by Morgan Jones
A good friend gave me a small book for my
birthday called A Thousand Paths to Tranquility. My first reaction was,
a contradiction if I have ever seen one. How will I ever be tranquil if I have
to read about 1,000 different paths? Which one is right for me?
the Universe seemed to be saying to me. Ah, the Universe always knows best. I
flipped open the book for the first time and found this gem almost immediately:
You can't think your way into a new way of livingyou
have to live your way into a new way of thinking.
Wow! This is one of the most powerful sentences
I have ever read. It made me think of how I try to teach about healing. As a
macrobiotic teacher, I often feel my explanations are incomplete and inadequate
to convey the power each of us has to create healing and joy. I think this is
because I try to use words to explain things that must be experienced to be
In response to the questions of students who are starting to explore a
macrobiotic way of thinking about food and lifestyle, I often listen to myself
saying things like:
arthritis may completely disappear if you stop eating nightshade vegetables.
Or I might explain, Perhaps
a part of the reason you feel so tired all the time is that you are eating many
simple carbohydrates (bread, cereal, fruit, pasta, polished rice, steel-cut
oats) that raise your blood sugar to such an extreme level that your body has no
choice but to figure out how to lower it just as quickly.
Or I might suggest that PMS and painful menses are just signs of a body trying
desperately to use this normal, periodic discharge as a way to eliminate
excesses of protein, fat, and sugar that overwhelm the body's other organs of
just so many words. I feel ineffective when I try to convey the idea
that food can be medicine or food can be poison. And each of us gets to choose
with every bite, every meal, every snack.
So many of our students feel that they must be able to understand
(intellectually) why eating a plant-based diet where every item is selected with
intention can turn around so many serious health conditions. Without a
satisfactory scientific explanation, they seem to lack the motivation to invest
the time and energy required to learn, plan, shop, cook, and eat in specific
ways to create better health.
So I do my best to explain how the liver and pancreas get overwhelmed trying to
deal with the blood sugar roller coaster so many of us experience. And I try to
explain that the real job of the kidneys is regulating our bodies' mineral
balance (rather than just eliminating liquid wastes from our blood), or I
suggest that chewing well will help us get more nutrition from smaller amounts
of food, thus giving our digestive organs a bit of a rest.
But really, these are all just more words. And I haven't studied biology or
physiology since Mrs. Cadwallader's class in 12th grade. What the heck do I
Good question: What the heck do I know about health?
Well, I know that when I stopped being a random vegetarian and began selecting
everything I ate with the intention of making me healthy and happy and mentally
sharp, I started to get well in just a matter of weeks. When I started trying to
be more aware of the link between what I take in and what I feel and think and
whether I am sick or well, I started to understand that I could heal myself. And
when I experienced the profound changes that occurred over the first couple of
months of this grand experiment, then, finally, I KNEW something with my
whole being. And this was much more powerful and life-changing than anything I
had ever known with just my intellectual mind. Every cell in my body learned a
and, as a result of this schooling, they will no longer allow me to make
them (and me) sick through inattention or abuse or carelessness.
Wow! And double wow! More important than any of the positive physiological
changes I experienced was the shift in my outlook on life that accompanied the
physical healing. For the first time in my life, I stopped being a victim and I
became totally free. Not free because I never eat stuff that makes me feel
crummy (I do, because I am human). Not free because I never eat in a way that
lowers my resistance to disease or that clogs my intestines (I still do, once in
a while). But I am free because now I pay attention to the effect of every
choice I make. And I am free because I have decided to take responsibility for
all outcomes of my choices, rather than to blame genetics or fate or anything or
anybody else for my less-than-perfect health.
And does this make me a better teacher? Well, I would have to say yes and no.
I can easily explain my joy from knowing that my hair is no longer falling out
and my allergies are completely gone, but I'm not sure I can ever explain in
words what it feels like to have absolutely no cravings or to feel completely at
peace emotionally to someone who may not have known these feelings for years. I
might be able to describe what it feels like now that my chronic low-back pain
is gone and the inflammation in my joints is but a dim memory, but how do I
describe the joy of being able to once again focus completely on a mental task
so that it becomes easy instead of frustrating. I can calculate how many more
hours of work and play I can enjoy now that I sleep 4 fewer hours per night, but
how do I make clear the feeling of empowerment I feel from knowing that if and
when I get sick, I can always choose to find my way back to good health pretty
darn quickly without going to the doctor or acupuncturist or naturopath?
I can't. So I have a better idea. Let me recommend that you come study with us
and then try this experiment on yourself. I could never be as good a teacher as
your own experiences.
Beside, if you take charge of your own health and happiness and experience this
freedom for yourself, maybe then you can explain this stuff to me. Or maybe we
can just live the truth together, rather than trying to describe it at all.
Oh, and thanks for the book, Gary. (And here I thought I was the teacher
and Gary was the student. Silly me.)
Peace, love, and brown rice.