Traveling Lessons – Greece
I began this blog just last summer – in August 2015 – after coming back home from vacation. The very first article that wanted to be written and that essentially gave birth to this blog was titled “Traveling Lessons: What I Have Learned about Myself after Living in the UK for Three Weeks.”
“Wanted to be written” is precisely what happened.
Do you know all those people who have always wanted to be writers? I do, too, and it’s never been me! Since kindergarten, I have always wanted to be a teacher (which I have been for more than ten years now), and I had never dreamed about being a writer, let alone about having something that was called a “blog.”
However, just like with all the things that come into this world through us rather than from us, I didn’t really have much of a say in the matter. The unanticipated thought about writing down my recent insight and then publishing it on my very own blog, came with such a thrilling, exhilarant and almost intoxicating feeling of fun and adventure that there was nothing I could do except just give in to it and allow what wanted to happen.
Today my blog has more than thirty posts, and I am celebrating its almost one-year anniversary with another article about travels. Here is what I learned while living in Greece for two weeks.
Do you have a spiritual practice? I do. It is not a very long or sophisticated one, but I love to read Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks in the morning, to meditate, to pray, and also to do yoga when I can.
All of these activities have served me incredibly well and provided me with many life-changing revelations and even more peace and joy.
I am not fanatic about my practice and wouldn’t describe it as “non-negotiable,” but I value the peace of mind that it offers me as well as a reminder to show up in loving ways when I interact with other people during the day, so I usually do not skip it unless I am really short on time.
That is why when I arrived in Greece several weeks ago, there was a small volume of Tolle’s book in my suitcase. Even though many items had been left behind to meet the airline strict luggage weight restrictions, my morning meditation book had made it to the list of essentials.
When I opened my eyes on the first morning on the island of Zakynthos, I habitually reached for my loyal companion (I had made sure to put it on the night stand next to my bed the night before, just the way I have it back home).
After pondering for a minute which chapter I wanted to read that particular morning, I opened the book to Chapter 1: “Silence and Stillness” and read the familiar words:
When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I AM that is deeper than name and form.
To my great surprise and disappointment, the words that usually emptied my mind, touched my soul and filled my heart with a sense of quiet happiness and joy, just bounced back off me this time. They sounded dead and meaningless, like some kind of a physics book excerpt that I was struggling to grasp.
I put the book down and looked out the window. There was a loud choir of dozens of sparrows jumping from one tree branch to another in the olive grove right next to my room balcony.
I listened to it for a while, slipped out of bed, pushed the balcony door wide open and lied on the bed again, facing the garden.
Watching the olive trees’ leaves move dreamily against the blue sky as they were being tenderly and lovingly kissed by the morning zephyr and listening to the birds viciously vying with each other, I suddenly realized that Tolle’s words sounded Greek to me that morning because there was nothing to quiet – my mind was already quiet. In fact, it was as quiet as I had never experienced it before.
It felt as if all the wires, cords and cables; all the input sources of information through which thoughts had entered my mind before were suddenly cut by some invisible big knife. There was complete silence and emptiness in my head, not even “white noise” could be detected; even stillness had stopped speaking.
The same invisible knife must have also cut off all of my past and future, because it felt as if nothing existed at that moment except for me lying on that bed and the sparrow concert in the olive garden outside. There was nothing else in the whole world. I was the whole world.
The inner silence of which I had often gotten occasional glimpses, but that most of the time was obscured by my overactive mind, now took over my whole being. Everything else dropped off. I became IT. I became the Silence and Stillness that I used to read about. I became the Life Force Itself. And it felt like peace, it felt like love, it felt like blissful happiness…
When I finally got up, I was amazed to find out that I had spent a whole hour lying on that bed – it only felt like ten minutes…
I picked up my phone and looked at the screen alerts. There were several messages from home about some “serious problems” that had to be resolved “right away,” about some action that had to be taken “immediately;” there were quotes and articles from the people who wanted to help me find my happiness…
I was fascinated to notice that none of those messages caused any thoughts or feelings in me. It felt as if someone was trying to speak in slow motion or from under water – I couldn’t understand what they were saying; none of their words were going in. It felt as if I had suddenly lost the ability to comprehend the language of problems.
I stared at my phone for another second, amused, and put it down. Those messages got me thinking about my life back home.
I have lived in the United States for almost thirteen years, and I seemed to have bought into the idea that life consisted of millions of everyday problems that constantly needed to be addressed. Every day brought new challenges, new difficulties, new obstacles and new headaches. It was me against life. It was a race, a fearful fight for survival, a struggle, a boxing match. Every new morning brought the same question: “Who is going to win today: me or life?”
I seemed to have bought into the idea that life, like a wild and unpredictable animal, needed to be broken, tamed, domesticated; and when it lost its ferocity and viciousness, it had to be enslaved, exploited, used to my own advantage. I had to have a list of demands and life had to deliver, it had to please me, to entertain me, to give me all that I had placed on my “shopping list.”
I suddenly realized that my life back home was full of “doing” and had very little room for “being.” Life became a “to-do list” and there was not one single area that did not get affected by it. There were very strict rules about how to rightly treat work, rest, health, relationships, beauty, spirituality – yes! Even spiritually had to be “done” – daily inspirational readings, weekly yoga, self-improvement, self-development, self-reinventing, workshops, summits, webinars… – do, do, do, do…..!!!
Back home, not only have we turned every aspect of our lives into a problem, but we’ve also turned ourselves into a problem! We are “doing” our lives and we are “doing” ourselves! We are “working” on our awakening, on our enlightenment, on our awareness… while the only way to get there is by STOPPING DOING everything!
Back home we often feel so stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted from constantly trying to solve all the problems that we ourselves have created that we make ourselves physically ill! The problems that had never existed before us and that don’t need any solving… The problems that are not problems at all, but just mind-made distractions from the obvious, from something that has never been lost, from the happiness that ALREADY IS and always has been!..
I felt as if someone had just poured a bucket of cold water on me, flabbergasted at my new realization, wondering if it would change the way I was living back home: “Will I drop my spiritual practice? Will I be able to bring more “being” into my “doing”? Will I make any drastic changes in my life?”
I am excited to go back and find out…