This is my happy place.
It’s a little-known area close to Sparta called Mystra (also spelled Mystras or Mistra), and it’s the most beautiful, spiritual, perfect, non-beach spot on this planet.
The memory of my day there will be forever etched into my mind, because it was almost a transcendental experience. I felt my world and the ancient world merge in a way that words probably can’t do justice, but I’ll try.
When I studied in Athens, the program I was a part of took us on a lot of educational trips around Greece. This day happened on our trip to the Peloponnese, which in general, is one of Greece’s most beautiful regions, even though it’s not a sandy beach.
We’d been traveling for almost a week, a different hotel every night with long bus rides during the day. My iPod was almost dead and I dreaded the moment it would shut off for good, leaving me to listen to the mindless chatter of the rest of the students, or god-forbid have another conversation with one of my crazy-cake roommates.
I had a bad headache the night before, so the morning of Mystra I wasn’t too enthused about a mini hike up to the top. My professor told me that I wouldn’t want to miss it if I at all had the energy, and I’m so glad he told me that because my life wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t gone all the way to the top.
It’s hard to explain exactly what Mystra is, but basically it’s a fortified complex with a lot of churches and there’s still a convent there today. We were very specifically instructed that if a nun came up to us and offered us some sort of treat, we were to accept it, say thank you in Greek, eat it immediately and pretend we liked it even if we didn’t!
At the top of Mystra, there’s this ruin, and that’s where the above picture was taken. It overlooks this amazing field below, which is peppered with olive trees and it’s quite stunning.
I felt like my soul connected to something much deeper, much more ancient than me. I wasn’t just “me” anymore. I wasn’t a single person in one body. I felt loved and cared for and watched over. Even though my personal life was going through one of the most turbulent times in my life and I wouldn’t say I was “happy” exactly, everything felt ok at that moment.
I had these moments of pure bliss all over Greece, which is why to this day it’s still such a special place for me. Greece is this amazing blend of ancient and contemporary. It’s a place where two worlds literally merge and I could feel it.
That day on the mountain at Mystra, something just changed in me and I realized that there are so many amazing things in this world if only I’d open my eyes and welcome them.
Amazing places to be seen.
Amazing experiences to be had.
Amazing people to be met.
Of course, that was easier done when I was traipsing through Greece, filled up on vegetarian gyros and baklava (I actually don’t really like baklava but the treats I did like have Greek names I can’t spell).
I was reminded that even in the midst of beautiful scenery, it’s really all a matter of perspective. And even during a really rough time for me personally, I was able to experience a really beautiful day. The memory of that day reminds me to not fight as hard against the current of life, and though unforeseen circumstances and situations can arise, we’re not passive ponds on the game board of life.
Your thoughts shape your reality.
If your thoughts shape your world, wouldn’t you want to put some effort into making them the most positive, healthy, useful, encouraging, loving thoughts you could?
That day at Mystra, I was reminded of how lucky I was to get to experience something like that. I was reminded that this world has so much more to it than meets the eye. I was reminded that time is not entirely linear, that different places on this planet have different energies, different vibrations that are palpable to those who trust in it, and most of all, that there’s a lot of magic and mystery in both our world and our lives that’s just waiting to be uncovered.
I’m the type of person who prefers a rich inner life and experiences over superficial interactions. I’d much rather have a solitary, spiritual experience than go to a party that I won’t remember the next morning.
Of course, these are two extremes, so I understand there’s a lot of variation and gray areas in between, and trust me, I’ve enjoyed all parts of the spectrum.
The point I’m trying to make is to let yourself be open to have magical experiences no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter who you’re with.
During my summers off from college, I used to work at a spa nestled in the mountains, tucked away behind a babbling brook where we’d frequently get deer as visitors. Every single morning before work, I’d stop in this gravel parking lot on the way up, drink my coffee, and look at the snow-covered mountain caps, and then out over the fields of grass with deer running through. It was one of the most healing things to just sit in nature and be still.
When I was an undergraduate and finishing my last semester, I’d take my dog to campus and walk her around, stopping next to a fountain in a little garden next to my old dorm. We’d listen to the water running and she’d lay in the grass, rolling around and watching the birds. This reminded me that love comes in all forms. My newly adopted puppy was a huge comfort to me and being out in nature together deepened our bond.
On the surface these are just beautiful moments in nature, but I think they’re much more than that. They’re a reminder that when things are tough, there’s so much more than the worries going on in your head (even if they are legitimate and serious worries).
So, in case you needed a reminder that there’s more to this life than meets the eye, in case you want an explicit statement that you have permission to believe in more than what’s going on around you, and in case you want to know that you have the power to make this world a reflection of your deepest desires, consider this your personal invitation and message to live how you want to.
Go get ‘em.