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Architectural Quality and Culture: Practically Perfect

Is a utopia the opposite of a dystopia?

Dystopia refers to “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.” (New Oxford American Dictionary).

Utopia calls to mind an ideal place – with all the desirable qualities for a wholesome human society. 

Sir Thomas More introduced the term in his 1516 novel Utopia, about a fictional island society. And while that society was located in the south Atlantic Ocean, the word utopia translates from the Greek into English as “no-place”.  So actually, a “utopia” is, in its very code, a promise of perfection with an underlying belief that such a place cannot exist in the real world.

Dystopia often calls to mind George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But since that novel was published in 1949, dystopian science fiction stories and films have inundated the mainstream.

Think of the stories that can be described as “utopian” – how many can you call to mind?

Of course, an emphasis on dystopian patterns must have shaped the way that generations of people in western societies have consciously and unconsciously perceived the world, its possibilities, and human potential.

Here we are in the 2020s, with utopian (dis)illusions and dystopian narratives strewn about, but also real environmental crises challenging core beliefs. And I have to ask: from the point of view of someone considering their world view and what formed it — is a utopia actually the opposite of a dystopia? Or do they serve as one vicious cycle — as a loop restricting human imagination, actions, and potential?

What if we revise our understanding? Moving away from dystopia, there is a happy dream and vision. Moving away from utopia, there is a practical process. There is a design and site plan. There is a lived reality, rooted in personal responsibility and social cooperation.

So perhaps we can now appropriately identify the opposite of a utopia-dystopia vicious cycle:


The German term Baukultur refers to “the production of the built environment and how we interact with it, including planning, building, remodelling and conservation.”

As architect and urban planner Reiner Nagel (Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Federal Foundation for Baukultur) explains:

“We definitely regard Baukultur as a synonym for sustainability. But it includes more than just environmental aspects…Sustainability in the sense of architectural culture also includes the resulting man-made spaces and the process of creating them.

In other words, how do we get there?” 

Interview with journalist Torsten Meise | Interview auf Deutsch

To align and resonate with Baukultur then, is to first and foremost believe that spaces with all the desirable qualities for wholesome, sustainable human societies can be — quite simply — real places. It is to establish a virtuous cycle, where we are all responsible for our built environments – as well as what we contribute to the consensus reality from our thoughts, perceptions, and writings.

If the concepts of utopia and dystopia linger a while longer, let us remember that they create and reinforce a loop of illusion and disillusion — like quicksand on a mental map. Steer clear.

Baukultur is about nurturing a vision of future human societies rooted in practical processes and real places. And that gives us something to build on.❂

Social Light

| Photo by Vlad Chețan |

There is an idea that responsibility is the inseparable result of power, known most recently as the Peter Parker principle: “With great power comes great responsibility”.

If we consider “freedom” in this equation, it also holds: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” 

And yet, it seems that as many achieve greater freedoms relative to most others in this world, they are paradoxically trapped in a state of mind which shirks responsibility and chases endlessly after ego-gratification. Instead of being social lights, illuminating the best in others, they become self-absorbed socialites, which is to the soul as artificial sweeteners are to the body.

So your assignment, dear reader, is to define what freedom means for you, then list the freedoms that you recognize in your life and consider how you can be a social light now – and what is furthermore possible, as your freedom expands. And remember, when you do contribute in this way to the world, it’s good to do so as anonymously as possible. Allow people to wonder where the light you’ve shared is coming from, so that serendipitously they may find it in themselves and remember their true nature.❂

The Map and the Territory

| Photo by Darren Tiumalu |

We are in an era of extremes and with the increasing frequency and intensity of technological advances, natural disasters, and pandemics — and the global impact of conflicts — it feels as if we are all being turned into endurance athletes, with all the exigencies, whether or not we want to be. Meanwhile few have the requisite training, skillset or mindset. 

Much of the status quo is either violently crumbling or quietly melting away — revealing altered environmental and mental landscapes. These rapid changes can tap into aggressive reactions in many who have grown used to zero-sum competition. This is reflected in and adds to the challenges.

“The map is not the territory.”

-Alfred Korzybski

| Photo by Pixabay |

Not only is the map not the territory that is mapped, but we are often holding onto and paying attention to old maps and paradigms while navigating new territory. Sometimes they still correlate but when they do not, it can be more challenging than not having a map at all. And not only are the old maps and models sometimes misleading, but the territories can change rapidly now, depending on the observers and other factors that shift physical realities.

We seem old-fashioned with so much to unlearn and so young, with so much yet to learn and relearn. Let’s remember this and continue to unlearn with humility and learn with love — and repeat as necessary.❂

Wellness Real Estate

Where can we live and also thrive in this era of extremes? It’s not merely in a gated and guarded estate, underground bunker, or “remote” island. Even when luxurious, that’s just real estate.

What’s wellness real estate?

Consciously designed spaces for cooperative communities to form and thrive, rooted in holistic health and well-being principles.

Whereas owning real estate can be fragmenting, wellness real estate is about integration. To shift from investing in and owning real estate — to investing in and owning wellness real estate, we must expand our conceptual knowledge. We will put forward here the concepts of land stewardship and wellness, and then highlight some features of wellness real estate.

Land Stewardship

Property ownership comes with benefits. Beyond their precise contractual obligations, though, most real estate owners are unconcerned with the wider responsibilities of property ownership — which is actually stewardship.

With wellness real estate, owners must center on being a property owner and a steward of the land. This means caring for the property and land as well as reaping the benefits. It means carefully nurturing, restoring and conserving the land for current needs and future generations. In Europe, it is a concept upheld in the Christian tradition but of course it is also a concept recognized, embraced and practiced by Europe’s pagan societies and early human civilizations around the world.


Wellness is the “state of health and well-being featuring the harmony of the body, mind, spirit, emotion, and social relations through self-responsibility.” (Source: ISO). The inclusion of self-responsibility in this elegant definition is significant.

In a gentle twilight with dark teal clouds stretching across the horizon and a light blue sky above,, we see an inviting home nestled in the hilly green landscape--with a thatched roof and warm lights glowing from the inside.

Consciously-designed and built spaces, rooted in holistic health and well-being: wellness real estate.

Wellness + Real Estate

Simply put, wellness real estate is skillfully designed, developed, and built with the intention of respecting the holistic health and well-being of residents and guests.

Let’s highlight some features in four aspects: location, building, facilities & amenities, and community.


Properties may be located in cities or in nature. Inherent in their design, they always have good views of their setting: urban architecture, deserts, ranches, farms, mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans. Wellness real estate is harmoniously situated and constructed with health-supporting building materials. Biophilic design, when applied, connects residents and guests directly and indirectly with nature.

Wellness real estate has a clear connection with the land. The geology and cultural heritage are relevant; there is discernment when it comes to the energy dynamics and balancing required to build soulful human dwellings on/around the land. There are stories and traditions that are recognized and shared, offering symbolic nourishment. There may be thermal mineral waters — natural warm springs and pools — that support healing and preventative practices for good health. There is thoughtful, inclusive design for the specific uplifting experiences of single adults, couples, parents with children and/or pets, and groups.


When it comes to real estate, the local building requirements and codes are generally fulfilled with a focus on return on investment (ROI). Buildings are constructed in ways that conform to the existing codes. The sense of responsibility generally does not go beyond what is considered “acceptable”.

In wellness real estate, (ROI) is considered along with “return on wellness” (ROW). Features of the building include: proper ventilation, air filtration and water purification systems, and systems to track the building data in real-time; oxygenated and sleep-optimized bedrooms with shields from electric and magnetic fields, chromotherapy and hydrotherapy showers; and dynamic circadian lighting.

Facilities & Amenities

Swimming pools are with geothermal spring water and/or natural salt water. Swimming areas, spas, saunas and locker rooms are cleaned with eco-friendly products. The spas offer products that are derived from local natural resources for health and beauty, e.g., thermal waters, mud, clay, honey. Other beauty and personal care items are carefully selected for their organic ingredients and brand’s integrity.

Yoga instructors are carefully vetted. When you encounter and practice with a service-oriented, humble and wholehearted yoga teacher, you will be inspired and guided to develop an authentic practice that will strengthen and sustain you, and expand your ability to authentically serve others.

Restaurants and cafes offer locally-sourced organic food, and there are weekly and/or biweekly farmer’s markets. Farm to table production is highlighted. Residents and guests can also choose organic meals and take classes at culinary centers. There may be vineyards and wine tastings, golf courses, polo fields and dressage. Wellness real estate facilities and amenities range from simple to luxurious.

Wellness real estate also includes an appreciation for art and art galleries, libraries, music concerts, expert lecture series for lifelong learning, meditation spaces (rooms, courtyards, gardens), medicinal gardens with calming herbs, and aromatherapy. Powerful practices and techniques for well-being are offered, including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.


Staff are well-trained and consistently provide excellent service. Employee wellness is essential, too. Staff are included in wellness plans and programs.

Wellness real estate communities attract chefs, sommeliers, nutritionists, and other healthcare practitioners; spiritual guides and masters, and other well-being specialists.

Opportunities are also designed to allow residents and guests to meaningfully interact with local communities beyond shopping excursions. There are volunteering options, community service programs, social clubs, sports clubs, organized tours and local university lectures.

Global Wellness

The Miami-based Global Wellness Institute (GWI) researched and published a report on the industry in 2018, bridging wellness perspectives and discussions with global business opportunities. Their research results included the following points:

  • Wellness real estate was a $134 billion industry in 2017.
  • In 2017, there were over 700 residential projects in the pipeline, across 34 countries.
  • Consumers are demanding healthier environments and are willing to pay more for them.

Wellness Real Estate and Germany

In Germany, you’ll find deep-rooted innate wisdom about living harmoniously with nature — holistic health knowledge that has materialized in myriad ways, e.g., in European thermal towns, spa culture, and the Kneipp system of healing.

With vast experience in international real estate and finance, Berlin-based expert Carsten Heinrich has consulted on numerous holiday home development projects. He explains that there are outstanding regions in Germany — with properties from simple and cozy spaces to high-end luxury — along the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts, in the Bavarian Alps, in the legendary Black Forest and other inspiring natural environments and historic towns and cities. “In order to develop the significant potential of wellness real estate, we must have clear standards, precise criteria and reliable metrics. We also need new and viable ideas for the near future.”

As awareness of holistic health practices and sustainable eco-sensitive lifestyles grows — as stories, services and products come to the surface on Internet sites and modern markets and agoras, it is natural to seek out and connect with like-minded communities and heart-coherent architects, designers, developers, consultants and agents.

Higher consciousness and cooperative communities will matter more and more in this unfolding era. The time to make decisions, take action and to move is in the present. Let’s choose well and choose wellness.✪

Sleeping Beautifully

Without enough sleep we all become tall two-year-olds.

JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom |

If we’re not getting enough sleep to begin with, negative neurocognitive consequences can make it even harder to address the underlying problems and improve our situation. So first we must hold the intention to expand our wisdom and release that harmful pattern. Let’s call the entry to the virtuous cycle, “knowledge”.

1. Knowledge and self-knowledge

γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know Thyself)

inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi |

Sleep is complex and mysterious. It is also natural. We can begin learning about the natural aspects, in particular from findings in circadian biology. Here are some questions to guide the learning process:

  • What is cortisol?
  • How does the body’s cortisol response to stress affect sleep?
  • Do I have a healthy cortisol response?
  • What is melatonin and what is its role in the wake-sleep cycle?
  • What depletes hormones and are my hormones depleted?
  • Do I need to consult my doctor about hormone therapy and/or melatonin supplements?
  • How do fluctuations in my blood sugar levels affect sleep?
  • What is my dosha (Ayurveda) and how can I adjust my lifestyle and sleep to my metabolic type?
  • What is my sleep chronotype and how can I adjust accordingly to optimize sleep quality?
  • How can I gently release emotional blocks and pain from traumas and reduce overall stress?

In addition to keeping a journal for your research and personal development, keep two small journals by your bed: a night-time gratitude journal for writing down what you’re grateful for, and a dream journal for writing down your dreams when you wake up. Often when I’ve recommended this, people have told me that they cannot remember their dreams. My suggestion is: keep at it, even if it means holding your pen over a blank page at first, and just thinking about dreams.

Eventually it dawns on your unconscious that you are truly listening and after that, you should be able to recall more dreams, more vividly. Have a light, playful touch, as if you’re going on an adventure and then writing about it. Reading through these journals later can yield powerful insights and support the quest for self-knowledge.

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do —
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

Robert Louis Stevenson

2. Healthy blood sugar level

Another vicious cycle can occur when our diet changes due to sleep deprivation: as we eat more and gain weight, overall health may suffer and blood sugar levels may be impacted negatively; fluctuating levels and low blood sugar at night can then further decrease sleep quality. 

To get out of this quandary, we can first introduce some self-care steps in the right direction, e.g.: limiting intake of caffeine and other stimulants, especially in the afternoon and evening; not eating anything for at least three hours before going to bed; drinking only water or herbal teas for at least three hours before going to bed (though in some cases, an Ayurvedic blend of warm milk & honey with spices induces such a sweet sleepiness and could be a good option.) 

3. Be Cool

Imagine a flow of energy: moving in towards your center – and energy moving out from your center; imagine this as a flow that you can feel: flowing in, flowing out. 

As an Ayurvedic health practitioner explained it to me: at bedtime, energy moving out from our center is stimulated by stressful thoughts, disturbing noises, and heat — which can also cause general restlessness.

To promote good sleep, we must focus on our energy flow moving in towards our center. Think of “curling up” with a book under a blanket, while wearing soft pajamas on a cold winter night — and consider why that can be so cozy. It is an expression of energy moving in towards your center and that is what we want to encourage for a sense of well-being when we go to bed. 

A cool bedroom helps us get into that mode. About 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit) is considered ideal, though the exact ideal temperature does fluctuate somewhat as our body temperature fluctuates. 

4. Do go gentle into that good night’s rest

The fields will yield their trove of spice and musk,
And balsam from the glens of pine will fall,
Till twilight weaves its tangled shadows all
In one dim web of dusk. 

L. M. Montgomery

Starting at twilight, set your digital devices to night mode (darken the screens). 

As the sun sets and we enter dusk, the blue light emitted from LED devices like a laptop or smartphone gets absorbed through the blue light sensors in our eyes and can negatively impact our body’s production of melatonin. Adequate melatonin is needed for sleeping well through the night. 

There are blue light glasses and amber glasses designed to reduce or block blue light, and studies that suggest wearing these glasses may indeed increase melatonin levels at night. 

The best habit though is just to decrease screen time in the evening. Put aside your computer, tablet, smartphone and any other digital devices a few hours before bedtime. Work, social media accounts, video games, television dramas, and negative news reports keep us in a stimulated state whereas we want to start relaxing several hours before bedtime.

Rather than watching television or streaming movies, you can listen to audio books read by narrators with soothing voices — books that both interest you and make you sleepy at the same time. Light incense (Frankincense or Myrrh are wonderful for the evenings) and natural candles. Meditate. Pray. Go gently into bed.

When it is time to go to bed, sleep in a darkened room. A cool, dark environment will promote deep and restorative beauty sleep.

5. Bathing Beauty

As twilight deepens into night, soak in a warm bath with some magnesium salt (magnesium chloride) dissolved in the water to help relax the nervous system before bedtime. Make it a simple ritual. After the bath, applying lavender oil or rose oil on the skin deepens a sense of relaxation and well-being.

6. Yoga Nidrā❊ (Yogic Sleep)

There’s something quieter than sleep

Within this inner room!

Emily Dickinson

In yoga, the pose known as “śavāsana” the “corpse pose” (or “mrtasana” the “death pose”) is achieved by lying on the floor with hands stretched out and relaxed to the side, palms facing up. As you settle into this pose after a sequence of physically demanding poses, it can bring on a wave of relief. Ah, at last. This is easy, you think. And then, this pose which seems so effortless at first becomes a challenge. Because here you must relax and let go of tension, and stay awake and still the mind. Ah, suddenly not so easy.

With the practice of yoga nidrā, we expand consciousness between waking and sleeping using a guided meditation. The meditation is usually experienced in the corpse pose. With expert guidance, this ancient technique works phenomenally well. It can also reduce overall stress and improve sleep quality.

Other yogic techniques that guide one towards inner peace and better sleep include sitting in meditation, chanting mantras, or studying sacred texts.

For more information on yoga nidrā and guided meditations:

7. Acceptance

In the night of weariness
let me give myself up to sleep without struggle,
resting my trust upon thee.

Let me not force my flagging spirit into a poor preparation for thy worship.

It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day
to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening.

Rabindranath Tagore 

Finally: accept everything and everyone in your life for what and who they are, not what or who you wish they were. This does not mean condoning harmful behavior or staying in environments that do not support your health and well-being. It means acceptance. Basic Trust. Otherwise, no matter what actions you take, you’ll be avoiding yourself — and that will drain your vitality (especially in the dark). And it will use and perpetuate anything to keep you hooked on persistent illusions and keep you in avoidance, including health issues that consume your attention. 

As you shift into acceptance and breathe deeply, remind yourself to “let go and let God” or a variation that is meaningful for you.

If all this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is – though it doesn’t always demand a lot of effort; sometimes the work requires that we cease certain efforts. It is vital work though, and we just have to reach the point where we are ready to do what it takes to restore and/or support our health and beauty sleep.❂

The information, materials, and content in this post and on this website are for general educational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or to serve as a substitute for professional medical consultations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare practitioners before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness routine or other health & wellness program.

Photo credits:

Photos by Andrea Piacquadio, Karolina Grabowska, Pixabay, Lisa Fotios, George Becker, Riccardo Bresciani, cottonbro, Elly Fairytale

Refined Luxury

It’s no wonder that luxury can bring to mind a disquieting ambivalence. After all, there is a loud and flaunted luxury which is all about extravagance and pride – and then there is refined luxury. They share the same essence of high quality materials blended with artistry and shaped with respect; but while living in luxury can mean building up a tolerance to excess, refined luxury requires that we carefully remove excess and impurities. Yes, it can take a while. Patience is a virtue.

Living in refined luxury is to be mindful, light, unburdened, stable, subtle, elegant, coherent, and inspired.

Refined luxury is cultivated in designs that are eco-friendly and regenerative, while upholding quality. Refined luxury draws from the well in the center of one’s inner peace. It is not for show or approval.

It is for quiet, secure, and honest goodness in harmony with nature.🌱

Wellness Journeys

The rapid changes of our accelerating era are calling for us to speed up…

Wellness has been defined as a state of being in good health. In order for wellness to be meaningful, we must include mental, physical and spiritual well-being.

When we apply the principle of cura personalis (“care for the whole person”), a holistic wellness practice can arise and move through our individual and interdependent realities. Cultivating and sustaining wellness requires knowledge and disciplined presence, then – to skillfully evolve and thrive in harmony with the elements: water, earth, fire, air, æther.

Whenever circumstances require it, we seek counsel and care from qualified health professionals; and also, we must maintain our personal responsibility for healing and well-being.

Wellness journeys are thus more than the sum of their parts; they are growth opportunities — aligning inspiration and experiences with discernment — guiding us to a sustainable daily practice.

Wherever we are on the planet, wherever we are in our personal practice: the rapid changes of our accelerating era are calling for us to speed up – not with busy-ness, but evolution-wise. And so let’s rise with intention to reach the speed of change gracefully.❂