“The sea was smooth, warm and dark as black velvet, not a ripple disturbing the surface. The distant coastline of Albania was dimly outlined by a faint reddish glow in the sky. Gradually, minute by minute, this glow deepened and grew brighter, spreading across the sky. Then suddenly the moon, enormous, wine-red, edged herself over the fretted battlement of mountains, and threw a straight blood-red path across the dark sea. ”
Vassilis (Bill) Metallinos made the above video. He has made some beautiful videos of the night sky over Corfu, made of thousands of stills, that can be viewed on his youtube channel. You can read an interview of his here explaining his equipment and method.
Jun Pierre Shiozawa is a beautiful artist, man and friend. There is no hierarchical order in that sentence. Jun is also a studio arts teacher at the Aegean Center and I am sure his students would add that he is a beautiful teacher as well. Combining all these qualities, Jun recently listed on his blog some key reasons why we should always carry a sketchbook with us. He offers his work and personal travels to help explain the benefits of insight, randomness and observation to help make sense of ourselves and to move on. At first this post might seem relevant only to visual artists, then to the creative people. But in truth it is helpful to all thinking beings. To all playful souls. Click here or on the image above to access the blogpost.
Sometimes the obvious is hidden in a ‘syntax’, in the dormant state of the ordinary. That’s why traveling, or in other words exploring while reviewing, can be very revealing. Or why reorganizing available information has proved time and again a way to generate new knowledge. For example, info-graphics have apparently helped make a lot of sense out of our world and trends; Ken Robinson‘s latest book “Finding your Element” is full of sketchbook-like exercises on jotting down personal tastes and information in order to reveal what makes one click; or again, just this morning, I was watching a doc about the meaning of Time that argued that Einstein’s idea of time relativity came to him during his Patent office days where he was reviewing time keeping inventions. All these diverse examples suggest that a new point of view could result in a novel viewpoint. And to bring this back to the scale of one person and to the importance of the personal meaning-making process, I paraphrase here Steve Jobs who said that one can only connect the dots retrospectively. Also meaning that it is helpful to somehow keep recording those dots in order to connect them down the road.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
Jun of course also deals with the benefits of travel in his post. Being outside your comfort zone highlights a lot about your take in life. Travel is always a zone I enjoy finding myself in and for exactly this reason. But travel can happen everywhere. I am in my home place for a month now and it is proving to be a revealing time travel experience. Many dots are being connected. Many dots fly around to be pinned down. After I read Jun’s post I make sure that my sketch/notebook is always with me. Thank you Jun for helping me bring my dots home.
“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”
S.N. Goenka’s continuous advice during the Vipassana meditation course
I read today that S.N. Goenka died yesterday at the age of 90, due to old age. Bye bye Goenka Ji, and thank you…
Goenka was the equivalent to a Guru for Vipassana meditation. He spent most of his adult life ‘exporting’ to the world this almost lost meditation technique, practiced by Buddha.
The idea of doing this blog, its title, its content, everything came to me during my second 10day Vipassana course. Although this means that while I was sitting trying to meditate my mind was floating around, dreaming up blogs, I guess it also comes to show that good creative ideas can come out at breaks from deep concentration of the mind.
I first heard of Vipassana by Mika on a wonderful summer swim at Farangas beach on Paros. It sounded interesting but I had nothing to do with meditation, so it got stored in the ‘interesting stuff‘ file in my mind. Then, a couple of years later I was travelling in India, and meditation was so normal in the daily practice and lifestyle over there that, when Omar answered to me that he probably got that beautifully serene look on him from his Vipassana practice, I was convinced I had to try it too.
A few days later I went to do to my first 10day Vipassana course. The information on the application form said that through Vipassana you get peace of mind and that was enough for me to hand in to the management upon my arrival my passport, money, bank cards, cellphone, etc and admit myself to a 10 day silence with a 10 hour meditation practice per day regime.
As tough and crazy as it may sound in the above description it is exactly that in its actual practice and in its results! Because it is absolutely tough to sit for so many hours day after day concentrating on yourself, on your silence, on your bodily sensations in order to gain access to yourself and to the way your mind forms and works on your thoughts, memories, fears and desires; and it is absolutely crazy how balanced and calm and strong, enriched, confident, even happy, you feel at the end of it.
Every time I am asked how this works, I try to explain it and I always feel I fail to do so. So this being a post about S.N. Goenka I should let him do the talking.
Here is a pretty recent interview of Goenka on Indian tv about him and Vipassana:
And here is another older video where Goenka gives and introduction to Vipassana meditation:
“We operate on the unthinking assumption that the person who existed ten years ago is essentially the same person who exists today, who will exist ten years from now, perhaps who will still exist in a future life after death. No matter what philosophies or theories or beliefs we hold as true, we actually each live our lives with the deep-rooted conviction, ‘I was, I am, I shall be.”
* Aniccameans impermanence in Pali (old Indian). It is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux. The Pali word anicca literally means “inconstant”. According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. This is applicable to all beings and their environs including devas (mortal gods). The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering (dukkha). [Quoting from Wikipedia]
I bumped today into the www.brainpickings.org website which seems very interesting. Having said that, let me just clarify that I haven’t really explored it yet, I have just glanced over some articles, but they were all interesting. Good start for a new fav website!
Anyway, it had two articles about Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre and Beauvoir had an open life long relationship that was intimate yet at times had space for other lovers to home in….
“Freedom for me is a strict frame, and inside that frame are all the variations possible.”
In a 1971 taped interview, rediscovered in 1991 at the International Center of Photography (New York) archives, Henri Cartier-Bresson talks a bit about his take on his photography. Simple and real. “Yes, yes, yes”, as he says echoing someone else…
“Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.”
I started this day by watching a 1965 film about Leonard Cohen (via OpenCulture). A young Leonard Cohen. In the film, Cohen is portrayed mainly as a poet, as a literary man. So that got me going and I started looking on the web about his poems and his quotes and I bumped into plenty of interesting material.
“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.”
At some point in the film, at 20mins into it to be exact, Cohen explains how he got to move to Greece, to Hydra. He says he lived in London at the time. It was winter, it was gloomy, rainy, and he had a cold, when he bumped into the Bank of Greece, the title of which was etched in marble on the building facade. He walked in and the man behind the counter was wearing sunglasses. Leonard felt, and I am quoting him, that this was “the most eloquent protest against the entire landscape.” That was the beginning of his affair with Greece.
Here is a page from the Leonard Cohen Files website, an incredible database, with Leonard’s photos & poems from the island of Hydra (click on image to access the link):
Leonard Cohen Poems & Photos from Hydra
“Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.”