Hermitage of the Soul

Submitted by vanessa reid on November 22, 2011 - 3:35am
when pausing to live life becomes the big work

I have been living in a kaliva for the past three weeks. A kaliva is a sacred structure in Greece - a place which hosts the alchemy between people and place which produces the golden-green oil of this region. In a practical sense, a kaliva is a stone dwelling in which Greek families stay during the olive harvest because their trees are often far away from their homes. Kalivas swell with activity as dictated by the cycles of living and dying, where the practice of harvesting results in the olive oil that sustains households and fuels the future.

In past generations, families would not only store their olives here but also hand press them into oil using large flat stones found on the land. The kaliva in which I am staying has been owned by our friend Panayotis and his family for many generations. It is tucked into a warm slope of land, kissed by the sun and protected from the wind. It is filled with the warm energy of a family who loves their land, and who touches it regularly with their hands and hearts.

This kaliva rests on the ley-line that connects the Aegean Sea to Axladitsa, the home of Maria and Sarah with whom I am a partner in creating many things. I am now understanding that through our Living Wholeness work, we are creating another kind of ley-line between people and places ~ connecting the emerging newness in the world, with ancient knowledge and the wisdom within us and around us. We are finding that our work is a way of re-membering patterns of living life as aligned with Life and this kaliva is like a lung, helping me to stop and breathe this remembrance in through the skin and soil of my body.

Being here is a deep breath.

In the midst of all our travels and movement between the emerging social movements in Greece, in the UK and in Israel, staying here offers a way of pausing.  To connect to the natural rhythms of life, and quietly connecting back into my own rhythms. As the fault lines open in so many of our human-made systems, they reveal a gaping wound - our longing for connection with the pulse and mystery of life. We have forgotten that we are an essential part of a glorious wholeness and that we have a part to play.  The kaliva does not ask me to retreat from the realities of a chaotic world. Rather, it offers a deeply monastic proposal, to come into community with all that is around me.

It calls out a kind of authenticity and awareness in me to engage with these complexities, to enter these questions of what it is being asked of me and of us, from a different place within myself.

I have been living in this little hermitage these three weeks surrounded by trees over 500 years old, embraced by the tangible love planted by families who live with the reference of the land and, as Panayotis says, with the companionship and intelligence of the olive tree. It has reminded me that I too have a place in this eco-system, not so much as a someone indigenous to this place in the way of Panayotis and his lineage, but as a creature who cultivates reverence by the very nature of becoming more and more present - deeply present - to life's unfolding.

This practice demands a kind of sacred re-structuring, a renovation of my own ley-lines deep within my soul ~ and a faith that I am being, rather than doing, the work that needs to be done.


I'm trying to write a few words to say how I can taste a bit of what you are feeling and I wish I could be in that kind of sacred space too. I can't tell you how different the space is I'm sitting in right now. As I've written these few words I've had three children asking me three different things including "Can I use the computer? Huh? What will you decide?"

Can you post a photo of this kaliva? I googled it but none of those images looked sacred. Blessings on your retreat time.



dear Nastinia,

finding stillness in the craziness of everyday life, especially when you have 3 children is THE work!  i seriously salute you.

this kaliva is sacred because of how it has been used with such reverence by families over generations ~ it's really a simple little stone building!  you can find photos of Axladitsa, which i mention in the post, and this is where the little kaliva is located (it's on their neighbour's land)


for some reason i can't upload my own pictures of the kaliva from my computer on this site, but i will see what i can do!




oh my

i can feel this - how beautiful!