This poem was inspired by an incense. The plant mass of burning ash I often light when writing indoors. Older than a candle and spread east to west, this smoky device has been used in spiritual ceremonies, in tribal rites, to commemorate the deceased and to clear the surroundings of bad spirits. Today it is more widely spread in the western meditation practice, in more intimate yoga studios, in wholesome tea rooms that I love to ground myself in, but the more in the zeitgeist concept stores I come by, the more incenses I find. Its scent thickens the atmosphere with grounding presence.

teatimeincense burner


Sage dilates my nostrils burning flesh to ashes

 penetrates me viscerally, 

  cheeks swell like a blushing cherry,

  the smoking air strong pulls the lace

 around my breasts for the lungs to embrace

the longing heart’s shivering body of nerves


        this oxygen-bound, dried mist of a blaze

travels through my aching body filled with life

reminding me to cede all useless strife

by breath alone come out of the maze

you were caught in weak like a mice

lost in the vain mind throwing dice

Oh, this delicate life seeming at ease

dependent on timely contraction and release

on what goes in and what comes out as I float

above I see clear, it’s joy that makes it count!


The shape of this poem is intentionally mimicking the fuming incense first from the left and further down from its right side border.

incense burner incense burner

My use the incense  is purely practical. The smoke relaxes me, it helps me to focus, it eases any lingering anxiety, plus it smells so nice. While I have never inhaled a draw from a cigarette (it just smells terrible, how could I?), I shared some bonding rounds of scented hookah lounging on divans from Abu Dhabi, through Istanbul, Marrakech to London. My one and only puff of marijuana concluded in ceaseless raptures of irrational laughter I puzzlingly did not enjoy. The fake effect of joy from it put me off.

The only smoke I truly relish is that of the 6000 years old ceremonial tool that was the very first fragrant material used by humans. The ancient Chinese and the Egyptians burned plants to induce the specific smell bound in them. It is like liberating the aroma’s spirit dwelling inside. I spent much of my 20s living in Asia where burning incense accompanied many of my adventures. In the Buddhist temples on the Kumano Kodo in Japan, the stupas scattered around the bustling Bangkok, the tranquil Luang Prabang, the hindu divinities shrines in Nepal and India, taoist edifices around Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei. The Japanese refined the ritualistic incense ceremony into kōdō that similarly to tea ceremony chadō induces the zen tranquility of the mind. Recently, I was drown to the Earth element made of vetiver, cypress and patchouli stirred in the area of an ancient rainforest in Guatemala of the Nippon Kodo incense maker that has been in business in Tokyo since 1575. The infatuation with incense has never ceased to work on us.

From the lonely mountain chapels to the urban hustle, the incense scent’s omnipresence fills me with calm, an indescribable energy that works its magic anywhere, one does not need to burn it in a dedicated sacred place but anywhere – from your bathroom to your desk.

I learned in an interview with a contemporary LA-based young artist that I am not a lone goose in this incense sway. Some use it while painting, others when taking their meditative break or sipping tea to keep their spirits high in the creation unique to their own kind.

incense ceremony in ThailandMayan incense burner

An incense does not have to be shaped into a stick. Bound or ground dried plants like holy basil and sage packs or even resinous materials like the oliban of the boswellia tree family found in Northern Africa are used for scent releasing by burning. Any decent Arabic market sells them, I bought my first such incense in Marrakech. One needs a coin-shaped charcoal and a lidded censer pierced with openings for the smoke to come out and to burn it safely. The last tool I only got recently. While traveling from Northern Italy through the mountain pass into the Swiss Engadine, we stopped at since 1983 UNESCO protected with century convent dedicated to St.John, where next to jams, digestive liquors and cookies made by nuns, herbal tisanes, they also sold packets of blended incense. Their Paradise mix intrigued me so I grabbed it together with a gold-leaf censer small enough for travelling and ease to put on an even surface anywhere. Our wintery month-long mountain stay smelled divine.

At the Met on Manhattan I saw quite some artwork of incense burners. The bronze sculpture were inspired by animals like a bull and cat. Imagine the fumes coming off their eyes and nostrils!

Fragrant incense sticksOrthodox Churchincense burner

Large, suspended from the ceiling or handheld censers are still being used during religious ceremonies. In the West from orthodox churches, mosques to catholic cathedrals, they penetrated into the everyday presence in Mexico as their scent accompanies the soul to a reflective realm necessary for our wellness. We need the spiritual in life, it does not have to be religious, but it must be present to comfort us in the turmoil that existence is.

Replacing anxiety: Coffee substitutes and caffeine-free alternatives

Either for health reasons, sustainable performance for athletes, during pregnancy and breast feeding for women, coffee substitutes intrigue these mindful of their consumption. The side effect of caffeine brings about nervousness, anxiety, and even panic attacks, for women it can also upset estrogen levels.

In spring, a healthy detox is always a wise choice to reset the body and mind into a relaxed pattern at first and then gain more energy for the year’s festivities. During detoxification the body has plenty to do and you better rest to aid the intense process affecting most organs. From liver, kidneys, the digestive system, pancreas, gall bladder to heart. Therefore, all serious health retreats I have been to cross of caffeine out their cleansing menus. 

Cichorium Intybus

The new vice for the global world on speed

Not only the health conscious skip caffeine or at least try to reduce it, but Europe did not have caffeine in any form – coffee or tea until 17th century. On Vice I read that up until 1616, London had no caffeine because of the global trade had not improved it yet. I love the post’s author (Jamie Steidle) lips lifting confession:

“I don’t like the feeling when you have one too many espresso shots and you’re moving so fast that you might phase through the space-time continuum like a quantum particle.” And I cannot be more in sync with him grasping that “Caffeine, it turns out, is not the soul of coffee; trust me. It’s more about the ritual and the mood, not just a jolt of energy and heart palpitations.”  

They especially entertain our mind as if you once were a genuine coffee lover, not just the caffeine kick seeker, but a connoisseur of the deep expression of the Earth’s divers terroirs. For with coffee like the real tea (Camelia Sinensis) and wine, in different soils, elevations, exposures to the sun and other elements, the beans’ expression changes. The human intervention also counts as with tea and wine. Selecting the beans and then gently roasting it can support or break the quality.

Healthy coffee replacements

My coffee appreciation yielded a casual poem once. While I was sipping a frothy cappuccino brewed by a Japanese barista in Le Marais, Paris, I was elated that finally, Paris has a good quality, perfectly brewed coffee.

No lid to screen my eager lips

Dipping like silky petals of tulips

Wet with a dew diving down

Into the soiled brew I now own 

Touching the frothy pleasure 

My nose elates beyond measure

Warmth under the milky cloud

Caresses my mouth, teases joy out


coffee alternatives

Health reasons to quit coffee and switch to an alternative

About six months ago I had to stop drinking normal coffee for health reasons. The bad headaches and dizziness were enough to warn me that something isn’t alright. Later, blood tests showing serious anaemia confirmed my body’s blinking orange light. Listen to your body as it has that red flag capacity to prevent further damage. Tannins in coffee, black tea, chocolate and wine are the major interferences with the absorption of iron from the food we consume into the blood. One needs to consume these at least an hour apart from iron-rich foods and supplements.

As there always is a bright side to any misfortune, I embarked on a research journey seeking what else with a similar taste profile is out there on the market. Still, I could have one cup of decaf coffee per day without the headaches, but the tannins were still in.

Like the 15th centuries spice traders I voyaged to America where most hotel’s serve a terrible decaf coffee. I try a sip, but mostly the experience is so bad that I advise to rather skip it altogether. As my desperation and curiosity grew, I asked around and  rejoice I got plenty of tips on artisan coffee roasters from LA to Brooklyn making delightful, by natural method decaffeinated beans. All used more mild method of water washing to rid the praised coffee berries off the for some unwelcome caffeine.

From spring mountain water soaring with bright flavours to sugar sweetened water, it works very well but takes more work than the harsh chemical treatments used commonly. The majority of chemical decaffeination washes away not just the unwanted but also some desired flavour. More often than not, lesser quality of beans were being used for this purpose. Not any more, and how lucky for me. The hardness of the water used is also a key to success. Even the world’s best barista at Mame, residing like currently myself in Zurich, also adopted his decaffeinating method to using local Swiss water.

Healthy coffee alternatives

My recommended decaf coffees: Alana’s sugar H2O decaf Colombian beans in Los Angeles; Mexican brew by Devocion in Brooklyn; the trophies winning Mame in Zurich has with Swiss water decaf blend; Henauer Kaffee (in business since 1896) another Swiss roaster uses high altitude Veracruz arabica washed with mountain water.

Sometimes, my body is cheated into believing that I am drinking the real thing, I get a slight buzz from it for a couple of minutes, but then as if the brain found out the fraud, suddenly I am at ease and no headache comes. How intriguing is observing closely the reaction of your own body, especially when you are impartial, knowing that what you bought came from the decaf bag. 

Perhaps it is not caffeine, the illusion of comfort and pick me up before setting out to work, but the warm brew, the fragrance of which you can inhale joyfully. Indeed, any beverage with a pleasant deep aroma, unique to you, can step in the place of coffee. 

coffee alternatives

The best coffee substitutes for your health

Don’t just sip any herbal infusion. For a chamomile, fennel, ginger or any other plant tisane won’t satisfy these who seek the specific chocolaty, nutty, perhaps even bitter, sometimes tobacco leaves reminding aromas. Some herbal and grain substitutes supply important minerals, vitamins and other potentially beneficial nutrients, often alkaline and better than the body acidifying coffee. Further, some are more suitable for mixing with coffee in order to lower the caffeine content in your daily consumption.

Barley is perhaps the most common. In Italy any gas station offers orzo. The roasted barley can unfortunately tasted as if burned so I am usually dissatisfied either with the espresso or cappuccino form of it. Plus if gluten bothers you, barley is not your friend. Yet, there are some cafes and restaurants that source more elegantly roasted barley so you might prefer it to my further suggestions. In Japan, I tasted Mugi-cha or Barley tea which is essentially the same but not ground into fine grains as the coffee substitute would be. 

Taste-wise and health-wise, I find a better option in chicory. This roasted previously dehydrated root from chicory plant (Cichorium Intybus) has a deep flavour like coffee, nutty, woody, not bitter, and is an ideal morning partner to your breakfast. Not irritating your bowels as coffee does, plus it does not acidify the gut more than it already is. In my native Czechia, chicory is still very popular as it was commercially made for two centuries. From health stand for hypertension, therefore older people tend to sip on it instead of coffee that rises your blood pressure rather fast. It is a wonderful paring with milk and milk alternatives such as almond, oat or soy to whip up a frothy cappuccino or macchiato.

coffee alternativesHealthy coffee alternatives

Less common alternatives to your daily coffee

Creatively and historically, the resourceful Czechs have also used oak (Quercus Alba) acorns blended with other substances such as rosehip. The acorns contain tannic acid, which for some sensitive individuals may not work. For example if you suffer from anemia, the tannins interfere with the absorption of iron into the blood, so you better have your iron and this brew separately.

Spelt is a less common ancient grain brew, but roasted and blended with chicory it tastes close to black coffee.

Rye can be also roasted and then ground into more breakfast porridge kind of meal rather than delightful coffee alternative.

Lupins (Lupinus Lutens) can also be ground to a powdery consistence for warm cuppa, yet many people have allergy to these leguminous beans and the taste is nothing close to coffee, rather a beverage on its own merit.

In Japan, particularly around Kyoto I was impressed by the deep roast of KuromamechaBlack Soybean brew served often by monasteries and temples.

Healthy coffee alternativesRoasted tea

Economising choices of tasty beverages

I remember that particularly wide spread was a blend of chicory, sugar beet, barley and rye still available in Czechia today. Sold under the brand name Melta it was fortified with additional vitamins (iron, B6, potassium) and minerals (magnesium), yet cheaper than coffee and vastly popular during economically harsh times like wars and the occupation by Soviet Union. With inflation striking high, banks collapsing once again, we are well into the economically sober cycle, therefore cheaper and healthier alternatives to coffee become handy. In hard times, some rather puzzling ingredients were used to balance the cost of coffee, by adding dried and pounded figs, carrots, grape seeds, even potatoes into the imported coffees.

Dandelion plantcoffee alternativestasting of coffee alternatives in Czechia

Herbal remedies as coffee replacements

The root of dandelion is beyond its European staple status now frequently on the shelves of health food stores in the US. It is more like a herbal infusion with the bitter taste wanted for its bile production inducing effect. The inulin in it supports immunity.

Burdock is popular in the West Arctium lappa as well as in Asia. In TCM this berberine and inuline containing herb is known as blood purifier and tonic, overall it supports liver by promoting the flow of bile, increases circulation to the skin, and is a mild diuretic. The Japanese adore the health benefits and the slightly sweet flavour of the burdock root that is also used in cooking.

Healthy coffee alternatives

The superfood adaptogenic coffee is a blend of medicinal mushrooms (Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane and Reishi are most common), and herbs like Ashwagandha that help the body to fend off stress. Basically the opposite effects of caffeine, you get an energy boost without the jittery crust. In the eastern traditional medicine these ingredients were used for millennia and I also like the taste of some of the blends broadly available in the US and UK organic shops such as Moon Juice, Chagaccino (made with there chaga mushroom), reishi mushroom blends as well as Maccacino based on the libido and stamina-increasing South American powdered maca root.  With chaga you need to be alert before any surgery or if you take blood thinners since it increases bleeding.

I like to buy it pure, organic and then experiment with blending other ingredients in for the best taste and effect on the specific day. For example I splash in a pinch of maca, houjicha powder (very low caffeine roasted green tea twigs now available at Blue Bottle coffee across the US and Kettl tea in New York) and even some cacao, plus oat milk for creamy texture. Get creative with your healthier cup of morning delight and also in touch with what your body and mind need, mindfully, not just robotically brewing a pick me up, but reflect first how do you feel and why?

roasted teabest tea in Paris

If you like something spicy without the caffeine then the alternative to chai is turmeric latte. The blend of sunshine-hued turmeric root with its inflammation effect enhancing black pepper and other spices like cardamom, cloves and sweet touch of honey, maple, brown or coconut sugar is brewed in hot milk for a cosy warm cold day remedy.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Being with yourself in contemplation is essential for sustainable growth

Sometimes, and especially on the first day of yet another with curious thinking mind-blessed year ahead, it is beyond worthwhile asking yourself and your instinct, intellect, the heart:

Why was a waterlily created to float on the still pond contained in one spot?

Perhaps, consult Monet and Joan Mitchell (together at the Paris Louis Vuitton Foundation until end of February 2023) through their visual renderings of these beautifully arresting nymphaea.

Why do we humans build bridges across split depths sunken deep in daunting darkness?

Observing the moon reflecting the sun at night might shine some wisdom on that.

Why some instead dive deep fearless becoming adventurers, uncensored artists or heroes?

Contemplation at the Venice Biennale

Why does the mind in stillness expand instead of shrink into an animal primitiveness?

Would a fully focused being do more on a single path than an unstoppable mover and shaker of everything that comes across their highway of hyperactivity?

I can only ask because I think and perceive, I can just be and not necessarily a man or woman, but a rock, a worm, a sunflower or a clock. Yet what is intellect for when assumptions and judgement can deceive?

Truth shall be discerned, yet truth is fluid, relative to the genius, space and time in which it was conceived.

Still, time’s knot burns through life’s fire unconcerned if one is ignorant, self-absorbed instead of open to breathe in all as it comes, more oxygen, wind blowing, storms, floods, quakes, eventually peace.

Change rules.

More, one can only hope to be well received amongst the kin, a gamble, luck, or we call it aptitude.

All swelling like tides high and low, joy is not outside of us but in daily expression of gratitude.

Affinity, reality check, blurred boundaries of truth are being infinitely (perhaps?) shared between our naïveté and the spirit of the times.

Yet, the imaginative minds’ games can fool even the rationalising one of our many kinds. So who has the key to truth?

Contemplation of a yogi in Provence  contemplation on calm Sundays

Being with yourself in contemplation is essential for sustainable growth.

What life is for beyond procreation, success, renown, indulgence and pain?

IN MEANING-ABUNDANT QUESTIONS we find solutions to satisfactory life. I ask them on each first day of any commencing calendar year. Resolve is not enough for a profound shift you desire deep inside. One needs connection with purpose. Whether it is unique to each of us or universal does not matter, what is important is that you have an honest conversation with yourself regularly to stay on the right track for you.

Therefore, ask today and keep asking until you find your own answers.

So much individual and collective conditioning hinders the attainment of your goals. Liberate yourself to go and fly unbound!

Contemplation is a human need, not just a religious invention.

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


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.


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.

Strawberries: false fruit with many secrets that will enrapture your senses

There are more than 600 varieties of strawberries and they are botanically not berries at all, while eggplants, tomatoes and avocados are berries, gotcha! The sheer diversity popping around me from Denmark though France, Germany, Israel, California, Switzerland, as far as to Japan rose my curiosity. My studious research yielded quite shocking revelations of our communally shared ignorance. The fibre-rich, multiple fruit according to the Carnegie Science Center researchers reveals: “The brownish or whitish specks, which are commonly considered seeds, are the true fruits, called achenes, and each of them surrounds a tiny seed.” Since the seeds are placed outside, it cannot be classified a berry as a blueberry is for example. Each strawberry has about 200 fruits on it. And this is only the start, I gasped at my further findings.

Japanese wagashi

Human creativity meets natural selection though questions

What you probably did not know about strawberries beyond their Wimbledon fame, whipped cream pairing, milkshake and frozen treats, is that it is not just where they are grown or on which farm but as with apples, there are many different taste profiles and colours to show. While it is unlikely that you will ever taste all the hybrids and cultivars (Wikipedia incompletely lists only the US&UK), each tastes slightly different.

Tinted by sun exposure or the lack of it from off-white, through Valentino red, to inky violet. I tried the rainbow of this jolly pseudo-fruit (allow me to refer to it a ‘berry’ further on as per familiar, while incorrect linguistic labelling) except for the almost blackish Chinese breed (China unsurprisingly also produces the largest quantity of 草莓 read: Cǎoméi).The so called black strawberry is actually of a very deep dark violet hue. It is remarkable that no genetic modifications were used in creating this breed. The ochre, yellowish variants I had in Munich (imported from Belgium) and Stockholm (imported from Netherlands) called “pineberry” is actually a light-hued, red seeded strawberry found recently in South Africa that tastes like pineapple. Dutch farmers saved this breed, which was on the brink of extinction.

Heart-shaped (is human heart indeed two joined mirroring question marks??), but also conical, oval or indefinably shaped like the most recent claimer of the Guinness World record for heaviest strawberry Ilan (named charmingly after the farmer’s son) at 289 grams!! (an average strawberry weighs 15 grams) grown in Israel in February 2022.

white strawberry

Rainbow of strawberries celebrated around the world

My globe-spanning travels include countless strawberry stories. From picking them in the wild anywhere from the Swiss Alps (German: Erdbeeren) and Zurich hills (again this morning on my way from yoga), French gas stations (fraises), sampling the previously world’s heaviest ‘King of Strawberry’ and the priciest white in Japan (苺 read: ichigo) to the world’s best chefs’ creative recipes at the fine tables.

This time of the year I would be driving through the Mediterranean Eze village, seduced to stop my car for a giant basketful of sexy red Naiad strawberries driven from Provence fresh daily by the roadside vendor. Buy a kilo or go to a supermarket. This large quantity would stir creativity once one was overfed by the pure fruit. The assembled deliciousness at home from countless cookbooks, as I did once with a giant white truffle, I would add them into anything (best recipe suggestions further down).

While the Italian fragola can sing a libretto according to the Pinocchios of that well-heeled land, the strawberries in Italy as well as from Spain have not impressed me so far. Even from the Southernmost Sicily, they do not taste as complex as those grown in France or further North. No matter how South the berry was grown, the Italians could not measure up to the Provencal specimens when in season.

In Denmark I tasted Favori, the first harvest of the year mid May (Danish jordbær). Chef Christian Baumann now at the superb Koan Copenhagen, where local bounty meets Nordic and Korean culinary heritage, worked as a teenager on a berry farm each summer learning about the subtle differences between strawberries and serves others like Rumba as the season progresses.

June strawberry

Always seasonal superfood

Forget June, there is always peak ripeness somewhere in the world. Heralds of early spring sunshine in the Middle East, later in Europe and Northern America, strawberries sweeten the year with juicy Vitamin C brightness, yet in some places it is the winter when they are at their best and cooler weather also favours more intense flavour. Mountain berries taste the most concentrated.

Plus, a bowlful has more fibre than a slice whole grain bread, so do not hesitate to eat plenty, sans gluten. More, the not always red juicy rascal turned out a relative with rose hanging out botanically in the same Rosaceae family.

These are the first ripe fruits rouges, to use the deceitful French term for all berries including black, blue, purple, yellow, beige, white, opal, or whatever colour a surface acquires as the sunshine warms its pigmented skin, ripe in the mild climate of four-seasons variability.

Burgundy strawberries

Made in France, literally

These edible roses grew from only a few original wild strawberry species into many breeds. The garden strawberries were first bred in Brittany, France in the 1750s from fragaria virginiana (American wild strawberry) hybridized with Chilean Fragaria chiloensis. This became the Fragaria ananassa species (there are about 20 now) resistant to diseases that ripens earlier and is the most used variety in commercial strawberry production. Hundreds of other crossbred species are available around the world throughout the year.

wild strawberrieswild strawberries

It is also the French who honour the distinctions of these not always red berries most beyond the garden shops also on the food marketplace. I love the bloody juicy and bright Anaïs from the Loire valley, sweet Burgundy-deep Cirafine from Brittany, reliable Cléry from Ille de France, and while the Provençal Dream candy, marmalade processed sugar flavour is not for me, Joly and Murano — both  straightforward bursts of sunshine in your mouth are delightful. Most distinguished in Provence are strawberries from Carpentras, Pertruis and Vaucluse. The Gariguette are perhaps most farmed in France and they are reliably sweet.

At Septime in Paris we ended a birthday meal with brick pale, juicy and balanced sweet Diamante. Most French Michelin chefs favour the cross of Mara des Bois for their wild forest fragrance resembling Alpine strawberries (fraises des bois in French).

Their bright acidity qualitatively sets apart Mara de Bois, with an intense, instantly recognisable strawberry perfume. It is more like an 80 percent dark chocolate in terms of sweetness and the pure taste of the place it grows. I can smell and taste the leaves, the bushes on the sun-warmed hedges where they like to grow. It is a luxury product of savvy breeding. These are one of my favourites, but it really depends on the day or how I want to eat them. The former chef to the designer Kenzo, Nakayama Toyomitsu serves mara de bois with caviar or shaved feta cheese at his Michelin star counter in Paris. 

French strawberry

The success of any strawberry plant is about location. In the US different varieties dominate than in Europe or Asia. In America, the hard worker Honeoye, forerunner Earliglow, giant Allstar and the pretty red Jewel, not to be confused with the rare Japanese white Jewel. It is getting rather confusing in the strawberry world, doesn’t it?

While the low-yielding breed white Jewel strawberries in the Saga prefecture of Japan are very difficult to find, the most expensive there are the Kokota breed, priced at around $22 for just a single berry this is indeed a jewel, not your regular milkshake friend. The giants in Japan may look suspiciously oversized, but far from a watered down inferiority. The Amaou strawberries from Fukuoka Prefecture are widely considered to be the best, and so called the King of Strawberries. Grown inside temperature-controlled vinyl greenhouses from December to May, the first picks are generally considered the sweetest.

rare strawberries

How to savvily buy strawberries

Often imported from earlier ripening warm lands like Spain (fresas), Morocco (friz – the peak seasons are between December and January), Portugal (morangos), California to our impatient Northern palates  before the local, often very short growing season kicks off.

Farmy, my Swiss delivery platform focusing on more sustainable, local produce even dares to claim that the Swiss strawberries are more sweet than from other countries because of their slower ripening. Well, with global warming we get the red garden berries from late May as other parts of Europe, yet if you compare with the imported produce to Switzerland, often inferior to what I eat in France, Oregon and the Nordic countries, locally farmed Erdbeeren indeed tend to be sweeter since they can be picked perfectly ripe.

Like all berries, they are fragile to handle so they are often gathered, transported and even sold in punnets, a small, usually paper or wooden box. Best, pluck your own and eat them the same day. Not just their antioxidant potency is diminished, but their flavour is muted by refrigeration, and since they are susceptible to moisture, mold easily develops so eat that punnet rapidly.

While strawberries are included in the dirty dozen list having often the highest residues of pesticides, here organic does not mean necessarily better taste. Eating a few samples I got around the markets in Paris next to the conventional varietal ones, I was struck how inferior the “bio” tasted. Too often, the flavour is watery, diluted, bland, sour, rarely you get to know the exact variety. Most organic shops around Europe stock them from the vast plantations in Spain.

perfect strawberry bodySwiss strawberries

Wild joy of the colour red in nature

Searching through strawberry photos in my library, yielded unexpected discoveries. The quirkiest were my favourite strawberry bikini travelling with me from Italy through Asia in my early 20s. While I am working on getting that strawberry body back, my fascination with strawberries has grown. Well, if I subsided on a diet of strawberries only for a month, I would probably get there with a flash of those ripped abs, but anything too much is just not fun.

Driving through France last July, I spotted plentiful red sparks in the grassland and picked a box-full of wild joy around a gas station set in the countryside. Cycling in my native Czechia (Jahoda in my native Czech even graces some families with the strawberry namesake, greetings to all of the Mr and Mrs Jahoda!) often seduces me into the roadside hedges and hiking in the Alps each summer often turns into slow strolling as my face and fingers turn red with all that juicy bounty. Have you wondered which variety is the sweetest? It seems that the tiny Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is one of the sweetest fruits you can grow.

Usually the first crop is best. High in the mountains, the wild Alpine variety ripens later, I usually pick them mid to late August, while down in altitude around Zurich I can forage around early in July, our backyard beset by usually haloes the ripening season.

wild strawberriesstrawberry recipes

How to eat the not-berries and some palate-opening recipes

Chefs keep the admired fruit going as well on their bold menus including lobster, black pepper (in Copenhagen) and other savoury ingredients in their strawberry recipes. In Vienna at Tian, I had them dressed with verbena leaves, poppy seed crackers, topped by their sorbet. Alain Ducasse marinated fraises de bois in sweet juice and in Monaco served them simply (even a three star restaurant can do things in uncomplicated way, bravo!) with vanilla ice cream. Just this weekend in Zurich at Maison Manesse, they pureed unripe Swiss green strawberries into a refreshing desert with cucumber, pistachios and sorrel sorbet. Superbly light for an unusually hot first June Saturday!

I would also add strawberries into a chilled gazpacho. Blend them in with the sweet n’sour tomatoes, bell peppers, even a cucumber, season well with spicy sauce and white pepper. In Europe usually crossing path with the tail of asparagus season, mixing them together in a salad is not a bad idea, add feta cheese or some string beans. Sage surprisingly pairs well. Herbs like basil or mint, heating spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and chili also enhance the flavour of the pure fruit. A ripe strawberry does not need any sugar in my opinion. Once a sweetener is added, the breadth of the taste is diminished.

traditional strawberry recipes

Honestly, I love them mostly bare, not in cakes, perhaps with a drizzle of olive oil and fleur du sel or aged Modena balsamic vinegar. 

My grandmother used to make me a milkshake in June, she had no blenders or electric equipment back then. Just ripe strawberries picked from her garden minutes before were mashed with a spoon, easily (not with a fork as that would break the flesh chasing the texture) adding the icing sugar powder to it ground it a bit, then little by little she would pour some whole milk from her dairy cow into it. This tastes like no milkshake I have ever had anywhere ever since.

The most famous strawberry recipes include a Pavlova, pies, jams and marmalade in the West, Far East Fukuoka’s most famous wagashi ichigo daifuku, a strawberry enveloped in azuki red bean paste, mochi (sticky rice cake) and rolled into a ball is a must.

In Amsterdam, strawberries (aardbeien in Dutch) are marinated in rose sirup to be served alongside verbena ice cream and fresh almonds (also in season with the strawberries). At the Restaurant de Kas the chef Gert Jan Hageman profits from his organic greenhouses dating back to 1926.

At Brae in Australia’s countryside the pairing with green fresh almonds finds refreshing rendering with fig leaf oil and yogurt whey in a broth of broad (fava) beans. The chef Dan Hunter prefers the sweet Japanese specimens and the wild and rather rare white “fraises des bois”.

In cocktails, especially frozen or blended smooth beyond daiquiris (cask-aged rum), they work well with gin, neutral vodka, sparkling wine (as in Hugo), in France there is even a liquor made with the wild fraises de bois with countless blending options (in French). My local Swiss farm also makes a strawberry liquor from their superset crop. You can of course make a mocktail or that indulgent frozen strawberry daiquiri.

Raw or smoked fish like salmon pair well and so do vegetables like fennel. Mix in other fruits like mango in a spicy fresh salsa:

  • 3/4 cup diced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup diced mango
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

June fruitsFrench strawberriesNew Nordic cuisineJapanese strawberry

I like them as they are, like a kaiseki restaurant would serve these treats plain at the end of a long meal. I enjoy the Chinese and Japanese tradition of enjoying the highest quality fruit plain, showing their natural perfection, without adornments, dough, cream and other desserty companions we like in the West. My Japanese friend says: “I had them with some herbs like mint and shiso, white chocolate injected and so on, but  still like them most as they are.” Anyway creativity knows no borders and the Western influence on either culinary culture infiltrated the Far-Eastern markets with layered sponge cakes, trifles, chocolate fountains, waffles and other sugary accompaniments to strawberries.

Some no brainers, so obvious generalisations of our seasonal experience just automatically escape our closer examination. Yet, when one pays attention to details, and in spring reads the labels above or bellow the “fraises” at markets in France. While being one of the most popular western spring heralds of ripeness, strawberries are one of the most qualitatively stretched fruits I know. The greatest of these berries stand alone strong!

On Meaning of/in Your ‘Connected’ Life

Meaning is perhaps the most important aspect of one’s happy, fulfilled life. Without having a purpose or a meaning, what is the source of motivation and lasting success? For thriving is not about that one moment of glory but about happiness in the long run, and as research into the Blue Zones shows, also benefits longevity.

While, some confidently roam through life with the flag of purpose, meaning is that known unknown for some of us. It is when instinct meets our heart.

So have you ever asked yourself what were you meant to do in this life? Even better, have you felt it? Feelings can confuse but also bring us closer to the truth, our inner version of it at least. Are you genuinely connected to your essential self?

Meaning of life

You can work literally you ass off, but if a deeper meaning does not back your effort that you better do nothing. Well what I mean, sometime the best ideas, the breakthroughs happen we we rest.

Yet, if you do what you were meant to do in this life, you do not need to ask this question. You just flow, thrive and trust yourself. You might not be well off financially, but you may be the well of creativity, wisdom and happiness.

Still, without a keel, the boat cannot sail for long. There may be wind forcing it forward (external motivation), a skill needed to take it (learned through practice), yet without the balance supporting the frame, the trunk of you (internal motivation), you won’t succeed in there race of life.

Incongruity rots your integrity. Rusty poses and smiles take their toll over time.

Unclear meaning of life fogs one’s path. You can get easily lost in that noisy obscurity.

Your heart-core satisfaction, your growth potential towards lasting happiness, and thus success beyond measure depend on you, solely and only on you.

Fondation CarmignacFondation Carmignac

The artist Miguel Rothshield quoting W. Shakespeare as his muse in the universal starlight piece above (and the video of it I made below) reminded me that ‘meant’ doesn’t mean shedding all responsibilities, right the reverse: “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves, that were underlinings”. Once again creative, theatrical wisdom took both, my heart and my brain by their tails!

Miguel Rothshield and Shakespeare alert on the importance of connectivity and our individual responsibility for our success or failure. It is not fortune or destiny written in stone that drives our purpose. It is the deep connection with ourselves.

Your ‘Connected’ Life

Meaning does not just walk in without your heart, or If I may dare – the soul. I will explain myself now. Some words just blend into one meaning. There is that physical pump pushing oxygenated blood through the vessels out into the organs and our limbs. But there is also that metaphorical heart that humanity has used ad memoriam. Yet this emotional, even metaphysical meaning of the heart touches us deeper than just the physical, machine-like function keeping human life on the go. The soul may be just a metaphysical well and psychological concept, but we cannot escape the self in our existence. We may not accept this part of the Cambridge dictionary definition “the spiritual part of a person that some people believe continues to exist in some form after their body has died”, yet we cannot deny “the part of a person that is not physical and experiences deep feelings and emotions”.

contemporary art

Like the mind, the soul is likely connected with the body. We already know that stress and other emotions affect the wellbeing of our physical body. The realm of psycho-somatic health problems has been expanding with more measuring tools at our disposal. The ancients spoke cross-culturally of the mind—body—soul alignment as the ultimate achievements of a spiritual being. It goes beyond the spiritual though, and surely the religious pathways. How comes that so many atheist intellectuals meditate? Even Einstein was puzzled and gave into the force of nature and the universe.

The work by Latin American artist Thomas Saraceno is often exhibited in NYC. He is one of the leading contemporary conceptual and visual artists. This video is the part of the Web series.

How we feel, how energetic or exhausted both in our body and the mind affect our experience of daily life. It may seem as if I strayed a bit here off the theme, but I did not. For being connected with your meaning is to be tuned into your soul. Where else would purpose come from? If it were dictated by some outer source then we would be robotic, unfree tools of someone who knows how to manipulate us. Connected therefore means free. Within — with oneself; as well as externally with others, nature, the universe. Hence, if you feel the connection then you have a meaning. Further, the more separated we get, the further lost we are. The soul home resides within us. Once we understand, accept, embrace and love ourselves, we will never be lost again. The web starts from you and it is all about love.

emotional art

I just read the bestselling fantasy book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, where after a surreal journey “in-between” lives, the leading character Nora learns a very contemporary lesson: “You could eat at the finest restaurants, you could partake in every sensual pleasure, you could soak up whole thunderstorms of applause, you could travel to the ends of the Earth, you could be followed by millions on the internet, you could win Olympic medals, but this was all meaningless without love in your root life.” That love is not just romantic, butterfly excitement of meeting your kindred soul, but also your love of nature, yourself, life, family, and indeed someone who loves you back. That most reliable lover is yourself. For as everyone dies your attachment to them is vulnerable. What matters is that you love yourself until you perish.

Love is as much an attitude as it is an emotion. We must let the light in. I wrote more on this in my past musing and a few poems, but here I would like to quote Matt Haig again: “She had to try harder. She had to want the life she always thought she didn’t, the future was unwritten, a blank page”. Life consists of days and nights spent doing, thinking and resting. Therefore, what you fill each moment with is the sentence, page, leading to a chapter in the book of your entire life.

If you resent what you are doing it is perhaps because you do not love yourself enough and see no meaning in it, therefore your attitude is sour and not joyful. You do more harm in ‘helping’ with a sour face, bitter attitude and negative energy. Even for a helper who chose to do charity work, if meaning is not connected with love, it is not a genuine feeling and your connection is broken.

sharing meaning through street art

Love and meaning increase their potential when shared. For example if I compose songs, play instruments, listen to music, I may feel calm, uplifted, focused, connected with myself and perhaps something higher, unexplainable, but unless I share my work of joy with others, that selfish devouring of pleasure won’t last. It will not fulfilled you over time. There is a limit. But, when you share your meaning through lyrics, the tone of your guitar, piano, and a voice, then love works magic. The rockstar Lenny Krawitz coined it in his latest (I believe) album “Let Love Rule“. This is not a hippie slogan or a devotional cocktail of nativity and faith, but a gravitational pull of greater lives lived.

Finding what brings you joy is quite simple. For some it sparks in youth, for others it takes decades to reveals, but the rick is to become aware of all those activities that make you feel, genuinely and in a long term good. For one it is gardening, another savers the adventure of sailing, climbing mountains, composing poetry, challenging oneself physically, mentally or growing spiritually, discovering and researching, chatting with the locals at the cashier of your grocery store or the farmers market, …

Go back to your school years. What subjects were like a feather floating in a breezy afternoon? What just felt natural, doing as if it were the utmost expression of you? Perhaps this talent or its alternatives is exactly what you meant to do.

Matt Haig contemplates: “Is happiness the aim? Success isn’t something you can measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.” And his heroine confesses with her brimming heart: “I want my life to mean something – to do something good.” So find that activity that makes your heart swell with love, your mind so focused that you forget time, and your life more than just worth living. Do not expect any gains from that, just you being happy and content.


THE KNOWN UNKNOWN is a poem I wrote while climbing one of my favourite trails in Côte d’Azur this spring. The flimsy April weather brings an abundance of clouds and fog hovering over the coastal Alpes Maritimes. While the Mediterranean blue brightens the low seaside, the rising rocky Alps shovel in a cape of veiled mystery. Add some spring wind, that pushing steady force, rather than the Mistral’s stormy disorder, and you get a moving scene of darkness and light.

Like the human soul, nature, which is within us, shows its dichotomy blending in, painting over light with cloudy darkness, shady glimpses of duality that don’t rest. Never the same, constantly changing. Like our emotions, like who we show that we are depending on the situation and perhaps the others, who are considered safe to accept our vulnerability.


THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in the creative process

Nature has always inspired poets, painters, novelists, scientists, even powerful, millions of lives influencing politicians like Winston Churchill, who holidayed painting on Côte d’Azur. Since we are nature, naturally, we are moved by her swells. And some of these undulating waves breathe inside us the muses’ whispers or crash en force a storm of creativity. My own experience attests that all one needs is to accept the call of the muses and to be openly listening to the flow of this unexplainable joy that takes all over you. This is when one accesses the known unknown, the personal and collective unconscious meeting at once on the level of consciousness. Therefore, one cannot understand the words in some poems literally but metaphorically, and that is the puzzle to be riddled with a relishing poise of a player.

Forget reason, that comes later when you reflect on what intuitively was given to you and the poet. At the opening exhibition curated from the history of art at The Louvre Abu Dhabi arresting quotes accompanied the visual experience. A few touched my heart, some stirred the reason, others spoked united to my heart, reason and the soul.

Like this one: “The ignorant affirms, the leaned doubts, the wise reflects.”



Often, I only understand what I wrote in the poetic swell, days, weeks, even years after I reread it. Able to connect the content with some further experience, the poem becomes the whole, self-sustaining entity more ready to be appreciated by the reader. Yet, as readers some poems we don’t understand until the ripe time in our eventful lives ushers clarity shaded by ignorance or the lack of cues. I could only get Shakespeare’s sonnets past my mid-thirties. Before then, I was a drowning swimmer in the whitewater of cluelessness. Then I saw a live performance By Heart in Brooklyn by a Portuguese director, well it was a one man show, plus the voluntary audience called to the stage, whose task was to memorise a part each of Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 30. Over the two hours we were all taken into the unknown depths of these magic fourteen lines, accompanied by the director’s insights and readings from other authors such as Boris Pasternak touched by this particular prodigious work. So, once I got this raft to paddle through, I was mesmerised by their universal, time-defying depth.

the musecoexistence

I gave you the raft by drawing the scenery that inspired me above, the skilful paddling is in your hands.


Innocent beginning clothed blue

Bathing in the seaside morning 

I set to climb the unknown truth

A veil of dark fog hovering

In a weighed down ghastly mood, blown

Like a flying carpet of grey glue

Down is up, up is down, change is true


A poetic realm thrones high above

The noise of sunken humanity

Into a thick fog of vanity.


But here, the apian song grooves

My soul along its flawless notes

I feel so free diving in whole

While flying jolly through high and low

The verdant treasure throve of life


THE KNOWN UNKNOWN has an intuitive rhythm of 8-9-8. I’ve just googled the number and what showed up in the search results took my spirit by its tail. I am vaguely familiar with tarot, and only once was introduced to the so called Angel Cards. Pulling a symbolic card from the deck after a sound meditation session, I was rather amused than assured, yet this call from 898 rang a divine clue: “you are worthy of greatness. It means that you must detoxify your thoughts and environment. Get rid of all the negative reviews, toxic people, and situations in your life.”

New ZealandMountain lake

I shared this poem with a friend, adding: “Poems have hidden messages in them that we can only see in a certain stare of mind.” Of course I meant “state”, but one indeed has to pay close attention, literally, to stare at the content sometimes to decipher the meaning. She had to “let it sit for a few days” before getting it to “sink in”, meaning to grasp the details and the wholeness of it. Hopefully, she did.

The Nietzsche path up to Eze inspired a few of my poems. Some, I published on La Muse Blue previously. Depending on the season, my state of mind and the alignment of my heart and soul in that moment of strenuous climbing up, ideas flow, words pour out. I hope, they will guide you too for whatever fruitful purpose it may be.

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