Friday, January 22, 2021

Cecile Tovah Levin (Macrobiotics)


Around February of this year, I received a postcard from Cecil Levin regarding Macrobiotics. She noted how it was growing and expressed a desire to be included by offering to write an article. She asked me to send her copies of the newsletter that would guarantee that they would arrive in one piece as she was saving them and would like them as neat as possible.

 I sent her a card (she did not use or have a computer) asking her to write an article on the heart, which she did, and it was published in April of 1999.

I thanked her for the article and proposed a follow-up involving education of the heart. I didn’’t hear from her. Later in the summer, I again asked her to write something, this time on the Macrobiotics In America event at the Smithsonian. She replied that she was taking the summer off to recuperate but would be back in the fall.

Then the news began to trickle in. Cecile had had a heart attack earlier in the year due to overwork. Things were kept quiet initially, but the information kept coming. Towards the end of the summer she wasn’’t doing well and in decline. As many of you already know, Cecile passed away Tuesday, October 5th, 1999 after a brief encounter with cancer, discovered following the heart attack. She was 61. She came to macrobiotics with leukemia almost 40 years ago. According to her family, “Her position was to pursue natural healing for her recovery, which resulted in a more peaceful transition period than what the western medicine doctors had to offer.”

This idea of someone involved in macrobiotics for many years getting extremely sick becomes subject to scrutiny from those both inside and outside of the community. With all respect to the people involved, the majority of those outside are, of course, going to take the stand that this means macrobiotics doesn’’t work. Those inside are going to take many different stands depending on how they see it and where they see it from.

The ‘doesn’’t work’ question will be raised both within and without the community, so let’s look at it from that standpoint. This will take us from the negativity towards macrobiotics in the outside world to the misunderstanding of macrobiotics in the inside world. And, of course, through the positives.

 This is how I understand it today. The starting point is to make it perfectly clear that macrobiotics never was, never has, and never will be a diet, a preventative medicine, nor a cure for disease and its consequences.

Macrobiotics is what it is, day in, day out; year in, year out, lifetime to lifetime, and making the adjustments that require balance no matter what it takes. How we understand it and use it to allow our bodies to heal themselves is what is important. The results that we get indicate the level of our understanding and encourage us to self-reflect and make the changes necessary to move ahead. This gives responsibility to each and every one of us on an individual basis. It doesn’’t necessarily mean that we will take that responsibility from the beginning on out, but if we don’’t, we aren’t going to heal past a certain point, if at all.

 The implementation of macrobiotics is a big threat to the way society works these days as a whole. Practically every facet of this mix does not conform to macrobiotic principles and ideals. Government, modern science, modern religion, modern medicine, modern media, modern education, modern agriculture, modern farming, popular diets, displaced priorities, and so forth. The reason for this lies in the fact that people become comfortable in wherever they are at. Maybe those in control know this and keep it going, but it’s more likely  that this concept applies across the board.

 Why is macrobiotics such a threat? Because it gives responsibility back to the individual, eventually removing the fear and dependency which is the backbone of societies today, and allows establishment of personal control over one’s life.

 The tendency to protect one’s livelihood is a very strong one, so, for example, a doctor who benefits lifestyle-wise from his income would be hesitant to contradict that lifestyle by refusing to prescribe pharmaceuticals or perform other doctoral duties involving fear and dependency, like unnecessary surgery, symptomatic treatments, and other things that go against the macrobiotic grain.

I’’ve seen this first hand more than once, not only in the medical profession, but in all segments of society. What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into the prisons? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into the schools? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into politics? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into the financial world? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into science? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into religion? What happens when we try to bring macrobiotics into psychological and physical therapy? Everything has their level of impenetrability, and for the most part, this level is very low.

 Sure, there is some human instinct that lets macrobiotics in the door in some instances, but for the most part, it becomes unwelcome sooner or later.

 Kaare tells the story of the powers that be reacting to the idea of macrobiotic transformation being presented to one of the large corporations in the late 60’s or early 70’s, with the position that they have been aware of macrobiotics since Michio Kushi set foot in America and there is no way that macrobiotics will ever take hold if they have any say in it. The transformation presentation got swallowed up and never surfaced.

That’s basically it in a nutshell. The farther the present thing goes, the more deeply entrenched society becomes. One way out is through the possibility of being diagnosed with a modern medical designated “incurable” disease, somehow coming across macrobiotics, and having it make enough sense to give it a try. The proximity of being in a family or in relationship to someone in the same situation is also a possibility.

 We go around and around in the world of macrobiotics on how the uninitiated should be approached. What it comes down to is determined by the condition of those both sides, that of the macrobiotic proponent and that of the prospective receiver, along with their everyday environments.

 The key here is to allow the person being exposed to macrobiotics to get as much clear information as they need to make an informed decision, and once that’s made, make sure this information is available. The amount of help provided depends on the individual situation.

 In a person that is highly motivated, less help is better. In someone less motivated, more help will be needed. In any event, the more work you can do yourself, the better, and that includes both the body and the soul.

 The resistance in unrelenting. This why we need to build from the ground up, not the top down. ‘Ground up’ means individuals first, and then simultaneously branching out to others. For example, giving cooking classes or having pot lucks.

 I know this has been said over and over, but it needs to be because it’s heard in a different way by all of us because we bring something different to it at different times. The basics have been pretty well laid out. Yin and yang, seasonal applications and effects, cooking, study, and self-reflection. Within this medley are all the things one needs to get to the point of more awareness. This will lead to the next point, up to and including spiritual development.

 Eventually, as healing proceeds, the thinking will change. This is a must. Without changing one’s thinking, one won’t get macrobiotics. They may think on an intellectual level they do, but the limitation of the heart will limit their capacity to understand the whole picture, for the heart is where we’re headed.

The overall reaction to macrobiotics from without in cases of illness and/or death in the macrobiotic community is “See, macrobiotics doesn’’t work!” But that isn’’t possible if we understand what macrobiotics comprises.

 Macrobiotics is purely what is according to the Order of the Universe. There is no blame, anywhere. As for the individual, responsibility is the word. What has happened, is happening, and will happen to us is solely our responsibility. It can’t be any clearer. This takes the onus off of macrobiotics in both the community and outside the community. In other words, it is possible to get and maintain a position of understanding through self reflection, study, and application for anyone who wishes to do so. The idea is not to become complacent and lose sight of paying attention; or to become closed off as to what is going on inside and outside, from the intestines to the rain forests to the universe to the cosmos.

 Inside macrobiotics there will be those who haven’t yet developed enough understanding to see that it’s not macrobiotics, but the individual who shoulders the responsibility. Over the years these misunderstanding have surfaced in various forms, notably the search outside of macrobiotics for the answers.

 This is, and always has been debatable. Whether or not there will be a consensus remains to be seen. Back again to no blame. Whatever someone is doing is what they need to be doing. It’s at least up to the teachers to stick to the program and try to walk the walk the best they can so that others will have the opportunity to get where they’re headed when they’re ready.

 The positives that come from these situations are legion. It opens up the topic for discussion from all points of view of those touched and radiates “one grain, ten thousand grains”. 

Discussion has a penetrating effect and helps all involved to digest what is coming down the pike, even if it’s just in some minuscule form. The important thing is objectivity and the realization that one’s view is one’s responsibility. After all, everyone’s headed in the same direction. Let’s keep it open. 

 Cecile, in her own words, supports much of these thoughts. Some of the things she said from her earlier article The Heart of the Matter, which is reprinted here this month, follow. After looking these over, please take time to read the whole article. It’s the point where she had arrived at that time.

“We are not in charge of our emotions; they are in charge of us. This is what gets us in trouble.”  

“…we live in the world of shadows. What we see as physical manifestation is only the shadow of the larger world of causation. Even this shadow is distorted by our imperfect perception and interpretation. The larger world is the world of infinite consciousness, of which we are an inextricable part. This is the world of our higher, super conscious, eternal self.”  

“What I have come to learn from them [the indigenous “poor”], and from others of high spiritual maturity and attainment, is that to protect our heart, mind, body and soul, we must cultivate gratitude and compassion. These qualities are the perfect antidotes to discouragement and pain, sickness and war.”  

“Only when we see with the eyes of the universe can we see all that a person is – past, present, and future; all that caused him/her to be as she/he is, all that brought him/her to that point. Then, and only then, can our heart open with understanding, sorrow for the person’s suffering, sincere forgiveness for their behavior, (even though we may not approve of it), and true compassion. Jesus said, when he was stabbed on the cross, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”  

“Most people are looking for some reward on the outside. This insatiable, and often unrewarded, or unrewarding, desire is a major cause of conflict and defense, sickness and despair. To gain true happiness, we must turn our eyes inward in self-reflection and self-cultivation. Through this path, we become our own reward, everyone benefits, and all the world around us falls into place, in a natural state of harmony and peace. Self-government guided by our higher mind is the highest form of government. To achieve this, we need right education, right view, right food, right agriculture,right architecture, right relationship with the land, with nature, with the infinite forces of heaven and earth, with ourselves, and with each other. Peace to all.


  1. Jessica

    The practice of macrobiotics can aqnd will lead to balance (of the physical self – the body) it cannot affect those elements of learning that we have pre-programmed before incarnation. Life is a dream – a learning-cycle, an appearance on the Self but within the cycles of existence it is driven from experience to experience by imbalances in the ego-state. Macrobiotics can provide a sound balanced physical state from whence the True Self can more readily be seen – it cannot forestall deep karmic choices & obligations in and of itself.

    Once the Self is realised (perhaps with the aid of the balance provided by macrobiotics), all choices are shorn of obligation. However, the physical vehicle, the body, retains its deep-destinies (whether in-balance or not) as the choices involving its particular expression endure. What changes is the “viewpoint” of the observer who suddenly remembers that life is but a self-induced dream having no reality whatsoever.

  2. Timothy

    As Herman Aihara used to say, the Macrobiotic Path is meant to help us develop our spirituality in order to know true freedom. That doesn’t mean we will who follow the path will never know disease, but we will be better able to face those challenges–from obtaining this spiritual strength.

    Pursuing the Macrobiotic lifestyle is good not only for our bodies, but also for the greater good of the planet and all its inhabitents.

    Those who have become our mentors like Mr. Aihara, Mrs. Kushi, Ms. Levin, it seems to me, have exposed themselves to many states of dis-ease, eschewing sometimes what would be best for their own personal health and well-being, to benefit the better good of all. They may have eclipsed their own longevity by doing so, but their example and altruism will live on, far beyond their lives–furthering the health of the planet and its sustainability by sacrificing some of their own freedom and time.

  3. Josh

    I would very much like to read the article written by Cecil Levin in the April 1999 macrobiotic times. Can anyhone help me ?

May Ling
Macrobiotics & natural health practitioner of Chinese decent. May Ling provides a Yin-Yang perspective to holistic health and natural healing. Contact:

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