Carrie Allen – Lost in Translation to a Journey Within

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In the summer of 2016, not long after I started my new adventure working for the Cambridge Innovation Center, I headed off to Japan with my colleagues Tim (Founder and CEO) and Makiko for two weeks in Tokyo, with the intention of expanding our work there.

I arrived in Tokyo on July 30th.  Tokyo is fabulous.  I loved it, truly, even though Tokyo is the world’s largest megacity with a population of 38.8 million people.  I kept thinking about Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.

After a week in Tokyo, I was ready for something completely different. I felt a bit overwhelmed, unsettled and a bit closed in. I needed to set off somewhere for a few days that would help to ground me, give me the space I craved, and to experience something new.

I decided I would head to Kyoto, taking Shinkansen, the fast train.  I would stay at a Buddhist temple for the weekend and take a Zen meditation class.  I was nervous, truly nervous, but often fling myself head first into whatever is in front of me, not letting my trepidation hold me back. Emotions are complicated.

I was hopeful that with the Buddhist meditation class I would somehow journey inside, find quiet and my inner voice, maybe even something ancient and holy within me.

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Upon arriving outside Kyoto I noticed that it was Quiet.  So much quiet… peacefulness. Beauty. Bliss.  The opposite of the hustling traffic and people of Tokyo.  Even though the website had warned to not use google maps for the 10 minute walk to the temple, I did.

As I wound my way through tiny crooked streets, smaller alleys and a miniature walkway through a backyard, I realized I was trailing another woman following the same, odd, circuitous route.  I thought, surely she was headed to the temple too, and clearly followed directions as well as I do.  We smiled at each other and confirmed we were on the same path.

As it turns out, Liz had the same idea to spend a weekend in Kyoto at the temple and take the meditation class.  Liz (an American) had been living in Tokyo with her husband, who is in the military, for a year and a half.

Google maps took us to a location that was confusing and guided us to a door.  Everything was so quiet, we stared at the door, the door stared back at us … it was locked and had no signage.

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After a few minutes, a monk came out.  Excitedly we let him know we were here for the weekend and class.  He didn’t seem to understand. After some confusion and back and forth, he helped us understand, with hand signals and limited words exchanged, we’d come to the wrong temple, but as luck would have it we were not far off.  We were in a big temple complex.

We checked in and were assigned our rooms.  I decided to venture out to a restaurant called the Wonder Cafe for dinner. I saw Liz on the road and asked her if she wanted to join me.  She declined, she was running off to catch a bus to an outside market 40 minutes away, even further into the countryside.  How brave, I thought.

The next morning, I was up early and ready for the meditation class.  We lined up sitting, facing the garden.

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The monk first taught us about mediation and the importance of meditating every day for at least 5 minutes. He said the only thing that is unchanging is change itself. Impermanence, everything changes. We must embrace that and not dwell on the past or fret about what could happen in the future.  The outside world cannot impact our happiness.  Focus, breath and let change happen. We must quiet our minds, stay positive and focus on our breathing.  This helps with metacognition, which also helps with our emotional intelligence.

After the meditation class we had thick matcha green tea and biscuits as a way of prolonging our calm spiritual meditation.

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After the tea ceremony and class, Liz and I reconnected, as that morning we had decided we would leave the compound to explore Kyoto for the rest of the day.  Liz said she had met Natasja, another traveler from Denmark, after class and she would be joining us.

As I often do, I had played out in my mind exactly how the weekend would unfold.  I pictured mediation, and a calmness and quietness enveloping me.  I got that from the class that morning for sure; however, the unexpected surprise was in venturing out with two new friends to uncover what secrets Kyoto had for us.  Three women came together from different walks of life and different corners of the world.  We became fast friends.

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The day and ensuing fun unfolded in different ways.  We ate green tea ice cream, had an amazing lunch, hiked up a mountain, visited with monkeys, walked through a bamboo forest and ended the day at a tiny little restaurant and met new friends there as well.  We shared so many laughs, talked about our lives, who we are, where we came from, and about our hopes and dreams.

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All this packed into a day.

We enjoyed each other so much that we decided to meet in Tokyo the following week for more fun, which included a sushi conveyor belt restaurant and visit to a karaoke bar.  My journey to Kyoto, and within, led me back to Tokyo with fresh eyes and perspective.  In Kyoto I learned to open myself up to those around me more freely, to move past nerves of the unknown, and to live in the present.

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Lisa Wong – Seeing in Different Dimensions

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Steve Seidel
at the Harvard Graduate School of Education talks about how arts education trains us in  “bifocalism:” the ability to see in different dimensions –  alternately focusing on the smallest detail while still appreciating the larger picture.

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Contemplate a single flower – at first glance it seems to be  perfectly formed, uniformly colored – but on longer contemplation one finds that things are not as uniform as they seem – is this intentional? Are these flaws? Imperfections? Or the variations that make each flower unique?

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At a time of social instability, when looking ahead and looking around makes us anxious it becomes even  more important for us to stop and seek out the small moments, images, and opportunities for beauty around us, if only for a moment.

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Photos by Lisa Wong

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Lisa Wong is a Boston-based physician, violinist, and arts education advocate with a passion for bringing the worlds of art and health ever closer together. She has been a pediatrician at Milton Pediatric Associates for over 30 years – and appreciates the hard-won milestone reached by a child with special needs, the opportunity to laugh and the privilege of finding something beautiful in the dynamics of every family.

 

Tess Runion – Why I shoot daily

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A usual day in my life is filled with chaos, kids, and lots of coffee/wine. Work, kid’s activities, homework, a college student, 2 dogs, maintaining a functioning household can be overwhelming, fun, joyful and tearful. I pick up my camera to find beauty in my ordinary. To document for my family the realness that is their life. So that they can learn as I have that it’s this beauty in all the little things that make up our big thing. That nothing is real without connection and emotion. So that they can remember to always find light and beauty in their regular and in doing so be more grateful little people.

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Based in Richmond, Virginia, Tess Runion is a documentary photographer specializing in black and white imagery. She strives to capture connection and to tell stories in each image. A mom of 3, she is inspired by her husband, children, good friends and good wine. To see more of her work visit www.tessrunionphotography.com.

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Karen Fuhrman -Yoga

I’m a lover of any type of physical exercise but my yoga practice is what truly holds my heart. Physically, it provides me with a perfect balance of strength and flexibility. Spiritually, it encompasses all the elements that calm and ground.

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It provides the tools to build things that are often hard for me to reach such as self-love and exploration, confidence and a sense of presence that allows me to just stop.

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But the thing I love most about yoga is that you need nothing else to start a practice of your own besides an open mind and a willingness to grow. 

“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life” BKS Iyengar 

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Karen Fuhrman, mother, wife and yogi (in that particular order), resides in Arlington MA. Teaching several yoga classes a week at Down Under Yoga in Brookline and Newton, as well as On The Mat yoga in Concord, Karen takes her passion for physical exercise on to the mat, guiding students through a dynamic sequence designed to build strength and flexibility. Forever a student, Karen also continues to assist her mentor, world-renowned yoga instructor Natasha Rizopolous, during weekly master classes as well as teacher trainings, where she is constantly soaking up knowledge about anatomy, and proper alignment in poses. When not on her mat, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 young children.

John Aylward – Living Arts: Effortless Mastery

Last post, I wrote about meditation as a gateway to creativity. In this post, I would like to explore some of the ways we think about harnessing that creativity, no matter what media we use.

As a younger musician, one formative text for me was Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery. Werner is a jazz pianist who had an unconventional path that finally led him to the Berklee School of music where he met musicians who helped him open up a sense of freedom and exploration in his music. Essentially, for Werner, this came down to learning the art of improvisation.

Improvisation is a kind of meditation where music is somewhat spontaneously created and developed. Bill Evan’s famously said that jazz is the art of creating a minute of music in a minute’s time. And that cuts to the core of improvisation, not just in jazz music, but as a tool for spontaneous creativity and for living ‘in the moment’ – an aim shared with the practice of meditation.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about improvisation as a companion to meditation and a means for harnessing creativity, but for now, I would like to share one exercise that we can all do to unlock our creative potential that comes from Werner’s Effortless Mastery.

In an early chapter of Werner’s book, he asks to ‘make something bad’. In a naïve and encouraging way, we are asked to simply sit down and make something bad. It could be at our instrument, on our canvas, in our studio, on our design program, or however else we endlessly create. After a few minutes, Werner asks us to stop and look at or listen to what we’ve done. The phenomenon is actually striking because we see that when we are in the midst of a creative process we are usually consumed with whether or not it is any good. If we set out to create something bad, we have conquered the first inhibition toward creation, which is the constant censor of self-consciousness and critique that continually interrupts the creative process.

In this great clip of one of Kenny Werner’s lecture / performances, he talks about this connection between meditation, creativity, improvisation and non-judgment. I hope that no matter what you are working on, this idea of moving beyond your self-censor will help!

Kenny’s remarks begin at 10:50

 

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John Aylward is a composer, performer and writer who lives in Cambridge, MA.

Carrie Allen – Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream

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Eating healthy and serving healthy food to my kids is critically important to me.  Yet we all crave sweets from time to time so having recipes made from wholesome ingredients that actually benefit our bodies fills me with joy.  My friend Mia gave me Alissa Cohen’s Raw Food for Everyone Cookbook one year for Christmas.  It was here that I first stumbled upon chocolate pudding made from avocados.  I have adapted the recipe over the years to whatever I have on hand but the main ingredients are simple: avocados, dates (or agave syrup, honey or maple syrup – whatever you have!), plus cacao (or cocoa powder).

Last night I had to be on a work conference call (it’s hard to coordinate meetings with Tokyo) so I asked my 12 year old daughter to make pasta for dinner for her and her brother – you do what you need to do to balance work and life.  I set two avocados next to all the ingredients, thinking they would also have avocados with balsamic vinegar on top, a favorite of ours.

When I came down they were eating their pasta but the avocados were untouched.  I asked why they were not eating them and my son, who is 11, said “we thought you could make chocolate pudding with them instead.”   What a great idea!  I topped the avocado chocolate mousse (more of a mousse this time than a pudding) with cashew cream, which balances the deep rich chocolate flavor with a lighter creamy taste.

The recipe is super simple.  Here is what I made last night:

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup organic, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 dates, soaked in hot water for a few minutes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and spoon into bowls.  You can put it in the refrigerator to chill for 10-30 minutes.  The pudding will develop a skin over top, just like pudding, if it sits for a while. Spoon cashew cream on top before serving.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream
1 cup raw unsalted cashews soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/2 cup water, plus more for a thinner cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a high speed mixer (I use a vitamix) and blend until smooth.  Add more water, sweetener and cinnamon according to taste.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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Carrie Allen created this blog as a way to share stories of passion and love, big and small, with those around the world.  You can read more about this on the About page!