narcissus

“The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.

The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

‘Why do you weep?’ the goddesses asked.

‘I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.

‘Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,’ they said, ‘for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.’

‘But… was Narcissus beautiful?’ the lake asked.

‘Who better than you to know that?’ the goddesses asked in wonder. ‘After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!’

The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

‘I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.’

‘What a lovely story,’ the alchemist thought.”

Model: Dwain Leland
Photographer: @ Errikos Andreou, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Text: From The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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gratitude

It’s a familiar echo at the first world table when a child refuses food. They are often told to be grateful for what they have because there are children in other parts of the world who are starving. It’s an easy tag to combine gratitude with guilt and so many of us grow, focusing on being grateful for what we have in light of others who have less. Thus, gratitude stands, tinged with sadness and longing, even if that longing is not our own. Then, moving on to forget what is available and with the greed of a child whose stomach is larger than their eyes, desire and longing takes hold. The very fuel of mankind’s propensity for adventure and invention. Indeed, didn’t Epicurus warn us in his quote:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

When is it that the immature mind sets aside the need for selfish gain? There is no age, no stage of development that gratitude becomes part of our vocabulary. Instead, it arrives in our hearts at different times, different ages and for different reasons. One could argue that it is in comparison with others less fortunate that a situation of satisfaction or plenty is realised and gratitude is felt.

A popular YouTube clip comes to mind, where parents film their child receiving a chopping board as a Christmas present, before they give the child what he actually wants. The child struggles to see why he has received, to all intents and purposes, a block of wood and yet, he is thankful for the present. He offers gratitude to his parents and his humility in his acceptance of the gift is moving even though it is not what he desires. This powerful message is that children are able to be grateful for thought, for love, for attention, as we all should be, regardless of whether our deepest desires are being met.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” [A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh]

So what are the boundaries, the rules of gratitude? Is it simply being able to acknowledge the good intention of others regardless of result? Is it just the appreciation of something in our life. Somewhere, there’s a quote about not showing gratitude being like receiving a present and not unwrapping it. What should we be grateful for? It’s not uncommon for those with chronic disease or disability to talk of being grateful in the face of what others might perceive to be great misfortune. Those who have lost their sight may be grateful they still have their hearing.

Being grateful for birdsong in the morning, for the sun rising and setting, in fact, for any aspect of our environment brings to us, not only the neurological stimulation of happy chemicals in the brain but also reinforces a sense of positivity in outlook, reducing stress and increasing the ability for enjoyment in life. Generating gratitude on waking and again on sleeping has been proved to increase an individual’s sense of belonging. Such security is essential to the emotional and mental well being of any human. Personally, it’s Marcel Proust’s quotation which stays with me every day.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

The idea of having a soul which as a garden is tended by charming gardener provides adequate metaphor for an illumination of beauty within a sense of self. In turn, it is exciting and humbling to think that you maintain be someone else’s ‘charming gardener’.

“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”
[C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters]

This attitude where gratitude belongs in the past indicates that gratitude has a place in retrospect. But is it only by looking backwards we can be thankful and appreciative for what we have had or have experienced? C.S. Lewis was certainly bound by many religious rules and ideals, and it is magical that he perceives the present in terms of love, but the question of whether gratitude can only exist in the past takes away the place of immediate appreciation. After all, when a present or a kindness is received, it is necessary to wait for time to pass in order to be grateful for it? Let us hope not, lest we seem ignorant towards each other.

Finally, in this season of present-giving let’s remember not just to be grateful for gifts, but let’s be grateful for life, in all its forms. Let’s be grateful for death, which enables the space for renewal and rebirth and let’s be mindful always, of what Friedrich Nietzsche said about the topic, which is

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

Text: © JL Nash, 2014

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this life next death

Before I got home
Before I unpacked myself
Before I fed the dog

And up until I landed behind you to say goodbye

I crashed the car on the way home
Rolled it over the rocks into the ocean
Took a bend too fast on the cliff
Ploughed into a truck from the opposite direction
Lay bleeding and guilty I hadn’t died
(All around me, death)

Mourned the dog of my anonymity and peaceful moments
Prepared myself to endure the slicing of sense as I confessed
Slashed and burned what little logic remaindered in the driver’s seat

Stood witness to empty moments
My membership to sin confirmed

As my dog never could do
So I came when called and whispered
Softly

Became a torn thread in the ripped fabric

Punctuated the air flowing like a tenor breath

Slid beneath the soles of rescue workers’ boots

Emptied the sky of solitude

Dropped from the night without a wish

Text: © JL Nash, 2014
Images: © Predrag Pajdic & Alexandra Eldridge, 2014

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looking for meaning

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any howNietzsche

Whether you are someone who has had a mid-life crisis or a wanderer who searches the world’s trends and ideas to find direction or even someone who sit at work, dreaming of why, whoever you are, the search for a meaning in life sits within every human being.

How do we find it? Why does it bother some people so much? Do we all need to read philosophy or follow personal gurus to understand even the tiniest part of the why or purpose of our lives? Perhaps we are no more than accidental, or maybe there is after all, some grand plan. How can any of us be sure?

It’s not uncommon for those who actively search for a concrete meaning to the ‘why’ of existence to experience deep frustration. This deep frustration can lead to “noögenic neuroses (1)”. This is different from traditionally psychogenic neuroses. Noögenic (from the Greek ‘noös’ meaning mind) neuroses are not a result of conflict from the outside world. Rather, they come from frustration of the mind, from existential problems. What this means is that not all conflict inside oneself is a bad kind of neurotic. Internal conflict about the meaning and purpose of life is a healthy conversation taking place within the mind.

This deep concern or, in some cases, ‘despair’ over the worthwhileness of living must be seen as an existential problem. It is not a mental illness. It differs from depression although if not dealt with, could be a trigger into depression and psychogenic neuroses.

Schopenhauer said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. Is some of this feeling of an internal void, this existential distress in fact due to boredom? Could it possible be that we have much more time upon which to ponder this point? Don’t we have more leisure time? Or is it simply an inevitable part of the human condition?

Whether you believe in a deity or the afterlife, or nothing at all, here are some cheeky little suggestions, which may calm the soul and soothe the mind in regard to this ever perplexing question.

The meaning of life is a personal experience, i.e. the meaning understood by one person can only be specific to them.

The purpose of someone’s life can only be fulfilled by that person.

The significance that life holds in the small picture as well as the big picture will be relevant to that person alone.

But what to do if you are experiencing a deep sense of worry or despair over the purpose of your life? The meaning of who you or how you are?

In the words of Viktor E. Frankl,
“ Live as if you living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!(2) ”

He calls on each of us to consider how life is finite and to imagine that the present has already happened and yet, the past is open to change or amendment. Whether we respond with a sense of responsibility to the society around us or simply to our conscience, therein lies our answers.

Widen the visual field of your life and choices, only then, will all the potential meanings available to you become visible to your conscious mind. Then harvest what you find. Feast on it. It will be yours.

1. Logotherapy in a Nutshell, Viktor E. Frankl ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, Touchstone, New York 1962
2. Logotherapy in a Nutshell, Viktor E. Frankl ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, Touchstone, New York 1962

Text: © JL Nash, 2014
Images: © Predrag Pajdic, 2014, a collaboration with Ivan Sikic

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perhaps you were wrong

Perhaps you were wrong. You might have been right but pretend, just for a moment, imagine, that you were wrong and that you had anticipated the culture of testimony to have survived longer than it did. You know the one. It’s the culture which seemed to sprout in Harpo Studios with the Oprah Winfrey talkshow to name just one. After all, it took the general population by storm. No longer did you have to be in a trance or speaking tongues, the age of disclosure and testimony had arrived for everyone. The past was a playing field to be shared and explored over and over again in front of bigger and bigger audiences.

But if you are right then this comes as no surprise. It’s over and the next step on society’s ladder has been the acquisition of an empty vocabulary of self-help and therapy. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-help or therapy but this language has crept into the mouths of many, lacking the research, knowledge and intrapersonal insight necessary to make any of it a viable and practical option for themselves.

This new vocabulary, this social language serves two purposes: Firstly it is used as currency. Achievements are only worthwhile if the achiever has traversed the desert, slain dragons and emerged, having completed Jung’s ‘hero’s journey’. It seems no longer enough to exist but the accompaniment of a large amount of bloodstained baggage is essential to the validation of any experience. Secondly it becomes a series of labels.

Words describing emotional states are now merely labels. Furthermore, each label has a caveat of ‘future possible’. Sadly, because of the transience of each moment, each label risks the potential of being no more than a lie as each passing millisecond offers something different. While this vocabulary structures our intentions in the direction of goals of self-actualisation, which of course are always desirable, they never ground the energy of the user into the present.

Unless this is available in the present moment it becomes no more than an illusion to chase after and ultimately will render the adventurer empty, devoid of the present and doomed to never be happy.

You see, the focus of testimony depends on the presentation or sharing of the agues of the past and how this currency or labelling will extend to provide or entitle them to a future result. This often causes the person to spout such nonsense stating they are “a work in progress”. This is no more than an internal contract never to be happy or satisfied with self.

Of course, have a goal or a focus, but once this is set, call in your resources, execute your plan and examine your feet firmly upon the ground. Be in the present moment. If you are attached to the end result of anything and looking forward to that moment, always keeping that illusion of possible future, then the present moment cannot be seen, experienced, appreciated or understood.

Isn’t it time that we stop focusing so much on what we will be next year or next month? Isn’t it time that we allowed ourselves to look in the mirror and be able to say…

“I am finished, at this second, this point in time, to the best of my abilities, in this present moment, I am complete.”

Anything else must surely be a waste of time and energy. Looking to the future will help you to achieve and experience a single moment of completion. If you live in the present, you could, instead, end up experiencing hundreds of thousands of moments in the process of your goal’s completion. If you have ever achieved anything and ended up feeling a sense of anticlimax about the achievement, this is a good indication that you were living in the illusion of ‘future possible’.

While it is prudent to carry an umbrella in view of the raincloud ahead don’t forget to enjoy the texture of the fabric as you tuck it beneath your arm, smell the changing humidity and notice each step, each breath to and from your body.

There is only now and you are complete, worth loving, part of the universe and most of all, present.

Text: © JL Nash, 2014
Image: © Cédric Roulliat, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

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plant based nutrition, the way forward!

When Bill Clinton mentioned a book, published by an obscure Texan Publisher, written by a father and son research team, the results of a series of research studies based in China and Taiwan, who could have predicted that this academic text ‘The China Study‘ would become one of the best selling books on nutrition?

T Colin Campbell PhD and Thomas M Campbell wrote the book as a compilation of their research in a 20 year partnership between Cornell and Oxford Universities and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. They managed to illustrate that a high consumption of animal-based foods was definitely linked to the development of more chronic diseases in humans, and the healthiest subjects consumed in the main, a plant-based diet.

But, back to Bill Clinton, whose surgery had not fixed the problem of his clogged arteries and veins. He read a few books, he consulted with world experts. He lost 24 lbs and announced he had an answer. He did not use the dirty word. You know the one which begins with V and ends in N. No, it’s not VAIN, but started to talk about Plant Based Nutrition (PBN). That’s when so many of us began to take notice. Not because of any political leanings, but because here was a man to whom resources were not an issue and without moral indignation of anyone else’s choices or behaviour, he had discovered the scientific proof of what many of us knew and he came to it willingly to give himself better health. He began to promote it as common sense. As part of an awakening to whole planet, its resources and our responses to those resources.

Today, it’s easy to find a plethora of documentaries like ‘Forks Over Knives’ crying from the rooftops of the benefits of plant based nutrition.

Sadly, many new-age info docudramas also include claims which cannot be substantiated. Sure your risk of cancer and heart disease may be diminished through this type of nutrition, but nothing accounts for genetic dispositions and stress triggers… But the questions are out there. Does plant based nutrition really help you lose weight, make diabetes disappear or reverse poor bone density?

For many of course, plant based nutrition is not just about the body but involves the sense of wanting to protect a fragile Eco system or involves a paradigm shift which inevitably spills into other areas of their lives.

But what are the benefits?

The medical evidence shows that consuming ‘whole food plant based’ nutrition can reverse many diseases: inflammation, anxiety, depression, Lupus, MS, Diabetes, Osteoporosis to name but a few. The China study surveyed 6500 people in total, from more than 65 countries. It is still the most comprehensive study done on nutrition and it’s hard to argue with it. Not only can plant based nutrition maintain health but it can also act like medicine and change health.

“The science base is very strong that fruits and vegetables are protective for all the gastrointestinal cancers and all the smoking-related cancers,” says Tim Byers, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.

Plant based nutrition keeps it all flowing, if you know what I mean. You’ll soon have no need for laxatives in the cupboard because constipation will be a thing of the past.

Fruit and vegetables are hydrating foods and as a result, skin glows, spots and acne clear up or improve greatly. Everyone loves having a healthy clear complexion and as your skin is the largest organ in the body, it’s important.

Plant based nutrition actually gives you more energy and often improves sleep patterns. However it is critically important to know what you are eating, to educate yourself and not just live on iceberg and tomatoes. Plant based nutrition is nutrient rich and calorifically low. It’s not about weight, it’s about clean fuel, clean energy for humans.

Whether you choose plant based nutrition because you want to improve your health or because you want to protect animals, the bonus, the end result will always be a healthier, happier body. If the body is not healthy, the brain does not function efficiently. Our suggestion is to allow yourself the courage to accept possibility and in that simple concept, embrace this way of eating, and enjoy the benefits. Of course, if your feel that you can’t do without your meat or fish, why not make the rest of your meal plant based? The benefits are long term and now, scientifically recorded. What have you got to lose, except perhaps a few pounds and either prevent niggle health issues, or get some relief for any you might have developed?

As always, it goes without saying that organic/homegrown produce will always be better for the body and mind as there will be no toxins used. But, if you are worried about pesticides on your fruit and vegetables soak them in a bowl of water and white vinegar for an hour before rinsing to reduce any residues.

This is a time of information, but knowledge comes from the application of information. Enjoy building your knowledge and apply these points to your life choices. We have, and the benefits to our lives come daily.

Images:
1. Bartolomeo Bimbi, Oranges, Limes, Lemons, and Citrus lumia, 1715, Oil on canvas, 174 x 233 cm, Villa Medici, Poggio a Caiano
3. Willem van Aelst, Still-Life with a Basket of Fruit on a Marble Ledge, 1650, Oil on canvas, 38 x 50 cm, Private collection
Text: JL Nash, 2014

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the art of juicing and super smoothies

What’s the fuss all about?

It’s hard to miss them these days, opinions on breakfast tv, juice bars, the supermarket has a huge selection of prepared juices, there are films being made, there is even a growing movement following Juicing. But what’s it really all about? And what’s the difference between juicing and making smoothies. Does it matter how much fruit is in a juice? Are there some things you shouldn’t juice? Do smoothies make you fat? There are so many questions. So, for the juice or smoothie virgin, here’s some help in working out what, why and how.

Some people go on juice fasts, some people just add fresh juice to their daily choices.

A juice fast is best described as nutrition dense, calorie low food. This is when you make the juice using a juicer from a variety of fruit and vegetables consuming only the liquid for a set period of time. This is usually any time from 3 days to 2-3 months although extended periods of juice fasting should only be done under medical supervision. If you do decide to juice fast, you will experience a detox period which once it’s over, you will feel amazing. Detoxing can feel like catching a cold or even mimic flu symptoms but a future article will deal with this aspect in much more depth.

Micronutrients

This means all your body is taking in is soluble fibre, vitamins, minerals and the micronutrients which exist in the juice. It’s nutritious, and exceptionally easy for your body to absorb with a low calorie tag. However, that’s not why one juices. Sure it can be a great aid to lose weight, look at Joe Cross and Phil Jay Staples from the films Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 1 & 2 who together inspired a weight loss movement called the Reboot but they both turned to juicing for health reasons, to clear up skin conditions, joint pain, blood pressure problems and a whole host of other things. Losing weight was the bonus in the change of their choices in lifestyle.

Imagine this, someone presents to you three litres of juice per day. You think there’s no way you’d manage but you do. The human body is remarkably equipped and adept at existing on very little and with a high density of nutrients reaching your bloodstream, health, repair and happiness is a result.

How much fruit or how many vegetables should I use?

Follow a recipe. Make a plan. Until you are used to creating your own favourites, there are a myriad sites where you can find great recipes. See reference 7) as a resource to start your juicing experience.

Forget the calories.

There may not be a huge amount of long term research on juicing and smoothies but there has been a lot of research on reduced calorific intake.

Every living organism on the planet will experience a change for the good PHYSIOLOGICALLY when it faces reduction in a food source. From insect through to humans, all show an improvement in stress management and increased energy.

Fasting, which in effect actually means consuming few calories (not none), has been in everyone’s histories and throughout varied civilisations. Many think that the longest living communities of people live on approximately 1200 calories a day. Juicing and smoothie drinking will keep your calories low while you absorb a huge amount of nutrients.

Nutrient dense, calorie low nutrition is a great way to cut out junk food and maximise your nutrient to calorie ratio…

So what’s a Smoothie?

The only difference between juice and smoothies is that juices are only soluble fibre in liquid form but with smoothies… everything is included and put into a blender to get the consistency you require. Smoothies are therefore higher in calories but again, because you have a high density of nutrition contained in the smoothie, you don’t need to eat anything else.

What are the benefits?

Consuming juices and smoothies have proven again and again to do the following: help with weight loss, strengthen bones, increase immunity, increase energy levels; they may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. A glowing complexion and the reduction in skin complaints as well as other issues such as hay fever and asthma have also been reported.

Why is organic important?

Going organic becomes more and more important to ensure the produce you are using does not contain dangerous pesticides which may trigger illnesses and diseases in the body. Do your best to source fruit and vegetables from farmers’ markets or stores that hold an organic range of both. In the long run, it’s worth a little more money to have food which will keep you healthy and happy for longer.

Whether you juice fast, or you simply decide to add juices and smoothies to your life, either decision will give you the most marvellous kickstart into inner health which is an essential part of outer expressions of happiness. Make a drink for yourself today and feel your body say thank you!

References:

1. Ellers J, Ruhe B, Visser B. Discriminating between energetic content and dietary composition as an explanation for dietary restriction effects. J Insect Physiol. 2011 Sep 5

2. Cruzen C, Colman RJ. Effects of caloric restriction on cardiovascular aging in non-human primates and humans. Clin Geriatr Med. 2009 Nov;25(4):733-43

3. Willcox BJ, Willcox DC, Todoriki H, Fujiyoshi A, Yano K, He Q, Curb JD, Suzuki M. Caloric restriction, the traditional Okinawan diet, and healthy aging: the diet of the world’s longest-lived people and its potential impact on morbidity and life span. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Oct;1114:434-55

4. Everitt AV, Le Couteur DG. Life extension by calorie restriction in humans.Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Oct;1114:428-33. Epub 2007 Aug 23. Review

5. Houthoofd K, Vanfleteren JR. The longevity effect of dietary restriction in Caenorhabditis elegans. Exp Gerontol. 2006 Oct;41(10):1026-31.

6. Partridge L, Piper MD, Mair W. Dietary restriction in Drosophila. Mech Ageing Dev. 2005 Sep;126(9):938-50

7. http://sexyrawfoodandfitness.com/srv-ebooks/

Text: J L Nash, 2014
Images: © Predrag Pajdic, 2014

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beautiful bondage

Images:
Photography: © Christopher Agius Burke, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Hair and Make Up: Pace Chen
Hats: Dinu Bodiciu

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latest work by the brilliant artist roberto foddai

Images: © Roberto Foddai, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

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dawn yet to come by othon featuring ernesto tomasini

Othon – Dawn Yet To Come – featuring Ernesto Tomasini

Director: Predrag Pajdic
Director of Photography: Lois Froud
Editing: Predrag Pajdic & Sebastian Collins
Post-Production: www.strip.fm
Shot on locations in Paris, London, Salvador and Algodoes, Bahia, Brazil
Year of Production 2013/2014

With special thanks to:
Lee Adams, Andro Andrex, Ron Athey, Sage Charles, Rob Cyberpunk, Dahc Dermur (aka Chadd Curry), Hector de Gregorio, Nikolas Kasinos, Bruce LaBruce, Ennio Nobili, Hermes Pittakos, Mona Ruijs, Alex Schmidt, Anthony Thévenoux, Ernesto Tomasini, Gabriel Toso, Eva Vortex, Hannes Weymann…
And Carlos & Gaby, the pythons by Bruno Autin.
Ernesto Tomasini’s make up and headpiece by Hermes Pittakos. Tomasini’s styling by Andrei Yakovlev Mich.

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