My essentials: Xaxa Calleja’s cultural picks

No 82 | Xaxa Calleja, 43, painter

1. Book

The Book of Ichigo Ichie, The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, The Japanese Way. This book describes the concept of being present in all moments. All moments are fleeting, and this book reminds us of this and how we should savour the moment before it slips away.  Each moment is unique and will never be repeated in the same way again. The authors also remind us to seize the moment, or it will be lost forever.

2. Film

My Octopus Teacher. Most of the film is concentrated on the building of a relationship between the filmmaker and the octopus. You can feel how he is transformed by his relationship with the octopus. The film shows us what happens when he slows down and really engages with his surroundings. Often, we are in such a rush to move onto to the next thing that we fail to notice what is in front of us.

3. Internet/TV

Zen Habits, is a website written by Leo Babauta that I frequent periodically. I like the simplicity and directness of his message. Basically, his website focuses on finding simplicity and mindfulness in our lives. It is also about removing what is unessential and to focus on what is important. With all the distractions that are available I find it hard to focus and not feel overwhelmed by my commitments. Zen Habits, offers simple advice which I find practical for my daily life.

4. Music

The soundtrack of “The Pianist” which featured music composed by Frédéric Chopin. For many years I painted listening to this soundtrack. Now when I listen to Chopin, I find I can only listen to one or two pieces. There is something in Chopin’s pieces where I feel the bittersweetness of life wrapped up in his notes. It makes me want to cry and at the same time I feel in awe that anything exists.

5. Place

I am enamoured by the Aeolian islands, particularly by Vulcano and Stromboli. I love the intensity of the blue sea in stark contrast to the black volcanic beaches. There is a certain roughness and authenticity to these islands that I find captivating. Not to mention the smell of sulphur that welcomes you before you set foot on the island of Vulcano. On Stromboli I felt humbled by the enormous active volcano. I feel a heightened sense of awareness when I visit these two islands.