‘What did you do this summer?’ Benjamin Pratt sends us postcards from his JazZen Journey

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Healing our divisions through jazz and Zen


ONE OF THE JOYS OF FALL, since the first days of school in our childhoods, has been the question: “What did you do this summer?” Well, this summer, the answers from our community of writers have been quite inspiring!

So, this week, we are featuring what we might describe as colorful postcards sent to us by Benjamin Pratt as he and his wife Judith traveled in the hills of Tuscany through a unique pilgrimage program called JazZen.

Please, if you enjoy this story, share it with friends—and consider sending us your own inspiring letter from the road.



Here we are outside Borgo San Fedele, an 11th Century Italian Monastery, restored over eight years of meticulous labor and attention to every detail by the owners, Nicolo and Reneta. Borgo San Fedele, located on a hill in the heart of Chianti between Siena and Florence, is immersed in nature and tranquility. 

JazZen Journey is in its eighth year under the direction of Andrea Minick Rudolph and Steve Rudolph. Guests, most from the United States, delight in the beauty of the area, food and wine of the Tuscan region of Italy and jazz each evening by Steve Rudolph and his instrumental guests from many regions of Europe. This week-long journey serves many personal needs of the sojourners: the opportunity to meet new friends, the spiritual deepening of one’s own life, the continued healing of loss of a loved one. All this and more happens within the beauty of the region, the community formed with new companions and old friends, and the enjoyment of delicious food, wine, laughter, tears and Jazz under the stars. Our daily schedule begins with guided meditation by Andrea, an ordained Zen Buddhist Priest (Osho) and a Cognitive Behavioral based Mindfulness Counselor. Following breakfast, visits are offered in the Chianti region of Tuscany, followed by a long leisurely lunch including wine tastings. Afternoons offer opportunities for hiking, swimming in the fresh or salt water pools, or siesta.

After dinner, dessert is served along with Jazz under the stars organized by Steve Rudolph, jazz pianist and educator. Each evening I observed how jazz underscores the basics of healing the divisions in our polarized society. Each piece of music begins with the community of musicians playing together. Then at some point each individual has the opportunity to lift his/her voice above the others but usually with the community supporting the single voice. Then, the piece concludes with the whole community playing together again. It is not only a musical experience but an example for healing our divided people. 

For me these evenings were magical, mystical moments of joy, vibrating with hope that we like these musicians, who come together often as strangers can make music that underscores the possibilities that strangers can rise together to create community that blesses all of us. Let us strive to listen to the community as a whole and value individual voices in spite of differences.




Care to read more?

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Based near Washington D.C., the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt is a retired pastoral counselor with 40 years of experience working with men and women facing a wide range of stresses and tragedies. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a retired member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He writes regularly for ReadTheSpirit online magazine and also is a featured columnist at the website for the popular Day1 radio network.

His book, A Guide for Caregivers, has helped thousands of families nationwide cope with the wide array of challenges involved as more than 50 million of us serve as unpaid caregivers in the U.S. alone. In 2021, Ben will continue to write about caregiving issues for us.

His book, Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins and 007’s Moral Compass, explores some of the themes in this week’s Holy Week column, including an in-depth look at Accidie.

If you find these books helpful, and if you suggest that your small group discuss these books, we would love to hear from you about your response, ideas and questions. Or, if you are interested in ordering these books in quantity, please contact us at [email protected]




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