Soft float? Or hard sink?
Order of the universe
Revealed in private
I wrote the above haiku during my macrobiotics course in 1994, at the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts, USA.
A haiku is a short verse written in a fixed 3-line format of five, seven and five syllables. I like to have fun and macrobiotic people would know what the above haiku is about. If you don’t, let me tell it to you in straightforward language: POOP.
The meaning is this: In the privacy of your toilet, you can learn about yin and yang (the order of the universe) by observing whether your stools are soft and floating, or hard and sunk at the bottom.
Macrobiotic friends sometimes seem obsessed with the digestive tract. We keep talking about what goes in and what comes out – about food and stools. It’s not uncommon to have both topics discussed over a meal!
The thing is, your stools are one of the best indicators of your daily condition, whether you are more yin or more yang.
Stools that are soft, loose and floating indicate a yin / expanded condition. The extreme case would be, of course, diarrhea.
Stools that are firm, well-formed and floating indicate a healthy, balanced condition.
Stools that are small, hard and sink to the bottom of the toilet bowl indicate a yang / contracted condition. The extreme case would be constipation.
There is, however, another form of constipation where the stools are not hard – just that the person does not have the strength to push the stools out. This condition is rare, but it occurs sometimes with old people. It is an extreme yin / expanded condition where the large intestines have become so loose / expanded that they are unable to contract and emit the stools.
Once, a friend’s mother mentioned that she had constipation. I happened to know that she has several papaya trees in her backyard and she eats large amounts of papaya regularly. Because she had constipation, she ate even more papaya, since papaya is known to help constipation by softening the stools.
When I questioned her further, she said her stools were not hard. So I suggested she stop eating papaya for a while. She was surprised. But when I explained to her the rationale, she decided to give it a try.
George Ohsawa once commented that animals never need to use toilet paper. Their stools are always well-formed and never wet such that they stain the anus and lead to infection if left uncleaned.
If your condition is balanced and healthy, you would not need to use toilet paper either. Of course, we want to be clean and so we still use. But one or two wipes would be enough. If you need to use lots of toilet paper, again this means that your stools are too soft, your condition is too yin / expanded.
How often you move your bowels is yet another indication.
If you have diarrhea, you might have to go to the toilet once every few minutes. Obviously, you are unwell. If you don’t feel any need to go every day – I know of people who go about once a week – this is not a healthy sign either.
A healthy person would move his or her bowels once or, at most, twice a day. Some health writers, particular those who advocate raw foods, say it is natural and healthy to move the bowels after every meal. Macrobiotic people do not agree with this and we consider it to be too yin / expanded.
Finally, observe the color of your stools as well. Healthy stools are brown.
Dark, almost black, stools – the type that sinks – indicate a yang / contracted condition.
With diarrhea, the stools are sometimes light brown, yellow or even green, indicating a very yin / expanded condition.
Diarrhea with very dark colored stools suggests that you are in both extremes – very yang and, at the same time, very yin.
Your urine, too, reveals your yin / yang balance. The same principles apply.
If you urinate infrequently – less than about five times a day – and your urine is dark, it means you have a yang / contracted condition. It also means you need to drink more.
If you urinate frequently – more than five times a day – and your urine is colorless, it means you have a yin / expanded condition and you need to drink less.
This is, in fact, the most sensible guideline there is about how much water to drink. The more common recommendation – drink 8 glasses a day – is meaningless because it does not take into account your body condition.
I like to relate some incidents about urine. . .
Once, a friend was visiting from the US. She was so yang / contracted that she had trouble urinating. She hardly ever urinated.
On her first day in Singapore, she discovered this wonderful drink called pineapple juice. She like it so much that she drank two glasses. The next morning, she could urinate freely.
Pineapple is very yin / expanded – it is very soft, juicy, loosely structured. Pineapple juice is the most yin / expanded part of the pineapple. So drinking pineapple juice helped her become less yang / contracted and it helped her urinate.
The more common problem is incontinence – the inability to hold back one’s urine. While I do not have this problem, at one time my bladder was rather weak and I had to urinate quite often.
One day, I was at a Japanese restaurant drinking Japanese green tea. The tea made me so yin / expanded that I ended up going to the toilet every 10 or 15 minutes. That incident made me a lot more careful about drinking green tea.
Looking back, I think most other people do not have this problem with green tea because they take their Japanese food with lots of soy sauce. I don’t. So I only had the yin / expanding influence of green tea, but not the yang / contracting influence of soy sauce.
A lot of health books praise green tea as a “healthy” drink. It is just very yin / expanded and since most people in modern society are very yang / contracted, they benefit from drinking it. If your condition is already on the yin / expanded side, you might end up with the sort of problem I encountered.
This brings me to yet another supposedly “health” drink – noni juice.
My friend John Yeo, who does acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, once treated a woman whose period did not stop for three months. Upon questioning, he discovered that the problem arose after she started taking noni juice!
Again, this is a very yin / expanded product. It is the juice of a soft, tropical fruit. The woman was already yin / expanded to begin with. When she drank noni juice, her condition became so extreme that her menstruation would not stop.
Many women today have periods that last five to eight days. This indicates a yin / expanded condition.
Healthy periods should last only 3 or 4 days. And the cycle is regular, about once every 28 days, following the moon cycle.
At the other extreme, some women do not have periods at all. Or they have their periods only once in a few months. This indicates an overly yang / contracted condition.