A Life from the Heart Retreat:
Greek Practical Philosophy meets Buddhist Mindfulness Practice
Rhodes, 5-9 October 2018
I love pebbles.
Small or big, round or not… these stones are glowing masterpieces carved by nature, water, the sea.
They live for thousands, millions of years carrying ancient stories; they create ripples in contemporary waters of change…
I love pebbles.
They are ingredients and materials of ultimate artistry.
Artful grounds, floors and pavements of black and white combinations between which many more, endless, combinations reside, fit and dance.
We found special pebbles in Auberge Kalopetri*, Kritinia in Rhodes, our hosting venue for this retreat. Colourful, painted in harmonious shapes, mandalas, flowers, patterns of condensed stories -and beauty.
For the first time it was this kind of beauty, the beloved naturally-polished, water~carved and water~caressing stones that created the circular centre of a gathering. These alone created the powerful, protective centre that then hosted more authentic beauty of the place, this corner of the Aegean and the World: Rhodes, Greece. The well hosted and protected by the pebbles’ rim core was a bouquet of rosemary, bougainvillea and olive tree branches in a ceramic vase, made locally as well.
The centre of this circle of people, calling and paths invited already the way… and the connection to the origin, Philosophy and Practice. This very landscape and its plants, herbs, trees, birds, insects, animals was vividly breathing in our vision every moment, taking us instantly 30 generations back in the Cosmopolitan Stoics, the ever-possibility-expanding Skeptics and the radically friendly Epicureans: an amazing journey to the quests and questions on Eudemonia, Good Life ~Amazing Life. The East met Greece and Greece met the East then and now. Alexander the Great, Socrates and Gotama, Pyrrho and the Gymnosophists were all more or less contemporary, crafting similar sharp questions about Life, seeking for wisdom out in the world and cosmos, teaching and being taught and at the same time diving more and more inside and cultivating inner strengths for these quests: peace, ataraxia, mindfulness…
Prototyping a Retreat…
This gathering is unique. It’s a special blend of practices and approaches of Life invited together, to be explored.
Mindfulness & Practical Φilosophy ~ Peace & Quest-ions ~ Serenity & Wonder,
Stillness and Examination of Life : These are central polarities that sit in the centre of this Enquiry and …NonEnquiry in a sense.
It is a full stop and an arrow of direction at the same time.
Four weeks after the experience, some reflections arise naturally as it is digested creating ripples like the pebbles in my blood cells and synapses.
What was it? How was it?
Here are a few answers coming from the “designing and hosting process perspective” but also the learning itself at work:
The space, physical and psychological was harmonious…
The pillars were set by the solid YES to the invitation, the experience offered as a gift to self and loved ones by the participants and the hosts. A lovely intimate group of 14 of us coming from as far and close as Australia, Argentina, U.S., France, Austria, Germany and the U.K. joining and co-creating something like this for the first time. These pillars in terms of “flow” (as paradoxical as it may sound) were also set by the teaching sessions, the concise, beautiful and always grounded word of Stephen and Martine Batchelor, our teachers and Buddhist authors who radiated their dedication and …authority so care-fully and generously.
Epicurus said it so accurately: “What we enjoy –and not what we have- constitutes our abundance”. And yes, we had plenty! :)
And so then the “corner stones” of the retreat were additionally planted with the inputs of the Philosophy Schools by Juergen on the Stoics and the Sceptics and me on the Epicurean Garden.
Mindfulness practice has also been key, the anchor to the Dharma early in the morning, throughout the day in between sessions and closing the day. Harmonious connector and pause, the cushion, the chair, the step…
How can one actually define or say what mindfulness “represents”, particularly in this context?
We collaborated closely with the physical space: the outdoors condition and the constant touch with nature, the floor as posting and sitting ground.
Creativity was called it to shape the learning spaces and the etiquettes while holding the integrity of each practice and even being guided by it.
Keep simplicity as a guide/guardian to the core questions was important. The questions just naturally emerged as we listened quietly and then boldly attracted attention, conversation, action.
Alignment of the how and the what with Φilosophy and Mindfulness in terms of content and key-principles of each school and the Dharma.
A powerful element of this retreat was being present in the landscape of Greece. A felt sense of Time~Space Unity.
With reference to process element here is how the days were structured in an overall “emergent design” approach:
Circles: the openness and focus of this ancient process was there for the
Welcome and Check in - The Appreciation of the Space/Retreat Council– and Check out ~ Closure.
The Φ-Philosophy Café: Perfect for smoothly setting the conditions to going deeper, weave and further into the fields of Practical Philosophy, Buddhism/Dharma, the questions and paths. Harvests were carrying so much resonance and clarity!
The Open Space
Focusing on what really matters now and inviting/hosting conversations with the co-travelers to strengthen the life from a heart and to move forward on our path of good life. For most of the participants this was the first time to experience Open Space and it was ideal for that step forward in taking responsibility and care for what really matters here now for them. Self organisation magic struck so gracefully!
And when I now, a month later, pick up the good stone-pebble and see this eye in the centre, I do know how this experience has been a gift.
Expanding consciousness, expanding soul, expanding friendship for humanity, nature, self, life and expanding capacity to co-craft these spaces of learning and beauty for “building the new city”, our World while building ourselves, the comm-unity …from scratch, wisdom and breath…
~ Maria Bakari
*Kalopetri/Καλοπέτρι, literally means “Good Stone” in Greek.
For having a view on this experience, you may see our images HERE ~