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Zen Blog, November 2021: Ithaca

Νοvember this year has been a tumultuous month, stirring strong emotions, from hope and joy, dreams and ambitions to fear, darkness, and a sense of “not being quite at ease” with life. This is what I sense from talking to many people and also from looking at the reflections of my own inner emotional mirror. We need to trust all this inner workings, to step aside and observe the storm of emotions as they come and go, cultivating an inner calm.

I. INSPIRATION: Odysseas’ Journey & our own Ithaca…

Νοvember this year has been a tumultuous month, stirring strong emotions, from hope and joy, dreams and ambitions to fear, darkness, and a sense of “not being quite at ease” with life. This is what I sense from talking to many people and also from looking at the reflections of my own inner emotional mirror. We need to trust all this inner workings, to step aside and observe the storm of emotions as they come and go, cultivating an inner calm.

Not apathy, just stillness… the stillness of a passive observer. Stillness can be maintained by a sense of trust that everything will be alright, and that all this upheaval may just be leading us to the center of our heart, where ultimate peace and liberation abides.

If maintaining this kind of inner cool proves impossible, we can ask for help. Even Odysseas asked his mates to tie him to a post, when he knew the temptation of the Siren’s call would be too huge for him to resist. The Sirens are all these inner habitual voices that are just too strong for us to ignore. Clearly all the temptations that are too strong for our ego to resist, but also the habitual voices that chastise, criticize, defend and condemn ourselves and others, or any given situation, creating more and more disharmony within.

These voices are too powerful and even though we keep saying to ourselves that we want to think in a positive, loving, and optimistic way, it is just too damn hard when a strong temptation comes up: a certain difficulty that frustrates us and here pops our familiar mode of thinking in a defensive, angry, alienating way.  What to do? Let us clarify our heart’s goal.

What is our ultimate dream destination, our Ithaca?

Our creative inspiration this week is C.P. Cavafy’s signature poem, Ithaca.
Let us contemplate on our own dream destination, our Ithaca…

 

Poem: Ithaca 

BY C. P. CAVAFY

TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY

As you set out for Ithaca

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

 

  1. P. Cavafy, “The City” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975

 

 

 

III. Creative Process & Creative Exercise 

Join me in this a creative game; let us delve a bit deeper into this, making this journey more relevant to us.

Ready? Bring paper and pen, or your journal to this journey.
Write down your answers to the questions below, without thinking or rationalizing too much.

1. Read the poem again.

2. Picture your destination, your own Ithaca.

Sit quietly for a few seconds and then ask yourself the question

Can you visualize your heart’s destination, your Ithaca?

Can you describe it with words, a dance, a movement or a sketch?

Express your thoughts on a journal…

3. See the obstacles…

In tandem with the vision of Ithaca, immediately rise all our obstacles. The realities and difficulties of life out there, everything that seems to block the fulfillment of our heart’s passionate desire, our Iccha.

Can you write down what are the irresistible voices of the Sirens that lure you and keep you captive in a negative realm, in a realm where any good outcome seems impossible, where blaming and negativity, despair and discouragement beat you up?

What are some of these negative scenarios and difficulties?

Or what are the temptations, the passions that are keeping you away from your eventual goal of true freedom, serenity, and happiness?

Write on your journal a list of what is blocking you.

4. Audiovisual offering: deepen your experience…

Listen to Sean Connery’s voice as he reads the poem to music set by Vaggelis. See if you have had any new insights about your Ithaca.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_FSZyNMESE

  1. Now embody your union with Ithaca…in your heart-mind. 

Breathing, relaxing, allow your body to move, to come to the present moment with a certain ease. Let the breath bring you to the heart, and stay there with love and tenderness for a few moments.

See that your dream, your passion, desire, your goal and its realization are alive here, pulsating with the beat of your heart.

Imagine that you are there and write down what it feels like to have arrived at Your Ithaca… “one day we will understand what these Ithacas mean…” says the poem, but for now we get a taste of having arrived at our heart’s destination.

Write about your beloved Ithaca experience in your journal.

  1. Our Ithaca meeting in facebook –

Share your thoughts in our facebook community!

(Zen Rocks Mani: https://www.facebook.com/ZenRocksManiRetreat)

Welcome to the space of the Heart,

where our dream and happiness abide!

 

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