I have been to Crete several times with my dad and it is always a special place for me. The land is very rugged and wild, yet it has a gentle vibe. When you go to Crete you know when you have arrived because all your senses are overwhelmed. The place where we stay is not only one of the most visually stunning places on earth, with flower covered mountain ranges and crystal clear oceans, but it is the other things that set it apart from so many other vacation destinations. It is how the air is dominated by the smell of wild herbs that grow where we meet everyday, how the food is some of the best I have every eaten ( I eat about twice as much as I do at home), and the people are so courteous and kind. Crete is simply a place where you can go and enjoy a land that is so different from your own, yet comforting and strangely familiar.
Imagine a place where the earth is carpeted with wild sage, thyme and oregano, where at the end of a long hike your shoes smell sweet from the scent of these herbs. Picture yourself drifting to sleep with the soft sound of the ocean in the background. Try to feel what it might be like to have your lungs breathing in fresh warm air that has traveled miles and miles across the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and to have every cell blend with the energy of rocks and mountains that surround you singing their ancient wisdom into your heart. Rest assured there is a place where your soul is soothed. It’s called Crete, and these simple but deeply touching experiences are what I felt being with Brant and his family at his yearly retreat in this magic land.
For the last ten years Brant has opened up his ceremonies and pilgrimages on Crete to everyone who wants to come. It has become one of the rights of springtime in my life each year since. It’s spiritual luxury to be able to walk through this land that was the birthplace of western civilization, taking part in pilgrimages and Deer Dances that honor the season of awakening and growth. It fosters clarity for me, giving me the chance to reflect on the important things about life and in my life. This retreat reminds me of what it must be like to be a bulb in the ground that germinates in winter, pushing up until it finally breaks through the surface to be warmed by the sun. I feel like that bulb, and Crete is where I finally break through the ground of winter feeling alive once more to reach for the sky.
This is a must do retreat at some point if you have yet to come. It will recharge your batteries. It will bring your life to a point of positive focus. It will soften the rough edges that can build up over time when the commitments of daily life build up. It will align your inner being with a sense of wonder.
Over and over again I have heard in the last months what a difficult winter this has been for people. It certainly was for me with the loss of a close loved one and a serious physical injury. At times it felt as if I was holding on by a thread, or drowning in a stormy sea. I got so lost in this turbulent time that I could hardly believe in the change of season, the coming of spring and return of the light.
Upon arriving in Crete the depth of my depletion became startlingly apparent. I realized I had lost consiousness when singing “Wani Wachi Elo”, no longer sure if I really wanted to live. The land and sea were quickly there to love and restore my confidence in life. Tate Hara Mara was my constant companion, comforting me with her ocean sounds. She calmed me, was angry, informative. During my swims she rocked me like a baby, bouying me up in her soothing, saline arms, washing me clean, delivering me fresh to begin again with eyes open, to take in the beauty of Spring blosoming all around me. Each morning I would go to her and listen with my heart to what she had to share, to take in the colors of sunrise so I could wake up. I would go to the blow hole so that I might hear her breath and recalibrate my breathing to go on. Tate Yurinaka was so present with her loving healing vibration that I could sleep no more than 4–5 hours a night. The land of Crete is definitely still alive! Leaving this magical place is always hard. During the last few days of our stay, Ecatewari, Goddess of Wind, paid us a strong visit, blowing the winds of change across the waters, stirring things up, like any good eagle mother, booting us out of the nest. I found myself during the bus ride to the airport praying for rain, for Crete’s fertility and for fertility in my life. As rain drops appear I realize, “Oh Great Spirit I once again want to live!” Thank you for my life! Thank you ancient ones for listening!
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