Macrobiotic Philosophy

 

Life is change
Everything in the universe is constantly changing. Activity changes into rest, day changes into night, warmth into coldness, summer changers into winter, winter into summer, youth into old age, life into death, death into rebirth. Recognizing and understanding the two opposite and yet complementary constantly intertwining forces that bring along constant change helps us to achieve harmony in our bodies and minds. The principle of yin and yang is the philosophical foundation of macrobiotics. The way of life teachings of Lao Tze, Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Jesus Mohammed and other great teachers and philosophers throughout history were based on the universal principle of two opposite and yet complementary forces. To understand this simple principle and then to live its basic laws is the greatest way to perfect health and long life.

 

Yin and Yang in East and West
The principle of yin and yang is also known as the Unifying Principle because it states that antagonistic forces complement and unify each other. Like in the case of man and woman. Though man and woman are opposites in many ways, they depend on each other for continued existence. Together they form a unity. In both Eastern and Western religion and thought many expressions of yin and yang can be found. Yin and yang are the underlying forces that produce constant change in Chinese Taoism. In Hindu religion Brahman the absolute becomes Shiva and Parvati, the god and goddess whose cosmic dance gives rise to all phenomena in the universe. In Japanese Shinto religion, Amnominakanushi, who stand for infinity, becomes Takami-musabi and kami-musubi, the gods of centrifugality and centripetality, from whom the phenomenal universe arises.

 

In the West the underlying principle of yin and yang has amongst others been expressed by the Greek philosopher Empedocles who viewed the universe as an eternal playground of two opposite and yet complementary forces which he called love and strife. Heraclitus referring to the eternal process of change as Logos, taught of the opposite, yet complementary nature of all phenomena. In Judaism, the principle of complementary, opposite forces is expressed in the David star, showing the balanced intersection of descending an ascending triangles. More recently key ideas in the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Hegel and Walter Russell have expressed the underlying force of yin and yang.

 

Yin and yang in macrobiotics
Macrobiotics focuses on the dynamics of yin and yang in daily life. Centrifugal outward energy which is resulting in expansion is named yin. Diffusion, dispersion, expansion and separation are yin tendencies. Centripetal inward energy which is resulting in contraction is called yang. Fusion, organization, gathering, contraction are yang tendencies.

 

Yin and yang are the most basic and primary forces. Every change, movement, formation, interaction, all phenomena can be understood in terms of yin and yang. Since all things are relative nothing is absolutely yin or yang, but there is always one predominating force, therefore we can classify f.e. plants, persons, foods according their relative yin and yang tendencies.

 

In the world around us the sun, daytime, heat and summer display yang tendencies, while the moon, night, cold and winter reflect more yin qualities. In the human body we can see the constant action of both yin and yang in the expansion and contraction of the heart, the lungs, the stomach and the intestines. Being active (yang), human beings and animals in general are more yang than stationary (yin) plants.

 

Examples of yin and yang

 

Characteristic

Yin tendency

Yang tendency

Atomic particle

Electron

Proton

Attitude

More gentle, passive

More direct, active

Biological

More vegetable quality

More animal quality

Climate

Temperate, colder

Tropical, warmer

Direction

Ascent, vertical, outward

Descent, horizontal, inward

Flavor

Sweet

Salty

Food preparation

Less cooked

More cooked

Form

Longer, thinner

Shorter, thicker

Function

Diffusion

fusion

Humidity

More wet

More dry

Light

Darker

Lighter

Movement

Slower

Faster

Nerves

Peripheral, orthosympathetic

Central, parasympathetic

Organ structure

More hollow, expansive

More dense, compacted

Position

More outward, peripheral

More inward, central

Sex

Female

Male

Shape

More expansive

More contracted

Size

Larger

Smaller

Temperature

Colder

Warmer

Tendency

Expansion

Contraction

Texture

Softer

Harder

Vibration

Shorter wave, higher frequency

Longer wave, lower frequency

Weight

Lighter

Heavier

Work

More psychological, mental

More physical, social


Yin and yang in foods
Through our daily food we create our ability to adapt to local climates and conditions. That is why balance in our food is important. All of us follow our natural instincts to try to maintain balance. When it is cold we turn on the heating system, when we become warm we look for refreshment. The summer brings lighter eating and cooking, in winter we like more heavier eating. Macrobiotics helps us to become more aware of our intuitive needs and helps us finding the foods and preparations that can help us to easily adapt to our environment.

 

Red meat, poultry, hard cheese and eggs are more yang foods than plants. They are the result of a concentration of plants eaten by an animal.

 

Observing plant life, a further division into yin and yang characteristics can be made. Root vegetables and seeds are more yang-growing into the soil, compact- than leaves and branches. Above the ground vegetables are more yang-more dense and less watery- than tree fruits. In general, plants that grow quickly in warm climates or hot weather, and those that have high water content, are more yin. Plants that grow in temperate climates are more hardy, slow growing and smaller and contain less liquid and are therefore more yang.

 

The macrobiotic diet is made up of foods which are more balanced. See the section on the Macrobiotic Diet. When we eat foods out of harmony with our bodily needs, such as meats, eggs, and hard salty cheeses (all yang), we create an equal and opposite craving for sugar, strong and stimulating spices, coffee, alcohol, ice cream, and tropical fruits ( all yin) in attempt to balance our physical and mental condition. The swings from one extreme to the other can destroy the foundation of good health and lead to disease. All physical and mental imbalances can be explained as being caused by excessive yin, excessive yang or a combination of excessive yin and yang in food choice, attitude and lifestyle.

 

The bigger the front, the bigger the back
In everything there is a front and a back. Macrobiotic theory suggests that the bigger the front, the bigger the back will be. The huge global arms race and its implications for the future survival of human life (front) has also created a global desire for world peace (back).

 

Modern society's tendency to take a symptomatic approach to illness (front) has created an inspiring revolution in health care called the holistic approach (back).

 

[i] Based on texts in The Macrobiotic Way, Michio Kushi, John Denver, Stephen Blauer; Avery ISBN 0-89529-524-5