The Art of Journaling

We are living in some unprecedented times. Many people are struggling and words like pressure, rush, mental health, suicide, social media, addiction, drugs – these are almost the new normal.  As a result, more and more people have trouble with finding themselves in a good place emotionally and mentally.

What is that feeling that something is not right?

It is easy to lose the connection with ourselves and our feelings, in a world where we are over-stimulated 24-7 by work, social media, expectations, etc. We are not aware of our thoughts and our behaviours, se we lose touch with our inner world. We live our lives the best we can, we go go go. Many people have trouble saying no and with standing up for themselves. In these hectic times we have so many options and choices, it’s hard to know where to go. We continue to run and we don’t stop.

So what can we do?

Press the “pause bottom”, as Prema from Mandali always says. We are looking for happiness and peace and balance but we don’t know how to get there. Because we have not learned how to deal with emotions and feelings and we are not self-aware, of our behaviors as well as our thoughts.

This is where journaling comes in. Taking time out to sit down and think and write down your thoughts is extremely healing, and also empowering. That moment to pause. Writing is literally letting go. Letting go of our thoughts is like an instant relief.  Like a tire that loses its pressure. We feel safe when we write, and a bonus is that we are in the present moment while doing it 🙂To be in your own mind in your own time is just an incredible feeling. It gives ourselves the attention that we so much need, we put ourselves first. It is an act of self-love, real Me-Time.

There are many ways of journaling

  • Intuitive writing (writing what-ever comes to mind), a story that needs to be told 
  • a life plan, wishes and dreams
  •  writing about your behavior and feelings,
  • writing about day-to-day life, your daily thoughts.
  • writing when you are sad or angry

All of these forms are good. They allow us to release what is burning inside of us, and by letting it go, we start to look at our thoughts and patterns in a different, more lighter and neutral way.  

While writing, we begin to see things more clearly and honestly, and “open for change”. We can change perspective on the way we see our own lives and the world – which has often been distorted. We start really being our own best friend, and take control of our lives. Like in an aeroplane, we need to take the oxygen mask first before we can help other people. Once we are there you will understand that your thoughts are not true, often on repeat,  we can change them into new and better ones. So we can start to live our lives authentically – YOUR dream life that you always dreamt of.

After a difficult time in my life, going through a depression, and finding my way slowly again in new and better circumstances, I was looking for a way to share what I learned to help others. I especially wanted to help young people living in these times, where it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and lose touch with themselves, by giving them tools which will help make their life easier through self reflection. That’s why I came up with a simple and fun 4 step method that I have combined with a journal, called MY JOURNAL. It guides people to reflect, write and find themselves so they can create their own manual and start doing what is right for them so they become balanced, whole and happy. Because we all want to feel peaceful and in the present moment, because that is where the magic happens. The reactions up till now have been really impressive. 

I wrote this book with the purpose to heal the world a bit. Since I believe, as all the teachers at Mandali do too, that if we like and love ourselves (self love) we will automatically be kind to others. So let’s all do that, in our own way, let’s spread some love.

”Let’s allow journaling to be our meditation. Nothing more, nothing less.” – Beth Kempton

About Maggie Maris

Maggie is a friend of Mandali and shares our vision being a point of light in the world, helping others through her work. She is the author of MY JOURNAL and MY WAY, beautiful journaling tools to help to self-reflect and grow in your journey of self discovery. Her books are published in Dutch and soon in English, for more information please go here: www.maggiesway.n IG: @maggies.way

The road to Freedom is a long game, but there are shortcuts…

Freedom is a word, a practice, an action, a feeling, and a state of mind. We often speak of our right to live in a free environment but what exactly does this mean? There are precious moments where individual decisions can really make a difference to society at large. The wrong word or action can destroy everything in an instant. Where do you personally lose your awareness and kindness when it’s most needed? 

Do we believe that implementing government policies focused on freeing a country of injustice, prejudice, violence, or poverty will miraculously heal a community and empower us to make healthy decisions on an individual moment-to-moment basis? Countries and governments are made up of individuals who make countless decisions. Many of them are irrational and destructive. What state of mind are these powerful decision makers in when deciding the fate for all of us?  Using war as a solution to life’s problems reflects a group of leaders who are at war with themselves. How many wars (arguments) did you start this week with your lover, neighbour, friend, or work colleague? Were you equanimous or acting out old story lines?   

Is it possible in a world where people have very little time for inner work, for socially conscious policies to change a person’s ability to make virtuous decisions in the heat of the moment? Even if changemakers are full of altruistic motivations, can they implement individual change from the outside in?  Thus far it seems that global decisions keep sliding into ‘me” versus ‘you’ psychic warfare. The common struggle is the unaware ‘me’ versus the emotional ‘reactive’ me. In this dialogue, the conscious self gets buried in a battle of unconscious inner dialoguing. If people were truly aware and digging, they would not be ignoring how inner conflicts between body, speech and mind waste time and energy. Admitting the inner discord is the heart-core of our work at Four Ways to Freedom.

The truth is that we are a planet in pain, and we must get to work. The planet is one day away from mutually assured destruction. We know it but many of us feel helpless. How do we change the world? How do we create a road towards loving one another, working together, and living in peace? It starts with individual responsibility.  We all have a responsibility to first heal ourselves and help heal the hearts of the many wounded walking on earth, lost without a path or an understanding of ultimate freedom.  We keep putting political band aids on societal pain without an understanding of the fundamental causes. Human pain is the result of an unexamined life. As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  The road to freedom requires radical self-honesty before any type of outer freedoms can be successfully implemented by a collective.  

America is supposed to be the land of the free but if you pay close attention, with all their freedoms written in legal code, what freedoms are being enacted? Thus far in 2022 there have been 576 mass shootings.  Without deep inner work, can a society free itself from the madness of one another’s entrapped anger? We are a species in deep hurt.

Step one – Admit it.

Step two – Do something about it and don’t dwell on being a victim, a rescuer or pointing the finger at the perpetrator. On the road to freedom the most precious resource is time!  Spend the time cultivating a loving heart of creative compassion.

The road to freedom requires profound investigation. Many of us live in a state of frantic self-imprisonment and even when our outer conditions change for the better, we barely notice because we are so busy fighting our own agitation.  We’ve inherited an old world of egocentric tribal values through our parents and a myriad of outdated organizational models. We barely recognize that how we choose to respond to a world of conditioned phenomena is painfully predictable and not at all in the spirit of free choice.  

Stated differently, our ingrained conditioned negative habits create our perception of a hostile outer world. Of course the world is often hostile but that does not mean we need to behave the same way.  Worldly material conditions might be improving but do we take notice given our simultaneously inner mental stresses are dramatically increasing due to over stimulation. The news and social media are a good mirror for our madness which is why we recommend that people take time for retreats and practice digital detoxes. The solution to alleviating the endless struggles…Practice continuum awareness without reacting or adding to the madness.

The road to freedom requires that you show up with eyes wide open

We work with a lot of people who are not so certain of the path they are on and where it is supposed to be leading them. Some will say: “I just go with the flow of life”. This is dangerous as mob mentality can easily influence directionless people on a road to the lowest common denominator. Some say to us: “I have not really thought about a path to freedom and don’t really have the time”. A sound piece of advice – Make the time now! The world needs you.

If we really pause and contemplate our personal road to freedom, we have been trying to free ourselves since conception. We free ourselves from the womb, we free ourselves from our parents at two years old because they keep saying no, we free ourselves from the constraints of schools, governments, countries, ideologies, challenging habits, from our bodies at death… The list could go on, but we are freeing ourselves from the habit of overly stating the obvious. There is a road to freedom that we are all walking, running, dancing, and skipping towards. The road is paved with tests, challenges, temptations, betrayals, rewards, triumphs, enemies, and allies. Where is this road leading us? Some say death because death, for some, is the ultimate freedom from life, but is it?  We might free ourselves from the burden of the body, but will we free ourselves from disturbing thoughts, emotions, and perceptions? People who have had near death experiences would argue that in death there is recognition, emotion, and old stories to resolve and release.  The road to freedom requires a solid look at how we liberate ourselves in life so we can die with dignity and a lightness of our being. This is one of the many benefits to doing inner work now. It paves an unobstructed wondrous road through life and death.

What inner delusions and attachments need to die on your road to freedom and what needs to be nurtured? Death is a transition point and the ease with which that happens depends on our ability to free ourselves of as many things as possible… freeing ourselves from anger, greed, confusion, jealousy, pride, unexamined beliefs, outdated concepts, the inner critic, and unreasonable expectations.  Letting go of something we really want is the road to freedom because you can’t be free or happy unless you are able to surrender here and now to the mystery. To be free, one must learn the ancient skill of interrupting their wild mind, their volatile emotions, and their reactive speech.

Life is an opportunity to master death. Most of our intimate relationships die, our jobs die, ideas die, our neighborhoods die, our beloved pets die… We are in a constant training of letting go without much awareness or gratitude. A good state dies, a difficult state arises to take its place and vice versa.  The road to freedom requires that we keep our positive states flowering for longer periods of time. These wholesome states need to be nourished and protected with love and practiced with others doing the same work.

The Road to Freedom requires 6 Essential Ingredients:

1) Learning to Pause – Our ability to stop the train of overwhelm and resetting our nervous system.  It means getting up off the work chair and breathing or going for a walk.  If you can do this, you start to free yourself from the pressure of always ‘doing’ and move towards ‘being’.

2) Meditation – This is the art of watching your inner world without reactivity

3) Physical Exercise – If your body is full of tension and pain due to inertia, you need to sweat it out.  Don’t expect to feel free even if the world is conspiring to give you all your material demands. You have a body that wants to be used in every way possible.

4) Compassion – Learning to be kind and caring for yourself under pressure filled situations.  How you talk on the inner plane matters. The subconscious is kicking up a cocktail of various inner critics, so you need to counterbalance this with a loving voice.  You can’t be free if you are beating yourself up. Remember the journey is to fall in love with everyone and everything, including yourself in every moment. If you can do this, the natural result is liberation from angst.

5) Curiosity – This means being able to ask questions rather than drawing unexamined conclusions about a situation: What is going on here? What am I missing? What is the truth? What are all the angles? What am I misunderstanding? Freedom needs investigation. Freedom from what? Freedom from whom?

6) Tranquility – If we are social justice warriors but go home to a hostile home environment what do we bring to work the next day…and the day after that?

If you follow the 6 essential ingredients to freedom, you will have mastery over yourself. You will feel free when the rest of the world is creating division and compartmentalizing. Eight billion people are waiting for political change to happen to live freely.  If you look deeply, freedom on the inside, means you start to have a positive impact externally one person at a time and that can spread like a social wildfire.

“By abandoning unhealthy inner views and attachments, you change how you act in the world and consequently you transform how you see it.”  ~ Four Ways to Freedom

Having mastery over oneself is what we call Absolute Freedom.  This requires training and recognizing the truth of the present moment…not spiritually by-passing selective things like money, sex or power but learning to feel and face the sticky truth, integrating it and moving on gracefully. Great freedom also comes with overcoming our own self-obsessed bullshit.  The path to freedom is moving from ME to WE to US to THIS moment.

This moment is where freedom lives and ignoring it is a betrayal to our most evolved self. Implementing political policy is a dicey and unpredictable road to freedom but doing individual inner work on oneself with a group of determined practitioners is the shortest path to mutually shared freedom.

Be Well! 

Evangelos Diavolitsis and Nishta Matarese

Evangelos and Nishta are international Dharma, meditation and movement teachers and the founders of Four Ways to Freedom. Join them for their next retreat at Mandali:

The Road to Freedom – Feb 2023 – 6-day Mindfulness Healing Retreat 

Meditation – Dharma – Movement – Art 

The Anatomy of a Morning Ritual

Do you imagine yourself having a yoga, meditation, walking, writing, prayer or self care  practice in the morning, but it remains  a beautiful and serene idea, life seems to work against you in materializing it? You’re not alone.  

When I  do my morning practice it feels like a soothing balm, gives me energy, colours my day, and an overall feeling of satisfaction mostly stays with me…. More than once after a great practice I thought ‘why on earth don’t I do this all the time’!?  For years it’s been an off and on relationship with my mornings (I love to meander about), but now I think I’m closer to nailing it down. It’s a tough habit to form though, but once you got it, it flows naturally and easily, I promise.

Why a practice in the early hours? Mornings are energetically pure, our ego, analytical thinking mind, digestion, are peaceful, rested, and we are more open to more subtle, intimate and quiet energies. It’s the perfect time to be with yourself, spend a little time in your inner world before you engage with the outer.

Let’s call it for what it is,  a RITUAL rather than a habit or routine. It gives it a more precious significance, because that is what it is, precious time dedicated to just you, your practice. This is called a Saddhana in Sanskrit, meaning a daily spiritual practice.

So how do we give this gift of a Ritual to ourselves? Each of us live differently, some of you have children tickling your feet pre-dawn, some of you might have to be at work very early, or have a night shift, so let’s stay a bit flexible in our endeavours.

Firstly, I can’t believe I  almost finished writing this without possibly the most important point, so I will add it here on top. YOUR PHONE! Keep it off, airplane mode, no wifi, data, when you wake up, until the end of your ritual. This may be a bit anxiety inducing at first, but trust me, it’s so worth it. The phone is so sneaky, it can distract you before you even begin. Just… there’s no way around this.

  1. LAY CLAIM to the chosen moment of your practice.  Tell the people you live with that this is your time. It just takes a little change of mindset. You go to work no matter what, right? Get the kids ready?  It’s easy to put everything aside to show up for your duties and to check the boxes for everyone else.  Reassign the same type of priority to your morning practice, piggybacking your dedication from something you already feel you must do . CLAIM the moment as something you absolutely do, no matter what. It might sound like an extreme measure, and it just might be for starting out….
  1. Remember, your practice also benefits others, as when you take time to navigate your mind, body and emotions, you become more patient, kind, and loving to others. So it is NOT selfish to do your Saddhana.
  1. Let go of how long you think your practice should be, but try to assign yourself a minimum amount of time. Can be 10, 20 or 30 minutes, whatever suits you.
  1. So what do we do? I would say choose 3 things for your ritual to start with. For example: Drink a warm beverage in silence. Do 10 minutes of movement and stretching. 10 minutes of seated meditation. It could be 3 totally different things, repeating a mantra, writing,  burning a candle, whatever you choose. It could be 5 things. Or 1 thing.
  1.  If you are not sure what stretches to do, what the meditation could look like, don’t give up! Choosing a framework like this will motivate you to search for a teaching that works for you.  You’ll find yourself  taking notes in the next class you go to, to watch a video to prepare yourself. Let it be your creative project to sculpt your practice. 

Lastly, I want to share with you a tool I use from the Bullet Journaling method, the habit tracker. This has completely changed my relationship to self discipline, gives me oversight, and is also quite fun. If you love grids, lists and colours, it may be a good idea for you. Here is an example, you can also colour in the grid instead of check marks:

This is a habit tracker just for a daily practice, but you could add any other habit you want to keep track of too. For more info about this you can look up the Bullet Journaling method by Ryder Carrol. My habit tracker has around 7 things on it, so you can get really creative.

Let your morning routine be like a homecoming,  a place of belonging. Something you get excited about when you close your eyes before going to sleep. It’s an intimate offering, a part of you, like a friend that is always by your side. Those kinds of friendships that  remain strong even if you are out of touch for  a while, when you come back, they are there again  with open arms, no strings attached.

And don’t hesitate to call it Evening, Lunch, Night practice if you like, it applies to all! We stay flexible, us yogis, no pun intended. If you have a morning routine you would like to inspire us with, or have any questions, feel free to write in the comments!

6 Ways to Cultivate a Summer Practice

Summer is here, and there is so much to celebrate. Travel season is finally open, the weather is amazing and I feel light, energetic and hopeful. People around me are smiling, I live in the South of France and the combination of rivers, mountains, beach (and the aperitivo) is simply intoxicating. All of life’s regular challenges seem easy to tackle, even work, as I actually I get the busiest during summer.

BUT, there is also a nagging thought “why don’t I feel like this all the time”?  I have to admit I get a little anxious about how short the summer is and that it might be over soon. I tell myself, well, let’s just be in the moment, and put away whatever is coming next. Just enjoy it. 

Its not a seasonal thing! 

Here’s the thing: I spent 12 years of my life living in a year around summer climate, and trust me, ‘The Blues’ can come anywhere, any time, and they are not seasonal! Our inner sense of satisfaction, our ability to be mindful and grounded in the present is something we can cultivate to be lasting year around. Actually, THIS is our practice. 

Our inner sense of satisfaction, our ability to be mindful and grounded in the present is something we can cultivate to be lasting year around. Actually, THIS is our practice. 

This time of year  is so rich and filled with beauty, its easy to feel connected to the earth, to nature, family and community. Summer time is a  great opportunity to deepen our practice, and at the same time can be distracting and we can completely fall out of it because we are in ‘vacation mode’. 

Ideas on how to bring your mindfulness, meditation, and yoga practice to life during summer: 

  1. Plan your practice. As you plan your summer, make an intention about your practice too. Schedule it in, allow it to be a priority.  If you are going on vacation, bring your meditation cushion and your mat. Inform the people you spend time with about it, and that you would like to be free of distraction during that time.  
  1. Honour the sunrise. If you have the chance, try waking up early and practice with the sunrise. There is something auspicious and peaceful about this time, and it IS easier to wake up early in the summer, so why not make the most of it.
  1. Write about it. My grandmother once told me that if you want to remember beautiful moments and make them a part of you forever, write them down. Even with photos, the moment could slip by.  When we bring writing into our daily lives, we might also see the world differently, notice more details about the beauty and wonders of our experiences.
  1. Connect to your creativity. Bring out the old pencils, colours, knitting, half written poetry, dusty instruments. Take it with you on vacation and spend some ME time with your creative outlet. There’s nothing like being in the flow of creation in the present moment, and you might even end the summer with a beautiful finished project.
  1. Listen to your body. If it is rest that you need, then take the rest. Let yourself connect to your natural rhythm, your own pace this summer. It’s ok to opt out, be ‘unproductive’, and just lounge about. I love getting sweaty and doing all the activities when I have time off and that’s all good. But it can be exhausting. It’s all about balance and what YOU need.
  1. Take some silent time. There’s a lot of social stuff going on, and we love it. Give yourself some silent time, even just an hour here and there. It’s a gift. Maybe you have some time off work, you can put the phone away for a few hours a day, or longer! 

In time with regular practice, whatever it is that your chosen lineage, school or teacher is, it will become a part of you and trickle into your daily life, no matter where you are or what you are doing. That’s the beauty of it, it just takes a little attention and dedication for a while, and then it becomes naturally inviting. Summer is a great time to start!

About Silvia

Silvia is a Yoga teacher, physiology enthusiast, and spiritual seeker. She is passionate about making the yoga practice accessible and functional for everyone and helping others find their personal expression with joyful movement.  Read full bio