A hilltop escape with that healing feeling

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Cutting-edge scientific research now proves what the yogis have always known: deep relaxation can have a profound effect on a wide range of medical conditions. Anastasia Stephens reports

Licence to chill: the primary school taking learning to another level

It may sound far-fetched but meditation is helping 11-year-olds to calm down and learn better. Hilary Wilce visits a school where pupils spend an hour a week relaxing

The Sonnets: 65

By William Shakespeare

On The Road: Break for a Buddhist retreat in Beara

Today my mother and I find solace in enormous views of the Atlantic Ocean from the floor-to-ceiling windows of a cottage at Dzogchen Beara. This Tibetan Buddhist retreat is perched on magnificent cliffs on the Beara Peninsula, and our drive here around the lovely coastline from Bantry was continuously lit by sunshine. It calmed my mother, who was full of trepidation at her first visit to a Buddhist retreat. Now, we are struck by the vista, letting our conversations trail into nowhere as it catches our attention mid-sentence.

Martynov Vita Nuova, Royal Festival Hall, London

How seriously can we take Vladimir Martynov's "anti-opera" Vita Nuova? Should we be laughing or crying at its conceit?

The Bird Room, By Chris Killen

No more than 26 pages into Chris Killen's debut novel, its narrator reconciles himself to the fact that things aren't going to get much better. "I don't want to be part of things any more," he laments. An impatient reader might acquiesce, mistaking this novel as yet another male-in-crisis fiction about unrequited love and loneliness. But those who seek something unique in the contemporary British novel will delight in this adroit, snappy debut, a dark and beguiling meditation on the weight of being, conveying the notion of the trapped individual riveted to an existence that makes no sense.

Dragan Dabic, columnist on 'Healthy Life' – and Europe's most wanted war criminal

Extracts from columns by Dragan Dabic, healer, spiritual researcher, and – as Radovan Karadzic – the world's most wanted war criminal

Howard Jacobson: Stop running. Slow down. And take a good long look – you'll get far more out of art

I find nothing tiresome about standing rapt before a painting and thinking long about what we see

Shirazeh Houshiary, Lisson Gallery, London

In his rather gnomic text From the Book to the Book, the French mystic philosopher poet Edmond Jabès wrote: "Writing... is an act of silence directed against silence, the first positive act of death against death." The art of Shirazeh Houshiary, the Iranian-born painter who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1994 and who was responsible for the new East window recently created for St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London, has always had a strong relationship with the word. Writing forms the basis of her elusive and beautiful paintings. Each work has been derived from a word unknown to the viewer, a word that has a relevance for the artist. Like clouds, they appear to hover insubstantially over the solid aquacryl backgrounds.

Day In The Life: Lucinda Drayton, spiritual singer and MD of Blissful Records

'Music and meditation can unlock the heart'

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire

How classic fairy tales were turned into a Dutch masterpiece

St John Passion: LSO/Davis, Barbican, London

Contemporary settings of Christ's Passion have not yet shown the durability of Bach's. Krzystof Penderecki caused a stir four decades ago with his St Luke Passion, mixing avant-garde style into traditional forms, but where is it now? James MacMillan has delivered a St John Passion that stirred its premiere audience to a standing ovation, and seems made of sturdier stuff. True, its composer also made his name with a fusion of old and new ways, in formats that became sometimes predictable, but here the music showed a freshly thought quality to underpin its typical intensity of utterance.

Skin Lane, By Neil Bartlett

Mr Freeman, or Mr F as he is referred to throughout most of this wonderful novel, is a single man nearing his 47th birthday. It's 1967 and he cuts hides for a living at a furriers in Skin Lane, one of the dark, hidden old streets near Cannon Street that used to host London's fur trade. A virgin, friendless, the peculiar thing about Mr F is that he seems perfectly content: "If anyone had ever asked him if he felt old-fashioned or lonely or hidden away, he would have never have dreamed of saying yes."

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