The Essence of Womanhood

What does it mean to be a woman? It’s a seemingly simple question, yet in our fast-paced modern world, the true depth and significance of womanhood may have been lost.

I firmly believe that each of us is here on Earth with a unique purpose, a vital piece in the tapestry of collective consciousness. Our human experience is a gift, and embracing our full potential as individuals is one of the most profound achievements we can strive for.

Central to this journey of self-discovery is grasping the intricacies of life, reconnecting with our true selves, and embracing all facets of our existence—the cycles, the emotions, the challenges. As women, our human experience is embodied in the female form, a vessel through which we navigate the complexities of life. Mastering this vessel, with all its complexities, is key to unleashing our fullest potential.

Women are inherently extraordinary. There is a uniqueness to us that is unparalleled. We possess the remarkable ability to nurture life, to guide souls into this world. This potential manifests in various ways—through childbirth, child-rearing, or even in nurturing communities and projects that shape human existence. It’s crucial to recognize that even women who can’t, don’t want, or have lost children play a vital role in the fabric of humanity.

Throughout a woman’s life, she undergoes transformative experiences exclusive to her femininity: menstruation, childbirth, menopause. How we perceive these milestones, how we are influenced by societal expectations and personal beliefs, profoundly impacts our journey—mentally, spiritually, and physically. Ancient cultures understood the significance of these transitions. They celebrated
them, imparted wisdom through rituals, and supported women as they navigated these life-altering passages in harmony with Mother Earth.

In modern societies, it seems we have drifted from these sacred teachings. Many women today suppress their innate power, disengage from their natural rhythms, or neglect the profound significance of their biological transitions.

What if empowering women transcends mere equality in society? What if it means recognizing and honoring the intrinsic worth of each woman, aligning our lives with our natural rhythms, soul’s missions, celebrating our unique strengths, and understanding our pivotal roles in society? Thankfully, ancient tribes have safeguarded profound wisdom and customs that delve into the essence and energetics of womanhood. Yet, merely replicating these rituals and traditions may not suffice. We are not identical to our ancestors; we have evolved, inhabit distinct eras, and possess diverse lineages. Nonetheless, while
honoring the ancient traditions, we can allow them to spark inspiration within us, reintegrate them into our contemporary lifestyles, and guide us towards achieving balance in our feminine existence.

Questions for self-contemplation:

  • What values define me as a woman?
  • How do I perceive my menstrual cycle or menopause?
  • Which life transition, past or forthcoming, requires my attention?
  • In what aspects of my life do I neglect to nurture my feminine essence—physically, mentally, spiritually?


Join us for a transformative journey into the core of womanhood with Haydi Moustafa at the Feminine Wisdom Retreat from July 19-24, 2024, at Mandali. This retreat is tailored for women in every stage of life, offering a space to delve deep into the essence of womanhood. Discover more about the retreat here.

Posted in Body, SoulTagged emotions, mindfulness, pregnancy, womanhood

True Devotion Is to Seek Our Real Nature

‘Among things conducive to liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.’ – Vivekachudamani, verse 31

Conventionally, devotion is considered to be to God, who seems to be at an infinite distance from oneself. The author of the Vivekachudamani, Adi Shankara, suggests that of all the pathways that lead to liberation, devotion is the supreme practice. However, he qualifies that statement by saying that true devotion is seeking one’s real nature through the practice of self-enquiry.

In other words, these two paths – one that appeals to the mind and the other to the heart – which are traditionally considered to be different and almost opposite are, in fact, the same. Balyani expressed this truth when he said, ‘Whosoever knows their self, knows their Lord’. 

Atma vichara, usually translated as ‘self-enquiry’, might be better translated as ‘self-abidance’. It is simply resting in and as being. So in what sense is this investigation into, and resting in, our true nature synonymous with the highest form of devotion to God? The name ‘I’ or ‘I am’ is the key. 

‘I’ or ‘I am’ refers to that aspect of ourself that cannot be removed from us; to our essential, irreducible being before it is qualified by the content of experience. When human beings are divested of the temporary qualities they acquire from the content of experience, they shine as they essentially are – utterly intimate, but at the same time ever-present, unlimited, unqualified, immutable. God’s infinite being. As such, a human being is God’s infinite being clothed in human experience. 

What Shankara refers to as ‘devotion’ or ‘seeking one’s real nature’ is this discrimination between what we essentially are – that to which we refer when we say ‘I’ or ‘I am’ – and all the qualities of experience that are temporarily added to us. ‘I am’ is, as such, the portal that leads from the content of experience to our essential being – God’s being. Therefore, ‘I am’ is the divine name. It is the ultimate prayer, the highest mantra, the essence of meditation. All that is necessary is to say the divine name ‘I am’ once and allow oneself to be drawn into its referent. Thus, true devotion to God is the returning to our naked being. 

If the words ‘I am’ refer to our essential being, then the ego or separate self arises when our being is qualified or conditioned by experience, in which case the ‘I am’ becomes ‘I am this, or that’. Therefore, when we turn away from the content of experience, we surrender the separate self, which can only stand by identifying itself with that content.

As our being loses its limited qualities and stands revealed as infinite being, there is the felt recognition that our being is not only the essence of ourself but the being from which everyone and everything derives its apparently independent existence. Having initially turned away from the content of experience, we now turn back towards it and see everyone and everything as an appearance or manifestation of the same being that we are. In relation to people and animals, this recognition of our shared being is known as love; and in relation to objects and nature, it is known as beauty.

Here, the conflict between our inner and outer experience ceases. Whether our eyes are closed in meditation or prayer or we’re engaged in activities and relationships in the world, we see and feel our being – God’s being – everywhere and in everything. 

Experience progressively loses its ability to veil our shared reality. What once appeared to us as a multiplicity and diversity of people, animals and things is now felt to shine in and as the same being. We feel and see God’s presence everywhere or, as the Sufis say, ‘Wherever we look, whatever we experience, that is the face of God’.

We are delighted to welcome Rupert back to Mandali for his 7-Day Meditation Retreat from April 20 to 27. This event will also be live-streamed for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home. To secure tickets for the live-stream, please visit this link.

Posted in BlogTagged philosophy, self-enquiry

Interview: The Power of Will ~ with Emilio Mercuriali

Emilio, what is it about the work you teach that inspires you in your day-to-day?

What truly inspires me daily about the work I teach is its transformative power in continuously revealing and challenging my own patterns and behaviours. This process brings into sharp focus the contrast between these habitual patterns and the deeper, more authentic aspects of my being. It’s this exploration of the self that uncovers the immense potential within me. Each day, as I engage with these teachings, I am reminded of the journey towards a more genuine and spiritually aligned existence, not just for myself but also for those I guide. This alignment with a truer, more profound sense of self is what energises and motivates me in both my personal and professional life.

How do you define self-confidence and will?

How do you define self-confidence and will? Self-confidence, in my perspective, is the understanding and acceptance of our intrinsic abilities and limitations. It’s the foundation that allows our will – our innate drive and determination – to manifest and transform into action. With self-confidence, we recognise our potential in alignment with our true nature and are realistic about our boundaries, while remaining open and willing to challenge and extend these limits. This balanced approach ensures we are committed to our goals, in harmony with our deepest nature, but not overly attached to the outcomes.

Furthermore, this journey of self-confidence and will is deeply intertwined with the process of self-actualisation and expression in life. As we develop self-confidence and harness our will, we embark on a continuous process of actualisation. This process is not just about enhancing our skills or knowledge; it’s about evolving in a way that our true selves are more authentically expressed in every facet of our lives. As we actualise, our actions, decisions, and interactions become more aligned with our core values and beliefs, leading to a more genuine and fulfilling existence. In essence, the cultivation of self-confidence and will is a pivotal step towards living a life that is not only purposeful but also deeply expressive of our true nature.

Why are the themes of ‘Self-confidence’ and ‘Will’ the main focus of your upcoming April retreat? What role do they play in our lives? 

The exploration of these themes is crucial due to the significant roles they play in our lives. Self-confidence enables us to believe in our abilities and make choices that resonate with our authentic selves. Will, meanwhile, drives us to confront obstacles and pursue our aspirations with steadfast intention. Together, these elements are essential not only in recognizing our potential but also in actualising it. Our retreat is designed to equip participants with the tools and insights needed to access these inner resources, fostering a transformative journey of self-discovery and personal evolution.

What do you think most gets in the way of our self-confidence as human beings in the modern world?

One of the primary obstacles to self-confidence in the modern world is our disconnection from the source of our will. This vital inner resource is often overshadowed by the noise and distractions of daily life, leading to a detachment from our true desires and capabilities. Additionally, our self-confidence is frequently undermined by our own limiting beliefs and self-judgments. These negative perceptions about ourselves are often rooted in societal pressures, unrealistic standards, and the pervasive influence of social media, which constantly bombards us with images of ‘ideal’ lives and successes.

This combination of detachment from our inner will and the internalisation of limiting beliefs creates a significant barrier to self-confidence. We start to doubt our abilities and lose sight of our own strengths and potential. Overcoming these challenges requires a conscious effort to reconnect with our inner will and to challenge and transform these self-imposed limitations. By doing so, we can begin to cultivate a more authentic and robust sense of self-confidence, grounded in our true selves rather than external expectations.

How is ‘Will’ connected to doing ‘difficult’ things or pursuing challenging goals?

This is indeed a complex question. The perceived difficulty of a task or goal can vary significantly from person to person, and this often depends on the capacities and skills we have developed over time. However, encountering difficulty doesn’t necessarily imply an absence of will; it may simply indicate a need to learn or acquire new skills.

Often, our lack of specific capabilities can be misconstrued as a lack of will. This is where it becomes essential to distinguish between acquired skills and true will. True will is our innate drive and determination to pursue goals, regardless of our current skill level. On the other hand, acquired skills are the specific abilities and competencies we develop through experience and learning.

In facing challenging tasks or goals, our relationship with these difficulties is not just about confronting them with sheer willpower. It’s also about recognising where we might need to develop or enhance our skills to effectively tackle these challenges. By understanding this distinction, we can approach difficult tasks with a more balanced perspective, acknowledging both our innate will and the practical skills we need to cultivate to succeed.

What do you hope retreat participants will take away after exploring ‘will, self-confidence and manifestation’ with you in the April retreat?

My intention for the April retreat is to provide participants with a transformative experience that enables them to recognise and perceive their innate will more clearly. I aim to guide them through understanding the history and life experiences that have shaped their will and self-confidence as they are today. This exploration is not just about awareness but also about equipping them with practical tools and strategies to embark on a journey of transformation.

We will delve into how our past influences our present will and confidence levels, and how we can manifest our desires and goals more effectively. The retreat is designed to be a starting point for this journey, offering insights and techniques that participants can continue to apply in their daily lives. Ultimately, I hope they leave with a renewed sense of self-awareness, empowered to harness their will, bolster their self-confidence, and actively manifest their aspirations more intentionally and effectively.

Emilio Mercuriali is a visionary leader in the field of self-discovery and personal growth. Specializing in the Essence work and the Enneagram, Emilio’s retreats offer a unique blend of ancient spiritual wisdom and modern psychology. He will be leading the Summoning Self Confidence in Mandali this coming April.

. The next Journey to Essence retreat is on the 14-19 April 2024 at Mandali.

The Felt Sense of Generosity

What does generosity feel like?

Generosity is the quality of being kind and sharing that kindness freely with others without expecting something in return. It’s the natural way our heart interacts in the world when it feels safe, secure, and bountiful. Generosity goes beyond material possessions and can include giving time, attention, compassion, skills, or support. It reflects a spirit of abundance and can be felt in our tissues.

Let’s start with the spirit of abundance. With the generosity of life itself.

What has life given you? 

Your body and its dazzling complex interconnected systems that keep you alive: circulatory, respiratory, nervous, muscular system, digestive system, and immune system, just to name a few. 

Life gives us air to breath, the earth to walk on, and water to drink.  We are given beauty in abundance: sunsets, bird song, waterfalls, the scent of morning coffee….

Pause and reflect: What else has life given you? And how does it feel in your body to be the recipient of this generosity?

What have others given you?

In our world of interdependence, so much of what use each day has been created or produced by someone else’s effort.  Even if they have received compensation for their work, their work is of enormous benefit to us. There is generosity in it. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the streets we walk on, … on and on I can go. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.”

There is so much generosity and abundance all around us. Taking time to reflect on this softens our heart. It relaxes us and open us up. Our felt sense of separateness begins to dissolve. 

Now I invite you to contemplate: What is easy for you to give?

What do you have plenty of? Is it money, time, smiles, hugs, expertise, kind words, encouragement, compassion, joy, courage, attention, …

How does it feel to recognise your plenitude and ability to share it?

Like with realizing the generosity around us, there is benefit in recognising our own generosity. To feel how easy and good it is to share when there is plenty to share.  To have a felt sense of that surplus, that more than enough-ness. It feels good.  More than that.  Engaging in acts of generosity has been scientifically linked to increased happiness, reduced stress, improved mental and physical health, and enhanced social connections. 

I ask what is easy for you to give because I want you to feel into the relaxation in the body when there is a sense of abundance. 

Now I invite you to contemplate how far out you feel you can share this excess, this abundance without tightening?

Who is in your circle of inclusion? Just you? A child or parent? A partner or friend? A stranger? An enemy? I invite you to honestly feel where the line is between freely giving, without any effort or contraction, and where a grasping sets in. 

I think it is important to notice the ease and lightness of natural generosity, a sense that you’re not even giving it, it is just flowing.  Like the love I have for my kids isn’t “my love” to give to them. It is just love flowing. It isn’t mine. It isn’t finite. It doesn’t have to be mined.  It is simply there. It is in the air we breathe. 

And this love how far out can I let it freely flow from me. To my kids, yes.  But I can extend it out even further? How far? My friends? My neighbours? The homeless person on the corner? Someone who has harmed me? 

What we give and to whom we give it to changes how it feels to give.  I encourage you to feel into when generosity flows freely. To have a visceral knowing of that big-heartedness.  To let it inspire you and others.  And also to feel into when the act of giving feels constricted. Not abandoning yourself in acts of giving but instead including all parts of you and all the ways they are feeling about the giving. To hold the contraction generously from your authentic nature.  To slowly build your capacity to offer more freely to more people, thereby strengthening your character of generosity. 

What about when there isn’t enough? How does this feel?

What do we do when abundance isn’t there? When we feel needy or lacking? 

Our hearts and bodies contract.  

Of course they do. 

Contraction is the natural way of a body and heart under duress. Our survival instincts run deep. We want to survive. We want more than that; we want to thrive.  We want to be happy and feel free. Generosity is one of many gateways into that happiness, that freeness.  It is possible to cultivate and relax more and more into our generous nature. But first we need to recognise where there is lack in our life.  Without any judgement, rather with clear seeing. It is important to recognise where you feel insecure, unable to give, to share. 

Take a moment and contemplate: What don’t you have enough of? 

Is it money, time, friends, joy, courage, presence, …  Where do you notice deficiency in your life? How does that feel? Do you sense a contraction, a tightening, fear and/or resistance? Do you feel a closing off or grasping for more?  This is uncomfortable and yet totally normal. I encourage you to stay with this inquiry. Get to know how it is in your body and heart when you feel limited.  All of us feel this way. We may not all be lacking the same things or qualities but each and everyone of us knows the tension of not having enough. 

I invite you to be kind towards that contraction, towards all that has come up. We can learn to be generous towards ourselves and our feeling of not enough-ness. Hold the tension kindly from your inner spaciousness. This isn’t about solving the problem of what is lacking but rather a willingness to be with this discomfort of scarcity.

Not having enough or feeling like you don’t have enough can be scary. It is related to, or literally, a question of being able to exist, to survive. So go slowly, move gently. Hold what you can hold. Feel what you can feel. Little by little. Breath by breath, we can learn to connect to ourselves no matter how cut off and tight we may feel. And when it is too much, get support.  Support is out there for all of us, for some it easier to find than for others. But support is there, seek it out. 

Who inspires you with their generosity?

The last point I want to explore is the value of being inspired by acts of generosity from others. Just like we can be inspired by a great athlete, musician, or artist. Not comparing yourself to them, thinking “I should be as good as them.” Instead recognising you were born the way you are with the conditioning and circumstances around you.  Not all of us were born with the bone structure to become an olympic swimmer, or the means to make that happen.  But to see the effort that that person put into to excelling at what they do is inspiring. A call for us to excel with what we are given. 

So who inspires you with their generosity? 

Who reminds you of your abundance and ability to share that which you have plenty of?  Think of them often. Let their acts of kindness and giving remind you of what you have to offer freely.

So feel into generosity. Get to know it in your bones. 

Feel when your heart is open and giving freely. Let it inspire a wider circle of sharing. Also feel when the heart is closed, unable to give freely. Embrace the feeling of lack with compassion instead of shaming it; cultivate self-compassion. And continually let yourself be inspired by the generosity of life itself, by others and their acts of benevolence. Let them, let life, remind you of your inherent abundance and your capacity to share it with the world.

Posted in BlogTagged dharma, generosity, mindfulness

Ready to Soar ~ Discovering the Poet Within

What is poetry? Forget everything you might have been taught about it, any rules around rhythms or rhymes. Forget the rigid structures and the conditioning that led us to believe only a select few chosen ones could dare call themselves ‘poets’.

Poetry, at its core, is about expressing truth. When written, and especially when read aloud, it is about meeting that edge of our (self-)knowledge, and the tender vulnerability of having stepped just beyond it. Poetry is ‘good’ not when executed as per the rules – it is so when it moves something within the author, and the people reading or hearing it. There truly is a poet in everyone, in everyone who dares to be brave and show their soul just a little bit more.

Embodied poetry is the phrase I have come up with to capture this essence. Over the years, in addition to spontaneously writing poems in my journal since I was a child, I got trained in ‘social poetry’. Social poetry, taught by John Stubley during the Ecosystem Leadership Program of the Presencing Institute, equipped me with a deeper understanding of the power of words, tools to access inner truth, and ways to weave in the collective dimension. 

Based on these teachings, learnings from other art-based processes and my personal experience, a body of work is emerging around embodied poetry. It was such an honour to teach two workshops in Mandali! We explored the power of metaphor, and followed it to support each participant in spontaneously, without blockages, write what might be their first poem ever, or their first in a while.

Rather than being focused on something as subjective as ‘quality’ of the outcome, we are interested in the process, in what it does with us, and in how personally affected we are by the vulnerability or the power of the words that come to us. In this way, we may gain insights, clarity, discover a new mode of expression, or re-activate our creative life energy.

Marije, resident yoga teacher of this Mandali experience, wrote the following about this powerful experience: “Last year was rough. I did not only lose my mom, but I also lost my inspiration to serve and my appetite for teaching. The last few months I have felt stuck and unmotivated. And then, something changed… I took an Embodied Poetry workshop with Nora and that glimmer turned into a flame, that then opened the floodgates of new energy and new motivation. I not only wrote several poems (that I never thought I would do), I also conceived several new projects that I feel very excited about.”

In addition to activating and unlocking creativity, building the muscle of writing and gaining new personal insights through the words that land on the page, we also explored co-creation. I passed around a sheet of paper, where every participant wrote the sentence of their writing that stands out to them or resonates most. They folded the paper over before handing it to the next person, and so we co-wrote a poem without our minds interfering. This, after some minor edits, is what came out:



Poetry, embodied poetry, moves our soul. It calls to us. It reminds us of our truth, of who we are. It’s a powerful way to express ourselves, deepen our (self-)knowledge, and connect. I can’t wait to see what the seeds planted during this special time in Mandali will sprout into!

About the author

Nora Wilhelm has dedicated her life to a more just, regenerative, and beautiful world where all beings can thrive. A change-maker since her teens, she gradually moved from active citizenship and strengthening the voices of young people to systems change, co-founding Collaboratio Helvetica in 2017. Over time, the work took a toll on her, and she was diagnosed with a burn-out in 2021. In 2023, based on what this experience taught her, she co-founded The Well • Change Atelier to make art-based processes and tools to cultivate connection, creativity, and well-being available to more people. Her work was honoured by awards such as Forbes 30 under 30, UNESCO and the Dalai Lama Fellowship.

Posted in BlogTagged contemplation, poetry, writing

Interview: Money, Desire & Power: The Alchemy of Transformation ~ with Nishta Matarese and Evangelos Diavolitsis

First things first, why ‘Money-Desire-Power’? What inspired this provocative trio as a theme for your upcoming retreat? 

It’s not a trio, it’s a trilogy or a tragedy because, if they are unconscious, they create pain and chaos. They can also be enjoyable and transformative tools depending on the view and approach. 

Look, life is provoking us all day long. It is part of moving from a life lived from somatic-emotional reactivity to clear adult responses. We simply need to get better at navigating how trigger patterns around money, desire, and power reveal themselves in our being and how it affects our state of mind. At Four Ways to Freedom, we get behind the things that provoke us so we can liberate them. 

There is so much there for us to work with and that inspires our teaching and how we best can convey it to students with a sense of lightness – with joy, humor, and support. It provokes a lot of creativity in us as teachers.

MDP are juicy topics! There is so much there for us to work with and that inspires our teaching and how we best can convey it to students with a sense of lightness – with joy, humor, and support. It provokes a lot of creativity in us as teachers. We study them, dance with them, process them, and offer universal teachings to expand upon them. 

Many of the great masters in the last 100 years and certainly our personal teachers, emphasized that developmentally, we need to awaken to potent hidden messages underneath MDP. The work is to move as a whole from an egocentric perspective, to an ethnocentric, world-centric, and ultimately, a cosmo-centric existence. We need to know where we are on the map so that we can traverse along the path with confidence and know how to help others move along the path as well. 

War, competing economies, domination over natural resources, politics, religion, sex trafficking, etc… Much of the horrors that occur in these arenas have MDP at their roots. The game is rigged and we no longer can delude ourselves – so we do the work of coming to terms with them in our personal lives first so a collective healing can be facilitated. 

What makes them so taboo? 

The intensity of the force and influence they have over our ability to reason what is useful and wholesome and what is useless and unwholesome. The dictionary defines the meaning of taboo as a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing. 

There can be a lot of shame related to money, desire, and power. We feel ashamed if we have not become skilled money hunters in this money-obsessed world. Some are also obsessed with rejecting money. We feel shame when we cannot afford some of the necessities of life.  

Regarding desire, we are afraid to admit our heart’s desire as we fear judgment from others or have some sort of spiritual guilt. There is rarely a moment when humans aren’t desiring something. It’s important to desire the things that actually create a positive outcome.  

Power gives us a sense of control as well as strength and clarity. Knowing what we want and knowing what we don’t want and how to honour that.  

Power can range from impotence to tyranny. Some are afraid of too much power and others are afraid of too little power. Power becomes confusing when our authority to lead outgrows beyond our ability to embody the responsibility of it.

What are some ways we can destigmatize these topics? 

Simple, bring them out in the open through dialogue and then transmute the energy of them – redirect the energy that is making them so potent in the first place. First, we must peek at them, touch them, and understand them! 

Coming together as a group body is the fast path of destigmatisation. We co-create a field together to blast the lid off of the mystery of MDP. We want to recognize MDP for what it is and be able to have healthy discussions around them as if we were talking about the weather. 

How are each of these topics related? What is the intersection?

We can spend our entire life oscillating between contraction and expansion around our personal lovability in terms of money, desire and power.

As Dharma teachers, conscious movement facilitators and behavioral money coaches, we see that much of our survival responses are set in us by the time we reach grade school. Society goes on to overlay a message that our self-worth is linked to our net worth. We can spend our entire life oscillating between contraction and expansion around our personal lovability in terms of money, desire and power. They are intricately intertwined in terms of knowing when to lead and when to follow, how to give and receive as an act of sharing, and the success at which we can resource ourselves in a balanced way in both our inner worlds and the outward expression of that, while in the world. 

How has your personal relationship with money evolved over the years, and what lessons have you learned about its impact on your well-being?

All the lessons have resulted in cultivating a conscious and healthy relationship with an energetic frequency that has its own language, direction and attitude.  When we were younger, money was an elusive mystery but by making peace and forgiving our personal history, our relationship with it has become much more fluid. Biggest lesson: Don’t blame others for your lack of abundance and success. You and you alone can change the story by befriending the energy of money.  Whether it is an ally or enemy depends on the user’s mindset. 

What is the difference between healthy desire vs. unhealthy desire?

Healthy desire has a texture of certain qualities: There is balance in the nervous system, an ease with the way things are. You are not chasing to escape but to expand and feed a curiosity.  Food is a desire we all share in common.  Healthy desire is that I listen to when my body tells me to stop. Unhealthy desire, on the other hand, comes with an obsessive, keep going, attachment attitude which leads to resentment, confusion, and disappointment. 

What is your definition of ‘power’ in the context that you teach it? Can you expand on this?

True power is resting in the ground of your being with calm, clarity, and compassion for yourself, others and the situation presenting itself to you. For this, we need training in mindfulness practices and an understanding of what meditation IS and what meditation IS NOT. You are a more powerful person when you are no longer subject to the fears that bind you.

True power is resting in the ground of your being with calm, clarity, and compassion for yourself, others and the situation presenting itself to you

Redirecting fear energy alleviates somatic-emotional distress. Claiming back our bodies wholeheartedly requires trust. We learn to trust as babies. We were utterly dependent on another, a guiding authority to meet our basic needs. 

At times, the babies’ needs are not met. There are thousands of examples of disruptions in the process of pair bonding and learning when and under what circumstances one can trust. Each disruption creates a unique response in you. As one of my teachers used to say, we are all just walking wounded hearts. 

When needs are not met, life is asking you to not only survive but learn to figure this shit out and thrive. We become more intelligent as our urge to thrive grows. We greatly evolve our resilience when we are babies. 

It requires tremendous trust to take full responsibility over one’s own sovereign being and not outsource it to others – we are conditioned that our power depends on mommy and daddy. It means harnessing the power of one’s own body-mind. True power is attending to the needs of one’s own awakening heart. The greatest power is having every reason in the world to react with a harsh strong response and choosing not to. Saying ‘no’ to our own negative responses is powerful.  

What do you hope retreat participants will take away with them after exploring these topics with you? 

A sense of inner revolution. To become a rebel with a cause. To leave the fight behind. That is what revolution is about – replacing an existing way of being with a better way of being – one that is more illuminated.  To embody imagination, archetypal energies and confidence to dream YOUR life and to recognize when you are living in someone else’s dream. 

Success to us, is when you are able to go to bed at night with an ease of heart and capacity to restore. To collectively remember there is an unknowable mystery calling us to upgrade – to evolve. To include, to fold into the being all that has come before and make room for what is to come. 

Ultimately, we hope participants transition out with a sense of peace and composed awareness when addressing the topics of Money, Desire and Power in their daily lives. 

Do you have any advice for setting intentions to be more mindful in the new year around money/desire/power? 

2024, here already? 

“ There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life. “

The great Italian movie director, Federico Fellini, said “ There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life. “

If there is no beginning and no end to be found then what is there? Who is there? How do you settle into the ever-changing continuum awareness that you are?

If passion is the way then let’s agree to call it what it truly is — COM-PASSION (our actions aligned with our innate loving aliveness for the health of the whole)

This urge to live, love, and thrive is ours for the taking. 

Let’s live the best version of ourselves for the uplifting of all beings! 

Evangelos and Nishta are international Dharma, meditation, and movement teachers and the founders of Four Ways to Freedom. They will be facilitating the retreat Money, Desire & Power: The Alchemy of Transformation in Mandali on 23-29 March 2024.

When Did I Become So Boring? Finding the Spontaneous You

Have you recently wondered, “When did I start being so boring?” It’s a question that creeps into our minds from time to time, and it’s worth exploring. What’s your secret daydream? That one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but you’ve kept safely tucked away, hidden from the world. Perhaps it’s dancing in public just for the joy of it, skydiving, or starting a new hobby. What’s holding you back from experiencing the joy, spontaneity, and curiosity that you know you have, but seems just out of reach, a little dormant?

As children, we naturally pushed boundaries, tested limits, and did things simply for the joy of it.  Yet, somewhere along the way, we may feel we lost touch with that side of ourselves. There can be many reasons for that, disappointments, fear of rejection or being made fun of, being scolded or told off. Life happens and piles on, we get told what ‘adult responsibilities’ are, what we need to achieve, and bury our free, innate ‘soul-child’ on the way. 

Can we have both, some kind of balance between spontaneous and free, and structured and ‘adult’, and use it to our advantage? Wouldn’t life be so much more rich? 

‘Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.’ ~ E.E. Cummings

The practice of self-inquiry is the action of looking inward and asking ourselves fundamental questions that reveal our inner essence, and aspects about ourselves that are hidden. It is commonly done as a process with others, or guided, but you can also do it by yourself in contemplation or by journaling, which can lead to insight and greater self-knowledge. 

For example:

  • Contemplate something you really want to try but never give yourself the freedom to do.
  • Notice what comes emotionally when you think about it, fear, embarrassment, a feeling of imminent failure, dismissal, it’s not worth it, ‘nice idea but not relevant’, ‘I’m too old for this’… and so on
  • What does this ‘want’ really symbolize, and where does it really come from?  What does it represent? 
  • Can I sit with these emotions, feel them in my body, and breathe with them? Ask yourself, What would be the worst outcome if I did try this? Maybe you realise, despite your story: ‘This too, I can get through.’
  • How can I integrate this in my life, what would be fun to try this week, this month and what will I get out of it?

This practice may give rise to understanding something about yourself, and give you hope and incentive to move on from it. The key is integrating your desires into your life in all areas by taking action, like re-training yourself towards joy and spontaneity. Start small, and little by little bring these long-lost dreams into your daily life. This week, this month, take a step toward something you’ve always wanted to do that makes you happy. Or say yes to a crazy idea that is outside of your routine. Do something unusual. Expand your appetite for life and let it inspire you!

Becoming friendly with our inner wildness can be an important and life-changing path. It’s about rediscovering the innocent, free, wild, and open part of us that once made us feel truly alive. It’s not about acting “childish” or being overly “adult”; it’s about finding a balance and connecting to the essence of our soul-child. It’s time to release it, give it the freedom it needs, and use its energy to your advantage.

So, the next time you ask yourself, “When did I start being so boring?” remember that it’s never too late to reconnect with your inner wildness and live life to the fullest.

Emilio Mercuriali is a visionary leader in the field of self-discovery and personal growth. Specializing in the Essence work and the Enneagram, Emilio’s retreats offer a unique blend of ancient spiritual wisdom and modern psychology. He will be leading the Joy of Living Retreat in Mandali this coming December.

Posted in Mind, SoulTagged emotions, habits, mindfulness

Interview: Finding Harmony Within – Insights from Elena Teixidor on the Elements

What do the elements have to do with our own personal experiences? 

I believe that the elements as we experience and see them in the outside world, in nature, are not separate from our internal nature, they are like a mirror. We all have fire, water, earth, and air, as a part of our structure, both in our physical body, and also energetically. As the Tao says, ‘What is outside is inside, what is below is above”, and the same goes for the elements.

I think the way we relate to them the most is by trying to continually balance and find harmony within ourselves. If I tend to be fiery – active, quick-thinking, and sometimes a bit aggressive – I might approach the world and my emotions with a lot of energy and not shy away from confrontations. On the other hand, if I’m more watery – calm, and go with the flow – I’ll probably handle things in a more relaxed way. Sometimes there is too much or too little of one quality, then we can take action to find equilibrium.

What does each element represent to us?

Fire is the element of alchemy, transformation for positive change.  Related to manifestation and willpower. Fire has also been used forever as a way of gathering, warming, and nourishing.. It accelerates, the mind, and our actions, but only to a certain point as it can become aggressive, and then we need to counterbalance it, which brings us to water.

Water is the element of creation, the essence of life, and also represents emotions and cleansing. The nature of water is flowing, it always leads somewhere, and it lets go. Like a river, it is open, and so are our emotions. People are always drawn to water, it harmonises the constant changes in life. If it doesn’t flow, it is stagnant, or stuck.

Earth is the element of stability, our grounding, our roots, our foundations. It’s our bones, our structure, and our ability to deal with survival,  food, and shelter. It’s very primal – our instincts, touch, smell. Too much earth, like too little water, if doesn’t move, it becomes rigid.

The air element is that of expansion, and also unity. It balances the earth element, and gives space and openness. It moves things that are stagnant and brings perspective. It is life, it is the breath, when you are inhaling, the whole universe exhales. The air is shared by all of us, at the same time, everywhere. It connects us to the infinite, the heavens, and represents the connection between earth and sky, and the beyond.

It’s easy to see how they are interconnected and represent qualities of our inner world.

What kind of simple rituals can we try out to better embody this understanding?

When we are aware of what is present or unbalanced, we can use this internal ‘logic’ or knowledge about the elements to find harmony. For example, if you need more grounding or centering, you could jump, and shake the body, your bones, creating some vibration. Walk barefoot, look at a mountain.  If you are overly reactive and even tend to be rude, there may be an excess of fire, so going to a river, taking a bath, or mindfully showering can help balance that. It’s about feeling inside and noticing what is present. 

Visualisations are a very powerful tool as well. You can lie down or sit, visualising nature. Imagine you are in the water, floating, immersing, imagine you are on a big cliff with a beautiful view, feeling perspective, expanding the mind. By visualising nature, we bring in the energetics and frequencies of the elements.

Especially if you are living in the city, it’s important to take some air, take some space. Go to a park, somewhere with some green. You’ll notice that even after five minutes of walking you’re already a little calmer. If you can’t go outside, close your eyes and you can listen to some nice music of water rolling or the sounds of the sea. So by simply connecting with the elements, you are in that harmonic healing field that they create. 

What made us forget our connection to the natural world?

As a society, we rely on an excess of the fire element, and it seems that the way the world runs is dependent on it. It’s often driven by manipulation, control, and ego, resulting in an imbalanced focus on capitalism and the economy.

An excess of the fire element has caused our hearts to close and our actions to become more self-centered, rather than heart-centered, literally burning the earth.  We celebrate excessive productivity and consumerism and prioritize values that are different from those of living in harmony with nature, further distancing ourselves from it. The need for growth and expansion, even in our jobs, leaves us with little time to follow the rhythm of nature, we might just see a forest on our screen because we don’t have time to enjoy one regularly. This unstopping need for growth has twisted our relationship with the environment as if nature were an endless supermarket for our production and waste.

Why do we feel a natural interest in this topic at this point in time? 

I think our current interest in this topic is because as humans, we tend to follow trends and topics but also, these interests often arise for a reason. The pandemic has played a big role in our heightened awareness. It has brought us to a point where we recognize the urgency to reconnect, not just with nature by physically being in it, but also by remembering our inner primordial wisdom. This inner wisdom is becoming more apparent, and we are beginning to understand its potential through practices like nature ceremonies and rituals.

The more we focus our thoughts on these connections, the more they energetically manifest. For example, if someone experiences the serenity of a river and then encounters a water-related ceremony, they make an unconscious connection and then may wish to continue working with water. People who may have previously seen practices as too ‘out there’ or only for certain groups are now realizing the benefits. They find that participating in ceremonies, like those involving water, helps them cultivate qualities like calmness and fluidity, which are associated with the element.

What tools do you suggest to connect to the elements?

The key is keeping it simple. Begin by closing your eyes and considering how you can connect with each element. For water, focus on your breath while near water, and observe its flow. With fire, sit calmly in front of a candle, paying attention to the flame as it dances and changes. Incorporate conscious drinking rituals by leaving a glass of water under the full or new moon and drinking it with love and intention. For the air element, practice deep breaths, imagining open spaces or birds flying, and using long exhales to calm your nervous system.

You can also connect with Earth by holding a stone or hugging a tree, feeling its stability and grounding energy. Visualize your roots connecting with the tree and the Earth beneath. Trees serve as a powerful symbol of stability and nourishment from the Earth. Remember, even the simplest practices can be deeply meaningful and effective in connecting with the elements.

What are your intentions, and some of your methods, in helping others connect to the elements and their inner wisdom?

It’s by sharing what I personally nourish and heal from. I follow what I feel in my body, whether it’s the Earth, the sun, or the wind, and I offer these experiences to those who resonate with them. Everything I share, I learned from practicing.

Sound is my primary tool, as it allows for expansive connections in various practices, including breathwork, yoga, dance, movement therapy, tantra, and meditation. I believe in combining different approaches as they come to me, if people need to jump, or to sing, we do that. Sometimes I use aromas, cacao, or visualisations. I emphasise that we all enter through the body,  in whichever way we can. This cohesion is essential to me, ensuring that everyone can access a meditative, heart-centered space. My work creates energy journeys, where sound is an essential container, as it allows us to shift the mind’s thinking state towards a meditative and connected experience.

The Dance of Movement & Stillness

Today, we celebrate MOVEMENT! There is something magical that happens when we consciously move, whether it’s in a yoga class, walking, hiking, dancing or whichever way you love to shake and wiggle your being. Movement of all forms plays such a big part of our spiritual and wellbeing practices, and also in what we offer at Mandali. In this article, we asked some of our teachers and guides: “In your discipline, what is the connection between movement and meditation?”, and we got some insightful and interesting answers.

Silvia Eriksson – Yoga Teacher

I think movement can be seen in yoga in several ways: First, as a way of purifying and strengthening the body (Tapas), moving our energies, becoming aware of and training our breath, in order to prepare ourselves for meditation – sitting still and resting in awareness. When I don’t move, meditation becomes an effort, and is not only hard on my body, but the excess stagnant energy can lead to restlessness or being caught of in stories of the mind. On the other hand, when I don’t allow stillness, my energy remains a bit scattered. So it’s all about balance.

Movement is also healing on so many levels. Dancing helped me overcome social anxiety and brings me immense joy, Pilates and yoga asana helped me heal injuries, trauma and corrected my posture, a bonus being a strong back, and supple hips, help me sit upright comfortably for meditation. It was movement that changed my life ultimately and led me to a spiritual path.

Alas, meditation and movement practice ripples out into action and creativity.  A great way to bring meditation to everyday life is through being aware and present of movement. So now, movement becomes meditation itself. Moving consciously is about becoming intimate and friendly with yourself. Being open, undistracted, tuning into the body as we move and riding the wave of the breath, emotions, clearing out internal barriers is like a dance, cultivating presence and closeness with our physical body. We close gaps of separation. Feeling in, listening, without judgment – some might call this self love, authenticity.  As I often tell my students, what we learn on the mat practicing Asanas, we take into our lives. Like the balance between ease and effort, when to push, when to let go.

Moving consciously is about becoming intimate and friendly with yourself. Being open, undistracted, tuning into the body as we move and riding the wave of the breath, emotions, clearing out internal barriers is like a dance, cultivating presence and closeness with our physical body. We close gaps of separation.

Nishta & Evangelos (Four Ways to Freedom)  – Conscious Movement & Meditation

In ancient times, seekers who wished to understand the meaning of life would lay down at night and watch the movement of stars and planets. During the day they would observe the movement of the clouds and the sun as well as the changing natural landscape through the seasons. When you look up at the sky, you feel a sense of stillness and eternity. It’s quiet, unborn, and full of potential but not static. Sometimes a storm comes to disrupt the quiet sky.  It’s a natural fluid tango. In tango you pause and then move. 

You can’t have movement without meditation just like you can’t have stillness without action or chaos. They are codependent lovers.  Healthy movement emerges from stillness and if it isn’t born from the still womb of tranquility, it manifests as frantic unstable energy.  Too much stillness can make you dull while too much non-stop movement can exhaust you. Finding the balance of how they work together can revolutionize your life.  

Meditation is the art of sitting with nothing but the quiet mind and watching the movement of life. When we sit and get really still, we see that movement is simply a declaration of change, creativity and evolution. 

If we wish to be a master of our own lives, we must master the art of meditation as well as the art of moving gracefully and mindfully through life.  They go hand in hand.

If we wish to be a master of our own lives, we must master the art of meditation as well as the art of moving gracefully and mindfully through life.  They go hand in hand. The deeper your movement practice, the greater the stillness of mind. The deeper you can go into silence and meditate, the more you can confidently move with life’s unpredictable events. You are here to explore polarities. Some call it the cosmic dance of life and whether you know it or not, it is moving through you right now but you might miss it if you can’t be still for one tiny moment!

Prafulla Giuseppe Carnaghi – Nature walk guide 

To me ‘spiritual practice’ means bringing meditation into the small “movements” in my daily life.

Meditation cannot be confined to the time I sit cross-legged with eyes closed.

It’s the moment I get up and start moving in the flow of everyday life that my meditation is challenged. It’s reminding myself to be present in small movements like washing my hands or peeling an apple.

When I walk in nature, listening to its sounds and to its silence, I find a deeper sense of stillness, and this becomes my spiritual practice, a precious doorway to inner silence, a space beyond thinking. This way I’m the ‘space’ in which all movements (my body, my thoughts, my emotions) happen.

When I walk in nature, listening to its sounds and to its silence, I find a deeper sense of stillness, and this becomes my spiritual practice, a precious doorway to inner silence, a space beyond thinking

Gijs Fermie –  Kum Nye (Tibetan Yoga)

Movement can serve as a preliminary to meditation, a state of present pure awareness. In Kum Nye practice (Tibetan Yoga) we integrate movement, massage and meditation into one holistic discipline. Here we first practice movement exercises in order to stimulate energy within the body. Now the feeling-experience in the body, linked with the energy of the breath, will massage our being from the inside out. This inner massage in turn will allow us to relax more and release tensions.

Kum Nye practice brings us to a calm, clear and creative state of being, which is the heart of meditation.

And at the same time it will create more space to embody this free flow of energy,  expanding our presence in space. In the end this process will open-up within us a warm and deep, sacred space of infinite awareness. Kum Nye practice brings us to a calm, clear and creative state of being, which is the heart of meditation. Movement can serve as well as a form of integration; meditation in action. For this to come about we would need to bring movement, stillness and awareness together. And in this way, by practicing body-awareness that leads into space-awareness, movement becomes meditation.

How do you feel movement intersects with your discipline? What’s your favorite way to move? Drop us a note in the comments, we’d love to hear!

Keeping our Cool during Summer

Summer is upon us and we are feeling the heat of this especially warm year! It can be challenging to find energy and can become a little overwhelming, especially if we are not on vacation and have a busy day. Here are some suggestions from our beloved yoga teacher & wellness coach Julia on how to keep cool this summer, as well as a delicious, refreshing recipe:

  • Choose to wear loose, natural and breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton and wear light colors.
  • Drink lots of good quality water (tap water is not the best idea). Spring water is the best. Herbal teas are also great in summer, especially fresh mint tea. 
  • Avoid being in the sun between 10am and 2pm.
  • Plan doing sports or other activities during the cooler time of the day.
  • Limit consumption of animal products as they have a warming effect on the body.
  • Include more raw foods in your diet such as salads, local fresh fruit, vegetables. Green juices are loaded with vitamins and minerals and have a cooling effect on the body but make sure it is not very sweet.

Additionally, here is a quick and easy green soup that you can have any time of the day and it will keep you cool, full of energy and healthy. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and measurements to make it to your liking.

Green Gazpacho

Yields- 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

1 ripe tomato, cut into quarters

2 medium cucumbers, cut in manageable sizes

½ zucchini (optional)

1-2 stalks of celery (optional)

1 small avocado

1 bunch of any greens (lettuce, kale, parsley, spinach, etc)

1 lemon juiced or apple cider to taste

a handful of basil leaves

2-3 cloves garlic

Sea salt to taste

1 ½-2 cups water (adjust to your liking)

Garnish:

1 avocado diced (optional)

1 cucumber and or radish diced

1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro or parsley

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until slightly chilled. Garnish each portion and enjoy.

Stay cool and share photos of your soup with us in the comments below!