Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Bel Canto

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"The secret of the musical life is to be open to vibration at every level, to appreciate it wherever you find it. . . . Every sound is like the first Word, a creation story in itself. Sound is the audible form of vital energy that passes through your life."

These profound words on the mysteries of music are by W.A. Mathieu from his book The Musical Life: Reflections on What It Is and How to Live It.

Have you ever felt swept away or gotten goose bumps while listening to a powerful piece of music?Have you ever been so moved by a song that you began to cry?Can you think of two or three musical selections that incarnate beauty for you?Have you ever had the experience of a song coming on the radio just when you needed it most?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you are ready to experience and savor Bel Canto, a thought-provoking drama directed by Paul Weitz from a novel by Ann Patchett.

Roxanne Cross (Julianne Moore), a famous American opera star, has come to a Latin American country to perform for a private audience at the Vice President's home. The event has been set up to impress Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese businessman who is considering building a factory in the country. He is a huge fan of the singer.

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Colette

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Though she died in 1954, the writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, embodied with self-possessed sass and swagger by Keira Knightley in Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, seems more alive than ever. In the richly-detailed belle epoque Paris setting, this poor country girl turned literary sensation constantly vibrates between fitting right in and remaining wholly out of place, a characterization that seems both true to the historical Colette’s reality and ripe for lively feminist filmmaking.

Though Westmoreland’s storytelling follows a classic, chronological timeline, moving from Colette’s unsure late adolescence to assured middle age, Knightley’s performance keeps the proceedings consistently riveting, from the first moment she leaves her quaint home for a promising marriage to Henry Gauthier-Villars, better known as “Willy” (Dominic West), a creative businessman who already has Paris in fabulist thrall; to their first fiery collaboration on her autobiographical novel Claudine á l’école; to her realization that her ample talents might exceed her husband’s; to her freewheeling and freeing sexual explorations; and finally to her hard-earned success as both solo author and stage performer.

Knightly and West portray Colette and Willy with complicated shades of love and pettiness, admiration and jealousy, creating a portrait of a couple whose connection to each other cannot overcome the fact that Colette’s increasing autonomy is a thrill to her and a threat to him. Willy's double standards grow in direct relation to Colette’s stratospheric rise: he can have affairs, even as her exploration of her attraction to women breeds tension; his business sense is considered the true “talent,” even if her flair for writing is actually creating the business through her series of Claudine stories.

As the couple grows further apart, and as Colette develops her own artistic and sexually assured stature, the performers and the film straddle the reality of turn-of-the-century Paris with a modern sensibility.

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Birthday of Upton Sinclair

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On this day in 1878, prolific American novelist, polemicist, and socialist Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up with an alcoholic father, whom he considered to be an abject failure, and a strong-willed mother, whose well-to-do relatives gave him an experience of wealth even while his immediate family struggled with poverty.

When he was not quite 14 years old, Sinclair entered what is now City University of New York, paying his tuition by writing for boys' weekly and pulp magazines. He then completed graduate studies at Columbia University, making him one of the best-educated writers of his day. At 20, he vowed to give up hack writing and turned to serious novels. He was unsuccessful until his socialist contacts sent him to Chicago to investigate the meatpacking industry and the dismal fate of its workers.

Sinclair's resulting novel, The Jungle, first appeared in a socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason. The print revolution was allowing magazines and newspapers to expand their readership exponentially, while at the same time reporters were visiting burned-out tenements and industrial workplaces, exposing the corruption that led to horrific living and working conditions. These crusaders, many of them key literary figures, became known as "muckrakers" as they exposed filthy scandals to millions of readers. What appeared in print now had real clout.

The Jungle went on to be translated into 17 languages. Sinclair intended it to generate outrage about working conditions, but instead what raised people's ire were his descriptions of grotesquely unsanitary meatpacking methods. "I aimed at the public's heart," he said, "and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Nonetheless, the outrage and the resulting increase in government inspection eventually led to Congress passing the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

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Free Audio Resources for Mindfulness Meditation

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Interested in mindfulness, but not sure where to start? There are many meditation apps, audiobooks, and programs available to you — before you get lost in the pile of choices, explore these three basic mindfulness meditations.

To start, explore these awareness of breath meditation practices:

A basic meditation that focuses on following the breath to cultivate mindful awareness. 

An awareness of breath practice that centers on one of the basics of mindfulness: how to sit and know you’re sitting.

A longer breathing practice to tap into your capacity to be in touch with your experience, and to be awake and aware with no agenda other than to be awake and aware.

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A Mindful Breath-Counting Practice for Teens and Tweens

As a parent, your job is to prepare your child for the road ahead, rather than endlessly (and impossibly) trying to fix the road itself. You can’t predict every potential difficulty and protect your child from every pothole. But if you help your child cultivate mindfulness, research suggests they’ll develop resilience, improved executive function, and social and emotional skills that allow him to steer himself when the time comes.

You can’t predict every potential difficulty and protect your child from every pothole. But if you help your child cultivate mindfulness, research suggests he’ll develop resilience, improved executive function, and social and emotional skills that allow him to steer himself when the time comes.

You don’t need to be a “perfect” meditator to begin discussing it with your child — you just need to be genuinely interested in the process and honest about your own experience. Once you feel familiar with the ideas and practices, you can introduce them to your family. Be sure to talk about your own difficulty sustaining attention and resisting reactivity. This can be an important part of the lesson for your child: you’re fallible and yet remain open to trying something new.

Preadolescents and teens can practice mindfulness the same way as adults, although the practices are often shortened and the language should be adapted into their vernacular, making it engaging and real to them. On the one hand, adolescents are in a stage of development that focuses heavily on peer groups, so group learning and classes may make it easier to connect with mindfulness practice. When discussing mindfulness with them individually, we can tailor it to their changing experience as they strive for independence, manage school stress, and learn to handle teenage related emotional and physical growth.  

There isn’t a consensus about what length of practice most benefits adults, even less so in children. Starting with shorter practices often works best but isn’t required. It’s all about making it feel natural individually, adjusting to whatever you observe.

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