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Kudos to the blogs/bloggers who patiently post philosophical /healing gems Every single day , inspiring us lesser mortals 👏🙏

When I sit on my cliff-edge with untimed 
patience, letting the beauty and serenity of my surroundings seep into my being, I begin to feel that I, 
too, have become a part of the quiet landscape. I am absorbing into my nature the stillness of Himalaya. I squat on the ground rooted like the 
Deodar tree before me.


We humans have become so self-important and 
so self-conceited in our own eyes that it does not 
occur to us that the Great Mother who bears us so 
patiently , feeds us with such 
abundant variety of foodstuffs, and takes us back 
again when we are sufficiently tired, has a purpose of 
her own which she wishes to achieve in us if we will 
but let her. We have set up our schemes and projects, we have decided what we want to get from life, and we are thinking, striving, struggling and even 
agonizing in our efforts to obtain the satisfaction of 
our desires. If, however, we devoted a quarter of our time to ceasing from self-efforts and quietly 
letting Nature’s mind permeate our own, we might 
make a wise revision of the catalogue of things wanted, yet at the same time secure Nature’s co-operation in obtaining them. 
The world is but an enlarged hotel, where we are 
lodged and fed by Mother Nature, pay our bill and 
then pass on.

To co-operate with Nature 
is to give up carrying the burden of life 
and to let her carry it for us ; everything becomes 
easy, even miraculous. 
I have seen these truths before, but now, in my 
mountain sanctuary and in closer tie with the Mother, 
I see them with startling clarity. 
A poet has said that Nature is the garment of 
God. Yes, but to me Nature is indistinguishable from 
God.
If God is the Grand Architect, then Nature is the Master Builder of this universe, in the Freemasonic 
system of our world. 
My Master explains the futility of separative 
self-effort by an effective simile. He asks, ” What 
would you think of a man who entered the compartment of a railway carriage whilst carrying a trunk on 
his head, and who then sat, down on his seat but 
refused to put the trunk down on the floor ? Yet people refuse to surrender the burdens of their existence to God, insisting on carrying them themselves 
under the delusion that no one else can carry them, 
just as the man in the train was under the delusion 
that it was not the train but himself who carried the 
trunk. So, too, God who supports this earth supports us and our burdens and carries all along with 
Him.” 

High up on a snow-surrounded natural throne, Shiva, the god who took the 
body of a Yogi, is still believed to be lost in one 
eternal aeon-old meditation. In the little tree￾shadowed valley of Agastyamuni, the great Seer 
named Agastya had practised his Yoga in ancient 
times. The sacred river Bhagirathi which flows across 
this kingdom is mentioned in the holy books, the 
Puranas, for it is really the chief feeder of the Ganges. 
Its name is associated with that of King Bhagirath, a 
royal Saint. The temple of Badri Narayan in a glacier valley is sacred even to the Buddhists, no less than 
the Hindus,The place suggests cloistral peace. If serenity can be
attained anywhere on earth, this is indeed one region
among the few. This unspoilt border State, where the
ancient Hindu gods have walked, seems quite apart
from the rest of India.Most spiritual of all
trees, legend makes the deodar the favourite of the
gods.

( Brunton and his Guru (Shri Ramana Maharshi ) may have been the inspiration for the characters in Maugham’s work of fiction )

The Hindus, like
the Tibetans, firmly believe that the Himalayas are
the secret abodes of the gods, as well as of those
spiritual supermen whom they call the Rishees, who
to-day are supposed to dwell there in invisible etheric
bodies. Yes, one of them has brought me here .

It may even be that this unimaginably beautiful and
secluded spot is his very dwelling place. Enchantment
creeps upon me.
It is a fact that the broad mountains of this kingdom of Tehri are holy precincts. The Hindus believe
that these Himalayan shrines, set in the colossus among
mountain ranges, are even more sacrosanct than their
holy cities of Benares, Puri and Nasik. Twice
a day, at the favoured times of dawn and dusk, I shall
climb its steep face with the aid of the stick, and then
settle down to learn how a man might arrive at the
art of being still and, perchance, even ultimately know
God.

The best way to spread the
spirit of benevolence is to begin with myself. Let me,
then, compose my thoughts and silently repeat the
Buddhist formula for world well-being, whose spirit if
not whose words is :
“To the four quarters of the world, I send compassion. To the north, south, east and west, above
and below, I send compassion. To all living creatures
upon the earth, I send compassion.”

The brain is like a wheel which endlessly revolves,
picking up fresh thoughts with every revolution. Now
I watch the wheel slow down. The more I hold to
my resolve to press attention deeply inwards towards
a central point, the more my thoughts diminish in .
We are talking of the difficulty which beginners experience when attempting to learn how to concentrate
the mind. The adept remarks :
” If we assume that the average number of
thoughts which pass through a man’s brain during a
given period is one hundred, and if he succeeds in
reducing it by constant practice in regulation to eighty,
then we may say that he has gained the power of
concentration of mind to the extent of twenty per cent.
Therefore the most direct way to obtain such concentrative power is to practise the lessening of the number
of one’s thoughts.”
And with the slower working of my brain, yet
with all attention not a whit less alert, I begin to feel
a profounder peace enveloping me. The prolonged
concentration of thought has ultimately induced a
finer state to arise inside. How sorry I feel for the
city dwellers who are subject to turmoil without end I
Why should they make the intellect supreme ? Yet
their way of escape cannot inwardly be different from
mine. Minds, exasperated by the inevitable frictions
and disappointments of daily life, may find in the respite gained by mental quiet a soothing and healing serenity that will anoint their wounded nerves with
balm.
The intellect is but an instrument and not the
essential being of man. It is not self-sustained. It
is an automatic and routine faculty. Modern man
represents the triumph of mechanistic intellect over
mere instinct, just as future man will represent the
triumph of divine intuition over mere intellect.

The comparative stillness which surrounds me now
may not be, nay is not, the utter stillness which I long
to attain, for not a few slow-walking thoughts contrive
to meander around inside the emptied halls of my
brain. To be really still is to be centred. Nevertheless,
I shall be contented with it to-day and not attempt to
cross the mystic frontier.


The young cultured Hindu
who dresses like the moderns but thinks like the
ancients is fast disappearing.

Why should I waste my
time, with millions, in railing and ranting against the
defects of established society ? Rather should I do
a little constructive work. We shall have a pacified world when we
have pacified hearts-not before. The ancient Sages
who gave this simple formula are nowa-days denounced as impractical idealists. But if the
final test of a policy is its results in material affairs,
we must confess tohat this peaceless world has not
improved on them. The spiritual emptiness of our
epoch and the poverty of our inner resources express
themselves clearly ellough in the chaos, the distress
we see everywhere around us, and the dolorous servitude which we give to unworthy ideals and unworthy
men.
The world’s development of egotism and intellect
has given it a fictitious sense of practical wisdom.

Auroville

Orissa

Excerpt from Hermit in the Himalayas

I take Nature’s gift thankfully. The Gods who made
this land must have been beauty-drunk. The wild
beauty of the scene outsteps imagination. It inspires
the mind and uplifts the soul. Were I a Shelley I
Would quickly become lyrical over this region, but
alas ! I am not. For the lordly Himalayas exist with
an aura of complete solitude which is ineffably
peaceful and inspiringly grand. In these Himalayan
highlands, there arises the true charm of mountaineering ; civilization is so remote, towns so distant and
serenity so prevalent. They carry the suggestion of
eternity, although there are hill ranges in the south
which, geologically, are far older. The tremendous
heights are, perhaps, chiefly responsible for this
suggestion. Here one is face to face with the universal
mystery itself, hiding behind no man-made facade of gregariously-built cities but revealing its calm challenging face directly and assuming it,s wildest form..
Himalaya embodies the grand forces of Nature.
For
destiny has truly prepared a special place for my
meditations and when I search the long rugged line.
of the Himalayas on the map and let my finger rest
on the kingdoin of Tehri-Garhwal, where India’s
sacred river, the Ganges, takes its rise, I feel, as by
inspiration, that here must be my substitute for Mount
Kailas

Moreover the most sacred
shrines of India are here. Many stories of the deities,
sages and Yogis who have lived in this secluded king-
dom have come down from the mists of tradition.
Here, if anywhere, I may find a fit spot for my meditations, for it is set amid the world’s grandest scenery.

Dawn has spread over the East
like a pinkish pearl. When the music of twittering,
chirruping, singing and jubilant birds, excited over
the event, has somewhat subsided, I get the bags
opened.
Mount Arunachala, in South India,
where my Master dwells and where I have taken up
-my temporary abode, is called in very ancient Hindu
books, ” the southern Kailash.” It possesses a strong
spiritual affinity with its Tibetan confrere, as well as
striking historical ties.
The sacred peaks of Badrinath,
Kedarnath , continue the jagged sky-line
and glitter against a cloudless sky.
It is a curious and startling thought that a visitor
from another planet who was approaching our earth,
would notice first of all this serried Himalayan range.
Par, with hundreds of peaks, at least, more than
twenty-thousand feet in height, the Himalayas become
the most outstanding object on the surface of our own
planet !

What luck ! To have an entire forest of
Christmas trees at one’s door ! And each tree carries a load of gifts upon its needled branches-gifts intangible and invisible, maybe ; gifts of serenity and
quietude ! The tops of these towering trees reach
almost to my very door, but their roots are about
fifty feet down the mountain-side. What the firs lack 
in girth, they make up for in height. They are lordly 
and grand in their vivid green garments

. The ground is thick 
with fallen brown fir-needles. , snow-white blossoms of 
faintly-scented little flowers which brighten the 
shadowed scene. They spangle the dark foliage like a 
firmament of shining stars. Among these silent tree-
shadows I may find, doubtless, what the towns cannot 
give- peace, depth and healing.


We continue climbing the narrow track. The-
steep paths of Himalaya are akin to the steep paths
of life itself. But I adventure up the rugged trail
with music sounding in my ears. God is luring me-
on. I am riding, not merely into Himalaya, but into
heaven. I have forsaken one world only in order to
find a better.
The air is sweet and The mountains are flushed with
beauty that belongs, not to them, but to God.


A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned ;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,
A spot that is sacred to thought and God
, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star holy shines.


A Yogi who meditates on
mysterious forces , while he sits upon the Ganges
bank beyond Rishikesh, that unique town where
recluses, monks and pilgrims make their permanent or
temporary abode ; with great calmness he tells me
how he separated the spirit from the body and found
himself witnessing scenes in far-off Calcutta or even
hearing the noise of London as he looked down
upon it ! Then there is a young Bengali lady who has
achieved an exceptional height of spiritual realization,
and whose face reminds one of the beatitude-filled face
of St. Teresa, while she sits with half-closed eyes
surrounded by a large group of devotees ; a lean, bent
old muhammedan grey-beard who takes me through
clingy Delhi alleys and bazaars to the Jumma Masjid,
India’s largest mosque, where he discourses to me
of his youthful adventures upoil the Mecca pilgrimage,
and then tells me how he is preparing himself for
another kind of pilgrimage, to wit, his exit from this
world.

I had no
desire to meet the leading men of any town. Besides,
why all the bother ? I had done a bit of journalism,.
a bit of editing, and a bit, I hope, of finer writing in a
few books.
Time to give a party when I shall have accomplished
something worthwhile, when I shall have climbed the-
Himalaya of the soul and reached its white summit,.

I hear the cuckoo. Its call makes me think
of spring’s sure recurrence in Europe.
Sundown brings a rapid change of colours. The
peaks and crags of ethereal white which rise to the
sky are now warmed by the waning beams into masses
of coral and pink ; but this is only temporary. The
descent of the dying sun transforms the frosted silver
of the snows from colour to colour, while suffusing the
lower forest-covered ridges with saffron. The red drifts
into gold and the gold returns once again to yellow.
And when the final rays take their leave, the warm
colourings also abandon the range and the snows
assume a chalky whiteness. The pallor becomes more
pronounced and ends in greyish-white.

We ride 
through a monstrous yet beautiful ghost-world. 
Leaves turn to silver in the moon beams and tree-
trunks seem to be carved out of frosted stone. There 
is something indescribably weird in the picture of pale 
moonlight on the world’s giants. I

Each is now a wraith-like titan, 
grand, grim, yet undeniably beautiful. For the Himalayas, in this 
weird light, has become the fabled land of the giants. 
.

Overhead, the sky scintillates with its wealth of 
beauty. Planets wander through the firmament with 
unnatural brilliancy. The stars, in their high heaven, 
are like clusters of diamonds upon the crowned hair 
of night

And of what shall my activities consist ? The
principal one is just sitting still ! I am quite serious.
It is indeed, I must admit, a queer kind of work, the
queerest which I have yet undertaken ever since my
ship weighed anchor and turned its bow from the
British shore ;

. Yet that is the absolute truth, the sole purpose
of my cutting adrift from the generality of men and
settling for a while in this unfrequented Himalayan
kingdom. I expect no excitements, no hair-raising
situations, no perils, in this new adventure of mine.

I am not even to continue my ancient
labours of self-conscious meditation, he counsels, but
just to be still !
I am to seek no outer adventures, nor even any
inner ones. I am to take Nature as my tutor, to merge
my spirit into the absolute silence of her surrounings, and to let every thought lapse away into mere
nothingness. I am to become a living paradox, seek-
ing attainment of a higher order of being by the
curious method of making no effort ! In short, the
Psalmist’s saying, which my Master quotes again at
the end of our sitting, is to be taken in its literal
fulness.
So, in my hunger for the divine presence, I set
out on my journey northwards, hardly knowing, where
my feet will come to rest.
In this undertaking I am simply obeying the injunction laid upon me by my revered spiritual Master
two days before I parted from him. The scene sticks
adhesively to memory. We sit in utter silence during
the eventide hour.

Rajasthan

Banaras

Third month ritual grandma , near Tpty

World Bicycle day

The United Nations has declared June 3rd as International World Bicycle Day, by adopting a resolution on April 12th 2018, during the 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly.

https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/four-cyclists-travelling-the-world-with-a-mission/article27371466.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/dhruv-bogra-on-surviving-some-of-the-worlds-deadliest-terrains/article27372625.ece/photo/2/

  • What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?

That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought

‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin.

Even if one thinks constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in

the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is

after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns

appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.

  • How will the mind become quiescent?

By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the

stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise

Self-realization.

  • What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’

When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they
arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire
with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?”. The answer that would emerge would be “To
me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?”, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought
that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the
skill to stay in its source.

When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-

organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear.  Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness” (antar- mukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalisation” (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Selfwhich ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity “I”. If one acts

in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).
.
  • Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?
Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the
mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath
also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains
controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as
impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed,
is the nature of the mind. The thought “I” is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity. It is from
that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent,
the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent. But in deep
sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop. This is because of the will of
God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is
dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled.
Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps breath in the body; and when
the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath-control is only
an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manonasa).
Like the practice of breath-control. meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.
Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when a chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone. When the mind expands in the form of countless
thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the sattvic
quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.

 

 However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and
hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one’s self. If this truth is
understood who will not give to others? When one’s self arises all arises; when one’s self becomes
quiescent all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will
result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.
  •  What is the nature of the Self?
What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in
it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same
time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I” thought. That is called “Silence”. The Self
itself is the world; the Self itself is “I”; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.
.
Is not everything the work of God?
Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire,
the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in
the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the
souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions
and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches
itself to Him. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of
the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.
.
Of the devotees, who is the greatest?
He who gives himself up to the Self that is God is the most excellent devotee. Giving one’s self up to
God means remaining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other
than that of the Self. Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power
of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry
ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how
not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small
luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?

What is non-attachment?

As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is

non-attachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and

there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within

oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.

.

.

Is it necessary for one who longs for release to inquire into the nature of categories (tattvas)?

Just as one who wants to throw away garbage has no need to analyse it and see what it is, so one

who wants to know the Self has no need to count the number of categories or inquire into their

characteristics; what he has to do is to reject altogether the categories that hide the Self. The

world should be considered like a dream.

Is there no difference between waking and dream?

Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings

seem real while awake. so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on

another body. In both waking and dream states thoughts. names and forms occur simultaneously.

Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?

All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their

conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood

there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within

oneself what one’s Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one’s Self

with one’s own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them.

Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in

books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

ramana

What is happiness?

Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no

happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness

from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled,

it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep,samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed,

the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without

rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in

the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he

reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the

shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who

knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the

world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact,

what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought,

the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?

Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To remain quiet is to resolve the mind in the

Self. Telepathy, knowing past, present and future happenings and clairvoyance do not constitute

wisdom-insight.

What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom?

Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining

from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other

words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self

is wisdom.

What is the difference between inquiry and meditation?

Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Meditation consists in thinking that one’s self is

Brahman, existence-consciousness-bliss.

What is release?

Inquiring into the nature of one’s self that is in bondage, and realising one’s true nature is release

https://www.racked.com/2016/3/14/11173148/kinfolk-lifestyle-magazines

Unlike reading a newspaper, reading a lifestyle magazine is more an aesthetic than functional choice, a way of pursuing higher, or at least less immediate, interests like art, fashion, food, and good manners.

Lifestyle magazines are treated as light fare, but they fulfill the deeper purpose of helping us define ourselves. A publication like Godey’s Lady’s Book, founded by Louis A. Godey in Philadelphia in 1830, included fiction and poetry, as well as recipes and how-to guides outlining a “moral, maternal lifestyle —€” this is how women should be,” Haveman says. Editors published letters from loyal readers, and a consensus about how to live a particular kind of life formed over time.

What separates true lifestyle magazines from the likes of Harper’s, the New Yorker, or even N+1, which might obliquely define certain ways of life, is the sense of commodified identity that can be found in a publication like Cosmopolitan, described by founding editor Paul Schlicht as a “family magazine” when it launched in 1886.

The lifestyle magazine demonstrates what to consume as well as how to behave, and this ethos has informed how newspapers define their lifestyle content as well. In the 1950s, the New York Times summarized its women’s pages as “Food, Fashion, Family, and Furnishings.” Jacqui Shine’s comprehensive essay on The Awl shows how the women’s pages gradually evolved into a “Living Style” section that the Times launched in 1978, now known simply as Styles, with its signature “ambiguous variety of cultural reporting and criticism,” as Shine writes, a mix that continues to define lifestyle editorial today.

It’s worth noting that many popular lifestyle entities were, and continue to be, directed at women; the relationship to the domestic often means that the term itself is unfairly gendered. However, it is in fact an equal opportunity genre. GQ and Esquire became the dominant lifestyle magazines for men during the later 20th century, with “lad mags” like Maxim and FHM flaring up in the ’90s. Still more titles are unisex.

The category might be best summed up by what Adam Moss called the New York Times Magazine‘s iconic front-of-book section under his editorship in the 1990s: “The Way We Live Now.” (Though the Times Magazine isn’t a lifestyle magazine, Moss’s FOB section as well as his current domain, New York magazine, reflect an aspirational urban mode of living.) The successful lifestyle magazine is a mirror that reflects the trends of our times back at us, only a little prettier, more polished, and less complicated. It is “designed to either turn one’s life’s preferences into cliches, or turn cliches into your life preferences,” says Mental Floss executive editor Foster Kamer —€” often both at the same time.

Kinfolk’s Kin

Many independent print magazines populate Kinfolk’s wake. They often share its minimalist design, heavy stock, and serene photography, but each presents a slightly different shade of lifestyle. Here, a short list.

Alpine Modern: A Boulder, Colorado-based magazine, store, and cafe focusing on the concept of “elevated living,” both literal and figurative.

Smith Journal: An Australian quarterly that covers a quirky mix of “thinkers, adventurers, and makers.”

Four & Sons: A print and online publication “where dogs and culture collide” documenting a canine-friendly lifestyle.

Cereal: This Bristol, U.K. quarterly concerns “travel and style,” including branded accessories and city guides sold alongside the magazine.

Another Escape: “An outdoor lifestyle, creative culture, and sustainable living publication that explores the stories of passionate people.”

Drift: A New York-based title about “coffee, the people who drink it, and the cities they inhabit,” with truly insane column widths.

Les Others: A biannual French magazine and digital platform focusing on “fresh air and creativity.”

Provencial: This American quarterly’s mission is to “encourage a lifestyle of balance with a clear and intentional delineation between work and rest.”

 

By the mid-2000s, lifestyle magazines had become multi-platform lifestyle brands, moving from providing readers a sense of intangible community to creating the non-editorial products readers actually consume in order to solidify that sense of belonging. You can now buy a Monocle cardigan or croissant, or live in a pre-fab home designed by the shelter magazine Dwell. Print may have become less relevant with the advent of the internet, but businesses pushing aesthetically-conscious consumption are even more relevant as we document our every move on Snapchat and Instagram.

But it’s meant to be looked at more than read. The magazine’s large format, embossed serif logo, striking covers, and heavy stock have come to define the latest generation of lifestyle magazines. It’s now possible to find Kinfolk clones covering everything from mountain climbing to fatherhood to the joys of dog ownership. The copycats only serve to magnify the sense that Kinfolk really is everywhere.


Kinfolk itself is content with staying mysterious; it’s part of the brand. The company doesn’t release news about itself, and its websites are comically light on background information. After a month’s worth of emails, however, Nathan Williams agrees to meet for lunch near the magazine’s new headquarters in Copenhagen. (Still under renovation, the office is not yet “a comprehensive representation of the brand,” the communications director Jessica Gray warns me.) I book a flight departing a few days later and land in a wintry city, the sky flat and gray like matte paper.

Williams’s careful posture and soft voice seem of a piece with his upbringing. He often pauses to think about or check on his words. During these pauses, he purses his mouth, glances into the distance, and then soldiers on, having confirmed the proper valence of his sentence, often murmuring “yeah” in agreement with himself.

The late aughts could be considered an apogee for lifestyle blogging, a more diaristic and less nakedly monetized medium than its print equivalent, and Mormons led the charge.

 

Beyond its Mormon credo, Williams chose BYU Hawaii for its strong international business program, helped along by a scholarship offer. There, Williams studied economics in the footsteps of his father, an economics professor, “but I knew that I wasn’t really going to find something in that field I would enjoy.”

The late aughts could be considered an apogee for lifestyle blogging, a more diaristic and less nakedly monetized medium than its print equivalent, and Mormons led the charge. That was when Dooce and its proprietor Heather Armstrong, “queen of the mommy bloggers,” as the New York Times described her, hit peak popularity; Armstrong had attended Brigham Young University in Utah, but left the church before turning to blogging.

 

A spread from Kinfolk‘s winter 2016 design issue. Photo: Ouur Media

Mormon lifestyle blogging also intersected with the peak of flanneled artisanal hipsterdom that occurred around the same time. A 2012 article in Trinity College’s Religion in the News chalked this up to the recession. Without money to spend, “millennials have begun to look towards social gratification as a means of self-worth,” doubling down on close circles of friends and shopping at thrift stores for retro fashion.

The idea was to create a title that did talk about things we thought were important, a focus on community, slowing down, quality of life.”

 

 

The Copenhagen studio of Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi was featured in the summer 2015 issue. Photo: Anders Schønnemann

 

With issue sales mounting into the tens of thousands, the team moved to Portland in September 2012, where they brought their staff up to a dozen and launched an event series that saw official Kinfolk dinner parties hosted all over the world. These were documented in easily parodied videos in which, for example, a picnic table perfectly set for 12 suddenly appears atop a picturesque cliff that the attractive diners later leap off of into the ocean.

Kinfolk hit a cultural nerve that went far beyond the print magazine. “I don’t think we created anything new, maybe it’s just collected in a certain spot and presented in a certain way,” Williams says. “How many people post and share Kinfolk on Instagram, it’s kind of bizarre. It turned into its own beast that we have no control over.” Williams doesn’t have a personal Instagram and the official magazine account only posts once or twice a week, but #kinfolk is used about once a minute.

the magazine’s oppressive neatness also seemed like a mold followers had to fit into, performing m for the sake of an Instagram photo. “Everyone feels like every little part of their life has to be perfect. Nothing looks real anymore,” he continues. “You spend 20 minutes setting up your morning coffee with a copy of Kinfolk on a marble countertop.”


 

The editor is acutely aware of his magazine’s reputation. “We have our haters. There’s definitely a misconception that Kinfolk is more of an aesthetic and less of a,” Williams pauses at length before continuing, “company, or publication with at least some substance. The idea that some folks think it’s full of editorials of girls running through daisy fields with flower crowns, which, it’s not. God, no.”

Kinfolk‘s editorial mission has morphed into a larger pursuit of what Williams calls “intentionality”: “figuring out what’s most important to us and then finding a way to actually spend our time and energy on those things.” As Doug Bischoff puts it, “It’s kind of self-help content, but done in a way that appeals to our readership, paired with interesting writing and art direction.”

A Parisian dining room shot for the design issue. Photo: Anders Schønnemann

The magazine confronts our never-ending search for authentic connection, particularly in the internet era. “We’re on our laptops, on our phones all the time, that in itself is fine,” Williams says. “But the flip side is that it does create an appetite for real life, for relationships, for genuine bonds with the people around us. Kinfolk leverages that appetite.” For the duration of our lunch, Williams’s out-of-date iPhone doesn’t emerge from his pocket once.

This notion of authenticity has resonated around the world. Sales were strong in Japan even from the initial issues, and media companies there as well as in China, Korea, and Russia eventually inked syndication deals to translate and produce their own editions of Kinfolk, with careful oversight from the Portland team. Through an agent in Japan, the company hooked up with the local brand Actus to produce a line of clothing, austere outfits that a friend of mine visiting Tokyo described as “a cross between Muji and Everlane,” as well as a series of ascetic housewares, both under the label Ouur Collection. With the name “Ouur,” “the idea is we’re bringing together likeminded designs and ideas,” Williams says. But the significance of the name “just kind of turned into bogus.”

Ouur is modeling itself on businesses like BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox (parent company to Racked), among many other media companies subsidizing their original editorial content with creative studio branches.


 

The lifestyle was better in Denmark, too. As Kinfolk might also imagine its readers, the Danes perennially rank among the happiest people in the world. “The work-life balance, it’s definitely a good fit for that. Most Danes don’t work past 3,” Williams says. Alongside the Danish emphasis on family, which Bischoff appreciates as he and his wife raise their two small children, there’s a “borderline laziness,” he says, then stops short. “I shouldn’t say that. They know how to spend their time wisely.”

“Even their ‘Imperfect’ issue was perfect in every way, shape, and form.”

Williams changed along with his company. As recently as 2012, he identified with Mormonism, but no longer does, nor does Katie (Doug and Paige Bischoff are the only two Mormons left on staff, Williams later writes over email). When I ask him to elaborate, he declines, preferring to leave religion out of the conversation. It’s clear, however, that Kinfolk has also become more inclusive.

I ask Williams if these editorial shifts were an intentional effort to change the magazine’s early notoriety as a bastion of white hipsterdom. “The first few issues it was really just an oversight,” he says. “If 90 percent of our shoots are happening in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Portland, I know people don’t like to hear it, but they’re actually not very diverse communities. That’s no excuse. You make it work, you figure out how to properly represent your readership. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Yet there remains a sanctimoniousness to Kinfolk. It portrays a right way of doing things set against an invisible wrong, packaging anxieties over topics like family, friendship, and connection in the guise of rustic tablescapes and drapey garments. Even if its models are more diverse, the magazine still has a pervasive air of whiteness about it, in the overall aesthetic homogeneity and the quest for a self-professed “purity.” As photographer Andrew Lee notes, “even their ‘Imperfect’ issue was perfect in every way, shape, and form.”

Kinfolk still offers a one-size-fits-all-who-seek-it lifestyle solution with little tolerance for mess. The increasingly rarified image of luxurious simplicity that it projects is far from possible, desirable, or even recognizable for everyone.

 


A few days after meeting Williams, I moved from my hotel into an apartment in Nørrebro, a hip neighborhood across the river from downtown Copenhagen. An open studio with tall ceilings and expansive windows, it’s described as “Boheme New Yorker style” on Airbnb. As I wandered across Copenhagen from artisanal coffee shop to curated bookstore, I thought about why I want the things I want: an industrial loft apartment, a precisely poured cortado, intimate dinner parties —€” all things that show up in Kinfolk.

I learned these aspirations through magazines, novels, television shows, and the tastes of my friends. Lined up, they seem like the punchline of a joke at my own expense, the reduction of an identity to a few arbitrary objects, and yet I feel an unjustifiable loyalty to them as mine.

I stop in Atelier September, a cafe and furniture boutique in a stately old storefront. With soft lighting, mid-century modern designs, and marble countertops, it exudes characteristically Danish hygge, the trendy term for coziness. But my mind kept wandering back to Kinfolk, which had become a kind of scrim warping everything in its own image.

From a beatific barista I order avocado toast, a culinary trope of the magazine’s audience. It had a local twist, the avocado shellacked like fish scales on dark Danish rye bread, and tasted transcendentally good. Maybe it was the jet lag, but bathed in the mild light of the gray day falling on the marble, I momentarily felt like a better person, or at least more like myself. Then I Instagrammed my cappuccino and it shot past 30 likes, a personal hit.

A lifestyle is made up of a shared vernacular. My Instagram was so popular because my friends recognized a quiet coffee in a foreign city as a badge of the lifestyle that we aspire to. Perhaps these days we demonstrate our mutual recognition by exchanging likes rather than buying magazine subscriptions. Aspiration is mediated by digital technology rather than print. We model our lifestyle goals in Instagram photos because the medium is so accessible. We can publicly participate in our chosen lifestyles all the time, constantly signaling our belonging and getting affirmation in return, creating our own communities rather than waiting for the directions of an editor.

This is ultimately why Kinfolk worked so well. It created a lifestyle with familiar, do-it-yourself tokens —€” the unfinished wood tables and mason jars and dinner parties —€” fit for a world in recession, and subsumed them within an iconic visual style that was equally easy to participate in through social media. Kinfolk also came into existence just as we started using platforms like Instagram aspirationally, translating the aesthetics of the glossy print page onto the even glossier screen and making them our own in the process. As Williams admits, he lost control of what “Kinfolk” communicated. It means more to people as a label than as a substantive movement or even a magazine.

Photo by Anders Schønnemann for Racked

The #Kinfolk community is united less by particular ideas about how to live than a superficial visual style. It enforces monotony rather than embracing differences of identity. The same emblems of aspiration can now be found in Brooklyn or Copenhagen as easily as Tokyo, Lisbon, London, or Istanbul, and Kinfolk is always there to provide them, piggybacking on the meme it has become.

The challenge that Williams and Ouur face is how to reclaim an image of self-affirming authenticity when the perspective that once made them unique is now universal. It’s the hipster paradox: you can’t be both nonconformist and part of a massive, global group.

“Convergence is possible only at the price of shedding identity,” architect Rem Koolhaas wrote in his 1995 book, The Generic City. “Identity is like a mousetrap in which more and more mice have to share the original bait, and which, on closer inspection, may have been empty for centuries.”


There’s a kind of schadenfreude to watching the meaning drain from a lifestyle aesthetic, in the fading relevance of latte art and avocado toast. Lifestyle is like high fashion —€” you can only chase it in its wake, catching fleeting moments. I started to wonder what Williams himself was chasing, so I met him again one night at his office.

The editor doesn’t live an immaculate Kinfolk life. Williams watches Seinfeld at home after work and follows along with the latest potboiler TV: The Good Wife, The Black List. Rather than novels, he reads the usual business books on entrepreneurship, leadership, and running a creative team. But he still has to determine how Ouur will direct the Kinfolk-y aspirations of its audience, present and future. The vision of a lifestyle must constantly be refined, made to appear effortless, timely, authentic, and unaware of its own artificiality. To better explain his goals, Williams shared a moment of clarity he had experienced earlier that day.

Joni Mitchell

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/joni-mitchells-openhearted-heroism 

All she needed was her lyrics, preternaturally analytic, wry, and shrewd; her chords, largely self-invented, a kind of calligraphy of the moods; and her voice, which modulates from patter to rue to rhapsody in a single phrase. In concert, she sometimes trained her attention on a single listener in the front row, casting the stranger as the vivid “you” of a song who in real life may have been Sam Shepard, James Taylor, or Leonard Cohen. The best pop music is often preening and shamanic.

This photo of a Danish kitchen appears in The Kinfolk Home. Photo

excerpts from  https://the-shooting-star.com/2013/08/01/10-life-lessons-from-2-years-of-travelling/

We take life too seriously.Most of us have been brought up and set in such moulds of what our life should look like by the time we’re thirty, that we forget it’s okay to mess up and live a little. Meeting people both in my own backyard and halfway across the world made me realize that you don’t always have to be running and aspiring for something more. That more than a steady job, a posh apartment, a promotion, a life partner, or even a to-do list, it’s more fulfilling to have a life that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Freedom is underrated.

At some point after I quit my job (Read: The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel) and gave up any semblance of a regular schedule, I started to wonder why so many people, my family included, couldn’t appreciate the sense of freedom I felt everyday. Then I met a fisherman in Mauritius who chose not to work in a factory for more money like his friends, because he loved the sea and could choose not to work on some days and still feed his family (Read: What a Fisherman Taught Me About Paradise). It was his philosophy that made me more sure of mine.

Possessions are overrated.While moving to Delhi from Singapore two years ago, I had accumulated a few suitcases worth of stuff, from six years of living there. I decided to get rid of most of it, though not without the gnawing feeling that I was going to miss it. The truth? A month from then, I didn’t even remember what stuff I had left behind. I’m in the process of instituting a big change in my life after August, and this time I’ll be more than happy to get rid of the things I certainly don’t need.

Karma can bitch-slap you.You know when you go all out to help a friend and then they brutally backstab you? That’s kind of what karma has done to me recently. I won’t go into details, but I think I’ve learnt my lesson right here in the travel industry. You can either do the right thing or be politically correct, and while both have their consequences, it’s not true that doing the right thing can’t screw you over. That’s just how life is.

Strangers are kind.I’ve trashed all those horror stories that end with the lesson, don’t talk to strangers. If I had a penny for every time I’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness of a stranger on my travels, I’d be a millionaire. Families with so little in small villages in India have shared their meals and life stories with me. People in Turkey opened up their homes and hearts to this stranger from Hindistan (Read: So Long, Turkey). The hospitality of an Aussie expat in Mauritius and a French-Mauritian couple in Rodrigues blew me over. And I haven’t yet experienced anything close to the warmth of the Bahraini people (Read: Land of a Thousand Friends). So trust your gut, but let strangers show you what a kind world we live in.

Happiness is not the goal.I always thought that the leap of faith I took two years ago, to live and travel on my own terms, would take me closer to the illusive feeling of happiness. And it has. But happiness is such a fleeting feeling. Happiness for me was a drunk man on a lonely road in Sri Lanka stopping and shining the torch in our direction, till we found our way back to our guesthouse. Happiness was walking into a bakery in Turkey to ask for directions, and having the owner pull out his truck to give me a ride. The memories of these moments last, but happiness itself doesn’t. Recently a friend told me, we’re not people who can be happy. We’re just drifters. It’s true.

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