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

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.’

gateway to consciousness

There are a multitude of ways to seek – and find – consciousness. From its very beginning, humankind has sought to enhance and explore consciousness, which can be described as a state in which one achieves a heightened awareness of the world within and around oneself. When businessman and radio professional Robert Monroe began his experimentation with consciousness in earnest during the 1950s, experiencing out-of-body experiences and heightened, multifaceted states of waking consciousness, he began sharing them via books with the wider public, and trying out various forms of audio technology for those purposes.  He eventually developed the Hemi-Sync© audio technology that is used worldwide today, while also setting up The Monroe Institute. Hemi-Sync© has been tested on tens of thousands of people and been shown to offer a multitude of health benefits, chiefly because it synchronises the left and right brain hemispheres and creating new neuronal pathways, basically re-wiring the brain. From much improved concentration and memory retention to emotional and psychological healing (from anxiety, depression, phobias, trauma), heightened intuition, improvement of overall physical health or of specific ailments, alleviating ADD and PTSD, and even helping people to realign with their true life purpose by connecting with their inner truth, its well-researched effects have been nothing but positive. On a more metaphysical level, Hemi-Sync© has also proven as a powerful tool for having Out of Body Experiences (OBE) and delving into other realms beyond the physical.


Greece is the only country in Europe where there is a centre with rooms using advanced audio technology modeled on that of the Monroe Institute (TMI) for the purpose of Hemi-Sync© workshops. Noosfera Wellness & Retreat Centre, located near Xylokastro in the Peloponnese, is run by a psychologist Maria Xifara and a former journalist, Ioulia Pitsouli. It hosts a broad variety of alternative wellness-related retreats throughout the year, and annually hosts The Gateway Voyage, a six-day intensive experience of TMI’s Hemi-Sync© binaural beat meditations (see my Skype interview with Linda Leblanc, who facilitates the course at the bottom, of the page).


I am planning to visit Noosfera Centre in just a few weeks for a Silence Retreat that includes yoga, walks in nature and art, so I will be reporting on my first-hand experience of the place – watch this space!

 

INTERVIEW WITH IOULIA PITSOULI, co-owner
of Noosfera Wellness & Retreat Center

 

Ioulia Pitsouli

Maria Xifara

Alexia Amvrazi: Can you please tell me about yourself, and what has brought you to the healing and wellness field?
Ioulia Pitsouli: I met Maria Xifara as we were on the same path, one that both of us walked along on for decades. We both had a bright inner flame burning in us both as we sought answers on life’s purpose and consciousness expansion. We traveled around many countries, attending workshops by various spiritual teachers. We ended up – Maria as a psychologist and me as a journalist (and later author) – developing an integrative approach that encapsulates the spiritual psychology of A Course in Miracles with Greek philosophy and mythology. In this integration we found a powerful healing tool that we have shared in spiritual psychology groups and workshops over the last 20 years.

AA: How did you create Noosfera? How would you describe it?
IP: Noosfera Center reflects our personal need for a seminar space that, unlike impersonal hotels or makeshift, uncomfortable ascetic cells, stands out because of our personal touch. It has the “air” of a boutique hotel but actually is a purposely built complex of wooden cottages especially created for self-awareness, yoga and recreational events focused on spiritual development. The idea is to offer body, mind, spirit wellness-centred weekends, or weeklong anti-stress and self-expansion retreats.

Exterior at Noosfera Wellness Center & Retreat

We believe that the person who seeks peace, joy and truth about himself will also be inspired by the beauty of the mountains and the sea in the horizon that surround our land, and by the rugged charm of the area itself. We wish for our visitors, in parallel to the expansion of their consciousness, to feel pampered and draw joy from details such as the lavender under the sleeping pillows, the freshly fragrant rooms or the “structured” fine water and the organic vegetables coming from our own garden.

AA: Noosfera is the only place in Europe that is decked out with the appropriate audio equipment for the Gateway Voyage and other audio-healing-related workshops. What did it involve to set that up?
IP: We were inspired by The Monroe Institute in the USA. Being facilitators of  The Μonroe Institute in Greece we decided to include in the construction of Noosfera’s buildings the proper technological set-up. With the help of highly skilled sound technicians we managed to wire all the rooms with special audio equipment. Thus we can offer our guests the privilege of listening through headphones for meditation or lucid dreaming exercises while they are comfortably lying in the privacy of their room.

Noosfera has developed a community vibe, with visitors returning regularly and some even setting up homes nearby

AA: Linda Leblanc mentioned that at Noosfera there is a “spiritual community”. Could you please elaborate on this?
IP: We strongly believe that we are much more than our physical bodies so we gladly support workshops, given by us or others, facilitating people to have personal experiences of their spiritual self and their inner splendour. Forgiveness, is also among our core interests. During the 5 years that Noosfera Center has existed, like- minded people have been drawn here and, wanting to share and participate in our vision, are building cottages near Noosfera Center, gradually creating a spiritual community of sorts.

AA: Do you live there & run courses and workshops year round? What kind of events take place there?
IP: The first half of the week we are in Athens running psychology groups, and from Thursday to Sunday we are at Noosfera running our own workshops or supporting groups who come for their programs as Noosfera Center is also open to groups that would like to host their activities. Yoga workshops, Silent retreats, Tai Chi and Holotropic Breathing workshops, A Course in Miracles and The Monroe Institute’s programs are among the activities taking place every week, year round. Alternative summer vacations and Christmas / New Year holistic retreats are also among the highly enjoyed programs offering warmth, self realization and new friendships to the participants. Noosfera thus offers meaningful “escapes” from the city and limited ideas of self and life!

 

Interview with Gateway Voyage Facilitator Linda Leblanc

stepping into the shaman’s path

And so the journey continues. I keep being drawn to the people and practices that can remind me what I already know, in my heart, but cannot yet fully grasp in my mind – not that it should really matter! That I am already one with everything. That I have all the answers I’m seeking. That everything is an illusion and truth at once. That to learn, and change, requires discipline. That once I can relinquish the idea that such discipline is uncomfortable, difficult and yes, even painful, (because it requires me to let go of patterns, behaviours and ideas that I’ve been ‘indoctrinated’ into by belief systems founded on creating molds), the practice of being, truly, will be easy. Because when I am in true connection with my soul, I will not be trying so hard. In fact I won’t be trying at all. I will just be…

Roel Fredrix

Dutch shaman and teacher Roel Fredrix has been visiting Athens on and off over the last year, running workshops on shamanic healing and the Medicine Wheel, via a course called the Inca Mastery of Life Training. I attended Fredrix’ workshop on Munay (heart energy) at Inner Flow Centre Athens and discovered lifetime techniques for empowering and healing the self and others. One exercise was centred on creating an energy drawn from the earth and from the heavens and concentrated within the heart, and then adding to that a profound sense of joy. It was amazing as I practiced sending this energy to a partner I worked on, as she talked about some of her most painful memories. As soon as she would get stuck in a sense of trauma and sadness I would send my joyful, loving heart energy to her and she would feel soothed and would move on. “The most serious thing of all, the Q’ero shamans say, is humour,” Fredrix told us, adding that when your heart is filled with laughter and joy it is at its strongest and most protected from outside energies.

Two days after the workshop I had the pleasure to interview Fredrix to delve deeper into who he is and his teachings.

Alexia Amvrazi: Who are you?
Roel Fredrix: Who am I? That’s a good question. Actually that’s what the whole journey is about. Who are we? Who am I? I can give you an answer on many levels. My name is Roel Fredrix. When I give an answer on the level of the mind I will tell you the stories of my past and my profession and what I have been doing in life, and that I am the father of three kids, and that I come from this part of Holland. That’s one identification on the level of the mind. But on my journey I discovered that I’m not that. Those are only roles that I play and identifications with stories in my mind. I’ve had quite some mystical experiences, and when you transcend the ego you find out that you are the process of life itself, and that what you call you is everything. It’s you, it’s us, it’s everything that is expressed as the divine. I’ve experienced myself as many things; I’ve had a lot of shape-shifting experiences. I’ve experienced myself as a volcano for example, or a star. When you have these kinds of experiences you realise that you can shape-shift into anything, and the experience comes from just a shift in awareness. So, it’ hard to say who I am (laughs). In the normal world I am just a man.

A shamanic mesa, which is like a medicine pouch or transportable altar.

AA: You say “just a shift in awareness” but for many people that is very challenging to achieve.
RF: Yes. It’s not “just” a shift in awareness… It can be a shift in one second that happens spontaneously, or it can be a shift that you need to work for intensively. But the only thing is that you have to remove something to reach it: your belief system, your mind, your programmes or ‘software’.

AA: What drew you to shamanism?
RF: In the beginning I wasn’t drawn to it at all. I was educated as a physical therapist in Holland and had my own practice. I was always interested in alternative medicine, since I was 16-17 years old I was studying about the paranormal, astrology, numerology, I had a dream diary as a child… but then I got into the medical training, and they program you with western, medical, scientific thinking, so that went away for a little while. Until I was around my 30s. First I had my sports career and I worked in the sports world and teaching about sports injuries and that kind of stuff. But there was a sudden change in my life – I was in the Dutch National Team of Ultimate Frisbee and I was playing in the world championships in Sweden and in the first game I broke a bone in my foot. This was after I’d been training very hard for a year to get in the team and make it there, and then it snapped. I had put everything in my life aside for that training!

AA: Did you feel you had subconsciously caused that accident for yourself?
RF: Yes, I think so, nothing is coincidental. I needed to stand still in life, and reflect on the path that I was going towards. So from that moment I decided I’m not going to do that again! 

As a physiotherapist I was using some alternative therapies in my practice -kinesiology using muscle testing. A rheumatologist was sending a lot of patients to me whom I couldn’t test because they had inflamed joints, so I was seeking a way to see into them via their subconscious through the layers of pain and trauma without muscle testing. I read and followed the practices related in Brandon Bays’ ‘The Journey’ but that required working on people who could use visualisation, and some people can’t.

So when I read about Soul Retrieval on the Four Winds Society website I thought “oh wow! In this way the shaman is going into the subconscious instead of the person himself.” I listened to Alberto Villoldo’s Soul Retrieval CD and then I checked if he was giving courses and he was giving courses in Holland! I immediately went to the course, and it felt very strangely familiar. It was like I’d been doing this for years. I started using it in my work, and from my first sessions I had great revelations and insights. For the people I was treating it was about getting traumatic experiences out of their system. But the message I kept receiving was “that’s not important my son – it’s much more important to show you this, or that, and to make great connections with guides.” It gave me really crazy experiences.

AA: So would you say that our said-trauma or pain is more like a prop, covering up other things that are there that need addressing?
RF: Yes definitely. It’s one of the ways that the ego holds us from experiencing our soul. And the more trauma you have experienced in your life, the louder the voices in your mind are. The sub-personalities, the archetypical voices in your mind, like the controller or the protector, or the fear or the perfectionist, all these impulses that give thought in the mind, are very loud if you have a lot of trauma.

AA: So they shut out even more the strength and peace that you have inside?
RF: Yes, and that’s what I like about the shamanic path. First, it’s growing roots. It’s first taking care of the wounded ego, so the ego voices get less. It turns down the ego, softens it, and so it gets much more quiet inside. To make space to hear the whispering of the soul. And as soon as you start to hear that, you know ‘ah, my life is not only about what’s going on in my head, my life is a journey of the soul.”

Fredrix with a participant during the Munay teachings workshop

AA: So it’s also a way of looking at pain or trauma in a positive way, would you say, because it’s your gateway directly to going into a higher state of being if you can resolve it…
RF: Yes, and almost all people come to the spiritual path because they are seeking something. They are seeking healing, love, happiness… So people always come to the path because they don’t have it – they don’t feel happy, lovable, or they don’t feel free in their lives. So they start looking for something.

AA: So since you started on your path as a shaman, how come you found yourself in Greece?
RF: That’s a nice story – I was on a website as a graduate of the Four Winds Society; there was a teaching company here in Greece,  and they were searching for someone to teach Munay-ki, which I was doing in Holland. They happened to pick my name from the website, where there were many other people listed, and asked me to teach here. The coincidence was that I was at that time looking for new ways to express myself. I wanted to go deeper and not only teach small workshops but offer a deeper education. Meanwhile, my secretary, who is also on this path and receives private sessions from me, one day during our session said she had a dream she needed to tell me about – she told me she had dreamed of my father, who has passed away, and that he said ‘I am helping you to work abroad’!

What is the most important aspect of your teachings? 
Once you step into your soul’s path and recognise that you are not an ego you can create a re-identification, realising that you are not your stories. You realise that you are on a journey to express divinity in its highest form, so you grow into mastery, that’s why my course is called Mastery of Life Training. To master your energy, your wounds, your mind, your emotions, to master your love, your wisdom and your power. And as you move to the last step, it offers you opportunities to awaken to who  you really are, and to set your own vision of how you want to bring that awakening into the world. What is your highest vision of expressing yourself? What do you want to give to the world? Because in the beginning the wounded ego only wants to take. At the end you identify with everything and you want to give, because you know that in the giving you are giving to yourself.

INFO:
In JUNE 2018, Roel Fredrix will be teaching the South Direction of the Medicine Wheel in two long, intensive weekends (1-3 June & 8-10 June) as part of his Mastery of Life Training in Athens. For more information contact Roel Fredrix at: roelfredrix@gmail.com

rene mey’s emotional medicine

Master Instructor Anilu Fiz (R) at one of her trainings.

I first heard about Rene Mey through a friend who was diagnosed with a herniated disk which caused acute sciatica. She was in agony for a month before she had her first session with a Rene Mey volunteer. Cortisone pills helped only temporarily, the prescribed swimming only made the pain worse, but from the moment she felt her friend’s healing hands, she was filled with immense love and every day brought improvement. After three weeks of daily sessions, she felt completely renewed and six months later has not had a twinge of back pain or sciatica since, even though the MRI showed chronic long standing damage.

I started to research Rene Mey, a French humanitarian who was offering respite to the wider public and teaching energy healing techniques throughout south and north America, and in recent years eastern and southern Europe, and about whom even a movie has been made. A Jesus-like figure, Mey’s message is one of spreading compassion and love throughout the world, by teaching his techniques, which he is said to have received instruction on from light-beings.

Rene Mey offering healing at a workshop.

The techniques are described as Emotional Medicine, based on Mey’s ideology that our emotions rule 85% of our overall wellbeing. There is extensive scientific research proving that emotional injury registers in our physical body exactly in the same way as a physical pain; if we can clear emotional / mental blocks and create flow, our physical health inevitably improves. When you have a loving intent to help another and you focus on both the physical and emotional pain of another, using techniques that include hands-on energy healing and tapping in places that are blocked, the health-giving effect is powerful and reaps high results. There are indeed countless testimonials from people who have been treated by Rene Mey volunteers for periods of time as short as a few months and like my friend, have experienced complete recovery.

His master instructors teach volunteers around the world, who then are encouraged to go on to offer this healing to anyone in need, free of charge. He has also created health clinics for the poor, and his volunteers supply food, education and assistance to those in need.

Intrigued and excited by this news I attended a workshop when master instructor Anilu Fiz came to Greece several months ago. Based in Mexico, she was in Bulgaria offering trainings and two Greek volunteers organised a three day stop-over here to introduce the Cellular Regeneration, the first of the three techniques, to the Greek public. Around 30 of us present were taught the technique, which we practiced on each other, and which can be done in the standing, sitting or lying down position, and were encouraged to offer it to anyone who needed it.

The real objective, as Anilu Fiz says in the video below, is to go out and offer it to the homeless, refugees, the elderly, the sick – ideally not to keep your abilities only to the confines of your immediate surroundings, because real compassion comes from actually having contact with those we don’t know and understanding them better, caring for them, offering them the kind of help no one usually wants to give. Personally I haven’t done that yet, but I intend to every day, and I know I will start to do so very soon. It takes time to digest such a new way of looking at what we can offer to others on a wide scale.

There are currently three energy healing techniques taught, all described as Emotional Medicine.

The video below was conducted on Skype at the end of December 2017. The sound quality is not ideal, as our connection was bad and our calls were interrupted 10 times! So I did my best with what I had, because Fiz is very busy and time has lately not been a luxury for me either, with the sole intent of getting Rene Mey’s message across. Please help by sharing too if his mission resounds in you.

NEWSFLASH!
Rene Mey will possibly be visiting Athens, Greece at the end of January 2018 and Anilu Fiz will be back for trainings in February of this year.

 

the flat-out truth

Throughout life we are told about doors, and I don’t mean the cool ‘70s rock band. “When one door closes, another opens,” they say. Or “make sure you choose the right door to walk through”. Or “close the door to that experience”. The phrase that I haven’t heard before, but that I have been experiencing over the last few two months is “when some important doors open, many doors also also slam shut. In your face.”

Me looking stoical

I have taken on a pretty stoical outlook, to put it mildly, and it’s not really in my nature to be like that. I’ve always considered stoicism to be a rather sad and tedious coping mechanism based on suffering deeply while being too proud to reveal it, and instead pretending – to yourself and / or others that you are cool, collected, brave and well, just fine! Weird. My reason for taking on this alien stoical manner of being is that I felt from the very start of my door-slamming odyssey that I was receiving some kind of coded message from the universe (the type only Benedict Cumberbatch would be able to solve). I knew that I needed to remain patient and see where it was taking me and why it was there.

I won’t go into the ugly details, but the form that this door-slamming took was in a series of rejections, rebuttals, apathy, lack of compassion, meanness and cool disinterest from various parties in various sorts of situations – be it individuals to whom I relied on for friendship, those I reached out to for help, support or guidance, agreements that I had made that were not honoured by the other party, and hurtful or finicky criticism that seemed to come out of nowhere. Basically, the constant and horribly surprising message I kept getting from the universe was something like “Tough shit, girl! Life is tough, you better believe it!” So I chose to soldier on and try to take it in my stride.

After around a month of being unusually stoical, which as I said is a completely new thing for me as usually I immediately face, express and release my emotions, the series of horrid little pokes and bites and shards of broken glass in my feet began to cut me down. I started to feel empty, drained, and well, flat. I even wrote a poem about it.

 

A flat poem

Flat,

that’s how I’m feeling.

Flat.

 

You could doodle on me in the gaudiest colours

or step on me when you pass by.

Make an airplane out of me and hurtle me across the room,

or blow your nose with me when you cry.

Flat, like I have just one dimension,

flat, like I can never again grow or rise,

flat, even when I try to set bold intentions

so flat I can’t even react to my drab demise.

 

I’ve felt depressed or anxious many times in my life, but I have not often felt flat. Flatness is like being a zombie, without the technicolour ’80s clothes and harrowing groaning action; just a half-dead yet curiously alive person who manages to get through every day as normal but when the day ends, and especially when a new day begins, feels like it’s Groundhog Day and that life is not really being lived. But it keeps going nonetheless, with a big, empty, silent part inside, that happens to be thick and spongy like a pillow that’s suffocating the heart moment by moment.


As the disabling flatness spread, a little voice inside of me finally cried out to my resolutely stoic brain. It whimpered “WTF?!”
My stoic brain heard it and said “Shhh, you are fine. You have a loving family, you have your health, you have work you love, you are alive and have choices.” It said that in a monotone, not like it didn’t really believe what it was saying, because it has no personality to speak of to be as complex as that, but like it was automatically the “right” thing to say. But that little voice coming from my heart that was being stifled came from a part of me that was not feeling particularly strong or brave, because those are characteristics you can only have when you have faith, yet it was still able to be a little curious and aware. And that very part with the meagre victim voice started to grow desperately sad, and that sadness started to wear an armour of anger. I became an angry person who felt like having the occasional weeping fit but couldn’t even do that because I was too flat. I started to lose my enthusiasm, vision, passion, interest in doing, even thinking or feeling anything beyond flatness. I wanted to dive into bed and do nothing but read existentialist literature and fantasize about being paralytically drunk in a Paris cafe with Jean Paul Satre, to tell him I finally understood, but I felt so flat I didn’t even really want to do that.

The WTF? was like a root however, and somewhere inside me a plant with answers began to grow, like a unfolding mathematical formula. So the universe is showing me that life is hard, but why now? Especially, as I had recently reached a climax in my life – learning new healing techniques that bolstered my existing understanding and connection with healing, meeting fascinating individuals, having gifts come to me from out of nowhere, shifting into a completely new sense of self, one that I knew was what I had been moving towards for years that had finally come to fruition. Why all the pain of flat-out rejection and heartlessness? I wondered – was I sabotaging myself  via my subconscious – ie. ‘you think you can be happy darling? Ha ha! Now you’ll see how wrong you are, because you don’t deserve that!’ No. I was not, I knew for sure. This was definitely an “outside” job. So what was it all for? Why the damage?

And then it clicked. Exactly because I have shifted into a strong sense of self as a person and as a healer, I have to now work on taking on the full responsibility to heal myself. Not look for the healing, the help, the joy, the confirmation, the answers outside of myself.

For so many years I have gathered so many healing tools, but what’s the point of having them if I don’t put them to good use, starting with myself?! For decades of attending workshops and seminars and yoga classes I have (ok, somewhat judgementally) observed some individuals who are just junkies riding on the things they learn – they go from one workshop to the other and never really heal or shift on a deeper level, they just skilfully surf a wave, and often those very individuals also love to roll off a whole list of what they have learned how to do.

But in truth, you could have attended just one of those workshops and have just one tool and have discovered incredible and multifaceted ways to use it for the benefit of yourself and others. Just like consumers today pack their homes with objects they have bought to make their life better, easier and more exciting (and enviable) that they hardly ever use, the same goes for healing.

So unless I can be my own doctor, teacher, healer, guru, lover and friend, I cannot be happy. I cannot have that spark, that oomph, that success of living life with meaning, purpose and reward that my being has been yearning for. Life and all those in it are not oblivious to my needs, they can feed, enhance and colour it in a million ways, and so can I, but if I get stuck on the pain of not receiving what I need and want in the way I have envisioned, I’m lost, I am no longer living, I become flat. And all I will be able to keep seeing is the doors that are being slammed in my face, rather than the ones that are open, and perhaps always have been, but I’d never seen them because I stood fretting in a dark, dank corridor, and they were just round the corner.

And yes, the world and life and all those in it are also harsh and cold and self-centred and ignorant, and so am I. That is nature, we are Yin and Yang, we are sometimes cruel to be kind or thoughtless to others because we are so focused on other things. And existence requires some hard choices, the constant conscious practice of loving, discipline, clarity, intelligence, intuitive cunning, patience, compassion and a resilient sense of humour. Every day is a mission with innumerable twists and turns that in moments require serious consideration, decision-making and positive action – if I am exhausted every day I have to go to sleep early, if I feel drained I have to cut out bad habits like that soothing glass of wine at night and focus more on good ones like making a special tonic to drink, going for a walk in the forest, taking an aromatic bath with a hefty dose of Epsom salts.

Above all – is the ability to let go of the pain that comes from facing the hard truths of life – whether it be the knowledge that billions are suffering in so many horrifying and unfair ways every day or that the person whose heart has suddenly turned to stone and consequently broken yours, perhaps always had heart made of stone and although I suspected as much I didn’t want to acknowledge it. 

And finally, prayer. When I first awaken in the morning if I can stop myself from jumping out of bed and leaping into digital / get-things-done day-mode I will lie there breathing, feeling my heart as I clasp my hands together and pray for all I love and feel such gratitude for. In that prayer I will also indulge in asking for the things I truly hope for with all my being. And for a moment, maybe a few hours, days even if I’m lucky, I might savour the relief that I am no longer feeling so flat, because life is for the living and it’s up to no one but me to honour that.

 

the sound of the soul

Although based in the US, Kennet offers sessions and workshops around the world.

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 heart ruling 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.

David Kennet holding a crystal singing bowl that he uses in his soul sounding sessions.
David Kennet holding a crystal singing bowl that he uses in his soul sounding sessions.

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.

Kennet grew up surrounded by music, as his father, Michael Small, was an acclaimed composer for Hollywood film scores.

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.”

Metaphysician, concert pianist and composer Dr. Kenneth Mills

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:

For more healing sound by David Kennet visit Soundcloud

ikaria’s new age appeal

What was a resilient but relatively unknown corner of Greece has over the past few years flourished into a holistic wellness destination. Yoga retreats, wellness workshops, energy-healing therapies, organic food and natural cosmetics have now become increasingly accessible island-wide.

Various spaces, such as the Agriolykos Pension in Therma, are also planning more such retreats and workshops to be held next year, and say that there is definitely a growing interest from outside the island. Meanwhile, Ikaria has also caught the eye of a few celebrities – such as Jamie Oliver and Marcus Pearce – who have been filming their shows on the island. Watch this space for Ikaria’s New Age!

THE EGG CAME FIRST

Once a crumbling nightclub, The Egg, Ikaria’s first and only multi-space for dance and wellness classes, was completely renovated in 2013 by German art director Katrin Gerner. Open from May to September to local and international teachers and therapists, it is a creatively decorated, airy and tranquil space, facing the sea. “Something very strong drew me here” Gerner says, “and I’ve realized that apart from the many gifts of the island itself and its people, individuals come here with the same target – to connect with their inner peace”.

VEDANTA ASPIOTI: ANCIENT MEETS THE NEW

Vedanta Aspioti, who is considered “an institution” in Ikaria’s healing community, is a trained therapist, medium, and self-help author who for 30 years has been leading the Power of Light retreats at Artemis Studios.

The location, right above Nas beach (a stunning, nudist-friendly beach with bright blue waters), by a beautiful lake and near the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, is not coincidental. “In recent years we are witnessing the harmonious marriage of the local’s archaic traditional way of life with New-Age inspired practices,” she says.

ROBYN WHATLEY KAHN: HEAR YOUR BODY
She once performed on stage alongside Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, in the Gold Digger group. Now, Robyn Whatley Kahn, who settled on Ikaria a decade ago, teaches classes using the Body Talk System, Reiki and Deep Tissue Massage.

“Locals know I do therapia, and it has helped many here, so they send people to me,” she says. The American, known as Ourania (her middle name is Skye, and Greek for sky is ouranos), recently paid tribute to the island in her photography book, ‘Eyes on Ikaria’ – available on Amazon.


JOEY BROWN: RELEASE WRITER’S BLOCK

Also based on Ikaria, Belgian motivational writing coach Joey Brown combines meditation with writing summer workshops at various venues across Ikaria, helping writers to ‘unblock’, and feel inspired. “Most of my clients are foreigners, living stressful lifestyles,” she tells me. “Ikariotes are already so connected to the land, the sea, the elements – maybe they don’t have such needs.”

VICKY LAZOU: CHILD’s PLAY with clay
Vicky Lazou, a ceramic artist and teacher based in Athens – where she runs ‘To Ergastiri tou Pilou’ for children – travels to Ikaria every summer with her son and her husband (who hails from Ikaria). She has developed a technique which combines meditation with clay-molding, and it’s designed to help one’s “inner child” come out to play. She teaches group and one-to-one sessions to locals and visitors a few times each summer, announcing classes on Facebook. “The response has been very positive and encouraging,” she says. “Ikariotes love to express their creativity”.

 

 

Article By Alexia Amvrazi, as first published in Greece Is (www.greece-is.com).

 

katia boustani’s healing breathwork

Rebirthing Therapist Katia Boustani has been empowering individuals and helping them change their lives through her work as a Life Mastery Coach and Breathing Coach in personal and group sessions. Having spent over a decade studying various forms of Breathwork, she has a list of certifications and credentials in this field, and has worked with the world’s top breathwork experts, such as Sondra Ray and Leonard Orr. She lives between Athens and London as well as travelling far and wide for workshops. Here she tells us about her own path and about the process and value of breathwork from her perspective.

How long have you been a Rebirther?
Since 2005 but I was into yoga and breathing way before that! I was fortunate enough to have a great yoga trainer who integrated the value of breathing into our sessions with fantastic results. I’ve been deeply in love with breathing since the late 90’s!

How did it all begin for you?
In 2005 a Rebirther came to Mykonos (where I lived) and I received my first rebirthing session. It was such a profound experience even from day one! I decided I really wanted to learn it and I’ve never looked back. Training to become a facilitator was truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, both from a personal development and professional perspective.

“As Leonard Orr (the founder of Rebirthing) says, the breath is not dangerous but the mind is! The mind and its resistance is what causes fear.”

What can rebirthing offer us?
So much! Firstly, it’s a simple breathing technique to use whenever they need to see things from a different perspective, but it’s also way beyond that! Rebirthing is deeply healing. It’s a way of living; an incredible tool that accentuates life and brings presence and familiarity with ones senses! It works on so many different levels it’s impossible to answer this in so few words…

What types of people does it work best for?
Anyone with a belly button can benefit from learning to breathe in the way that they did before their breath became impeded by life and it’s stresses…

What’s the rebirthing process?
It’s best to commit to 10 sessions for a true and profound benefit. The true nature of sessions is for the client to learn to breathe properly and improve or elevate their thought process so that they can manifest different results in their life… It is an ongoing learning experience. A session lasts two to three hours and includes some talking, breathing and then sharing, whereby the client is given some affirmations or exercises to work with until their next session.

Can it be scary, or dangerous?
As Leonard Orr (the founder of Rebirthing) says, the breath is not dangerous – but the mind is. The mind and its resistance is what can paralyze us with fear. And as we know, fear is just a negative use of one’s imagination…. Or, as I love to refer to it, fear is just excitement without the breath! So sometimes people are afraid before or during sessions because of what they THINK might happen… this usually passes quickly though and they are always left with a feeling of relief, bliss and peace…

Rebirthing workshop in Samothraki island

Can Rebirthing be combined with other therapies?
Yes, but then it is not rebirthing! Rebirthing is designed to empower people by learning to use their own breath to heal themselves. When someone adds something to it – which is done by the facilitator to the client – it is no longer empowering in the sense that someone else has to DO something to heal you.

What is your NUMBER 1 PRIORITY when you are offering a session?
To support the client through their process in Truth, Simplicity and Love.

How has it changed your life?
In so many ways! Most importantly, it’s given me the power to be the master of my mind instead of its victim.

Rebirthing seminar with Katia

Breathwork

ancient to modern: greek plant medicine

“If only we continue to examine the practices, writings and teachings of ancient Greek physicians and pharmacists, our knowledge can leap ahead by at least 6000 years. But if we prove indifferent to the vast knowledge of the ancients, we will stay behind by 3,500 years,” says pharmacologist Dimitris Kallimanis, whose passionate life mission is to investigate, experiment with and teach about plants and the plethora of sophisticated and fascinating data related to their hundreds of species.

The expert, who sustains that what today is commonly described as “folk medicine, or natural remedies” based on plants is no less than a serious, noteworthy science, states that according to historical documents, the first person to analytically expound on the benefits and uses of herbs was the epic poet Homer (born circa 850BC, although his exact period of existence remains a mystery to scholars). Kallimanis reveals that his globally influential writings such as ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ are packed with recipes and practices based on herbs: “from Homer we learned, for example, that Achilles used Achillea millefollium – a hemostatic, wound-healing and powerfully antiseptic agent that is still used today – to treat those who fought by his side, or that the family of herbs most favored by the ancient Greeks was Liliaceae.”

homer-s-odyssey-24753406
Homer’s The Odyssey

According to history, Theofrastus (372-287 BC), Aristotle’s successor at Athens’ Peripatetic School, was ancient Greece’s “father of botany.” Among a plethora of writings, he is the author of the major botanical treatises ‘Enquiry into Plants’ and ‘On the Causes of Plants’. Kallimanis and many other experts of his caliber sustain that the doctor and apothecary Dioscorides (40-90AD) was the real father of botany.

materiaHis five-volume work ‘De Materia Medica‘, was translated into Arabic and Latin in the 12th and 13th C and in German, Spanish, French, Italian and finally English after the 16th C), emerging as the basis of the world’s botanical knowledge. Indeed, the knowledge of Dioscorides, who followed a holistic and allopathic doctrine reminiscent to that practiced by Hippocrates, continues to startle academics to this day: it was he who first created the systematic categorization of some 500 plants and around 1000 of their medical uses, their varying dosages for treating ailments, and their side effects.

“However, there is a vast time gap between the botanical teachings of Homer and those of Dioscorides,” Kallimanis notes, “and the individual who played a great role in spreading knowledge on herbs within that time is somewhat unexpected; enter one of Greece’s most legendary figures in poetry, drama and creative thought – Aristophanes!” tragiccomicmaskshadriansvillamosaic
In an era when it was widely feared that Greece and its influence would be obliterated by the Peloponnesian War, the bard (444 – 385 BC) cunningly managed to share precious information with the masses. He subtly weaved substantial quarantines of knowledge through the words recited in his highly popular comedies, making one of the lines recited by the chorus in his play, ‘The Babylonians’, especially poignant, when they say that “the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all.” Kallimanis explains that through both simple terms for the common-folk to coded, more refined information directed at educated viewers, all within the same text, Aristophanes managed to distribute ancient recipes based on herbal medicine to the greater public. Kallimanis says that doing so he “ignited and bolstered the knowledge of common people and all levels of medical practitioners, even some of the information remains challenging to decode to this day.”

monks-weighing-herbs
Monks weighing herbs

Throughout the ages, the information and understanding of botanical medicine and its usage garnered from the ancient world was made accessible to the literate via Greek and translated documents that could be found mainly in monasteries, especially those on the Holy Peninsula of Mount Athos. The uneducated, however, spread knowledge verbally, with villagers across Greece developing and transferring further learning and expertise to their communities by combining proven theories and techniques and hands-on experimentation. Making the best of nature’s bounty developed from the profoundly pragmatic need to survive, as throughout the centuries villagers were left to their own devices when it came to individual and community’s healthcare. The main priority in using herbs and plants throughout rural Greece was, and remains, the need to systematically and effectively treat physical and spiritual ailments, from the common headache, melancholy and respiratory disorders to broken bones, madness and heart disease. Meanwhile on the dark side, herbs have also played a significant role in magic and superstitious rituals for breaking spells, clearing the cloying effects of the evil eye and other psychic ‘disorders’.

magic-in-ancient-greece         images-1
Magicians and faith healers carved out a niche for themselves among frightened, mainly uneducated individuals, often over-exceeding dosages and invoking divine powers or satanic entities to bring them into contact with other worlds, and to generate intensely hallucinogenic effects” Kallimanis says, adding that “their favorite plants were mainly those from the Solanacaeae (or nightshade) family, such as poisonous Belladonna and hallucinogenic Mandrake, some of which are highly toxic and can have serious or even deadly results. “Today, these magicians would be able to teach us about a whole host of other-worldly experiences, and we could call them magician-physicians – however, they didn’t have the ethics of a doctor or pharmacist, so I certainly wouldn’t call them that myself.”

* Many thanks to Dimitris Kallimanis, whose Greek-language book ‘Natural Cosmetics and Therapies from Ancient Greece and the Byzantium until the Present Day’ (Afoi Kyriakidi) on the bookstands as of November 2016.

                                                                As first published in Greece Is

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