I would love to say that taking off on an open-ended adventure to Greece was everything I anticipated it would be and more. That I was filled with affirmation from the moment I arrived. And that my path here, more or less, has been one of clear, linear progression.
But, I'll be real. And admit that, although my intentions for being here were kind of an afterthought, (meaning, I bought my plane ticket first and thought about why I was going after), I had anticipated my time in Greece unfolding in a very particular way.
I had developed specific questions for my time here -- one in particular -- and I thought this was the perfect place to explore and address it. I prescribed that my time here would be consumed with diving deep into the nature of this question, and when the time came for me to leave, I would have gleaned a handful of clear answers.
But this was before I realized what I was really dealing with. Before I knew what it really meant to live in Greece: the easiest place on earth to wander away from your intentions.
And during my second week here, I wandered into a frozen yoghurt shop and met my first distraction:
A boy. A Greek one.
A few compliments and a 2:30am tequila cocktail at Parasol later, I was hooked. Still entirely skeptical of both his intentions and mine, but nonetheless, hooked. We both were entering new seasons of life. We both were here in Eressos for the rest of the season. We both took the same dosage of thyroid hormone (I mean, come on, how serendipitous is that!?).
Alright, fine. So I basically had no reason to involve myself with him at all. But this is Greece. A country that specializes in ouzo, feta, the freshest olives and the most potent kind of distraction. And, despite my usual superb talent at clinging to my attachments, this was no match for me.
I must say, though, it still took me a bit by surprise when the events that unfolded here seemed to take me in complete opposition to the original question I had posed. First, it startled me. Then I grew frustrated. Angry with myself for straying from my path.
I was supposed to write a book about my time here!
I had a clear angle I was seeking!
And in a matter of two weeks, I already managed to ruin it.
Some book this is going to be, I thought, Jessica leaves her whole life to pursue this one thing and manages to do absolutely nothing about it.
Good story. Good talk.
I started to feel bitter. Bitter that my time here wasn't unfolding the way that I wanted it to. That I was, once again -- typical air sign -- drifting further and further away from the answer I was seeking instead of drawing closer to it.
Or so it appeared.
On my friend Erica's last night in Eressos, we had our final dinner together at Blue Sardine. She asked me how I ended up here and I told her how I was intrigued by the idea of modern-day pilgrimage; how it has evolved from formal expeditions to sacred sites to seekers entering spaces that simply meet the questions of their hearts. I told her how I had a particular question that I felt Skala Eressos could help me answer and how I feel like I already ruined my quest by getting involved with some silly boy.
She said: "What? Do you think pilgrimage is a straight line? ... You are allowed to meander."
(Since this conversation, we both refer to this guy as my Yoghurt Meander.)
Any therapeutic approach to yoga would tell you that the site of our pain or weakness, more often than not, is not where the problem lies. It can be humbling to discover, in our explorations toward healing, that pain manifesting as a back problem is actually a foot problem. That what we experience as a right shoulder problem is actually a left shoulder problem. That our pain in one area is really just overcompensation to conceal a weaker area; to defend the true source of our pain from being fully exposed.
Healing, thus, requires us to direct our attention away from our felt sensations of pain and explore other territory. To break our pain patterns, we need to learn to move in counterintuitive ways. Ways that initially feel like rebellion or betrayal. Ways that take us against the grain of our conditioned response.
And so, it turns out, it has been a similar process for me here in Greece. Finding answers to my inquiry required me to drift away from my prescribed path, to let my intentions escape me, and allow myself to be carried by a detour into unknown territory.
Where my path took me instead was far enough from my experience of the pain, from the aching question, that I gained the perspective to see that nothing was really there. That I could've trekked, trodden, and dug long into that path and I would have still come up empty-handed.
Because the source of my problem simply wasn't there.
The ache wasn't the problem. The ache was the response.
I know that because I am now standing in its source. Miles off-track, deep into the wilderness, I see it now. I see clearly that if you push something, it pushes back with equal or greater force. As the cannon ball flies in one direction, the cannon moves in the opposite direction. That a blow to one part of our body or psyche creates an equal and opposite self-protective kickback. It recoils. And that's why the path of healing looks more like an unwinding than a clear-cut path.
So if I want to heal, if I really want answers, off-site is exactly where I need to be.
Last night, I went back to the yoghurt shop and, despite the numerous times I have wandered into his shop, I had frozen yoghurt for first time. I sat there for two hours eating frozen yoghurt with Nutella and blackberries, catching up with my Meander after a busy two weeks of high season.
As I look back on the path that brought me here, I see now that it's a better story, a better angle than the one I was originally looking at. Because no reader wants to clearly see the ending at the very beginning.
Working book title: #FROYOLO
He came up with that.