The island of Corfu has it all - pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, lush green hills, peaceful olive groves, and history-filled architecture. But many of the people living on this island also exemplify the beauty of what it means to simply be on this lovely planet.
The traditional villages of Greece can help us remember the simple wonder and magnificence being present - here and now. Although every village here seems to radiate with this kind of loving presence, the village of Dukades - where I've spent the last few months - has really captured my heart through my encounters with its lovely people.The locals radiate with a presence that is sometimes hard to find in other places.
Dukades reminds me so much of how I grew up in my village of Jehnice. All of us kids would go play outside every afternoon and evening. The men would gather around and chat about life over a beer - although here, many Greeks simply drink coffee or water. There was always a sense of community, love, and family present in my village - and Dukades makes me feel the same.
In the mornings, the smell of freshly baked bread fills the village as a few of the same local men gather for their cup of Greek coffee. Every night as the sun sets upon the village, the local kids come out with their bikes and toys and hang out together while their moms sit on the side of the church and catch up.
THE PEACE AND PRESENCE IN JUST BEING
I see it in every village and always enjoy soaking in this atmosphere: older men just sitting - on their front porch, outside the local coffee shop or taverna, or on the benches in the middle of the village or by the church.
So what is so fascinating about them just sitting?
The beautiful ability for them to simply be. To soak in the present moment. To just be here now - fully present with experience of the ordinary magic of life.
How many of us have lost that ability to just BE? Without rushing after the next thing...without striving to be someplace else...without needing some sort of stimulus to distract us from the present moment?
If you want to learn the art of being mindful and present, look no further than a traditional Greek village.
BUT EVEN ALL THE ACTIVITIES ARE FILLED WITH HEART AND SOUL
From baking bread...
The local bakers keep the village going. From freshly-baked spinakopitas (spinach pies) to cream-filled pastries to freshly baked loaves of bread, these lovely souls put their heart into every creation they whip up.
Like the wonderful woman who runs the local mini-market/coffee shop here in Dukades..she gets up early and sometimes closes the shop down late at night. But she doesn't just bake bread and pies and make amazing coffee and teas. She makes everyone that comes by feel welcome and often chats with them about life.
Or the man in the nearby village of Liapades who runs the tiny bakery on the lesser-known (to tourists) side of the village. When not baking or helping customers pick the best pastry for the day, he's always out in front of the store hanging out and chatting with all that come by. He occasionally locks up the store for two minutes as he hops on his bike to deliver bread to his fellow villagers. He knows everyone by name. And they just sit outside his bakery without a need to do, be, or have anything. Just being. Observing. Taking it in. Feeling the plain simply beauty of being alive.
...to cooking up mousaka and other traditional Greek dishes
Or take the older woman who runs one of the local village tavernas that's been in the family for generations. She makes the most amazing Greek meals with love in her heart. During those slow times when people are out enjoying the beach and the taverna is empty, she sits outside and radiates her kindness. Just like those older men, she just sits and BEs. She greets everyone walking by with the most genuine smile. She floods the local kids with hugs and kisses - a true village grandma.
..to providing all of the essential groceries for the village
Or the owner of the small local super-market. He has a kind smile that radiates from the heart and also knows every local by name. He goes to town early in the mornings to get everything he needs to replenish the store and is always willing to bring extra items that the locals may occasionally request. He gets fresh bread delivered to the store daily. He takes pride in what he does and loves being there for his people.
Neither of these souls do their work just to "get it over with" so they can make their money and go home. They are there with every ounce of their being, not thinking twice about whether they should be doing something else.
They do what they do with their full heart.
They are simply here for another. They know they are a part of a community they can count on and they do their part to help keep that community going. They know that's part of their work and it fills their with meaning. They understand the importance everyone plays in their role.
Yet after the roles are fulfilled, everyone simply meets in the space of being one big human family. Just being here - exactly as we are - not trying to be anything but human.
And that's something many of us can learn from - to simply embrace both our very basic humanity where we meet as souls enjoying this earthly existence AND to embrace the roles we all play to help one another have better lives.
Because it's the presence of our being that ultimately determines the quality of our experience of life - whether we are just sitting or whether we are doing our daily work. It's in the amount of heart and soul we put into it - not because we have to, but because we intuitively understand our interconnectedness.
We know we're all just Life working for Life to enjoy Life itself.
Bliss is nothing more and nothing less than a direct experience of everyday life. It lies no further than in the smell of the pine sap on the next tree bark, the sound of the crickets that permeates the depth of each crisp summer night, or the joyful gleam in an elderly man's eye as he proudly describes how he and his son have been baking bread and biscotti for the village every morning for decades. Ordinary life, experienced with every fiber of your being - that is the magic you've been seeking, sweet soul. You just have to drop the mental chatter that thinks it's not adequate. Bliss is nowhere to be found but in awakening our senses fully to the present moment. This is where all mysteries come undone, where all magic becomes manifest, where all words become useless. There's only life - and you as an inseperable part of its blissful play. Silence anything that isn't inherent to this moment. Be here. Be pure and simple bliss.