Paths To Happiness Series No. 13: Relax With A Hot Bath, Or Take It Slow And Smell The Flowers

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Paths To Happiness Series No. 13: Relax With A Hot Bath, Or Take It Slow And Smell The Flowers

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TURKEY

Straddling the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a land of bewildering contrasts. The capital city started life as Byzantium, then became Nova Roma, then Constantinople and is now Istanbul. Turkey has been a part of three empires: the Roman, the Seljuk and the Ottoman, is surrounded by three seas: the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and though officially a secular state, embraces a wide variety of religions.

The tradition of the whirling dervishes was founded by the Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi in the 12th century and is still widely practised across Turkey. Devotees dressed in white robes spin slowly at first, then faster and faster to the sound of Turkish music in a bid to enter a trance-like state where they will become one with Allah. As they dance one hand is pointed to the sky to receive Allah’s blessings, the other to the earth to disseminate those blessings to others.

To escape the heat and noise and frantic traffic of Istanbul, Europe’s most populous city, the Turks head to the Hammam or Turkish bath. Inherited from the Romans these serve both as communal bath-houses and meeting-places. Often to be found as part of a mosque complex they emphasise the connection between cleanliness and religion which is an integral part of Islam.

Hasan Albari at Pexels

Afterwards you may head to the tea garden to experience keyif, the Turkish expression signifying relaxation after a hard day’s work. There you can drink numerous cups of tea and smoke a meditative nargile or water-pipe filled with apple-scented tobacco while playing a relaxing game of backgammon.

Then you may indulge in a cup of thick black Turkish coffee and if you wish to know what lies ahead have your fortune read in the left-over grains at the bottom of the cup.

TAHITI

Officially a part of French Polynesia Tahiti and the surrounding islands are as close to a Paradise as you will find. White sandy beaches, blue skies, crystal-clear seas, coral reefs harbouring masses of tropical fish, swaying coconut palms and everywhere, butterflies and flowers. Flowers are an integral part of life in these islands. The national flower, the tiare Tahiti gardenia is worn by everyone; woven into tiaras, garlands, coronets, necklaces, or simply placed in the hair or behind the ears.

The creed of life here is encapsulated in the saying haere maru which means, ‘take it slowly.’ The cars rarely exceed thirty miles per hour, the windows open, the driver watching the scenery rather than hurrying to his destination; people walk, ride bicycles, stop frequently to greet friends, gossip, gather flowers. Conversation is filled with jokes because in these islands the object of conversation is to provoke laughter.

There is also a sense of communal ownership here – your car belongs to you and all your extended family: if you praise an item in the household it may be given to you on the spot.

So a life where you laugh a lot, take it slowly, where possessions are not so important, where you take life slowly and stop frequently to smell the flowers.

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