A Pilgrimage to the Healing Ostrog Monastery, in Montenegro
A Pilgrimage to the Healing Ostrog Monastery, in Montenegro
I woke up early in our bed, overlooking the Bay Of Kotor.
The views were breathtaking and I felt excited about the upcoming day.
We were going to visit a very important pilgrimage site, a Serbian Orthodox Monastery, carved into the steep cliffs, high up in the mountains of Montenegro.
Our small boutique hotel by the Bay Of Kotor offers a wonderful breakfast, and from its many selections, I chose a delicious array of Bureks, poached eggs, fresh raspberries, a sour cherry strudel, fresh vegetables and green tea.
I was overeating in preparation for a day of climbing up the mountain.
We intended to walk up to Ostrog Monastery from the village of Bogetic, first to the Lower and then to the Upper monastery.
This long walk is usually done by pilgrims in bare feet.
It is sometimes done by pilgrims entirely on their knees, and by those prostrating themselves after each step.
It is a long walk, about twenty two kilometers round trip, but because of the narrow and steep uphill, it takes longer than one would expect.
As we left the Bay Of Kotor, we noticed a sign by the town of Lipci, indicating that there was a prehistoric cave with cave drawings and handprints nearby.
We thought that a short detour to see this cave might be interesting.
I spoke to a local man using mostly sign language to ask for directions.
Very few people in Montenegro speak any English, although most speak Russian fluently.
The Montenegro coastline is jokingly referred to as the “Russian Riviera.”
There are a few road signs in English, but most roads do not even show up on Google Maps, nor on the Satellite Navigation System in our car.
We had to navigate the old fashioned way, by relying on road signs in Cyrillic that we cannot read, and by getting lost, asking for directions and making lots of u-turns.
The man indicated that we should climb the hill behind the village towards the towering cliffs.
We walked up a long stone path with wild pink narcissus flowers growing along the sides, until the path became a goat path and finally ended at a rural stone house.
It had great views of the bay below us, but nowhere else to go.
The farm stone house was solidly built, with a brown dog in a wooden dog house, a goat tethered to a post, chickens running free, a friendly cat who came to meet us, and several open windows, which indicated that someone must be at home.
The large patio had a wooden table with freshly cut grapes in the middle.
I called out “Hello!” and “Dobardan,” which means “Good day!,” and a woman dressed in black came out.
She looked like an old nun, and her energies were as gentle as the wild flowers we saw growing on the path.
She explained that we needed to retrace our steps and head towards the hills.
I was happy that we had gotten lost and got to meet her.
She looked like a hermit who is used to living alone, relying on the graces of the natural world for her food and company.
She must have gone through many winter storms, many heavy rains, and had been snowed in many times, yet she had found a way of living in harmony, no doubt because of her faith.
When we finally reached the small cave, it was covered in black soot from many fires that had been lit inside, and we were not able to see any prehistoric paintings.
This cave detour meant that we would not have enough time to walk all the way to the Ostrog Monastery.
we would have to park somewhere near the lower Monastery and walk the steepest part of the path, about three kilometers, to the upper Monastery.
The narrow road zigzagged across the Bjelopavlic plains, with one of the largest Montenegro rivers, the Zeta, flowing below us.
As we started climbing the mountains, the landscape was stunning, with tall rocky mountains with trees and herbs growing on the hillsides.
The road was very narrow, and we had to stop and reverse back a few times to allow buses full of pilgrims and other cars to pass.
The feeling that we were approaching a holy place, was palpable as we neared the Monastery.
The road was lined with small shops selling icons painted with Saint Vassilie (Saint Basil), dressed in intricate garments.
The stalls also sold local honey, local wine, fruit liquor in glass bottles shaped like a cross and all sorts of souvenirs.
We parked our car in a village near the lower Monastery and decided to have lunch, before our climb up.
From the menu that was dominated with meat and fish choices, we selected a plate of local cheese and homemade bread.
The bread came freshly warm from the oven and was super delicious, and the cheeses were so yummy, I couldn’t believe it.
I have never tasted cheeses made like these.
They were not the usual mozzarella, feta, cheddar cheese or cream cheese, etc.
They were Montenegrin mountain cheeses made from goats’ milk, and they tasted very unique and special.
The lower Monastery was small and painted with bright and very beautiful icons on the inner walls.
We lined up to kiss the cross bearing the relics and the icon.
When it was my turn, I instinctively placed my forehead to the relics, instead of my lips, thinking it is unhygienic to kiss an object that has been kissed by thousands of pilgrims every day for hundreds of years.
Then I thought again and kissed it.
After all, I came asking for a Healing miracle for my mother, and if my faith is that strong, nothing can harm me in any way.
Women in black clothing and shawls covering their hair stood praying in their bare feet.
As we started climbing the many stone steps that lined the forest path to the
Ostrog upper Monastery, I saw many pilgrims remove their shoes and walk barefoot.
The place is surrounded by a forest of trees.
Many centuries of devotion, myths, legends, hopes, miracles and stories of healing have happened on this mountain.
The Ostrog Monastery is carved into the sheer cliffs, in an unreal yet entirely natural location.
We had seen many pilgrims climbing up and going down the path, but we did not expect to see utterly thousands of people at the top, who were there to spend the night.
At first, I thought that it was a special holiday.
Thousand of people were laying on blankets or with sleeping bags on both sides of the upper road.
They had bags with clothing, food and drink.
Many were sitting reading their small Bibles or praying.
Inside the gate, the large courtyard of the Monastery was packed with pilgrims with hardly any room to move.
Many were on line to enter the Monastery, but many, many more were laying on foam pads in the courtyard, surrounded by bags of their heavy coats, blankets, or sleeping bags.
They were planning to spend the night so that they could attend the 6am Sunday service at the Monastery.
The toilets were reeking from the smell of urine.
A woman who got into the squat toilet before me, came out and handed me her handbag, her scarf and shawl, and her plastic bag with her things.
She spoke no English, but she signaled to me to hold her things until she finished.
I was touched by her trust.
How often would you come to a total stranger among thousands of others and trust her to hold your bag, money, and clothing…
I calmly held her things until she finished.
I signaled to other women who came in, that they can use the toilet before me.
The monastery is located 900 meters above sea level, so during the winter months the road is a major challenge even for the most experienced drivers.
In places, the road is so narrow that cars have to back up to allow a bus or another car to pass.
Pilgrims and true believers still arrive in greater and greater numbers at all times of the year, even during the snowy winters.
The Monastery shop sells icons of Saint Basil and this amazing monastery that he founded.
Saint Basil was a miracle worker.
Stories say that once he threw away an apple seed and the next day an apple tree had grown to full size.
Half of the tree was covered with flowers, and the other half with ripe apples.
In the 1600’s, when Saint Basil was alive, many came to him seeking miracles and healing, and many were healed.
The Monastery is very beautiful, but the line to get inside was three hours long and it wasn’t a holiday, just a regular Saturday.
Since 1678, when the remains of Saint Basil were dug out of the ground, the people started celebrating the day he died as a public holiday.
Saint Basil passed away on the 12th of May, according to the new calendar.
The 12th of May is Jules’ birthday, and it is also the day that Jules’ father passed away.
This seemed significant to me and I suggested that we buy an icon of Saint Basil.
Many people who were not able to come as pilgrims to this Monastery, reported healing miracles that emanated just from keeping his icon in their homes.
I thought to give it a place of honor on our alter, next to our Buddha and other icons and Buddhist deities we revere.
We saw many disabled people, walking with crutches or lacking an eye.
Many came asking for healing for all sorts of ailments.
That night, we stayed the night on the mountain.
We did not sleep under the stars like many of the pilgrims.
We slept in the new and truly fabulous hotel Sokoline, just a little down the road.
They gave us their best room, with two large patios, one overlooking the green verdant valley below, and the other overlooking the stunning rock cliff of Ostrog Monastery.
We sat on the patio until the sun disappeared behind the tall mountains, and then we ate a delicious dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Like in Mongolia, we dined surrounded by people who smoked and ate huge plates of grilled meat.
We ate a Serbian vegetable salad, a fresh mushroom risotto and a unique dish of Montenegrin polenta, which was served with a local honey on the side.
The creamy, savory polenta went superbly well with a little bit of the honey.
What a great combination….
That night was a cool night and the Monastery was fully illuminated.
The cross on top of the hill above the Monastery was also lit.
I invited Saint Basil into my dreams and meditation to expand my spiritual understanding and enlarge my heart.
I asked for advice for my path to enlightenment and of course, I asked for healing miracles for my mother and for all the pilgrims that I saw sleeping there by the Monastery.
I prayed that their wishes would come true, and that healing would bless their lives.
That night I woke up a few times and looked at the lit Monastery and kept asking for assistance.
By early morning, I had a most interesting dream.
I dreamt that I was in a large gathering when a holy man appeared before us.
He did not look like the icons of Saint Basil, but he had a halo of glowing light around his head.
He raised his hand and said: “I bless all those who are gathered here today…”
I did not hear the rest of his speech, as I was suddenly transported to the entrance of a unique house.
I was invited in by a lovely couple who looked very cool and modern.
The house was built on three levels inside the cave, using the natural stone of the cave and plywood.
The plywood was carved into sculptural furniture and twisted into decoration in very beautiful ways.
Over a unique meal, they told me about their healing work, which they do to help heal people.
They were using a healing method that included combining the senses.
They told me:
“As you know, miraculous healing occurs naturally, when the entity remembers its Divine Eternal Nature.
When a Spiritual Eternal Entity forgets its holiness and thinks it is just a mortal and singular incarnation, it develops an ego identity.
This ego identity is subject to sickness, and to all the pains and effects of the temporary world of illusions in which it thinks it lives.
This divine and eternal Spirit starts believing that it is just a singular human being, and it develops karmic memories, pain, ego judgements and much guilt, all of which lead to sickness.
The incarnation tends to forget its connection to the ONE and forgets the LAWS OF LOVE which govern the Real world.
The ego forgets that the Divine Mother, the Creator, wishes all of Her beloved creations to experience perfect love, perfect health and much abundance.
The ego points to all the dangers, all the pain that it sees in the world, and it believes in limitation, duality and suffering as the only reality there is.
It makes the belief in love and eternity seem like a foolish child’s dream, a fantasy world that might happen in the “afterlife.”
The ego believes that it is you, a mortal being that is subject to ill health, misfortune, pain, sufferings, accidents, old age and death.
But you are NOT your ego.
You are and will forever be unlimited, eternal, ONE with the Divine Mother, the Creator Of All There Is.
As long as an entity identifies itself with an ego, this ego is in control.
In order to allow healing to occur, we observe that when we confuse the ego of the entity, we can bypass its hold on the entity.
We can do so by surprising and confusing the senses, which allow us to temporarily relax the ego’s hold and to bring calm and light into the entity.”
They went on to explain their methods, and how they use the sense of taste, of sight or smell to relax people who are experiencing extreme pain by giving them the rich smell of roses, and when the patients are relaxed, they use divine healing light to heal the “subtle-physical-body” of the illnesses.
The “subtle-physical-body” is the body of ideas that each of us holds.
These ideas all have density, and this density is manifesting your reality and the dimension you vibrate at.
Your energy field includes your mental, emotional and your ideas and beliefs.
It vibrates as your chakras, as your meridians and as your Aura.
Your energy field is what solidify and creates your physical body.
Before I left, I gave them my email (seems so silly to do this in a dream…) and they promised to keep in touch.
I felt like I made really special friends and I woke up from the dream, feeling extremely happy.
I wish you love and light and like you, I keep thoughts of love and healing towards those who just suffered from the shooting in Las Vegas, USA.