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.

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!

The 6 Keys to Happiness

Real Happiness is not based on external circumstances.

This is one of the main lessons we receive in our studies of yoga philosophy, so how can you feel more happiness even if life is not always up to giving it?

These are the 6 keys to happiness:

1. Know Yourself

Get to know yourself on deeper levels. Use your yoga practice to connect to the part in you that is everlasting, permanent through all of life’s changes. Your soul’s essence always remains at ease and in peace, you’ll get to know it with meditation and a calm mind, mostly in moments of stillness.

Knowing yourself also includes getting to understand what triggers you and acknowledging your “dark sides” and your limitations. Yin Yoga is a wonderful practice for this.

2. Fulfill Your Potential

Seeds need sun, water and nutrition in order to grow. In the same sense you need to gather your forces and your power to fulfill your potential, your desires. Who are the people who see you and support you to grow? What practices help you gain more confidence and courage?

3. Be Courageous

Choose to live from your heart, no matter if life’s circumstances are pleasant or challenging. Cultivate your intuition and follow it. Become aware of the power of intention and resolve, it will help you push through any obstacles. You are committed to stay true to yourself and this will make you feel proud of yourself.

4. Serve The Greater Good

Remember that you are a part of the bigger web, you are not isolated. Whenever self doubt and fear creeps in remember the greater good and how you can serve with what you have to offer. This will be stronger that your ego which might want to keep you small. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world, so keep sharing your story and your light.

Here’s a wonderful quote by Martha Graham:

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

5. Non-Attachment To The Outcome

Ever felt a deep inner calling? Maybe you didn’t follow it because you were to concerned about the outcome? Let go of the attachment to the outcome, do what you need to do because it’s your inner calling. You will find a deep satisfaction in doing so and inspire others to follow. The universe works in magical ways!

6. Have Faith

Cultivating faith is the understanding that life is perfect in all its imperfections. It doesn’t need to be any different for you to be happy. Trust that life reflects back to you exactly what you need to learn to grow. Imperfection leads to Evolution. Your affirmation: I may need to change, but Life does not.

Which of the 6 keys resonated most with you? I love to hear from you in the comments. And if you’d like to listen to these 6 keys in a yin yoga practice please head over to Dagmar’s YouTube channel for the video. Enjoy!

Sound, Silence and the exploration of Consciousness

When I was in my late teens and after moving out from my parents home, I was living in a small apartment in Italy that was located on a busy main street. At times when I was in the kitchen preparing a cup of tea or doing nothing in particular, I would notice that the sound of the traffic on the road or the water boiling in the tea kettle was suddenly carrying a particular flavor, very difficult to describe…almost like a mixture of nostalgia and longing: as if every sound had a long tail, like an echo. They were also losing any connotation like being pleasurable or disturbing. They would become just sounds, devoid of any quality I would usually attribute to them….almost as if they would become perfect just as they were.

Those particular moments remained an unresolved mystery for me, until a few years later: 

I am sitting in a large meditation hall in India listening to my spiritual teacher Osho, commenting on some writings of a Zen master who is describing the different stages one encounters when entering deeper states of meditation. 

My attention awakens in the moment I hear Osho reading from the Zen master’s text something like: 

“…and as you move deeper into your inner silence and stillness all sounds start having a particular quality, like an echo…as if coming from a distant valley…” 

This was the first time anyone would give words to that unusual experience I had and it helped me realize that these moments happened when I was in a generally relaxed and unoccupied state of mind, like a natural state of meditation. 

Often the same experience would happen to me while listening to Osho talk. Just sitting there, with nothing to do…just listening…and suddenly all sounds seemed to be situated in the perfect space and time with an incredible sweetness to them. A train whistling in the distance, a dog barking, the sound of a woman sweeping the street, a child crying or the wind blowing through the bamboo… in those moments every sound became an intrinsic part of the great symphony of the present moment. 

To add to my intrigue, quotes from various masters also began to come my way: 

“When I am silent, I fall into the place where everything is music.” – Rumi 

“Where is the door to God? 

In the sound of a barking dog 

In the ring of a hammer 

In a drop of rain 

In the face of everyone I see.” – Hafiz 

“Start listening to sounds, let music be your meditation. 

Listen to the sounds, all kinds of sounds. They are all divine – even the market noise, even the sounds that are created in the traffic. This airplane, that train … 

all sounds have to be listened to so attentively, silently and lovingly… as if you are listening to music. 

And you will be surprised: you can transform all sounds into music; they are music.”  – Osho 

I started to explore this open door into the ever-present moment, and during these explorations I discovered that 

the space in which all sounds echo, or “the valley” as described above, is an ever present silence. 

Just like light cannot exist without darkness or matter without space, sound cannot exist without silence. 

We could say that silence is for the ears what space is for the eyes. 

In fact, to me music is an attempt to play those notes (objects) – to arrange them together – in a harmonious way that does not override silence but enhances it. Like in interior design or in Feng Shui one tries to place furniture in a fashion that creates a feeling of harmony, where space is not “filled” but “played” with and emphasized. 

One of the problems I encountered is that it can be difficult to tune into silence or space because our attention is very much object-oriented rather than space-oriented. 

For example, if I were to enter a room the first thing I would notice would be the furniture and not the space per se – even when “room” actually means “space”. 

So let’s say that in a room there is a piano and some chairs and I decide to take the piano to another room. When I return and I look where the piano had been standing, what do I see? Space. 

Removing the object revealed the space that was there before the piano arrived and is there after the piano has been removed. In other words, it was always there but it was “occupied”. At the same time the space between the chairs also helps to distinguish where one chair ends and another starts. So we can say that all objects exist in space, are contained by space and are also defined by space. 

In the same way we can perceive all sounds as floating in an ever-present silence. Silence contains them and defines them. When a sound ends, silence becomes more obvious and tangible, although it was there all the time. Silence is the container and sound is the contained. 

Silence is the blue sky within which all sound-clouds move. 

Silence is the white canvas on which all sounds are painted. 

Our physical senses can be precious anchors and doorways into the present moment. If we give our full attention to deep listening, in that very moment we are taking away the fuel from the continuous stream of thoughts, redirecting that energy into presence. 

This makes listening a great meditation tool (and the same is true for the other senses). 

But to have this tool activated it is necessary that we are able to listen to any of the sounds without labeling them  either “pleasant” or  “disturbing” and this allows us to listen from a non-dualistic space. 

The moment we judge a sound we are back in the dualistic world of the mind and we will not be able to enter the door of Oneness and perceive its divine qualities. 

This is not unlike our sitting meditation practice when we observe thoughts coming and going without getting involved and without judging them as “good thoughts” or “bad thoughts”. The moment we start judging them we are back in the turning wheel of the mind. 

As a listener, did you notice that the more quiet you become, the more you can hear? 

To me, this points to the fact that whatever perceives sound is the silent space inside of us and the more silent we can become the better sounds can be perceived and defined, and their divine “sweet” nature revealed. Every sound thus, even the most mundane, becomes a doorway to a deeper reality. 

Through this process one is bound to stumble upon the understanding that all sounds perceived by us as coming from the outside and floating into space-silence are also perceived inside of us in space-silence. 

At this point one starts wondering if there is actually any separation between the “outside” and the “inside”… could it be that the ever-present space-silence outside of our body is the SAME as the one inside of us? Could it be that there is no inside and outside as far as space-consciousness is concerned? 

I often asked myself what is it in me that perceives sounds? The ears are only a channel, an entryway, but sound is perceived at a deeper level. This becomes obvious to me every time I enter or come out of sleep: if sounds were perceived just by the ears then I would be able to hear sounds all the time even while I am asleep. But I don’t. As I fall deeper into sleep, sounds are no longer there (that is why people can fall asleep in front of a blaring TV screen). 

When I am conscious sounds are there but when I am unconscious they disappear, therefore whatever is perceiving sound seems to be related with consciousness. 

At times, I experience an empty silent space inside of me where no ripples are created by any wandering thoughts. I question: is this where consciousness dwells? Or is this what consciousness is ? 

Indeed it seems to me that the closest thing comparable to consciousness is this space-silence. This leads me back to the fact that moving from an object-related awareness to a space-related awareness will bring about a deeper understanding of Self. 

Once I heard Osho say that senses are doorways, and as one can walk through the door to go outside, one can change direction and go inside through the same door. He said that senses are like a double pointed arrow. 

I personally resonate with this embodied approach to life, where the body and its senses are an integral part and expression of who we are as conscious beings on this planet. Many spiritual paths disregard the body as “not who we are”. To me this approach is not only a bit outdated but it can also be harmful as it recreates the dualistic separation between above and below, inside and outside, spirit and matter. 

Over the last few years this deepening relationship with sound and silence has inspired me to lead music meditations where music is used to point to the container: silence. 

As a musician, when I allow music to arise out of the inner silence, it carries a different quality. This is music that does not try to override silence but emerges from it. In this space, the contained and the container are interlaced in a harmonious play where sound eventually disappears back into the space from where it came, making silence more tangible, within and without. 

I can’t help but feel that like a sound-wave returning into the ocean of silence, I too will go back from where I came. It is as if each of us is a piece of music, a unique song existence has chosen to play out of the eternal silence, out of the space in which eventually we will all be reunited.

Shastro will be facilitating the Journey in Mindfulness Retreat at Mandali the 21-25 August 2023, for those who would like to deepen their meditation practice with his playful and sincere approach.

6 Tips to Improve your Meditation Practice

The fastest way to improve your meditation practice is to see everything you do during the day as an opportunity to cultivate pristine awareness. Show up for life with eyes wide open! Show up for the small stuff especially. That’s where you want to fall asleep. It’s easy for the mind to wander when you feel bored by a small task.  

Meditation in action also known as mindfulness, is an opportunity to practice continuum awareness. To stay connected to the present moment, you want to turn every activity of the day into an opportunity to deepen your practice.

Meditation is not just about sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed. It’s about being alert, awake and open to the moment you are living in. When you meditate on the task at hand, you are creating a conscious relationship with your experience as it arises.

These are the six areas we advise would be beneficial to train yourself not to let your mind wander off. 

1)    Dishes – Pay attention to how you scrub the food particles and the order of which dishes you wash first and how you stack the dishwasher. Are you slouching? Are your feet squarely grounded on the floor? Are your body and spine straight? Notice if you are resisting the task. 

2)    Taking a shower – Activate your sense of touch and feel the temperature of the water. How do you touch and wash your own body. Slow down and be present to the foam, the bubbles and how you scrub yourself. Are you rushing to get to the next moment? 

3)    Folding laundry – Practice precision awareness. Make elegant folds and breath into the experience. Learn to master space in your closets and feel how different textures require different handling. 

4)    Driving a car – Practice multi-directional awareness. Be aware of the space in front, behind, left, and right – Pay attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. When your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention back to the breath and the road. At every stop sign and light, take a conscious breath. Are you rushing to get somewhere?

5)    Sweeping – Find your flow. Connect the body to breath. We call this the dancing meditation. You aren’t sweeping. You are dancing with life and with every swish of the broom, the past is being released. 

6)    In Conversation (advanced practice) – While talking or listening, focus on their eyes primarily but look at their lips once and awhile. Be aware of your heart when you speak and your inner ear lobe when you are listening. Pay attention to how ideas, opinions and words cause emotional reactivity and stay cool. Keep returning to insight questions: Do I have all the facts? Is this true? What is this person really wanting to share with me?

by Evangelos Diavolitsis and Nishta Matarese

Evangelos and Nishta are international Dharma, meditation and movement teachers and the founders of Four Ways to Freedom.

Interview: What I love about ageing – with Prema

What’s the most rewarding thing about getting older?

I experience that time has more space. I can breathe deeply, I experience more space inside my container, like it is getting bigger inside. The capacity of including more things, situations are less black and white. There is an understanding that brings grace, and I am more patient and accepting.

I have more of a 360 degree point of view, and better able to see the bigger picture. It might have to do with the fact that I have been on a spiritual path for 40 years, it could be a result of that. I feel open, spacious. Also, a big bonus, I don’t have to worry about what men think anymore!

Who was the most influential person in your life?

My father. He was always supportive of me, whatever I was interested in, encouraging me, making me feel I could do anything, he never said no. This gave me so much independence and freedom to be myself. We had a lot in common about philosophy and literature. He had so many ideas, he even built a theater for us as kids, he taught us how to express emotions without violence, he was an amazing story teller. He was my first teacher. He taught us how to paint with our hands and feet, he was wild and fun. We loved Nietzsche, Dostoievsky, Kirkegaard, and poetry, because of him.

Later on, Osho was my spiritual teacher, and funnily enough – the first book by him was given to me by my dad. He was proud of me choosing the spiritual path.

As a 40-year-old, what advice would you give me?

Don’t choose your path in life because of a man!

When you think of ageing, what emotions does it trigger?

I feel gratitude and happiness, because I have experienced a lot of love in my life. I had beautiful love stories and friendships, each relationship the right one for my age at the time. It is so important to feel loved, to do what you do in every age.

What’s your favorite invention that was released in your lifetime?

I was very excited by my first mobile phone, for sure! My ex-husband and I both got a phone at the same time, and we loved calling each other randomly. It was the first banana Nokia. It struck me to realize that I could reach someone on the street at any time.

How has your definition of beauty changed?

When I was young, I was glowing, very beautiful and I had a lot of attention from men. I was so bothered by the attention, and also, a part of me enjoyed it. On the other hand, it also made me feel vulnerable. I am happy that I am free of all that; I had the love I wanted, I felt desired so I don’t feel like I regret anything.

Now I feel what makes me beautiful with age is my inner space, my capacity to be comfortable with myself, forgiving myself and others. It makes me feel beautiful, and I don’t need others to tell me that.

My body is changing, my face is changing – I’m very different. So the outer look is not the same, but the beauty I feel inside is immense. I feel so good, I see wisdom, openness and my cup is full. I have a great understanding of others, I see people, and I feel proud of that. I also feel the true love I receive from people is from those who really see me for who I am, and it comes from those who truly count. Sometimes that makes me a little sad, and I recognize the need to confront that.

I really love what I see when I look at myself.

If you could go back to any age, which would it be?

Between 25-35, for sure. At 25 I joined a commune, and I felt that I found the reason for coming into this world. I dove into inner seeking completely, and it became very clear that my life would be dedicated to service of my own inner realization and that of others. I don’t see those two as separate things, so a communal setting is my way to go, it is where inner transformation can happen.

I’m not in a commune anymore, but that’s where I realized the impact of a buddha field a group can create.

One of my favorite quotes:
“The next Buddha will not take the form of a person.

The next Buddha will rather take the shape of a community, a community that practices understanding and loving kindness, a community that practices a way of conscious living.

This may be the most important thing for Earth’s survival.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

What should we not waste time on, as 30/40 year olds?

Making others happy, caring too much about what others think. I did it for a while, and I regret it, I felt I wasted 6 years of my life. It’s like I took a pause in life from the age 37-43, I didn’t follow my own gut and was living in a dream, wanting to fulfill other people’s expectations.

As you enter this new season of life, how has it impacted your relationship with spirituality?

It has changed a lot. I’ve been very fortunate to meet great masters in my youth who gave me the foundations to my spirituality. This was important, I really learned the art of surrender. It is different now, I am not anymore focused on someone else, a teacher, a master. My spiritual world is much broader now, and since then I feel that on this path I’m truly on my own.

Even though I still have great realized teachers now, people I seek out for consolation, I do not call them my guru and I am not in search of masters. Things are happening on a different level now. I see my own wisdom, which is inside all of us. After all these years, I feel like I have a opened a door to this wisdom, which I can access when I need to and it is always available to me to dive into. When I listen to spiritual teachers now, it just deepens my connection into that door, that space, which is myself.

The biggest gratitude I have for a master is when I sit in front of them and I see myself.

What do you most value at the age 65? Who are you most interested in spending time with?

I love spending time with very close women friends and I enjoy deep intimate talks. I love to talk about life, how we are walking through it. I love listening to stories from others, both men and women. I’m not interested in superficial small talk, except for when it comes to clothes and shoes 🙂

I also love spending time in silence with people, going on walks, to a cafe, not necessarily talking all the time. I like spending time with people who enjoy silence.

And, I enjoy my own company very much, I love being by myself. Its necessary for me to have my own space.

I do love a good party, but with the right people. What I value the most is true friendship.

About Prema

Prema Bellucci is the Vision Holder of Mandali, and oversees the Mandali Experience Programme. Her passion for self-discovery and helping others find their home within themselves is her life’s purpose, a purpose shared by Mandali. Her care and dedication is felt in all the details of your experience as a retreat participant.

Unravelling the Mystery of Self-Confidence

When we start a new project or interact with new people, relationships in general and intimate relationships, we need a certain ground, a certain degree of self-confidence that we will be able to handle what comes up and can deal with potential difficulties and unforeseen events. We need to feel relaxed,
settled in ourselves and ready to embrace success, failure and all the possibilities in between so we can engage with the vicissitudes of life with ease.

Self-confidence is not a thought, not a belief, not an emotion but something more subtle, almost innate, not something that is coming from anything but ourselves.

Self-confidence is also not the guarantee of success, success is a desirable outcome but is not the real drive, the drive is the desire of being fully engaged with life, to fully participate.

When self-confidence is not present, we don’t feel capable, we are uncertain if we want to venture or not, and we feel the absence of the underlying, innate sense of confidence.

“Self-confidence isn’t a thought or an emotion, it’s something innate and
subtle that comes from within. Cultivate it by staying present in the moment
and letting go of the need to control outcomes.”

When that happens we develop all kinds of psychological maneuvres to avoid the underlying sense of deficiency and inadequacy stemming from the idea of potential failure and the fact that we cannot foresee all the possible outcomes and twists to our venture.

Some try to summon self-confidence by simply believing that they will be able to succeed, and some summon self-confidence by seeking confirmation about the belief that they will make it through others around them, especially people close to them. That strategy can work for a while but it can easily be
shaken by just a simple comment from someone we trust, a remark, or even a simple joke. When that happens we feel deflated and collapsed or in certain cases, we react and start to attempt to prove that we are capable, we might even get into an argument about it. We can engage in endless internal conversations in an attempt to find evidence to support that belief but often the perceived certainty can be shaken very easily.

So what is Real Self-confidence, where is it arising from, and how come it is there, we are not even thinking about it? How can it be so obvious when we see it present in others that we almost envy them for it?

In our work, we have seen that self-confidence stems from our connection to ourselves, in our capacity to stay focused on our current experience, with what is really happening now. That connection will inspire us, gauge our capacities in real time and inform us on how much we can do, when, and what we might need to learn to be able to continue in our journey. Sometimes we might need to slow down, sometimes we might need to push, it all depends on the circumstances and our actual capacities and resources available.

How do we connect with ourselves to the extent that we find our innate self- confidence?

We find out that we need to actually relax into ourselves, and when we stop trying, we will naturally do what we are capable of and learn how to do what we are not yet capable of. We also learn how to stop when it’s not really worth the effort. It’s a kind of inner wisdom that is arising from being a human.
Sometimes we fail, and sometimes we succeed, all that is part of our learning experience and we welcome both. The losses are not seen as such, but are actually necessary learning experiences that will help us be the best version of ourselves.

In practice, we basically need to learn how to be present, be in the moment, relax and wait for the innate impulse to arise spontaneously. Sometimes we might lose faith and go back to trying, not out of the love for that action but to escape the uncomfortable feeling of the absence of self-confidence. In those
cases, we might peruse things that are not actually close to our hearts just to fill the sense of lack.

Self-confidence is not arising from our mind, so thinking about success or failure is just a way to disconnect from our gut’s wisdom and consequentially feel insecure, the head cannot do the job of the gut. Like when we are going for a hike and come across an obstacle, if we think about it too much, that is if to jump or not, we end up misgauging our step and stumble. When we trust our instincts, so to say, we mostly make it without any problem and if the gap is too big we just jump inside it or find a way around it.

Our gut does not work only for physical situations but also for life direction and our sentimental life, we need guts to start a new business and to tell someone we love them. So, the simple practice to be present in the moment can awaken our connection with our gut and as a consequence our innate instinctual
capacities. We can then trust ourselves, experiencing that as an innate sense of capacity and confidence.

In conclusion, self-confidence is not something that can be summoned or faked. It comes from a deep connection to ourselves and the ability to stay present and focused on our current experience. It is not about striving for success at all costs, but rather about fully engaging in life and embracing all
the ups and downs that come with it. By learning to relax into ourselves and trust our innate wisdom, we can find the self-confidence needed to face any challenge and embrace our journey with ease.

Remember, the next time you find yourself lacking self-confidence, take a moment to connect with
yourself and trust in your own capabilities. You may be surprised at just how capable you truly are.

Emilio Mercuriali is a teacher of the Diamond Logos. Join him for his study retreat series ‘Journey to Essence’

Journey to Essence

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 

Gratitude: Our Human Superpower

Every creature on this planet has at least one superpower. Ants can carry 50 times their
own bodyweight, hummingbirds can fly backwards, humans can express gratitude. This
may sound trite, but gratitude is our superpower. A superpower we know about, pay lip
service too, but don’t fully take into our hearts and honour.

There is plenty of scientific research, proving what the wisdom traditions have always
known to be true: Gratitude makes us happier, healthier, and kinder.
How does our superpower work? Science has found that gratitude both triggers the
release of dopamine and serotonin and reduces cortisol levels.

This translates into gratitude:

Improves the quality of sleep
Strengthens the immune system
Alleviates physical pain
Optimises blood pressure and cardiac functioning
Improves digestions
Leads to greater emotional intelligence and resilience
Improves communication and interpersonal relationships
Deepens ones sense of connection with others and the planet.
Promotes empathy and self-love

Sounds like a superpower to me.
Let’s take a moment to explore this superpower. Is it possible to sense it for ourselves? To
feel it in our cells?

Take a few breaths and see how you are feeling at this moment. Notice where you are
reading this. At home, in transit? Is it quiet or loud? Are you at ease, stressed, a mix of
both? What are your internal vibes like? Notice your breath and how your body feels.
Take a few more breaths to fully feel into all of this.

Now take a moment and think of five things/people/places/etc you are grateful for.
Count them on your fingers. Breathe each one in and on the exhale offer it your gratitude.
I will breathe along with you. I am grateful for: My eyesight and the colour blue. The sound
of water. The taste of cinnamon. The smell of a cedar forest. The feeling of sunshine on
my belly.

How do you feel now? Was there a shift in your body or mood?
Each time I take a moment like this, where I pause and truly feel in freshly what am I
grateful for in the moment, I do notice the shift. Something, I hadn’t realised had frozen in
me, always melts. My shoulders drop. There is a sense of more space in my chest. I feel a
little lighter and more capacitated.

Of course, the beat passes. Life continues. Things get complicated, stressful, messy.…
Our superpower needs cultivation. There are three circumstances where we need to focus
on building up our capacity to be grateful:

  • When things are going badly
  • When things are fine
  • When thing are doing great

Let’s start with “when things are going great.” For example, you are on holiday or a retreat.
Many years ago, while I was on retreat, Luis, a volunteer at the center taught me a
precious grift. He taught me to say, “Yes thank you. That would be great.” Time after time,
Luis came up to me offering me things: an extra pillow, towel, hot water bottle (I was
camping and its was raining and cold). My reflex at first was to say, “no thank you. I’m
okay.” Each time I did, he looked so disappointed. When I changed my mind and said, “yes
please,” his face lit up. He practically ran off and to get me whatever extra treat it was he
wanted to share with me.

On the last day of the retreat, Luis was still eating lunch when I was bringing in my dishes.
He turned to me and asked, “Would you like chocolate covered strawberries?”
“That sounds amazing Luis. I would love some.” He jumped up with the biggest smile and ran into the kitchen. A moment later, he was there with a plate full of chocolate covered strawberries.

Luis taught me to delight his generosity. To accept it fully. To be grateful for the beauty and
comfort that is there and be open to even more. A favourite film always comes to mind
when I think of Luis. “Thankyouhappymoreplease.” That’s the title of film and such a
great way to meet life when thing are going well. “Thankyouhappymoreplease.”

What about accessing gratitude, “when things are going badly?” Like this summer, when
visiting my family after four years, I got an ear infection and ended up in the emergency
room in a lot of pain. It is natural at moments like this to give out. Equally natural is to feel
grateful. Lying in pain, I did my gratitude practice. I counted on my fingers what am I
grateful fir in this moment? Thankful for the hospital. Thankful for my access to it. Thankful
to all the people working in it. Thankful for the antibiotics and their superpower magic.
Thankful for my body. Yes thankful to my body that was in a lot of pain.

It’s so easy to blame and judge our bodies. To beat them up when they don’t work as we
want them to. My poor ear got attacked and it was doing all that is could to fight off the
infection. Bodies get injured and sick. Bodies age. That’s what bodies do and usually they
are blamed for it. In reality, they are doing their best with what they have got to keep us
alive and ticking. I think that deserves recognition and a whole lot of appreciation.

Of course it’s not easy to do when we are sick and in pain. But when we can, the pain, the
sickness, is so much easier to bear. Remember reading above, science has proven that
gratitude alleviates physical pain. It does. There is still pain but instead of being in conflict
with the pain, fighting the pain, we are befriending it. We are turning towards the difficult
sensations with our superpower. “Thank you body for doing your best. I know it is
really hard right now.”

Finally, how do we cultivate more gratitude “when things are fine?” This is the neutral
flavour, which I find can be the most tricky. We tend to tune out when things are just
flowing along. We distract ourselves and don’t fully pay attention to what is going on. This
leads to more automatic pilot living, which is a duller, more disconnect life.

One way to remember to practice gratitude in the normal moments is with a gratitude
stone. I love collecting tiny smooth stones from beaches or river beds. I often gift them to
others. Inviting people to keep them in the pocket of a favourite jacket or bag. Each time
your hand comes in contact with the stone, you pause and think of one thing you are
grateful for. Then you move on with your day.

It is a simple act and can read as cheesy, but I swear it makes a difference. The more we
practice gratitude, the more me make this a neural pattern. Changing it from a trait to a
state. Hebb’s Law states, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Making happiness
easily accessible in our day to day living no matter what we currently encountering.
I will leave you with one last bit of science pertaining to our superpower. Expressing and
feeling gratitude affect the brain differently. There is more activity in the medial prefrontal
cortex when one expresses gratitude.

So feeling grateful is one thing, but expressing it is something that much more powerful. So I invite to do all the above out loud. Or if that is not your style, write it down. It’s pretty awesome knowing you have a superpower. It is even more fantastic using. Enjoy!

About Loving Kindness and Why Practice It

I never really understood the practice of Loving Kindness, metta, until recently. Sure, I had read
about it, heard about it in my trainings, practiced it, and even taught it, but somehow I didn’t
‘quite get it’. That is until I read Christina Feldman’s book Boundless Heart, The Buddha’s Path
of Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.
In her book Feldman presents practicing Metta as
a verb: befriending. It is an attitude rather than a practice you turn ‘on and off’. She writes:
[metta] “is said to be the necessary foundational attitude underlying all meditative

Loving Kindness is not so much an emotion or state, but a way of approaching all experiences
with boundless friendliness. We can learn to befriend all people – including ourselves – and all
events and circumstances; the pleasant and the unpleasant, the beautiful and the ugly. This
doesn’t mean we have to like everyone or everything, but we can care about it and befriend it.

Insight practice allows us to gain insight into impermanence, ‘unsatisfactoriness’, and the
awareness of no-self. As an Insight practice, the cultivation of metta is directed toward
uncovering aversion, which is a symptom of unsatisfactoriness. Aversion can show up in many
ways: irritation, impatience, jealousy, hatred, belittlement, anger, etc. I don’t have to tell you
there is a lot of that in the world.

Loving Kindness is not so much an emotion or state, but a way of approaching all
experiences with boundless friendliness. We can learn to befriend all people
– including ourselves – and all events and circumstances; the pleasant and the
unpleasant, the beautiful and the ugly.

Aversion leads to depression and anxiety as there is no room in our heart for joy and
appreciation. From a Buddhist psychological perspective aversion, or: ill will, is rooted in fear –
the fear of loss, the fear of harm. When we are gripped by fear, we create in our mind the
sense of ‘other’ that we want to run away from or attack. We don’t want to feel this way so we
blame the other, or our circumstances. This blaming can become such a habit that we don’t
even notice we are doing it, nor the effects of it. Moreover, we often feel justified in our
aversion; we feel we have every right to hate people that are doing wrong in our eyes.
Unfortunately, we don’t realize the negative effects of that. As a Tibetan teacher said:

Do not take lightly small misdeeds,
Believing they can do no harm,
Even a tiny spark of fire
Can set alight a mountain.

So, we need to befriend aversion. Aversion is suffering that we can only end through our
willingness to be intimate with the landscape of it, in order for it to be understood. Ill will truly
holds the power to make us ill, as the body carries the burden of aversive thoughts and
emotions. Metta is intended to interrupt these negative thoughts and emotions.

Metta is a quality of mindfulness. It doesn’t ask for an ambitious desire to save the whole
world, but simply to rescue the mind and heart from moments of compulsive ill will. When we
commit to kindness in each moment, we stop feeding the habit of aversion and bring the
tendency of ill will to an end. It is a rotation of consciousness: rather than waiting for aversion to disappear for there to be space for kindness, it is through cultivating our capacity of
befriending adversity that affliction will be eased and healed.

The conscious cultivation of metta as a meditation practice uses simple phrases that give words
to the intention of metta. The keyword here is: intention. The words are less important, as long
as they are meaningful and feel easy. Each phrase is repeated slowly – either out loud or in your
mind – allowing space between each phrase to listen to the inward response.

There is no right response, however. We are not looking for a specific feeling or state of mind.
All responses are welcome and a reminder that we are practicing befriending. Through
sustaining our attention within the felt sense of befriending, we learn to deepen and sustain
the capacity of our hearts to abide in kindness. In doing so new neural pathways are being laid
in our brain and slowly we can reverse our habitual ways of reacting.

Traditionally, metta practice is offered first toward ourselves, then to a benefactor, a friend, a
neural person, and lastly to a difficult person. For example:

May I/you be well in the midst of difficulty.
May I/you be at peace.
May I/you rest with ease and kindness in this moment.

In the western world befriending oneself seems to be the most difficult for most people. Metta
practice should never be forced though and should be kept free of striving and expectations. It
is always an invitation and a conscious cultivation of intention and inclining our hearts toward

As a practical application during your day, you could ask yourself these questions:

What does this moment need?

What is needed to free this moment of ill will and fear, and to rest in a boundless heart?

And as you practice loving kindness, remind yourself that you do not have to be ‘God-like’ to
fully embody it. It is through practicing that we strengthen our ability to be more kind. And that
is worth the effort; the world needs it.