Thursday night I met with the realtor and landlady. I paid the first month's rent, deposit, and realtor commission and got the keys, YES! I spent that night at the Airbnb and in the morning brought all my stuff over to my new flat. It’s about a 3 minute walk from my Airbnb to the front of my apartment building. I met with the realtor again at 9:30 Friday morning to finalize the lease, pack, and head to the airport to catch a flight to Italy, where I was scheduled to attend a retreat near Verona.
From my new place it’s a 5 minute walk to the metro station. From there it’s about a 15 to 20 minute train ride to the airport stop. From there another 15 minute bus ride to the airport. The cost of all of this is included in my annual $150 transportation card.
The Prague airport is really nice - very modern. It’s cool to see the flights going to exotic cities all over the Euro Zone. There are low budget airlines that fly all over. With a little notice you can get a $100 round trip ticket from Prague to Rome. But you will definitely pay for checking luggage.
The airline I traveled on was EasyJet. The gate area was packed with Italians going to Milan. It was nice to be around Italian energy again. I love these people. Standing in line with a group of Italians is the most beautiful, stylish, chaotic, mob you would ever want to be a part of.
I honestly had mixed feelings about going to the retreat. I didn’t want to leave Prague, and I just signed a lease on this amazing apartment and now I couldn’t spend my first night there for five more days. But I had already scheduled and paid for it. The retreat was being held at a farm outside of Verona. I researched getting a train from Milan to Verona but couldn’t seem to find one that was going to work with my schedule, so I decided to rent a car. I really didn’t want to do this. I have PTSD from driving through Milan once. I was driving through northern Italy years ago on a photo expedition and got off an exit in Milan; it took me nearly two highly stressful hours to find my way back on the highway. The drive to Verona was pretty straightforward though. On the drive I saw two uniquely Italian things being hauled on the back of flatbed trucks: on one, a classic red Ferrari, and the other, an ancient Roman column.
The retreat was actually more of a training - specifically it was a Healers Training led by a man named David Elliott. David is a healer and has a gift of working with energy. He wrote a book called The Reluctant Healer. He’s a friend of mine from the states, and I helped him purchase his property in Sandia Park, where I've attended several of his retreats before. David’s work is simple yet profound. It focuses on the healing power of both breath and creative expression. He also trains people to tap into and hone their already natural intuition. Another great benefit I've gained from doing David's work is connecting with an amazing network of people from literally all over the world. People who are committed to bringing their light into the world in their own unique and special way.
In the Healers Training, David was going to train us to walk people through the breathing exercises and lead workshops ourselves. This breath work is really powerful and healing. It helps release stagnant energy from fear, pain, anger, and stress. Over time these things can build up and eventually can manifest into physical and emotional illness if not released.
Breathing is not something I’ve ever really spent a lot of time thinking about, even though it’s the most fundamental function to our survival. We can go for days without food or water but just a few minutes without breathing. I was in a yoga class the other day and the Ukrainian yoga teacher Alina was talking about the importance of deep breathing. She said that when we’re born we naturally know how to breath properly but forget as we grow older. For me, any conscientiousness about breathing has also been displaced by the stresses of modern life and unhealthy obligations.
The retreat was being held on a farm called Tenuta La Pila. The original farm house was built in the 16th century and then renovated in the 1800s. They grow several different types of fruit and grapes. Every inch of the land and property is meticulously cared for. The proprietors are a wonderful Italian couple, Roberto and Raimonda Sartori. I arrived at night when people were finishing dinner and immediately saw some familiar faces. There was a large dining hall connected to a huge country kitchen with staff running around cleaning and handling food. In the middle of all of it there was a large old golden retriever named Scotty sitting on the floor, making sure he didn't miss out on any of the action.
The next day the retreat started. There were approximately 40 of us, mostly Italians, but a few Americans and a few other nationalities were present. The training was lead in English and translated in Italian. It was held in a beautiful huge room with high beam ceilings. Each day we would partner up with someone to work with on exercises throughout the day. Through a random process we would get a partner. The 2nd day, when we went around counting, it was determined that I would be partnering up with a man named Enzo who didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Italian. Enzo playfully protested to Rita the translator that maybe we should have partners that we could understand. I was thinking the same thing. With a wise, knowing smile Rita said something to the effect of "it would be just fine."
So I partnered up with Enzo and we struggled to communicate some pretty personal and profound stuff with the very few words we understood of each other's language. But we managed. We got to know each other. I found out that Enzo is in his 60's and lives in a small town in Tuscany called Prato, outside of Florence. He's retired from a job that had him traveling all over Italy. One of his passions is making wind chimes with sea shells. Also I found out, he lost is wife to cancer last October. Over the course of the day we started to really connect and become friends. We worked with each other, taking our breathing deeper and deeper, healing grief and pain - mine being the unprocessed grief of leaving my life in New Mexico.
After one of the exercises my gut felt 5 pounds lighter. There was a particular moment in working with the breathing exercise when had we had a profound connection. It still bring tears just thinking about it. I now have a new friend for life. Enzo has a spare room in his house and invited me to his home to be his guest in my travels - which I will be taking him up on soon! He also said he was going to make me a wind chime for my new apartment in Prague. Later I asked him through an interpreter if he would mind if I shared about him in my blog, assuring him it would be all good, he laughed and said, "Share the bad too!" Of course, there is no bad.
I gained so much insight and healing and made so many new amazing friends from the training - it was exactly where I needed to be.
Now, I couldn’t wait to get back Prague! I got back Monday night and spent my first night in my new home. The next day I would start setting up my new euro-crib.
I really needed a tape measure. I couldn’t get some important things for my flat unless I had dimensions, and I needed to get those things ASAP. Where to find a tape measure? I went to a few places, no luck. It’s not like there’s a Harbor Freight or Home Depot, or (thank god) a Wal-Mart on the corner. There was this odd little store around from my apartment. It’s about one-third the size of a 7-11 and full of completely random stuff - some new, some used. Everything from toys, kitchen utensils, cell phones, even some clothing. The owner speaks broken English so I asked if he had a tape measure. He reached over and pulled up a roll of tape - I said no. He figured out what I meant and said, “Come with me.” So I followed him over to an enclosed locked glass case - the kind of case you would see in a jewelry store. He pulled out a set of keys, opened it, reach in and pulled out a tape measure. That was it - the only one he had. It was small but would work just fine. I’ve never been so happy to see a tape measure. In the states I had 4 or 5 tape measures and still often couldn’t find one when I needed it.
Something I’ve known but am getting reacquainted with is that outside of the "throw-way" culture of the U.S., much of the rest of the world has a different relationship to things - a more industrious and connected relationship. I like that I had to work a little to find something as simple as a tape measure. When you have to work for things you're more connected to them and treat them with greater care. I don't need 5 tape measures. There are a lot of things I always thought I needed but don't. A great thing about living in a small space and not having a car is that you think twice about hauling home that wonderful thing that you think you can’t live without, but in all actuality don’t really need and certainly isn’t going to make you happier.
I became part of a photo club in Prague that goes out and does photo shoots. It's called: Fotoprocházky Praha - Prague Photo Walks. I met for coffee with the organizer Michael and another member Alina. Michael's Czech and Alina's from Moscow. We had great conversations about photography and other things. This Saturday we're going to take photos at an event where models will be dressed up in fantasy and medieval costumes - that's gonna be great! Looking forward to hanging out with these guys.
I was walking home the other night and stopped to take a picture of an interesting looking scene of some wine bottles in a window. It was a wine bar just a couple doors over from my apartment building. There were three people standing outside smoking - two men and a woman. They told me I should go inside - where there would be much more interesting photos. I hesitated because I just wanted to get home, but I went in. It was a great cellar-type wine bar in a small space, but had a huge selection. Lucy, the bartender, was playing back to back Bowie. The two guys, George and Pavel, were friends. I took some photos, had a couple of glasses of wine and talked about Bowie and other things with the three of them. I might help the owner out with some photos for the website in exchange for some wine.
During the retreat we had the most incredible meals prepared by the staff of Tenuta La Pila. When we sat down to eat, one or two Italians would call my name, look at me and say, "Buon Appetito." The meaning is of course enjoy your meal. However, they didn't say it in a casual way. I couldn't help but feel like something else was being communicated. They would look into my eyes and there was a strong intention behind the words like they really wanted me to get something. It's as if they were saying, "Seth, enjoy your meal, food is sacred, life is sacred... Friendship... is sacred."
"Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, Place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and to a perfect contentment."
Ralph Waldo Emerson