In a beautiful setting between Ambelas and Santa Maria with a stunning view across the channel to Naxos, the Tao's Centre opened its doors to the public last December. Offering a range of activities designed to reduce stress and give participants the chance to unwind and relax, Tao's calls itself a "life management centre" - a place where one can learn to balance one's physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs to create harmony and serenity in daily life.
Tao's is the realization of a dream - the dream of Nissim Amon. Thanks to an inheritance left him by his father, and the support and dedication of his friends and partners, work began on the centre just over three years ago and was completed late last year.
"We would like this place to be somewhere that people can come to from all over the world, as well as from the international community right here on Paros, to relax, to feel comfortable and open and to know that they are among friends", Nissim explains. "Many people today in the West have lost the ability to really communicate with each other. Talking is often only at a superficial level, leaving people with a sense of separation and isolation instead of a sense of connection. Tao's teaches techniques to improve communication as well as showing people how not to lose energy unnecessarily so as to have more power to do what you want with your life."
Born in Jerusalem in 1963, Nissim, a Zen Master, studied for many years in Korea, Japan and India. He has taught meditation in a number of countries, has published three books and released two CDs of world meditation music.
Although he could have decided to create Tao's anywhere in the world, it finally came down to a choice between Portugal, Italy, Greece or a chateau in France. Intuitively Nissim knew that the Greek Islands were where he wanted to be, and a map of the country confirmed Paros as the obvious geographical "centre" of the islands. A piece of land was found, construction began, and Nissim moved here with his family and a group of friends. "I wake up each day to such beauty and tranquillity", he says, "I really have found paradise here".
In addition to daily meditation classes, Tai Chi, yoga and workshops, Tao's plans to offer a mix of activities, especially during the summer months, such as Japanese calligraphy and Greek dancing. There is a "down-to-earth-ness" and practicality about the philosophy and atmosphere of the centre, perhaps best illustrated by the recurring theme of "Zorba the Greek" in their literature and an emphasis on having fun while also seeking a deeper meaning and purpose in one's life.
Space is also available for rent for anyone who would like to organize groups or classes and make use of the centre's facilities (which include a bar-restaurant, Internet access, a cosy sitting area by the fire for the winter and what promise to be extraordinary gardens in the summer once the landscaping work is finished. Although Tao's does not offer accommodation, they recommend a range of local rooms and hotels for visitors who are not from the island.
Every Saturday evening there is a workshop combining teaching, exercises and meditation under Nissim's guidance in the centre's magnificent "Big Hall" and Tai Chi lessons take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with teacher Spiros Peristeris. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art embodying the Taoist philosophy. It is a series of slow, gentle movements and breathing techniques which operate on several levels of awareness. It is widely recognized as beneficial to health, promoting relaxation and assisting the body and mind to maintain balance.
"Spiros is, in my opinion, the best Tai Chi teacher in Greece and I am very honoured to have him here as part of our team", Nissim says.
Tao's winter programme includes longer retreat-like monthly courses in four weekly chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of one's "inner" world - designed for those who have time and opportunity to temporarily escape from the rush and the stresses of daily life in the "outer" world. Concentrating on personality/behavioural patterns and relationships, the course leads towards achieving freedom from the fears and worries that arise in the mind, teaching how to "switch channels" to stop the constant chatter of criticism, judgements and doubts.
Ultimately, Tao's is just about learning ways to be happier. The principles are simple, but the effects can be profound.
To find Tao's, take the main road from Naoussa (towards Marpissa/Lefkes), turn left to Ambelas, take the third turning left again and follow the Tao's signs. See www.taos-greece.com
or call 22840-28882 for more information.
TAO'S SCHEDULE - YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME
Daily (except Sundays):
10:30 - 11:00 Morning Meditation
11:05 - 11:35 Tai Chi with Spiros Peristeris
11:45 - 12:30 Zen Stories with Nissim Amon
Mon, Wed & Fri:
17:00 - 17:30 Evening Meditation
17:30 - 20:00 Tai Chi Course with Spiros Peristeris
Tue, Thu & Sat:
17:00 - 17:30 Evening Meditation
17:30 - 20:00 Body Workshop with Spiros Peristeris
The cost of Tai Chi or Body Workshop is 10E for one lesson, 60E for a monthly course of 12 lessons. The Saturday evening workshop costs 12E for one session, 45E for 5 sessions. For each of Tao's activities, the first visit is free of charge. Morning and evening meditations are open to all.