Beatrix Ost: The Body Authentic, The Mind Eclectic

by Araxe Hajian

MindMeet Story teller Araxe continues the second part of an afternoon enchanted by Beatrix Ost, as they pondered aspects of the human experience one day before violence charged into their quiet college town of Charlottesville, VA. This is the second of a two-part interview.

“Seeing myself through her eyes makes me more lovely,” Savitri Durkee in More than Everything. (Photo credit: Ari Seth Cohen)

AH: How do you nourish yourself?

BO: Meditation is very nourishing to me. I love to cook. The preparation of food for the communal good, for the dinner table, is enormously soothing. I love doing that—those schnippel schnippel works of peeling and preparation. It is very meditative. There is a chicken in the kitchen thawing for tonight. I wanted to make a coconut chicken soup with Indian ingredients and laurel leaves.

AH: What a great way to keep out all that negativity that is coming to our town tomorrow.

BO: Yes. I want everyone to come to the farm tomorrow. I want to make this soup. To not be part of that. But to be part of this—this togetherness and love. That kind of hate is terrifying.

AH: When fear or loss enters life, how do you cope?

BO: I always feel it shall pass. It’s not something I’m stuck in. It’s a timepiece. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You learn to cope with it and it becomes part of you. You deactivate the acidity of it once you integrate it into who you are and who you become. Of course, there is loss and sadness, but if it’s not active, it goes by. Time is the biggest, most positive factor we have in our life. If we learn to deal with time wisely, then we are ahead. Because then we have mastered this fear. You know, most people think we have no time. But we do.

Ost, blurring the boundary between art and life. (Photo credit: Ava Kuttner, Ost’s granddaughter)

AH: Tell us about your mantra: “In your body is a good place to be.”

BO: It is written into the tiles in my bathroom. I have had it inscribed into jewelry I designed for a company that makes jewelry from bomb fragments in Laos, from mines left from the Vietnam War. It is an idea I had from my own forehead—I have this scar from a cancer operation. This large hole that was sewn together into a jagged scar. And I grew to love it. I turned horror into beauty. In the same way, we can turn bombs into beautiful objects. To transform, but to stay in ourselves, in our present. In your body is a good place to be.

AH: What piece of advice would your younger self give you now?

BO: I was meditating in the woods here. And in my mind’s eye, a beam of sun came through the high trees down towards me. On that beam was the seven-year-old me. She bent down to the 70-year-old me, and said, “Do you remember when you were seven? You knew everything.”

Imagine. And I think when we are children we do know everything.

AH: And what would you tell yourself now?

BO: When we take care of our lives later, it is a rainbow. When you become old you can become wise like you were as a child. If you throw away the shells, the things we put up to look a certain way, to show this and that off. You can let it go because you know this is the rainbow. I am at the end of my rainbow. I want to go with just that essence. I would say, Remember the essence you once had.

Don’t just go and do what the world tells you to do or what to wear or how to think. Sit together with the others, with your friends, and discover yourself. Help each other. Forget about what grandpa or uncle says. Don’t listen to auntie about what you can or can’t do, about your body, or your ability. Use that time for discovery. Make it into a conference of the mind and the body.

Ost in More than Everything. (Source: Beatrix Ost)

AH: It’s that concept of co-creating, right?

BO: Exactly. It can’t be learned early enough. And I come from the other side. From not being invited and not co-creating because it wasn’t what people did.

AH: It wasn’t what people did. But it’s what you did.
BO: Yes, it’s what I did. I had a very encouraging mother. I learned Buddhism from my son. My mother said to me when she was old, she said, “Beatrix, the person I learned most from was you.” So, if a mother can say that to her daughter, I learned I can say to my son, “Thank you for teaching Buddhism to me.”

AH: And isn’t that beautiful when we can learn from our children?

BO: We can learn from each other. From the very educated to those who have no schooling. It’s a different kind of learning. With steadfast ideas, we go forward to something. It’s a different kind of knowledge. A different kind of wisdom.

Beatrix Ost is an artist, writer, designer, actress, and film and theatre producer who lives in Charlottesville, VA, and New York City. Her most recent books include More than Everything: My Voyage with the Gods of Love, A Piece of Me: My Childhood in Wartime Bavaria, and The Philosopher’s Style. Beatrix also creates beauty out of bomb fragments by designing jewelry for Article22. Explore more of her creations at Ost Apparel and Shop.Beatrixost.com.

Header image: a portrait sketch from More than Everything. (Source: Beatrix Ost)

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September 11, 2017