Macrobiotics and Beauty
(Note: This article was written for the March 2014 issue of the Russian Magazine, “Vegetarian” and has been slightly edited for this blog.)
Eye Of The Beholder
When I was young many years ago, I was greatly impressed by an episode of the television show, “The Twilight Zone”, that was entitled, “The Eye Of The Beholder”, which was taken from the familiar phrase that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Only 25 minutes long, the show left me with an understanding about the relative nature of beauty that I have never forgotten to this day.
(Spoiler alert!) The show depicted a woman in a hospital whose face was completely hidden by bandages. In the background you could hear the whisperings of the nurses and doctors expressing their shock at how ugly and horrific the woman’s face was. With the camera fixed on the woman’s bandaged face, coupled with the fearful comments of those around her, the suspense escalated to a point where you, as the viewer, were fearful to see the horrible ugliness that lay hidden under the bandages and yet you had to see her face, which would undoubtedly be revealed at the end.
When the time came to reveal her face slowly the bandages were removed to uncover, to your great surprise, the face of a beautiful woman. Why, then, were the nurses and doctors saying that she was ugly? The final end was that the nurses, doctors and everyone else in that world had horribly disfigured faces and that she was the only normal looking person, by our standards.
Beauty Is Relative, All Is Relative
The lesson I learned from that TV Show was that beauty is relative. What I consider as beautiful may be different than what everyone else considers as beautiful. I might think this person is beautiful while someone else will think that another person is more beautiful. I might think the mountains are beautiful while someone else may prefer the seaside. My perception of what is beautiful is different and relative to everyone else.
Not only is my perception of what is beautiful different from everyone else, it also changes depending on circumstance and time and this is true for everyone. Like the changing trends in fashion, our notion of beauty is constantly changing in relation to our changing world circumstances. Thus, what we may find as beautiful when we are young might seem ugly to us later in life and vice versa. I might think certain type of person is beautiful at one time but then find them to be ugly at another time. I might enjoy rock music in one moment but then prefer classical music in another. Our tastes and preferences and what we think is beautiful are always changing as time moves on. This changing view of ours not only applies to beauty but to all that we perceive and understand in all areas of our lives.
Yin and Yang
This dynamic changing view of the relative nature of, not just beauty, but of all things that we perceive is understood in macrobiotics as the dynamic interplay of yin and yang. This dynamic dance is not just limited to our relative perceptions of beauty but encompasses all of our experiences and all phenomena.
In this universe everything is changing and moving and is relative to us and everything else. Day turns into night, summer into winter, beauty into ugliness, wealth into poverty, strength into weakness, love into hate, life into death and so on. This dynamic dance is the dance of Yin and Yang. Thus, as the TV show depicted, a beautiful person by our standards, can be ugly in the world of ugly people.
Self-awareness and Beauty
Once we see and understand the relative nature of the universe and how everything moves in a dynamic dance of Yin and Yang then we understand that beauty is not fixed. With imagination and practice we can change our perception of what is beautiful. For example, when we put ourselves in another person’s shoes then we can imagine what is beauty from their eyes. The writer of the story of TV show did just that. He imagined a different world where ugliness is considered beautiful and beautiful as ugly.
Using our imagination in this way not only helps us understand the relative nature of beauty but also the causes and limits of our own perceptions. We begin to see that our view of beauty has been influenced by the culture and environment in which we were raised. If we were born in another country with a different set of values then we can easily imagine that we would see beauty in a different way.
If we were born in the center of Africa then we would understand beauty differently than if we were born in Northern Europe. If we were born in the Far East then we would see beauty in different way than if we were born in the West. If we were a different species of animal then we would see beauty in a completely different way than as a human being. The extent of our imagination is unlimited.
In this way, we realize that who we are and how we perceive beauty in our world depends upon our environment. This includes the natural environment, our home, family life, local community, society and the times in which we are living. We understand that our perception of beauty is based on how we were raised which is a function of our environment.
After we realize how different we all are from each other we also begin to notice our similarities. We notice, for example, that all humans, animals, plants and so on experience life here on Earth in more or less the same way. The motion of the earth influences us all in the exact same way as it moves through space. The entire Universe is like a giant constantly moving river that we all share. We are born in it and from it, we live inside it and we die in it. We are a part of it and it never stops. This river is can referred to as the order of the universe.
This Universal order has a natural pattern and shape. We observe it in the shape of giant spiral galaxies, in the movement of the planets, in the waves of the oceans, the swirling patterns of clouds and in the life of plants, animals and our own human form. It is naturally beautiful and pleasing to our eyes when we see it.
Nature is Beautiful
All life, as we know it, depends upon a very delicate balance of conditions that are found only on Earth. If our home planet were any closer to or further away from the sun then it would be lifeless. Yet, where it is now, life flourishes in infinite and wondrous variety. It is nature, as we know it, and it is beautiful.
When we look at nature there are several qualities we can identify as beautiful. We can say that all things are beautiful when they are:
1. Asymmetric and Unique
When we see things that are symmetrical we intuitively feel that it is unnatural. Nature is asymmetrical and expresses itself uniquely in different things. Mountains would look strange if they were all the same shape and height. Rivers would look strange if they were all straight without any curves. Trees would look strange if they all were exactly the same. Even we would look strange if we were all the same. If the left and right side of our face were exactly the same then we look strange. It is because our left side is slightly different from our right side that we look “beautiful”. It is our asymmetry and uniqueness that make us beautiful.
Nature is always moving. It is dynamic and alive. When we see something as moving and changing, (even if it is a still photograph or painting) then it appears beautiful to us. We cannot explain why it is beautiful, but like a waterfall or crashing waves, what is dynamic and moves is beautiful.
When things move in harmony and come together effortlessly, as if they were carefully planned, like a well-rehearsed dance, then it appears to us as beautiful. Even if they are loud and sudden like lightning storms, and tidal waves, there is beauty in them. Things that are disharmonious and clash together appear ugly to us.
Taking into consideration all of the above points we can look at our own beauty. We understand that beauty is relative and is in the “eye of the beholder” yet we also intuitively and universally recognize beauty within each other and ourselves. When we see someone healthy, dynamic and alive we naturally find him or her to be attractive and beautiful, regardless of who they are and what they look like. We find healthy laughing babies to be attractive and beautiful. We find young children happily playing to be beautiful. What is clear is that we find humans to be most beautiful when they are happy and healthy. Furthermore, we are most happy and healthy when we are living in harmony with nature. Macrobiotics means to live in harmony with nature. This means we are most beautiful when we are practicing macrobiotics.
When we understand the Order Of the Universe and its relative nature, we understand that real beauty is more than just appearances. Appearances are fleeting and even deceiving. Wearing make-up, changing our hair, exercising our bodies for appearances, are all temporary and superficial measures to look more beautiful for specific circumstances. They may work sometimes for a specific moment but beyond that they do not last.
True physical beauty is based on health, which, in turn, is based on what we eat and how we live. The health of our skin, hair and nails, is a direct reflection of our health and specifically the health of our digestive track. While we can temporarily hide a blemish or a pimple on our face with make up the only way we can get rid of it permanently is by changing our health, which means changing our diet and lifestyle. Poor hair quality is a direct reflection of the quality of our intestines. To create beautiful and strong skin and hair we must create a beautiful and strong digestive system.
We must change our inside in order to change our outside. To do this we begin by changing what we eat and start to eat in harmony and accordance with nature. This means we must change what we take in from the outside to change our inside, in order to change our outward appearance. This includes the following:
1. Eating whole natural and traditional foods
2. Eating according to season
3. Eating according to geography
4. Eating human food which includes, whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, cooked and prepared according to our environment and season
5. Eating traditional homemade fermented foods
6. Reducing or avoiding animal foods including meat and dairy foods
7. Reducing or avoiding all processed foods including sugar, white flour, and other commercial foods.
8. Eating less, chewing more and being more sensitive to the effects of foods
The way to physical beauty simply means to become a natural healthy human being again. To become human again we must eat human food. Human food are those foods our ancient ancestors ate that made us into human beings and include whole grains and modern vegetables, cooked and prepared in traditional and ancient ways including fermentation. By shifting our diets in this way, we create a closer, dynamic and more harmonious relationship with nature. This is the relative dynamics of Yin and Yang and by understanding it we can change our health and become beautiful naturally.
Psychological and Spiritual Beauty
In addition to physical beauty, we must also concern ourselves with psychological and spiritual beauty. Changing our diets will make us healthier and will improve our physical beauty but we must also develop our psychological and spiritual beauty.
Psychological beauty is love, kindness, compassion, generosity and forgiveness. Nothing is more beautiful than to see gentle caring and love between two beings like a mother nursing a child, or two young lovers together, or the compassionate and courageous acts of a stranger helping another person. These acts are beautiful to all of us.
Psychological ugliness is war, violence, aggression, selfishness, extreme behaviors, ignorance and arrogance. It is also know as insanity. We are horrified when we see images of war and violence and cannot even look upon such atrocities. Abusive behavior toward another person and oneself is ugly to look at. Guilt, shame and fear are also very ugly. These are all unhealthy and extreme emotions, behaviors and actions that are created by unhealthy situations.
Spiritual beauty is simply gratitude, humility, honesty, patience, understanding and unconditional love. Spiritual ugliness is arrogance, being closed minded, lying and being deceitful to oneself and others.
To become psychologically and spiritually beautiful, we must first take care of our own physical health and beauty by eating and living closer and more in harmony with nature. Then we must strive to develop ourselves through continuous and daily exploration and self-reflection. We must seek out friendships and company that support and nurture who we are and our vision and dreams. Lastly we must remember our own insignificance in this vast and amazing Universe that is always changing and moving; of which we are a part of and made from. In remembering our insignificance and humility let us always be grateful for this most wondrous journey and opportunity that is our life, through which we can experience all the beauty in the Universe. Our expression of gratitude and unconditional love is macrobiotic beauty.
Macrobiotic beauty is to be healthy and happy. It means to eat and live in closer dynamic harmony with nature. It means to understand the relative beauty of the every-changing universe. It means to joyfully play and actively explore life. It also means to self-reflect upon our own thoughts, behaviors and actions and constantly seek to develop ourselves. It means to remember and appreciate our insignificance in this vast infinite universe. It means to always express our gratitude and unconditional love to all for the wonderful opportunity that is our life. Such a person who embodies all these things will appear to be the most beautiful person in the world. This is macrobiotic beauty.