Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My six weeks at Kalikalos

The keys to Liberation are universal and essentially simple: disengage from all the stories you’ve been telling yourself about life and who you are or should be as you negotiate your way through, and all at once you know yourself as divine, all-powerful, unstoppable and magnificent, as any divine, all-powerful, unstoppable being would. ('Fuck It –The Ultimate Spiritual Way’ by John C.Parkin)

It’s my sixth and final week here at the end of the season. The Centre coordinator, Jock Millenson, wanted a post on the blog so I’m giving it a go, starting with the above from the funniest book that came my way! 

Over the last few days I have been reflecting on my time here and how my life has changed. Some people share their stories openly; others adopt a more reserved approach, which suits me. I decided to leave my old life behind and it has been good not to talk too much about the past but focus on the present and take each day as it comes. Not knowing anyone here was good as the fifty or so people I’ve met over the weeks have just known me as Gerry from England who is taking time out and travelling for a while. People don’t ask you more than you want to share, which suits me as I only share on a deep level with friends I’ve known for a long time. 

I saw Kalikalos advertised in Resurgence magazine at a friend’s house in Cornwall in January, looked at the website, thought it seemed interesting and saved it on travel bookmarks. Over the next few months, glancing at it occasionally, I subscribed to the newsletter, deciding in July to visit and see what it was like. The website looked a bit outdated but it appeared an interesting, affordable place to stay so I went for it! 

Kalikalos is near the village of Kissos in the Pilion region of Greece, up in the mountains, a retreat centre in a beautiful location, catering for up to 20+ guests at a time.

The venue is an old fashioned hotel with rooms in the main house and tents on a terraced slope with a couple of temporary structures for meeting spaces. I have a lovely little room with white walls, wickerwork stool, shutter windows with mosquito net up, a recycled jar with flowers, a little table ideal for my laptop and bathroom and toilet next door.

From my window every morning I see a beautiful sunrise over the sea in the distance. For the first week I was a community guest and then full time staff and helped in running the place for a week when Jock took a holiday in Istanbul.

It has been a hectic time, lots of fun and I met so many lovely people from all walks of life, some, mainly staff, I made good connections with as they stayed for a few weeks. There are three red slightly battered Micra cars for trips to local beaches, Plaka and Papa Nero at Agios. Ioannis, the main resort twenty minutes away reached down steep, mountainous winding roads.

I walked down to the beach a few times along cobbled mule track paths and got a lift back as walking in the hot sun is a bit too much! The resort has beachfront cafes, tavernas, a few supermarkets and tourist shops selling pottery, preserved fruits and honey. Memories are blue chairs, white tablecloths, a few trees, umbrellas and sunbeds, tourists, mainly Greek and German and little package tour commercial development, which is great. For the first few days there were huge surf waves, but over the next weeks it was like getting into a warm bath!

On free days/afternoons, I went on trips around the region and coast with other staff and P., a yoga teacher living in London. P's parents are Greek Cypriot, and she speaks fluent Greek so it was easy as not everyone speaks English!  Had lots of adventures down dirt tracks and rough roads to beaches with stunning views and scenery of houses and trees dotted around the mountains. Visiting stunningly beautiful picture postcard beaches at Milopotamos, Ag. Saranta and Damouchari, where Mama Mia was filmed, with a picturesque harbour surrounded by tavernas. Another highlight in the region is the cool shaded square or ‘Platia’ at Tsangarada, with an old church, springs, fountains and a massive 800-year-old plane tree.

At Kalikalos there are rotas for everything, organising or ‘focalising” meetings, washing up, cooking, gardening, cleaning etc and I’ve never hung up so much washing in my life! 

On Saturday mornings after new people arrive there’s a community meeting in the Roundhouse, where everyone introduces themselves and says a little bit about who they are and why they are here and can say as much or as little as you want to share. It’s a meeting space with flowers, candles, stones, a Buddha, and a ‘talking’ stick you hold to speak. In these circles, developed from Native American traditions, everyone holds hands, takes a few minutes for an ‘attunement’, and then the stick goes round with each person saying how they are feeling in the moment. 

The focus is talking into the middle and rather than saying” You piss me off’, for example we learn to say ‘I’ feel angry, upset, sad, happy because of…' With this process you really listen to what each person is saying and if you are being criticised or praised you have time to think about it rather than feeling you are on the spot and have to respond immediately, which is what we are used to doing. I experienced it as a simple but extremely powerful way of each person speaking and everyone else listening. You never really know what is going on in someone else’s mind, so having a space and really listening to your own or other people’s thoughts or feelings lets you know what the energy of the day is bringing. I felt a huge acceptance of my own and each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

My routine at Kalikalos was getting up as the sun rises at 7am, having a coffee on my own in my favourite place and enjoy a peaceful, quiet start to the day before breakfast at 8.30. Food is wonderful, lots of, figs, grapes, bananas, nectarines, peaches, Greek yoghurt, wholemeal bread, honey, Greek salads, with staff and guests cooking an amazing variety of vegetarian food from different countries in the evening. At 9.30 every morning there’s a Staff meeting in the yurt, another meeting place where we start with an attunement—togetherness, candle lit, pinecone, stones and the "talking” stick. On Tuesday nights, no cooking and washing up, as we go out as a group to one of the local tavernas with wild or tame nights depending on who’s around!

I felt welcomed by everyone on arriving at Kalikalos and have met so many people from all over the world, seeing them come and go with some (who know who they are) being very special to me. It’s good meeting new people, although at times exhausting, with some very healthy ones as well as a few renegades. Iced coffee or mountain tea is available, red and white wines are palatable, beers reasonable and ‘Tsipiro,’ a stronger spirit, made from distilled grape residue is a popular local drink of choice for many old men.

I’ve had so many amazing days its hard writing about them all. Some highlights are taking supplies to Ag. Saranta beach, watching the sun go down and full moon rising, open fires, laughter, music and barbecues, old hippy style! Amrita playing accordion, Fabien, with endless patience and good humour, teaching simple dance steps and L, a French woman singing haunting Edith Piaf songs. 

Going to a beach taverna at Chorefto with P, O, and J and sampling fish, spinach pie and baked aubergine specialities. Exploring the peninsula, stopping at Paradiso beach, walking up amongst olive groves, watching a spectacular sunset and then going on to a small taverna at Argolasti town with traditional Greek musicians and dancing. 

Local people and village characters are etched in my memory and some recorded on camera. Days off, getting up to watch bands of red in the sky with the sun rising over the sea and for the first time really listening to the sounds of cocks crowing, dogs barking and bells ringing with early morning light on grape vines, fig trees and old feta tin cans overflowing with geraniums and colourful flowers. Workers, women and children are up by 6.30 in the cool mornings. Really noticing the ‘Platia’, fountain, imposing 17th century church and few old, charming character shops in Kissos, a basic general grocers, butchers, bakers, woodworking workshop, a few hotels, guesthouses and sprinkling of tavernas.

Out from Kalilkalos to the right is a long road, path and tracks that pass traditionally built stone houses with heavy slate tiled roofs common in the region and leads into the mountains. Mist over the mountains, sun breaking through, and a small Greek reservoir plant with water coming down from the hills. Reflections of chestnut trees in the water an old truck parked by the wayside. 

Walking further along are abundant apple orchards and chestnut forests with old crates stacked up for the apple-picking season starting soon. After taking a photo of a woman picking apples she gave me 2 huge red ones and a bunch of grapes. I stuffed my pockets with picked up chestnuts from the ground. Sun out; found a plastic chair in the middle of nowhere when I needed to rest and sit down. Peace and quiet only the sound of a chainsaw in the distance.

Kalikalos has a library of books to loan and lounging in the sun, slowly read ‘Fuck It –The Ultimate Spiritual Way’. Parkin says,

 "Fuck it is the perfect western expression of the eastern spiritual ideas of letting go, giving up and relaxing our hold on things."

It has come in handy when I needed a break from here and just said to myself 'Fuck it’, I've done enough work -and walked down to the village and sat an had an iced coffee. I have become more adept at doing what I want on a daily basis. Days when I feel like being sociable and others when I go off on my own. I have largely stopped feeling responsible for other people, only taking responsibility for myself.

I have over 500 photographs of the area; it’s beauty, people and my memories. At Kalikalos you have to work hard for yourself and others to get things done on time.

At the beginning of each week there’s often chaos as a new group comes together but as the days progress everyone shows more of their personality, make up and who they are. People visiting here from Findhorn say ‘Work is Love in Action’ and there is masses of work to be done, but also time to play, have fun and laughter. At the end of the day at Kalikalos as in other places, countries, or communities, everyone who is here is creating the energy and spirit of each day. The workcamp closing up the place for the Winter is nearly finished, with a great mixed team of staff with multiple skills from Germany, Switzerland, England and America who have come together, getting the place in shape for next year.

It’s definitely not 5 star luxury, but if you are happy with a slightly ramshackle environment teaming with character, creativity, natural beauty of the landscape, blue skies, seas and majestic mountains and want to learn about yourself, what makes you tick, and live and work with other people in a beautiful area of Greece then I would highly recommend it!!! I will soon forget the work done here, but remember the people and personalities I’ve met.

What will stay with me is so eloquently put by Parkin

‘When you say ‘Fuck It’ you give in to the flow of life-you stop doing what you don’t want to do, you finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, and stop listening to people and listen to yourself’.' 

Thanks John Parkin, for writing a wonderfully funny book I needed to read, Jock for being himself and everyone I met who made me laugh or cry, sometimes at the same time! 

There’s also Wi-Fi here, which enabled me to keep in touch with friends and family on my travels. I know I am very lucky! That’s all for now. 

                          Gerry A, New Zealand   x

Other photos, when I have time (!) will be on my website:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

shadows and light

Its 6.45am. I rise from where I feel is the best sleeping space in this beautiful place - a tent which could easily sleep two more people, high on the top terrace overlooking the ocean and front seat for the amazing daily sunrise. Yes, its a little noisy when i turn in for sleep, as it seems my bedtime is Kissoss's playtime. But minimal sleep seems ok here; i reckon its the raw food we've been having....
...and so, this morning...i look across the ocean towards the horizon where the firey sun is peeping. (I wonder if it is thinking' Should I bother today?) and of course it sounds a resounding yes!  Like each moment it is different every morning. Yesterday the cloudless sky offered no hiding place; morning sun blazing into existance, its heat burning;  yet this morning what i saw was so significant for the days events.
During our week here there had been difficulty between members of our community. Beyond the presented     conflict I saw each persons pain. and beyond that I say two beautiful people hiding in the shadows of their pain; yet I felt that even in the conflict they were still beautiful beings.
This mornings sunrise depicted that perfectly. Hidden in deep dark clouds the lightness and brightness struggled to show itself. Yet it was still beautiful; and as the day progressed the brightness burnt through the cloud... the day was wonderful...of course.

Sidtsara Ross

Holistic Holidays in Greece: Kalikalos—Good, Good!

So did you know that kali and kalos are two words for 'good' in Greek?

I have to find out what 'bliss' is in Greek ... I guess we could say kalikalos for 'bliss'!

This is the beginning of my second week here and I have loved every single day and every single aspect of being here!

I came here to do Dr Helen Ford's workshops "Living your truth" and "Resolving fear" and got the added bonus of the Raw Food Detox workshop with Paula Wilson. The food has been amazing! Lots of it comes from our garden, and we do the gardening ourselves…so extra special to eat fruit and vegetables so fresh and grown with love! Rachel from London, who we now call Grace, is Paula's number one helper,  and seems to have developed a passion for figs. She has acquired a special eye for spotting laden fig trees along the road on our trips to the beach :-)

The Kalikalos August 2011 newsletter has some nice photos of the mouthwatering dishes we get served every breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Helen's workshops are simply mind blowing. They are about living your truth and making life easy! For me personally, I am learning to think with my heart, and it works!

You know what the best news is? That you/we are meant to do what pleases us; namely, to follow our heart's desire. How liberating is this? I'm losing 'shoulds', my 'I can'ts', and my 'not allowed'. Yes,  I am allowed! i am allowed to spend all summer in Greece, I am allowed to take a nap in the middle of the day, I am allowed to leave the washing up for later if I don't feel like doing it right now and rather go for a walk in the park.

By following my flow and honouring my heart's desire I am on the right path, and everything unfolds naturally and easily.

Too good to be true?
Try it out for yourself :-)

Until then, Yassas!

Carmen Klammer, London, England

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Creative Family Experience Week II

Last night at our fireside sharing, reflecting on our last week together I realized that Pelion and Kalikalos have truly become my summer home. My three children feel the same way, and this year--my fifth here--I also had the pleasure of brother Adam joining us from Krakow. Adam brought his incandescent colleague and friend Olga who was so impressed that she hopes to return next summer with a group, as do many other of the mothers and fathers of this family experience week.

I had the sense of winning the workshop lottery this week, as our participants brought us their skills, talents and amazing beauty in fascinating sessions they themselves led. They brought us enriching insights into the worlds of transactional analysis, empathic listening,  restorative justice and radical honesty. This summer I became a true “focaliser”: able to step back, simply focus the energies of this creative group, and let my participants run the week.

Mind you, this week wasn’t all food for the mind. We experienced the catharsis of a Laughter Yoga session led by Priya, which created such commotion that Dimitri, our octogenarian Greek neighbor, could not resist coming to see what was going on. Once here, and despite not speaking a word of English, Dimitri sat down and soon found himself caught up in our infectious laughter! Such spontaneous connections increase our public profile in Kissos village where from the first year here, Kalikalos has been a source of imaginative gossip.

Our family weeks experienced the delights of a soothing body massage session with oils infused with herbs from the garden, which left us blessed out. Thank you Caroline!

More art, songs, dances and games punctuated our week, culminating in a hilarious Cabaret show on Wednesday night. Our talented group produced skits satirizing the week’s events alternated with variety acts leading up to a raucous sing-along disco, ‘Mama Mia!’ style. Our teenagers sang energetically to Katy Perry’s latest hits as the younger children (and the adults!) looked on in fascination.

Special thanks to Yakiz from Athens who brought his 22 yr old daughter Vasia for a week to experience community and care for the under-six year olds.

My co-facilitator Emil’s wisdom, wit and patience was evident throughout the fortnight, and reached a pinacle in his production of our participatory family video, screened in our last evening. The video, which captures memories of  the whole fortnight, provoked peals of laughter as we were all caught on camera. Emile’s video will provide us with a lasting record of the 2011 Kalikalos Family Experience weeks.  Any of you reading this post who want to get a taste of Kalikalos can see Emile's video on youTube very soon.

I feel nourished, blessed, rested and ready for the long journey home!

Dorota Owen, Forres, Scotland

Sunday, August 14, 2011

From Xania to Kissos walk

One Monday in July a small brave group, Jeroen from Amsterdam, Ray from London and me from Inverness Scotland head out into the unknown. We get a lift from our sister centre Anilio who are going shopping to Volos. They drop us off in Xania, the highest point in Pelion mountains, where there is a ski resort in the winter. Hard to imagine in this heat!

We hope to find our way back to Kissos through the forests. Wouldn't we be alright with Jeroen's mobile with satellite mapping programme? First we have some coffee and biscuits in the village in the otherwise empty coffee shop. Ray runs around making enquiries about possible paths to Kissos. We are directed to the nearest lay by where we take a descending path down the mountain. We soon realise that this is a false start down the wrong side of the peninsula. Back on the tarmac road, we acknowledge that we have thrown away an hour but are now equipped with walking sticks cut off the fallen branches.

Ray, Jeroen and Bernice, not me!
Our walk back to Kissos seems to be just a dream. After considering different ways of returning to our centre (bus, hitch hiking, walking along the hot tarmac road), we decide to walk up to the ski centre and back which is only maybe a 15 min walk up. The magnificant restaurant where we are the only customers has stunning views  from the balcony. So we have another coffee and cake which the only waitress must have baked the day before.

To our enquiries about a path to Kissos, the waitress keeps repeating yes, but 'diskolo' meaning difficult. She points us towards one of the buildings up the slope and the path veering to the left. Off we go! Soon we notice a little sign saying 'Kissos' and Jeroen stops here and there to check the satellite maps. The mountain air so high up is wonderfully hot and cool at the same time. The sun is bright, the trees give us some shade, and we have an incredibly blue sky above us. It's magic.

Next we come out to the tarmac road, but on the opposite side a sign for 'Kissos' is beckoning us on. This time it's a rough, overgrown donkey path scattered with fallen trees and branches. The forest is also much darker, with no sun. Suddenly we come upon a picnic hut in the middle of nowhere and decide to have a picnic, which for us means water, nuts, and biscuits. We didn't prepare for a long walk...

The rest of the walk is on dirt roads, paths overgrown with plants up to the waist, paths diverting to all directions. Once we come across a woodcutter who points us towards Kissos, but otherwise it is just the three of us, lush vegetation, irrigation water running down the narrow concrete channels and trees. Towards the end there is a short walk along the tarmac road after which we find the upper road of Kissos village, and arrive safe and sound at Kalikalos after having been on the journey for about 7 hours.

Intuition, luck, and Jeroen's mobile guided us through the mysteries of Pelion forests! The adventure was wonderfully exhilarating, beautiful, fun, one of the highlights of my 5 week stay at Kalikalos.

Creative Family Week I led by Dorota Owen (Scotland) Emile van Dantzig (Netherlands) and Rosemary Hawksford (York, England)

Three facilitators, two separate campuses (Kalikalos and Anilio-STK), four 4 year olds and their mothers, and a mixed group of Greek and English speaking teenagers with a shared history and a clearly stated wish to stay as a particular group. How was it ever going to work?

And yet, a miracle occurred last week, and we  have a film to prove it! Lots of smiles, swimming, sand and sea shots in the Kalikalos Family Movie fully produced by the young humans in our group.  (Request permission to see our clips on YouTube.)

Each morning we met up for group activities and made a flexible plan for our week together. We had different art activities, there was pizza night with the return of Dave (from Philadelphia) the moon-walking pizza maker.  I ran the Participatory Video sessions (PV), there was a  beach sleepover party under the light of the moon, midnight swims, forest walks through a gorgeous Mt Pelion ravine to cool waterfalls, plus plenty of circle sessions and discovery games.

We were graced to be able to use both campuses for our first week. Kalikalos Kissos is surrounded by a picturesque village and the village sounds permeate our group work. Anilio STK, 3 km to the north, is set in lush forest and basks in the deafening music of cicadas connecting us with Nature.

Every day we had the sensual experience of swimming in the clear blue Aegean sea and one on a couple of the days jumping big beefy waves! The sunshine worked its magic and as the Week I ends, our group of adults and kids are are now golden-skinned and smiling. In this constant harmony of wind and waves, we observed an equal harmony among our lovely children, with few struggles or quarrels. Our only screams came from a beetle-bitten 4 year old explorer who bravely showed us a drawing of his creature the next day and spoke eloquently about what he would like to have done with it. (I’m afraid it was squashed by his anxious brother.)

We completed our week with a moving Thursday evening fireside sharing which included singing, storytelling and authentic expressions from the heart from both adults and children. Spiros provided cakes from the village!

We look forward, this coming second week, to co-creating a brand new experience by drawing on the needs, expectations and skills of the now experienced children and parents. Their own creative ideas for Week II have been welling up these past few days and we are ready to turn the workshop over to them. With luck, Dorota and I, the official leaders, will be able to sit back and be true focalisers--providing the resources and coordination to allow this group now to run itself!

Dorota Owen, Forres, Scotland & Emile van Dantzig, Bilthoven, Netherlands