Why Did I Go Micro?

Swami Nigamananda Saraswati

I turned to macrobiotics because I was looking for some purification in my mind through the body. I read about it, then I made contact with macrobiotic restaurants and people who were practicing this regime.

What attracted me was the ritual around macrobiotics. They say that it is very good if the person who lives this life cooks his own meals, that cooking gives the best results with clay pots, and that one should not use metallic utensils. Wooden instruments or clean hands should be used if you have to separate pieces of food. During the meal one should chew each mouthful one hundred times and be aware of the act of swallowing. There should be no distractions, like news, radio, television, newspapers or books; there should be only concentration on the mealtime.

It was difficult to begin with, because I had always thought that the other things I used to do were more important than meals. I used to postpone eating, but after a while I understood that everything is dependent on digestion and good health. So I decided to take food seriously, and followed macrobiotics for three years.

The decision was made, and I started with diet number seven: a cup of green tea for breakfast and afternoon and brown rice for lunch and dinner. After ten days on this transitional, purification diet I started to take regular meals, balanced macrobiotically with five yin elements to each yang element. Yin and yang are Chinese terms indicating the vitality and nature of different food. Yang foods are very concentrated and are rich in sodium. Yin foods are rich in potassium and less concentrated, so they complement yang food and create the correct balance for harmonious digestion.

Brown rice is one food that is an ideal balance of yin and yang elements, of sodium and potassium, of acid and alkaline - and for this reason it is the staple of the macrobiotic diet. Other cereals and vegetables must be combined in such a way that they too provide this perfectly balanced meal.

Macrobiotics is not complicated because it is based on a few simple principles. The most important of these is that meals should be as natural as possible. Food should be prepared without chemical salt and washed but cooked within the skin, because between the skin and the flesh all vitamins are waiting for us. Vegetables must be from the current season and free from chemical processing. If possible one should completely abolish the use of cans. Any macrobiotic food can be kept overnight or longer; it doesn't matter about any mould for that is good for the stomach! However, it should never be kept in the refrigerator because that alters the process of fermentation. Macrobiotics also advises not to have any food which will continue fermentation in the stomach, like bread or almost all the alcoholic drinks. Whisky is an exception because it comes from wheat and the fermentation is finished. Followers of macrobiotics do not take tea or coffee, or eat between meals. Nor do they take sugar because there are many other ways to give sugar to the body, through cereals for example.

What did I learn from macrobiotics? I learned that my stomach is an oven and that there were some foods which continue to ferment in it because of its heat; also that it is not a garbage can. So I had to start being aware of that and keep it clean, because everything depends on what I give it. After two years I started noticing changes in my skin; my eyes were more clear and brilliant and I was feeling very light. Many people were also struck by the fact that the colours in my paintings had gradually changed over this time. Where before they had been heavy and dark they were now bright and showed more light.

After three years I went to a yogashram for a visit, and they were doing shankhaprakshalana. This is a yogic method of total cleaning for the entire digestive system. You drink sixteen or so glasses of salt water, performing certain asanas in between, and in the end the system is so clean that the water leaving your body is as clear as the water that you drink. Macrobiotics is also interested in internal cleanliness, and regularity in digestion concerns not only what is put into the body, but also what comes out. According to macrobiotics one should have exact control of the bladder and bowels, going for urine one time in the morning (and for men also once at night) and defecation must be done without any effort, in one piece and with no smell, once a day. At the ashram they asked me if I wanted to take part in shankhaprakshalana. I thought it wasn't necessary as I had used the macrobiotic cleansing which is a clove of garlic one hour before breakfast for twenty days. Anyhow, I decided to join in.

After sixteen glasses of water out came enough rice husks to give me quite a surprise. There were so many - just as if I had been threshing some rice for the kitchen! They must have been caught in my stomach and on the walls of my intestines. I was satisfied with a macrobiotic diet until that moment. I decided not to continue because I wondered if I had accumulated so much waste in three years, what could happen over a longer period of time?

They say an apple a day
keeps the doctor away,
but just two meals a day
is the yogic way.