Today I begin a 10-day brown rice only fast, otherwise known as the Ohsawa Diet # 7. This is the extreme form of the Macrobiotic Movement, a diet based in the principles of balancing our Yin (receptive/lunar/feminine) and Yang(emissive/solar/masculine) energies, aligning what we eat more closely with what our body actually needs. Agama Yoga, where I am practicing this summer, is a big proponent of this diet, as the theory is that most of us in the West have a significant Yin/Yang imbalance, primarily that of have too much Yin energy.
Originally from Japan, the principle behind the macrobiotic diet combines tenets of Zen Buddhism with a Western-style vegetarian diet. Much more than a list of recommended foods, it is all about a spiritualism that transcends lifestyle, attitude, and diet practices. The word "macrobiotic" comes from the Greek and essentially means "long life" or "great life."
The macrobiotic diet regimen supports an Eastern philosophy of balancing foods to attain a balance of yin and yang. To achieve that balance, foods are paired based on their sour, sharp, salty, sweet, or bitter characteristics.
Yin foods are cold, sweet, and passive while yang foods are hot, salty, and aggressive. Some foods are prohibited because they contain toxins or fall on the far end of the spectrum, making it difficult to achieve and respect a balance.
The brown rice cleanse or diet # 7 is considered the ultimate in yin and yang balancing, popularized by George Ohsawa, who supposedly cured himself of cancer by following such a regiment. Even today, many people with cancer and other chronic diseases attempt a macrobiotic diet of wholesome, nutritious foods.
Why am I doing this you might ask? Several reasons. First, I have been battling a chronic gastro-intestinal issue for over a year that I picked up some time during my travels to Asia in 2009 or 2010. The theory is that I have some form of bug, a parasite or bacteria that is very persistent and not subject to the various attempts I made with strong antibiotics to rid myself of this unwanted guest. Plus, the more I learn of the side-effects of antibiotics, the more inclined I am to seek natural remedies. I have attempted Ayurvedic herbal remedies, various elimination diets (gluten and dairy) and while these things have helped, they have not eliminated my symptoms completely. I’m not completely optimistic this will cure me, but its a step in that direction.
Second, I find I have a very interesting relationship to food. During my retreat last week, I found myself seeking solace or reward through food – even if just a cup of tea or piece of fruit, there was something of a cycle of deprivation and reward. Thinking back to my Zen retreats, this existed via a cup of chai or small bite of chocolate on a break. Not that there is anything entirely wrong with this sort of thing – I just have never fully removed myself from the cycle to investigate it. Eating only brown rice for 10 days will surely do this! This whole relationship to food can be a blog post in itself, and something I will surely ruminate on over the next 10 days.
Finally, I am in a community that fully supports this. There is a group of about 8 of us who are starting the diet today, who will go ‘out to eat’ together and provide encouragement. I won’t be locked away in my bungalow alternating my glance between yet another bowl of brown rice and the bag where I stashed my snacks out of sight….
Wish me luck, I’ll try to update as I go along, although my posts may get progressively angrier sounding…