Leaping into Quantum Healing

“I am a Quantum Healing Hypnosis practitioner, creator of my own reality. Passionately living my life’s purpose to bring light and clarity with ease through love to help other souls to heal and find their purpose in life” Kitija Claire Alksne.

Kitija Claire Alksne was born and raised in Latvia, a country where since childhood she lived in strong connection to nature and her inner Self. Growing up, she began to feel a calling to travel abroad and explore not only the world but her own purpose in it. Her studies took her to Miami in the US and later Paris, France, before she discovered Greece, where “I could feel with my whole being as my home. My soul here feels at peace,” she says.

I had my session with Claire, as she finds it easiest to be called by clients, in what felt like a synchronistic time. Claire offers Quantum Healing sessions, a therapy developed by the late American mystic and psychic Dolores Cannon, whose many talks I’ve been drawn to listening to on YouTube over the years; one particular weekend, for no apparent reason, I dedicated three days straight to watching Cannon’s talks, and by Monday I decided I was going to try her Quantum Healing meditation later that day. But on Monday noon I received a call from a friend who told me that he had tried Quantum Healing with Claire and that I should definitely try it too as it was a very powerful and therapeutic experience. I was stunned by the serendipitous call and referral and of course contacted Claire immediately for an appointment.

The session experience started with a lengthy talk with Claire for around an hour during which she asked me about my life and emotions, spiritual quests and fears, achievements and blocks, childhood, present and future. I had arrived prepared with a set of questions that she would use in the second part of the session, during which she put me under hypnosis and took me on a past life journey, before connecting with my higher self, or what Cannon sometimes also describes as the Unconscious, and asking it the questions I’d brought. I had been under hypnosis before, and it was similar to other experiences in the sense that you are aware of where you are and what you are doing yet you are also connected to a completely different, deeper, consciousness. As my sunconscious/higher self answered my questions, it was as if I was separate from myself.

The entire hypnosis experience is recorded and after the session Claire sent me my recording to listen to at least three times. I could write an entire sci-fi-style novel based on what I saw when traversing through past lives. It was also fascinating to hear my unconscious providing answers that were a combination of enlightening, unsettling and quite unexpected as well as deeply comforting and reaffirming. That was a couple of months ago, and I’m still processing the experience…!

Meanwhile, I asked Claire a few questions to find out more about her life, her personal practice and the Quantum Healing method overall.

Kitija ‘Claire’ Alksne

What made you want to become a Quantum Healing practitioner?
“I have always felt a connection with something bigger than myself. I’m a strong believer in miracles and would like to say my life is filled with miracles. The clear light energy that surrounds me lovingly shows and teaches me what life is truly about. How it should and can be lived, and experienced. Years ago during a meditation the energy of my Higher Self fixed my back – there was bone cracking and my body was moved by higher energy. The power of the Universe I was shown, was something I was looking for and in that moment it was shown to me that everything is possible. So I wanted to help other people experience the same ability to heal and find their missing answers. Although I knew Dolores Cannon’s work, and always thought it was something I’d love to do, for a long time I was unaware that it is possible to actually study and learn her method. Until one day I did! This teaching came with such an ease and so naturally to me.

What has been the most rewarding part of this work for you?
With each amazing soul that comes to my practice, my conciseness opens to a whole new different level. Each session is very unique and the energy I get to work with is very powerful. All the senses are working for the client and also for me during the session, and the room fills up with unconditional love. I love seeing the actual change and feedback from my clients. When they tell me how much they’ve healed and how much better their lives have become, it means the world to me.  

What is Quantum Healing to you?
It’s a soul’s mission to help to raise the vibration of planet Earth by healing one person at the time. It’s so important to me because I see people who feel stuck in their life situations, mental/physical pain, past life traumas, emotional state and through Quantum Healing I can show them that it doesn’t have to be that way. Life can be lived how you want it. We don’t have to be a victim to circumstances. We are the creators of our lives.

What are your clients looking for?
Mostly clients are looking for a healing and clarity, as well as abundance, love and happiness. They usually find the missing answers to what they have been looking for! All client’s questions can be answered. If there are some questions that cannot be answered, then either it is not needed and necessary for the client to know such information or the client’s rational mind won’t allow this information to enter through easily and blocks it subconsciously.

Can anyone be hypnotized? Is hypnosis safe?
Everyone can be hypnotized. QHHT is a technique that naturally and safely reaches the somnambulistic state which each of us experience two times a day: just before becoming awake and just before falling asleep. It is a profound technique that achieves the deepest level of hypnosis possible, reaching into the quantum field that has all of the knowledge of the Universe and each one of us. However, there are rare cases where the clients’ left side of the brain is more dominant, meaning that client is mostly analytical and methodical in thinking and doesn’t allow the activation of the natural senses (seeing, feeling, hearing, knowing, tasting, smelling) to be experienced during the session.

How has quantum healing changed your life personally?
My Higher Self has empowered me to live my life’s purpose to serve others, to be truly myself, speak my truth, my inner wisdom. All answers are within us, we just have to quitter the mind and listen.

Is QH an ongoing therapy or a one-off session?
It is very individual. The session is a very powerful experience and there are clients who need only one. If the client feels like having another session, I usually would recommend to have it after at least two to three months. However, with the rise in human consciousness, more and more people are choosing to have more than one session to explore themselves further and they are welcome to do it.

Claire is based in Athens, Greece.

What, in your experience, are the issues most people are seeking answers to?
Clients are looking for answers to a various kinds of issues – health, relationships, business, career, spiritual, existential, past lives and karma related. Mostly clients come to me with health-related questions- illnesses, phobias, traumatic experiences. One of the most important questions clients ask is – “What is my life purpose and mission in this life?” or “Am I a good mother?” or “Will I finally have a nice relationship?” Only by constant and frequent questioning, we can arrive at the truth. Our Truth!

Contact Claire for a Quantum Healing Session or further questions around it at: claire@luxeofease.com

See her website: www.luxeofease.com

The 20 Minute Biohacking Ritual that Got Me Through Lockdown

What’s 20 minutes within a 24 hour day? Nothing and everything.

Starting before lockdown but sticking to it religiously during, I created a wellness ritual that combined two wonderful inventions: Joovv red light therapy and the Shakti mat. I lay on the mat with bare skin, getting the best of its benefits such as increased circulation, detoxification and lymphatic drainage while bathed in red light coming from my Joovv tablet that boosts collagen production in the skin, heals and reverses aches by reducing inflammation, pains and injuries , rebalances the Circadian rhythm (promoting better sleep and a general sense of calm) and listened to inspiring, heart healing, anxiety relieving, focus boosting, mood improving meditations and music or just enjoyed the silence.

Joov is the Word!

If it can help grow plants in outer space, which is what NASA used it for in the 1990s, you can bet red light (and infrared light) therapy has effects on other live species too – especially locked down vegetables. I researched red light therapy for a long time before settling on a Joovv device, which has incredible reviews from reliable sources, such as professional athletes, health fanatic celebs like Dave Asprey and ordinary folks who like me, want to be reassured their inverstment is worth their while. Joovv is the leader in red light therapy!

Fortunately I don’t suffer from any particular health condition, except a stiff neck and shoulders many a massage therapist has shrilly remarked on. Yet as Joovv became an everyday part of my life it also became my home doctor providing me with help in dealing with everything from mild to acute anxiety, and the insomnia it brought on during lockdown, occasional joint pains that often magically disappeared even within one 20-minute session, and an overall sense of serenity. Usually I used it in my bedroom and positioned it in different areas for 10-20 minutes each, including my face and chest, back and neck and sometimes even my feet or the top of my head (it’s also reputed to help boost hair growth and quality).

JOOVV Red Light is delivered at 660nm, is readily absorbed by surface tissues and cells, leading to enhanced skin health and healing.

Near-Infrared Light (NIR) is delivered at 850nm, is invisible to the human eye and penetrates into deeper tissues, leading to enhanced recovery and inflammation support.

Other members of the household: Interestingly, red light therapy is popular with my cat too, who rushges to lie next to me when I turn it on! It is indeed used by veterinarians in animal clinics to help heal injuries and strains that the dog or cat is undergoing after surgery. My son finds the light too strong and doesn’t like it, yet I have used it on his back when he’s been unwell to help soothe and calm him and it has always sent him to sleep!

Check out this video by Thomas DeLauer to find out more!

My beloved home healer, Dr Joovv

Shakti maT ACTION

Upon receiving my light strength and regular strength Shakti Mats, I immediately disrobed, unrolled this modern-day rendition of the ‘bed of nails’ and lay flat on the floor on my back. Ouch! It is not easy to lie on a Shakti mat without experiencing the seriously surprising ache that comes from its 6000 plastic spikes! I shopped mine from Shakti Mat EU, and was inspired not only by the many health benefits these wellness accessories promised to offer but also that they are ethically produced (fair trade) using organic materials, made by hand in India, not by slave labourers or a factory. Shakti says it supports all its Shakti employees in India with a living wage, an emergency medical fund, and investment in the education of their children. Also, each purchase automatically offers a donation to charities for the Shakti Community projects .

The mats are made by hand with fair trade ethical standards and organic materials.

Back to the health benefits – Shakti mats essentially offer a static form of acupressure that occurs as one lies on the spikes. The longer you lie there (the ideal time period is 20 minutes), the more your circulation increases. Indeed, as I grew more and more accustomed to using it, my enjoyment of the warm, relaxed buzz the mat offered me grew deeper. The mat can be used beneath the back to help alleviate aches and pains, under the legs to help boost circulation, under the feet (standing on it) as reflexology and even rolled up and used as a pillow and neck or head therapy. I used it anywhere I felt I needed it, but usually more as a relaxant under my back.

Often, in combination with the Joov red light therapy, the Shakti mat helped me drift into sweet, deep sleep. The Joov tile turns off on its own (it has a timer that can be set from 1 to 20 minutes) anbd the Skakti mat causes no harm if it’s used for longer than 20 minutes.

Shkti mats have 6000 plastic spikes!

Shakti mats have bvecome incredibly popular and have received thousands of raving reviews, clearly because they actually work and are sold at an affirdable price. To make the most of your Shakti mat you can follow the Shakti Mat Tutorial, a three part series.

Relaxation Treat: Cocoon Urban Spa

Whether you’re in Athens for a day or forever, it’s great to know there’s a place such as Cocoon Urban Spa where you can receive top-quality therapies for face and body, either as a one-off treat or as a course of treatments that bring results. 

As someone who has been passionately interested in holistic wellness for decades, I was among the very first to visit Cocoon Urban Spa when it opened 20 years ago. In my post-lockdown slump, I headed over there to try some renewing and reviving therapies that could facilitate the process of returning to the land of the living. 

My Own Experience: Tried & Tested!

I tried the CBD Oil Massage and the vitamin C Facial, in that order. I arrived stressed out from work, life, and a year+ of lockdown inertia and was ready to surrender to the hands of the spa’s skilled therapists. I was not disappointed. The CBD Oil Massage is a head-to-toe therapy using an ingredient that has become widely lauded for its effects in reducing anxiety and muscular pain. The therapist used strong yet caring strokes to ease away my blocks and gracefully accepted my invitation to converse about the therapy itself and various other personal questions regarding my body’s health. I was impressed not only by the fantastically relaxing experience but also by her depth of knowledge and charm. 

Next, was the Vitamin C Facial, which involves a face cleansing (with Murad products, not hands or a machine) and a reviving massage that help a strong dose of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is considered to leave the skin glowing because it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, accelerating healing and removing fine lines to reveal skin freshness, brightness, plumpness, and shine. Again, the aesthetician kindly explained the entire process to me and offered me extra tips for my skin type and beauty routine. 

I certainly left Cocoon Urban Spa feeling as dreamy and relaxed as I’d hoped, with skin that glowed for days and has improved in texture ever since. 

NOTE: Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my swimsuit along, so I missed out on the chance to enjoy the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi, but there’s always the next time!


While at the Spa, I stopped for a chat with Maria Poulada, the co-owner of Cocoon who together with her sister has led it to develop and evolve into a truly fantastic place of holistic wellness for Athenians and visitors alike.

Getting to Know Cocoon Urban Spa: Q & A with Maria Poulada

How has the wellness scene in Greece changed since you first opened 20 years ago?
It has broadened and multiplied, which is great. However, more and more schools and Yoga Teacher Training programs are churning out “therapists” and unfortunately, during my recruiting efforts, I’ve seen that the quality has dropped significantly, and inexperienced teachers and masseuses are being absorbed by the market and lowering the standard. 

Where do your therapists train?
Most of our therapists are very skilled and have studied Natural Health Science. It’s one of the oldest and most respected schools in Attica. I usually ask the teachers from that school to recommend grads for me and it’s worked out great.

Who are your customers?
Cocoon Urban Spa has a wide range of customers, from people who come for a profound life-change (to decrease chronic stress or pain, improve sleep, etc.) and visit us on a regular basis and then there are people who come once a year to treat themselves on their birthdays or to give a gift. I think we are the only place in the city that offers a truly holistic wellness approach, passive and dynamic therapy, encompassing treatments, yoga, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

What would you recommend as The Ultimate treatment for post-lockdown stress?
It’s a bit subjective. Some would say it’s the Shirodhara or any classic massage. For me, personally, it’s Yoga. The Hatsumomo is a terrific overall detox treatment and if you couple it with a deep cleansing facial or a Renewing Facial, you’ll look and feel brand new! The CBD oil massage is deeply relaxing and works well for anxiety-related stress.

What kind of products do you use for treatments?
We’ve remained very old-school, sticking to our philosophy of hands-on therapy and natural products. It’s vital to use the highest-quality products for massages and facials. We’ve been using Decleor and Jurlique for ages because they’re natural, organic, and biodynamic. Also, the quality is terrific. You relax just by smelling them and the results are fantastic.

As published in In+sights Greece (www.insightsgreece.com)

Home - Cocoon Urban Day Spa
Cocoon Urban Spa is on Souliou 9 & Erifilis Str, Halandri, Athens. Email : info@cocoonurbanspa.gr &
phone : 210 6561975

simplicity: a heart perspective

There are many ways to simplify your life, however if you start from the premise you are very busy and life is a challenge then you will not have the real formula to succeed.

BY ELIZABETH ANN MORRIS

Is your life simple or complex? What would your answer be? Creating simplicity in your life is something you may aspire to, but have yet to achieve.

Intrinsic within the ancient culture of Greece is the virtue of simplicity. Ancient Greek philosophers praised simplicity. This may be why it is still visible in the Greek way of life. Perhaps this is why so many people return again and again to Greece. A panacea for a lifestyle fraught with surviving in a world of stress and conflict.

There are many ways to simplify your life, however if you start from the premise you are very busy and life is a challenge then you will not have the real formula to succeed. You can strip your life back to basics – but if these are built on expectations of what you are trying to achieve rather than the expression of your true soul purpose; simplicity will become mundane and boring instead of being joyous.

Simplicity is not created in the mind. It is created in your heart. The mind can take action, based on what your heart knows is right for you. Your heart is the bridge to your higher self (or soul). Your soul holds the wisdom and truth of who you are and what you are here to achieve in this lifetime. It pulses down light into your heart, gently reminding you that you are a unique being with a special purpose to fulfil in the evolution of our planet.

Yet the ego mind is alluring – it pulls us away from our heart centre into complex materialistic expectations of life and how it should be. It offers us a myriad of choices in everything. This in turn creates conflict. What if we make the wrong decision? Life then becomes stressful.

Recent global events are a divine opportunity for us to take a step back from our current reality and to review what we valued in life. However, for many this was a mind rather than heart exercise which has resulted in high levels of conflict and fear.

Our heart continuously calls us back to simplicity of soul expression. Your soul wants to express its truth, it’s compassion and its wisdom through you. Young children remember this – watch them play and you will see soul expression in action. Nature is another cue to the harmony and beauty of life.

If you are called to simplify your life here is a visualisation that can help.
A notebook and pen will be useful to record your insights.

  • Find a comfortable space where you will not be disturbed. Gently close your eyes, place your hands on your heart centre and focus on your breath for a few moments.
  • Start to quietly hum …………….and sense the vibration in your heart and your body…… repeat this hum 11 times – or longer if it feels right
  • Send this energy down through your feet and imagine you have roots growing down from your feet ….. flowing into the centre of the planet
  • Connecting you to Mother Earth and all the ancient wise beings who walked on this planet before you……
  • Let this connection flow up into your heart …..
  • Then sense the vibration flowing up from your heart through your crown to your soul chakra……uniting you with your divine purpose
  • As you breathe let this light fill your body ……..
  • Call in your angels and guides if this feels right…..
  • Start humming again ………for a few moments …..
  • Now focus on what is precious to you ……..
  • Stay quiet…… and notice what you sense and feel
  • When you are ready deepen your breathing, feel your feet firmly on the floor and open your eyes. Drink some water

Take the time to reflect and record your experience in your notebook. Pay attention to what is precious to you. Everything you do should be in harmony with this. The deeper your understanding of your soul self the easier it is to simplify and let go all that does not serve you.

Take the time to visit your heart centre every day and attune to the truth of who you are. Then you will see the world through the eyes of your soul.

All will be clear all will be simple and all will bring harmony peace and joy. Then when you return to Greece you will taste the nectar of life even more.

Elizabeth Ann Morris is a worldwide spiritual teacher, writer and healer. She has dedicated the last 30 years to exploring and developing workshops seminars and teaching programmes which empower people to find the true meaning and purpose of life.
Her first taste of Greece was in 2010 when she came to dliver workshops and healing sessions.
Book a Session with Elizabeth Ann now on her site Sacred Oracle Teachings

4 excellent eco-logical greek stores

Eco-conscious shoppers in Athens now have plenty of top quality option when searching for the perfect accessories, jewellery, clothing, and home decor items. As with vegan-vegetarian restaurants and stores selling Greek and global natural, organic cosmetic products, more and more stores catering to the ethically-minded are sprouting up around the capital. Here we showcase our top choices!

Convert Art (24-26 Pallados, Psyrri)

Used tyres, used inner tubes and electronic materials are skilfully up-cycled to create super-stylish and original convertible bags, wallets, belts, and jewellery. Created in 2012 by designer Marina Griponisioti after she found inspiration from the disposable items she found in a garage, this is Greece’s first upcycling company, with a choice of over 400 designs. You can also check out Convert Art’s online store on Etsy.

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Trash4Flash (9 Voulgaroktonou St, Nea Smirni)

Plastics, metals, rubber and other materials are upcycled to create necklaces, earrings, neck-wear, cufflinks, and bracelets that may not suit every taste but certainly present a singular style.
03a-Taba-Triplet-Leather-Handmade-Fashion-Statement-Necklace

Plastikourgeio (Asklipiou 51, Exarcheia)

Both a shop and a mini-factory/lab, this store follows the eco-philosophy of the global Precious Plastics movement and sells alternatives to plastic as well as their own upcycled plastic creations. With a plastic shredder, 3D printer and other machines the owners have created themselves, as well as collaborations with creative Greek designers, they showcase some exciting eco-options in jewellery, home decor, and accessories. Here you’ll also find bamboo dining sets, stainless steel straws, handmade lunch-bags and other trendy utilitarian items that don’t need to be dumped after use.


Living Green (Harilaou Trikoupi 53, Exarcheia)

In this innovative, brightly-lit and thoroughly-stacked store you’ll find everything from home decor items to children’s construction toys and other games, sophisticated gardening equipment like a rollable compost basket and sprouting jars, cosmetics, jewellery, lunch bags, office accessories, and hobby items. The store has a chain in the northern suburb of Kifissia as well as an online store.

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eco-conscious & super-comfy I AmVibes

Luxurious to the touch as well as in quality and appearance, strictly eco-friendly and human-friendly, made by women for women to generate a real sense of individuality, comfort, empowerment, and beauty, is one way to describe the IAmVibes clothing brand, created by Katerina Melemeni.

The Greek designer has lived all around the world over the last 20 years, from New York and Rome to Sri Lanka and Spain, studying at the KLC School of Design in London and eventually specialising in yoga gear.

Describing herself as “an eclectic, artistic and passionate woman,” Melemeni is certainly drawing the world’s attention not only to an ethical and sustainable range of trendy yoga apparel but also to Greece, a country where 20 years ago yoga was little more than a mystery and when most local fashion designers were relatively unacknowledged beyond their borders.

Meanwhile, as a female entrepreneur who overlooks practically all aspects of her business herself – from the actual designs to IAmVibes marketing, social media and more, this dynamic mother of two is also setting an example of the new Greek woman, an example we definitely applaud.

iav1
Now based in Athens, Melemeni has created a very successful business. “I only work with beautiful things that a real and spark emotions in me when I see them, wear them or touch them,” Melemeni says. “And I only work with eco-sustainable materials, because we do not have a Planet B. Currently all our fabrics are made in Italy, with eco-friendly yarns and manufactured in the utmost respect for our environment.”

“I want to create an intimate connection with the woman, so my materials are very soft on the skin, but also high performance, so they become excellent for anything we do throughout the day. My clothes may be designed for yoga, but that’s if they’re comfortable during a headstand, they will be comfortable with you when you are on your feet. They can be worn 24/7. In fact, I sleep in my seamless Astra leggings!” she laughs.

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It’s not by chance that IAmVibes has achieved a glowing global reputation, and that yoga-lovers as well as women who simply enjoy the modern cuts and deep comfort of her designs are very serious about the garments’ high-tech advantages. From the exceptionally soft and delicate BodyVibes fabric to the EcoVibes range made with suede-like ECONYL (regenerated nylon), which is both 100% eco-conscious and breathable on the skin, to the amazing seamless ASTRA range, which warms you when it’s cool and cools you when it’s hot because it’s made with a fabric with thousands of hollow microfibres that regulate body temperature.

Apart from keeping the environment as a top priority in her designs, Melemeti also considers the impact of labour that goes into making clothes and has made sure her business offers humanitarian standards to the women who work to make them. “During my travels, especially when visiting factories in my previous jobs, I saw how many women were employed in the production facilities; and travelling to some developing countries in Asia I witnessed harsh conditions that made me feel so powerless…”

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“I thought that perhaps getting involved in apparel, which is among the industry sectors that employ mostly women, was my way of contributing something valuable to women, by paying them a premium and making certain that their working conditions are ethical. I want to use my business to inspire and implement solutions to empower women around the world. I know I run a small business, but I’d like to think that even a small contribution can help support one woman somewhere in this world, and that can make a difference,” she says.

Her very modern, minimalist designs in shades of grey, black, blue with touches of colours like rust orange or white are neutral enough to combine with other parts of one’s daily wardrobe, and the Logo collection features the upside down Hamsa hand symbol. Very different from her other designs is the new range called Blossoming Lotus, which is a soft pink and is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. Melemeni explains the vision behind this range: “We are trying to raise some funds dedicated to Breast Cancer research, so with this range, we’re providing a 10% discount to our customers and then 15% of the profits will be donated to research to foundations.” 

the stoic anxiety cure

Democracy, medicine, philosophy, science, technology, athleticism, gastronomy, art… all these are constructs that people today still strongly connect to ancient Greek culture, where many of these concepts and practices were born and developed in highly sophisticated ways. However, we don’t often relate ancient Greek philosophy with modern psychology; and many of us are not aware that Socrates‘ teachings on Stoicism actually form the basis of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), an effective modern tool used widely today to treat psychological issues. It has proven so effective that in the UK, the National Health System offers it for free.

Visiting Athens for the first time from his home in Canada (although he is Scottish by nationality), Donald Robertson, a CBT Therapist and the author of six books, the latest titled ‘How To Think Like A Roman Emperor’, has dedicated the last 15 years of his career combining CBT with Stoicism. He is the founding member of a non-profit organization called Modern Stoicism, run by a team of philosophers, classicists, and cognitive psychotherapists.  Annually, they offer Stoic Week, a free online course every year that this year had over 8,000 participants from around the world. They also run a one-month intensive course called Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT).

“CBT is the dominant evidence-based form of psychotherapy today,” Roberston says. “The pioneers of this approach, Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck, were both originally inspired by Stoic philosophy. Most importantly, both approaches are based on the shared premise that our ‘cognitions’ or thoughts or beliefs are caused mainly (if not entirely) by our underlying beliefs.”

“Once we can recognize that feelings involve beliefs then we can start questioning what exactly those beliefs are, evaluating whether they’re true or false, helpful or unhelpful, and confirm or disprove them. So the cognitive model of emotion opens up a whole new toolbox for therapists – but the Stoics knew this over two thousand years ago,” he says.  However, he adds, “CBT is mainly a remedy for existing problems, such as anxiety and depression, and it’s designed to be a short-term approach, while Stoicism is a whole philosophy of life. It’s permanent, and it’s designed to be preventative as well as therapeutic – so it’s much broader in scope.”

Robertson’s successful techniques of combining Stoicism and CBT have generated a huge following globally, currently at around 45,000 individuals from all backgrounds reaping rewards from his teachings. Stoicism has been adopted in the modern age by sportspeople, the military, psychologists and academics as well as ordinary people who find it can offer great improvements in their everyday life.

I ask Robertson what the appeal is. “Ordinary anxiety and depression have become a part of human life and even the more severe forms, the actual psychiatric disorders, are becoming increasingly common. Recent research shows that just over 50% of people in the USA now have a history (“lifetime prevalence”) of mental health problems. We used to call psychiatry “abnormal psychology” but psychological disorders have effectively become today’s normal psychology.”

“Nobody knows exactly why that’s happening; it’s probably due to a number of different factors, though. Many people today feel isolated and lack support from friends and family when it comes to coping with stressful situations. Unless they have access to a psychotherapist, individuals are increasingly forced to help themselves get through tough times. Stoicism offers methods of self-improvement and emotional resilience-building. However, it also provides a philosophy of life, which can give people a much-needed sense of meaning and direction.”

Donald Robertson’s top five guidelines for
using Stoicism to improve our everyday life.

1. The dichotomy of control: choices vs accidents.  The opening sentence of the Stoic Handbook of Epictetus says “Some things are up to us and other things are not.” Learn to clearly define your sphere of control: take more responsibility for the things that you do and learn to be more indifferent toward things that merely happen to you.

2. Cognitive distancing: what you see is what you get.  Perhaps the most famous Stoic quote comes a few lines later in the same book: “It’s not things that upset us but our judgements about things.” We should remember that it’s mainly our own value judgements that shape our emotions rather than the external events that befall us.

3. Objective representation: cut the drama.  Stoics were known for speaking concisely (Laconically) and describing things in a matter-of-fact way, without emotive rhetoric or strong value judgements – Epictetus says just stick to the facts without adding an exclamation like “Oh no!

4. Premeditation of adversity: guard yourself cooly. The Stoics were known for picturing setbacks in advance in order to rehearse coping with them, which people sometimes call “negative visualization” today – although you have to be careful to do this patiently and to view the event with indifference rather than as something genuinely negative. 

  1. The View from Above: see the forest not the tree.  Sometimes also described as a “comprehensive representation”, the Stoics encourage us to view upsetting events within the bigger picture. We’re to picture them from high above like the gods looking down from Mount Olympus, or we can go even further and imagine our current predicament as a tiny speck in relation to the whole of space and time.

     

Donal Robertson’s website:

donaldrobertson.name

Modern Stoicism

modernstoicism.com

A video of a talk Robertson gave recently explaining Stoicism briefly:

https://learn.modernstoicism.com/courses/218092/lectures/3811597

 

Greek Australian Author (Palimsest & This Is Not A Love Story) Kathryn Koromilas tried Stoic Week 2018 and writes about her experience here:

   

I completed the questionnaires for Stoic Week 2018. Life satisfaction score: low. Flourishing score: very low. Stoic attitudes and beliefs: none. Still, I was determined to start living like a Stoic.

Thus, I began. Every morning, before sunrise, I walked outside and, under the stars and sky, contemplated how small and insignificant I was. At midday, I strolled through a cemetery, imagined my imminent death and how I would soon be forgotten. At night, I reflected on my day, reminded myself that I have limited time and let that determine what I would do, say, and think the next day; if it came. Stoic practice can seem a little morbid, but you’d be surprised how all this death contemplation instantly helps clarify what I can control and what I ought to be doing.

At the end of the week, my satisfaction and flourishing scores were higher, and I had adopted some serious Stoic attitudes. But this is no miracle cure. I’d studied the Stoics at university and in my 20s, and then promptly forgot all about them years later when I really needed them.

The thing about Stoic philosophy is that you can’t do it all from an armchair. You’ve got to do some hard work. Apart from reading and thinking, you’ve got to meditate, you’ve got to write things down and memorize maxims to help when you face an unexpected crisis, and you’ve got to go out and dialogue with other human beings. And, then, you’ve got to get up and do it all again, every day, throughout the day. You’ve got to live the philosophy.

Kathryn Koromilas is a writer who leads the Stoic Writing Scene and The Stoic Writer, and Vlogged about participating in Stoic Week 2018.

** For reference, the embedded links above are:

Kathryn Koromilas – https://kathrynkoromilas.com

Stoic Writing Scene — https://www.facebook.com/groups/stoicscene

The Stoic Writer — https://thestoicwriter.com/

Vlog — https://www.youtube.com/KathrynKoromilas?sub_confirmation=1


AS FIRST PUBLISHED IN GREEKCITYTIMES.COM 

 

a song from the uterus

Singer and holistic therapist Clara Davaar

Davaar teaching one of her women’s seminars, which she organizes around the world

Clara Davaar appeared into my life one day out of the blue on Facebook messenger – she had found my website and got in touch to tell me she was planning to come to Athens to teach a workshop called The Voice of the Uterus that she’s been running around the world. A few weeks before I’d had a session with Soul-Sounding healer David Kennet during which he worked miracles on releasing and clearing a great deal of stagnant, negative and blocked energy from my first and second chakras, areas that if in balance permit a sense of survival, belonging, security, sexual power, creativity and intuition. Areas that I knew deep down were blocked but had not had the courage to face or enough knowledge to deal with (we are always better at healing others than our selves) – perhaps because I didn’t know where to start, or because there is such a critical, conservative sense of shame and guilt associated with them, owing to staid and religiously conservative cultural beliefs related to the reproductive area when it comes to women. So when Davaar sent me a message asking whether I knew of any spaces to suggest for her seminar, I saw it as a clear sign that this was Step II on my path to reconnecting with, and reawakening my sense of self as a healthy, balanced, powerful, sexual and creative woman who honours her femininity in all its strength and vulnerability. I immediately thought of Meredith Pavlides, a holistic therapist, teacher and superwoman-organizer of the holistic healing community in Athens, who runs a new space called ATMAsphere in Syntagma, and the rest is history.

As the weeks passed and the date of the workshop neared, I wondered more and more, “what IS the voice of my uterus?!” and realized that not only was I completely incapable of grasping the mere concept of my uterus as having any voice at all, except when it has sometimes ‘cursed’ at me in those pre-menstrual moments that have had me reaching for painkillers. I also realized that although I have a very strong sense of my heart, my brain, my intestines and sometimes my kidneys and their voices, when I tried to conjure even an image or feeling of my uterus beyond the textbook picture all I could hear was silence and all I could see was pitch darkness. Why should this be? After all, it was that very uterus that had so capably and gracefully been the first home of a spark that developed through nine months into a fully developed baby boy. During my pregnancy, I viewed my uterus as a super-flexible miracle machine made of Technicolor fibres with uber hi-tech wiring that included things like an automatic dimmer-switch for the perfect lighting, food delivery service, plush cushioning, fun and floaty water and temperature control that offered my growing boy all that he needed. I would light candles, take baths and, hands on uterus, sing to him with all my being. Then I would gently rub vitamin E oil over my belly, feeling the spa-style attention soak through my uterus and into my baby’s heart.

And now it was a silent, pitch-dark space?


On the day of the seminar, as it often happens, I didn’t feel like going. I felt too vulnerable and a bit embarrassed by the idea of sitting in a room with a bunch of other women talking about our uterus and sexual organs. I dreaded the idea of partner-work or being asked to dance or writhe around the room as so many teachers of such workshops demand, which brings out all my teenage self-consciousness and makes me want to run as if from a raging fire. I took out my deck of Angel Cards and asked “should I go to the workshop today?” and the card I picked was Body Care. Ok, that was a clear enough answer! As I entered the light and air-filled space I was surprised to see a circle of completely diverse women. There was one rock-style woman with tattoos and jet black hair, a shy-looking woman with aquiline eyes, a hippie skirt and short white hair, a heavy-set woman with dark hair and a more conservative look, another woman with a sweet face who looked 16; there was no “type” and that in itself made me immediately feel like I fitted in. Clara, with her dark, wavy hair, huge smile and bright eyes exuded a confidence in her Argentinian temperament as she addressed us with humour and gentleness. She asked us in a very matter-of-fact way to go round the circle and talk about our self with regards to our sexuality, our connection to the history of our uterus and of our relation to vocal expression or singing. As if hypnotised, because after all none of us really knew each other at all, and this was seriously personal stuff we were about to share, we each spoke our truth. We heard each other’s stories feeling the speaker’s pain, remorse, rage, melancholy, fear, but also pride, bliss, hope and power. Just in doing that, we immediately realised that first impressions can be so delusive – there is so much more depth, complexity, magnificence, aching vulnerability and immense strength in the people you stand next to every day. Most important of all was the sinking realisation that despite how different our lives and perceptions and habits are, we are all reflections of each other.

Full Stop!

Then we put our chairs aside and sprang into action. We started moving, shaking, massaging, swirling and swaying all parts of our bodies sectio by section, at first gently and meditatively, breathing in and out silently, and soon enough with a build-up of more and more motion and vocal expression upon exhaling. The sense of apprehension I’d had before going had disappeared – I felt completely safe and at ease, empowered and happy to be part of the game. “Movement creates excitement, and excitement creates lubrication, and lubrication creates life!” Clara kept calling out in between her hilarious “aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhs” and “wooo-hooooooos!” My body felt activated and alive, and when we reached the point of placing my hands on my uterus I could feel its ‘pulse’ – yes! We’ve made contact! And then I tapped it gently as Clara suggested as if saying “hello” and feeling it right there and flooding it in my mind with light, breaking away that lonely, sad darkness I had left it in for so long.


This reconnecting experience in itself was enough of a reward for having attended, but there was another incredible gift to follow. Standing in a circle and holding hands, our eyes closed and our bodies swaying gently from side to side, we were asked to sing whatever came to us, simply to share the feelings that were coming from our reawakened bodies. The older woman next to me began to sing in the most heavenly, rich voice, and I was joyfully startled. Another woman sang, without words, a sad and deeply moving tune that emerged from her. Then another sang what she wanted to say – how happy she felt to be there and how grateful she felt, off-key yet so full of love. The woman I’d considered as conservative-looking surprised us all the most with her amazing, deep blues-jazz voice that would have made Aretha Franklin blush. I had a moment when I thought of singing Piensa En Mi, Luz Cazal’s incredible song, to express that at least in spirit I was there for them, but as it was a thought I went with my spontaneous feeling instead and sang a happy and playful jazz song I’d written years ago based on W.H. Auden’s ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’, because after all, that’s what my uterus – rather than my brain – wanted to sing.

Teacher, therapist and participant Meredith Pavlides relates her own experience of the workshop:
“I truly enjoyed the event of ‘The Voice of the Uterus’ with Clara Davaar. The group of women were so strong and beautiful and we shared a lovely dynamic. Clara is a fantastic guide and can truly hold the sacred space needed to dive deep within – the environment was held so gracefully. She’s very experienced and the class was amazing. Everyone’s face was glowing afterwards. This work is so important for women and I’m so glad I had this wonderful experience, and to share the sacred connection with all the women there. Clara will be back for more courses in Athens and I strongly recommend it for other women! I will definitely be there in love and gratitude!”

 

“The first thing the male establishment wants to control is uterus and birth. You might call it womb envy. But even worse is the fact that we are still using the male model of sexual response for women.”
— Betty Dodson

allowing yourself to be a victim

As an empath with a very high level of self-consciousness and a near hyper-awareness of the world around me – with all its energies – I spent a great deal of my childhood feeling sad for myself. There were always reasons, many of which I fervently reported on in pages upon pages of my giant, collage-covered, hard-back diaries that I stated at an early age. Although my home life was postcard-perfect, and I was blessed with loving parents who offered me the best of everything, especially nourishing love, it was as if I was carrying another world inside me. I would journal that so-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend, the boy I am in love with doesn’t like me, I wasn’t given the role I wished for in the school play because the girl who got it is prettier than me, I’m terrible at maths and my teacher thinks I’m an idiot… and so the list of my demises went on, replete with melancholy to depressive analysis regarding my terrible luck, and how lacking I was in so many areas. Mind you, at the same time my sadness was an energizing force for my creativity – I retreated into a world like all the depressive, alcoholic writers I’d read about – Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker – and spent my days writing poetry, plays, stories and later even jazz songs.

At university, I began to blossom – meeting more like-minded friends, despite our pretty enormous in some cases differences in culture and upbringing, I felt more empowered and upbeat. I experienced my first love, fortunately, a man with a gentle soul who showered me with kindness and affection, and through our sexual relations, I grew more into my womanly self. But the sense of victimhood continued to lurk in my depths.

When I started working as a journalist in the city during my early ’20s my self-confidence went up one more notch; I was quickly and quite easily given good positions with a rewarding pay and felt esteemed by both my employers and my colleagues. I had money and no real responsibilities and enjoyed carefree years during which beyond my work which I loved my main concern was hitting the town and discovering myself anew. Perhaps because I felt so carefree, yet still aware that despite a happy-go-lucky lifestyle there was a lot of unresolved stuff inside me, it was around then that I started to be drawn in earnest to searching deeper within myself. I started reading books on psychology, self-help, spirituality, esotericism and the healing arts and started practising yoga. And then I fell in love again, entering an intense relationship that I knew from day one would be nothing like the rosy-tinted-focus first love I’d experienced a few years before. For several years my sense of victimhood started rearing its ugly head – although often not without reason  – yet, I did not actually believe that my ongoing insecurities and feelings of self-pity or that things were not going as I wanted was my way of playing the victim. That was something others did, like a friend of mine who was always, but always complaining about something going wrong – there was literally drama after drama occurring in his life and he was never happy, and I became so fed up with his repertoire that I started to avoid him, as I realised he was perversely enjoying the dramas and I, as his friend had to pay for it by hearing every tragic (and depressing) detail every time we met.

As I started delving deeper into the healing arts, what I kept getting from teachers, healers, therapists and writers in various renditions was the message put so perfectly by Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That you are only a victim if you see yourself that way. It made perfect sense, and as it gradually crystallized in my mind I felt freer and stronger. Shakti Gawain was writing about Creative Visualization – how we can visualize what we want, and then “The Secret” came out bringing to the west the mystical truths (and a barrage of other books, healing systems, films and businesses) about the Law of Attraction. That too made perfect sense – I realised that I had been a natural manifester as a child and teenager – making a lot of my technicolour daydreams come true without trying at all, and now I comprehended that this was actually a formula. I saw that had been attracting situations and feelings because that was what I had been dwelling on, visualising, literally creating and drawing the energy of into my life. Just as the shamans ascertain that we dream our world into being, I was both dreaming (there were a lot of great things going on too!) and nightmaring my world into being.

My perspective on myself and life overall started to shift dramatically. I started to see how almost everything – from the thorny interaction I had with the rude taxi driver or the bright mood I woke up with or the job I got offered or the accident I had were all my creation, and thus my responsibility. That everything I was experiencing came from within, from my subconscious programming, from the fears, traumas, dreams and desires that resided deep inside, and basically from how pure the intent was when I was subconsciously setting it and catalyzing it into actuality. So I began to actively work on resolving the conflicts within – the ones between carefree spontaneity and dull calculation, fear and love, pleasure and pain, self-confidence and shame. It was – and still is – an endless process, but every little step is movement in the right direction.

But. I took the concept of rejecting victimhood a little too far. When I heard of other’s misfortunes, of course I felt empathy for them, and hope for them to reclaim their health and happiness again, but a stern little voice inside me, in the disguise of wise, said exactly what I was constantly saying to myself. It interpreted the incident that had put them in a state of victimhood as something that they had not yet worked out, and thus it was manifesting in that painful, or unpleasant or somehow debilitating form. Broke a leg? Maybe you actually needed a break from your workaholic life or overdemanding family, or maybe you’re feeling you can’t move forward in life. Cancer? There must be so much unresolved sadness or anger that has been eating away from you and that you have not been letting yourself heal, release and clear. Earache? There must be something you’ve heard or don’t want to hear that has caused you pain. There was always that thought in me – just like I was over-interpreting everything since childhood in my over-conscious and analytical state I was now doing that with regards to health and life when it came to anything I did or that happened to me that was surprising or noteworthy in either a positive or negative way. This was the message I – and dare I say we – are now being bombarded with by the New Age movement and our commercial society at large, from self-help gurus to advertisers, in a world that is increasingly pushing us to live as isolated individuals. “You can do it for yourself. It’s all up to you. If you buy our product you will look/ smell/feel powerful while doing it yourself, you strong, self-sufficient MF!”

The essential message out there is that suffering does not make you a victim, nor does it make you a perpetrator toward yourself, but it does all come down to your personal responsibility and power. Being a victim is equated with being weak and completely unable to help yourself. It also means that you have to ask others for help, which you need to survive, which is a weakness.

There is some valuable truth in these concepts, but fanaticism will fail anyone. Yet it wasn’t until recently when I experienced not one but a handful of life’s greatest stresses that I developed a fresh outlook. A wonderful spiritual teacher to whom I was relating my overwhelming problems at the time said I had been very “stoical”, and that this was a strength but that it wasn’t necessarily good for me. The word stoical brought to my mind my father and other strong men I have known, and I felt the word was transfused with a male energy, serving as a paradigm for survival that had infiltrated my being: stoicism = strength. This was the first step toward me having a huge realization regarding victimhood.

The second and final one came when I was having a Coactive© Coaching session during which the coach asked me how things were going in my life. In an as non-complaining or pathetic voice as I could muster, I listed all the challenges that I was facing at the time. There was a silence as she regarded me with surprise and compassion. I felt uncomfortable because after naming all the things I’d been facing I had started to feel quite deeply sorry for myself. “I don’t want to sound like a victim,” I finally said in the spirit of honesty, “but it’s been bloody hard!” She looked at me and gently smiled. “Well, what’s wrong with being a victim?” she asked. “And what does it mean to you to be a victim?” Momentarily I was stunned. I thought hard but could only come up with my well-structured schpiel, the carefully constructed belief system I had been so staunchly living by for so many years. “Well, being a victim means that I’m not taking responsibility for yourself!” I said, “it means I am not in control of myself or my life! That I’m a bit pathetic. Or that I’m blaming other people or circumstances for my own incapability to cope…” There, that was a thorough enough definition, I thought, of the atrocity known as ‘being a victim’. “And what does ‘not coping’ mean?” she asked. What an obvious question, yet so very difficult to answer for some funny reason. “Well,” I began, “as I said, spiralling out of control of my own life, feeling a mess, and basically feeling sorry for myself!” And then she said something that was one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned so far, the lesson to which I have dedicated this article: “But those are things that you are actually experiencing right now. Painful, difficult things. Life-changing things. And you are suffering a lot…Anyone would, it’s normal! There is nothing wrong with being a victim, or letting yourself feel sorry for yourself.”

As she said that, something inside my heart opened, like the door in a dark house swinging open and letting in the sea breeze and blazing sunshine. As Rumi wrote, “wound is the place through which the light enters”. By acknowledging my wounds and letting myself feel heartfelt self-compassion, I could finally allow it to heal. Yes, I suddenly thought, I can permit myself to feel my bottomless sadness; to feel sorry for myself. I have been through, and I am going through a lot of turbulence and pain. It hurts. It simply is. I am a victim of my circumstances, why they were created is a different story that can be explored through time.

We always talk about our inner child, and how important it is to care for it. Would I say to my son that he was acting like a victim because he simply grazed his knee and ended up having a big cry over it? Of course not, he needs to cry – it’s one of his ways of expressing and releasing emotions. It’s all about balance – neither is it helpful to overindulge in the concept that by taking responsibility for our self we cannot define our self as a victim, nor in the idea that victimhood is an OK state to be in on a general level. But to allow myself to say, ‘Poor me, I’m feeling so much confusion, instability, uncertainty – fuck! This is so hard and I don’t deserve this!’ is OK. And that’s when after years of not crying, I began to cry me a river. Tears would come over me unexpectedly; I wept while washing the dishes, walking on the street, talking on the phone, sitting at my computer. I kept remembering my first shamanic teacher who told me that crying is cathartic, natural and healthy, but as soon as one starts to think of things while crying, one must stop right there, because then it becomes a dramatic intellectual play in the mind, not the release of real emotion from the soul. All the sadness pouring out was making me a wreck. It had been so much easier when I wasn’t a victim!

But time heals the heart, as do long chats with the loving friends and family who like angels have been beside me every day just an email or phone call away, often reaching out to me, checking up on me. When you accept that you are a victim, you can reach out for help. I realized that it’s OK to accept help from others. Gradually the tears started to get less, and my sleep started to be deeper, and one day I found myself actually able to smile – not grimace – at myself in the mirror. Of course I – like you – am never going to stop being vulnerable in some way or other. Self-compassion, true self-compassion without the need to interpret, analyse, justify or explain the pain we are going through is so crucial. That’s the only way you can give yourself a real hug and say ‘I love you so much, you can be exactly as you are with me, and when you are ready, I will do my all to help you heal. And you will! When you are ready. First, let yourself be broken, and cry.’

hearing myself through silence

Following a bit of a lull in my posting, I’m back to write about the Silent Retreat I recently attended. 

Welcome to Noosfera! Our keys and welcome notes


So here I was, on a Friday evening, beholding the dazzlingly white full moon, surrounded by the black silhouettes of vast mountains, caressed by an icy alpine breeze, with an orange cat called Paprika curled in my lap, hearing the sound of… howling wolves?! At first I thought it might be a tribe of inebriated youngsters possessed by the lunatic spirit at a nearby village, but later it was confirmed to me that jackals roam free on the mountaintops. I had just finished a gentle, grounding and refreshingly awakening evening yoga class, the first of several to take place during a weekend retreat organised by Athens-based yoga teacher Tina Myntz Zymaraki. Only minutes before I had embarked on my journey into a silence that was to last until Sunday afternoon. We had each selected an Osho card from a pack that was to act as a message to set our awareness on, and before delving into non-talking we went around the circle saying our name and one intent we had during the weekend. Mine was Kindness, but by the end, I got Gratitude instead.

Other participants walked by beaming “good evening!” smiles on their way to the dining hall in the super-elegant Noosfera main house, and feeling a rumble in my tummy I decided to follow suit. Decorated in a neo-traditional English country style that soothes both eye and spirit, the living room/dining room area was imbued by silence, and all I could hear was the sound of the flames dancing in the fireplace and cutlery delicately clanging on plates. A woman in her 50s who was clearly there with her bestie was cracking up so much she ran out of the room with her hands over her mouth to stifle her giggles as her friend cried (silently of course) with laughter into her soup. This would take some getting used to.

As we feasted on creamy pumpkin soup and crunchy croutons followed by a mountain of quinoa, lentil, orange and fresh herb salad and toasted wholewheat pitta bread with hummus, my fellow silence-vowers and I avoided eye contact with each other, as Tina had encouraged us to. The Silent Retreat aims to encourage actually immersing yourself deeper into your being by disengaging from the outside world, she told us, not simply zipping your mouth and throwing away the key. Being a slightly anxious mother I carried my phone with me but not for an instant was I tempted to enter the world of the internet – in fact, the mere idea of social medialising even as a voyeur revolted me.

On the scene as a yoga teacher for around 17 years, Tina is only one of two individuals in Greece who organizes silent retreats, and was inspired by her own experiences at the Ananda Ashram in New York, where she lived for a while: “The idea was very attractive to me, especially as I interact with others a lot,” she said, “so as of 2010 I started introducing small periods of silence in my weekend retreats. Over time, those periods were extended, and I started to organize semi-silent retreats. Students always told me how valuable the experience proved for them, so over the past three years I’ve been indulging them in silence more and more.” (See the end of this article to find out about Tina’s upcoming retreat).
Let me set the scene of where I was before telling you how my own journey into silence unfolded. Noosfera Centre, built especially for wellness and holistic retreat workshops of all varieties, is located in the Peloponnesian mountains, near Xylokastro. Arriving in the dark, I couldn’t yet see the magnificent views that delighted me the following morning – mountains carpeted in thick greenery, smoky valleys, patches of traditional villages here and there, a gleaming snowy peak and a relieving (for us sea aficionados) strip of blue in the distance.

Give me a window unto nature so I may witness myself

Noosfera is a new generation holistic hideaway, lovingly created five years ago by journalist-turned-author (of six books, including the bestseller Mystic Odyssey) and therapist Ioulia Pitsouli and psychologist/psychotherapist Maria Xifara, who live here for half a week throughout the year, as holistic wellness and psychology seminars of all varieties take place. The main house and accommodations are all built in low wooden cottages decorated in a rustic yet modern style, with accessories like fluffy Guy Laroche towels and flocculent duvets. The choice of space for this particular retreat was a very carefully made one on Tina’s part, as she felt it was important for participants to enjoy creature comforts while making sense of silence – many silent retreats around the world are held in far more monastic, daunting circumstances in order to strip away distractions.

I’d longed to try a silent retreat for many years, so I jumped at the chance to do so when this workshop came up. The concept was to spend two days doing our best at staying schtum and combining that with soothing yet not undemanding yogic practice. On the morning of the second day, we participated in a more energetic class aimed at connecting us to our core. As I have been facing some challenging personal issues lately, halfway through the class I retreated into child’s pose when I started feeling it was getting too demanding for me. Something in me was pissed off and simply refused to carry on. As I curled up on my mat I felt a wave of sadness rise up from the depths of my heart, and pour out through my eyes in tears. I was about to do my usual stoical routine, to tell myself to put the ‘self-pity’ aside and get on with the practice, when I remembered that this was not that kind of class, nor was that kind of class that I need in my life. If I had been in a different state of mind I would have cherished the upbeat challenge, but at that moment I couldn’t find it in me to push myself any further when I’ve felt I’ve been squeezed enough in other areas of my existence. So I got up and walked out, feeling fully supported in doing so. 

Yoga teacher Tina Myntz Zymaraki

Later in the day, we got to enjoy a different kind of class based on restorative asanas and self-care, an aspect of yoga practice that Tina has dedicated many years to develop. As a former Ashtanga devotee, she has over the years realized the vital significance of listening to her own changing body and treating it with love and respect, rather than forcing it through a sequence that has caused her several injuries along the way, despite how much discipline and caution she applied to following the rules. “For the last 150 years, yoga practices have been centred on young male students, but in the west, the average class is made up of women, many of them in their early to late middle age,” she notes.


“For several years I have focused on studying and practising bio-mechanics and human anatomy, aiming to help my students work from the inside out to enhance strength and suppleness by listening to their own unique needs,” Tina explained. “I take on a more innovative approach that is not strictly bound to classic prototypes but instead can be adapted by students so that they reap all the benefits of yoga without straying from their sense of self. As my favourite teacher, Richard Freeman says, ‘yoga begins with listening” – listening to your own needs. It’s your body, your time, your choice, your yoga. Yogis have always been anarchists and revolutionaries so why should you go to a class and obey what you are told if it feels wrong to you or causes you pain?” she points out. The Self-Care class was my absolute favourite because that was exactly what I needed in combination with the inner and outer quiet. First, we were shown how to use a tennis ball to massage our feet, necks, shoulders and back in the most blissful tension-releasing tennis fun I could ever conceive of. Next, we lay down (but were asked to make every effort to stay awake) for a mesmerising Yoga Nidra session in which Tina guided our awareness across every inch of our body with her softly spoken words. When at some point she said “and now move your awareness to your fifth finger,” I anticipated she would next guide us to our sixth; that’s when I realized how incredibly relaxed I was.

The location and the practice of silence offered us all the golden opportunity to take time for ourselves while feeling warmly united in a rare experience. I relished the chance to stretch and breathe as well as read inspiring books (one day I read half a book lying by the fire – it might be a decade since the last time I did that!), go for nature walks overlooking spanning views of natural landscapes, play with an overenthusiastic spaniel who had an endless supply of cones to be chased, and to write, write, write (my child-like sense for writing was reignited and I wrote throughout my time there. On actual paper. Using a pen.). And then there was the deep sleep that highly oxygenated alpine air bequeaths.

My favourite spot at Noosfera

On the first night, I experienced an amusing moment when I realized how useless it was to try communicating at all. After cuddling Paprika the cat I realized my jacket was pretty stinky; she’s adorable but I’d assumed that as she belongs to such a pristine place she’d be sweet-smelling, perhaps with a fragrance like the rooms we stayed in, named lavender, spearmint, pomegranate, or would have a natural Liberty’s fragrance. But no such luck, so I decided to air my jacket on the terrace in the room I was sharing with two girls, who were sitting there at the time. For some reason I bravely ventured to wordlessly re-enact why I was hanging it out to air- first I pretended to be Paprika, with the catwalk, swooshing tail (my arm), pointy ears and alert eyes, then re-enacted myself cuddling her, then smelling my malodorous jacket and looking shocked thus needing to air it. They looked at me and laughed, and I had no idea whether they thought they were rooming with a madwoman or had understood even a tad from my charades. It was at that moment that I resolutely decided that as amusing as it could be (especially for others!) it was probably best to do away with voiceless social banter.

Colouring INwards

The second and final night, there was another moment of hilarity when the waitress walked ceremoniously across the room holding a tray with a single collonaded glass of rose wine that one of the participants had ordered, with everyone turning to stare, many of us feeling a mixed emotion between empathy (silence brings stuff up, wine might help), confusion (wine is fun when you’re talking) and envy (why didn’t I think of that?), much to the embarrassment of the participant who had ordered it. After dinner many of us selected a mandala design to colour in and sat around the fire on the floor for hours bringing them to life – I hadn’t felt that way since I was seven, at school, hearing only the incessant sound of colouring pencils on paper.

Our silence was broken on Sunday afternoon, with a sharing circle during which we each related our experiences. There were tears. There was laughter. This was followed by a conversation-friendly lunch, after which we all posed for a few photographs together (below) and went our separate ways.

As Bjork once said, “It’s Oh So Quiet!” Shhhhh

I felt reinvigorated, rested, and subtly yet profoundly changed as a result, like I had learned a secret that had been in me all along. More and more research is being done on the benefits of silence, and a recent Finnish study revealed that it actively enhances brain and emotional health: “The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.”

I was also relieved that the nightmare scenario I had self-deprecatingly envisioned before going there, that my cheeky monkey brain would take over and I’d be constantly trying to shut out my restless mental chatter, didn’t happen even for an instant. In fact, I found myself observing and feeling everything more intensely; I savoured food with greater pleasure (I did notice I was eating more than usual, perhaps to fill the ‘gap’ of not using my mouth to spout out conversational gems), became more aware of my body and movement – from ease and flexibility to tightness and restriction, rested in the enhanced clarity and calm of my head. “Silence offers us a different kind of quality in our thought processes and how we relate to others,” Tina said. “It offers us the opportunity to respond rather than react. So I see it as a natural extension of the yoga practice.” There were uncomfortable moments too, at some point I felt as though I was at an airport with a delayed flight hanging around and waiting. Not wanting my young son to feel I’d fallen off the face of the earth, I spoke to him on the phone for a few brief moments as I sat on the park bench facing the mountains and sea. “I love you, I love you, I love you!” he squeaked. And after I put my phone away I felt literally engulfed by the silence of the mountains in a way I’d never experienced before. I yearned for him, worried for him as if he lived in another world. Then I looked at the sea yearned to fly across the valleys to it like the birds swooping around. I wanted to lie in the grass. I was dreamy and tranquil yet felt vulnerable, detached and alone at once.

The author settling into Warrior II with a view

I returned to the endless fracas of Athens renewed, feeling as if I’d connected with a new awareness in myself, one that comes from even 24 full hours of silent observation. Being surrounded by others who also don’t talk was divine because I realised that every word you hear around you instantly registers as a thought or emotion in the mind, even if it has nothing to do with you. So I have vowed to stay away from other people’s conversations if I’m craving peace. Like most of the others, I felt I could have stayed a little longer, and was a little rough to have to return to reality. Yet fortunately, silence is free and can be found everywhere, especially within. All you need to do is commit to it, tune in, and hey presto, you’re there.

 

TINA’s UPCOMING SILENT RETREAT (21 & 22 April)

Mountain Refuge Silent Yoga
A little before summer seduces us to her shores, join Tina for two days combining a few of her favourite things: yoga, cooking, silence and nature. Experience the joy and stillness which emerge effortlessly when we spend time on the mountain and its stunning vistas… (click for more info)