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Trending Meditation Meditation

Meditation: A Search for Inner Calm and Meaning

Take a moment to clear your mind. Let go of the chatter of doubt and obsession, and just be still.

Meditation is a simple idea, yet challenging in practice. In a world brimming with distractions, developing the ability to maintain a clear mind for any stretch of time takes dedicated effort. But those who practice this mysterious discipline say it’s worth the effort they put into it.

Enlightenment has long been the goal of meditation, but the bar doesn’t usually start so high. Today, meditation is often promoted as a drug-free way to relax, reduce stress, and improve mental focus. A number of studies validate the health benefits of meditation. Some doctors recommend it.

But the drive to meditate goes far beyond the scope of modern science. For Nicole Fiene, a sales representative from Massapequa, New York, meditation spoke to a void deep in her soul that she had never been able to fill.

“I was in a constant and seemingly neverending cycle of feeling unfulfilled with everything I did,” Fiene said. “I lived a beautiful life full of fun adventures and special friendships—always traveling to new places, meeting new people, and trying different things. But on the inside, it was never enough; I always wanted more.”

Fiene says that instead of feeling inspired, her constant search for stimulation left her feeling depleted. She relied heavily on multiple substances just to get through the day.

But when COVID-19 hit last year, Fiene was forced to change her routine. Under lockdown, all the activity and distraction she had grown accustomed to was no longer available. As a result, she could no longer hide from the painful feelings she had previously pushed down.

“Part of me knew that the reason I was going through such pain was because what was about to be next for me would be so extraordinary,” she said. “I knew that if I was going to fix this, I had to get to the root of it, and I knew whatever I was experiencing was spiritual.”

Fiene had no idea where to start, but direction came a day or so later. Speaking to a close business colleague over the phone, Fiene confessed to her emotional and spiritual unraveling during lockdown, and her search for something to cope with it. Her colleague recommended that Fiene try a meditation practice called Falun Gong. Fiene found instructions for the practice on the internet. She tried it and soon felt better.

“I felt a circulation of energy all through my arms, and for the first time in such a long time, I felt this overwhelming sense of peace and safety,” Fiene said. “I didn’t know anything about the practice, but in my heart I knew this was what was going to pull me out of the mental darkness I was experiencing.”

Roots in China

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a meditation practice in the Buddhist tradition. In addition to the classic seated meditation, it also includes four slow, meditative standing exercises. The exercises are simple to learn, but those who practice them say they bring profound peace.

“Sometimes after meditating, I feel this buzz of soothing energy all around my body and mind, and it’s coupled with kindness and calmness,” Fiene said.

Today, Falun Gong is practiced in more than 80 countries, but it started in China—a place with a long tradition of slow, meditative exercises known as qigong (energy practice).

Falun Gong practitioners demonstrated at Union Square in New York on May 12, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Either at parks in large groups or at home, Chinese people have been practicing various kinds of qigong for centuries. Tai chi is perhaps the best-known. Falun Gong was virtually unknown until the early 1990s, but it is said to have been around since ancient times. According to Falun Gong’s founder, Li Hongzhi, before he modified it slightly and introduced it to the public in China, it was a lineage-type practice passed from master to student.

Li gave lectures on Falun Gong in a handful of Chinese cities for a few years, and interest in the practice spread—mostly by word of mouth.

In fact, it grew very popular very fast. By 1999, Falun Gong had grown to become the largest and fastest-growing qigong practice in China. The Chinese regime estimated that 70 million people were practicing Falun Gong, including some high-ranking members of the regime. The appeal was clear: Classes were free and open to anyone, and testimonials of positive experiences increased people’s interest. Many reported significant improvements in their health and state of mind from practicing Falun Gong.

Falun Dafa practitioners in a group practice session in Shenyang City, China, in 1998. (Minghui)

Jane Pang remembers first learning Falun Gong back in China 25 years ago. Today, she’s a 45-year-old school principal living in Toronto. Back then, she was attending a Chinese university, where she would occasionally practice qigong with a group of fellow students in her free time. When one of her qigong buddies introduced her to Falun Gong in 1996, Pang knew she had found something special.

“I practiced qigong, but it didn’t feel anything like Falun Dafa,” Pang said. “[Dafa] gave me a lot of inner peace immediately.”

The biggest change Pang first noticed from the practice was that it calmed her down. She was a very dedicated student, but extremely stressed from all the pressure she was under, and full of anxiety. Falun Gong meditation helped her get her anxiety under control.

“Meditation helps me physically,” she said. “I have more and more control of my physical body. I can calm myself down and relax myself. I’m not worried about the results. I think that’s a big change for me.”

At first, the Chinese regime was pleased with the beneficial results people like Pang experienced with Falun Gong. Some officials even noted how it could save money on health care costs. An official from China’s National Sports Commission told U.S. News and World Report that Falun Gong’s influence could save each person 1,000 yuan per year in medical fees, and the benefits could add up.

“If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees,” the official said.

But in 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) changed its tune. Top officials suddenly became concerned that Falun Gong was becoming too popular, and feared the influence of such a large segment of the population involved in an activity outside communist control. Perhaps most serious of all, Falun Gong was deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, something the CCP had worked to destroy since the regime’s founding in 1949. Socialism and atheism effectively became the state religion.

Falun Gong books were ordered burned, the exercises were forbidden, and a major propaganda campaign to demonize the practice was carried out by virtually every media outlet in the country—all of which operate under tight state control.

Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners went to the Chinese capital to appeal what they believed was a misguided decision by the CCP. In 1999, Pang made her way to Beijing to convince the authorities that Falun Gong was good, that it wasn’t political or any kind of threat to the regime. It was something to be celebrated. Like many other practitioners in China at the time, Pang thought that if people in power could hear her positive experience, it would change their minds.

“We wanted them to know there shouldn’t be any concerns,” Pang said. “I thought if I went there and shared my story, it would help them to understand what Falun Gong is.”

However, these types of appeals seemed only to intensify the regime’s determination to stamp out the practice. After they arrived in Beijing to appeal, Pang and other practitioners found themselves incarcerated. Pang says she was abducted on the street, put on a bus, and taken to several detention centers over the course of the next few days. She was tortured, starved, and denied access to a restroom. She also had no idea where she was.

“I was very, very scared,” Pang said. “I wanted to say goodbye to my family members. I felt that at any moment, I could be dead. And if they killed me, my family would never know how I died.”

After being processed at five or six different detention centers, Pang was eventually taken to a labor camp where she spent the next two years. The experience was designed to break prisoners like Pang of their adherence to Falun Gong. Ironically, it only deepened her dedication.

“Even if I just had a minute or two to myself, I would close my eyes and do the meditation. I tried to get some peace internally,” Pang said. “My physical body was deteriorating from the torture, but mentally I did not break down. Meditation helped me a lot in such a difficult situation.”

Better Health, Brighter Outlook

Falun Gong shares similar elements with Buddhism and Taoism, but it also has unique characteristics. In addition to providing methods to clear the mind and move energy through the body, it also teaches practitioners to elevate their character. This means doing their best to be a good person in every situation in life. The three guiding principles of Falun Gong are truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

(Photo courtesy of NYCC Falun Dafa)

Those who live by these principles say they have the power to overcome virtually anything. Pang says that even today she feels a profound sense of protection.

“Whatever happens in your life, your heart cannot be touched. It can be an extreme situation, but you feel calm because you feel protected,” Pang said. “I’ve been able to go through so many difficult situations because of the meditation practice of Falun Gong. I’ve benefited from day one.”

Falun Gong comes from China, but the people who practice it today hail from all over the world. One of them is 45-year-old Tabitha Smile. In 2014, Smile was a single mother of two teenagers and working a corporate job when she decided she wanted to find a meditation practice.

Smile had some previous knowledge of meditation practices found in Asia because of time spent in the Far East. Many of her formative childhood years were spent in Japan, and she also visited Korea and Taiwan.

But she discovered Falun Gong in a room above a Whole Foods store in Portland, Oregon, where she met up with a small local group to learn the exercises. She says it was a casual atmosphere where she felt comfortable to go at her own pace. But she saw profound benefits right away.

“The first time I did the Falun Dafa exercises in the group, I could feel the gentle warmth and vibrations throughout my entire body. I felt very light and wonderful, and I knew I had found a true practice.”

“For weeks after my practice, I felt a rotational type of vibration all over my body,” she said.

Within a few months, Smile’s chronic back pain disappeared, and a persistent skin issue that had plagued her for years was finally gone.

“I also felt an increase in energy,” she said.

If you’re new to Chinese culture, much of the philosophy of Falun Gong may seem odd at first. Mystical talk of energy channels, the power of inner silence, and the accumulation of virtue as a real physical substance are all a part of traditional Asian culture. But interested Westerners can find a connection with these ideas.

Those who come to embrace Falun Gong often talk about finding it at a pivotal point in their lives. Joseph Gigliotti, a 29-year-old chiropractor, was first introduced to Falun Gong almost seven years ago while in chiropractic college.

Jeanne Mitchell practicing the 5th exercise of Falun Dafa

“It was at a time when I was beginning to see that I had some serious work to do on my character. I was looking for an authentic spiritual discipline that could help me mature and be a better person,” Gigliotti said. “When a friend told me about this practice, I immediately knew this was unique, authentic, and very powerful.”

Gigliotti had previously struggled with anxiety and depression, but he says through Falun Gong, these issues simply melted away.

“I could never imagine then the changes that would take place in me,” he said. “Falun Dafa has left a permanent mark on who I am, and it has transformed all my relationships.”

Today, Gigliotti says meditation has become an integral part of his life. It has taught him to think of others first, and to look within whenever he faces any difficult ordeal.

“In many ways, this practice saved my life,” Gigliotti said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without it. It’s so nice to be able to sit and settle my mind.”

“While meditating, it feels like a shower to my mind and body. It can really be pleasant. It can also be challenging at times and helps me temper myself.”

A Treasured Discovery

Many Falun Gong practitioners say they treasure the practice because of the journey—the search they took to find it. But sometimes the practice finds them.

That’s what happened to a 63-year-old music teacher and photographer, Syl Lebar. In 2004, Lebar was researching information about a style of tai chi known as “wu,” but for some reason, his search results kept leading him to Falun Gong.

“Every time I searched, Google only showed me pages and pages of Falun Dafa. I had heard of it before, but that’s not what I was looking for at the time. I tried a second time, and the same thing happened. A third, and yet the same results,” Lebar said.

At first he was annoyed, but he decided to see what Falun Dafa was about. He found the main text of the practice, “Zhuan Falun,” online. After reading just a few pages, he was hooked.

“Before I knew it, I was in the third chapter. I couldn’t stop reading it,” Lebar said. “When I went to bed, it suddenly occurred to me—that was no accident with the results when I was looking for wu-style tai chi. Someone was guiding me there. I smiled when I realized what had happened. Dafa is what I was looking for all my life.”

Over time, Lebar saw benefits that he attributed directly to his Falun Gong practice. His health was improving. He developed a more positive outlook, and he found it easier to handle all the little challenges of life.

“Everything in my daily life seemed to be taking an unknown direction for the better. The meditation that goes with the teaching put me in a state of internal peace that I had not felt before, even with other cultivation systems,” Lebar said. “Relationships to my immediate and extended family were improving as well.”

Lebar says he got a lot out of other meditation systems he had tried in the past, but they didn’t compare to what he gained from Falun Gong.

“I could not imagine life without it,” he said.

Categories
Chefs Food Lifestyle Trending

A Chef’s Love Letter to Crete

Author and poet Mary Ann Evens, under the pen name George Eliot, once wrote, “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

For chef and cookbook author Marianna Leivaditaki, the love she developed for the food of her culture as a child set the stage for who she became as an adult.

Ask Leivaditaki about her childhood in Chania on the Greek island of Crete, and she’ll paint a world of edible gardens and olive groves, of homemade cheese and wine, of running around the beach all day and fishing with whole anchovies as bait in the moonlight. It’s a world where family dinners could stretch to include 30 people, and food was never merely a biological need, but also a social one.

This is the world Leivaditaki shares in her debut cookbook, “Aegean: Recipes from the Mountains to the Sea.”

“Aegean: Recipes from the Mountains to the Sea” by Marianna Leivaditaki (Interlink Books, $35).

Born in Crete, now head chef of the well-known London restaurant Morito, Leivaditaki referred to the cookbook as above all, a journal. “It’s very personal, because it goes back into my growing up years,” she said.

Alongside recipes for fresh Mediterranean dishes that showcase the natural abundance of her home island, Leivaditaki weaves in the stories and traditions from her childhood that secured her love of good food. As a reader, I felt many times like she was right there in the kitchen with me, showing me how to grill a squid or prepare an octopus (in her childhood, they hung it on a clothesline to dry). I wanted to follow her, from her family taverna to the local market, to her dad’s fishing boat and the sea. Leivaditaki, through words and recipes, introduced me to a land I had never seen.

“It’s a gift, to put your stories on paper,” she said. “My family stories are not necessarily unique from [those of] other children growing up in Crete, but these are the experiences that shaped my career path. To me, they are the most pleasurable feelings—of warmth, love, creation.”

Fried anchovies with potatoes, chopped herbs, and lemon mayonnaise. (Elena Heatherwick)

Early Foundations

Leivaditaki’s dad was a fisherman, and her mother ran the family restaurant on the water. From an early age, Leivaditaki and her siblings helped at the restaurant, waiting tables, gutting fish, and peeling vegetables.

Below Leivaditaki’s family flat lived Theia Koula, a family friend who became like an aunt to Leivaditaki. Her home was surrounded by pomegranate trees, olive groves, artichoke plants, beehives, chickens, goats, and rabbits. She and her husband made everything from scratch: cheese, milk, wine.

“She was definitely the one who got me into everything about food,” said Leivaditaki. “Because my parents were really busy, fishing and with the restaurant, I had a lot of time to be downstairs to Theia Koula’s kitchen. I would drink Greek coffee in the morning, with biscuits.”

So many gastronomically interesting things were happening at Theia Koula’s house, and Leivaditaki was brought into it all. After their morning coffee together, they would check on the chickens and take care of other animals on the farm, and harvest vegetables in the field. What stands out the most in Leivaditaki’s memory is the tomatoes.

“Her tomatoes were just insane,” she recalled. “They were the ugliest tomatoes anyone had ever seen—bumpy, misshapen. But you would enter the field and just be hit by [their] sweet smell. She would be really careful which ones to pick—only the ones that were super ripe.”

“The whole square smelled of her tomatoes. I haven’t smelled tomatoes like that in years.”

Then they would go back to the house, sit around Theia Koula’s massive wooden table, and stuff vegetables, make a rabbit stew, or toss together a salad for lunch.

Leivaditaki’s experience with Theia Koula represents so much of what the food culture in Crete is truly about: community.

“Food is not just a biological need,” she said. “This is the time to chat, to spend time with friends and family, to bring up issues—and it all happens around the table. Meal time is all about food—but not as in a human need. It’s about sharing food and spending time together.”

Cretan summer salad. (Elena Heatherwick)

Finding Community Far From Home

As Leivaditaki grew, Crete began to feel small and boring. She needed to get off the island, so she left the beaches of Greece behind for university in Canterbury, England. When she arrived, she was shocked: “first, because I was entirely lonely, and then, because I just couldn’t understand what people ate,” she said.

Her housemates ate a typical college diet of pasta with tomato sauce from a tin. “I didn’t know you could make pasta and put it in a tin, and have it last for two years.”

She noticed that in England, eating together didn’t hold the same weight and importance as it did in Crete. Most of her friends ate alone, in their rooms. Homesick for her culture, Leivaditaki began inviting friends to share meals with her.

She cooked every day, and when she finally moved into her first house after university halls, she created an open door policy, where friends knew they were always welcome for dinner. Slowly, she created a culture amongst her friend group where eating good food together became a part of life. And there was no tinned pasta involved: “England has amazing food; you just have to know where to find it.”

(Elena Heatherwick)

Homecoming

Around this time, Leivaditaki began having doubts about her field of study, forensic psychology. She went traveling to clear her head, touring France and Spain on a bicycle.

While on the road, food, and the cooking of it, became a central theme of her life. At the end of that trip, Leivaditaki looked at the way she’d built her trip around the food. “I thought, this is it. I really need to investigate this more.”

Looking back over her years in England, she realized that cooking food and sharing it with others had become the central theme of her life. Deciding to explore that passion more, she returned to her family restaurant on Crete and took over the kitchen.

In her two years there, Leivaditaki realized how much joy cooking the foods of her childhood provided her. She fell in love with her island again: with its fresh, abundant food from the land and sea. Cooking, not psychology, was what Leivaditaki was made for. Giving people pleasure through food was her life’s passion.

Inspiration From Afar

With this newfound clarity, Leivaditaki returned to England, this time with the intent of working in a restaurant. She wanted to learn how to cook a range of food well. Beginning as a waitress, she worked her way up to become the head chef of Morito, where she continues to honor her heritage and build community through her food. She brings in traditional ingredients and recipes from her upbringing in Crete: grilled rabbit with romesco; cuttlefish, chickpea, and green pepper stew; and organic Cretan sausages.

With “Aegean,” Leivaditaki extends an invitation to readers far from London or Crete. The book is divided into three main sections: sea, land, and mountains, with seasonal recipes such as whole charcoal-grilled fish, summer salad with Cretan goat cheese and barley rusks, and fried rabbit with rosemary and vinegar. A final section, “For After,” includes such treats as semolina cake and loukoumades, traditional Greek doughnuts drenched in honey.

Leivaditaki is passionate about bringing people into the kitchen, encouraging readers to try the recipes for themselves. While some may first appear daunting for home cooks unfamiliar with octopus, mullet, or rabbit, they are so well explained and so deliciously photographed that one could feel brave enough to attempt them. More familiar dishes are in there, too. Reading the recipe for tomato and oregano fritters with whipped feta, I could almost smell Theia Koula’s tomatoes.

“What I’d like this book to be is inspirational,” Leivaditaki said. “You are allowed, as a reader in your own kitchen, to be and to explore.”

Rachael Dymski is an author, florist, and mom to two little girls. She is currently writing a novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and blogs on her website, RachaelDymski.com

Categories
Experiences Lifestyle Nature Travel Trending

Sacha Lodge: Where the Wild Things Still Are

After a breathtaking ride over the snowy peaks of the Andes Mountains, the turboprop plane descended from thin air to the thick, humid atmosphere of the jungle. Below us, a muddy river coiled through vibrant verdant forest—until the thick tangle of trees gave way to the dull brown patchwork quilt of agriculture. Ahead lay the airport runway of the city of Coca, near where another river merged and created an even wider winding flow.

Beneath me was the Amazon basin, but still a long way from Brazil. It takes a lot of water to feed the world’s largest river by volume. Ecuador is home to a mere 2 percent of the big river’s source waters, but the three nights I spent at an eco-lodge along the Napo River would be unforgettable. But first I had another two hours of travel on a long and low river launch before I could check in.

A steel catwalk 150 feet in the air stretches out across the treetops near Sacha Lodge in the rainforest of Ecuador. (Courtesy of Sacha Lodge)

A Private Reserve

Sacha Lodge sits at the heart of a private 5,000-acre ecological reserve along the diminutive Pilchicocha Lagoon. Nestled into the surrounding rainforest, a short hike from the banks of the Napo River, the thatched-roof central building and family cabins are modestly woven into the landscape. All brought to you by Coca-Cola, you could say. Well, sort of. A Swiss citizen, Arnold “Benny” Ammeter used to work in distribution for the soda company and found himself deep in the remote markets of Ecuador. He became enamored of the beauty of this region and eventually returned to open an eco-lodge.

After a short time, he didn’t feel the resort was remote enough, so he searched for and found land even deeper into the wild, down the Napo River. With the assistance of local workers, he built Sacha Lodge, and over the years he purchased more acreage. Thanks to a commitment to hire locally, Sacha Lodge is the largest tourism-based employer in this entire region of Ecuador. The guides are primarily local as well, many of them able to draw upon not just typical naturalist knowledge but cultural learning, such as the medicinal uses of plants along the trails.

An aerial view of the Balsa Restaurante, boat dock, and swimming area at the Sacha Lodge. (Courtesy of Sacha Lodge)

Into the Wild

“Wake up call is at 5:30,” we were told during the new arrival briefing.

“So early?”

“Because that’s when the animals get up.” We rest at midday, once again, just like the animals.

Boardwalks connect all the rooms and lodge buildings, which rise up on stilts above the mix of terra firma and marsh waters the color of sarsaparilla. Trails, muddy paths, or simple plank walks lead out into the forest. Umbrellas, ponchos, and, thankfully, knee-high rubber boots are provided by the lodge so guests don’t need to pack special gear.

They don’t call this a rainforest for nothing. Depending on the season, rain can affect the day’s activities. Downpours can be sudden and torrential, or the gray can come in almost as fine as a mist and last the entire day. But if you don’t mind getting a little damp—and you will—the hikes go on regardless. Under the forest canopy, the rain can be less intense.

The Balsa Restaurante at the Sacha Lodge, situated on the Napo River in Ecuador. (Courtesy of Sacha Lodge)

Otters swim in the lagoon. Eight species of monkeys make their homes in the trees, from the world’s tiniest, the pygmy marmoset, to the Pavarotti-aspiring howler monkeys, whose call is so deep and resonant it can be heard a mile away. The abundance of avian life draws birders from far and wide, and during a typical stay, one is likely to see more than 200 species. The lodge guides have recorded nearly 600.

We gathered again in the evening for a night hike. We all carried lodge flashlights, but the guide could spot animals deep in the bush off the trail even in the dark. They know where to look. A special frog on a certain tree; a snake that frequently appears near another.

Dinner at the fine-dining restaurant offers a scenic overlook of the lake. At night, the stars reflect in the water, clear enough to see the constellations—many of which may be unfamiliar to northerners. The Big Dipper and the Southern Cross face each other on opposite ends of the balance of the heavens.

During the day, some guests swam a bit or napped in hammocks. I watched a local man on the dock drop a line in the water and asked him what he was fishing for. “Piranhas,” he replied. What? Where we swim?

Caimans—small crocodiles about a meter long from snout to tail—also call the little black lake home, and on barbeque night when dinner was moved from the lodge dining room to the grill in the dockside pavilion, one apparently had made reservations, snapping up pieces of chicken and pork dropped over the rail by servers.

A master bathroom in a suite featuring windows looking directly looking out into the rainforest at the Sacha Lodge in Ecuador. (Courtesy of Sacha Lodge)
The view of one of the rooms at the Sacha Lodge in the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador. (Courtesy of Sacha Lodge)

Beyond the Lodge

Back out on the Napo River, the launch took a group of us to other sweet spots: A butterfly farm featuring exotic local varieties in a shelter where you can step in and join them. Also along the river is a clay lick, a favored spot for parakeets and macaws. They come at unpredictable times, but they came that day. A flurry and blur of iridescent blue, green, and bits of scarlet as countless birds swooped in and clung to the mud cliff, eating the clay, which is believed to counterbalance the acidity in their other foods.

And then there are the sights above the lodge. A short hike away into the rainforest, there’s a series of towers. Steps lead to the top, where it breaks through the canopy, and a steel catwalk 150 feet in the air stretches out across the treetops, offering closer views of the avian residents. There’s really no need to make much effort to find more birds: Even just outside the rooms, there are oropendolas, crow-like brown birds with golden tails, building their pouch-shaped nests dangling from a large kapok tree in the center of the compound. Their call, not unlike the cool tinkle of water drops in a pool, adds an exotic twist to the white noise of insects and frogs, a soundtrack worthy of an Amazon experience.

Kevin Revolinski is an avid traveler, craft beer enthusiast, and home cooking fan. He is the author of 15 books, including “The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey” and his new collection of short stories, “Stealing Away.” He is based in Madison, Wis., and his website is TheMadTraveler.com

Categories
Arts Nature Trending

The Musical Trees

In every sound of the violin there is the breathing of its trees.
—Antonio Stradivari, luthier

The story of the world’s greatest violins begins in the musical woods nearly 400 years ago. Standing high atop the Italian Alps, at an altitude of over 5,575 feet, the magical spruce trees grow very slowly. Having endured the bitter cold, these trees only grow for a few months per year, resulting in denser, more consistent wood.

In the musical forest, the altitude and climate have been orchestrated to produce timber that resonates with an unusually clear and consistent tone. Renaissance luthiers (artisan instrument makers), such as Antonio Stradivari, handpicked the trees that would later become the finest instruments known to man.

Inspired Original’s short film “Violino” reveals the intimate construction of a violin and how a masterpiece is created when cosmic timing, nature, and man are in harmony.

“If we want to go towards the future, we must know where we came from.”
—Davide Negroni, luthier

Antonio Stradivari is heralded as the greatest luthier known throughout history. He constructed nearly 1,100 stringed instruments between the late 1600s and the mid-1700s in Cremona, Lombardy (present-day Italy). The golden period for Stradivari violins was from 1700 to 1725, when Stradivari produced his finest masterpieces. About 650 of those instruments have survived.

Still from the short film “Violino.” (Inspired Original)

Many current violin models are constructed from Stradivari blueprints, but while the majority of violins manufactured today come from factories, there are still luthiers dedicated to keeping the tradition of Stradivari alive and preserving the art for generations to come.

It takes roughly 250 hours of calm focus to build a violin by hand. “You have to live with yourself and your emotions all day long,” says luthier Davide Negroni in “Violino,” “it’s a world where a lot of patience is required.”

Stradivari is said to have been a man who was never satisfied, yet the first time he heard his instrument, he smiled. A violin can be an exquisite work of art, but it remains as such until it is played—only then can it truly fulfill its purpose, enabling the musical tree from which it came to sing.

In most cases, it can take more than 10,000 hours of practice for a person to master any skill. For the magical spruce trees, it takes from 150 to 200 years of growth before their wood can be harvested for the creation of violins. The tale of a Stradivari violin begins and ends with patience. A violin’s entire journey, from construction to performance, is characterized by the cumulative efforts of sacrifice, perseverance, craftsmanship, and dedication.

Inspired Original is a platform that aims to build a strong community supporting traditional arts, culture, and education. Their mission is to enrich lives by fostering an understanding of the universal values inherent to traditional arts. “Violino” is currently available for streaming online (InspiredOriginal.org).