My Favourite Books: The Stars of My Library

You reveal a bit of yourself through the books you read, I do too.

I wrote on Books: the mirror of your mind and soul with the perspectives on how we tend to choose books we read and what these selections reveal about our character. Books are the window into your nature. Here, I offer my personal choices and journey to my library that may inspire your next reads.

Tel Aviv book store

How books pull me to themselves and when not

With each detour into an indie book store displaying a mind-grabbing title in its window, when a good review tickles my curiosity or a theme I am currently interested in or a thoughtful friend gifts me plenty of amusement bound in paper — my physical library keeps expanding. I rarely order online. I don’t use e-readers. I don’t like the semi-tactile, cold experience, plus I am unapologetically writing in the page margins my own reflections. You wouldn’t want to read a book I owned, unless it was a rare vintage pursuit. Pencil, highlighter and pen draw my creative self over bland typing on screen.

Well, there was one, attention worthy classic that I read in its entire page count on Kindle, Nabokov’s Lolita. Often reading while traveling, this ubiquitous gadget’s design allows for an incognito mode saving some disapproving or curious looks.

 

Sometimes at airports and train stations, I swoosh through the books on offer. Checking out local bestsellers, I rarely succumb to popular trends. These “hits”, whatever their star promises on the cover exclaim, rarely become those attitude or mind shifting reads that alter my life view or connect on a deep level. They are just page turners like thousands of others. I am into the brainy books, those heart and mind stirring metaphors of life.

Jean Cockteau wall drawings On Freedom: Epictetus

Diving into the Poetic Depths of Humanity

On the tactile side of reality we live through our actions, and not just in our imagination. The American poet Emily Dickinson wrote a beautiful poem about hope that during strenuous years, a prolonged illness, an injury, a broken heart or being caught in the screeching claws of war lifts us up: “Hope is that thing with feathers…” this line lightens harsh reality with fleeting optimism. I think it is more realistic to recognise the fragility of positive mindset whatever the situation. What makes the difference is what we do about the situation, how we get out of it safely and if possible unwounded. Be practical, not a dreamer when the stakes are high. Always stick up to your values.

Victor Hugo in Pauca Meæ comforted me in time when it seemed that my father would depart from this world prematurely. The beauty of the French language sensually sparks in poetry.

Baudelaire in Les Fleurs du Mal showed off the dark side of human soul and I praise him for his fearless honesty. Would love to talk to that man!

French poetry

The Senegalese contemporary poet Amadou Lamine Saul in his exemplary French reminded me of the beauty and strains of love. I adore his catholic school learned elegant form of speech. His voice elicits such an avowing, sensual experience.

I read French poetry in its original, which is the best experience one can have. Poetry is the most sensitive literary genre to be flipped into another tongue. Perhaps it is its sometimes irrational, emotional charge and the contact with the unconscious realm that burden its translation. It can also be the metaphors culturally charged with meaning that in some other language could not find the same resonance.

bookshelf

On the similar sphere of human feelings, but rather spiritually Rumi connected love with the divine as nobody else did for me. I was inspired by his poems for my own. Asking my Persian friends how different his poetry sounds in English, I was told that it seems to them the essence did not get lost trough translation.

My countryman Rainer Maria Rilke, struck the spiritual accord with me in his masterpiece The Duino Elegies. Yet it was the English translation of his Poems from the Book of Hours [Das Stundenbuch] by Babette Deutsch next to the German originals when I realised that even Rilke cannot stir my love for that harshly strung language that German is (I wield a survival mode level of Deutsch).

It is the opposite with Shakespeare. Even the most profane translations into Czech did not do what his mother tongue does in his Sonnets.

Who brought me closer to the rainbow of human suffering alleviated by nature’s vibrations is Mary Oliver. In her collection A Thousand Mornings, her poem Hum, Hum connects the hard collective effort of bees and nature in its wholeness, good and bad, ever changing with one’s work on accepting the past’s wounds, facing them, not letting them to stop you through fear and denial from pursuing life.

best contemporary poetry

Books that inspired action, comforting reassurance

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf has paved the literary path for many female authors of the 20th century. Published posthumously by her husband, the co-founder of Hogarth Press in London, her essay on women’s emancipation and the repression of creative expression of the other half of humanity over millennia enriched the literary world in understanding. Part a memoir but mainly an illuminating feminist crescendo of I want to be heart as well, and I can do it skilfully!

Virginia Woolf A Room on My Own

Circe by Madeline Miller empowered me as an intellectual woman. The author took Ancient Greek classics and retold them from women’s perspective. Miller thus heralds our equalising century by flipping the past fictive accounts through the neglected gender’s perspective in focusing on female characters. Currently, there are more books in her growing stable and also by other authors, including male who switched the masculine focus to a feminine point of view.

female reader of woman writerFrench poetry

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is a memoir by Gertrude Stein, the Paris-based American confidante of the greatest artists of the first half of the 20th century. The stories are weaved around this close friend of Picasso, Matisse, Braques, Apollinaire, Derain and other geniuses congregating at her Rue de Fleurs house. Stein not only inspired some iconic portraits, but also wrote portraits herself.

From the Nobel Prize awarded authors I was caught by Jon Fosse. A Shining is a tiny, but potent story of an archetypal journey of the author through life’s most challenging moment. Here, Jungian psychology, mythology, and universal struggle with life echo in a brilliant simple telling pregnant with metaphoric magic. Like a contemporary Le Petit Prince by Exupéry for grown-ups, but only an initiated reader can comprehend its abundant nuances.

Jon Fosse A Shining

Learning and Natural Sciences

From science-leaning publications Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses shifted poetically my attention to the instinctual feelings through which I engage with the outside world.

I am sumptuously enjoying an ornamental rendering of the story of human perception and connection with the natural world in The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. His take employs more ethnographical focus.

These urgent calls for humanity to open our senses to the magic there is between us and the crying nature of our era, strike the heart and open the mind to bliss in perception.

books on nature

The Italian theorist of the loop quantum gravity Carlo Rovelli taught me about the subject I reviled the most in school though his brilliant Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. Without abstract numerical calculations, he drew from a person’s perception and that connection with experience is what lends his language a more humane lustre.

Eco-minded eye-openers were The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. I gave a Czech version to my dad, who loves trees as it rendered trees alive.

Satish Kumar enlightened my moral self on the importance of caring and the cultivation of the natural environment, personal wellbeing and values in Soil•Soul•Society.

Connecting human health and happiness with nature is the object of Forest Bathing, a popular tradition in the animist Japan that cropped across different continents. I bathed in the forest of Los Angeles Arboretum discovering some profound truths, in the Dolomites as well as around my Czech hometown. Artfully and systematically, Dr. Qing Li seduces under his wings a mindful experience within nature. He chairs the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine.

Greatest public libraries in the world

World Connecting Philosophy

Philosophy has always drawn my attention deep within and out into the universal mind world. The most influential and thought stirring were On Freedom by Epictetus, Cicero’s On the Good Life, The Stranger by Camus and Confessions of a Sinner by St Augustine from the western pool of thought. The last two you may object to as belonging to the philosophy window, yet their detailed and honest exploration of dark ideas were life-changing for millions and this for me personally is philosophy expressed at its greatest.

Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching grounds me through millennia-proved wisdom in this classic poetic foundation of Chinese philosophy. Creativity and Taoism by Chuang-yuan Chang brought art and poetry from east to west on board.

spiritual literature

Carl Gustav Jung’s Red Book shook me through the pandemic, yet it was not until the events around me started to follow an invisible string only synchronicity could explain. I did not get mad only thanks to timely rereading this strange work between fantasy, dream, mythology, spirituality, psychology and art. Published posthumously, the decades-spanning oeuvre is accompanied by Jung’s personal paintings of fascinating mandalas pregnant with symbolism. I own also the XL copy where this mind-boggling art received the space it deserved.

Carl Gustav Jung bookhome office ideas

I need yet to find a contemporary travel writer who will rock me up or knock me down my chair yet. I welcome any suggestions!

I have not specifically reviewed most of the books I read here at La Muse Blue. I tend to include the references while working with some of their concepts within an essay, musing or alongside a poem. Were I regularly posting my favourite books reviews, I would have to write an entire book with commentaries myself. For the gems I mention in this post enriched my knowledge so generously that I glimmer over each line as my eyes mindfully consumes the profound nonmaterial pleasure. My relationship with such books transcends me onto another plane of being. The mentions here are brief, you must discover their value yourself.


Books: the mirror of your mind and soul before and now

What are you reading now and what books attracted you, literally, lured your heart like the mythic sirens over the past months? Analysing the books we have read recently, unless they were listed for for research or work, tells us wonders about our current mental state. From the emotions we suffocate inside instead of letting them out the fire pit of the heart, the dilemmas faced and now one must reconcile with and the ‘inappropriate’ thoughts polluting the inner judgemental moralist ego, the ambitions motivating the social climber — in short that desired, yet unacceptable part of you that cannot be spelled out. Is it fear or anxiety about the current state of the world affairs, is it safety of your loved ones, is it your own legacy, anything meaningful? Our subconscious and unconscious choices puzzle psychoanalysts.

what you read

What the books you read tell about you

Generally, if you are a keen reader not just for entertainment but out of following your sheer curiosity, the key to you may dwell in your library. Recent research by psychologists concluded that “your story choice tells a story about you“, wrote Wendy L. Patrick, JD, Ph.D. in Psychology Today.

Just scan the titles and connect with what they call out from your inner self. You might be surprised that the books you read point like a therapist to your real desires, unfulfilled dreams, life philosophy and overall connection with the intellect, the spirit and the world. I asked a few friends what book/s have changed their life and got quite fascinating, rapid replies. My question was inspired by the board pictured bellow at a Los Angeles book festival.

best books

Books you read by choice are not what you had to read

The books you read were either chosen by you, for you or forced upon you. Which ones do you finish the fastest? What ideas do you memorise for longer? It get even more complicated, what I read for pleasure differs from what I gulp out of sheer intellectual curiosity. Free will is still involved anyway in the choice making and the pursuit of the text until its end.

When I was given Goethe in high school, I did not get why the teacher was so obsessed with the The Sorrows of Young Werther. We were fed the theoretical analysis, but life’s experiences have not yet provide enough in order to grasp the meaning fully. I did not see the in-between the lines nuances. It only came to me in my thirties. Paradoxically, Goethe’s title did not equip in itself the youth with the hindsight necessary for lowering one’s emotional clouding of the breadth of the situation Young Werther lived through. Read a book too young and you might not fully comprehend the weight of the story. I missed the core message which even the mature author only later, more distanced from the semi-autobiographical story was himself able to recognise: “It must be bad, if not everybody was to have a time in his life, when he felt as though Werther had been written exclusively for him.”

For the greatest books are not just about the story, that is a cover up for something deeper, meaningful and important to transmit through the written record. Enriching for the literary world, Goethe did not kill himself because of unrequited love, but overcame his suffering through personal development while writing poems, plays and novels. Struggle with an unrequited love was a popular theme int he Italian opera, and while the book was banned in the birth country of the opera as it was in Denmark and some parts of today’s Germany, it inspired other authors like Mary Shelley and Thomas Mann.

I inclined to very different books in my teens, twenties, thirties, let’s see where I veer in my 40s. With life’s progression towards its certain end at some point, prematurely or timely, and with more languages acquired, I am able to broaden the scope of literature passing through my brain.

I have ripened enough to feel the breadth of Shakespeare, to engage rapturously with Rimbaud, to get Karel Capek beyond his humour into the serious implications for the future – well a century later now, the current world, understand the passion of Neruda (the Chilean Pablo, while the Czech Jan was even more nationalistic) and take Proust more deeply than his memory game with a madeleine, the French pastry I love the most just hot out of the oven. Being able to read Milan Kundera‘s original Czech titles and his later originals in French encouraged my acquired language self to become more confident in my own literary output. So did Nabokov, the Russia-born in English writing maestro.

traditional pastryGreatest Czech authors

How we choose what to read

I read a lot, not digitally as much for I relish in writing in the margins, colourfully highlighting what grips me, bookmarking physically the pages that I want to return to. It just does not work on the Kindle or iPad. I tried, but the only book I finished on these electronic devices was, not surprisingly Nabokov’s Lolita, which was rather practical when reading in public spaces. Something does not connect with my brain as tactilely as a printed book does.

It is not enough to buy a book, to put that gift on the shelf, just to touch the bound typed paper, to download the e-book into you virtual library. All this hasty acquiring of content just does not sit within you. Just the catchy title might not tell what the story really is about, how good is the writing, how it flows, and for that one musts use the experience and one’s own brain, leaf through in a bookstore. An intention is not action. Books fill us up only when we pour the content mindfully in.

A book lent from a public library still can have a greater impact on your life than owned copies piled in your closet. Impact and reading is about the process, and maybe that inner necessity to underline, to highlight what touches you, what you want to memorise, sometimes scribed over in personal notebooks.

Therefore, audio books are not for me. I listen to them occasionally, while taking a bath and just want to soak without scribbling, while driving or commuting, but still, during these necessary activities I prefer to unwind with music. To cancel the noise of the urban life, rather than filling my mind with more chatter.

poetic life

Further, you are more limited while traveling than when you are studying at the education centre’s library or clinging to your home library. While e-books solved the length, weight and extra space in your luggage issue, they are only good if you get as much from the reading as from a printed edition.

Ponder, why you picked this book for this journey or the destination you are carrying it along? The reason why you travel somewhere might be that book or whatever you are longing to escape. An emotion, the past, some life situation you are not ready or do not want to face?

What book changed your life?

When I discover something myself coded into the story, it feels like a grand discovery, firing my passion and connecting me more with my true self. Then, to those book lovers like myself I know I nudge: “you must read this book, so ahead of its time, brilliant, life-changing!” Such a line hints on the greatest review that a broad reader can share.

reading

What I read recently were a curious blend of essays, classics, women’s memoirs, ancient and folk myths, contemporary neuroscience, eastern and western philosophy, poetry, psychological and spiritually leaning fiction and psycho-somatic nonfiction. Some I enjoyed, with others struggled through. The later were either poorly written, did not connect with me or I had to read them for work. Not all were connected with real life experiences. Imagination still casts spells over us, mystery, sci-fi, fairy tales keep us wondering and wandering away from real life. While not my genres of choice, I savour most the authors’s tales where relatable life lines along with the imaginary through metaphorical renderings.

Reading is not just escapism, entering the fictive story, but for me it musts be connected with the reality even if just through a feathery touch, with the productive not just seductive desires, conscious emotions and experiences of not only of the author, but also of the reader.

reading roomStudy room ideas

Books: the mirror of your mind and soul

The books you read mirror your state of mind and the stage of personal development you are currently in. They inspire action or at least a whiff of awareness into our now more connected life.

Peak at your bedside table or your kindle library, scan the titles and reflect upon the content of these books. Take a free day or a Sunday afternoon to graze on these hand-picked snippets of yourself. More than a curated cv, these stacks of printed papers may whisper important insights about what you seek in life. Your mind is savvy, subconsciously the brain signalled you what book to choose.

On the tactile side of reality we live through our actions, and not just in our imagination. We learn about ourselves the most profound lessons only when aware of our actions and mindful about our reactions.

Adventurers tend to be impatient, and I am too sometimes. Practicing calligraphy as much as meditation, yin yoga, ikebana, pottery or other crafts requiring your full attention, pulls the muscles of my patience into their stronger core, and so does reading.

open readerMen without Women

Global bookshelves

Traveling also inspires my bookish selections. It intrigues me to read a book about the location I am visiting. Such as Men Without Women by Murakami awakened my sensibility about Tokyo’s quiet residential neighbourhoods and the mystery of yakuza’s tentacles in the polished Japanese life. On a similar note is Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Traveling to Asia for most of the past two decades, eastern ancient knowledge has appealed to me since my teenage curiosity spat me around the world dozen times.

If you are curious to discover more, check my next post in which I reveal a bit of myself through the books that enriched me, either changed my perception, view of life, or challenged my preconceived ideas.

Artistic inspirationLao Tzu

As much as the library at your home, your personal journal is the gateway to your true, perhaps outwardly masked self. Rereading your thoughts illuminates the deep scars in the soul, highlights your strengths and weaknesses to learn from.

My final question is: are we what we read or more how we read?

The books you read are just clues and you only have the answers. Nobody else can analyse that for you.


Offline In My Secret Garden

Please, consider doing this revealing self-pampering trick for your wellbeing and to open your awareness to truth. Once again I went offline for a week. My phone locked in some other place than I am leaving me physically and virtually disconnected from the social chatter and media. I turned the portable device off. What a relief this simple act of allowing oneself to be with oneself brings! It was just me and nature, books, pen, paper, well and the basic survival stuff like a warm room to stay in, food and water. After a long time I felt I had a full control of my being, my days and nights were directed by what I set to do and consciously work on.

pure presence offline

I light up an incense, gaze onto the rippling lake, yes, I found It ∼ heaven on Earth — an absolute presence.

Being with oneself is not a sweet talk, but can be nice

I would love to stay virtually disconnected for longer, but commitments and responsibilities do not allow for such a luxury in today’s hyper-connected world. I have an emergency set up. Someone close knows where I am and there is a phone to reach me on.

What this offline time in space allowed me was to dive deep again into my mind, the heart, soul and some wholesome writing work. Brutal honesty, if you allow me. We all need to remind ourselves from time to time of who we are, what we need to do and what we want now in this point in life. This changes and sometimes we forget what we wanted initially. We disconnected from our purpose and worse, our values. A chapel, a church or a temple of any faith used to provide us this mindful shelter. We could go outside of the religious service to clear our heads from the everyday clutter, stress, worries. We still can, but so many of us non-religiously affiliated ban ourselves from such sacred places. These refuges, unless blocked by the religious authorities, are open to anyone and everyone. We all can do our inner cleaning there.

spiritual artArchitecture of Goa

We can also do it elsewhere. Nature is my god, so I go to her. Forest bathing or a pilgrimage of sorts. One can create a small ritual corner in one’s home, many artists do it also in their studios. The space for emptying and reflection can exist anywhere where the noise of civilisation does not distract and disrupt the precious flowing stream of consciousness. What I call the sacred. For me it is also intuitive. I seek this emptying regularly and it helps my wavering emotional self to harmonise.

I have done a weeklong phone detox during the first lockdown of the pandemic, because it was possible as I was not meeting anyone outside. Just think about that. How do you schedule your life? It is all on the portable device – the calendar, time, diary, health, notepad, notifications, safety alerts, step measuring, virtually most of our communication (except for those postcards I still send to and receive from some friends willing to do the work; to actually physically walk to the post box or office to buy stamps to mail the painterly greeting and note from one heart to another, plus I still write occasional letters). A card or a letter feel immeasurably more valuable than any text message or email will ever be capable of.

polaroid postcardsconnect

The hurdles of contemporary offline lifestyles

The first thing I missed were strangely not people (I nourished myself socially during the preceding there weeks to the brim anyway, called my parents and sister just before my time off), but music. I stream most of the songs I love from my phone app. My home vinyl player is not portable, so I had no other source of music than, voila! My laptop. Hello YouTube, long time no see. Alright, here I am still having my slice of tech with me, but one can do without. Use something from back then when we were not yet plugged in online. From a portable radio or dig out the iPod player, a disc-man or walkman baby, let’s roller blade!

Portuguese architecture

The money mind loves distractions

I planned to focus on writing my novel, so I had to bring my computer along. It haloed a post-it note: No email, no social media, only my book-related research! I had to add the exclamation mark to alert myself promptly. Curiosity was banned, unless relevant. Uff! I had the door of my monkey mind shut.

One week, after all is not that bad. Well, I forgot to take my watch, and that kind of left me in a limbo, totally lost in the absolute void of time. Not entirely though. The light outside and the darkness of the setting evening notified me along with the local village church bells. How liberating and calming at the same time. Suddenly, all time was really my time. I kept writing, ate some healthy food, drank tea and water, I slept and swam or walked every day. And you can do just nothing, no guilt, just be.

Wonders for the mind and the body! Trust me, disconnecting, you will have the silent space to connect with your deeper layers, with the lurking needs you had perhaps neglected for a very long time. Awareness requires space and as little distraction as there can be. Keep a journal at hand.

Chinese female artist

Higher awareness needs even more void in the daily routine. Perhaps, stop playing the music and let the music play itself. Bellow is my poetic way:

My Secret Garden

I hope She remains my secret garden, serene simplicity painted with a smooth stroke of peace.

Tranquility, only natural teeter of the birds singing to their soulmates. A random whizz of bees, a cuckoo — I wonder, what is all the music about?

As if competing with each other whose instrument reached a more fine-tuned sound. Nature’s delight.

Or

Is it a sailboat on the flowing curls of the sea that they sing about or to; or is it and?

— a reciprocal connectivity 

I let them to their business and turn inside my own.

My head — what is It telling? Is It shouting or whispering to me? The skull’s gutter constantly flushing thoughts, doubts, happy pondering, wandering and wondering in all that rattle that goes on inside when I am surrounded by the craze of cities. The space suffocating human activity goes on, engines, honks and squeaks. The sirens’ calls to the bound Odysseus and his deaf crew. More trees, we need more lungs that provide, not take. We need to hear, too.

Noise, noise, clacking, clicking, snapping, jetting, shuffling, huffing, puffing, whizzing, volume up to blasting away life that once was peaceful, maybe.

It amazes me how what we do disturbs more than most noises of the natural world. Save for thundery storm, it is human activity now that kicks us out of balance. We tremble, waver and wobble in the hurricane of manmade sounds.

The vibrations of portable phones, snake hissing in your pocket or a bag. Forget to take it onto a yoga mat! Its venom does not let the mind go its own way. Rushing into my head; is it urgent? I might ask, sometimes. Do I really have to leave what I am doing right now?

I silence the beast, but I have already abandoned my stream of thoughts. I do not like to pick up calls, my whole privy world already knows.

I like to keep time in my space, so the mind can go on like the wild ocean’s waves.

Like the moon controls the tides, consciousness manages our heads.

~R

Being with ourselves is human

What I gained during my time offline was not just the focus on what I needed and wanted to do at the same time, the undistracted week allowed for a revealing observation of others. When you are without a smartphone, you notice even more how others are addicted on these relatively recent devices. Their virtually present, but locally void faces are glued on the tiny screens continually absorbing the invisible heavy metals into their bodies. Alone or with some other person in flesh, while eating in and out, traveling, walking — oh, do we really hate being with ourselves? Just for some time go offline and be with nature, our nurturing planet that we have disconnected from so profoundly.

We do not seem to care enough and know where the in plastic wrapped food is grown and that oranges are just not good in summer and autumn, no matter what the altered breed might deliver. We eat unhealthy, nutrient-poor food, drink polluted water, have chronic pain and ADD in the so called ‘developed’ world. Sometimes, I think back about the village kids in the Himalayas that impressed me with their genuine joy almost two decades ago. Look at the city children, are the majority of them as sparkly? They are the future of potential unhappiness. 

meditation is being offline

I wrote more about how are being changed by the digital culture in this linked musing.

My first phone detox was simply within a rented apartment, I just locked it in the safe. This time I decided to wholly detox at the Chenot Palace in Weggis. While most guests kept browsing, calling, chatting in the robes even inside the treatment rooms, some while taking their bath tubs. I went for a full detox — offline. Cleansing goes beyond the food and what we drink, the mud wraps and hot baths, the heavy metals from the polluted environment as well as our devices keep accumulating in our bodies and we shall regularly disconnect from their luring company.

During my retreat I received the results of my heavy metal load as well as acupuncture during which I meditated so deeply that I felt rush of heat in my veins. My body and mind vibrated with energy, with something primordial. I walked in a nearby forest and wondered at every, by the dog walkers usually unnoticed, cushion of moss here, a lichen-clad boulder, a solitary tree skeleton speaking on a grass carpet with snowed peaks of the Alps in the background. It was pure magic and I did not take a photo. It’s alright, because, you know, I will carry this special image in my heart. I will use my memory, instead of giving this agency to my tech device, which is not making me any smarter, but rather, shall I say it? You know what I mean, the smart phones take something from us and we only realise it once we disconnect for some time. Please, keep this in mind. Others won’t miss you for a week and if you need to communicate, write a letter or postcard, anyone will appreciate that rather special act of attention.

If a week is impossible, then consider one day, weekend perhaps, I call that my day of nothingness and try to regularly include it into my schedule. It is much harder while traveling (depending on where one goes), but it can be done. Certainly this act of awareness will benefit your sense of wellbeing.


The most comforting forms of trust we need beyond political rhetoric

Humanity thrives on trust, and crumbles into ashes of burning violence when our security is breached. 

We must build more certainty in innocent, well-intended, harmless behaviour through the bridge between vulnerable, influenceable, even traumatised memory and future-oriented hope. We associate past experiences with present occurrences to simplify thinking, to organise our perception of the world into clearly defined shelves. Unfortunately, this can skew the reality as it is now in this very moment. Judgement based on distant past, on someone’s family or racial background is fundamentally unfair. Expectation corrupts thinking and behaviour, therefore we better shed the weight of prejudice, high hopes, any skewed preconceived ideas to open our minds.

contemporary photography Lee Ufan art Arles, France

Trust means that you open the gate of your confidence towards the outside world

By joining forces we accelerate, reciprocating success in an inclusive, equal measure that espouses a more sustainable success. Within a trusting environment we feel good. Mutual aid benefits not just the needy but the world as a whole. I do not promote freebees like unlimited social support on the disproportionate and demotivating account of some hard working fortunate few. While greed is bad, stripping one’s wealth involuntarily more often than we like to admit seeds in anger and not much gratitude from the beneficiaries who expect to be given without effort. Look at the tensions within the US today. Mutual means cooperative, either side working towards a common goal, prosperity, progress, learning, inventing, existing together in a more fruitful environment as well as inner comfort. Utopia it is not, it works in Switzerland. Everybody is motivated to work.

Swiss nature

It seems to me that religiously inspired charity has more beneficial effect on the believer’s psyche than socially enforced giving away. Further, the recipient of voluntary support may be more motivated to contribute, to grow personally when they know that the alms were given intently to stir creativity, industriousness and reciprocity. Of course, some level of checks and balances is useful in building any trusteeship. Naivety does not pay off.

To whom will you give your mandate? Not politically, even though one of the dirty tricks of politics is stirring dissent by cutting off the tightrope of trust in anyone/thing that competes against ambitious authoritarian leadership. Yet, collaboration, working together openly rather than undercutting each other is what advances society in a more balanced way. As if some of us did not share the same body, mind and fate in meeting death at some point in our life curve, scavenging for victory over the weak people at any cost. Humanity can be as cruel as it can be loving. Yet, in synergy we thrive as a genuine, beautiful joy is only free to expand through our chests when we feel trust.

Mao and Lenin

American art

Through random recent occasions I faced the delicate question of trust. In a high altitude yoga room with other mindful beings, during an intimate sauna conversation, all the while witnessing contemporary distrust in those in power as well as in the media, I realised that our relationship with others can be cracked into an open leak if we do not address openly our feelings of confusion, even betrayal. We need to talk, as individuals, as well as a society.

While humanity does not come short of flaws and vanities, one does not need to have high expectations of others and oneself to value trust. It is an assurance of allegiance, of good hearted manners and integrity.

interfaith wedding

True love is trust

To me trust is connected with commitment, faith and fidelity, all active components of a grown up, mature adult living in a healthy human society. This form of security in relationships is dependent on behavioural history, current signals of dispersed interest in others than the person in the mutually trusting relationship, and on clearly communicated boundaries of what telling truth means to you individually and how seriously lying disrupts trust in the liar. I just read a praised debut novel by a playwright Julia May Jonas that touches upon trust. Her Vladimir is about a more complex relationship and desire, and I recommend anyone intrigued by today’s wokeness and perhaps excessive caution, even discouragement from trusting others, read it. Trust features in many best-selling stories. Verity by Colleen Hoover topped the fiction charts for months for a reason, it topples trust in a most shocking way.

It is not just a cultural phenomenon or a religious cliche, but faith is important to humans in close-knit relationships. Usually, we trust more those we know well, for long enough than a random stranger hyping you to bungee jump off the cliff. Relationships are constructed of solid building blocks of small events that in their total sum make a strong foundation for stable edifice of certainty. Who likes uncertainty in relationships? Only extreme adrenalin lovers, perhaps.

Caring about other person is a display of safe-keeping. We are protective of our kin and those we love. They can count on us when in need. An independent and strong adult does not need a guardian, but cooperation is a binder that makes us feel that we are not alone in all what we do. It makes us stronger together.

How does the one who was being lied to feel? Betrayed.

A friend who always promises but rarely sticks by their word is not a genuine friend. 

A parent shall consider being being the most trusting example to their offspring.

black artist

The mental safety belt of trust

Insecure people hardly let anybody else into their inner life. Safety concerns can uproot trust in strangers. This attitude stirs enmities, discord, racism, violence, wars. In fighting more than one side are involved, so mistrust rusts on either line of unsafe existence. Therefore to prevent conflict we must focus on ensuring safety of all parts. Nobody should be left out when personal security is concerned. Anxiety rises in our mental state of distrust.

Individual insecurity can fog one’s perception of others, trustworthiness including. Past behaviour and experience gauge our trust sensors either to a more open, allowing attitude or a wary state of constant alert. Relay on yourself, yet do not refuse others care if you really need help.

Trust is like the winter road, it can be snowed in, but deep under we know it is there as the map and signs above the ground show.

light

Beyond hope and assumptions: trust your healthy gut

Trust in others is something quite different from trust in oneself, otherwise known as confidence. Beyond skewed ideas about others, insecurity is a complicated symptom of something deeper, like self love. If you value yourself you are free of self-harming. Relate to your emotions with warmth, not incessant self-criticism, as well as try your best so perfectionism does not swallow your heart but encourages you to improve upon previous achievements.

Gratitude never harmed anyone. Trust in oneself is believing in your capabilities and conviction of the value of your existence by contributing somehow to the greater whole.

A wise mind once said: “What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” In the context of trust this rings bright and sharp. If you are suspicious, afraid of losing someone, the anxiety will nest in the dark corners of your mind and rust into the remaining light inner space. If you judge yourself unworthy of others’ attention, your self-worth won’t expand. Flipped, if you demand too much, nobody can sustain that pressure. Selfishness never built happy relationships.

Life symbols

Trust is more than the Self

Intuition can become an adventurous guide in our life. Trusting it as a companion to reason, a complementary force to a more whole truth. Something beyond the puzzle just fitting together. Memory often helps us to solve puzzles, but there are also riddles requiring a different kind of intellect. That type we call imagination. As the poet and renowned engraver William Blake wrote: “Man by reasoning can only compare & judge of what he has already perceived. From a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none could deduce a fourth or fifth.” Indeed, the next, the new, the invented was beyond our common knowledge, until it was created or discovered it was hidden from our awareness. Blake concluded: “If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic Character, the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.” We need imagination as its span expands beyond rational science. The spiritual element deepens the meaning of human life. Without creativity, science cannot progress. Reason alone is stale. Art can assume indefinite forms of expression and reality, and in so lifting the marine layer of ignorance.

French sculpture

These various forms of trust can be related and do not have to be. What is important though is that one is aware of one’s own shortcomings in terms of self-love and clear about others’ intentions. The later is perhaps the most challenging aspect of any committed relationship. An open discussion is healthy. However intense, honesty shall not harm a worthwhile relationship because if you really care about the other person you listen to them and accept their breadth. Good and bad.

“Let’s talk” is the most direct remedy for clarifying potential misunderstandings. Uncovering emotionally immature personality unaware of the effect their behaviour has on others, discussion allows for getting to know the other more and deeper.

Chelsea galleries

Trust may feel like vulnerability, so does love. Are all the great things doomed to make us feel unsafe? They do not have to if you are not attached to them. Rather, open your arms when you are offered theirs. At he same time focus on building your inner strength independently on the giver of pleasure. On your own, you are able to generate joy. You are your only sustainable well of happiness. Coexisting means equality, thus do not ever devalue yourself through the wand of a selfish lover not worth loving.

Like sun playing music through its light on the surface of the land, caressing warmly even the steepest mountains and deep gorges, move the hearts of others. Stand by them genuinely, so they can trust to embrace you with the bright comforting blanket that feels good. Your liability is up to your faith in trust.


Liberating guided meditation to release tension

Daily, we need to release the emotions we have accumulated from the first seconds since the awakened awareness collects in the mind and the body everything we experience. Psychic emotions often translate in the body into physical tensions. Fortunately, humanity has been around for some ages and we learned through suffering and pleasure that there are different ways to recuperate balance.

rejuvenate

Once you were a cub, then a lion and later respected leader of the pack

For each of us something else works in different periods of our changing life. What helped a teenage you, most likely does not work as well for a forty-something or septuagenarian you. Yet, acceptance of change in our reality is not easy to swallow. Yet, once it is in, you will digest it anyway. So chew on!

meditationconnect with nature

One can run it out, box away the stress from others and work, torture oneself during a HIIT or CrossFit, sweat it into the water while swimming laps as if it was a race, in short actively channel the negativity out. If you don’t injure yourself from these physically intense activities, and you feel that at night you sleep peacefully freed from whatever you needed to shed, that is wonderful.

I must add, not just in my experience, more body stress in the long way does not release mental stress. How more tension can reduce tension? By bursting. Physical laws are such.

Swiss summer

Remember one of the rules of all life: Wear and tear. Runners knees, tennis elbows, footballers ankles. Look at the top athletes. Most of them are forced to retire in their 30s. That is young. Despite all the progress in athletic performance enhancements and  tools, their bodies cannot handle the pressure for much longer. Even the greatest must retire. While some rare bulldozers make professional competition into their 40s, most ballet dancers, tennis pros, soccer stars, need to slow the pace, the wearing down of their bodies. Roger Federer is still a history making, incredible player, but the daily intensity he forced upon his body to perform finally coughed with him. He had to admit that if he is to enjoy the rest of his life and his family while doing what he loves, he must take a step back.

Como Lake inspirationEngadine winter sports

We need to move and maintain our body’s strength, yet when emotions are involved we can mindlessly  and permanently harm ourselves while angrily boxing though emotional pain. The great news is that there is a more sustainable, ancient practice that is risk-free (unless you do it in the wrong place like driving or doing something else, you cannot do anything else when practicing this form of release).

A deeper release happens through calm, rest, soft focus, patient attention, when you connect with your breath, inhale, exhale fully, slow it down. Shortly, through meditation. It is about getting to know the unknown inside of you. While slow-paced, meditation is an adventure of self-discovery.

melancholy

Now, many of you may find this super simple tool challenging. Still, you can do it almost anywhere once you know through experience the path to it. Like a missing key that slides easily into the lock. It is indeed not easy for the always thinking, running, monkey mind to stop and just flow. I have been practicing yoga for a quarter of a century (ha, that makes me feel like a well rooted tree), still meditation was the next step. I had not achieved the real flow state of oneness. While I mastered all the asanas to advanced head stands and impossible twists I injured myself when I let my ego controlling the competitive side of me.

All bad is for something good, I say when life’s hurdles present themselves in plain pain. Let’s turn to the positives.

Become water, a gentle stream, rippling glacier lake in meditation

I learned that one best starts with breathing control, known as pranayama. Breath is our always available friend, alive, always here to guide you, to connect your mind with your body.

Further, a great teacher with vipasana (silent retreat) meditation experience is your ideal guide. I was lucky to find one just when I need her most. My Indian teacher is constantly reminding me of the simple truths like discipline – you must stick to meditation daily, no matter for how long, just pacify your mind every single day. It is like running in terms of habit creation. Also, her experience is so profoundly part of her expression, that she almost feels what I feel. We mainly meditate over phone since an ocean separates our physical co-presence, and this does not disrupt the depth of the freeing vibrations we share.

From her well of wisdom and my own practice, I am sharing 12 minutes short, daily doable and enjoyable meditation. Ideally, wear loose fitting clothes and situate yourself in a quiet, warm room. Outdoors sounds wonderful, but not for beginners since there are too many uncontrollable distractions possible – from insects to uninvited loud hikers. Once you settle yourself in the regular practice, do challenge yourself by meditating outdoors or in noisier environment such as airplane.

mirror

You do not have to sit crosslegged if it creates more tension or if you have bad blood circulation. In any case it’s better to elevate your sit bones, so use meditation cushion or any medium to hard pillow for support under your pelvis. You can lean on a wall or a chair, it is important though to have your spine erect. Bolster your knees with pillows or blanket if it makes it more comfortable. Do this at least once the day you meditate. If you do it twice then, especially before sleeping, either put your legs up against your bed or cosy under your sheets comfortably warm in the savasana pose (simply lying on your back with your arms softly stretched alongside your body. This assist rest, but will not elevate your consciousness.

This mindful release can help with managing pain, blood pressure, anxiety, restlessness, anger and any negative emotion that is about to swallow you. Watch the darkness coming, but do not let it control you. Stop, sit down comfortably and start:

I recorded it this Sunday morning in silence without any background music or sound. I prefer to leave the additional ambience up to you since each of us has not just different music preferences but also a different level of sensitivity to sound. Most advanced meditators prefer silence. If your neighbours are just too loud or the street noise, ambulances et al are difficult to manage, play some ambient music without lyrics. I like the 528 hz frequency of the so called Alpha waves. On YouTube find a wide choice.

Light a candle if that helps to centre you before you start. Close your eyes during the entire meditation though. A blanket next to you can help in case you feel cold not moving.

NOTE: I did not edit the recording, there are no major disruptions anyway (besides gentle faraway birds and church bells), but I wanted to simulate a natural guidance by a real person. Excuse my signature accent, imperfections, I rather show them than faking it. My pace is slow, but not too much as I am aware that the length of your breath is shorter in the early practice. Any time I say inhale and exhale do not follow it forcefully, just do it at your pace, but follow the guidance in terms of visualisation and the movement of attention as I am taking you on this fairy journey of your inner self.Be kind and true with yourself! That is what meditation is about.


A beggar wanting to be a star: on pain

Can I switch a button

To rid me of my pain

To grow wings that

Take the body weight

Above gravity’s reign

Becoming an avatar

Smiling despite struggle

Always in the perfect form

Disconnected, not a who or what

Doomed human facing night

Created to feel and waggle

Love – hurt – joy – pressure on 

A beggar wanting to be a star

Desiring some warmth of light

In the midst of each storm

Take me away pull the thorn

Of living — make me a flower

Shed my flesh too long worn

~RB

spiritual artI wrote this poem on pain during a few tough months in 2022 when my body and mind ached with relentless suffering. Old pain can reawaken with a greater vigour than is tolerable.

In those moments, one only desires to rid oneself of the pain, yet by wish alone nothing gets ever done. Yet, switching the mindset to clear the vicious circuit of pain is the first step to liberation. When your body tells you something is wrong, it keeps at doing so when any cue presents itself in assumed reality even when nothing is directly affecting you. This reality is not just objective but includes the subjective perception and feelings about what we experience. So for example if you had an injury on bicycle, your pain comes back each time while or after cycling years after the accident. This is what complicates stuff. To put it simple, pain is a stark reminder of the body-mind connection. It is the memory that stores pain. And memory can play us.

spiritualism

I always thought that pain comes from hurting oneself, an accident, incorrect posture, disease, all physical symptoms of something just physically wrong. Heartache cannot cause real organ troubles, that is just the old poets’ imagination, I thought. But I was wrong. Years of physical therapy, osteopathic and chiropractors’ adjustments, dry needling, acupuncture, stopping doing sports that I love, having a glass of wine to forget that a stabbing backache taught me that some pain cannot be fixed by physical manoeuvres alone.

Further, I learned that emotional pain and psychological pain that comes from repression, negative thinking, exhaustion, and even from the unconscious depths of the mind all affect the body. Your wellbeing cannot be complete without daily balancing your mind. Having both parents seriously ill at risk of losing them both too close in their due time in 2021 affected me so profoundly that the pain stored eventually had to come into my awareness.

Meditation is wellness My cure eventually came in the form of daily release. The light shone once again above my head. Not just by doing physical stretching, although I did that too, but also mental cleansing. By meditating twice a day I learned to control better my bodily sensations. Not as far as a fire walker in India yet (I smile), but I can now understand how their zeroing of pain sensation works. Yoga is a practice of control and meditation is an inherent tool to achieve mastery over one’s monkey mind. I did not feel pain when the mind blocked the thinking of it. Countless placebo cures are based on such a strong belief in a tool that works. Placebo is statistically decisive in science which is forced by nature to deal with the mind in holistic therapy that remedies the problem.

Meditation both soothes the nervous system and assists with controling the mind. Breath is your personal present guide to whom you can always turn when lost. It is yours until death sets you apart.

Try it, it is painless and you do not even need to sit. Just be still, comfortably in a quiet and warm place and get deep into your happiness. As you progress even noise and temperature shifts won’t shake you. Meditating is a wonderful additional tool for your wellbeing, we all can profit from its balancing calm.


Art beyond the aesthetic: why we need art in this seismic, disrupted time with trust eroded

Art is the journalism of the past century. In the public interest some artists took role in activism. Through their unique individual lens as well as together in the often invisible collective creative cooperation, they speak to society with truth and integrity. Working with clarity and one’s open heart is what our society needs in this globally disrupted time. Chaos, too much change cannot be easily digested. Too many of us are confused about our shared values. The old guardians of open conversation struggle to keep relevant. While the press is not dead, the time’s pressure of fast media and unsustainable amount of eyes grabbing competition challenge their commitment to portraying truth. Now, art has the timeless potential to engage us on a deeper level.

spiritual art

street art Milan, Italy

Art as non-violent freedom fighter, moral & spiritual guide

As trust in formerly respected authorities — the church and the media — was eroded, the open gap in our justice and truth seeking mind needs to be filled. There is a spiritual dimension to it (Kandinski wrote an excellent essay on that; The Spiritual in Art), but also the basic need to talk, to open up about what we do not know and what concerns us. Survival, safety, ethics, violence, injustice, inequality, personal insecurity, shame, oppression, all themes calling for honesty.

Etel Adnan at LUMA Arles

Notes by Etel Adnan

Art can connect with these existential, philosophical, even practical questions. The late Lebanese artist and poet Etel Adnan wrote honestly on the need for global peace in 2016: “The world needs togetherness, not separation. Love, not suspicion. A common future, not isolation.” How can a sensible human being not be touched by her wise words? Peace is freedom, as equality is justice. Art can be a mirror of our society. Through theater, cartoons, digital videos, installations, all in the same way novels are in written form.

American art

‘The conveyor belt of life’ reflection in Meditation by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Art also became more political in the 20th century. Not that calling up the villains and highlighting social issues is something new, Francisco Goya drew and etched to print the homeless and poor in his social series as much as he portrayed human vice in the high society. More recently, the young African-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat alerted us to police violence, racial inequality, the harm that materialism and marketing do to our society, pain, struggle with our bodies, and more. Turning to biology, mythology and poetry, Basquiat reinforced his contemporary messages. His work echoes beyond the late 1980s America. Two current retrospectives (Vienna, New York) document that not much has changed since then, but the urgency ballooned. The ongoing struggles need to be expressed, heart and acted upon for positive change to grow from its deeply aware roots.

Jean Michel Basquiat

The late Portuguese multi-disciplinary artist and photographer Helena Almeida addressed dictatorship on the Iberian peninsula but also cast light on women’s struggles. Almeida’s art represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale twice, and most recently I was touched by her black and white photos shown at the hangars by LUMA Arles during the annual photography show.

Portuguese artist Helena Almeida

There are countless creatives who echoed society’s broad and specific aches to name. We shall be grateful for their daring.

Art as activism: climate action, refugee crises, war and displacement

On a grand scale now, great artists like Anselm Kiefer, Ai Weiwei, between others channel our attention towards contemporary issues. From climate (Kiefer’s Miami exhibit in 2021), political, poverty and war migration (Ai Wei Wei: The Law of the Journey reporting visually on the influx of refugees to Europe shown in Prague in 2017), existential threats (in Zurich, I was smitten by the French photographer’s Julian Charriere impactful series of nuclear tests and weapons annihilating effect on the Earth) to universal questions like our purpose (LA-based Cleon Peterson‘s “chaotic and violent paintings show clashing figures symbolizing a struggle between power and submission in the fluctuating architecture of contemporary society” currently showing at Mindy Solomon gallery in Miami), fate, life after death, mental struggles, gender, the body. Alone or with their teams, they work resonantly in larger than life effort composing vast canvases, installations, films, photographs and live performances (you probably heart of Marina Abramovic who is amongst the most resonant performing artists, she is also worth listening to).

Spanish contemporary art

Fondation Carmignac Porquerolles, France

Some of the most profound art connects old struggles with the present, it is  just dressed differently, perhaps expressed though a more contemporary medium. Anyway, mythology and symbolism are timeless tools. Anselm Kiefer retells the Biblical story of Exodus in gasps evoking, powerful visual tale in his two exhibitions with Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles and New York this year.

Ai Wei Wei took the stone bricks discarded from an old bridge in the violent and racially tense Marseille, France to create a new path in the art-themed park of Chateau La Coste in Provence.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei connects the old and the recent at Vila La Coste in Provence, France

The octogenarian Korean Lee Ufan has for most of his long career addressed relationships between things. Through positioning of rocks, metal and sometimes glass in the changing natural or stale unnatural light he illustrates the reality of our world. Nothing exists just on its own, it always relates to something and thus affects the other. Oneness, change and space are some of the philosophical concepts he brings our attention to. If you do not make it to Naoshima island in Japan, just this spring his Arles Fondation Lee Ufan finally opened after a reconstruction by his Japanese friend architect Tadao Ando.

Naoshima, Lee UfanRelatum Lee Ufan

Art as authority

Once art commissioned by affluent religious authorities underscored the scriptures as well as the non-canonical tales and perhaps gave hope to the believers. Its potency was known to the church. Yet there was that other spiritual, the tribal art on the more grassroots level long before any established religion.

With the dawn of psychology, a Western science that connects the intellectual side of brain with the emotional, the rational with the irrational, the Eastern ancient philosophy with Western measured approach, art assumed redefined role. It can heal the wounded psyche. Its reach is individual but also collective if presented clearly.

Chinese artists

Ai Wei Wei at Prague National Gallery

Further, as wealth spread beyond royalty and the church in the West, art became the status symbol. Tinted with the foul smell of money, there is a lot of junk in the artistic output these day. Yet, human creative urge and the desire to go beyond oneself still resonate in some art works that are just on another level, they are universal and timeless in their reach.

In her ambitious book The Last Authority, the German art critic Mokka Müller, casts “art as the New Religion”. While her assumption is quite far reaching, her observant essays connect the role of democratised art as a shifting element in our culture. From music, through visual and performative arts she observes how Western society was moved by art since its 20th century liberation. Defying censorship, art is a potent voice in our open society. With power though comes responsibility, but only some artists understand this. Beyond narcistic or selfish quest to sell artwork, there is that hunger to express inhumane reality and the urge to help others or a cause in need of our attention.

As with those inflated rulers becoming authoritarian despots and dictators, inflated egos do not benefit this world. Also artists need to face their own strengths and weaknesses, their pride morphing into I am only human humbleness inspiring others to awaken to our blind vanities.

Chinese dissident art

Ai Wei Wei at Prague National Gallery

Art as a medium: healing through art

Through expressing our inner concerns, observations and feelings we share our common fate as mortal, struggling humans. Art is public and by making it accessible to all, not just for specific, limited groups of people like followers of certain faith, ideology, social circle or class, beyond one’s material wealth we open the world’s citizens to understanding each other.

The skilled artist can connect with the person experiencing their work if something universal and personal at the same time radiates though. In doing so their work can alleviate suffering, the feelings of being alone in this shit. By knowing that there were others going though this change, the awakened fear gets voice. Thus showing that we all want to live well and feel well, the artist becomes a therapist.

Japanese avant garde art

Pumpkins by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

Sound is used as therapy. Also painting, photography, sculpture, installations or performative art at their very best have the potential to alleviate the physical and mental burdens of passing time. Immersing oneself in the art’s other dimension — the liberated space —  momentarily disconnects one from the pain of living. Frida Kahlo portrayed her debilitating pain in her diminutive smallness on her fantastical, inner feelings displaying canvases. The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama alleviates her mental struggle through colour, especially her recurring and popular theme of dots and pumpkins. She channels attention to mental health and the open door of creativity to all. Joy radiates from her sculptural and painted works. Millions of people can feel its power and the artist’s longing for true happiness.

female artists

Collective force ignited by individual creation

The composer Richard Wagner, the founder of psychoanalysis Carl Gustav Jung, the Catalan architect  and painter Antoni Gaudi as well as the aware contemporary influencers I mentioned here, share a common knowledge of art having potential to reshape and awaken humanity. Revolutionary zeal, injustice, censorship, inequality, violence, as much as our seeking of beauty, joy, love, peace.

The space art takes in our limited time experiencing it is relative to our individual perception. If I do not judge art, but rather open myself to the message it tries humanely convey, I can use my perception to connect with the other, to empathise with humanity going through another age of tumultuous change. We are in it together.


My favorite letter is a sky… which is yours?

My favorite letter is not in the Latin alphabet, and as much as I adore the Arabic painterly abjad, it is the roots of the Chinese calligraphy that won over my heart. That letter means sky, but also many other things, and perhaps it is that flexibility what fascinates me about the Chinese characters (called hanzi in China). I love that one symbol means so much, an entire universe. Timeless language transcends borders.

New Hampshire

Baroque ceiling in the sky

天 encompasses day dimmed at night

天 is God and heavens

天 wakes nature up and puts most to sleep

天 can be bright blue, cloudy or sparkling with stars like a night dress

天 is nature herself, moody as the weather

A letter that is a word and so mightily broad. Endless, universal. Only the spiritually blind cannot grasp the expansive meaning in its lines. Like a teepee spiking and centred high, the Chinese have captured the ideogram brilliantly from its ancient pictorial art from which their contemporary calligraphy evolved.

Free space is the sky

天 ( tiān )

A sky is a nest

Belonging to all

Connecting us from East to West

Deity and the universe

Elastic space

Far and near

Grounded bellow, yet

High above

Incandescent delight

Janus’s door

Keen on mystery

Limitless potential

Marvellous sight

Never ending

Open day and night

Peace and war

Quantum field

Roaming free

Sky stirs wonder

Tramping stars on

Unknown paths

Vast and wide

Wandering far

Xanadu of the kings

Yellow sash like suns

Zodiac’s belt of passing time

~RB~

天 天

The poem above is tiān from my East-meets-West perspective. I lived in Asia for many years and annually revisit China and Japan, but my roots are European. Janus mentioned in my poem was a two-faced Roman gatekeeper of the door to heaven. At his temple in Rome these were symbolically left open in time of war and closed in peace.

My poetic expression will always balance with an integrity in the past that formed my present. All I write is a blend of experience, conversations, what I read and how I played creatively with meaning and words. There is often music in my mind and it chimes words as its guiding notes.

I took a Chinese calligraphy lesson with a master in Beijing, visited the Southern regions where its predecessor, a pictorial alphabet is still being sporadically used, and further learned how simplified a Japanese kanji is during a temple calligraphy lesson in Kyoto. Those experiences culminated in my fascination with my favorite letter, the . These four strokes have the same meaning in China, Japan and Korea, thus culturally unifying these now again diverse countries.

Reflecting on my history with 天, why do you think that your favorite letter is what it is?

Letters are revered in Japan, where each year they select a favourite kanji that later is painted by a famous calligrapher or an artist. The kanji of the year is then exhibited at the Kanji Museum in Kyoto.

Kanji of the Year Japanese alphabet

I employed a poetic method called Abecedarian, which is a poem where the first letter of each line or stanza follows sequentially through the alphabet. Contemporary poets who used the abecedarian across entire published collections include Mary Jo Bang in The Bride of Eand Harryette Mullen in her fifth book Sleeping with the Dictionary.

On the notes of tiān, my favorite letter is also the name of one my most beloved vegetarian restaurants — Tian in Vienna. Sometimes meaning stretches into unexpected lengths. C.G. Jung captured that in his term synchronicity, which can eerily seem almost magical.


Sound, a comforting poem on vibrations

I wrote a few poems on slow life, mindful encounters with the everyday, and touched on the emotional challenges of relationships and being with others socializing. Our world has reversed for some weeks now as social distancing became the new habitat for the human form in this pandemic.

We have an opportunity now to go deeper inside, to organise our lives and to accept this challenge of staying at home for a long time.

Surrealism

@Salvador Dali

Even though silence is important for our wellbeing, we naturally crave direct encounters with other human beings. For now, live internet Zooms, Face Time and other video chats can supplement hanging out with your family or friends, but do not get too distracted by this. There is a room for your own existence in space. Aware of the gentlest nuances of life geared into slow pace, we become richer than when speeding through the traffic to meet someone or to and from work. I wonder how many of you miss that, often stressful, commute? Perhaps you just miss the habit, that sense of communal sharing, rather than the moving yourself in either a crowded or boring (in a car) transport from home to elsewhere.

soundsheep on pasture

Sound, the pleasant form of it, has always been a great comfort to me. Whether deepening and enlivening my solitude, lifting me above the motorised city noise, injecting my run with energy and zest, or helping me to focus when reading or working, sound shifts my mood. The vibrations are so powerful that chanting, gong, and other resonating instruments of beautiful sound were invented to focus and calm our mind.

Professor Michael Trimble explains how chanting benefits your health. It can change the rhythm of your heart, your emotional response, and more.

I offer a poem on sound that I wrote as this winter shifted to spring. I hope, it will show you a new angle. These new horizons of sound can help you navigate this anxious times more pleasantly. At least they did it for me. If you want, play this healing music on Youtube while reading my poem.


Sound waving though my soul

vibrates calm strands of peace

Weaving the gentle ease

of my thoughts, heart beating slow

 

Sound healing an injured soul

An ancient remedy of malice

spinning away worry, prejudice

immersed in this song that penetrates all

 

Sound filling my lungs full

with nourishing nectar of dance

its wholesome breath lifts me to trance

Life silenced would be dull

 

Sound touching my time in full

sets me entirely in its presence

minutes penetrate my skull

As I embrace this lively essence

 

Sound living in all, and not at all

Revealed to those patient for its resonance 

sharing its secrets with nature’s nuance —

you feel life’s richness through its call

 ∼

There is a shift in my mind that I feel when listening to calming sound. I hope that tranquil emotions penetrate from the lyrics of my poem to your heart and mind. Savour the slower pace of life that we were given in these challenging times. I always try to see the good in the dark.


Full Moon Alive

A sleepless night during my second full moon quarantined on Miami Beach, stirred this poetic outpour. My bedroom has a panoramic view of the Atlantic ocean (I’m blessed and grateful), which every morning treats me with the only live public spectacle now allowed to me here to see safely – the sunrise. The open sky is too close to the city so I  cannot glimpse any stars, save for the largest one to our Earthly eyes — the moon.

full moon

That night gusts of open ocean winds flagged my silk nightgown in a coup de force of enthralment. I was standing on the terrace, magnetised by the giant lightbulb of the moon glaring full or in some gasp of the changing moment, partly shaded by the fast paced clouds. In that moment I knew I would not sleep easily if I do not chanel some of that energy speaking to me in its commanding voice.

Reading for hours, midnight approaching. I was still afflush with vitality, and I was glad that the usual cradle of the book did not tame my sprinting mind. Lifting my gaze up to the moon, the whispering potency of the night, suddenly, I had to grab paper and pen. On my night table, aside other piled up literature, set face up a small collection of brief poems by the female Pakistani artist Noor Unnahar. Its moon-gray cover titled YESTERDAY I WAS THE MOON nodded to the occasion. It was not about the moon light though.

Miami skyline Pink moon Mysterious moonfemale poet

Now I am the morning

Yesterday I was the moon

               Sleepless

My soul glaring

               A fool

I did not know who I was  

Back then, but now I know 

             ><

A reflection is not a unique creation

Never say “but”, she said

The past is over, yet

Deep down I knew that

Strength 

was a posture covering doubts

Eloquence 

overshadowed innate sensuality

Speed 

floundered calm mind

Carelessness 

veiled a deep concern

Still, I surprise myself —  will I? 

Some day get to know 

Who I am 

Despite these flops of mind

Being alive, sensing 

Perhaps I shall 

Dwell 

In a faraway cave

To be pure me 

Not a doll

To be played with

But longing to fully be

Yesterday I was the moon

— But now I am the morning

~ Joy

stunning sunriseSteinway piano

Whatever happened in the past, yesterday does not define who you are today. It only says what you decided, experienced, felt. The past mistakes are not finite dead holes. Deep down, if you connect with yourself is the true you — in the past, present and future — become love. This authentic you can resolve to come back to the purest self, unhinged yet still kind, the balancing scale of inter-human co-existence. 

I thought, as most of us did when I was in my late teens, early 20s even, that I totally expressed who I am, independent, unconventional, but I did not know in spite of my authenticity. There are so many layers to peel off, I wrote a poem on this in my late 30s (will certainly publish it in my adventuresome memoir one day).

I learned that I can only glimpse into my own self when I totally shut down emotions as in a deep meditation, when totally giving myself to nature, or when I allow them out off my chest. The wild beasts bursting into the open space are tamed by being let free from the inner cage I put them into. By recognising that these emotions are just a human part of me that passes soon, I feel more alive! And, the full moon reminded me.

romantic moon

This poem by Noor Unnahar resonates:

          do not worry

          about people

 

they’re wearing the same flesh

breathing the same chemicals

walking on the same solid earth

           as you

 

so why should it matter

           when

you are them and they are you

This empowers me, gives me courage to go forward without being burdened by others’ opinions. I purely am and create what I love. While I hope it connects, inspires and elevates others, I am not attached to my writing work. I hope you are empowered or more connected through our liberal female voices.

What we are other than one human race. We are animals profiting from the bounty of this Earth co-existing with plants in a reciprocal ecosystem conditioned by natural laws we cannot easily change. If you want to get more, you’ll have to give more. This is sustainability, but that goes far beyond the above poems, and I address this need for mutual thriving elsewhere here on La Muse Blue.

NOTE: There is no mutual agreement or online support exchange between Noor and myself. I purely chose to highlight her work because I bought her poetry book and like it. I prefer to support other creative people in an organic way. No push, but pure admiration and sharing what I feel we need more of either though collaboration or by recommending their creations.


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