Thursday, April 17, 2014

Turkey Is Beckoning: An Interview with Phil Cousineau

In this interview, Phil Cousineau describes Turkey’s great appeal to the spiritual traveller, the importance of Rumi and Sufism as well as Phil’s own favourite places in this rich, ancient land. You can join Phil in Turkey this October 10 - 22, 2014 on our: “Sacred Journey to Turkey with Phil Cousineau: Long Conversations in the Land of Troy, Rumi and the Goddess”.

KB: What is it that particularly appeals to you about Turkey as a destination?

Phil Cousineau: Turkey is the great crossroads between East and West, a place like no other. There is a distinct Oriental flavor to Istanbul and also all over Eastern Turkey. Western Turkey is ancient Anatolia, essentially Eastern Greece for centuries. Sites like Hisarlik, ancient Troy, are crucial for understanding the very roots of Western civilization, art, drama, even opera. Besides the food is fresh, affordable, plentiful, and Turkey, especially in the fall when we will be there, will be among the least crowded corners in Europe.

KB: What place or site are you most excited about taking participants to visit on this sacredjourney to Turkey?

PC: The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Troy, which I read about as a boy, Ephesus, the most intact ancient city, thanks to the German archaeologists, the ports along the south, Catal Huyuk, the ruins of the oldest known city, and Konya, where we will visit the tomb of the Shakespeare of the East, as Mevlana Rumi is known. 

KB: This journey is built around “long conversations” – what is it about Turkey as a destination (and this particular journey) that lends itself so well to conversation, pilgrimage and exploring the concept of spiritual/sacred travel?

PC: Over thirty years of leading tours and workshops I have found that it is in these Long Conversations where the real meaning of our travels finally emerges. These journeys are not just about viewing things, which can be voyeuristic, but in experiencing the world – and then reflecting about the experiences. The casual pace of travel around Turkey, the immense depths of history, such as knowing we will visit three of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, are so provocative they call out to us to be more contemplative.

KB: What can participants expect from this journey to Turkey that they wouldn’t find elsewhere?

PC: Time, contemplation, local speakers, friends for a lifetime.

KB: Sufism and Rumi also strongly feature in this journey: Do participants need any prior knowledge of the works of Rumi or of Sufism? Will those who are very new to Turkish culture find this journey “accessible”?

PC: I highly recommend that our participants read some Rumi before they leave, or see a documentary film about him. Not doing so would be like going to England and not knowing a thing about Shakespeare. Rumi is omnipresent in Turkey, his face on the money, his presence in music, on the stage, in movies, and he is a huge source of pride to those who live there. It’s a gesture of respect.

KB: Is there anything else you would like to tell me about this journey to Turkey? 

PC: Remember what Rumi wrote 750 years ago: “What you seek is seeking you.” In some mysterious way these great lands and cultures are seeking travelers like you to make them come alive again.

Read more about this enticing journey to Turkey with Phil Cousineau and Sacred Earth Journeys here.

~ Kim Bridgett


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Machu Picchu and Beyond: How to Plan an Authentic Peru Experience

You’ve decided on Peru and a visit to Machu Picchu is top of your list. But what now? How can you get the most out of your visit to this sacred country? How can you be sure you’re seeing the authentic Peru and not simply the tourist traps, and how can you fully connect with the incredible sites and culture while you are there? This guide shows you how.

Visiting sacred sites such as Machu Picchu can be a powerful experience, and you will want to give yourself enough time to fully appreciate the visit. Try to find a tour that offers more than a quick whistle-stop look around the site, and allows you some time to explore independently as well as with a Tour Leader. It can be difficult to find a Peru tour that offers entrance on more than one day to Machu Picchu, but at Sacred Earth Journeys we feel visiting on 2 days provides the time needed to connect with this sacred site. As Helen Tomei, founder of Sacred Earth Journeys, says, “We will arrive to Machu Picchu the night before so that we can have an early start when everyone is alert and awake and ready for a beautiful ceremony at Machu Picchu as well as a leisurely afternoon to explore on their own. There will be time for a 2nd visit to Machu Picchu the next day where people can explore on their own and learn more from [our Tour Leader] Puma.”

Our Tour Leader, Puma Quispe Singona. 

Experienced Tour Leader
Sure, you can travel to Peru independently, but travelling with a group led by a really great Tour Leader will elevate your experience, and offer you so much more than an audio guide. When choosing a Tour Leader, you need to look for what he or she will bring to your experience of a place. Can he provide you with details that aren’t available in guidebooks and through the local tourist office? Can she bring you to visit local communities and meet with people who live off the usual tourist trails? Does he have special wisdom or training that will allow you to make more progress on your inner journey than going it alone? Here at Sacred Earth Journeys we work hard to ensure you will always travel with Tour Leaders who far exceed your expectations. Our Tour Leader for our Peru 2014 journey, for example, is the Andean Medicine Man, Healer, and Wisdom Keeper, Puma Quispe Singona. Puma is described as “magical, compassionate and wise beyond his years” with a deep reverence for Pachamama (Earth Mother) and an ancient understanding of the Cosmos. He is the perfect companion for a spiritual journey of Peru.

Local Community
It’s hard to feel you know a place when all you visit are the top attractions. Spending time in a local community is an excellent way to better understand the local culture of Peru. Our “Heart of the Pachamama with Puma Quispe Singona” journey to Peru, September 17 – 24/28, 2014, provides 2 formal opportunities for meeting local people as well as many more en route. In the small, windswept village of Chinchero you will meet Puma’s family, friends and village elders to learn more of their traditional ways and practices and perhaps hear a few stories and tales. Renowned for its beautiful traditional weavings, this town is also the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts! Then, on the island of Amantaní, part of the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca, we will have the unique experience of staying with a “homestay family” for a night. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for the way of life and traditions of the Uros peoples, and a way for you to really connect with Peruvian culture.

Aramu Muru's Doorway

Sacred Sites & Ceremonies
Machu Picchu will undoubtedly be a highlight of any trip to Peru, but there are many more sites to visit with powerful sacred energy. Knowing which sites to choose and how to make the most of any visit there can be tricky. Helen Tomei says she works closely with her local Tour Leaders when choosing which sites to offer and carefully plans all itineraries to ensure travellers have quality time at each site, with appropriate ceremonies or talks that will enrich their experience. She tells us, “All the sacred places and temples in the itinerary have been chosen for their importance to the spiritual teachings, the ceremonies that will be performed, and the healing energy ~ all of which will help our guests liberate from the energies of fear and ego towards a place of healing and clarity about their life path.”

Inner Journey
As Joseph Campbell said, “The whole idea of pilgrimage is that you are making a journey into your own heart.” Any travel experience to a country with sacred sites and powerful energies will stir up emotions and throw up challenging questions. The key is knowing how to navigate these challenges so you can move forwards on your own inner journey with clarity and a positive spirit. Having the guidance of a Tour Leader such as Puma, and travelling with a group of like-minded people, will offer you the safe space you need to connect with your own intuition as your travel through Peru. The ceremonies you will participate in and the wisdom you will learn from all those around you will add necessary layers of knowledge for your own inner quest.

This combination of ingredients – time at the carefully-chosen sacred sites, connecting with local culture and people, and a safe space for your own inner journey – will ensure your trip to Peru will not only be truly authentic but will also be a transformative, unforgettable travel experience.   

~ Kim Bridgett


Thursday, March 13, 2014

4 Must-See Spiritual Sites in Mexico

Mexico attracts millions of visitors each year and, while many of them are seeking sun and sand, others are on a more spiritual journey. Here we look at four important sacred sites in Mexico that are most definitely worth skipping the beach for.

According to legend Tepoztlán is the birthplace of the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, and the place where he underwent his inner transformation, where he began his journey to fully realize his potential as a great teacher. Located in the Tepoztlán Valley, just a short distance outside Mexico City, the town sits at the base of The Tepozteco Mountain, an important archaeological site with a small pyramid temple to the Aztec god Tepoztecatl. It was here that Quetzalcoatl received ancient energy to help him on his transformative quest, and today this energy can still be felt by visitors seeking answers on their own spiritual journeys.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the City of Teotihuacan is an impressive sacred centre with imposing monuments laid out on geometric and symbolic principles. (1) Today, we can walk along the Avenue of the Dead, past the temples representing our different Chakras, until we arrive at the Pyramid of the Moon. Teotihuacan was the place where, according to the legends, the Fifth Sun was created, and where today we can marvel at the Pyramid of the Sun. The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the third largest pyramid at Teotihuacan with representations of the Feathered Serpent covering its sides, is a natural place for visitors to connect with the sacred energy of this ancient teacher, and understand the cultural importance of this large spiritual site.

Mayapan means the “Flag of the Maya”, but it also symbolizes the link with the One force, the Solar Logos or Christic energy. Located southeast of Merida in the Yucatan, Mayapan was once an important city with architecture that mimicked Chichen Itza. For those interested in the legends of KuKuulKaan, Mayapan is a particularly important spiritual site as this Maya Master of Light and Quetzalcoatl’s “twin” stayed in Mayapan for quite some time, until his work was done and it was time for him to return to the Planet Venus. Today visitors to Mayapan are still impressed by the powerful temples and pyramids, one of which is suitable for climbing to take in the striking views from the top.

One of our groups at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza
Probably the most famous of all the Maya sites, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is also one of the most important examples of the fusion of Mayan-Toltec Civilization in the Yucatan. (2) The stepped pyramid of Kukulkan, El Castillo, is one of the most architecturally impressive surviving buildings, but others also remain, such as the circular observatory, El Caracol. Spiritually, this site is powerfully connected to Kulkulkan and visitors can learn about this Maya master here as well as experience the forceful energy of the beautifully-constructed buildings.

Have you visited any of these sacred sites? What were your impressions? Would these be on your must-see list or do you have others you prefer?

If you’re curious to visit these four sites yourself, check out our journey to Mexico this December: Sacred Path OfQuetzalcoatl-Kukuulkaan with Miguel Angel Vergara.
A Journey to Discover Your Potential in the Land of the Toltec & Maya, December 1 - 9, 2014. 

~ Kim Bridgett/Sacred Earth Journeys

(1) See: for more information on the history of Teotihuacan.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Interview with Phil Cousineau: The Heart of Ancient Greece Journey

Contest Alert:
Our contest to win 2 of Phil Cousineau’s books is NOW OPEN. For your chance to win a signed copy of The Olympic Odyssey or The Art of Travel Journal simply visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Then, share, like or comment on any of our Facebook posts or retweet any of our tweets this week (February 23-28) for your chance to win one of these fabulous books!

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, and scriptwriter of over 20 award-winning documentary films, including The Hero’s Journey: The Life and Work of Joseph Campbell. Currently, Cousineau is co-writer and host of Global Spirit (PBS), what John Cleese calls the first “internal travel series”.

Phil Cousineau 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 21 - October 1, 2014” 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.

KB: 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.

 KB: 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. On the island of Crete one of the highlights will be visiting a 4500 year old goddess temple cave.

KB: 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.

KB: 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.

KB: 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.

KB: 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.

Are you curious to learn more about this fabulous journey full of culture, sacred sites and conversation? You can read the full tour description on our website.

To learn more about Phil Cousineau, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter: @PhilCousineau

~ Kim Bridgett