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)
At one of the most challenging points of my life, a period when I felt that the foundations I had built a significant part of my reality upon came tumbling down from beneath my feet, I had the pleasure and good fortune of meeting someone who would inadvertently aid me to reclaim my balance. Enter Konstantina Kanaroglou, who has introduced the prestigious Coaches Training Institute’s (CTI, which is accredited by the International Coaching Federation) and their Co-Active Coaching (their own brand) method to Greece. This, after Kanaroglou went to a coaching workshop abroad and returned feeling so transformed and thrilled by the holistic and strategic approaches she had learned that she wanted not only to train as a coach herself but also to bring the entire coaching system to Greece.
Today, Kanaroglou runs Leadership Coaching, which offers coaching solutions through the Co-Active method to individuals (for personal development), companies (for corporate retreats and workshops), families (for business and family dynamics) and educational institutions (with seminars aimed at the educational staff, parents as well as kids).
Infused by her enthusiasm about Co-Active Coaching – something I liked the sound of especially because of its holistic base – and curious to take an avenue of positive and pragmatic problem-solving that I had not explored before, so I chose to try sessions with a certified coach in Athens. To be very honest, because coaching has boomed so much in Greece over the last decade, my opinion of it was not at its highest. As with everything else, when something that was unknown to a place is suddenly everywhere, and many of those involved vow to bring “life-changing effects” after having received minimal or iffy training and have near to no experience as instructors or organizers, I can’t help but question the validity and effectiveness of what’s on offer. This can be said for any other business as well, from yoga and watches to souvlaki.
Yet I was well prepared to give this particular – new, reliable and internationally-validated – form of coaching, which requires years of intensive study and practice on the part of the coach before any certification is handed out), a go. Karnaoglou kindly introduced me to certified coach Susanne Sideras, with whom I arranged to meet online once a week for just over one and a half months.
From our very first meeting, a more social chat to establish whether we had the right chemistry, I felt confident that I could trust, communicate with and learn from her. Sideras is a German who has lived in Switzerland, Australia, the US, Greece and Dubai over the past 20 years, returning to Greece since 2015. “Living and loving in different countries on various continents with all the new beginnings and challenges involved definitely had a huge impact on how I am today,” she says. …”Mind you I grew up in a Bavarian village- a very beautiful one but still a village. I always loved travelling, meeting people from different cultures, backgrounds, mindsets and I always loved (and still do) stories- life stories.”
As a coach, it’s essential not only to be culturally open and flexible, being able to communicate with people of all varieties, but also to have an experiential and clear understanding of some of life’s greatest challenges. “If there is one constant in my life it actually is change… Change and new beginnings. They excite me, bring a lot of joy once I’ve left my comfort zone- which can sometimes take a while.”
The result of our coaching sessions? Sideras managed through her sessions, to help me in a non-psychoanalytical way but rather, more like a wise, objective friend, to see through the emotional tornado of my situation at that time and develop a more structural, functional and assertive outlook. As the Co-Active Coaching method encourages, I was guided by her to build certain skills in how I processed my own emotions and ideas. For example, I was repetitively guided (until I finally started doing it automatically!) to say “I” when talking about something instead of “you” or “we” or “one” – essentially, owning my feelings. “One does not get frustrated when one feels let down…I get frustrated!” and so on. This is something I continue to practise today, many months after our coaching. Taking responsibility for how I feel, think and act is crucial and should not be pluralized!
Another important aspect of this coaching method is how the coach consistently reminds the coachee to connect with what’s going on physiologically and emotionally while they express ideas and feelings. The coach asks questions such as “where do you feel that right now, that sadness you mentioned?” or “what colour is the feeling you had for your friend, and how does it feel?”. Giving ideas, words, thoughts and feelings a texture, colour, location, feeling and even more serves to give them a more pronounced identity, and thus they are easier to examine, see, face, before you can decide what you want to do with them, how much they actually do or do not serve you and whether they are even real.
I ask Sideras what drew her to coaching: “One of the main things that drew me to coaching was that throughout my life I was always interested in people and their development. I felt there was so much to learn about myself by helping others. Since in my twenties I was drawn to yoga and spiritual development, so I’d had some tasters of how wonderfully blissful certain situations are once you are in touch with your true core and essence. I assume I wanted more of those for myself and others and knew that it always starts by going within and exploring your unique beliefs – especially about our self. Our thoughts create our reality and this I find so powerful. I believe we are all here for a reason and the world needs our specific gifts. I understand coaching as a wonderful opportunity to tap into your unique light and let it shine.”
We didn’t always have a specific topic to address. Most often than not we returned to the larger issues I was facing, but some days I literally felt I had nothing to say – until I was guided by Susanne in a seemingly “random” conversation brought out experiences or feelings that was affecting me but that I had unknowingly brushed under the carpet.
For example one day I told Susanne how upset I was after an interaction with a man who was giving out bracelets on the street. He offered me one and I said no thanks, but then persisted he was giving it to me as a gift, as a token of love and peace. I’d experienced this ‘trick’ before from gipsies practically forcing roses into my hand, but chose to idealistically believe him nonetheless. As he tied the bracelet around my wrist me he asked for money, and I cringed. I gave him the bracelet back, feeling not angry but heartbroken by humanity (I was having a bad day, OK?!) and told him what he was doing was horrible, and that he was acting like a liar and a thief. He started to swear and scream at me as I walked off, feeling devastated by the scene and what had caused it.
I talked to Susanne about the event a couple of days later, almost ashamed to have experienced it, and she warmly reminded me that I had done nothing but stand up for my value system and that sometimes that can yield unpleasant results, but that it’s important to have those values. “Whatever action I take or not is based on my values and belief system and has an impact on me and everybody around me,” she affirms.
“The co-active approach appealed to me since what is most in fundamental in co-active coaching is the relationship the coachee and coach are building and living in the time they “work” together,” she adds. “Co-active coaches believe everybody is naturally creative, resourceful and whole and that implies people are capable of finding their own answers, of choosing, of taking action, or showing up as they wish, or taking responsibility, of learning, or being and doing. As a coach, I am here to keep the agenda of and for the client, to be the accountability partner. It is proven that accountability helps to bring actions to fruition. I’m here to remind the coachee of their inner light and wisdom and help them re-discover it, even and especially in times when even the most resilient person only sees the high mountain in front of him/ her and feels challenged.
Adjustments to the rapport between a coach and coachee are always welcomed and necessary for a fruitful, trustworthy and honest relationship. This is an investment in time and energy for both, the coachee and the coach and it works best if both give their all. Sideras says “I personally do have a, like some clients say,: “no-nonsense but very caring approach”. I am trained to evoke transformation, ask to go deeper and deeper and will not forget the clients’ agenda at any given moment. Confidentiality is honoured at all times unless I sense any danger for the clients or other people’s life. I which case I am obliged to inform someone according to the ethical standards of the ICF (International Coach Federation), where I am a member and “monitored” for ongoing training for professional and personal development. Coaching focuses on the here and now and where the person wants to go. Of course, we are “products” of our past and have our packages and stories we carry with us, but in the coaching session, we are not delving deep into the past or not at all really. In coaching, we concentrate on what the impact of past experiences have on you in the here and now and what you want to do to move forward.”
Susanne coaches people in person, but works mainly online via Zoom or Skype with people in Greece and globally, in English or German. She’s had and has clients based in Greece, Portugal, the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the US. I ask her whether in her experience, coaching can offer long-term solutions, and if so, in what ways. She decides to quote Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operations Officer at Facebook: “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”, and adds, “A change of mindset and the transformation that is happening in clients who start on their journey to a life with purpose and fulfilment is, of course, a long-term process, and is not reversible. It happens by creating awareness of one’s own power and leadership qualities, by exploring and reconnecting with your value system, which guides your every decision, your inner wisdom, your true essence. By reconnecting you with YOU.”
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.
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
Nikos Gaitanos is a chef specializing in vegetarian/vegan cuisine. He has worked as a consultant at vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Greece as well as in the UK. Currently he is Head Chef of “Healthy Bites” and “Vegan Nation” restaurants in Athens and “The Saints Stores” in Thessaloniki. He is the author of the cook book “Dirty Vegan”.
What is your food philosophy & practice?
Keep it simple; I love creating recipes with just a few but very high quality ingredients.
Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin? I was a meat eater long time ago – I actually haven’t eaten meat for 29 years! At first I was vegetarian, then a pescatarian and recently I started following a plant based diet. I first heard the word ‘vegan’ eight years ago. At first I couldn’t understand why they didn’t eat any animal products but gradually I began to make the connection, and after my sister became vegan somehow she manage to convince me to change my diet too.
How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professional level? I stopped cooking meat 13 years ago, because I started to feel it’s unethical to do so, especially when I wasn’t eating it myself. Since then I’ve worked only in vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet? The earth provides us with unlimited fruits and vegetables that have all the nutrients we need, so I believe we just have to eat a little bit of everything!
Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are itstop advantages? Initially it can be difficult because to say that you want to change your diet is just the first step. After that you have to deal with a society that is so widely based on the suffering of animals, and with the theories and comments of your family and friends. Last but not least you have to research and decide what you are going to eat from now on. Nowadays it’s much easier than it was a few years ago because the internet provides us with all the information, recipes and ideas you need to make the transition. More and more people are turning vegan every day and that makes it even easier. When you change your diet, you change your life, and you become a member of an ethical society; vegans are helping each other in every way.
What is your best advice for someone considering going vegan? My advice to those who want to go vegan is to open your eyes to really see the injustice that’s being done to animals, and then block your ears to all those who try to tell you not to do it. What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.
What is your goal as a vegan chef in Athens? I want to provide excellent food choices for vegans so they will never feel that something is missing from their diet. At the same time I want to encourage the meat-eaters to discover that vegan food is packed with flavours, and that the choice is endless.
Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is? There are numerous reasons for this. Some are just curious about this relatively new (to Greece) trend, and some are simply fed up of meat and prefer to eat something healthy. Some are curious about making the transition, and want to find out what it would involve, try foods and learn more. The fact is that Greeks overall, not just Athenians are changing – actually people all around the world are changing in this sense as veganism is becoming a larger reality every day and nothing can stop it from happening!
Do you teach people how to cook vegan? Over the last few years I have been teaching at cooking schools and running workshops on vegan cooking. So far I’ve taught at (Dipnosophistirion School of Gastronomy)in Athens, been a cooking workshop consultant in Thessaloniki, and worked at the Culinary Studies Centre in Herakleion, Crete.
What are your favourite vegan foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?
My favourite foods haven’t change throughout the years – I love pizza, pasta, souvlaki and burgers! I’m a junk-food lover and the name of my first cookbook says it all: “Dirty Vegan”.
“What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.”
Partners George Cassimatis & Esco Essence
Both Esco and George are yoga teachers and have been cooking and experimenting with plant-based food for more than 20 years. Esco is from Finland and has been working as a freelance chef at yoga retreats, private homes and corporate events. He teaches workshops and is a visionary raw food artist & vegan chef. George founded Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and opened Soul Kitchen, Organic plant based restaurant in Rethymno, Crete in 2010. He gave up the city life for a good 12 years to study yoga and nutrition and now aims to share his passion for food and healthy living in Athens. Their vision is to create a working space where they can offer highly nutritious plant-based food and create awareness through workshops and education. With their business, The Plant Kingdom, they plan to deliver food to your homes and offices mainly by pre-order. They will create their own line of healthy food products which you can purchase at selected shops around Athens and of course serve our daily menu at our home base in Paleo Faliro.
What is your food philosophy? Our food philosophy is based on the principles of healthy wholesome plant based foods. Foods that are nutritious and contain all the necessary elements that our body requires daily. Also the taste and appearance plays an important role on our plates. Our ethical choice is not to cause harm to other being and to work with local producers that share this vision in their work. Our everyday work is actually a creative process to find the balance and better ways to do things, to become inventive and curious and share our passion for a good life which starts with what we eat and goes on to what we think and what we do with our time on this planet.
Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin? We both grew up eating traditional meat and fish dishes and slowly through questioning these cultural values and experiencing other ways of cooking from vegetarian to vegan to raw, juicing and fasting we found that our body and mind responds much better without the animal products and ethically this is a big disaster and problem we need to address and face in our time. We do not need to kill or exploit animals at the rate we are currently consuming. If you look into it, watch Eathlings for instance – you will probably agree that it is madness and definitely not a sign of an evolved civilisation, rather it is the opposite.
How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professionallevel? George: I started Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and there had the time and great opportunity to experience the great food our chef Chris Clark was preparing daily for 6 years and since have enjoyed cooking with many vegan and raw food chefs from around the world when I started Soul Kitchen Organic Vegetarian Cafe in the old town of Rethymno in 2010. This has given me a good experience and now together with Esco we know what we are doing and doing it very well. Athens we feel is ready now for more and more vegan and healthy lifestyle. Esco: With years of practice and with many & various experiences & travels. Practice is most important, and with much practice you become professional.
Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet? Food is so important so yes when you pay attention and have time to prepare you can be super healthy on a vegan diet. For our climate here in Greece we recommend most of the time to eat 80% raw and 20% cooked food and you need to eat a lot, so much bigger quantities of salad and fruit everyday is perfect.
Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are its top advantages? Nothing is difficult when you know what you are doing and know how to prepare. Advantages are good you get a good sense of well being, good health, vitality and longevity. We truly recommend for meat eaters to try and experience for themselves how they feel after 1-6 months cutting all animal products from their diet.
What is your best advice for someone considering going to a vegan diet? Listen to your own body and everyday to taste and try something new, so you will find your own balance and taste and happiness. The transition period can last from 1 month to 3 years, to adjust to the plant based eating. We have already a solution as we offer daily meals 100% plant based and Plant Kingdom delivers Monday to Friday to peoples offices or homes so we do all the work for them to experience this food and in all cases our customers are very happy, energized and satisfied with our choices and food. Dinners with non vegans, well now there are plenty of vegan choices in most restaurants and more and more vegan cafes & restaurants popping up that are doing great work here in Athens & Thesaloniki.
What is your goal as a vegan chefs in Athens? We want to spread the knowledge & experience we have through our food and also with hands on seminars and workshops we are planning to do this year. We plan to create a vegan/raw food cooking school here in Athens so that all this philosophy can become accessible to everyone interested to learn. Even teaching mothers how to cook healthier & tastier food for their young ones at home, switching away from dairy products & sugar to plant based creative, tasty and nutritious alternatives.
Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is? The younger generation seems more alert, sensitive & conscious of the ethical issues we are facing with our food. Many also understand and feel the health benefits of a plant based diet so it seems natural that even in Athens it is starting to grow and more people are asking for vegan food in their daily lives. So naturally again more and more businesses will transition to serve those customers.
Do you teach people how to cook vegan? If so, what kind of classes do you offer? We are planning a series of workshops starting this February to teach people how to cook vegan and healthy meals and show them how easy it can be when you learn the basics so you can start very soon to try on your own and experiment with new ideas and ways to satisfy yourself and loved ones. We will teach one three hour classes once a week in a new workshop space in Dafni, Vouliagmenis Ave 223. This will be a series of three months training and then we will do the advanced workshop too and start a new series for beginners. More info on our website and Faceboook page coming up soon.
What are your favourite foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?
George: I love eating big kale salads everyday with carrots and avocado, lemon, olive oil & black Himalayan salt. I love the textures, the freshness and taste of prana – life force the plants give us.
Esco: I like to eat everyday something different , so I combine whats in season with all the five sense of taste to create tasty flavors and to fully enjoy.
“We want to live with real peace inside and to actively participate in the necessary exciting changes our modern age is undertaking. We are experienced enough to give you good nourishment, good energy and inspiration for a good daily start.”
I first met Joe Tornabene when I attended his Sound Balancing class at Ilium Center of Light, a class that was described as somewhat “legendary” by various of my performer (musicians and actors) friends and not only. Having just actively returned to the world of sound healing after a session and interview with Soul Sounding practitioner David Kennet, I was eager to remain on the powerful flow of auditory therapy.
A New Yorker of Italian origin, Tornabene is an award-winning musician, stage and film actor and sound designer. He has been deeply connected to Greece since 1997, while also teaching workshopson performance, awareness, sound balancing, improvisation and energy perception in around 10 countries and performing solo and in duets, and playing the baritone saxophone in Europe and the USA.
A few weeks after trying his class, I visited Tornabene in the place where he was being hosted in a charming part of Plaka by his choreographer friend Anastasia Lyra. After I entered a beautiful rustic-style courtyard and then a small but cozy space where Tornabene was staying, he said “Before our interview, let me show you something” and led me through to a laundry room. “I’m not going to show you a laundry room!” he laughed, before heading through yet another door in the maze-like interior of this old Plaka mansion, like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Intrigued, I followed him through to the other room, seeing mirrors with bubble lights and rows of costumes. “Er, this looks like a dressing room?” I said, confused. “Yes,” he said, opening yet another door, “come!” And on to the next area – dark, until he turned on the lights with a clack and saying “look!” swayed his hand forward to present to me an entire theatre down below us! “We are in the Mikroskopiko Theatro” he told me, as I looked down, completely amazed. “The walls and seats are 2000 year-old Roman walls!” he informed me, just adding to my surprise. It is here that Lyra presents dance and music performances she choreographs, and where Tornabene had the good fortune to rehearse any hour he liked. Back to his “bachelor pad” as he laughingly described it, we sipped our coffee and got on with our interview.
“We work with experiential anatomy, which is accessing the different energy qualities, the different body systems. It’s very powerful work for the performer and also of course on a therapeutic level,” Tornabene says. As he talks, I can’t help looking around me to “listen” to other parts of him spread across the space: his baritone saxophone, books on sound healing, tuning forks in their boxes, and alas, even a telescope. “I lived in Sounio for a summer, and wanted to see the stars from there,” he smiles.
“All the studies and research that I do, feeds into the central core idea of energy awareness – the awareness of the energy transforming, and being able to navigate with that, either in a therapeutic setting, with the intention of balancing and creating a healthy dynamic; in the performance work it’s about expanding your expressive range and getting a much stronger and deeper relationship with the dynamics of space, the rapport with the audience etc. So it’s quite a circular, radial way of researching and developing work as opposed to a linear approach.
HOW DID THIS AWARENESS AWAKEN WITHIN YOU AS A PERFORMER? There were three major streams – in the Early 80s I was sound-designing and composing for a New York Choreographer, RoseAnne Spradlin, she’s an award-winning choreographer & still quite active in NY. She was studying the body-mind work, Bonnie Cohen’s work, and she started describing the music that I was bringing to her in those terms. I said “What the hell are you talking about?!” She would describe various musical textures as very “bone-like” or “very organ-like” or “accessing skin” and so forth and I got very, very curious about this, I said “what is this?”
“So we started doing Body-Level work at her apartment in NY and I started sensing a possibility of developing a much richer relationship with the movement, music, energetic thing that I was involved in. Then I also had a colleague who was studying the Laban work, and so Laban’s space and effort started to also be a stream in this. And then at the end of the ‘80s I went for therapy sessions with John Beaulieu who was working at Polarity Centre at that point (he shows me his book, Human Tuning, Sound Healing with Tuning Forks, published 2010). It was 1989 and we did speaking therapy, he worked with Tibetan bowls and with tuning forks that he designed and I purchased from him at that time, which are based on the Pythagorean numbers which have a very curative aspect, and also hands-on work. And at the end of these sessions he turned to me and said “Joe would you like to do this work on other people?” cause he had a sense that there was something starting to move in me. I got terrified! I couldn’t imagine working with a recipient on a massage table and actually using my voice and the forks. But he had this very interesting smile in his face when I had this reaction cause he knew that something would happen.
“So I started using that particular work – the fork work and voice work – and started developing it so that I could become a better musician, and it has very strongly informed my work through the years. And then I moved to Greece and in 1997 I met Jenny Colebourne.
WHY DID YOU MOVE TO GREECE? I met a Greek woman in Amsterdam when I was teaching at the School for New Dance Development and using Amsterdam as a base to teach in other countries in Europe in theatrical work primarily. I had the Amsterdam working Group and we met once a week for two years, exploring a work called Experimental Listening, where you listen to a recorded piece of music and we would write down our reaction to it – on any level – the phenomenological level, the emotional level, and then we would do an hour to an hour and a half doing experiential anatomy exploration – for example we would work with the bones through touch, movement, accessing the energy of this body system. And then we would re-listen to the music and we would share and journal and process, and the results were quite astonishing – the perceptual changes, the relationship changes with how we entered the music and what we heard and what we were sensing and how the space transformed and so forth. These results were published in Contact Quarterly the year after in 1997.
“So as I said I met Jenny Colebourne and she said I’m going to organise a workshop for you at Ilium Center of Light. I said “you want me to teach this stuff?!” and she said, “Yes!! Do it!”. We had 17 people in the first workshop, and it was really marvellous – I felt a fluidity with it, an ease with teaching it and working with it.
“In late ’97 I also started teaching at a prominent theatre school here, where I taught for five years. I started integrating the experiences I was having in the therapeutic work, my own, by that point 20-something years in the performing arts, primarily with dance & theatre, and this integration started to occur. It worked very very well in the theatre setting, the students that i bump into now 20 years later still say they use the work, and how rich it was, etc.
IS IT MAINLY FOR PERFORMERS OR FOR ANYONE? In the therapeutic work we are using a lot of explorations that I have developed and use in the theatrical training, but it’s designed to have a therapeutic base as well. So these two streams are by now quite integrated in my work.
WHICH PART OF YOU DO YOU FEEL IS MOST PROMINENT? I think they’re pretty well balanced… In the article“Cycling through awareness protocols, creating music from a body-based energetic perspective” published in Berlin last year – that’s pretty much the essence for me – I create primarily solo work – my performance work and practice regime is driven by my awareness and sensibility of moving through varying body systems, energy systems and so forth, and witnessing the influence of these different energy transformations, and allowing this to manifest in the moment-to-moment creation of the work.
HAVE YOU STUDIED HOW YOUR MUSIC AFFECTS THE AUDIENCE? I generally get very positive responses – that it’s very warm, and generous and has a healing aspect. But it’s in the development stage – I think in 30 years maybe it will have matured a bit. I’ve only been at it for 35-40 years– it takes a while! (laughs)
WITH YOUR MUSICAL PERFORMANCES YOU’VE WORKED WITH ALL KINDS OF MUSICIANS AROUND THE WORLD. HOW DO THOSE PARTNERSHIPS EMERGE? I’ve worked primarily in dance & theatre and I choose the musicians I work with very, very carefully. They have to have a sensibility, they have to be very strong & confident improvisors. With dance & theatre I love entering this wider, energetic context – my sound goes out into a space, there’s a kinaesthetic aspect occurring, perhaps text, and I start to nurture what I call the third entity, this energetic thing that arises between the sound I’m creating and the other aspects on the stage.
SO THATS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T QUITE REHEARSE FOR When there are rehearsal situations, it’s more about finding how we might walk into form, how we might inter-relate in those terms. But rarely are things set; I work with mature people so we trust our ability to interact moment-to-moment and witness the evolving form and to nurture that. When I do solo performances the only thing I plan is about the first 30 seconds so I can have a tiny bit of comfort to kind of cut the ice a bit. But for the next 30-40 minutes I’m travelling with this awareness process and how I’m sensing the audience, the space, how I’m listening to the silences, what came before the silence will inform what comes after it – and in the ideal situation I really trust this process.
SO EACH TIME IT’S DIFFERENT Yeah. I try to continually break the syntax of my gestural work, that’s a large process for me. But it’s really driven a lot by how I’m sensing how my body is informing the process moment-to-moment. It’s challenging and quite an amazing energetic place to be.
IN OTHER PARTS OF YOUR LIFE HOW DO YOU FIND THAT PLACE? The therapeutic work (laughs)…has saved my life, literally! I used it to balance my psychology and my inter-relationships with every aspect of my life. I’m constantly trying to learn; it’s a massive learning process of these minute changes that we continually absorb in our lives because of the complexity of our lives, and to really monitor those and to understand how they’re affecting my energy levels, my general health, my psychology – and to be able to transform the ones that are creating negative issues.
“I have this belief that ancient Shamanistic rites were also built around this premise. They were not only going through a curing ritual but also imparting to the health-seeker ways to understand his or her energetic body and all the other parameters of moment to moment life ways so that they could walk away and enter self-healing., If you study the way shamans worked, it’s such an energetic foundation to their work – even the herbs they used – all of this was energetic vibrational type of medicine and approach.
Interview by Alexia Amvrazi
TORNABENE’S SOUND BALANCING CLASS @ ILIUM CENTRE OF LIGHT (Dimocharous 18, Kolonaki) take place every Wednesday. It can be attended as a year-long series or as a one off. For more information call: +302107231397. Tornabene describes the workshop as follows: “My workshop at Ilium is really about empowering the individual to find ways to manage their health & psychology & emotional flow, giving the very simple techniques that they can start to travel with, so they can become more self-sufficient and more confident, and trusting in this innate aspect of human beings to balance & heal the energy body. I really believe that this process of healing was also a teaching process for the recipient to become a self-healer.”
Tornabene also teaches at SECRET PLACE in Maroussi
* 9 -12 December 2017@ KINITIRAS
A presentation of Kinitiras’ Residency for composers and choreographers, presented by Joe Tornabene and Thalia Ditsa.
Children’s performance Stin Hora Tou Giati (In the Land of Why) at Kinitiras Theatre as a musician / mover on December 17 & 24 and January 7 and 14 2018.
* Performance as actor / mover @ Kinitiras Theatre production Deep Sigh (Βαθύς Αναστεναγμός) which opens on February 9th, 2018 and will run until the beginning of March.
He also offers private Sound Therapy Sessionsusing Therapeutic Touch, tuning forks, voice, movement.
I went to my Soul Sounding appointment with David Kennet not quite knowing what to expect, except that I would be receiving some form of sound healing, which I love. The power of sound resonates deeply in all of us, for some more consciously than others, and having tried various forms of sound therapy in the past I was excited to experience Soul Sounding.
The first part of my session with Kennet, a clean-cut, elegant man with a calm voice and polite, gentle manner, was centred on discussing my beliefs about myself and life. “What do you want from this session?” he asked me, adding, “It’s very important to set your intention before the session, as with everything.”
I too am a believer in the power of intention – we set our intent carelessly most of the time, achieving what our subconscious directs us toward without even realizing it. There are so many books and other media out there about the power of our intent in manifesting our reality – call it the Law of Attraction, Abraham Hicks, The Secret or whatever you like, essentially it is something we already do by focusing or thoughts in a certain direction, our heartruling the way with its emotions with a force that transmutes the cellular structure of everything within and around us. “My life is so crap!” people complain, often not realizing that they are dedicating almost all their energy to making it that way by visualizing the worst, using technicolour, dynamic and completely realistic imagery that makes them feel what they fear most is actually happening, and which then registers on a physical and conscious level as an actual experience! And even when they stop to imagine what they want, in a hopeful moment, they often crush it with an infernal crashing thunderbolt with the little words “as if!!”
The art and discipline is to connect with our heart and mind and see what emotions and thoughts are there, understand what is true to our being and honour it through love, before altering it to its best potential and directing it with a loving, powerful force toward what it is we truly do want to create. “Holistic healing is very much about us each remembering that we are our own best healers, that the body is designed to heal itself, and again, we just need some tools,” Kennet says.
Based upon the things I revealed about what I do and do not feel, want and believe, Kennet created some affirmations for me to repeat and then using applied kinesiology and muscle-testing, showed me what my subconscious really does believe and what it doesn’t. It was a fascinating process, as I saw how, for example when I affirmed “I am happy to have money” my subconscious gave the green light, but when I affirmed “I am happy to be wealthy” there was a resistance.
It was an a-ha! moment, because despite years of affirmations in that direction, my deep-seated subconscious belief that money is good because it helps you survive, but wealth is a corrupting force, because after all, look at the line-up of the 1%, has very likely stopped me earning to my fullest potential.
“We can actually unconsciously have an intolerance, a resistance, almost like an allergy, to things we want,” Kennet tells me, “even though we are consciously telling ourselves “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself,” if the unconscious is running a programme that says ‘you are unworthy or don’t deserve love’ it’s very hard to experience the actuality of “I love myself”. So what do we do about it? I ask. Kennet shows me some tools for working on myself using Brain Gym techniques, but the main work will be done on the Soul Sounding table.
On the healing table, Kennet uses a variety of instruments including crystal singing bowls, Native American flutes, tuning forks and a giant drum, which he says, laughingly “penetrates and goes , deep – even if there’s a resistance to healing, there’s no hiding!” His main instrument, he tells me, is his voice, which he uses intuitively, however he feels guided to. Kennet grew up with music, as his father Michael Small was a celebrated film score composer for Hollywood (“hearing him compose for movies,from early at sunrise, or blasting classical music in the house, was definitely influential”, Kennet says), and in fact it cured him of the chronic, life-threatening asthma he was diagnosed with since early childhood.
“My mom had to rush me to hospital when I had asthma attacks so they could save my life, giving me an adrenaline shot which would open up my bronchial tunes and make my heart pound very intensely. So Western medicine saved my life. Ultimately what happened was that I met an amazingly evolved man called Dr. Kenneth Mills, who was a metaphysician, musician and composer, and who revealed the gift of song to me, which was already mine but I didn’t know it was there. The more and more I sang, the greater and more ease I had in breathing.
“The reason for that I think was threefold: the physical component that came through singing was that I was taking deeper breaths; on a very fundamental level when we sing, we open our diaphragm, so I was exercising the muscles in my lungs. On an emotional level, I believe that singing allows us to expand. It opens up or emotions, takes away shyness and allows us to express ourselves. And on the spiritual level through singing we are also connecting to the source, because sound is what we are, so when we make a sound we are aligning ourself to creation. Mills had a singing group called The Star-scape Singers that I was very honoured to have been included in his ensemble.”
When the singing ensemble disbanded in 2004, Kennet set off to learn under other great teachers such as the sound healers Tom Kenyon and Johnathan Goldman, learning about how sound is effective in self-empowerment and healing. He also studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, and the Integrative Natural Technologies School in Canada to study allergies (over the years he has helped a multitude of people of all ages recover from allergies), and trained as a licensed massage therapist. “Above all I’m excited about bridging the world of mysticism with science. Bottom line is that I get a very high percentage of results, and this to me is the validation of the power of sound,” he says.
As I lie listening to the sound of the crystal bowls he is playing, I feel the sound waves vibrate through my chest and back, and my thoughts fall away. I start feeling peaceful. “Sound is a carrier wave that is capable of penetrating our skin and our cells, our bones, it can go right into our bone marrow. So sound is a very effective way of penetrating our ‘walls’,” Kennet says.
When he starts to sing, I am momentarily stunned by the impact, bold colour, sophisticated texture and infiltrating power of his voice, and find it almost impossible to connect this voice, which literally feels like a biblical force, like a flood of light emerging through the clouds, with the low-key individual I was just chatting with over a cup of tea. His singing transports me to a place where I look around and see angels and, as I scan the circle of those around me, I see my grandparents, looking at me with loving smiles. I remember now that whatever is happening in this life, wherever we are, at the same time we are somewhere else, surrounded by the light that we are, that all that we love never leaves us, because it is part of us, and I start to cry with joy and relief. In our session I feel my energy shift and clear on the physical, mental and emotional levels, I see more images, cry a few more tears, breathe deeply, even sleep for a few minutes. I feel like I have been in a whirlwind of sound and light, reconnected with heavenly love and the earth’s dark, rich, grounding energy at once. Thank you David, for reminding me I am home.
David Kennet offered a sound-gift to the readers of I’m Very Well Thank You, performing an intuitive song:
Early last month I attended a workshop presented by Dr. Dwaine Hartman at a beautiful space in central Athens – Inner Flow. I felt refreshed by the aesthetic of the space, which was nothing like the usual New Agey centres one comes across too often – with golden buddhas and spirals at every turn, the air thick with the smell of Nag Champa incense and cat-hair on a dated armchair (ok that was just creative freedom on my part, but you get the picture). Inner Flow is urban, post-industrial with an upbeat vibe and glossy details – a polished ultra-modern kitchen, two bathrooms with luxurious products (including fragrant hand cream, always deserving of serious appreciation), and a fluffy light grey carpet that incites in one the desire to roll around. Beyond the elegant surroundings, the space feels highly professional and deeply comforting at once, and it’s not by chance, because the person who owns and runs it, Effie Adamidou, has those exact qualities herself. She is fully centred on her professional objectives as a Systemic Psychotherapist who works one-on-one with clients as well as organizing a variety of workshops featuring her own teachings and those of excellent therapists from abroad. Yet at the same time she is so warm and effusive that having a cup of tea (organic of course) and chocolate (one of the soul-soothing treats visitors regularly bring for fellow sufferers/evolvers) with her in the kitchen makes you feel right at home.
Inner Flow has already welcomed some great events and there are many more in the works. Here, Adamidou talks about how she started out and how she slowly transformed Inner Flow into what it is today, as well as what her plans are for the coming year.
“My practice began in the Psychiatric Hospital of Attica, in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre “ 18 Ano” doing Creative Arts therapy – Empowerment & Counseling group work . I was about to go to New York (where she grew up and lived until the age of 12), and continue my studies there, but everything here just started rolling so I stayed & went with the Flow!! I was studying & did trainings in systemic – family psychotherapy, drama therapy, dance therapy, music therapy & also body psychotherapy – Wilhelm Reich Institute -Vegeotherapy & Character Analysis here in Greece. I was also a specialist in Drug Prevention going to schools in Piraeus and the local community & working with children adolescents , teachers, parents , as well as in the Drug rehabilitation program “ Atrapos” for adolescents . For many years I have worked as a psychotherapist at a private center “ Paidi & Oikogeneia” – for children & parents & with distinguished psychotherapists doing group work & workshops in their private offices. At the same time , I had my private practice on the side. I love working in groups where we all are together and can expand , learning and supporting each other. I never had the dream of being in an office behind a desk or something, I love being on the floor, moving around, using various props, doing experiential workshops!
“From a very young age, from 1997, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by very beautiful and very experienced therapists and healers and people specialised in holistic techniques and yoga. From early childhood I was also very open to Energy – recognising that there is more than what we see and read in books. Both my parents were very open to a holistic way of seeing life and my godfather, who was very into esotericism, played a big role in helping me develop my way of seeing things. In my youth I studied theatre too – the Stanislavsky Method with Helen Scotes and always had teachers who made a very big difference and influenced me very positively from college. I was never really drawn to classical approaches, despite having studied many of them, what interested me most and made my heart beat loudly, was working with innovative ways of personal development & going beyond conventions!
“Since 2006, I stopped working so actively in the various programs & centers & decided I wanted to create my own space. I never stopped the collaborations I’d had with therapists, running experiential therapy workshops, but I knew it was time to create something more solid of my own. Soon I created Inner Flow Athens City Centre For Psychological Support& Creative Expression and Spiritual Awakening – I know, it’s a long title, but that’s what we do here! People think there are a lot of people running it but it’s only me (laughs). My upbringing in New York has given me a precious gift that I’m open to people of all kinds and from different paradigms. In 2009 I created Inner Flow in Holargos in the northern part of Attica, continuing one to one sessions ,group therapy & workshops – “ Inner Child” , “ Women& Femininity”, “ & many others combining techniques & methods of Energy healing – Reiki- Roizon- Bioenergy- The Healing Codes, Soul- Body Fusion , meditation & of course creative arts therapy , body psychotherapy & Systemic Constellation Work.
“Systemic Psychotherapy is not to be confused with Bert Hellinger’s Systemic Constellation work . It is field of Psychotherapy as Psychoanalysis, Rogerian, Gestalt, Existential etc… We focus first on the person- the client – connecting their mind, body, spirit, and then all the ripple circles around that individual – the immediate family, friends, colleagues and neighbours etc and going all the way to the universe. We work on the stories, family patterns, trans -generational schemes , the perceptions & imprints on all levels. It’s important to be in the here and now, so in systemic therapy we always connect to the past by bringing it to the present in a meaningful transformational way.
“In 2012 it all expanded – more people were interested in holistic work and Inner Flow became more of a scene. In 2016 I came to the heart of Athens, thanks to my beloved parents , where I’ve created Inner Flow Athens City Centre. I’ve always been very connected to the energy of Athens from a little girl so this was the ideal location, and this way people can reach Inner Flow much easier.
“ Many years now I collaborate & also organize seminars , workshops & trainings with teachers & therapists from abroad. Among them are Barrie Musgrave- Systemic Energy Constellation Work, Elizabeth Ann Morris – Spiritual Teacher & Healer, former principal of Diana Cooper Foundation Yorgos Nasios – Certified trainer of “Walking in Your Shoes “, which combines Systemic Constellation work & the Arts. Kaypacha – Tom Lescher- Astrologer, Spiritual practitioner, Roel Fredrix- Shamanism, Energy Medicine & Healing in the Inca Tradition, David Kennet- Sound Healer , Vibrational Resonance & Brain Gym practitioner, Margo Awanata- Facilitator , trainer in Woman’s Empowerment circles & Retreats, and Co – Founder & Trainer of “ Wild Sisters”
“In Greece Inner Flow is connected & collaborates with “brother-spaces ” & teachers , promoting a holistic approach to personal development & spiritual awakening – Some of these are : “ Guru Ram Das Ashram- Kundalini Yoga” with Amar Dev Marina Ktisti , “Be Fluid” – Zhineng Qigong- Chryssi Berou , “The Senteris Method “ with Master Panagiotis Senteris, Philosophical Association “Peaceful Warrior”, Leda Shantala’s “Shantom – House of Culture, the Angels Nest – Energy Healing, Ioanna Athanasiou, Center for Systemic Psychotherapy & Counseling with Smaro Markou Tsangaraki
& Wilhelm Reich Institute of Greece’s “Vegeotherapy & Character Analysis” .
“Inner Flow is a place where people can come to be at peace and expand. The space is not only me – it has developed a life of its own, and when people come here they see it, sense it, know it. It’s also a lot to do with the people & collaborators who come here , that’s why I am particular about who I bring over, and what they do when they’re here – We are a Community each an important part of the sacred circle. This place is a portal and those who come here have heard a calling. I feel very responsible for this space, that it should offer people what they need to walk their path in love, truth and integrity, opening them up to their divinity. This is how we can make a change in this world, supporting Gaia our beloved planet, being connected to the mysteries & gifts of the universe! All in the Light…!”
And now, the time has come for Athens to taste succlent and mouthwatering Hawaiian poke, cubed raw or marinated fish with soy sauce, sesame oil and usually rice and other condiments of choice. On tiny yet increasingly lively Petraki St near Syntagma Sq, chef Yiannis Kandylidis and his partners Yiannis Biniaris and Konstandinos Yiannoutsas have put on their best poke faces and are drawing the crowds with their creative – and healthy – delights. The set menu flavours I tried are succulent, clean, fresh, colourful and delicate, and the ingredients are fresh, seasonal, local and high quality, which adds to the health factor. Raw fish (except the shrimp, which was boiled), fresh herbs like coriander and mint, fresh fruit, caramelised, raw or crunchy onions, edamame beans, chillies and other punchy flavours make the experience pretty exciting.
I interviewed Kandylidis before diving into a variety of dishes created by him (click link below to hear our chat) and went again a week later on my birthday along with hubby and my preschooler for dishes we added our own touches – either is fully encouraged. The prices are between 5.5-8.5 euros for the small or larger portions and beers, lemonade and cocktails are also for sale. As the chef revealed in our interview (below), the autumn / winter season wll also see the addition of heart-warming soups and other dishes.
I had interviewed hypnotherapist Dr. Dwaine Hartmana week before going to his evening workshop at the urban chic Inner Flow Athens City Centre space in Monastiraki, and I’d watched several of his video talks and interviews. Yet I didn’t expect what I experienced within those four hours at his Feel The Magic event, and how I have been experiencing the world in a different way since. As soon as I saw him in person I felt a certain familiarity that neither shook or confounded me but that felt reassuringly pleasant. As I took my place at the front of the class on one of the few remaining empty cushions, I turned to look at him and our eyes connected for what felt like a long time but was probably just a few brief minutes; there were no powerful messages or feelings, just a comforting connection, like saying hello again in a gentle way to someone you have not seen in a long while. “Separation is the core of all problems in our society,” Hartman says. “Nobody looks into each other’s eyes and says “I see you”.
His workshop centred on issues that have been central in my life during the last few years – the importance of being able to connect with myself as well as other beings on a real, deep, heartfelt level, without the mind infringing upon this process; my hungry desire to reaffirm the importance and power in my daily existence of my imagination, (which I rode on throughout my childhood and adolescent years, sometimes with incredible results as I manifested things big and small that I’d relished in dreaming up, but had lost touch with this way of being when I became a busy, stressed and somewhat jaded “adult”). Albert Einstein said it brilliantly when he wrote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Another major focus during the workshop was developing the awareness and ability to locate, face, observe and let go of the dastardly internal critic, of which he says: “The base to all human suffering is the lack of connection to our supportive unconditional source. So what do you think gets in the way of that connection …. that is right … the internal critic. Now what if I was to share with you that this part doesn’t even belong to you?”Resulting from years, maybe aeons of social conditioning, the inner critic resides in each of us, and manipulatively finds ways to sabotage our best efforts, especially as soon as we start to feel we are finally getting where we wished to be.
Hartman teaches above all the essentiality of connecting to our inner child, who came into this world sill completely in tune with its source. He reminds his students that inour heart we hold an inherent knowledge of truth. He teaches his students to acknowledge, befriend and utilise their own god / goddess nature, that part of them that is the creator of their reality at large.
I watched him work with personally with attendees to help them let go of thoughts, ideas and physical feelings some had been carrying and felt confined by for many years, and I recalled the concept that miracles don’t have to be huge and dramatic, with thunder, blazing lights and holy visions of biblical proportions – even a small but significant shift in one’s consciousness, a reawakening to our sense of who we really are beyond the ego and a mindinundated with messages of who to be by the media / education systems / certain family practices and society can change one’s life forever. It can bring on spontaneous healing, which will sometimes last for minutes or hours before one stubbornly returns to a prior state – but will have shown them who they can be nonetheless – or can create a forever shift. Either scenario, presenting the actuality of healing whether short-lived or eternal, is a miracle, when the alternative is continuing to live in a stagnant state of hypnotic misery.
This, above all, is what I enjoyed of observing Hartman’s teaching – his combination of creative yet practical, good-humoured techniques with a renewed sense of remembering that it is up to us how we choose to perceive and live our life. He is neither the first nor the last teacher to convey this awareness in others, but he is definitely one of too few inspiring therapists who this world needs in order to shift its consciousness for the better on a mass level. Amusingly, most of Hartman’s one-to-one interactions with participants ended with shared laughter; the type that comes from relief, when seeing that the horrifying monster in the mind was in fact just a little mouse ingeniously practising trickery with shadows; the laughter that comes from the gratitude of acknowledging that with patience and observation, answers can be found; and of course the giggles that bubble up from finally being able to laugh at one’s self for its long-held, life-defying and ludicrous need for intricately structured drama. That very drama can cripple us in so many ways, which can be very severe, but once we can see beyond it, and detach our self from the clutches we have so kindly paid to sponsor the services of, then we can hopefully laugh.
Hartman calls himself a Trance Alchemist, and works with people on a one-to-one basis through Skype and in person, as well as travelling around the world to teach workshops. His two-day workshop is a more dynamic extension of what we got a taste of on September 11th, and following that, he runs a five-day course for those who want to learn how to be Trance Alchemists who can then use his techniques professionally or personally on clients and friends.
Dr Dwaine Hartman is the author of ‘Value Your Vibration’. CLICK HERE TO VISIT HIS WEBSITE NOW.
My latest Tried & Tested experience was a four-hands Lucky Treatment at the swanky Electra Palace Hotel, at the Aegeo Spas. Although I have tried and tested massage therapies at some of the world’s best spas – such as the Pimalay Resort in Thailand, Amansara in Cambodia, Ryokan in Japan, Grande Bretagne in Athens – as well as a colourful and impressive variety of smaller wellness centres and quirky, off-road therapy retreats both near and far, I had never experienced a four hands massage. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do so, but for some surreal reason it never appealed enough. What really piqued my interest in the Lucky Treatment, also known as the Wish Massage was its enchanting concept. Not just a massage carried out by two therapists but an entire ritual in which the client is asked to make a wish at the beginning of the therapy, this had a spiritual element that I could not resist. I feel sorry for those who cynically scorn “magical thinking” – in fact, I think being able to practice it, (with measure of course because we always need to remain grounded to a basic degree) is a superpower that offers strength, resilience, the ongoing capability to dream your world into being, and an important connection to creativity, to the magic that lies within us.
The Electra Palace Spa is not fancy or huge, but it’s luxurious, with a relaxingambience of dim lights and dreamy aromas. The staff are all extremely warm, professional and comfortingly familial, so as soon as I arrived, very excited about my massage booking no doubt, I felt right at home. After 15 minutes in and out of a hot sauna, I wrapped myself in a fluffy white robe and was greeted by smiling massage therapists Kalliopi and Bora, both beaming and presenting me with a lit candle. In the therapy room, I was asked to make a wish and then blow out the candle. I had thought about my wish while in the sauna and the objective now was to focus on it gently during the therapy too.
At first I was in mind-mode and got myself into a little spiral of paranoid thinking: “What if they are looking at each other and making faces?” Then I decided to tell my mind to shut the hell up and try and focus on what I actually felt. Starting from my legs, the therapists kneaded and pressed all the tension out of my limbs in perfect synchronisation. “It is like a dance,” Bora told me, that we choreograph spontaneously as we work!” Their movements came in flow with the music that was playing, which made the experience even more immersive as I lay feeling aware of their synchronised massage, the emotive but not overwhelming music, and how I felt.
So how did I actually feel? Like I’d never felt before during a massage. It was as though I had been taken into the hands of some mythological creature that was floating and flying me around while I happily surrendered (if it had been a mythological creature I don’t think I would have been as relaxed!). At various points one therapist began where the other had ended, so there was an ongoing flow of movement, like deep, calming waves of relaxing tranquility. When one therapist massaged my head and the other my feet, I could do nothing but feel that even if the wish I’d made at the start of the treatment was not realised, I was nonetheless experiencing a wish come true, one I’d made a few hundred times on nights when my son wouldn’t sleep, or when I crouched over my laptop trying to finish off an article. I could sense that they were not going through the motions, but instead were working with giving and dedication to help me feel good, and at the end of the session I felt so blissed – and blessed – that my only wish was that these two wonderful individuals have all of their wishes come true!
One and a half hours of the session are focused on the body, while the last half hour is centred on the head (where you think of your wish) and face, with special attention to the lips (from which you speak your wish) and the eyes (from which you see your wish manifest). A cleansing and glow-inducing mask is slathered indulgently onto the skin, and if the client accepts, the head and hair is massaged with hot olive oil. Unsurprisingly, I was pretty spaced out after the therapy, but putting on the clothes that define who I am I soon regained my urban instincts and got back to ordinary life. Not that after that experience I felt ordinary in any way, shape or form.