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.


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 what

Doomed human facing night

Created to feel and waggle

Love – hurt – joy – pressure on 

A beggar wanting to be a star

Desiring some stability 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 clear 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.

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 case 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 than backache taught me that some pain cannot be fixed by physical manoeuvres alone.

Further, 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.

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, 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. One does not feel pain if the mind blocks the thinking of it. Countless placebo cures are based on such a strong belief in a tool that works.

Meditation is both soothing of the nervous system and controlling the mind. Breath is your ever present guide to whom you can always turn when lost.

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

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

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.”

THE KNOWN UNKNOWNTHE KNOWN UNKNOWNspirit898 meaning

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in poetry

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.

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

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

~RB

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.


Light is the way of joy: WHERE TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU

Beauty is about angle. While we worry about its physical appeal withering over time, accepting that everything changes can sooth our anxiety. Shift your perspective and you will find beauty. It is always somewhere there. Lurking behind the translucent window curtains or the holes between the shutters, the light’s flickering appeal seduces those open to join in the revelry of appreciation. No need for anyone else’s presence, your solitude can immerse in it. Wholly like in holy water of divinely purifying force, TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU beyond our limitations.

Light is the way of joy

To see beauty, it needs light. Light showed me the way of joy gushing from the simplest things. And so, sun is the path to discovery. Its golden brightness journeys the round of a passing day. Just watch, as I snapped the above video from a mindful snippet of time passing at my home — metaphorically enlightening.

Wonder and wander, this is how great it feels.

Take you time and do it slowly, that is the trick. Bathe in this changing beauty and accept its visual ending with the sunlight’s moving way (or someone disrupting your indulgent solitude). This is the continuity of change we cannot stop, unless we close our eyes and minds to it unveiling in front of us or we die. Blindness of the mind equals death to me. Remember you can keep the beauty in your mind well after it actually ceases to manifest.

ABSTRACT ARTnature

TRUST WOULD TAKE ME & YOU TO LIGHT

I wrote about light a lot here on La Muse Blue. I conceived countless poems on its enchanting powers, still I cannot let it pass between my fingers as it comes back, over and over. Insistent, waiting in the pocket of my mind, hungry to include more wholesome joy in the lustrous pearl necklace of my life. Each pearl, a year, round and finite, yet weaving around my neck on a string like the span of my life. Even at night natural light does not sleep. The sun whispers ballads through its reflection on the moon. An eternal cycle of renewal and death. Sun appears and hides, the moon follows, infinitely.

simplicity change

nightsky

Find the path

Art is open, in it imagination has no limits, therefore art can expand our horizons of consciousness. Truth sparkles in front of us. Just pay attention to its passing signs floating around our senses, like a barge on a lake — from dusk to twilight.

Nature offers countless of mundane truths. That is set in stone, although Nature teaches us that nothing is permanent. Light travels over its surface, painting this canvas with its own cast of colors, shades, and thus shapes the natural form with its creative hand of continuous change.

LUGANO LAKE

Pixelwald Turicum is a light and music installation in the permanent collection of Kunsthaus Zürich in the 2021 inaugurated Chipperfield Wing. The 15 minute loop was conceived by a creative group lead by Swiss visual artist Pipilotti Rist. Her experimental installation art fills your heart with colors and opens the soul to an open feeling of enchanted bliss. I recommend visiting for a full immersion in the beauty of this collaborative magic light forest. A garden of joy to some minds open to experience fully what it means. The musical scores in synchrony with the changing lights – calming blues, purple sparks, warming golden hues in yellows, in loops of mesmerizing beauty of change sensually captivated me and many wandering through its enlightening path.

experiential artexperiential art

Trust in patience and the distracting force of travelling across incompatible time zones took me to another installation of her immersive collective soul work in Downtown Los Angeles. Purely by chance, a poem in the hall, and later having some spare time after a classical performance at Frank Gehry’s marvelous Walt Disney Concert Hall, we were directed by a MOCA employee to the art institution’s other building still having tickets left for the day. There, I witnessed the global reach of art and was reminded of the powerful message I received earlier before traveling. The Pipilotti Rist Collective exhibited a smaller piece of the very same light installation there.

Humanity has invented many passtime tools to realize and savour the beauty of change. Forest bathing in Japan, the swirling dance of the sufis, flower arranging, gardening, meditation on loving kindness, a great story (a fairytale, myth or novel), there is so much we could do to enhance our perception of wonder in life. I tried many of them, yet light turned to be my greatest, brightest teacher of beauty’s fragile vulnerability. This effortless messenger delivers the assured, yet shifting reality through highlighting change.

 

We seek connection

Contradictions puzzle us, yet it is all about their woven interaction. Not isolated in the sun’s own shine, but related in connection with the varied surfaces on and beyond the Earth, light plays in tandem with what it encounters.

Music also reflects the beauty of change as does nature with its seasonal blush. Light tunes take turns with dim, sombre keys. A piano can move slow or fast, but any instrument played by a human hand has a pattern of rhythm conducted by sensibility instilled perhaps by nature in us if we trust its guidance. Sensibly, the wind whirls, the trees rustle and so does the grass, water ripples, an echo vibrates through a gorge. We are part of nature’s vibrations.

Chinese artphotography and light photography and light photography and light

The freedom to choose our attitude is our most precious gift

Sometimes the stark difference, some see in it a flaw while others charm, moves us. Yet, as in art, no limits can be imposed on human imagination. Perhaps, this is our most precious gift. The freedom to choose our attitude. Liberating our minds from uncontrollable fate, why being attached to unpredictable outcomes?

A painter’s brush, like the Chinese-French Zao Wou-ki can transcend East-West concepts in mesmerizing gusts of energy whirling through and over his calligraphic murals. Or like Georgia O’Keefe, later in her transformative career, enlightens us through her pure captures of simple beauty in nature. Even in noisy cities, her brush caught the silent whispers of transcendence. Her Curvy Winter Road I. (photo bellow) mesmerizes me to an almost ecstatic sensation of void. Not loneliness, but expansive joy. Perfection looking simple, but it is not. Only a genius with clear perception skills could conceive and interpret the harmony between the black road on the snow white canvas. Like life’s journey, the thick line narrows nearing the end of the canvas at the far upper edge of the canvas.

Nature’s manifold forms point at symbols of life and death on every turn. An aware mind open to gaze and inter-relate when it is not limited an inexhaustible variety manifests through our creativity.

light split modern art

Timelessness of art decoding universal messages

Monet knew all about the power of light. In his London paintings (such as on the photo below), the calm light contrasts the active reality inside the Parliament. Shifting our gaze to the so called contemporary art (I would keep in mind Picasso’s take: “To me, there is no past or future in art. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past: perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was.”) of Tadao Ando, his architecture always considers the available and changing light and its affective beauty. As I mentioned earlier, Georgia O’Keefe penetrated the depths of light over time. After battling her own depression, she healed on a sunny island and later moved into the desert where she created her most profound works. One does not experience more sunlight than in the desert.

Impressionismpoetry

Ignorance was never a remedy to suffering, it is a shadow of refusal to put an effort into opening the book of one’s heart and mind. The changing nature of light is available to all of us to savor, to inhale beauty of impermanence. Just trust it. I DID NOT NOW WHERE TRUST WOULD TAKE ME, but it feels right to follow the well-lit path rather than darkness in the mind. My gratitude goes to patience, to not hitting publish anxiously to end this essay. About two weeks passed, a huge time zone shift, jet lagged zombie days, blossoming California hills, some mind widening art, with wine intoxified Malibu sunsets, all the way to the Yucatan jungle where I am sending off this piece to inspire your joy.

And I had to finish a book meanwhile. Quan Barry’s When I am Gone Look For Me In The East, will certainly illuminate a happy way to anyone accepting and open to joyful life.

Caribbean

Such bright minds opened to light share/d its magic with us willing to appreciate it through art. We can apply this to real life. Seeing the world like a painter or a poet unveils beauty right in front of us that we might otherwise pass, overlook or just in a mindless rush snap in out digital memory, only to never reflect on the snapshot again. We are distracted by the sheer quantity, but we have the power of choice to control what we let in and how experience can affect our feeling of happiness.


See the world like a poet by appreciating beauty in the mundane

These globally infected times can clear or further fog our vision. Lao Tzu, the widely praised chinese poet captured this illuminating wisdom centuries ago. Not just optically, austerity reveals how the world currently is and what genuinely drives people around us. Still, truth is often difficult to face and optimism feels good, but for the sake of survival and our genuine happiness we must weigh on the realities of contemporary culture, lifestyle choices and common interest as much as to mentally escape into fictional idealism.

poetic eye cats

Above all, we must learn to appreciate beauty in the mundane. And for that we must switch off our inner critic. Flow with the environment like a sailboat on a calm sea through your powerful imagination.

Poetic potential untangled

During the slow unveiling of 2022, hopefully the final Covid pandemic year, I want to shift your perception. The most certain way to success in life is to work on our attitude to ourselves and the world. We daily experience, feel, and are also translators of everything that happens. What comes out of this semi-automatic process adds on to who we become and how we are doing in the present moment. So, genuinely answer the ubiquitous “How are you?” with how do you do now.

Catch the rogue mindset at its seedy spinning of reality.

The sensual eye of a poet expresses feelings through words that do not come from the rational wiring of the brain. Those mystical webs of stanzas come from a liberated land of creative connection with the unnamable. Life is tough for everyone in its vicious and often spiralizing forms, rich or poor, black or white, Eastern European or Asian, we all live through strange times. Together, we need to create meaning in this chaos of ceaseless change.

Your life will be transformed once you are able to see through things. Beyond physicality a poet in each of you can impregnate their spiritual aura of existence. Is it real? One has no idea and it does not matter as long as the resulting joy means eons to you personally. Our imagination is not animated virtually by an algorithm, it is the flow with the chaos or merging with the stillness surrounding us. Let’s dream, transform and see the world through the poet’s lens.

Seaborne Bliss

SEABORNE BLISS

Seaborne breeze wafts kissing my cheeks

While, so sweetly, I close my gazing lids

Opening my trenched self to the air divine

Flying high as if my soul drunk too much wine

My bacchanalian inhales of each sensory element

Imbibe the minutely chiming electric moment

 

An apian goddess rises from the changing sea in stillness

Far beyond just being, she expands the meaning of nowness

Weightless through her liberating breath, empty yet full

Fearless in thought yet innocently playful, a freed soul

Her united spirit shatters all artificial resistance

Rested, simply being true becomes our only sustenance

 

Time strides by and humanity is stuck in vain desire

To slow its movement, change bathing in the divine

Belief, while the ocean currents swallow all, even kings

Accept, I am but a butterfly endowed with fragile wings

Now bliss while past wounds are recalled though memories

I watch like a sated cat envying the bird that he flies

 

All beauty and liberty are shared not just for kinks

In their curves the poet’s heart rises and sinks

Bliss and inferno take turns, yet no fear

Mires the liberated mind, and eternal creeds 

Just like myths entertain, fill our empty needs

With content that is not really there but feels near

The truth we crave, desperate, yet not meant to learn

~RB

Art in Valencia Walls of Valencia Valencia beauty Light and shadow

See the world like a poet

When walking through a city I grasp poetic nuances in unexpected things. That cute humanised rabbit sculpture on the canvas of extramundane architecture, that large-breasted angel on the ancient stone wall, the naturally crooked tree fronting artificially perfect shapes of the medieval architect’s plan, that meeting of night light and shadow on a church wall, that man musing on a river bank over glistening reflection of the sun on the water’s face, that vintage art book store full of wonder, even a bird savoring the day sounds poetic to my open ears funneling amazement into my ecstatic heart.

Symbols speak to us. Some have universal meanings (Jung called them the “collective unconscious”), yet there are also symbols uniquely expressing something that only our individual self can illuminate to others. We all need more light in our mundane existence. So, tell me where do you see poetry on your everyday passing through your city?

Imagine yourself as a cat, stretched wide, and basking in sunshine on a warm terrace or a playful squirrel. What would their songs or words be if they could write? Here is my basic example:

Lucky squirrel, luring little rascal

Unashamedly playing up our feelings

Approaching, tossing her regal tail

Her fear wiped off by that fluffy brush 

Endearing, so I share my delights, no hush

 

This savvy beggar casts a shadow over other animals

You see, we humans are unfair to squirrels sans tails —

— the creepy rats, unwelcome on streets and in parks

Shy underdogs fed by trash, living off canals

Brooding through their reeking stinks, yikes!

 

But squirrels, unafraid like cats just ask

For your picnic basket, noon or dusk

I adore their ease of being, courage, the push!

Cats that can stand on two feet without ever falling

More, they always get what they want, then running

Off to another sentimental human as if in a rush

~RB

Greek mythology

Poetic inspiration: How we create more joy

Poetry is unchained love. The fire of the heart that burns through your chest when you hear that song. Something about it levitates your mind.

Greek mythology envisioned lovers in vastly impossible quests, so let the Luna mother fifty daughters with an eternally sleeping shepherd. Fantasy ascribed her many Godly names, Diana, the Moon Goddess, watching in silence over her Endymion asleep in eternal bliss. Divine spirituality moved the mystics’ pens, but passion awakens anyone’s creative chest.

tarot deck symbolism

Poetry is like an analog photograph. It can be expressed in black and white or throw a rainbow of colors through the lens sensitive to light. The sun shines through joyful poems, while the dark night and overcast gray winters imprint sadness, even melancholic meaninglessness in a poem. Let it be what it is. Express emotions.

Nature paints poems in tune with her seasonal cycles of life and death. The mood sways from gray to green, through red to chestnut in the fall. It is all the colors that make her beautiful, so let them come out as they shift.

What poetry is when it touches us most is honesty. Curiosity and a genuine conversation with oneself, others, lovers, parents, and a cathartic release of the subconscious and unconscious material in the mind. Like dreams poems can seem nonsense at the first encounter, unless one connects these subliminal expressions with reality. However surreal a poem may sound, there is a grain of truth in it. Just as in Dali’s paintings, there are more fascinating stories than just some strange objects whisked in the psyche of an eccentric with moustache and bulging eyes.

Spanish surrealismSalvador Dali art

When poem is not about truthfulness than it is a playful game with words. And that is great. Play unleashes our inner child so we feel unafraid, liberated from the ego and uninhibited because of others’ opinion. We just are, happy and creative through action. There are no rules in contemporary poetry. Free verse allows for your freedom of expression.

Sometimes it is plainly much easier to see beauty in everything. Like when the sun shines, the world is calm and people around you are healthy and happy or at least they appear so. On gray days, when facing unprecedented challenges, falling with an illness, being in pain or threatened by crime or war, we have to work harder on the poetic vision slumbering deep in our hearts. The spark that ignites the fire though dwells in your own will. You decide whether you will show yourself fireworks or stifle even the tiniest chance for happiness. Illusions do not have to break us but inspire joy. Look up at the luna. Moonshine is not the sun, but only the reflection of light in the dark depths of each night.

Whenever you can, choose to see the world through the heart of a poet. Weep and laugh at all that speaks to your soul. Become the lover of it all now in this fleeting moment for now is what counts for the future.


Discussing Languages of Truth in the essays by Salman Rushdie

Truth can be the mother of common interest, but there is a glitch, well a few and its enemies know…

Truth is a powerful asset. Through either — art and activism — politics and religion are challenged. We need these disruptive forces if manipulation of truth still remains their major tool to seducing followers into their divisive ranks. Democracy shall help, but is not devoted to truth. Voices can be loud or stifled, but they are not necessarily truthful. Anyone from the Roman Consuls, the Popes to Churchill were well aware of democratic shortcomings and so are some realistic as well as fanatical contemporary politicians. The inscription “veritas” on curiously many historical Harvard University buildings reminds us; within democracy, education and open discussion of dissenting voices accompanied with reasoned points do their hard-earned job without unreasonable punishment by the power structures. I wrote an essay on truth, click through if that interests you.

Languages of truth top education

Perhaps no other voice in the current literary landscape remains more prominent in scale, no clearer mirror of human vices, vanity and raw reality, no one lauder crying for freedom of speech than the aural, cursed, visual pen of Salman Rushdie. Whether in fiction, public speech or essays, his journalistic devotion to seeking truth pervades his life oeuvre. Of course the seekers of truth do not always find it. Colored by personal experience, ego and the multilayered filters of humanity. I had a dream once, too — a journalism student awakened from her naivete finding out post-graduation that truth can be bought. Therefore, any selfless individual working for our common public interest is like a hero to me. In our society today it seems, human character is not valued as highly as one’s egoistical numeric success, physical appearance and ability to conceal truth – long live filters! When I cannot recognise people I know on their social media feeds, I am concerned. We are skewing away from reality to virtual lies. On that I bark in another musing on envy, digital culture and in some poetry and more poetry.

Languages of Truth

Languages of Truth colored by time and politics

Languages of Truth expose the current and past literary landscapes from India through Europe to America in an enlightening string of mindful connections. A journey not unlike the life of the 74 years-old author, multi-prize awardee, visiting teacher at NYU, an instructor on Masterclass heading PEN America, who had to hide from the now legendary death sentence edict for speaking out his creative mind. Unafraid to share his intellectual exposures, Sir Salman Rushdie encourages anyone to dare in pursuing truth. “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” His successful novel Midnight’s Children (1981) is an example of the alter ego set in a historic period the author himself did not experience.

Rushdie’s problems with God

His deterrents denounce him as “a Picassoesque imposter” figure who is dead as the independent voice he used to be. In the same critique for AlJazeera (owned partly by the Qatari Royal Family skilfully defending Islam: “Al Jazeera is an independent news organisation funded in part by the Qatari government”), Rushdie’s former fan Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, further rants: “I basked in his nasty, naughty, joyous, playful, giggling, irksome prose – its virtuoso performativity, its bravura theatricals, its happy communion with English language, its bringing the Muslim sacrosanct forward for a rendezvous with a homely life away from home. Never ever (long after that horrid fatwa) did I think the novel an insult to Muslims. Quite to the contrary: it brought their sacrosanct to a renewed rendezvous with their history. But alas for me, Rushdie died and never came back… a magnificent writer [succumbed to] subsequent moral degeneration into a bitter old Islamophobe, [and] it is hard to resist the irrefutable feeling that the old ascetic Iranian Savonarola did, after all, manage to have the great inveterate novelist “assassinated”.” The author of Theology of Discontent and Truth and Narrative is familiar with the very themes Rushdie dissects in his Languages of Truth.

Reza Aslan

Coming from a muslim family in India, the atheist Rushdie attended a Catholic school in England and does not spare his disdain for God. The British-American novelist and essayist famous for his controversial book The Satanic Verses was emblazoned in a death sentence by radical religious groups. Misunderstood by those who hated it without ever reading, it was mainly about migration, Rushdie asserts. Blasphemy is telling lies in his words rather than insulting an imagined being (God or a Prophet who waged wars instead of forging peace).

Yet, as his friend Harold Pinter warns in his Nobel Prize lecture: “A thing isn’t necessarily either true or false.” Asking “Does reality essentially remain outside language, separate, obdurate, alien, not susceptible to description?” Or “we distort reality because we fear it?” The answer is, I think, for the reflective reader to riddle out through being honest with oneself.

Ancient theatre

Footing current literature in the mirror of its past

Back to language. Rushdie highlights that in literature “we live in an age of invented, alternate worlds”. Not unlike the Greek, Norse or any other myths, which contain grains of truth – the real human life is magnified by the grandeur in magical skills of fictional characters. Consider the works of Cervantes, Tolkien, C.G. Marquez, Rowling, to the current dystopia of the Hunger Games. Magic Realism can be done well or poorly as with anything.

These recently released collected essays by Salman Rushdie illuminate the celebrated and damned author’s humor, his learned insights on anything from the misuse of words like freedom and liberty to his personal relationships with Nobel prize awardees and experience with going through the Covid19 virus himself. In Voltaire’s steps, Rushdie uses humor to criticise current societal aches and troubles, yet his politics are not independently portraying either side. His is very much unlike Candide, whose “countenance was a true picture of his soul, he combined a true judgement with simplicity of spirit”, in the pen of Voltaire. While Rushdie dislikes moralising, he does so by pointing fingers at the perpetrators of what he views as truth. The question between objective and subjective truth is left unturned.

The celebrity of intellect: Inner circles revealed

A fascinating cohort of friends, many famous authors, actors, artists, activists, journalists, all arrive at an elevating discussion in his illuminating memories. Some are not anymore between our mundane ranks of living flesh, yet their unique contributions and the immortality of their profound ideas find their public icon erected by Rushdie in The Languages of Truth.

This is clearly a work of nonfiction. The Languages of Truth tell rather than show, demystify not fog reality. They are journalistic essays filled with direct quotations of the inspiring minds that the author celebrates for daring to fight for their ideas regardless of the potential personal harm inflicted by powerful political circles or other, close-minded ill-wishers. We better connect via the languages of truth, rather than insult the other side. A wholeheartedly recommended read.


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