Ever Wondered: What is Macrobiotics?

by Phyllis Parun

The Macrobiotic Way of Life is a modern holistic system of nutrition and exercise with roots in an Asia and presented to the world by its Japanese founders George and Lima Ohsawa in the middle of the 20th century. Macrobiotics offers a practical system of cooking and understanding the energy of food that not only treats disease but is also one of the keys to preventing it. But the true goal of macrobiotics ultimately is whole health or spiritual awareness.

Macrobiotics is a personal, self-directed practice. Many students of macrobiotics seek its wisdom:

  • To achieve radiant health, mental clarity
  • To create emotional calmness or regenerate the physical body
  • To improve athletic performance
  • To maintain personal and social peace, joy and happiness

Macrobiotic practices as it is taught today is very similar to that of ancient practices. The fundamentals are the same. Teaching of the macrobiotic way of life addresses one’s:

  • Thinking
  • Breathing
  • Movement
  • Diet
  • Spiritual Awareness

The Macrobiotic Way of Eating is based on a variety of ancient and modern international traditions which includes soups, whole grains, land and sea vegetables, beans, soy foods, seafood and fish, seeds and nuts, fruits, natural sweeteners, seasonings, beverages. A Macrobiotic practice is not static. It is immersed in change. As its name implies “Macrobiotics” a Greek term meaning “large life” has all the variety and flexibility available in nature for the practitioner eager to study it.

Macrobiotic cooking is based on an ancient science of dietary therapy called Food Energetics. Traditional Chinese Dietary Therapy classifies foods by temperature, flavor, routes and actions what it tonifies and regulates. Modern Macrobiotics modifies some of these traditional teachings but it is historically rooted in practices of ancient Taoists.

Food Energetics is an ancient and very practical, easy system for understanding the effects of food on our physical, mental, and spiritual well being. “Energetics” differs from its modern counterpart “Dietetics” in several essential ways. Modern Dietetics determines food values in a laboratory experiment with food in a raw, uncooked, undigested state.Chinese/Macrobiotic Energetics assesses the true nutritional value of specific foods after observation of the actions of the food has on humans after it has been cooked and eaten.Ancient Food Energetics carries the authority of 5,000 years of trial and error cooking experience of human beings behind it.

To learn macrobiotic or Chinese dietary cooking, it is best to take cooking classes from an experienced cooking instructor. Cooking instructors often have developed their profession through many years of their own self-healing practices and serving as apprentices under major teachers, going to conferences, studying at Kushi, Vega or Europe. You can use a search engine under “Macrobiotics” for international listings. Choosing a cooking teacher is a little like choosing an art teacher. It is a matter of taste! If you cannot locate a teacher to your liking in your area you can be successful by beginning with a good cookbook. There are many great ones by sensational writers and cooks.

The Macrobiotic Way of Spirit

The Macrobiotic Study is an investigation and an expression of your own uniqueness. It is not a science, not an intellectual study but your practicing, living art of life. And you are that work of art. You are the result of all of your efforts. Your life is art and poetry. You are perfect just like you are.

The question is not is this the macrobiotic way but are you living in harmony with nature? Are you fully present for this living experience. Achieving openness to life is the art. Macrobiotics is a way of achieving openness to all life and love through living non-exclusively. This means not thinking that you have the only way, that you have the only answer.

We can view ourselves as artists working with this material, our bodymind and spirit. Macrobiotics is a natural system, you are the end goal, your medium is your energy, food is the foundation, grain is the staple, yin and yang are the scientific principles.

The true reason for practicing any form or food therapy is to help one become spiritually arrived. It is not just to heal the body. The body is spirit manifested and so we care for it because we honor our spiritual nature.

The most important personal characteristic of the student is her/his desire to discover how (s)he can enjoy a happier healthier daily life. Since cooking and exercise changes the blood chemistry this brings about corrections in long-standing troublesome imbalances of spiritual nature as well as physical and emotional. The effect of a dietary practice is toexperience aesthetic arrest, to be fully present in the midst of life every moment. This is the principle of life in death and death in life. The true goal of Macrobiotics is to experience joie d’vivre.

Phyllis Parun has devoted the past 17 years to practicing self-care techniques to create health and happiness in her own life. Phyllis’ believe that everyone can take charge of their own healthstyle has led her to study with prominent masters of the Asian healing arts in cooking, shiatsu, meditation and qigong. Phyllis’ self-directed career path continues toinclude teaching, publishing, exhibiting sculpture and writing poetry. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“The macrobiotic way of life recommended by the ancient wise people and practiced widely for physical, mental and spiritual development consists of the following arts; the way of eating, the way of breathing, and the way of daily life. Because a human being is part of his environment, and has evolved through biological development covering more than three billion years on this planet, his physical, mental and spiritual conditions are based upon what he consumes from his natural environment and his food. The way of eating is the most essential factor for his development.”

Michio Kushi, THE BOOK OF DO-IN (ISBN 0-87040-382-6)

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