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The 10-Day Re-Balance Programme

by Jon Sandifer(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 30 - July 1998

The key to the success of this unique programme is the recovery of our intuition. Something that we are born with and its quality is largely dependent on our daily health. When we are feeling too busy or stressed or tired or despondent – this "colours" how we perceive ourselves, our work, our relationships and our environment around us. What is special about this programme is that during the 10 days you have time and space to stand back and see what you need, remember where you are going and be responsible for making the changes.

The most common mistake in adopting the model of balance is to assume that we are always at the centre. The truth is that we are constantly shifting from yin to yang and vice versa. The further we swing in one direction, the further we need to swing back in the other.
The most common mistake in adopting the model of balance is to assume that we are always at the centre.
The truth is that we are constantly shifting from yin to yang and vice versa.
The further we swing in one direction, the further we need to swing back in the other.

There are 3 simple steps to the programme. Firstly, you need to know "who you are" (self-assessment). You need to identify whether your condition is fundamentally more Yin or Yang. Secondly, it is important to be clear about what you want to achieve. In the book you have the opportunity to follow a tried and tested visualisation exercise to help you clarify your goal and prioritise the steps that you need to take.Thirdly, there are 6 routes that you could take to bring about a beneficial shift in your condition.

All the methods outlined and described have Yin and Yang as their fundamental basis. You have a choice of working with – physical activity or diet or Feng Shui or stress or patterns of behaviour or Chi energy. For example, if you decide that your current condition is too Yang – you find yourself increasingly irritable, impatient and being drawn to more and more activity rather than relaxing recreation, then you could design a programme to help you become more Yin (to chill out!). This might include for example leisurely physical activity, lighter, sweeter, softer foods, a more relaxing (Yin) environment and encourage yourself to go about your work in a consciously more relaxed fashion for the 10 day period.

The benefits are enormous. Rather than adhering to a rigid set of rules, the beauty of this system is that you design it yourself. You are also responsible for it yourself. With the underlying dynamics of Yin and Yang at your fingertips, then it is easy to redesign and re-evaluate the system whenever you feel it is necessary.

Traditionally, through most cultures in the world, there was a time put aside every year for self-reflection. Creating an oasis of calm during a 10 day period while living in the potentially stressful 1990s, gives us the opportunity to take stock and become more aware of what we need. The potential danger is that the more extremely Yin or extremely Yang our condition becomes, the more we think that this is so called 'normal'. If we live our lives at great speed and under enormous pressure which eventually makes our condition excessively Yang, then it is quite likely as we get used to all these Yang factors that we think this is normal. Taking a step back and looking at ourselves objectively is undoubtedly of great value in the prevention of stress and disharmony in our lives.


TABLE 1:
Yin and Yang Characteristics

Yin Qualities

Feeling isolated or out of touch.
Difficulty waking up.
Staying up late.
Are you complaining more than usual?
Are you becoming increasingly forgetful?
Are you becoming more defensive?
Do you feel unmotivated in your home?
Are you more susceptible to colds or infections?
Do you tend to procrastinate?
Do you find others unreasonably demanding or pushy?
Do you eat any of the following every day: Sugar, chocolate, tropical fruits.

Yang Qualities

Are you increasingly impatient?
Do you have difficulty relaxing?
Do you need little sleep or rest?
Are you becoming rigid in your outlook?
Are you becoming self-righteous?
Do you find yourself becoming caught up in trivial matters and detail?
Are you being criticised for insensitivity?
At home, do you find it difficult to relax?
Are you becoming increasingly impulsive?
Are you becoming more inflexible to change?
Do you find you need less sleep?
Do you eat: Eggs, meat and cheese on a daily basis?

 

Step 1 – Self Assessment

"Self-examination, if it is thorough enough, is nearly always the first step towards change. I was to discover that no one who learns to know himself remains just what he was before." – Thomas Mann.

Without going into the background of Oriental Diagnosis, here are some conclusions of predominantly Yin and Yang characteristics for you to begin to identify your current condition. Check through the following categories and see if you predominantly steer towards Yin or Yang (see Table 1).

If you see a predominance now towards Yin or Yang, then make a note of this as it will help you design a suitable programme to balance this.

Step 2 – Visualisation

In this stage of the programme, you need to find a moment without distractions to reflect and dream. The dream is to see yourself as you would like to be in the future. Having a "glimpse" of yourself in the future is important as this gives you a goal to aim for. The next step is to "live into" this dream. Dreams do not become reality simply by hope! You need to make a commitment, be very clear on what your intention is, devise a plan and begin the very first steps. There is far more detail on this process in my book – The 10-Day Re-Balance Programme.

Step 3 – Making the Shift

If you have found yourself to be more Yang, there are 5 different routes that you could take to increase your Yin.

Activity – this needs to be more warming, faster, stimulating, challenging and competitive.

Stress – visualisation exercises to bring you focus, Tai Chi exercises to bring inner calm. Acupressure points and Chi Kung to bring focus.

Feng Shui – bringing more Yang factors into your environment including brighter colours, stronger lighting and activities such as parties at home.

Patterns of Behaviour – visualisation exercises to help dissolve resentment and bring about forgiveness. Building up images of your own strength. Developing your Chi. Encourage yourself to take risks, take less sleep and avoid long hot baths. How to meditate to bring more focus.

Diet – begin by reducing foods that are high in Yin factors – sugar, other refined carbohydrates, chocolate, spices and tropical fruits. Increase the Yang qualities within your diet – more savoury quality foods and more cooked foods. If you discover that your condition is more Yang, then you have ways that you could develop a more Yin approach through the following areas.

If you have found yourself to be more Yin, then you have a choice of 6 different routes that you could take to bring about the process of Yang & Yinnization.

Activity – physical activity that is more leisurely and uncompetitive. This could include swimming, sailing, walking and playing sport with children.

Stress – releasing Yang tension through visualisation, opening up the chest, Yoga stretches, Tai Chi and Acupressure.

Feng Shui – making your environment more relaxing (Yin) by softening the lighting, reducing levels of work activity within the home and by bringing in softer colours and furnishings, especially where you sleep and rest (Yin).

Patterns of Behaviour – ideas for encouraging you to become more sociable and open to the ideas and opinions of others around you. Visualisation exercises to help you listen.

Chi – there are many ideas here to help you develop the Yin, sensitive side of your nature. This can involve spending more time with people who are predominantly more Yin, abandoning your watch for the 10 day period, having a relaxing massage and taking more sleep.

Diet – begin by reducing all the factors that are predominantly Yang in your diet – eggs, meat, salt sprinkled on your food, hard cheese and oven baked foods. Increase the use of light (Yin) foods such as salads, fruits, pastas and desserts.

Diet

Buying, preparing and eating your daily food has enormous potential for our health and freedom. Nowadays there is so much choice of good quality foods available. However, it can seem confusing as bookshelves are literally loaded down with information on different diets and we are constantly being updated with the latest research and development. One thing is clear, however, that as individuals the kind of fuel that we need is unique to us. Having assessed whether your current condition is more Yin or Yang, then you have the freedom of choice to balance your condition by eating in the opposite direction. We can also look at our activity. If we are engaged in Yang manual work which is both physically demanding and pursued in the outdoors in the cold, then we do need to fuel ourselves appropriately for this kind of activity. Hot foods and drinks with plenty of carbohydrate and protein are far more likely to sustain us through the rigours and challenges of manual labour. On the other hand, sedentary work needs a much lighter "fuel". Pastas, salads and less "rocket fuel" – sugar, chocolate and coffee, would make our life less stressful.

For many years I have been an advocate of the macrobiotic approach to diet. While the principles are timeless, universal and flexible, it is important to align them with our current lifestyles. I see less value nowadays in adopting a Japanese traditional peasant diet as we near the end of the 20th Century. However, the principles are valuable. Firstly, there is an alchemical approach to how we prepare our food. The 4 major factors that we have all used for thousands of years are:

Fire/Time/Pressure/Salt

The higher the flame (fire), the more Yang we make our food. The lower the flame – or indeed no flame at all (raw) the more Yin our food becomes. Time in this context represents how long it takes to prepare and cook the food. The longer the cooking time – the more Yang our food becomes. Traditional stews and bakes that were prepared all night would have produced immense amounts of Yang for the family the following day. This would suit them if they were facing the harsh, cold realities of a northern winter. Obviously the less time – again raw foods would be an example, the more Yin the food would be. Pressure in this context means using a tight fitting lid on a saucepan or baking your food. Little or no pressure in cooking results in producing a more Yin quality. Finally, salt, which has been central to our lives throughout our evolution as human beings needs to be considered. Our deep biological foundation is mineral based. Without a doubt, salt is important but how much is equally important. The more we use, the more Yang our cooking and our condition becomes. The less or even no salt at all, is likely to make our condition more Yin.

For those of us brought up in the West, we need to appreciate that in our childhood we were given plenty of Yang. This could have involved products such as eggs, meat, bacon, smoked fish, salty foods, baked flour products and marmite etc. Even our desserts were very Yang! Rice puddings, jam roly poly, sponges, tarts and flans. All required plenty of fire time and pressure. It is natural then at some point in our lives to swing in completely the other direction. This could involve relying heavily on Yin foods alone. Salads, fruits, juices and the complete abstinence from salt. Both Yin at its extreme and Yang at its extreme have their value. However, at the end of the day, it is wiser to follow a more middle ground drawing from aspects from both ends of the spectrum.

Traditional people base their diet on 4 major categories. Even today in vast parts of the world, these categories are still being used. Listed in order of priority these 4 categories are:

1.) Grain and pulse. Throughout the third world you will find examples where this category of food is still the mainstay of people's diet. Whether this is maize, barley, rice, peas, beans, soya bean etc.

2.) Vegetables. Fresh, local, seasonal vegetables and salads are still included within the daily diet of millions of people.

3.) Soups and Stews. These will always be made from what is local and seasonal. In the colder regions of the world these could be based on fish, meat or animal bones. In more temperate climates, these could be vegetable or bean based.

4.) Fermented Food. Mildly fermented products are valuable to aid the digestive system. Throughout the world there are examples where these are used. They range from yoghurt, miso soup, soy sauce, vinegar, pickles, traditionally fermented alcohols.

Modern diet however has turned the tables radically on our traditional roots. The following 4 categories form the basis of what is currently in vogue.

1.) Animal Fat. The main food on the table could be either meat, cheese, poultry, or some kind of animal fat by product.

2.) Tubers. Potatoes, yams and cassava are beginning to form the secondary part of the modern diet. In many ways they have replaced traditional foods such as grain or pasta.

3.) Refined carbohydrate. This category includes processed flour products and sugar. Gone are the traditional breads and they have been fast replaced by highly yeasted white flour products.

4.) Fruit and vegetables. Coming in last in this category is a small proportion of fresh fruit and possibly fresh vegetables.

Given that we have evolved as human beings over thousands of years and that in only the last 200 have we begun to radically change our diet, then it is only common sense to review from a bigger perspective what might be more appropriate for us as a species and as individuals. Contemporary attitudes towards our food are also changing. They vary from seeing food as only a fuel and that preparing it is both a chore and time consuming. For many it is important to spend as little time as possible preparing and eating food. At the other end of the extreme, there are others who have become overly neurotic about what they eat. Ideally, preparing and eating our food could be as effortless as reading, walking or sleeping! It just becomes a part of our life that helps us to interface with the environment in which we live. Given the appropriate fuel, our potential is limitless!

Here are some practical ideas that have come through over the years from a macrobiotic perspective which could easily be mirrored by the advice given to us by generations and generations of our ancestors.

1.) Chew well. Have you ever noticed how elderly people really chew their food well? This helps to promote good digestion and in the long term gives us a greater appreciation of what we are eating.

2.) No distractions. Ideally eat your food peacefully without watching the T.V. or reading the newspaper or having an argument or answering the telephone or standing, or worst of all, walking along the street!

3.) Eating together. Having travelled through 54 countries by land several years ago, I was always amazed in third world countries how the whole family came together to enjoy a meal. Sharing our food with others helps also to bring a sense of balance – you are far less likely to eat all the desserts if you know that you have to share them with everyone else!

4.) No waste. Eating everything on your plate and preparing enough so that there is no waste, is ideal. Re-cycling leftovers into soups and stews is also valuable.

5.) Flame. Ideally cook with gas. A flame is really a microcosm of the sun. We are only civilised human beings as the result of harnessing fire in our evolution. It is well understood that when we began to cook our food, we began then to cultivate, to communicate and form the very basis of our civilisation. Chemically there is no difference in the food whether it is prepared by gas, microwave or electricity but with flame it does give a certain warmth.

6.) Gratitude. We can express this in many different ways. Either by thanking who ever gave us our meal or by saying grace or by saying "bon appetit" to those around the table. I find it interesting that in the English language we have no equivalent to this French expression!

The Macrobiotic Diet

Traditionally this was made of up to 50% cooked whole grain cereals such as short grain brown rice, barley, millet, porridge oat flakes, whole wheat breads, buck wheat and wheat based pastas. Up to a quarter of the ingredients were made up of vegetables. Traditionally these needed to be local and seasonal. Up to half of these would be cooked in a variety of methods, ranging from baked (Yang) to blanched (Yin). The other half could be made up of lightly pickled or fermented vegetables and raw salads. 10% – 15% of the diet is made up of protein based products such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, chick peas, adzuki beans and fish such as herring, sardine, sole and haddock. A daily bowl of traditional miso soup which is made from a small portion of kelp seaweed, onions, local root vegetables and flavoured with miso (a puree of fermented soya bean). 5% – 10% of the diet would be lightly roasted nuts and seeds, sugar free desserts and snacks and local seasonal fruit which could be either cooked or taken raw. Liquids that are recommended include spring water, fresh carrot juice, apple juice, cereal based coffees, bancha twig tea and grain based alcohols that are sugar free, such as Guinness.

For further information.

The 10-Day Re-Balance Programme – by Jon Sandifer – Rider Books – £8.99
The Macrobiotic Association of Great Britain, 377 Edgware Road, London W2 1BT
For consultations and courses contact:- Jon Sandifer, PO Box 69, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 9SH Tel/Fax:020-8977 8988 Website: www.sandifer.demon.co.uk

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About Jon Sandifer

Jon Sandifer trained in oriental diagnosis, macrobiotics and Shiatsu with Japanese master Michio Kushi. He was a founder member of the Shiatsu Society in 1982 and was appointed Director of the Kushi Institute in London in 1983. Jon is currently the Chair of the British Macrobiotic Association and a committee member of the Feng Shui Society. He can be contacted on 020-8977 8988.

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