World Travel with a Twist of Zen - Fields of Indulgence  
 
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Shiva dancing
As a teenager first learning about Hinduism, I remember reading about how the Hindu idea of God is split into a trinity between Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). At the time I recall being slightly averse to the idea of Shiva the destroyer. After all, aren't creation and the preservation of life superior to destruction? Looking back on my naiveté, I chuckle at my lack of understanding regarding the Hindu Trinity. Our weekend trip to Sofia this weekend gave yet another example of Shiva in action.

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Rila monastery is one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural and architectural monuments. Founded around 950 AD by St. Ivan of Rila, the monastery has long been a refuge of Bulgarian literacy, language, and culture (it contains manuscripts dating back to the 11th century and has served as a center of education for some of the country's most prominent leaders). Nestled high in the mountainf of Rila, the monastery is still no stranger to Shiva’s dance. The middle of the 15th century brought the Ottoman Empire and along with it the destruction of most of the grounds. Rila was then rebuilt, only to be burned again in 1833. But its 3rd incarnation has proven to be an enduring one. Reconstructed between 1834 and 1862, Rila is considered a masterpiece of Bulgarian National Revival architecture - epitomizing the integration of a people and their eventual liberation from Turkish rule. 

What lessons can we learn from Rila? For me, I think about my initial aversion to destruction and realize that with maturity sometimes comes the knowledge that to embrace destruction is to allow for crucial  (though sometimes painful)  growth in life. Just like a forest fire can clear out dead trees and stimulate germination, so must we sometimes burn away old habit patterns so that creativity and life can shine through. When I find myself feeling overly attached to keeping things in my life “the way they are supposed to be”, I try to remember the lessons of Shiva and of Rila. Sometimes the most beautiful and lasting changes in our lives come from knowing when to let some things burn so that others may flourish. 

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Seafood Risotto to die for!
Other than our visit to Rila, the weekend was filled with gustatory delights at the hands of our hosts Petya, Todor, Vili, and Stefano. Vili & Stefano treated us to a delicious seafood risotto & homemade ricotta & chocolate pie while Petya & Todor, in addition to driving us to Rila, also made us delicious fried Zargan (a black sea fish) and Tikvenik (a sweet pumpkin pastry). Add in Rakia and wine made in their families’ villages, wonderful soups and salads, and seared salmon, and you have Bulgarian hospitality at its best! Blagodaria to all of you! 

Some more pics below, but to see them all click here!
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Mmmm - Ricotta & Chocolate Pie!
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Mekitzi (like funnel cake) outside of Rila
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Fried Zargan!
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Petya & Todor at Rila



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