Where’s Germany Now?

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Just three days in-country, in conversations I’ve been having, the Greeks are really wondering “Where is Germany – – the richest, most powerful member of the EU – – during this apocalyptic crisis?” The Greeks are receiving lots of help from poor countries in the European neighborhood, and even from as far away as France. But there is a lot of upset and intense anger about the absence of Germany, which forced such excessive financial terms on the Greeks to remain in the Eurozone just a few years ago:

Where We Are Heading

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A set of real-time satellite tracking images of the fire situation throughout Greece.

The red spots are active conflagrations. The gray “smoky” spots are sources of smoke concentration produced by collections of smaller fire-clusters. What is my abs don’t reveal is ubiquity of the haze covering entire country, wherever we go. Even driving along coastal highways, on the edge of the ocean, the impossible blueness of the seas off Greece cannot be seen.

First, the whole-country view:


Now, a zoom-in on the Peloponnesus region we have travelled to:

And a further zoom-in on our neighborhood of the Peloponnesus, with our goal circled in yellow:

What is not shown here is the two or three highways which would provide egress out back to Athens, should there be flame-ups here and there in the coming days. The main concern for us is the potential for the situation around Kalamata spiraling further out of control.

And by far the greatest and most pressing concern is the suffering being experienced already by the people in this country.

The site we consult most is the real-time tracking at the site from which these images are taken:

https://zoom.earth/#view=37.0626,21.9213,8z/date=2021-08-06,22:30,+3/layers=wind,fires

Gentle and Crazy

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So we needed to make a sudden overnight stop in this small coastal town, to take stock about the wisdom of moving forward to our destination. A young woman at the local coffee shop gave us information on road closures in the area, and the fact that there had been two fires just outside the town just yesterday, before we arrived. Luckily, we found a small (though extremely depressing) set of extremely small hotel rooms to pass the night while we got more information on the progress of the fires in this part of the country. Opening the windows in the morning, the smell of acrid smoke is the first thing that is sensed, along with an unnatural kind of heat.

The owner of the hotel was an old Greek woman who had studied psychology in the United States decades ago. She cares for her husband, afflicted with advanced Alzheimer’s, while managing the hotel alone. A sweetly frantic woman, she was alarmed at our constant refusal of her offers of sweetened traditional Greek coffee.

As we settled the bill and parted ways this morning to make our way to another unexpected set of rooms while we gather further information, she said to Anetta in Greek: ”Those two Americans you are traveling with: one is so gentle and sweet, tinged with a sad purity; the other seems somewhat crazy, maybe wild.”

Interesting. I had not interacted with her directly, at all.

Zen masters all over the place.

This is Not a Drill (2)

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Evia Island, Greece. Friday, August 6, 2021.

I was on this very same ferry last summer, leaving this very same point in Evia exactly one year ago, after a month of meditating and writing.

After-Retreat

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I often tell people, when they leave an intensive retreat and return to their regular life: “Now the retreat begins. The ‘real’ retreat begins when the formal retreat ends.“

A vaccine is developed in a laboratory, under strict conditions of control and manipulation of the situation. From this development and testing, a workable model is built. But we do not know the effectiveness of the vaccine — and its need for further tweaking and refinement — until it is then tested on segments of the real population, out in the world. Only then is the vaccine’s power truly known. It is the same with Zen technology.

Someone who had participated in our summer intensive retreat found extraordinary difficulty when she returned to family and job. Understandably, she felt confused by a racing of the mind, by fear and even I kind of disappointment. “I have just sat retreat! Why are these things happening to me?“ She was very worried.

But my answer to her was, “Good! This is excellent news! When you have done a very, very hard work out at the gym, it is often difficult to walk up or down a flight of stairs, or to bend over to pick up things, or even to stand up out of bed in the morning. This is the natural result of taxing the muscles, of breaking down old muscle fibers so that new ones might be regenerated in their place. But they are repairing, and now they are becoming integrated into the daily activities that don’t seem to be related to the work out, at least on the surface.”

This reminds me of the timeless insight of the American Buddha, Adyashanti:

Practice is not the search for some “easy” way; it is also not a “hard” way. But it requires a constant testing of the vaccine of returning-to-breath, reflecting-back on the great doubt, and keeping a regular schedule of these in that concentrated protocol that we call “daily practice”. It has nothing to do with becoming “better” or being “happier”; it’s merely the crumbling away of untruth.