Tag: Greece

Why Greece Is The Perfect Destination For A Spiritual Journey

Every year, millions of tourists from around the world travel to Greece to experience its vibrant culture and stunning landscapes. But many miss Greece for what it really is: one of the world’s most sacred destinations.

To experience this hidden side of Greece, travellers must dig deep into their own spirituality and explore the country through a pilgrim’s eyes. This means looking beyond the surface of its magnificent ruins and spectacular vistas to connect with the land’s sacred essence.

When this happens, the true nature of Greece (and of the traveller!) are exposed. What makes Greece such a perfect destination for a spiritual journey?

1. Its ancient sites are imbued with sacredness

Delphi Tholos sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

Greece is home to hundreds of sacred sites, including temples and shrines that have housed sacred rituals and attracted pilgrims from around the world for millennia.

A few of these ancient sites, like the Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon, have become common tourist destinations, while others are away from the large crowds.

Places like Agora, Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, the 13th century monastic site of Mystra and the ancient citadel of Mycenae are just a few of the many sites where sacredness is palpable for those willing to feel it.

2. Greece is home to sacred mythology

Athens at night

Greece is full of mythology. Ancient stories of ancient Gods and Goddesses, of Love and War, and of human triumph and failure are deeply weaved into Greece’s culture and continue to shape the country today as they did over two thousand years ago.

When you visit Greece you stand on the soil where The Myth of Atlantis was born, where Zeus’s successful battle against his father Cronus was first imagined, and where the Goddess Aphrodite’s origins continue to be fiercely debated.

To this day, images of the Gods and Goddesses remain on walls, artifacts, and in the museums of this inspiring country.

3. Greeks still hold a sacred connection to the land

Mycenae burial grave

Throughout history, Greeks have always maintained a sacred connection with the land.

Like in many other cultures, sacred mountains, rivers, and hills dot the country, providing excellent places for spiritual introspection.

But the sacred connection to land goes beyond that. Ancient Greek doctors, for instance, turned to nature rather than appealing to the Gods when treating patients. They used ingredients that are still commonly found in our home today: vinegar, garlic, honey and so on to treat sicknesses.

Today, nature is still an important aspect of any visit to Greece. Its beautiful Mediterranean climate, its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, its quality olive oils and its stunning vistas, from seascapes to forests and mountains, make Greece an ideal destination for any pilgrim hoping to connect with themselves through nature.

4. Much of Modern Culture is Traced To Greece

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Many of the key concepts that shape our daily lives around the world can be traced back to Ancient Greece.

Things like democracy, sport, philosophy, cuisine, art, and mythology all originated from this land, and continue to fill it with their presence. Tracing these ideas back to a specific time and place allow us to reconnect with their original values, giving them new meaning and importance.

5. Greece allows us to imagine a different world

temple of zeus

Ancient Greece was home to the Temple of Zeus, which housed the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. While the statue was destroyed during the 5th Century AD, we can still imagine it today.

Imagining the past whenever you visit a new location is a part of seeing a place through a pilgrim’s eyes. It allows you to connect with a place’s hidden past, and in turn allows you to reconnect with a deeper version of your own Self, which is the most enduring characteristic of any pilgrimage.

3 Ways to Make Your Next Trip A Spiritual One

1. Be open to experiencing the sacred

It’s up to you to open your mind and allow yourself to experience a place with a pilgrim’s eye. To do this, you must be ready to connect with the place and with yourself on a deeper level, constantly asking questions about the past, present, and future.

2. Be self-reflective during your journey

The key to any spiritual journey is to constantly reflect on your thoughts and feelings throughout your trip. Keeping a journal in which you write down what you see and how you feel is a great way to make your experience more spiritual.

3. Travel with us.

Join author, filmmaker, and teacher Phil Cousineau on a breathtaking pilgrimage through Greece’s most spectacular sacred sites on The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau.

The tour will allow you to experience Greece’s sacredness firsthand. It is, as our guests tell us, an experience of a lifetime.

Phil is a seasoned guide who will bring you the teachings and initiations for your own internal transformation, giving you the tools to make this trip, and the rest of your life, truly sacred.

Find out more about this magical tour.

Looking for Vacation Inspiration in 2014?

Our handy quiz helps you plan your perfect journey!

 

Choosing a vacation destination can be tricky, and choosing the perfect package to suit your unique needs even harder. We all want our vacations to be meaningful, memorable and, well, magical – but how do we pick the perfect spot?

Choose a package that’s aligned with your values.

What is it that really matters to you? What makes your soul sing and makes you feel completely at one with yourself? If you can identify your core values you can translate those to your vacation package…

Ask yourself these 3 fun questions to help you find what’s right for you:

1. When do you feel most happy?
  • a.     During a new & exciting activity
  • b.     On my yoga mat
  • c.      Hiking in nature
  • d.     Reading or learning about a new culture

2. Your perfect birthday gift would be:
  • a.     A new surfboard or bike (or similar piece of gear)
  • b.     Handmade coconut oil moisturizer with essential oils
  • c.      A new camera
  • d.     A gift certificate for your favourite bookstore

3. Your favourite clothes store is:
  • a.     MEC
  • b.     Lululemon
  • c.      Etsy
  • d.     The whole world is my clothes store!

If you answered mainly:
A:
A vacation with fun and challenging activities would suit you! The perfect package would include yoga or similar stretching exercises to keep your body and mind in balance and your adrenal system healthy! Ensure the meals are nourishing and wholesome too as you’ll be burning lots of calories!
Try this:
Practice, Breathe and Surf Costa Rica with Chris Duggan & Natalie Rousseau: A seven-day adventure and yoga retreat in idyllic Mal Pais, Costa Rica
November 22 – 29, 2014
Package highlights:
  • Twice-daily yoga classes
  • A choice of 3 included activities + many more as optional extras
  • Choose activities such as surfing/SUP, horseback riding, zip lining canopy tour, 4WD tour
  • Optional spa services to relax your muscles!
  • 3 delicious & healthy meals a day
B:
A vacation with  a combination of physical exercise and opportunities to explore local communities and sites would suit you to a tee! Stops along the way to mingle with locals and explore artisan crafts would be a bonus. Look out for packages that offer more than yoga – meditation, health consultations, time for outdoor activities or spa services will provide a more fulfilling holiday experience!

Try this:

Bali Bliss Retreat with Michele Labelle: A Transformational Yoga & Meditation Retreat in Magical Bali

November 3 – 12, 2014

Package highlights:
  • 7 yoga classes and meditation practice
  • Visits to Uluwatu Temple, Ulun Danu Temple and Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Monastery
  • Cultural Immersion & Homemade Lunch at Pacut Village
  • Snorkelling Excursion to Menjangan Island
  • Optional Excursions and Spa Treatments 
 
C:
You need a vacation package that understands and honours your connection to the natural world. A package that provides opportunities to spend time alone or as part of a group at some of the world’s natural, sacred sites would be a great choice! Look for packages that allow you time to explore independently and really breathe in your surroundings. Also look out for holidays that include visits to local communities and artisan craft markets for gifts to bring back home.

Try this:

Heart of the Pachamama with Puma Quispe Singona: Celebrate the Transformative Energy of the Spring Equinox in Sacred Peru
September 17 – 24, 2014
Package highlights:
  • Entrance to Machu Picchu for TWO DAYS
  • Travel with Andean Medicine Man, Healer and Wisdom Keeper, Puma Quispe Singona
  • Visits to Sacred Sites and Temples
  • Authentic Community Immersion
  • Special Spring Equinox Ceremony
 
OR this:
Sacred Path Of Quetzalcoatl-Kukuulkaan with Miguel Angel Vergara: A Journey to Discover Your Potential in the Land of the Toltec & Maya (Mexico)
December 1 – 9, 2014
Package highlights:
  • Travel with author and Maya Master Teacher, Miguel Angel Vergara
  • Participate in meditations, rituals and ceremonies at the sacred sites
  • Lectures by Miguel Angel Vergara to illuminate the significance of the sacred sites we visit
  • Visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City
  • Learn how chocolate is made at the Ecomuseo del Cacao near Labna
D:
You need a vacation package that speaks to your creativity and thirst for knowledge. Look for holidays that include opportunities to engage in creative pursuits, ideally with a skilled tour leader who shares your passion for the written word. Journeys to countries and sites of historical and cultural significance will appeal, as will trips that depart from the usual tourist trails and allow you to more fully understand the culture of a country.

Try this:

A Sacred Journey to Turkey with Phil Cousineau: Long Conversations in the Land of Troy, Rumi and the Goddess
October 10 – 22, 2014
Package highlights:
  • Travel with author, presenter and scholar Phil Cousineau
  • Daily engaging and enlightening Conversations with Phil
  • Guest talk by Bedri Baykim, renowned Turkish artist, residing in Istanbul
  • Private Whirling Dervishes Ceremony in Konya
  • Exceptional visits to some of Turkey’s most famous and sacred sites
OR this:

The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau: The Myths, Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and Sacred Sites of the Classical World

September 21 – October 1, 2014
Package highlights:
  • Travel with author, teacher and filmmaker, Phil Cousineau
  • Insightful Group Discussions and “Long Conversations”
  • Visit the Acropolis, Parthenon & Theatre of Dionysus
  • Visit the Site of the Ancient Olympics and the Olympic Museum
  • Visit the Dream Temples of Asclepius & the Ancient Amphitheater in Epidaurus

A complete mix of As, Bs, Cs & Ds:

Visit Sacred Earth Journeys to read about all of our vacation destinations and packages to suit you! We also take bookings for yoga retreats in Canada and beyond, and are sure to have something to suit your unique needs! Or contact us to organize a group vacation package for your family, friends or business and let us show you how to translate your values into a perfect holiday!

 

Bon voyage!
~ Kim Bridgett

Sacred Greece: An Interview with Phil Cousineau

Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 30 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage. Currently, Cousineau is co-writer and host of Global Spirit (PBS), what John Cleese calls the first “internal travel series”.
sacred Greece phil cousineau
Phil Cousineau enjoying some delicious Greek food in Delphi

What Makes Greece Sacred?

Phil will be leading “The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau: The Myths, Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and Sacred Sites of the Classical World, September 24 – October 4, 2018” for Sacred Earth Journeys.
This will be a journey full of visits to sacred sites, culture, fine cuisine, storytelling and engaging conversation. For this blog post we caught up with Phil to hear what makes Greece such an appealing destination for him.
parthenon Athens Greece
The Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
 SEJ: What is it that particularly appeals to you about Greece as a destination?
Phil Cousineau: I have been fascinated by Greece since reading the classics out loud, especially Homer, as a boy growing up in Detroit in a house full of books. Ever since it has been in the forefront of my imaginative life because of work in mythology and history. It is the crucible of Western Civilization, as is often said, but also indispensable if anyone wants to understand the history of theatre, poetry, mythology, even sports. On the personal level, I find it one of the last affordable sites in Europe, offering the healthiest food in the world.
santorini greece
Phil Cousineau with our group on an excursion off beautiful Santorini, Greece

Top Sacred Sites in Greece

SEJ: What place or site are you most excited about taking participants to visit on this Greece Odyssey?
PC: Besides the usual sites in Athens, I plan to take the group to Eleusis, a rarely visited site near the capital that was a famous goddess pilgrimage site. I will lead the group to Delphi where we will visit the site of the famous oracle on one of the most dramatic mountains in the country, then down to Olympia, where the athletic spirit began and has been restoried. 
SEJ: One of the focal points of this journey will be the role of the Goddess. Why is the Goddess something you are focusing on and what will participants be taking away with them in respect to knowledge of the Goddess?
PC: If you read the Greek myths, the goddesses were as powerful and omnipresent as the gods. To only visit the sites of the gods and male heroes is to see only half of Greece.
greek goddess
In Greek mythology goddesses were as powerful and omnipresent as the gods

The Spirituality of Sport

SEJ: Your book The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games explores the spiritual dimension of the Olympics, and in Olympia you will be leading a discussion on this topic. What fascinates you about this connection between sport and spirituality?
PC: For millennia people around the world, not only Greece, have played in the deepest sense of the word, and competed, not for bloodlust, but of the ancient Greek belief in arête, excellence. This aspect is mostly forgotten in modern play and modern sport where the emphasis is on winning at all costs. The Modern Olympics has been a first step in trying to revive the true spirit, the spirituality, underneath all athletic competition.
olympia sacred Greece
Our group at Olympia, Greece

An Authentic Way to Visit Sacred Greece

SEJ: What can participants expect from this journey to Greece that they wouldn’t find elsewhere? 
PC: Everything is different. We will enjoy local speakers, but also write in our journals, sketch, and every evening have what I call a Long Conversation where we actually discuss in depth what we’ve encountered during the day.
SEJ: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers about this journey?
PC: Yes, I encourage people on my journeys to bring a gift or two or three to hand out to someone special that you meet along the way. Our way of saying thank you to the Greeks, who are known for coining the word xenophobia, the suspicion of strangers, but also coined its opposite, xenophilia, the love or affection of strangers.
athens Greece
Our group exploring the vibrant city of Athens, Greece
Are you curious to learn more about this fabulous journey full of culture, sacred sites and conversation? Read more about The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau and join us in September 2018 as we explore sacred Greece together.
~ Kim Bridgett & Sacred Earth Journeys

5 Reasons Greece is a Sacred Destination

1: Sacred Sites in Greece

Greece has a wealth of Sacred Sites to visit which in itself makes it an excellent sacred destination. The Acropolis of Athens, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is often the first stop for visitors. UNESCO describes the monuments, which include the Parthenon, as “universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization [which] form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world.”(1) Other sacred sites include Agora, Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, the 13th century monastic site of Mystra and the ancient citadel of Mycenae, among many more.
pantheon athens Greece
The Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

2: The Sport-Spirituality Connection

In his book The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games Phil Cousineau explores the relationship between the Olympics and spirituality.(2) In a CBC interview with Mary Hynes ahead of the Vancouver 2008 Winter Olympics, Cousineau talks about our need to watch great sporting events such as the Olympics to counter our “falling asleep”:

“What wakes us up is the recognition of a spark … we are so taken with [the athlete’s] enthusiasm (from the Greek word that means the “god within”) that it somehow rekindles the spark in us. …That’s why we watch games… we are reminded again and again about the life force. And one reason why the image of fire overlaps between sports, the arts and spiritual concerns is because fire is the symbol of life itself… and yet it can go out, but great athletes and great athletic events can reawaken it within us when we are watching them.”

A second need that we have as humans is to make a difference during our short time on earth, and again, sports is a way for some of guaranteeing a lasting legacy: 

“Human beings have felt the urge to say ‘I was here… I transcended this finger snap of time’ that we’re all afraid of. If we rise above to our utmost capacity, time stands still – we remember it for the rest of our lives and anybody watching that performance will remember what they felt, what they wore, what was in the air at that moment, and time stops. It is our one way of saying forever that ‘I was here and I made a difference’.”(3)

olympia sacred Greece
Our group at Olympia, Greece

3: Greek Mythology

The Gods and Goddesses, the enduring stories of Love and War – Greece is a land that resonates with mythology, and Greek Mythology has itself travelled throughout the world. When you visit Greece you stand on the soil where the The Myth of Atlantis was born, where Zeus’s successful battle against his father Cronus was first imagined, and the Goddess Aphrodite’s origins fiercely debated. Images of the Gods and Goddesses remain on walls, artifacts and in the museums of this inspiring country.

4: Wonders of The Ancient World

In Greece we can visit the remains of the Temple of Zeus, which housed the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, until its destruction during the 5th Century AD. We can contemplate the 7 Wonders list at this ancient site and imagine the Temple and Statue in all its glory.

sacred travel to greece
Phil and our group discussing Greek art, literature and spirituality at Eleusis

5: Greece’s Enduring Connection to Nature

Ancient Greece gave us Hippocrates of Cos, and doctors today, of course, still take the Hippocratic Oath. Ancient Greek doctors turned to nature rather than appealing to the Gods when treating patients, using ingredients that are still commonly found in our home today: vinegar, garlic, honey and so on. Today, nature is still an important aspect of any visit to Greece. Its beautiful Mediterranean climate, its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, its quality olive oils and its stunning vistas, from seascapes to forests and mountains, make Greece an ideal destination for any nature lover. 

Want To Visit Greece – An Ideal Sacred Destination?

Do you want to experience the Sacred Sites and stories of Greece for yourself? Join Phil Cousineau on “The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil CousineauThe Myths, Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and Sacred Sites of the Classical World, September 24 – October 4, 2018.” This journey will take you to the most important sacred sites, including the Temple of Zeus, and you will be treated to Phil Cousineau’s wisdom, stories and great company! 

Exclusive Greece interview with Phil Cousineau:

Our next blog post will feature an exclusive interview with Phil Cousineau: Sacred Greece: An Interview with Phil Cousineau in which he discusses why Greece is such an important sacred destination.
~ Kim Bridgett & Sacred Earth Journeys
Notes:
(2) A copy of this book was given to each Team USA athlete before the 2004 summer games in Athens by the US Olympic Committee!
(3) Quotes taken from “Stealing Fire from the Gods: Mary Hynes with Phil Cousineau”, Tapestry on CBC radio, Sunday February 14, 2010. 

Winter Traditions

Sacred Earth Journeys offers Sacred Journeys, Wellness Travel & Yoga Retreats, and Wisdom Teachings to many different parts of the world. Participants have a unique opportunity to both connect with the spiritual energies at some of the most important spiritual sites and be immersed in the local culture.  For many of us in the Western world December is a month dominated by Christmas, and whether or not we celebrate the holiday itself, it’s hard to miss its presence in our stores and communities. Here in Canada we are also blessed to share in other festivities that happen in the late fall, from Diwali to Hanukah.  But how about in some of the countries that Sacred Earth Journeys travels to throughout the year? Do these countries also celebrate the winter months with festivals of light and love? What are the local customs at this time of year? This blog takes a peek at some of the countries we will be visiting in 2014 to see how different cultures celebrate.

 

Aarti Ceremony, India

 

In India, as in many other countries around the world, Diwali is a national holiday, and is widely celebrated. This Festival of Lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and, importantly, inner light over spiritual darkness. It is a happy festival, of cleaning and preparing the home, shopping and buying gifts, listening to stories passed down through the ages, and marvelling at fireworks on Diwali night. Its spiritual essence can have meaning for us all as we work our way through life’s challenges. In the ever-wise words of our India tour leader, Jeffrey Armstrong:

“Just as we see that a small lamp drives away the dark of a whole room, so our doubts, sadness and fear are driven away by the constant renewal of our faith in the eternal light of Divine Love. In truth, we are like lamps that must be cared for. We must tend the wick of our mind, restore the oil of our life and relight the lamp of eternal love and truth that is in our heart. Diwali is the annual celebration of that rekindling of Divine fire within us.”

Lush Kauai, Hawaii

 

Today in Hawaii Christmas is celebrated much as it is on mainland America, expect that Santa prefers garlands of flowers to his stuffy red suit, and his sleigh – an outrigger canoe – is pulled by dolphins rather than his usual reindeer! But, before Christmas made its way to the Hawaiian islands in the late eighteenth century, Hawaiians celebrated Makahiki, a New Year Festival in honour of the harvest and Lono, the god of fertility and rain. This ancient festival ran for around four months from the middle of October, during which time there were contests, tributes to chiefs and a ban on war. It was a time to take a break from the usual farming cycles, and give thanks to the earth. The current Aloha Week festivals continue the Makahiki traditions. There will be plenty of time to give thanks to the earth and appreciate Kauai’s uniquely lush environment on our Goddess Retreat this coming April. As Dr. Alexina Mehta says,

“Kauai is considered to be the most sacred or spiritual of the Hawaiian islands according to many different sources. They consider it to be the third eye of the Hawaiian Islands and the lush environment is really conducive to a nourishing, goddess vibe. …The focus [of the retreat] is on connecting with the highest expression of the divine goddess that’s in every woman, connecting with the beauty, the wisdom, the different energies of various mythic goddesses and exploring how those energies live within each of us; how to find balance with those different energies, and at the same time how to have fun, relaxation and enjoy all the beauty of the island.”

Olympia, Greece

 

The Greek Orthodox Church is celebrating Christmas on December 25, the same date as the Catholic and Protestant churches. Greek traditions and customs at this time of year are rooted in the differences between light and darkness so apparent in December, and the date was chosen because it also marks the day many in the Mediterranean use to honour the Persian god, Mithras, the god of the Sun. Did you know that the word “carol” comes from a Greek dance called a choraulein, which was particularly popular in France! Of course, the Greeks are also famous for another festival we still celebrate today: the Olympics. As the writer and scholar Phil Cousineau, leader of our Greece journey, tells us:

“But there is another quality – a force – that deepens the mystery of these statues [of Olympians] especially in their connection to the Greek passion for athletic festivals, including the one the Greeks revered most of all, the Olympic Games. It is in fact the miraculous force that animates all great art as well as great athletes. Call it spirit, the divine spark, the breath of life – it is the transcendent element that lifts us up when you’re down and out, the source of courage, and the soul of inspiration. Strangely, we’re not quite sure where it comes from, where it goes when it’s crushed, or how to revive it. We just know we need to be in touch with it, which is one reason we turn to art, drama, poetry, and sports, especially the Olympic Games, the most watched television event on earth.” (from The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games)

As humans our need to tend our inner flames of inspiration, passion, faith, art and love is powerful. However you are celebrating this Holiday Season I hope you have an opportunity to connect with your own personal inspiration, tend your own wicks and find your own sacred place to be at peace with yourself and the earth. And I wish you joyous inner and outer travels!

~ Kim Bridgett

Notes:

Makahiki description taken from the Hawaiian Dictionaries.

Quote from Jeffrey Armstrong taken from his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/kavindraVASA

Quote from Dr. Alexina Mehta taken from interview with Kim Bridgett.