspires you.

How healthy are you?

In American culture, so much emphasis is placed on body image. There seems to be a common belief that if a person is thin, then they must be healthy. It is true that obesity is becoming an epidemic in the States, causing many debilitating health effects. For a long long time, I also held this belief. As a woman, I thought that if I was thin, my problems would disappear and all would be well. Being thin seemed the key to me. Recently, in my own self growth, in addition to interactions and observations of other people, I have been thinking more deeply about the concept of health. I agree that maintaining one’s physique is an important factor, but also, health seems to go much deeper than this. A person could have a gorgeous body, but not a healthy mind and/or spirit.

George Ohsawa outlined 7 conditions for health. I wonder how many of us are able to reach the 7th??

Physical conditions
1. Never tired, never catches cold. Always ready to work.
2. Good appetite, and happy with simplest foods.
3. Good deep sleep, and falls asleep within 3 minutes after going to bed, and wakes up after 4 to 5 hours. No dreams, no movement during sleep.

Psychological conditions
4. Good memory, never forgets, can memorize fifty thousand personal names.
5. Good humor. Freedom from anger. Always cheerful and pleasant under any circumstance. Without fear and suffering. Deep gratitude and thankfulness to others.
6. Good judgment. Smartness in thinking and doing. Correct thinking, judging, and doing with promptness and smartness.

Understanding of faith and justice
7. Absolute faith in justice, thinking and doing things with the following mentality:

-Never angry
-Never afraid
-Never says ‘I am tired’ or ‘I am lost’
-Appreciates any foods, even distasteful cooking
-Sleeps deeply, without dreams
-Never forgets, especially debts and kindness received
-Does not lie in order to protect himself/herself
-Accurate and punctual
-Likes everyone
-Never doubts what others say
-Lives to find the highest eternal value of life
-Happiest when finding the order of the universe in daily life and in unnoticeable small things
-Spends life only for what he/she really wants to do instead of just for earning money
-Spends whole life teaching the miracle of life – the order of the universe

Why I don’t eat …

Since I am leaving Japan soon, many people have been inviting me for lunch or dinner to enjoy being together before I leave. Recently, a teacher from the English Department invited me over to her home, a rare treat in Japan. Several people from my department know that I have a diet different from their own, but they don’t really know what this is exactly. She kindly and conscientiously asked me several times about the foods that I could eat and couldn’t eat to find a suitable menu plan for everyone (including her seminar students). Her cousin, a dietician, was also very interested in my being macrobiotic and she decided to come to lunch too!

I decided to take some daifuku dessert (strawberry covered with sweet azuki bean paste and mochi rice). The teacher’s 91-year-old mother with a very frail appetite really loved them and wanted to eat more.

My colleague made very delicious chirashi zushi with homemade lotus and ginger pickles, as well as kiriboshi daikon, and her cousin made a clear broth soup with sea bass. They put eel and egg on the side for the students. That was really kind of them to do for me.

I wondered if perhaps I might end up in the hot seat, answering questions about why I don’t eat meat, fish, egg, sugar, etc., so I prepared the night before. Fortunately, I wasn’t grilled! This is what I would have told them, if they had asked.

1.) Why don’t you eat meat, fish, or poultry?

Eating meat in the polar regions gives a lot of energy and warmth to endure the extreme cold. However, for those of us in temperate climates, eating meat is too difficult for us to digest, taking twice as long as for vegetables and grains. While the meat travels though our intestines, it begins to putrefy, creating harmful bacteria in our intestines. The toxins begin to accumulate in our liver, large intestine, and kidneys, and destroy the villi in our small intestines. Fat begins to accumulate around these organs, our arteries harden, and we develop cysts, tumor, fibroids, and high cholesterol. We can eventually develop cancer.

With more oxygen needed to digest the meat, we have a lot of oxygen traveling through our blood and into our brains. This makes it hard for us to keep a calm mind, and can lead to aggressive behavior. We become fixed and rigid in our mentality.

2.) Where do you get your protein?

There is ample protein in the grains, nuts, seeds, seitan, tempeh, tofu, natto, and other beans, in addition to the occasional fish that I eat. These foods are very easy to digest compared to meat and dairy. Too much protein, such as in the standard American diet, can lead to osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease.

The standard American diet, with meat and dairy, is very high in fat. A high fat diet leads to heart attacks, stroke, an overstressed liver and other main organs, and can eventually lead to cancer.

3.) Why don’t you eat sugar?

Sugar, too much fruit, honey, and milk all leach minerals from the body. Our bones become brittle as the sugar leaches minerals away, and we develop osteoperosis. These sugary foods clog our intestines, cause weight gain, and lethargy. Simple sugars make our insulin levels (blood sugar) unstable, first soaring and then crashing, leading to hypoglycemia, diabetes, and even drug addictions. Our pancreas and liver are unable to cope with the overwork and stress, and they become fatty, leading to cancer. Furthermore, sugar causes an acid condition in the body, making us susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. We are also susceptible to nervousness, worry, passivity, introversion, spaced-out behavior, lack of concentration, lack of memory, and slow decision-making.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates (in grains, grain malts, and amazake) burn slow and steady keeping our insulin levels, thoughts, concentration, decision-making, and emotions balanced and harmonized.

4.) Why don’t you eat cheese and eggs, or drink milk?

In addition to meat, dairy products are very difficult for our bodies to digest. The toxins get stuck in our upper intestine, leading to more putrefaction, which weakens our organs. Dairy causes mucus to develop in our bodies, especially in the reproductive organs. We develop sinus problems, kidney stones, fat, tumors, cancer, hay fever, and infertility. Because dairy takes a long time to digest, it also leads to a dulled mind. Other problems such as allergies develop, in addition to antisocial and dependent behaviors.

I am so happy to be macrobiotic. I am so thankful that coming to Japan led me to such a wonderful way to see the world and to live my life. Thank you Japan! Thank you Kobe Women’s University!

Thoughts on Kaleidoscope and Sugar Blues

I have only been macrobiotic for two years now, so there is a lot for me to read and learn. I go through phases of reading voraciously whatever I can get my hands on and then setting things aside for a while to let it all percolate. Right now, I am just through the beginning of Kaleidoscope by Herman Aihara and was struck by one of his essays entitled, Yin Syndrome, written in 1979.

It starts out by discussing the fear of nuclear radiation. At the time this article was written, many people feared the effects of nuclear radiation, especially with what happened at Three Mile Island. Aihara calls this fear a yin syndrome. Some studies suggest that an increase in cancer is caused by very low levels of radiation the come from wristwatches, microwave ovens, nuclear mining, and power generating operations.

However, he suggests that we have no reason to fear the effects of radiation if we follow a balanced macrobiotic lifestyle. The main cause of the fear (kidney imbalance) AND the physical effects of radiation are caused by our diet.

He says the main causes of both the fear and illness come from (p.30):

–sugar and sugared foods
–refined foods, especially grains
–chemical additives, colorings
–animal foods (especially grown with hormone feeds)
–vinegar, spices, coffee
–soft drinks, beer, wine, all other alcoholic drinks.

He wrote that when we eliminate these foods from our diet, we eliminate the mental and emotional plague of nervousness, worry, passivity, introversion, spaced-out behavior, lack of concentration, lack of memory, and slow decision-making. We also prevent modern illnesses.

While still on the topic of sugar and refined foods, I recently read Sugar Blues by William Dufty. In his book, he suggests that throughout history, the use of sugar has been the cause of civilization’s decline. To give a few examples, nations who ate sugar were eradicated, slavery started, the black plague killed thousands, and the Salem witch trials occurred. He suggests that sugar is a powerful drug like any other and questioned why people tend not to see the substance in this way? In America, people are up in arms about drugs. Drug use conjures an image of some dirty and dangerous American street with some weird adult peddling heroin, speed, or marijuana. Or perhaps it conjures an image of a dangerous man breeching the safety and comfort of the suburbs…? But people just don’t seem to mind if they themselves, or if their kids, get their hit from the vending machine. The vending machine is Dufty’s idea of a modern drug pusher. And the candy, chip, and soda machines are ubiquitous. Even cigarettes, he says, have sugar in them.

But like Aihara wrote, eating sugar can make you passive, docile, and perhaps unwilling to question authority. Hegemonic corporations thus keep us firmly addicted and rake in lots of profit.

When I read this book, I felt that being macrobiotic is more than just for my health. Not eating sugar is also a political statement that I oppose the current power structure of my country. It would be interesting to know if people ate less sugar in the ‘60’s around the time of the sexual revolution? At that time, people were questioning the powers that be, protesting the Vietnam war, and working actively for a more peaceful world. On a certain level that is still happening today, but progress seems stalled. Perhaps if more people ate less sugar, George Bush could have been defeated, and we would not experience such apathy as we have now? We can change the world just by changing ourselves.

Healing Your Kidneys

Speaking of kidneys, my great friend and incredible cook, Reni, who is in Switzerland at the moment is going to cook for a shiatsu workshop. The theme of the shiatsu workshop is “Healing Your Kidneys.”

On that note, foods that heal your kidneys are:

Miso or tamari soup
Azuki or black beans
Buckwheat, barley, and oats
Pressure cooked rice or millet
Buckwheat soba noodles
Seitan
Kombu, sea palm, or hijiki
Winter squash/pumpkin
Greens and roots
Pickles and lightly salty condiments
Low fat baked desserts

Sample kidney menu ideas are:

Fu and broccoli soup
Pressure cooked hatomugi and barley (or rye) with sautéed vegetables
Sweet and sour seitan
Chestnut or squash twists
Sweet rice with chestnuts
Brown rice with lotus seeds
Brown rice with buckwheat
Kasuziru (Miso with sake lees)
Baked tofu sandwich
Boiled salad
Azuki beans with chestnuts and raisins
Pan fried soba noodles
Deep fried rice balls
Millet croquettes with vegetables
Soba noodle soup
Dried tofu nishime
Azuki bean and vegetable soup
Baked beans
Deep fried fu
Stew with fu
Black soybean stew
Kinpira gobo
Azuki bean brownies

Let’s remember the daikon hip bath for healing kidneys too.

Macrobiotic Movies

Could These be Considered Macrobiotic Movies?

Can anyone think of more?

Star Wars

“The Force” bifurcates into Darth Vader’s “Dark Side” while Jedi Knights use the other (unnamed?) aspect. Though seen in terms of “good” and “bad” the two energetic concepts originate from the same source. Jedi Knights trust their feelings and intuition to do the seemingly impossible.

Chocolat

An overly yang village is balanced by the sensual aspects of chocolate. The town mayor with an extreme yang condition binges out of control!

Like Water for Chocolate

The guests absorb the emotions and thoughts the cook stirs into her delicious and sensual food. The cook creates her family’s health.

Field of Dreams

The main characters believe in and manifest their true dream, and they do so by tuning into the invisible or energetic world.

The Matrix

In the third and final movie, Neo philosophizes about the interdependence between the seemingly dichotomous machine and human worlds. To defeat the rouge program, Mr. Smith, the yin (human world) and yang (machine world) blend into one, not able to live, survive, and function without the other.

After Neo is phsyically blinded, he begins to see the world only in terms of energy.

What is macrobiotics?

Someone left a comment asking, “What is macrobiotics, anyway?” It is good practice for me to try and answer this question. To me, “macrobiotic” means several things. From my experience, it is a diet, a philosophy, and a lifestyle. (For another point of view, go to www.kushiinstitute.com.)

Regarding one’s diet, macrobiotics is a whole foods diet. A whole foods diet leaves out refined and processed foods and focuses on foods in their whole form. For example, instead of eating wheat bread which has been broken down and refined into its smallest form, flour, macrobiotic people would rather eat the whole cooked wheat berry grain. Emphasis is placed on eating whole grains such as brown rice in particular, in addition to millet, barley, buckwheat, wheat, oats, etc. They also eat fresh seasonal vegetables, soup, seaweed and beans. In a macrobiotic diet, some people eat fish, while others choose to be vegan. There is ample food within this diet to create an endless variety of tasty, beautiful, and nutritious dishes.

The emphasis for the whole foods is “local, seasonal, and organic.” The local and seasonal aspects are connected. This means eat foods that are grown in your region and eat them in season. For example, when it is summer, eat fresh fruits, corn, and lightly cooked vegetables that keep your body cool, but when it is winter focus on longer cooking times, root vegetables, slightly saltier and heartier dishes that keep your body warm. Eating with the seasons is a way to stay connected to mother nature and her cycles and rhythms. It also keeps our health strong.

On the other hand, if you live in a cold northern region, but you often eat bananas, papayas, mangoes, and other tropical fruits, your body will get very cold! If you live in a hot tropical area, do you want to eat foods that make your body warmer? No! Of course not! You want to naturally eat cooling things. When you consistenly eat foods that are not grown in your local region, and you eat them out of season, your health can deteriorate.

Eating organically is another point to pay attention to. When we eat foods that are fresh and without pesticides and chemicals, not only are we retaining vitamins and minerals, but we are putting the freshest and cleanest foods into our systems, thereby supporting our health, giving us energy and happiness for life.

Macrobiotics departs from the idea of vetarianism or veganism that we commonly know about in the western world. It draws on Asian ideas of health and wellness. People who are macrobiotic believe that food carries energy, or what we know as “yin and yang.” Different foods have different energies which are important to balance. When we are balanced, our emotions stay balanced, and we forget our worries, fears, stresses, and we can live a happy, joyful, and free life. Depending on how we want to be, we can choose our foods. Foods are chosen from the categories mentioned above (local, seasonal, and organic) in addition to their energy (balance of yin and yang), always avoiding extreme foods that are difficult to balance over a long period of time (such as meat and sugar, or meat and alcohol). Eating too much raw fruit and vegetables, sugar, chocolate, nightshade vegetables, and oil for example, can leave us feeling depressed, spaced out, and overly emotional. Eating too much meat, salt, baked flour, and eggs can make you feel tense, heavy, and lethargic. These imbalances can lead to illness over time.

With lifestyle, there are a variety of things that macrobiotic people do. These might include (but are not limited to) do-in, yoga, shiatsu, body scrubs, and home remedies for illnesses. Macrobiotic people believe that when you stop eating extreme foods that upset one’s natural balance, and treat all illnesses or imbalances with nature’s medicine (food), you are free to play and enjoy life at its fullest. Life is beautiful! It is meant to be enjoyed! All possibilities are open to us. In my own experience, macrobiotics has led to a much more peaceful existence. If you dont believe me, that is OK. I would just ask you to try it for yourself to be sure.

Miso Soup for Allison

For one person (from Cooking the Whole Foods Way, by Christina Pirello)

1 cup spring or filtered water

1 1-inch piece of wakame, soaked and diced

Several pieces each of a few vegetables

(onion, daikon, carrot, cabbage, squash, etc)

1 tsp barley or brown rice miso

Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Bring water and wakame to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 3 minutes. Add vegetables and simmer, covered, over low heat 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender.

Remove a small bit of broth, add miso and stir until dissolved. Stir miso mixture back into the soup and simmer, uncovered, without boiling, 3 to 4 minutes more. Garnish with green onions, and serve hot.

NOTES: It is very important that you don’t boil the miso. The beneficial enzymes present need warmth to activate, but boiling will destroy their benefits, leaving you only with the flavor.

Garnishing isn’t arbitrary or done simply becuase it makes soup look beautiful. Garnishing adds a final touch of fresh, light energy to a soup that has cooked over fire for several minutes. All soups need that kind of freshness. You can use anything raw and fresh, such as green onions, parsley, sprouts, grated carrot, daikon, or gingerroot, to name just a few options.