As I type, dusk falls in Axladitsa. The sky is smoked with a light haze and the early evening sounds are starting to rise- birds chirp as they make their roost for the night and, as the wind drops, the last of the autumnal leaves find a new quiet. As night descends, the silence of the wild is more acute. It is a silence filled with nature’s song, cut through with the sounds of a crackling fire and the occasional bark or miaow. Along with a multitude of wild beings, from hedgehogs to boar and owls, I share this place with fourteen cats and, at the moment, three dogs- two of whom just recently showed up and do not want to leave. I can understand why.
I have been here in rural Greece since mid-October, returning to the home of my good friend Maria Scordialos, who has opened her doors once again with her remarkable generosity. She opens the door to many, stewarding Axladista- a living learning centre which I first read about in Walk Out Walk On. It is a 24 acre olive farm, situated at the base of the Pelion peninsula, overlooking the islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos in the Aegean Sea. In other words it is stunning, inhabiting its own variant of wild, beautiful and raw. Axladista is also the current base of The Living Wholeness Institute, an organization which experiments in a ways of working and explores patterns of living which evoke learning, growth and transformational change at an individual and collective level- work which I have been diving into and learning with.
This is my third time here and in many ways Axladitsa now feels like my second home. This time it has been a rich experience of letting go, letting come and engaging with the way life is showing itself to me; textured, simple and nuanced all at once. More than ever my time here seems to be taking on a life of its own.
In Greece two versions of time are commonly referenced, chronos time and kairos time. Chronos time is the time of the clock, the fixed rhythm of how we regulate our days. It is chronological and sequential, paced and predictable. Kairos time, however, is the time of deeper rhythms, the time when we can get lost, the time in between. It is here where the cycles of the seasons emerge and where we tune into the deeper pulse of our days and beyond them. It has longitude in its frame and a sense of space. Since arriving here, I keep finding myself saying, ‘Where is the time going?’ I wake up in the morning and before I know it, night is falling and the day retreating into itself. Kairos is here, breathing and making itself know through the daily tasks and conversations, in the routine of living with the light and the dark, and in between, all the in between. It is here that perspective is emerging.
It has been a long time since I have written. The silence has come not from lack of desire to write but out of this kairos time. Something in me has been needing to sink into deeper pace and rhythm and to sense into my own season of change and transition, for there has been much change and there is much transition.
It has been a monumental few months. September and October brought the end of our Trailblaze Rites of Passage programme at the Dublin Fringe Festival, a Be Retreat, moving out of my home of the last 5 years, clearing out my belongings and coming here to Greece. While here I have co-hosted a ‘writing in resonance’ retreat, helped with the olive harvest, and also, rather spontaneously, helped to host a group of 11 young people from a self-designed educational programme called ‘Classroom Alive’, which has involved them walking from Sweden to Athens. You never know quite who shows up at Axladista- it is one of the joys of this place. So far in weeks here there have been visitors from Ireland, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Israel, Germany, Canada, USA, Portugal, France, and of course, Greece.
The Classroom Alive visit for me was particularly inspiring, witnessing a group of young people set out on a journey, at the pace of walking, to figure out big questions along the way. They are aware that the future is an emergent phenomenon and how we, as individuals and collectives, engage in creating it is critical to our common humanity. The walkers are between 20 and 25 years old, and step by step of the way, are also figuring out how to craft their own paths. Crafting, I realize is key. These young people, like me (who now realizes she is no longer 25!), see, feel and sense the huge global challenges ahead: environmental, social, economic, political and personal. They realize that the answers to these issues are not going to found in classrooms or traditional structures, nor are the solutions going to be easily revealed. What they do realise however is that in order to craft the future they want, it will require a reordering of how they live, engage and participate in creating that future. And, like any craft, it is a practice that gets stronger over time.
This epic walk for them has been their practice as such. They have been experimenting with group decision making, money, educational formats and practicing what it means to be in relationship with the unknown, all through the currency of friendship and trust. They are earnest and eager and simultaneously wet, tired and, quite frankly, a bit stinky. But they have been meeting this dirt and grime, this cold and uncomfortable, knowing that the journey holds information and transformation. So while they know it is not easy, they also know they are onto something.
Having a sense you are ‘onto something’ is both a wonderful and mind wrecking experience. The clarity of what this ‘something’ is comes, I realise more and more, not from waiting for answers but by stepping deeper into the journey, following our intuition and hunches to figure out our next bold moves. In coming here to Axladitsa, I have been trying to do just that, listening my own intuition and inner voice to get a greater sense of the bigger ‘something’ I am onto and my own ‘what next’. My friends here have been a mirror (thank you Vanessa, Maria and Bini), and my journey like the code breaker.
Rites of Passage, I know, was certainly something. We at The Trailblazery, found ourselves tapping into something powerful and passionate with an edge, mystery and a magic that was beyond the sum of its parts. It was a full on blast of potential. Kathy, Ciara and I were blown away by the content, people and the whole experience, one I will carry with me for a long while yet.
Interestingly, on a personal note, it also left me a little overwhelmed- both with its power and with the sheer scale of the issues we face as a global community. After years of social activism, movement and doing, I came to a point where my inner batteries needed some recharging. I now also see that this was not a physical tiredness as such, but an emotional one which has been accumulating over time. I am certainly not unique in what I notice, but like so many others, I see so much disintegration around us. I see systems that are crumbling and security dissolving. I see people everywhere questioning the way forward. I feel the pain. I have been a witness to the suffering. So even though I had been so fired up after Rites of Passage and so inspired, when I arrived here it all suddenly felt a bit too much and my brain went to mush. I knew it was time to move inwards.
Overwhelm, I believe, is not an excuse for in-action. Instead I believe I have a responsibility to deal with my own dirt and grime and find my way through, even if it is just a little step at a time. The issues are too great, the time is too short and the opportunity too beautiful- it is not one I want to miss out on. Thankfully the last few years have given me some tools and resources which are like battery chargers. So I have taken to my yoga mat, I have meditated, I have walked these wild natural paths, I have swam in the waters, I have spent time with the animal beings, I have engaged with the questions and in doing so, I have been allowing kairos time to teach me a few things. It has not all been pretty, or easy on the people around me, but that is the lesson too. We all need some in-between.
A very dear friend of Maria’s, Gillian Kean, passed away suddenly this year. She was a woman who I wished I had met. By all accounts she was an amazing lady who led her activist life in very subtle and conscious ways, showing up to make a difference all around the globe, offering friendship, trust and presence. She was a woman of hope and optimism, bringing together people of all nationalities for conversation, connection and a sense of solidarity. Gillian had just returned from the Syrian boarder when she was involved in a tragic accident. She was 70 years old. Her passing and memory is a reminder to me that we can never really know or understand the ripple effects of our actions. I had never met the lady, but here I am, walking this land with her memory and the pieces of the advice that she has shared:
- Follow the cues & clues
- Don’t take it personally and
- Keep your heart open
So, as my remaining weeks unfold here, I am following the cues and clues, attempting to show up with presence and an open heart, grateful, ever grateful for the opportunity, the questions, the journey, the place, to Maria and Vanessa, to Trailblaze and even to the 11 stinky young people who came to show me a thing or two. And of course, to Gillian, who by all accounts had the most open of hearts. And this, I believe, is one of the most beautiful aspirations, wherever the journey is to take me. And who knows, I may walk to Athens yet!
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