Blog

Goodbye Icarus, hello Ikaria!

 |  | 11 Comments
Goodbye Icarus, hello Ikaria!
Woman picking grapes

©iStockphoto.com/gyuszko

“The Island Where People Forget to Die.” That’s the title of a NY Times article my brother Sam sent me several weeks ago. I began reading it on my iphone and, though I had to squint like crazy to make out the itty-bitty type, I devoured the whole enchanting story as if my life depended on it. Maybe it does.

 

Every now and then—once in five or ten years—I get such a huge hit from something that happens to me I know I’ve got to act on it. Sometimes I realize right away what I’m supposed to do and sometimes I haven’t a clue. But the electric current shooting through the heart and soul of me leaves no doubt that the wake-up call ball has landed in my court. It happened big-time when I met Ilana Rubenfeld and it happened even bigger-time when I first laid eyes on Bapuji.

 

What did I do with those electric moments? In Ilana’s case, I signed up for two frigid, punishing years of her Rubenfeld Synergy Method (RSM) certification training north of Toronto. With Bapuji, it was easier. Whenever I heard he’d be emerging from his silence and I could get away, I hopped in the car for the hour-plus drive to Kripalu. There, I simply settled down to bask in his love and light. And am I ever glad I listened to those two very different siren calls!

 

Though I didn’t know why I needed to act, the attraction was so great at least I knew what I had to do. In the case of the island where people forget to die, I am baffled—about why it grabbed me so hard, and what the hell I’m supposed to do about it. Move to Greece? Really?

 

Yes, it’s a Greek island, called Ikaria, that I’ve lately fallen in love with. It’s named after the mythological figure Icarus, whom I compare myself to in Bare Naked at the Reality Dance. Donning wax and feather wings made by his father Daedalus, Icarus flew so close to the sun his wings melted. He fell to the sea and drowned, near the island that bears his name and calls to me.

 

I’m moved by this fable because I’ve long had a fear, which feels strangely well-founded, that were I to aim for the metaphorical sun—success on the grand scale perhaps?—my wings, too, might be scorched. And, like Icarus, I could plunge to my death. (Talk about fear of success!)

 

I know it sounds melodramatic.  But here’s what I think. Ikaria and its down-to-earth communal lifestyle is calling to me because it represents the antithesis of the ambition that drove Icarus—and can drive me, and maybe you, too—to overextend our reach and burn out while we’re attempting to soar. Deep down where I really live, I’m dying to give Icarus up for Ikaria!

 

Icarus was what today we’d call a go-getter—trying to fly high all by himself. According to the Times article, the residents of my beautiful island have no such prima donna tendencies. There’s so little they need to go get: the medicinal herbs for their afternoon tea, grapes for their evening wine and, of course, fish from the sea and vegetables from the gardens they tend to daily. Thanks to gardening, walking the hills, plus the herb tea, wine and fresh food—and especially the sharing of it all with friends—Ikarians live remarkably long lives. (They also take lots of naps!)

 

But their longevity is not what got my attention. Right now, I don’t care how long I live. What had my arm hairs standing on end was the extraordinary attraction I felt for the quality of their lives—at the deepest level of my being. I want to live the rest of my life with the graceful simplicity that marks that Greek island lifestyle. No, it’s more than a matter of want. It feels as if I’ve got to live like that—or else! And I can’t help thinking you might want to live that way too.

 

It’s true I’m of an age where I’m winding down. So my first thought about this powerful inner call was that the appeal of Ikarians’ gentle ways may be a “stage of life” thing. Old people have to slow down, so here we go. But the more I think about it, and look around at the people in my life—of all ages and stages—the more I wonder if my age and stage is what this is about.

 

As a longtime yoga teacher, life coach and sister seeker, I’ve kept a keen eye on the stress levels experienced by nearly everyone I know. I notice the loss of sleep, the pills taken, the tears shed. I often hear the phrase “I just don’t have time,” in reference to doing something the speaker wants to do. So it seems to me that, whether we know it or not, most of us are longing to live in a profoundly more relaxed and collaborative way than almost all of us do. (Sure, I’ve met those diehard New Yorkers who insist they’d die without the mega-stimulation, but I’m just sayin’….)

 

All but the most conscious among us can get caught up in the exploding craziness passing for modern American life. It’s hard not to. And most of us seem to think we don’t have a choice. But that’s a lie. The truth is those of us privileged enough to be reading these words do have a choice. The question is whether we are willing to face down the fear of exercising it.

 

So here’s another, parting, question for you, posed by Trond during one of our deep talks the other day: Where would you like to wake up tomorrow morning?

 

At first blush, it’s a deceptively simple inquiry. Because it’s not just about the geographical place we’d like to live (or think we would), though that can be important. But taking it deeper, Trond’s question gets to how we want to live our lives and with whom. What and who really juices us?

 

Are you where you want to be, and, if not, where would you like to wake up tomorrow morning? And equally important, why? To answer such questions it may help to remember, as vividly as we can, when and where we’ve felt most alive, present, engaged, useful—whatever our values are. I’ll have more to say on this, too, but in the meantime—for the good of us all—please add your personal perspective.

 

For further illumination and inspiration perhaps, here’s the link to the Ikaria article Sam sent me:   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?src=me&ref=general

 

Categories: Self-Care
  • Shannon

    Suzanne, thank you for posting this question: Are you where you want to be?

    Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I just can’t keep up with the life I’ve created, constantly chasing a schedule that is daunting from the start of the day and proven impossible at the end. Feeling out of balance, because my measures of self care: sleep, diet, exercise, and chanting are frequently cast aside for the sake of time. 

    But your question: Where would you like to wake up tomorrow morning?

    Right here.  Truly, without a doubt. I have a wonderful husband, a magical 2-year-old daughter, who is a bright light growing before my eyes.  I enjoy my work too.  So really, where would I like to wake up?  In exactly the same place, but with more time to enjoy it.  The missing ingredient, is more time to stop, breathe it all in and better appreciate and savor the wonder and beauty of the life I already have. 

    Thank you Suzanne. Because I realize your writing did just that for me right this moment. I stopped asked your question, then took a moment to appreciate my life just as I have it. No need to move to an island. 

    Then to tackle the lingering issue you brought up here: And most of us seem to think we don’t have a choice. But that’s a lie. . . . The question is whether we are willing to face down the fear of exercising it.

    I’m not sure where to go.  Certainly I’m understanding the need to reduce commitments that are taking time away from better appreciating the life I have and treasure. Honestly, I feel like I don’t have the time to figure out what to further cut out . . . that’s my conundrum.   What suggestions do you, or your other readers have for getting down to what is really important in life?

    • http://suzannegrenager.com/ Suzanne Grenager

      Thank you so much, dear Shannon, for sharing yourself and your large dilemma with such intimate clarity. You really got the gist of what I meant to offer here, and I’m thrilled you have come to this important realization about your wonderful life and your desire to make time to treasure it. You are beyond deserving of that, I well know!

      Great, too, that you understand the way to exercise your choice in this is to reduce your commitments. It really is that simple, though I realize it may not be easy. So I suggest you find a reliable ally to talk with and hold you accountable. Perhaps you could arrange a trade with a life coach since my sense is that agreeing to take on fewer assignments and setting clear boundaries around work times will be a gradual process, not an overnight fix. If you like, I can recommend a coach or two for you to approach, since I no longer do that work.

      I hope other readers may hop in with ideas, but given the holiday overwhelm I’m picking up from just about everybody, maybe not. Still, I know many of us appreciate your situation and all of us wish you very well. Please let us know how this lands with you and, not least, how else we can support you!

      View on original page

  • MaurieA

    Another juicy blog from you!! I say “hah” to your winding down. I feel excited as I read your words, and the purpose that rises up in me. I, too, am at the place of my journey where I am interested in following my deep impulses, creating a life I truly love! I look forward to seeing what happens next for you! 

    Where would I like to wake up? Fully engaged and expressing my magical and radiant life! 
    Love to you,
    Maurie

    • Suzanne Grenager

      Maurie! How happy I am you can catch the excitement I feel about transitioning to a simpler lifestyle, wherever that may be and whatever it may look like. And I am happier still that you, too, are ready to follow your “deeper impulses,” as you beautifully name them.

      I LOVE your answer to my question and how you’ve redirected it to the “how” rather than the “where,” or even the ”what” of life. I can’t wait to see what happens for YOU next as you “fully engage and express your magical and radiant life.” Let’s keep talking about it. Yes!

  • Suzanne Grenager

    Thank you so much, dear Shannon, for sharing yourself and your large dilemma with such intimate clarity. You really got the gist of what I meant to offer here, and I’m thrilled you have come to this important realization about your wonderful life and your desire to make time to treasure it. You are beyond deserving of that, I well know!
     
    Great, too, that you understand the way to exercise your choice in this is to reduce your commitments. It really is that simple, though I realize it may not be easy. So I suggest you find a reliable ally to talk with and hold you accountable. Perhaps you could arrange a trade with a life coach since my sense is that agreeing to take on fewer assignments and setting clear boundaries around work times will be a gradual process, not an overnight fix. If you like, I can recommend a coach or two for you to approach, since I no longer do that work.
     
    I hope other readers may hop in with ideas, but given the holiday overwhelm I’m picking up from just about everybody, maybe not. Still, I know many of us appreciate your situation and all of us wish you very well. Please let us know how this lands with you and, not least, how else we can support you!

  • Donnafleetwood

    Ah Suzanne, Ikaria sounds like a magical place to visit of course everyone has their vision of where they would like to wake up tomorrow morning. I just returned from El Salvador and no question that I woke up feeling alive, present, engage, and useful. I stayed just “long enough”. For it was a space that would would not have had the same meaning without divine timing. I’m winding down too, and your wonderful post is causing me to reflect on those peak moments. 

    • Suzanne Grenager

      So great that the “divine timing” of your special trip to El Salvador for BPeace had you waking up feeling present, engaged and useful. Yay! It’s what we all want, I believe. I’m curious which elements were present in the experience that caused you to feel that way. It sounds as if you are exploring that question as you “reflect on those peak moments.” If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear what your reflection reveals. I suspect others would find that interesting. And I know I would, as I continue trying to understand what exactly – in addition to the “winding down” you corrrectly identify – Ikaria so powerfully symbolizes for me. Thanks for speaking up.

  • Heatherehughes

    Nice meditation, Suzanne!  So many big questions!  How? Where? How much?  I have long felt attraction to other places, but as a student of community (anthro major, lived in coops, read up…schooled kids in them), I eventually came to believe that though we can find more/less conducive places for our best selves, the work is still ours.  (That sounds like you:))  Ferdinand Tonnies, a german philosopher studied communities and asserted that we cannot have both the community of neighbors and the ability to leave.  I’m paraphrasing, but we get either the crush and limitations of the village or the independence and potential loneliness of choice.  Basically if you’ve ever left your village, you can’t ‘go home’ as they say.  Map of the World by Hamilton is another meditation on this topic.  I too don’t know what to do about it.  Just be, I guess. 

    • Suzanne Grenager

      How right you are, dear Heather, that “the work is still ours.” Reminds me of the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Wherever you go, there you are.” My thought is simply to be in a community condusive to the “work” you allude to and to the peaceful collaboration I seek.

      You raise your own interesting questions, and I have experienced both the joys and ”limitations of the village,” through spending time in Chester NS, a stark contrast to the independent and at times lonely life on our PA farm. I read Jane Hamilton’s “Map of the World” long ago but should perhaps revisit it now. I appreciate your conclusion that you “don’t know what to about it” except to be. I assume you mean to stay present and see what choices show up and call out to us. That is what I, too am trying to do. I don’t expect to move to Ikaria but I’d like my next home base to include many of its most alluring components.

  • Vickifoxpro

    Suzanne, your blog always expresses more eloguently than I could an inquiry I have been having with myself.  I particularly loved this sentence:  most of us are longing to live in a profoundly more relaxed and collaborative way than almost all of us do.  That spoke to my heart.

    As to where I would want to wake up?  Someplace beautiful and warm, but I think that is my winter heart speaking.  Although I have been thinking if I were to continue to live in Central PA for the foreseeable future, creating my life with a January and February get-away to a warmer, sunnier climate would feel very good.

    For right now, your blog presented me with more questions than answers.  My two children live in different states.  I have a 7 month old grandson I miss seeing grow up.  I know at some point my daughter will be a mom.  So for now, I will live in the question, and be open to creating a simpler life in community with others trusting the hairs will stand up on my arms when the “perfect” situation presents itself  Thank you for keeping the questions alive. 

    • Suzanne Grenager

      I am delighted I’m not alone in sensing that many of us long for a more relaxed and collaborative life. Thank you for letting me know those words touched your heart. And it is extremely encouraging to me that the explorations of my posts here so often resonate with a woman as reflective as you are, dear Vicki. It helps me trust that others who don’t comment or subscribe may also be getting value from the words I am so moved to share. And I love and honor your willingness to live — as I too am doing — in the rich questions about how best to live, wherever we happen to be. So glad we are holding hands! 

blog subscribe button


Welcome to my Blog:

Do you long to be your truest, most loving self? So do I. I created this blog to help us both be that. Choose posts from the categories below and please comment on what the words stir up.

Archives:

cover