Thursday, August 14, 2014

Enrich Your Visit to Turkey – and Joy for Life – with Rumi

As Phil Cousineau said in our interview back in April, “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… [not knowing Rumi] would be like going to England and not knowing a thing about Shakespeare.”

If you’ll be joining us on our journey to Turkey in October this year or are planning to visit another time, learning more about Rumi will most definitely enrich your visit and will encourage more joy and happiness into your life!

Statue of Mevlana Rumi, photo by I, Maderibeyza

The Spiritual Significance of Rumi
Coleman Barks, who has been translating Rumi’s works into accessible, “lively American free verse” since the late 1970s perfectly sums up Rumi’s universal spiritual appeal in a piece for the Huffington Post:

“Rumi very consciously made himself and his poetry a bridge between cultures and between religions. There is nothing exclusivist about him. He includes everyone in his embrace. He was, and is, a healer of whatever might separate us.”

That healing comes from and pushes the reader towards a place of enlightenment, a place of expansion, not only of our own capacity for love but also of our understanding of our relationship with earthly reality.

Love in both Sufism and Rumi’s works is a freeing experience. As Barks said in an interview with Andrew Lawler, “[Love is] beyond our ideas of mentoring or romance or even friendship. It’s a place beyond the synapse of relationship. ‘Fall in love in such a way that it frees you from any connecting,’ Rumi said. All his poetry is about love as a region, not a relationship.”

To conceive of love on this level, of course, takes daily spiritual work and a process of inner transformation.

The Threshold Society, a Foundation rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, say this about Sufism:

“Sufism is above all about the inner transformation of the human being, resulting in increased capacities of presence, will, and love. Its stock-in-trade is marifa, inner knowing, through which the heart is purified…”

A purified heart, then, enables us to transcend categories, emotions, religions, our own bodies to a place of enlightened being.

Rumi moved with his family to Konya in present-day Turkey when he was a young child and died in his bed there in 1273. The Mevlana Museum in Konya is a natural place of pilgrimage for all those, from all – and no – religions, touched by Rumi’s compassion, wisdom, humour and poetic skill. We hope it’s now also on your must-visit list!

This World Which Is Made of Our Love for Emptiness

Praise to the emptiness that blanks out existence. Existence:
This place made from our love for that emptiness!

 Yet somehow comes emptiness,
this existence goes.

 Praise to that happening, over and over!
For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.

 Then one swoop, one swing of the arm,
that work is over.

 Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope,
free of mountainous wanting.

 The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece of straw
blown off into emptiness.

 These words I'm saying so much begin to lose meaning:
Existence, emptiness, mountain, straw:

 Words and what they try to say swept
out the window, down the slant of the roof.

~ Rumi

Rumi: The Big Red Book with translations – and elucidating notes – by Coleman Barks was released in 2011 and is available at all good book stores.

Phil Cousineau will be exploring the poetry and influence of Rumi as he guides our group through Turkey, October 10-22, 2014. There are still a few places left on this journey – visit our website for full details.

~ Kim Bridgett


Thursday, July 31, 2014

7 Peru Secrets Every Traveller Should Know

Peru is a must for any spiritual traveller. Here we share a few secrets to help you have an even more satisfying travel experience when you visit this sacred country. 

1. The energy at Machu Picchu is truly powerful
Machu Picchu is a highlight of any trip to Peru and with very good reason. This 15th century Inca site, majestically perched above the Sacred Valley, affords any traveller mesmerizing views and a powerful connection with the past. It was, and remains today, an important sacred site, so it is wise to allow yourself time to absorb the spiritual energy you will undoubtedly feel when you visit Machu Picchu. Take your time to wander the ancient Temples, feel the dry stone walls, and simply be…  

2. The energy at Lake Titicaca is equally powerful!
Many of our travellers comment on their surprise at how their visit to Lake Titicaca captivated them. As breathtaking as Machu Picchu is, we often forget that there are many more natural and man-made ancient sites in Peru that can move us profoundly – Lake Titicaca is most definitely one of those natural phenomena. Just as enchanting as the Lake itself are the “islands” made of totora reeds that float upon it – home to the Uros people, a pre-Inca peoples who, according to legend, existed before the sun when the earth was cold and dark. As one of our participants said of his stay on Amanti Island, “Standing on top of Amantani Island was awesome – body was light & agile, mind was clear, view was amazing – really was on top of the world.” Don’t miss out on a trip to Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands while you’re in Peru!    

3. Peruvian textiles are spiritual, cultured, exquisite … and very practical
Rasheena Taub, in a blog post for “Clothandkind”, describes her visit to the village of Chinchero where she was lucky enough to witness women from the Ayni Ayllu cooperative making “mantas” (the long weaved fabric used for carrying babies and other items on their backs) entirely by hand. Taub reminds us that “during Incan times, textiles commemorated personal milestones and peaceful offerings while representing basic beliefs and values of their makers.” The cultural and spiritual history of weaving is still very much alive in Peru today, and artisan weavers can be found throughout the country. I used a “manta” with both my children when they were babies and toddlers and can happily attest to their usefulness as well as the strong bond it encourages between mother and baby.

There are lots of other traditional textiles for purchase in Chinchero and other towns as you visit Peru too so be ready to fall in love with this ancient art that is easy on the planet (100% natural dyes) and have some money set aside for buying gifts for yourself and others back home.

Here at Sacred Earth Journeys, the Ayni Ayllu Weaving Cooperative is particularly close to our hearts as it is run by our Tour Leader Puma’s mother. The purpose of the initiative is to preserve the ancient Andean traditions of weaving arts, while inspiring women and children to manifest their inner light through the practice of weaving.

4. A reverence for Pachamama is lived on a daily basis
According to Inca legends and mythology, Pachamama is the goddess of fertility who watches over planting and the harvest. For Peruvians today, a respect for Pachamama equals a respect for our “earth mother”, a reverence for the goodness in our planet and a reminder that we have an important role to play in keeping balance and harmony on earth. Peruvians honour Pachamama is many ways, from sharing the first drops of water with her before drinking themselves to Despacho ceremonies, and passing down wisdom and spiritual traditions from one generation to the next. When you visit Peru, you will have a more satisfying journey if you can take the time to understand the importance of Pachamama – ask your guide questions about the significance of the Earth Mother, participate in a Despacho or other sacred ceremony, and make sure your impact on the country is as light as possible (take re-useable drinking bottles, cutlery, etc.). Above all, schedule some time to simply stop and enjoy being at one with nature and your surroundings, keeping your heart and mind open to all possibilities.

5. Peruvian food is delicious … and healthy
In 2011 Katy McLaughlin, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called Peruvian food “the next big thing” describing in delicious detail the ceviche and unique way of using acid and spices, while Mark Adams in a piece for National Geographic lists the “Top 10 Things to Eat in Peru” – Ceviche quite understandably takes the top spot while Aji de Gallina, a rich stew made with the mild but flavourful aji pepper comes in at number 5. If these 2 dishes alone don’t get your mouth watering, there are ample others to try, all of which you’ll want to recreate at home! Make sure you take a good notebook to jot down any recipes you’re lucky enough to be given, or simply describe the tastes, smells and colours in your journal to instantly transport yourself back to your favourite dish during those long winter days.   

6. Books will only take you so far…
I love spending hours reading guide books and maps before I travel anywhere, and there’s certainly a wealth of information out there about Peru. However, books and the internet will only take you so far, and this is where a good guide comes in. I strongly recommend travelling with a guide or Tour Leader as you explore this fascinating country. A good guide will be able to instantly tell you the cultural or spiritual significance of any site (even without wifi access!!). But he’ll do more than that – he’ll share stories, ceremonies and wisdom directly with you; he’ll take you to little-known sites that have powerful energy or strong historical significance. He’ll also help you on your own inner journey, subtly guiding you where you need to be. 

7. "There is life before Peru, and life after Peru"
We’ve heard many of our participants say this and anyone who has visited this majestic land will tell you it’s absolutely true: your life will never be quite the same after your visit here. Whether you came to Peru with a specific question in mind or were simply curious to learn more about the country and yourself, you will walk away with a profound connection to this sacred land that holds an infinite amount of wisdom and to your own true self as you continue on your life’s journey.  

If you’d like to know more about visiting Peru with Sacred Earth Journeys you can visit our website. This year’s journey will take you to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Chincero, and many more sites and places. It will be led by Puma Quispe Singona, an experienced guide, Andean medicine man, wisdom keeper and epicure! You’ll be in very good hands!

~ Kim Bridgett


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Top 5 Spiritual Destinations in Turkey

Are you planning a visit to Turkey? Curious to know what the must-see sacred sites are in this beautiful country? Here we take a look at the top 5 – plus a surprise bonus “destination” at the end!

1. House of the Virgin Mary
Located a few kilometres outside of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary is an important shrine for Muslims and Christians alike, and is believed to be the final home of the Virgin Mary. This popular pilgrimage site has a “wishing wall” on the outside for visitors to leave intentions and prayers, a sacred healing spring running under it, and a modest shrine inside the house.

House of the Virgin Mary, Turkey. Photo by CherryX.

2. The Temple of Artemis, Ephesus
According to the old legends, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons (Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis, III.233). Considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and dedicated to the goddess of the hunt, The Temple and the entire ancient city of Ephesus are some of the greatest pilgrimage sites of antiquity.

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey

3. The Oracle at Miletus
In classical antiquity the Oracle was both revered as a voice of god and place of pilgrimage when seeking advice. Well-known for attracting crowds of pilgrims, Miletus was one of the most important cities in the ancient Greek world and the place St. Paul stopped at on his Third Missionary Journey, on his way back to Jerusalem and Didyma (Acts 20:15–38).

Miletus, Turkey

4. Aphrodisias
Dedicated to the ancient Mother Goddess, and then the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Aphrodisias was the site of a magnificent Temple of Aphrodite and the home of a renowned school of marble sculpture. It has been a sacred site since as early as 5,800 B.C., when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops.

Temple of Aphrodite, Turkey

5. Mevlana Museum, Konya
In the 1920s Rumi’s mausoleum and dervish lodge were turned into a museum, which has been an important place of pilgrimage ever since. The poet, philosopher, and religious teacher Mevlana Rumi is widely believed to be one of the world’s most important literary and spiritual figures and an embrace and understanding of his works helps us to discover the philosophical concepts of Sufism. While in Konya, and to further deepen your understanding of Sufism, you can see a performance of the Whirling Dervishes.

Mevlana Museum, Turkey

 Bonus “Destination”: You!
As a seeker and traveller you will always bring an extra dimension to all the destinations you visit. When travelling around the culturally-rich sites of Turkey take time to open to the sacred energies and appreciate all this country has to offer.

Have you visited any of these sacred places in Turkey? Would they make your Top 5 list or would you choose others? We’d love to hear from you!

If you’re interested in visiting these sites and more, check out our “A SacredJourney to Turkey with Phil Cousineau: Long Conversations in the Land of Troy, Rumi and the Goddess”, October 10 - 22, 2014.

~ Kim Bridgett & Sacred Earth Journeys


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bali Bliss – A Perfect Yoga Retreat

When I’m looking for a yoga retreat, I look for something that includes high quality yoga practices and a variety of other travel experiences for a truly rounded, memorable vacation. Bali Bliss: A Transformational Yoga & Meditation Retreat in Magical Bali with Michele Labelle, November 9 - 18, 2014, offers so much more than a standard yoga retreat making it the perfect sacred get-away!

Our Retreat Leader and Yoga Teacher is Michele Labelle – a Certified Hatha Yoga Teacher who has been involved in meditation and energy work since 1996. Prior to becoming a yoga teacher, Michele worked as a Respiratory Therapist for 16 years – an experience which gave her a unique view of the breath! Michele will skilfully and compassionately guide us in morning hatha yoga and meditation practices as well as an evening sunset practice. The yoga practices are suitable for beginners and more advanced students.

This yoga retreat offers every opportunity to explore beautiful Bali. We will spend time close to the cultural and artistic Balinese village of Ubud and the sacred Monkey Forest as well as time in the quiet, largely tourist-free northwest, an area with nature and marine parks, coconut groves and beautiful ancient temples dotting the landscape. We will go snorkelling, bike through magical rice paddy fields and explore the rich flora and fauna of the Bali Barat National Park.

Cultural Immersion
We will share a unique and profound cultural and spiritual experience on this Bali Bliss Retreat – a visit to the local village of Pacut to learn more about daily life in Bali. Pacut is the home village of our Balinese retreat co-leader Artayasa, who is also a village master, responsible for organizing cultural events and co-ordinating tourist visits here. We will stop by an elementary school, weave coconut leaves for a hat and temple offering, witness traditional farming activities, and gather with the local musicians to play gamelan Angklung (Balinese orchestra).

As well as our daily yoga practices we can enjoy a variety of fun activities on this Retreat. Try snorkelling the best sites in Bali off Menjangan Island, swimming past colourful coral reefs, stunning gorgonian sea fans, turtles and an array of fish. Or, try walking through an abundant forest of rambutans to reach the 30-metre-high Les Waterfall for a natural water massage.

Spiritual Excursions
92% of the population of Bali practices Balinese Hinduism and the Balinese culture is an expression of devotion. We will experience daily devotional offerings everywhere and special prayers are said several times a day. We will visit sacred temples while in Bali, including Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of the most sacred traditional temples, spectacularly set at the top of a steep cliff with breathtaking views over the surf below, Ulun Danu Temple, an important Hindu and Buddhist water temple, and the Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Monastery.

This balanced yoga retreat offers an amazing opportunity to work on your own spiritual journey in sublime surroundings with a wealth of activities and excursions to enjoy.  The traditional greeting in Bali is, “Om Swasti Astu”, an honouring of the heart and spirit, and we hope you’ll be hearing it very soon.

Visit our website to read more about our BaliBliss Retreat with Michele Labelle.

~ Kim Bridgett