I had the great opportunity to spend 4 weeks as a volunteer in the center Kalikalos in Kissos, Pilion, Greece. It was the first time for me living in a community for a while and the first time I worked as a volunteer through Workaway.
It was really a marvellous experience for me to be there: meeting so many great people from many different countries and exchanging ideas and inspirations made me feel very rich!
What I found there was much more than I could even expect!
Going into processes, and with this learning more about myself or remember about myself what I probably had forgotten for a while.
Swiming in the clear blue, marvelous Aegean sea in the Pillion area.
Being in this vast, lush natural surrounding.
Sleeping in a tent which I really appreciated, because I learned to go with the natural rhythms: waking up easily for the stunning sunrise above the sea, while making my exercises next to the corn and brocolli growing in the surrounding vegetable gardens.
Cooking meals together for all of us with love and awareness.
Starting our work shifts with tuning in—which was new for me and is such a great idea to me which I would love to spread all over the world!
Lying in the hammocks and just being…
Dancing in the forest (thank´s to the sister campus at nearby Anilio to welcome us!)
Going to taverna-night-out together, making contact with the staff and guests at the other centers ,and with Greek people from the village.
Practising my English without paying attention to it.
Finding out more about myself and others—what triggers me—what want´s still to be healed—noticing how I interact in a group—how I can deal with the themes and energies in a community—how I can serve both the community and myself…and more.
So a big thanx to everyone I met there and hopefully will see us again next summer!! !!!
Ευχαριστώ παρα πολύ!
Gabrielle H. from Austria/Salzburg
Summer 2016 – Why I keep coming back to Kalikalos
By Alison Gillett, Surrey, England
Another summer passed, and for those of us back home, we have the tan, the extra Vitamin D, and a host of memories of new friends and reconnections with those from previous years.
All sort of people turn up at Kalikalos and, initially, the Olde English saying comes to mind: “Everyone here seems a little strange, except me and thee; and even thee is a little strange.” However, most people, though not all, turn up with at least some sort of spiritual background belief; and those that don’t get drawn into the circles, the attunements, the sharing of energy which creates “community.”
Everyone brings different skills, which are gratefully utilised, whether it is cooking, carpentry or car mechanics.
For those who hadn’t made the connection before, the realisation dawns that we all need each other and community is a precious element of social capital. Also they become aware that this is a place of education, teaching about right food, right ways of living, as we transition into the New Age future.
Staff are very much part of this and again we had some wonderful staff, whether woofers, workaways or volunteers taking a break from mainstream. Some were on their way to help in the big refugee camps, reminding us that, despite the beauty and tranquillity of Pelion, Greece has major problems.
So what happened this year?
The new floor at STK, Anilio was well and truly danced upon
The big workshops such as Radical Honesty brought people in from across the globe
The quieter contemplative workshops allowed people time to examine their lives and release some of the burden of resentment.
The economic workshops gave food for thought in these uncertain times
The perennials, like Raw Food, provided a first introduction for some.
Many of the staff attended and more and more Greeks are a welcome addition and allow ideas to spread into the wider community.
Highlights for me:
A visit to the old church and to the home area of Hara’s father, a fisherman of Pelion from the previous generation
Meeting Aphrodite, the wonderful Greek lady who originally brought Jock, and therefore the rest of us, to Pelion
The violin and flute concert by Morven and Rachel in Kissos church
The high energy waves and surf on the beaches which seemed higher than usual this summer
The effect of the Zegg workshop and the Forum method of sharing.
The May to September nature of the place reminds me of the Sand Mandalas, created and then destroyed by the Tibetan monks. The energy is kept fresh, free from stagnation and constantly renewed year by year.
So despite changes (and challenges) I believe the structure will hold. Looking forward to 2017!
Autumn Greetings from Kalikalos Kissos
Call it destiny or coincidence something brought me to Kalikalos. The fact is that, after attending a beautiful and inspiring ZEGG Forum workshop at Kalikalos Alexandros, I found myself as part of the Kalikalos Kissos community. Every day that passes, I feel more and more at home.
I find it beautiful to witness the new guests passing through, week by week, arriving as strangers and leaving as friends. Kalikalos invites and seduces them to step out of their “daily shoes” and enter into new experiences, discovering landscapes behind assumed boundaries, and getting a taste of true community.
A taste which seems to be contagious for some of them…
I myself came to the community quiet unaware about where I was going, and found myself diving in, like a fish, or better a mermaid! 🙂 Having lived in German and Israeli communities before, the experience here mirrors beautifully the mutual attraction communities and I are holding for each other.
The space created in Kalikalos welcomes everybody and enables every soul just to be as they are. We are all held by the structure of the center, embraced by the community spirit and nourished by the abundance of Pilion’s nature: mountain, forest and sea.
For me, the morning circles are especially precious. In these sharing circles, all the staff volunteers meet together and open up towards each other. They give me the opportunity to experience again and again the magic taking place when we are listening and truly hearing: free of judgement, just allowing ourselves to see the other person fully. Every time I can see ‘the other’ in such a way, my love towards this human being grows. And with it my love for life.
May this only be the beginning of a fruitful journey!
Bettina Ritter — latest Tel Aviv
I spent five weeks at Kalikalos this summer – three weeks at Alexandros, a week at Kissos and a week at Anilio.
The toughest by far was Alexandros. The centre itself is very comfortable – the group room is airy and light, with a pristine wooden floor. The bathrooms are wonderful – in fact all the rooms are very nice, thought I didn’t much fancy the tents. And you can walk to the beach and to the local beach resort Agios Yannis rather than needing a lift by car.
I was working as an Facilitator in Residence, so I was offering sessions, running the odd group workshop and also doing at least two and a half hours a day working in the community. And attending a staff meeting each day as well. There was a lot to do, but that was fine. What I found tricky was how stressed the core staff are – the slightest problem became a big drama. As a guest, you would hardly be affected by this, but as staff… it was very challenging. Of course, we all create our own reality, and I am also responsible for this situation, and what was good for me was having to stand up for myself – that was my gift, my learning.
Second I went to the Kissos centre – on the edge of the village of the same name. It’s a stunning village – more beautiful than I had anticipated. I enjoyed being able to wander around there, and also to visit a magical sacred pool about 20 minutes walk down a track into the woods. I was at Kissos as a guest, doing a raw food week which was interesting. Included in the price was a personal growth workshop each morning – but that was not so much my cup of tea. Not that I don’t like personal growth – I live in Totnes and am practically addicted! But the style of what we did and the facilitator jarred for me. However I enjoyed my time at Kissos, and I felt appreciated and acknowledged by Jock, the founder of the whole project, who invited me to come back and lead a workshop next year.
And then I went to Anilio, which turned out to be my favourite of the three centres. It’s much scruffier than Alexandros, but much more relaxed. I had stimulating conversations most evenings, made some lovely connections and had fun. I was doing an art workshop which I also enjoyed – four hours making art every day is a treat for me. Anilio is run by two women, Pip and Julia, and I think it is their level of emotional intelligence that makes the place work so well. I also liked the fact that it was in more of a natural setting – they have perhaps a couple of acres of land and there are lovely places to hang out like a yurt and a ‘sanctuary’… and I gather that next year there will be some kind of treehouse or platform.
It’s now my last day, and I won’t really know how my stay at Kalikalos has affected me until I get back into my daily life at home. I won’t pretend that it hasn’t been challenging, but I believe that has also been very growthful. I have had to speak my truth and stand my ground more than in my daily life at home, and that has been really good for me. And I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to grow in this way.
I think for me the downside to the project is that beach time is usually 2.30-5.30 and that is just too hot for someone fair-skinned like myself. So my trips to the sacred pool in Kissos were my most nourishing experiences in nature, rather than going to the beach. If I were to come back and run a workshop… I would love to find a way to get to the beach earlyish in the morning, or early evening… where I could gradually go golden brown rather than red like a lobster in the afternoon Greek sun!
One of the things that inspires me about the project is that Jock started it with very little money. None of the centres is owned by Kalikalos – all the properties are rented. This of course brings its own challenges – rents to pay, negotiations over repairs… But it also demonstrates that it’s possible to create an amazing project like this with minimal capital. Financial constraints needn’t be a limitation.
I also appreciated the balance of work and personal growth. Work is grounding for me and it is also a magical experience when you feel clear with other community members and clear about what you are doing. It can then be an experience of being while you are doing, of expressing your love in the world and of belonging and participating. I think this is what many of us come here looking for… and Kalikalos affords an opportunity to try to do this, and also to clear the blocks that get in the way.
Sapphira de la Terre lives in Totnes where she offers groups and 1-2-1 sessions using EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. She specialises in embodied spiritual awakening, feminine empowerment and conflict resolution in community. www.sapphira.com.
by Morven Bryce (The Peaks, England)
My connection with Kalikalos began in 2012 when I was mainly at home with two young children and was feeling less than fulfilled. I was yearning to “connect” with something that was calling to me internally but was as yet, undefined. I decided to search for a taste of something…so I Googled “Holidays for people like me”…various options emerged but they mainly had some dissonance to my inner ear except for one: Kalikalos.
What I heard was an invitation to fully “be” with other people, fully participate, cooperate, and engage creatively WITH others. It was not until this year that I finally got there geographically.
I spent two weeks at the Centre in the peaceful mountain village of Kissos and participated in two different workshops, one at Kissos and one at Alexandros. Although the workshops were titled differently, the spirit or essence of what was offered was in unison: An invitation to fully immerse in the journey of meeting SELF. I was hungry for this and every moment of every day I feasted. This was not confined to the Workshops; every moment in every situation the opportunity presented itself in graceful unfolding :the joy of preparing breakfast with other people in the quiet sanctuary of the kitchen during “Ashram hours”, accompanied by the delicious challenge of trying to only ‘ whisper,’ whilst my soul wanted to burst into an audibly vocal madrigal of unbounded joy at every opportunity!
It was the same feeling of ecstasy in whatever I was doing, whether it was in Workshop, driving us all to the beach, cleaning bathrooms, watering the gardens, hearing the rooster, watching the sunrise paint itself across the sky, dancing in the forest or sitting in Meditation: everything BECAME meditation, ordinary in its extraordinariness.
On the first morning, we all showed up for Circle time, meeting each other tentatively in the felt moment. It is the first taste of being open to each other and to the power of the natural surroundings. This offered an awareness of anything and everything, held within the benevolent majesty of the surrounding mountains holding us all in both the naturally grounded external yet internally elevated space of both conscious and subconscious encouragement.
Specifically my first workshop was with Dr Helen Ford, concerned with “standing in our own truth” and radiating it in the World. A lightness of touch, a win/win situation of aliveness: When I AM me, I allow every being to BE themselves.. IN their true nature too. The message? No need to repeat conditioned patterns to survive this World. NO, the polar opposite..we ARE totally interconnected and we ALL are offered this Universal gift just by virtue of being alive right here, right now!
The second workshop gave me the chance to “practise” this “realness” that I was beginning to meet with within myself, and again….what an Experience!
Ina Stoll Meyer and Ackim Eckert from Zegg community in Germany were the skilled facilitators in our growth and exploration of “Deepening Love, deepening Community”. My gratitude to them is profoundly felt. They embodied that which they invited us to experience: an energy of being earthed yet elevated , beautifully pulsating through the forms of Ina and Ackim. As we, the Participants sought to reveal and thus share ourselves in Forum more fully, I experienced a depth of Love and Honouring of both Self and “Other”. And, in the privacy of my mind, I continually heard the question, “Where do I end and You begin?” And this question percolated daily more richly, bringing an aroma redolent of not just my Human Ancestry, but also a playful sense of my “Family” being the: mosquito who bites me, the leaves of the Olive tree, the beach pebble, the sea-spray, the compost bin, the wind, the moon….and so it went on…endless…
Jock Millenson, the Director of Kalikalos also attended the Forum Workshop. I found his participation exquisitely inspiring ( I had assumed that the “Founding Father” would have no “need” for a Workshop) But, Jock embodies THE creative spark of continuous growth, the ever- engaged giving, receiving and sharing, in profoundly equitable communion( that ALL of us are indeed offered continually by the Universe.) I found this so moving. A simpler way to say this (and one I personally feel would resonate more with the truth of the man who is Jock) would be that:
Jock WALKS THE WALK. Thank you for that Jock, gratitude…. I fell in love with everyone and everything…. I lived a thousand years in two weeks. It was my birth right, it IS my birth right. It is Everyone’s…..
But if I could harmonise with revealing more deeply the perpetual Spirit that arises through Jock MIllenson and Kalikalos, I would maybe offer:
I was Morven Bryce, professional violinist…. now the performance has ended and there was no need for rehearsal…..Let the Music Begin.
As well as the regular music and dance which happens here at the village square in Kissos, Sabine and I were excited to be taken to the neighboring village of Tsagarada for a concert performed by the string quartet “Fauves”.
Playing beneath the incredible massive plane tree known as Agia Paraskeri in the village square, the quartet performed an experimental piece which was composed as a dialogue with the tree. This was followed by a Schubert piece “Death and the Maiden”.
This performance unfolded beautifully before us. We sat amongst a large appreciative crowd within the unique atmosphere of this medieval village. We sipped drinks and watched children play, above us the canopy of leaves of the historic central piece, the tree of Agia Paraskeri.
Hello everyone. My name is Dimitra and I would like to share with you the joy of taking on responsibility.
I got here about two weeks ago. My second day at the staff meeting that we have every morning, the focaliser of the meeting asked who wanted to take on the position of transport focaliser. Since nobody else was raising their hand, I jumped in without having any idea what I was getting myself into. The first day went very smooth, just counting the number of people and matching them with the places in the cars. A few days later, however, when it was our big night out, I grasped why nobody else was eager to deal with it. Transportation for so many people who keep changing their minds can be an unbelievably chaotic task.
And as if that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, I was asked to take on the post of kitchen focaliser and I said yes! Luckily, I was sharing it with two other people but that didn’t make it an easy job. Added to these, I have my regular five shifts per week where amongst them I’m called to focalise the preparation of lunch, dinner or the cleanup afterwards. And seeing how keen people where in speaking at least some greek, I organised a Sunday evening greek language lesson.
One would naturally ask “how do you cope with such big amount of tasks; when you haven’t done any of them before? Isn’t it overwhelming?” And I can’t deny that it is! But once you learn the ropes, (or at least think you do…hahha) there’s something incredibly fulfilling in knowing that you are in charge of something and people expect to see it done. Especially when you live in a community that feeling is amplified. Cause you actually know the people who profit from how well you’ve done your job. You have lived with them and have come to care.
The seminar started as usual on time with a wonderful inclusive meditation.
A lot to learn, a lot to share, challenges and achievements creating a group and making it community.
Also from the staffers a huge thank to Edwin that supported our meetings and tought us about how to focus on the positive even still osberving and accepting the negative, never absolute negative but negative for each one of us in the present moment.
Big thank to Dave that from Findhorn brought tools about Holistic Education, Gropu dynamics management and effective non violent communication, over than Positivity into action a hug amount of laughter and joy flowing from him!
Big Thanks to all our FIRs, facilitators in residence offering only this week: YOGA, Facial Yoga, reflexology, Thai Massage, Reiki, Barbara Brennan sessions, Thai Chi and Five Rythms sessions.
Thanks to Haleema for her words: “My time spent at Kalikalos I would describe as magical, the community, the people, the food and the love shared is abundance in itself. Sharing duties together, cooking food together and being amongst nature is a great healing and refreshing process for the soul. Edwin’s workshop was deep and intense and in return created a family bond never to be forgotten. My greatest lesson here was to experience people from all walks of life coming together for the purpose of expansion and love. Kalikalos is truly a magical place to be, abundance! :)”.
More info from Ewin for next dates here in Kalikalos and in London for the winter.
“If you would like to share spiritual beach vacations in Greece with new friends working on healing and transformation, there is no better opportunity than this one.The June retreat has just ended. It was a very intense transformation, but also relaxing and opening us all to changes in our lives. We had an amazing group coming together. We all learned from each other.The beach time was amazing, the food was fantastic and the beauty of this place is just stunning.The next workshop will start on 4-th of September in Kalikalos and we have ongoing workshops in London.
We have a special early bird offer of 100 Euro off, bringing the cost down to 300 Euro. Kalikalos is considering rising the prices, so it is an excellent deal right now. It includes the workshop, shared accommodation and vegetarian meals. It requires full payment before July 1-st'”
Hope to have you on board for next worshops, hope to share with you these wonderful experiences in community!
My experience at Kalikalos – a community at the interface between Culture and Nature – A herbalist’s exploration of community and healing.
by Owen Okie, M.Sc. Herbal Medicine.
A herbalist arrives in Greece
…Snaking its way up the serpentine roads clinging to the slopes of the Pelion Peninsula. Winding through a tunnel, beneath the overhanging branches of giant plane trees and regal chestnuts, re-emerging at the edge of seemingly sheer drop-offs that reveal, far below, the glimmering turquoise waters of the Aegean sea…
Eventually, the bus stops in a large parking lot. Is this it? I scamper off the bus, along with another venturer who’d also followed the lure from Great Britain to Kalikalos, Greece. Bags collected, I stand and look around, slowly orienting myself. The sign to Kalikalos spotted, we begin to walk…
Who am I to be leading a workshop? To be teaching anything to anybody? It’s a question that keeps repeating itself, and I give it the same old response; it’s happening, you’re committed, you’re teaching. Starting tomorrow. The response isn’t an answer but simply avoidance. The answer may unfold over the course of the next few days. Or not. It doesn’t matter because I’m here. At the centre we are warmly welcomed and I swiftly begin to feel at home.
Shortly after arrival, I head out on my own to reconnoitre. Walking about is what I always do in a new place, whether city or country. I head down the old road, out of the town, past terraced fields and orchards and into the forests. Before ducking under tree cover, I’m drawn to a large rock, a foot-high boulder that stands out of the field next to a dirt track. After clambering up to sit upon this rock, I connect, somehow, to the Earth’s bones — the same underlying structure I stood upon just days before, buffeted by the incessantly cold and damp winds of the Moray Firth. However, the surrounding plants, animals, and weather, accompanied by their indigenous human customs and constructs, have changed. The bones remain the same. The same every-present foundation, the ground upon which I stand and know as Home, no matter where I go.
I’m a bit drowsy sitting here. Some local characters sneak into my mind, colored by long-past readings of the Greek myths, as well as more recent encounters. Apollo, healer to the gods. His caduceus, the green snake winding up the cross, is still a common sight. Perhaps more pertinently, Asclepias, whose approach to healing seemed more integrative and holistic — more oriented to personal growth nurtured within a communal setting. Apollo, symbolizing both the sun and a highly rational intelligence, seems to have many appearances on the field of battle, where he both fights and heals. Gaia comes to mind as well: this Earth and all her manifold energies and expressions of life. All three seem to have an influence over what I intend to do and be over the next few days as a workshop leader and herbalist. Finally, I consider the mythical Centaur, Chiron, who dwelled as a herbalist in these very mountains….
Writing this today, I’m struck by a touch of incongruence. I learned many of these Greek myths growing up, as well as stories from other traditions — such as the folk-tales of Europe via the Brothers Grimm. Yet, at least in my experience, our education system is heavily weighted toward Greek mythology: reading and studying “the Classics,” Greek tragedy and comedy, take precedence over encounters of all other mythologies and folk-lore. Even Shakespeare, an English writer widely studied in schools, retells many of these Greek myths. If I hadn’t sought them out, I would not have been exposed to the native-grown tales of the Ojibwa — even though those people resided in Minnesota, the state where I received most of my primary schooling. That is, with the exception of Hiawatha, a legend most experience as a cartoon of a Native American boy. And after nearly four years living in Scotland, I’ve hardly tasted a wee dram of the local mythological spirits. I am living on top of the largest Pictish settlement in history, but the world of the Picts, and even of the Gaelic peoples of Scotland, Ireland and Brittany, is hidden from me because it was much less preserved and studied than the world of Greek antiquity. I am able to get an “inside view” of ancient Greek culture because there are many extant text written by authors who lived inside it. However, the vast majority of information about other cultures and mythologies are written from the outside. They are recorded by those looking at the Picts or the Celts, for example, through their own cultural and religious (generally Christian) lenses. In addition, the outsiders who told the stories were often “the winners” and they wrote about cultures that had been defeated and assimilated, often explaining why they were not as religiously enlightened or as “correct” as the winning culture was perceived to be. Therefore, our understanding of the cosmology of these historical cultures is comparatively sketchy.
So now I wonder, if I’m standing upon the promontory at the point of the Burghead peninsula, how am I to relate to the home-world of the old Picts — their archetypal images, their gods and demons, and the forces playing out in their lives? Here, the forces of nature are fickle, unpredictable, forceful and swift — ever-present winds driving the incessant alteration of clouds and sky, rain and sun. A plethora of sudden rainbows and the stretched-out liminal realms of sunset and sunrise. Who will answer my questions here and how will those beings look in my mind’s eye? Burghead was an iron-age Pictish settlement, the largest known. What remains, besides the stone-carvings of the Burghead bull? Each January, this town holds the “burning of the Clavie,” which is a barrel filled with pitch, set alight, and carried through town. The tradition goes back at least several hundred years, purportedly purifying the town and bringing luck to those who manage to acquire a blackened piece of the charred barrel. Its origin and the richer context of meaning and ritual around it are not readily knowable. For those in town, the ceremony is imbued with significance, but for many attending as tourists, it is exotic entertainment and an excuse for a party. I’ve heard witches were burned in the Clavie barrel, but this may have been a repurposing of an older ritual. Whether the tradition can be traced back to Burghead’s more ancient inhabitants remains a mystery.
Walking along the sinuous paths on the slopes of Greece’s Mt. Pelion, I encounter a number of plants, both familiar friends and new acquaintances. The hand-shake of the herbalist with a plant, whether new or old, engages all the senses, usually starting with sight, then touch, scent, taste, and lastly the subtle sensations. Here I meet wild-growing thymes and oregano, filled with the heat of Helios, god of the Mediterranean sun. An old favorite, yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, is abundant. Here, in these very hills, myth recounts that Chiron, the centaur, taught Achilles how to use Achillea spp., also known as Soldier’s Woundwort. Achillea has hemostatic, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a valuable ally for warriors or hunters. Achillea comprised part of the first-aid kit found in the 60,000 year old grave of a Neanderthal in Iraq. Additionally, Achillea stimulates circulation, digestion and liver function, and is useful in the management of fevers.
During my stay, I find myself continually amazed by the magnificent plane trees and standing in awe at the feet of the great elders often found in the village squares — their diameter often greatly exceeding two meters. I am familiar with the chestnut trees of Europe and the increasingly rare American chestnut, but those of the Pelion forests are comparatively massive, their chestnuts encased in spiky shells that are significantly larger than their French counterparts. Beneath the dark shade of these trees, I’m keen to scramble up rocky gorges, following the trail of cold rushing water toward its first-source higher up on the face of the mountain. The next curve waits to reveal itself to my hungry soul and senses…
A community-based centre for Integral Healing?
Leading at Kalikalos means participating in the life of this community, nestled in the mountainous and mythical back-woods of Greece. Midway through my master’s of science in Herbal Medicine, a nascent vision of a shared-purpose community began to form. A community full of modalities for human healing and growth, and beyond that, human flourishing and creativity. It would be community-centered, to serve both visiting clients and and resident or visiting practitioners. This was the seed of the vision, which has been dormant, yet dreaming — developing all this time. Now, maybe the first shoot is pushing, tender-green, from the dark Earth, out into the air and light.
Kalikalos is not identical to the healing centre slowly taking shape in the visions my wife and I share. However, it embraces (embodies), many of the elements that I would consider essential for a community-based centre for integral (integrative and holistic) healing and growth. Most of the guests who are here in Greece for the last season’s session have come for a week of walking tours. The small number of dedicated participants, here to attend my workshops, came with a somewhat different purpose.
Finding my workshop meant a leap-of-faith registration, travel planning, taking vacation time, and journeying by car, train, plane, bus, and foot — to find oneself in a remote village of the Pelion Peninsula. It took hope and courage. And for me, it required faith that this “Holistic Vacation Centre” would be able to hold and nurture my workshop participants in the broader context of our environment. The centre would have to provide a nurturing container that could facilitate their healing and growth.
So, what are the vital qualities needed in the creation of a healing centre? Which of these principles does Kalikalos embody, and where might it miss the mark? What can Kalikalos teach me as I shape the vision for the EarthMindFellowship Centre for Integral Healing?
1 ) A centre should have high-quality, nutritious, fresh, whole-foods, cooked with inspiration and love. I enjoyed the food at Kalikalos immensely and found that I functioned very well on this Mediterranean inspired cuisine. From the nutrition perspective, it was well-suited and adaptable to a number of dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, low-sugar, etc.) and followed the most important principles of healthy cooking.
2) It should have a beautiful, vibrant, and healthy natural and human environment. Both the location and the dwelling place at Kalikalos were superb (suitably rustic for a herbalist). Though I thought the tents provided for campers could be upgraded.
3) It should have a caring and self-aware staff. By caring, I mean compassionate and able to hold the needs of both the individuals and the community. By self-aware, I’m suggesting the necessity for a degree of self-awareness — in particular, emotional self-regulation. One must understand the potential impact of one’s emotional and energetic state and the actions which follow. One must be able and willing to modulate one’s emotional state and behavior for the good of other, and to communicate with others with an intention of preserving or returning into harmony. During my week at Kalikalos, I found this to be largely true, and observed such a higher level of individual and community functioning.
4) A centre should have clear and simple rules. The basic structure and rules must be in congruence with the community’s higher vision and principles, and are key to its functioning. Without them, we have anarchy and chaos — one can’t build a cathedral without a foundation or by ignoring architectural principles. The rules must be simple so that they can be easily taken on board by visitors. Conversely, the rules must have a lot of spaciousness to accommodate a transient community of diverse guests. Structure provides safety and space provides freedom. Both are equally necessary. I would never have considered this in these terms if I had not witnessed this in active process at Kalikalos.
5) A centre should be enlivened by a community spirit that brings together guests, leaders, and longer-term community members and staff. A community needs a certain common understanding and shared vision in order to remain coherent. This coherence is key for creating a supportive environment that can enable healing and scaffold individual growth. From the start Kalikalos, brings guests into the functioning of the community through active service – cooking, cleaning, gardening. Guests are thereby invested participants in the community instead of passive observers and “consumers” of the communities products. I found this also strengthened the connections between guests as well as between the guests and the staff, greatly enhancing the overall cohesiveness of the group.
6) In a centre, Community/Communion must be balanced with the Individual/Agency. Within the nest formed by Kalikalos, there must be the freedom for individuals to go through their own process and to do so at their own pace and in their own way. Support can be offered, and it can also be freely accepted, or refused. While I was visiting, Kalikalos demonstrated this tension and the interplay between community and individual in a manner that was both graceful and balanced.
7) A centre should have a balance between learning, work, rest, and play. Certain transformational and healing processes require, for a period, intense and concentrated heat. (A extended silent meditative retreat, for example.) For other work, information or emotional can quickly reach saturation point, at which some time is needed for absorption and processing. Kalikalos provides a nearly ideal structure, balancing “work” time with rest/play time.
8) The general atmosphere of a centre should be open-hearted, welcoming, convivial yet with a “serious” underlying sense of purpose and motivation. Difficulties and challenges that arise must be kept within this broader, more embracing, climate — as clouds in an essentially blue sky. At Kalikalos I rarely saw difficulties within the community obscure more than momentarily, the expansive vision.
9) A centre should be ecologically oriented. As a herbalist, I know that an individual’s health and well-being cannot be optimized without addressing the surrounding environment. The individual and the environment are “coherently coupled,” a term coined by Maturana and Varela in their book, Tree of Knowledge. This means that they are in a constant state of exchange, interaction, communication, to the extent that it is hard to tell where one starts and the other leaves off. There is a to-and-fro of oxygen and carbon dioxide between animals and trees and of nutrients between the self and the soil. Though generally thought of in exterior terms, the concept applies equally well to interior states. For example, an individual and a group’s emotional state can be coherently coupled, and this will be communicated via the constant exchange of information through verbal language, eye movements, posture, and subtler energies. There is an emotional ecology at work as well, with moods rising and falling between the individual and the community, and interplaying amidst the two. Both the “interior” and the “exterior” ecology must be tended to at centre. Kalikalos has much of this ecological orientation, and I believe, will continually strive to embody these principles. I think this is a tall order at the leading edge of the development of truly sustainable and ecological communities, particularly those with a strong healing component.
10) With regards to ecological sustainability, we do run into a major road-block – the question of transport to a centre. There’s no doubt that the small percentage of people privileged with the gift of travel have an inordinately large environmental impact. You can have the lowest-possible environmental impact in your daily life, but take a few flights, and you’ve tossed all your carbon-savings out the window. I find myself personally caught in this seeming hypocrisy, which the purchase of a carbon offset doesn’t seem to solve. (It seems too much like the old practice of buying a pardon.) Justifications and rationalizations arise, valid, perhaps, but founded upon a gamble: the positive impact of my actions (what I teach to others, what I learn, what I gain) will outweigh my negative impact upon the Earth. And that positive impact must ripple out from the direct benefits the participants experience (such as better health and well-being) to their friends, family, community, and (we can’t forgot) the Earth. This triggers the old question: “Who am I, to be leading a workshop?” No answer comes, so in faith, I walk on. This question must also be addressed at the level of the centre itself. It must take responsibility for its operations, along with the impact of the travelers that the centre has deliberately drawn to itself. Kalikalos has made some strives toward this, yet I think more could be done.
Healing Person and Planet
To heal a person, one must heal the planet and to heal the planet one must heal the person. True, and yet too simplistic. This is the very, very big picture, and it misses some vital caveats. But let’s explore this with more actionable terms, where an individual, such as myself, is fully capable of embodying such values in compassionate action. To heal a person and to heal the planet, one must harmonize their interactions. Which makes me feel like a glorified relationship counsellor, whose client is the person-planet relationship. This process of harmonization may happen from two directions: big to small and small to big. Many of the interactions are, for example, shaped by our socio-economic system, our infrastructure. Here is the work on the level of government and visionaries of the new “green” economy. City planning with an eye to sustainability. Within these larger ideas, an individual’s well-being is nestled, and ideally taken into account in a holistic fashion.
From small to big, however, is my province, and that of many herbalists and ecologically-oriented practitioners. Working with the “person” side of the planet-person relationship. From this orientation, one is interested in an individual’s mental, emotional, and physiological patterns and how they affect their interactions and their exchanges with their environment. How does the individual react in stressful situations? How do these reactions and actions affect a person’s quality of life, relationships, and ecology? What are the core values and beliefs upon which one’s physical, emotional and mental patterns rest? What does an individual do with anger, hate, or greed — or conversely compassion, empathy, or generosity? How can we assist an individual in entering into a more harmonious relationship with both an inner and an outer nature?
Perhaps the community is a suitable bridge between the personal and the planetary perspective. At Kalikalos, the individuals tending to the garden are nurturing the community, even as the community plays a role of stewardship over its own lands and its own burden upon the land. The complex mathematical equation, weighing positive and negative impact in quantitative terms, may be irrelevant. The community of Kalikalos and myself as a practitioner are agents of, or catalysts for, healing and transformation. We practice what we preach, taking one step at a time, sometimes stumbling, toward the vision of a harmonious and sustainable planetary community that embraces both the human and the more-than-human world.
Departure and Return
Leaving Kalikalos, I feel both sadness and anticipation. Sorrow at departing from this beautiful region, with its too-little explored mountains and the soft and sensuous embrace of the Aegean sea. A sense of loss when I think of leaving the community and fellowship I’d experienced. Sadness, mixed with contentedness, at the completion of the workshops that I’d lead. Anticipation of my return to wife and children and the willful, wild coast of Scotland. Anticipation of future returns to Kalikalos, this haven in the mountains of Greece. I depart feeling inspirited, renewed and nourished in body-mind-soul and spirit.
For those interested in my work, I’ll be returning to Kalikalos this spring!
Integral Health and Wellness Retreat in Greece
Come to a Heath and Wellness Retreat at Kalikalos.
Leave with some tools that will make your life better.
Enhance your Physical, Emotional and Mental Well-Being
by learning about Herbs, Nutrition and HeartMath®!
Ever feel stressed, time-pressured, exhausted, overwhelmed? Frustrated with a chronic health condition? If you are struggling in today’s high-paced life, experiencing anxiety, depression, specific health conditions, or looking to improve your well-being and vitality, this retreat is for you. Come be rejuvenated in a beautiful holistic retreat centre overlooking the sea and learn techniques for maintaining and enhancing health and wellness. Learn to decrease and prevent stress and its impact on your health, relationships, and work, and to create a health-positive life using herbs, nutrition, stress-management techniques, and the healing power of nature.
When: May 29th to June 5th, 2015.
Where: Kalikalos, Mt. Pelion, Greece.