Saturday, January 22, 2011

5th Crystal: In the "Peace Garden" in the Athens Hills

  After leaving the Necromanteion, we traveled  up the mountain to Delphi, where the famous Delphic Oracle gave guidance to rich and poor alike, who came from throughout the Greek world. From the 14th century BC until its height of popularity in the 4th century BC, Delphi, was the most important religious center within the Greek Empire.

  We returned to Athens with a day to explore the ancient ruins in the middle of this modern city. We saw the Acropolis, Theatre of Dionysos, and the Temple of Zeus.
    The Wisdom University class left and I stayed with my friend for the next two weeks in the foothills above the city and overlooking the Saronic Gulf below. 

    For the most part, we lived in her apartment and went about the day-to-day activities of the local Greek residents--shopping in the farmers markets, getting goat cheese and yogurt from the little shop on the corner, having Sunday meals in family's favorite fish restaurant and hanging our wash out on the balcony of the house to dry in the sun.
    One day, we traveled  by bus to the place where my friend's father's family went for summers when it was hot in Athens. It was a lovely coastal village over the mountains. There we explored the place where she was baptized as a baby--which happened to be in a little Greek Orthodox Church of "Ayios Georgios" (St. George).

    We went into this little chapel and my friend lit a candle, and we prayed our Peace Prayers, remembering the people here who defended their coastline from the invaders from the "Fortress of Aigosthena" which was located just above the church. Then we went down into the village and had a nice meal in the only restaurant still open, now that the tourists had left for the season.

  We returned to Athens and resumed our normal schedule of early morning yoga, meditation, and Peace Prayers. It was there in her garden, that I planted our 5th Crystal along with the flower seeds scheduled to come up and bloom this spring.

Baha'i Prayer

Be a breath of life unto the body of humankind,

a dew upon the soil of the human heart,

and a fruit upon the tree of humility.

Friday, January 21, 2011

4th Crystal: In the Necromanteion, near Ammoudia, Greece

    After the Middle East, I flew from Tel Aviv to Athens and met up with my Wisdom University friends in a class called: “Dreams & the Afterlife: An Odyssey to Ancient Greece." They had already visited the sites of the Eleusian and Asclepieion  dream  and healing mysteries.

     After an overnight, I joined the bus on a long ride to the little NW coastal town of Ammoudia, which is situated along the Acheron River (the “River Styx” from Dante’s writings) where it comes out to the sea. We drove to Dodona, where the oldest Hellenic oracle was located. Here using an ancient Oak Tree to listen to the whispering of the leaves and watching the flights of birds in the sky above, people would ask their important questions.
     Then on “All Saint’s Day” (also called “Day of the Dead” in Latin America), we walked up a hill to perform the ancient rituals  at the “Necromanteion,” where for centuries, the Greeks would come to commune with their dead relatives. Much of the site is in ruins, but there is one underground chamber about 20 by 30 ft. with a vaulted ceiling and some pools of water on the uneven stone floor.

Before entering, we enacted the ancient ritual of picking a stone and imbuing it with all the things we wanted to cast away to become a clear channel for the messages from our loved ones. On this pile of stones, I tossed our 4th Crystal.

Then, a black cloth was placed over our heads as we prepared to enter the sacred space in the chamber below. We entered and spent a couple of hours mostly in silence, with some drumming and some chanting to communicate with the dead.

      Since one of my objectives on this journey was a "letting go" of my father, who passed last December, I went into a corner, putting my coat over my head, so that the only thing I could see if I opened my eyes was an image of the ribs of the ceiling reflecting in the pools of water. While I did not experience any direct communication with my Father, it was still a powerful time to reflect on my life. The roof reflections in the water, seemed to me, to look like the inside of Jonah's whale, and I remembered that this same place is thought to be where Plato came up with his famous analogy of “The Cave”– where the prisoners could only see the shadows on the wall, but thought that they were experiencing reality.

Hindu Peace Prayer

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.
Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

3rd Crystal: Ibrahimi Mosque, Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron, West Bank

  Hebron marks the end of “Abraham’s Path,” as it is the resting place, called the “Cave of the Patriarchs” where Abraham, his descendants and their wives are buried. It is thus sacred to Jews and Muslims–and in the struggle for control of it some horrible atrocities have been perpetrated on both sides over the years. It continues to be a very intense place (although less so than when I was there in 2002, during the height of the Intifata). 

     Hebron is a major Palestinian city in the West Bank, with 160,000 residents, but several hundred devout Israeli “Settlers” have moved into the central city center above the ancient market stalls making it unsafe for Palestinians to shop there. In addition, many more Israelis live in growing Settlements outside the city –requiring a heavily armed Israeli police and military presence.  

    Our group of “Pilgrims” got dropped off near the “Abraham Avinu Synagogue” and adjoining “Ibrahimi Mosque”– which are the names given to the two sides of this now-divided shrine. We thought we would go into the Mosque, but as the Muslim noon-day prayers were being called, we decided to go first into the Synagogue. Our bags were scanned (to make sure we weren’t bringing bombs or weapons). 

     We went in and saw the many Israelis praying and studying among many books, chairs and alcoves with fine wooden panels and Hebrew calligraphies. We paid our respects to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah.
     As we headed toward the exit, an older Jewish Settler stepped up to our English Guide, Daniel, and asked who we were. He shared about the Abraham Path Initiative and the man responded that the “Arabs” had just come here 700 years ago, while the Jews had always been here and that God had given them this land. “Why didn’t the ‘others’ (Palestinians) just: 'Go Home?”– an interesting statement from someone whose ancestors had lived in Europe for hundreds of years until he recently came to Israel! But he and Daniel had an interesting and civil discussion!
     Then, we went down and had tea with one of the Palestinian shopkeepers on the street who ran a  souvenir shop while the noon prayers continued in the Mosque.  After some stories ans a rest, we proceeded back to the Muslim side to go into the Mosque. Since the women in the group did not look like Muslims, we each had to don a gray cape with hood to be properly covered. But we were allowed in to this sacred Mosque, to take pictures and look at the various Islamic art pieces adorning the place.         
After seeing “Ibrahim’s ceremonial coffin” draped in green cloth embroidered with sacred lettering which symbolically represented the tomb of Abraham and peering into the well-like hole in the floor which goes down to the cave below where the actual bodies are purported to be, I found a corner near the “shrine,” said our peace prayers, and slipped a crystal under the Persian rug where I sat.

  Jewish Peace Prayer

Oh come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
that we may walk the paths of the Most High.
And we will beat our swords into ploughshares
and our spears into pruning hooks.


Please add your prayers 
and heartfelt desires 
for Peace in the Middle East--
in whatever language 
or representing whatever brand of spirituality you profess, 
as they are so needed in our time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2nd Crystal: The Dome of the Rock, the Old City of Jerusalem

     The 2nd Crystal was dropped into a little round hole in the stone platform outside the “Dome of the Rock,” built in 691CE by the Muslims as a Shrine for Pilgrims over the stone from which Muhammad ascended into Heaven escorted by the Angel Gabriel on his famous “Night Ride”--where he also met and communed with Abraham, Moses and  Jesus. Upon his return to Mecca the next morning, he taught the  five-times-per-day prayer schedule. Thus this spot is the 3rd most holy place for Muslim.
      However, this spot is also the most sacred spot in Judaism, as  the "Foundation Stone" from which God came to earth and created Adam and Eve. It is the location of Solomon’s Temple and is called “The Temple Mount with its “Holy of Holies” and that one time housed the “Ark of the Covenant.” It is also purported to be where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, as well as many other important events in the history of the Jewish people. Currently it is under Muslim management.

Our group walked along the shops of the ancient markets and the Via Dolorosa where Jesus  carried the Cross on his way to the site of  the Crucifixion. We prayed along the “Wailing Wall” with Jews--as the only wall still assumed to be surviving from the Ancient Temple.

     Our group was allowed onto the Temple Mount area near the Al-Aqsa Mosque where the Second Intifada began as a result of Jewish Politician, Ariel Sharon's, entry on September 28, 2000.
    As a Muslim she and was allowed in and others of us were free to explore the area around the “Dome of the Rock,” which is one of  my fall-time favorite    buildings in the world. 
    The Call to Prayer was ringing out from the Al-Aqsa Mosque behind me as I slipped the crystal into the hole, not knowing where it might end up below–as there are many stories and conspiracy theories of what has been and might be going on underneath, as this was the Headquarters of the Knights Templer during the Crusades!

                                    Muslim Prayer
                              In the name of Allah,          
                        the beneficent, the merciful.
                 Praise be to the Lord of the Universe,
    who has created us and made us into tribes and nations
                        that we may know each other,
                              not despise each other.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1st Crystal: Tel Mar Elyas, Jordan

     For the first couple of weeks of my pilgrimage, I walked with six others from England and America along with our local guides, through Jordan and the West Bank towns in Palestine. We hoped to become tour guides on “Abraham Path” and were on a "training mission".        
We began by walking on the Al Ayoun Trail in Ajloun Province of Jordan. This was an arid and rocky path, past flocks of sheep and goats gleaning what little vegetation they could find, attended by the shepherds and dogs--much as had been done since Abraham  passed here.
     At the ancient church at Tel Mar Elyas, also called “Saint Elijah’s Hill,”  I placed our first crystal in a fork of an old Oak tree where thousands of people have put prayers written on little pieces of paper, ribbons, etc. There I recited our prayers in the late afternoon as the sun was descending in the sky over the Jordan River to our West.
   The church was mostly in ruins, but still had some Byzantine mosaics with a Greek inscription from the year 622 C.E. (which makes it contemporary with the beginning of Muhammad’s revelations.) It was a beautiful spot overlooking the valleys below. We each spent some personal time at this spot, doing our own rituals before coming together to share as a group. 
     Since Elijah is considered a prophet by Muslims, Jews and Christians, this spot has been seen as sacred by all three religions for centuries. The old tree where I deposited this first crystal, is considered a site of “Baraka” or blessing–a place whose power may be invoked to protect against disease, cure sick animals, or bring rain to the fields. The cloths are tied to it as tokens of prayer–and witness to the hopes, the fears, and the endearing faith of the local people.
   After the sun set, we went down into the village for dinner with a family of ten happy children and overnight in other local homes.

Baha'i Prayer:
Be a breath of life unto the body of humankind,
a dew upon the soil of the human heart,
and a fruit upon the tree of humility.