Hello! A little belated, I wanted to share about our time in Greece:
We had a 2-week window in November, after Vipassana in Italy and before Yoga Teacher Training in India. We originally thought we'd take a road trip thru Eastern Europe. But very early on realized that too much driving is a distraction from our goals.
Home Sweet Home
We booked a cottage on the island of Corfu in Greece, knowing that prices were good + it would be quiet in the off-season. It was a disaster. The place was muggy, buggy, with traffic noise, and Karan got locked in the bedroom and had to escape through a window.
The next morning we cancelled our rental and found new friend Spiros who rented the top floor of his house to us. It was palatial - tons of space to stretch out, big kitchen, TWO bathrooms, huge deck overlooking the mountains and the sea, olive groves, chickens, goats.
Our own writing + meditation retreat
Thus began our 2-week Writing + Meditation retreat in Achravi, Corfu. The days went roughly like this:
Writing in morning
More writing/ reading in afternoon
4: Exercise - which involved running down to beach and checking internet for 15 mins in town
Evening ... more reading - no TV, internet or other distraction
Neither of us had ever done something like this before - time fully dedicated to writing, reading and meditation with no distraction. It was wonderful and harder work than you might guess - we fell asleep exhausted every night and were BUSY and incredibly productive. We each fully outlined our books - with detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, character sketches, etc.
Sabbatical Reading List
Even though we're traveling light, we have a library of spiritual books with us. I'm working my way through each book, and Greece was nice because Karan and I had time to discuss everything from the Buddha's journey to the meaning of life. You can see the books in the picture here:
From top to bottom, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Siddhartha, The Book of Buddha, Hunger Games (not mine!), Writing Fiction, Vedanta Treatise, Vivekachudamani, and I read Ghandi's Experiments with Truth in Scotland.
Since I left home 2 months ago, I haven't read anything but these books. And for tv, I have only watched 3 episodes of Modern Family on a flight, and that's it.
Eastern philosophy talks about the 3 mental tempermants (or gunas) and they are:
Tamas: lethargy, indolence, sloth, sleep
Rajas: passionate, agitated, frenzied action
Sattva: poised, mature, serene and contemplative
We all have different proportions of the 3 gunas, but the idea is to attain more and more sattva. And sattva was our theme for these 2 weeks. Instead of a rajasik road trip, or a tamasic time hanging out at the beach, we created a sattvic experience.
The situation in Greece
I learned a lot about the economic crisis in Greece, and I can tell you it's very bad. We were the "last tourists" of the season and people were really open in talking to us.
The money is completely dried up in Achravi. It's a tourist town, and there weren't many tourists this summer. People are waiting 2-3 months to get paid. The whole town is villas on the beach and bars & restaurants in town -- and they're all empty. The locals are not going out for coffee or dinner. People are eating out of their gardens, sharing hand-me-down clothes for the kids, not traveling, not heating their houses in January-Feb when it's cold. The teachers are on strike "every 5 minutes" so kids are not getting a great education. Our neighbors had a huge padlock/ hook thing on their door because in the last 2 years there is crime and break-ins. You ask someone how they are and they answer "horrible" and explain why - they need to work but don't have a babysitter, they need to send their kid to college but don't have money and husband left them, etc.
I've seen poverty before, but I've never seen a place dry up like this, like a ghost town. It was so strange to be in paradise but never witness a carefree moment - you didn't see someone walking down street enjoying an ice cream cone or young people out partying on a Saturday night.
I know Greece is in the headlines but it's easy to forget that there are real people being stretched very thin. And based on what I saw in Achravi, I would say the myth of the lazy Greek person is unfair. People are working 7 days a week for little money and would love more work and opportunity.
So that was our time in Achravi - during which Hurricane Sandy happened at home, President Obama got re-elected, and we did meditation, spiritual reading and book outlining that will hopefully allow us to make a positive difference in this topsy turvy world.