The Fall of Expectations

Patmos is a teeny, tiny Greek island which is closer to the Turkish coast. One of the smaller Dodecanese islands, the island is known to be, an off-the-radar-screen hang-out for the Greek jet-set. Surprisingly, the monks who live in the monastic complex still wield a lot power and control over the island.
The Chora or Hora, which dominates the island's skyline.

The Chora or Hora, which dominates the island’s skyline.

Why?
Mostly because the Orthodox Greek monasteries and libraries which have been on the island for well over 1000 years. This is the island which has the cave which St.John the Beloved received his visions of the Apocalypse. Even since then, there has been a strong spiritual flavor to this tiny island and I have to say, my time there was quite magical.
The view of the island from the Chora.

The view of the island from the Chora.

When you leave the tiny port down below at the base, the Scala, and make your way up towards the monasteries and fortresses, there is an absolute air of gentle and tranquil serenity which I have yet to experience elsewhere in the world. The people are all smiling, tiny Orthodox chapels are scattered across the Hora (the town at the top of the hill) which even if locked, some monk always eventually shows up to open the door for you.
A typical Patmos chapel

A typical Patmos chapel

The whitewashed walls and narrow cobbled lanes, the unbelievable profusion of bougainvillea cascading down over courtyards, with the strongest and most best-preserved Byzantine homes and mansions in the Aegean, it’s easy to see why so many people want to live here and why so many people come back here over and over again. I’d go live there tomorrow if I could.
A typical lane through the Chora

A typical lane through the Chora

It’s not just fervent Christian pilgrims, but check out the beaches at Lambi or Meloi, and it’s full of hard bodies and skimpy bikinis. (The beach at Lambi has, bar-none, the best outdoor grill restaurant I’ve even been to in my life. No joke. I could eat there everyday if I could get away with it. The local wines will knock you off of your feet. Literally.)
A typical Greek dish of fried calimari and octopus, feta salad, tszaiki sauce. I nearly died of happiness from the food alone  in Greece

A typical Greek dish of fried calimari and octopus, feta salad, tszaiki sauce. I nearly died of happiness from the food alone in Greece

Everything about Patmos always leads back to the Apocalypsos (the cave). Before you can even enter the cave, there are glowering Greek monks who are busy assessing if you’re dressed decently enough to enter, and if not, they will hand you a skirt and scarf to cover your head. This is after all , considered to be one of the holiest sites in the world. [Note to Russian, Dutch, German and British tourists: Just because it’s an excursion from your cruise, does NOT make it OK to show up in your thong bikini or swim shorts and flip flops. A bit of respect goes a long way, you know.]
These guys will make you feel like a mouse in less than 5 seconds flat with a mere glance.

These guys will make you feel like a mouse in less than 5 seconds flat with a mere glance.

The cave itself is tiny and poky. The crack in the little alcove, over which St.John used to sleep, runs in 3 directions, which the Orthodox monks say point to the Trinity.
5 people can barely fit in there.

5 people can barely fit in there.

Fellow reader, I was disappointed.
With the magic of the island itself, the serene chapels, the kindness of the monks and nuns I met there, as well as my experiences at the grave of St. John in Ephesus, I thought something great would happen. Some sort of spiritual breakthrough.
Instead, it was a circus, and not unlike Sedona, Mount Shasta or any other New Age haven I’ve been to. On one side you’d see some idiot tourist try touching and rubbing the ancient icons (when you’re not supposed to) or you’d see elderly Greek women  crossing themselves 3 times for every little step they took. I couldn’t wait to leave and go back to Lambi beach and my room, which a grizzled old Greek sailor named Nick rented out to me and my travel companion.
Have your swimming shoes ready, because the rocks here are very pointy.

Lambi beach- Have your swimming shoes ready, because the rocks here are very pointy.

How many times have any of you ever had a conversation with someone you were crushing after from afar to only find out that they’re not all that great? How many movies have you gone to which your friends told you were “amazing” or “awesome” but when you walked out, you felt cheated because the hype was too much? Have you ever gone to a restaurant which the media were raving about and when you tried the signature dish, you wished you had stepped out for a burger instead?
Are-you-setting-the-correct-expectations
It’s hard not to fall into the lure of expectation especially in a culture which is as results-driven as the Western one. We’re bombarded with it from all directions every day. I even see it in the yoga studio and on my mat (“Well I was able to do that pose yesterday, but today I’m struggling. What gives?”).
All was not lost.
Patmos was handing me a lesson on setting up expectations. When you set them, they always inevitably let you down, while when you don’t have any, you go in with an open and fluid mind, then you never know what might show up. Normally, it was at those exact times of no expectations, when I’ve been dumbstruck or floored by the intensity or the beauty of an experience, whether it was a meal I ate, a place I visited, a  show I attended or a person I met.
It’s ultimately about just letting go and letting things be and allowing them to happen naturally.
Relax. Have a glass of wine here instead.

Relax. Have a glass of wine here instead.

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Categories: Ascension, Raise your EQ, Travels | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “The Fall of Expectations

  1. kezalu

    It’s usually the unexpected places that fill you with an awe that is indescribable. Places like Stonehenge are, unfortunately, over-run with tourists – and on my recent visit I had to tell myself that they were entitled to the majesty of the place as much as me, even if they were arriving by the bus load. I had to look past the crowds and just at the stones themselves. It was still awesome.

    I definitely want to go to Patmos now, and stroll through Chora, and visit those little chapels you wrote about. It’s now on the list.

  2. Hi artogai,
    No, I’ve never been to Tibet, not called to go there so not particularly interested. That might change in the future but for now, no. I’m also hesitant to go to these “jackpot” spiritual places, given that I’ve had less-than-satisfactory times in places like Peru, Sedona and Mount Shasta.

    Personally, I think there’s a question of chemistry involved, like when you’re dating, there are some people whose vibe will mesh very easily with your’s and others, no matter how hard you try, there’s absolutely nothing going on. You can’t force these things. Likewise, it’s the same with spiritual tourism or travelling. There will be some places which resonate deeply with you and others which leave you dry. Why? Could be a multitude of reasons, past life connection, a teaching you need to pick up, someone you have to meet, a new teacher etc.

    In some respects, I agree, you go where you’re called. The place will call you. What’s happening now is that many people travel now like the way they collect stamps (“I’ve been there, there, there and there.”).

    Central Asia eh? Wasn’t it Gurdjieff who popularized that whole area with that book “Meetings with Remarkable Men”? I do think that places like Siberia and Mongolia are probably the last frontiers now. The shaman culture has come back to life in such a strong way the last few years from what I understand, especially around Lake Baikal.

  3. Saille

    Sorry to reply to an old post, but this one stuck out to me. I had the same issue when my family went to Rome. We toured most of the basilicas and it was all tourists and hustled stupidity. Then, our tour took a detour and went to the Basilica de Santo Paulo. No one was there. It was honestly the only place in Rome, Pagan or Christian that I felt any sense of spirit. And it was absolutely beautiful.

    PS- Stepping out of the airport in Norway gave me a similar feeling. The old gods are definitely still alive up there.

    • Welcome Saille, .
      I had never heard of the Basilica de Santo paulo but if I’m in the neighbourhood, I’ll definitely look it up. I’ve also heard the English Cemetery in Rome, where Keats is buried, also has a special air to it. The Norwegian fjords is also another area I’d love to visit.
      Thanks for sharing!

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