From Paros to Paris Pt 4

imageI’ve opened my iPad before the seat belt signs have been turned off, eager to write this as soon as the wheels of the plane I’m on have lifted off of Greek soil. So far there’s no sign of my infraction risking the lives of my co-passengers, and so I’ll keep going with the assumption that this blog post is meant to be pounded out now 🙂

The Paros retreat ended today on a great note with one last breakfast en groupe. One last morning to feast on the greatest 10% fat yoghurt (that NO North American company can ever duplicate as they reduce calories and fat, despite the trend to market yoghurt as “Greek Style”), the most delectable watermelon, bananas, pears, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the revelation that is Portokalopita (look it up…you won’t regret it). Our group splintered off as we drove away in our separate vehicles, and continued to do so as our separate ferries whisked us away onto the next step of our journeys.

This retreat has been a really special one, in much different ways than previous ones. This group was the first to want to be together almost all the time. This group was the first to express the desire to have the classes brought to an intermediate level. And this group was the first that saw three people stay for the first week, and three more come for the last 4-5 days. Regardless of all of that, this group wasn’t completely unique to past ones, as once again, a fantastic group of like-minded souls came together from different spots around the globe to bask in the soul-stirring energy that is only found in Greece.

Every person who participated in this retreat, regardless of where they came from or why they were there, walked away with more than they arrived with. From having a clearer idea of where they want their life to go, to knowing that being away from family was a true test of patience, these people gained something from the experience. And all the while, around our asana and iRest classes, they were given the platform from which they could jump off into the unknown and explore the miracles that are found in Paros. Hunting down new beaches on a daily basis, descending on the city centres of Naoussa and Parikia, visiting a local winery…there was stuff to do, even in the remoteness of this island paradise. Throughout all of it, we all knew that no matter what our days consisted of, we were coming home. Home to Margarita Studios, and home to Stella Fyrogeni.

Stella runs her hotel with one intention: to make sure everyone staying there is happy. If that means whipping up a last-minute meal for someone not drawn in by that evening’s delectable dish, so be it. If that means giving someone another room that better suits their needs, so be it. If that means driving into the port to drop off or pick someone up, so be it. If that means preparing a meal based on requests from her guests, so be it. This woman goes above and beyond what’s necessary, and so it comes as no surprise that she will celebrate her 25th year with Margarita Studios in 2014. She was a mother to us all, even if only for 10 days, but a mother nonetheless.

I didn’t find Stella or her hotel on my own. I had help from Michael Shepherd, who after living on the island of Paros for 10 years, familiarized himself with local businesses, their owners and their customs. Not only did he take care of the logistics of accommodation, meals and transportation for us, he does the same regardless of activity and interest on any Greek island. He also works at providing personalized travel guides for Greece, Ireland and Czech Republic. Michael brought his own signature style to the retreat by taxiing people around and organizing a couple of meals for us at alternate locations around the island, and I can honestly say that the retreat would have not been the same without his input.

As the second and last retreat of 2014 starts to recede in our calendars, we know that it steeps in our awareness and will inflect future moments with its images, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations. Anyone who has visited the Greek islands is all too aware of how the light falls on the landscape after 4pm, how the vividness of the bougainvillea jumps out to meet you wherever you can find it, and how the sun and salt-drenched air softly envelopes you regardless of the time of day. These memories serve to not only inform the future, but change how we define what we know by expanding our frame of reference. They serve to provide new heights of what we know beauty to be, and in the case of this (and previous) retreat groups, they also serve to provide new heights of how we define community.

Those who weren’t in Santorini with us in 2011, Croatia in 2012, Istanbul in April 2013 or Paros over the last 10 days won’t ever be able to fully understand what it’s been like in these albeit briefly adopted families. The essence of the groups isn’t only comprised of the location we live in – it’s built on the personalities that inform it. Every single person who participates brings their own uniqueness to the moment, and without them, the moment wouldn’t be what it is destined to be.

For every single one of you who is on your way back from Paros, know that you’re taking a little bit of every other person’s energy from the group with you. Thank you for making the retreat what it was.

For every single one of you who has come on any of my retreats, thank you for proving me right when I insisted on ignoring that inner voice of doubt that almost talked me out of holding my inaugural solo retreat in Santorini in 2011.

You are all family, regardless of how long we spent with each other and whether or not we stayed in touch.

The retreats for 2014 are being organized, bit by bit, and are being tweaked based on past retreats to ensure that they live up to the standards I know will help bring fresh insight and perspective to the participants. Full details will be made public when they’re finalized, and so in the interim, feel free to visit the Facebook page with pics from this latest jaunt, and I’ll post again later next week from Paris.

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