18 September 2018
When I’m exploring a city, the inside of my head is full with a continuous stream of information, to-do’s and already thinking of the next step. I search for that nice restaurant on Google Maps while scanning every shop: who knows I miss something! There are influences on every corner, and they scream: ‘look here: street art,’ look here: a beautiful bag’ and ‘look here: an exciting new exhibition.’ My phone is in overdrive, and my film roll soon counts hundreds of new photos. To relax to the highest level, I want to empty my head. To let those influences come from the inside, instead of the outside, while I look out over a centuries-old mountain formation. It’s time to check in at the Mandali Retreat in the North of Italy.
The most beautiful yoga studio in the Netherlands is Delight Yoga. They combine yoga with meditation and spirituality, and their studios are true aesthetic gems. Apart from workshops and their annual Inner Peace Conference, they also organize retreats. One of them is the Silence and Solitude Retreat, or the Seventh Chakra Retreat. Before I went, everyone reacted very enthusiastically when I told them it was a retreat from Erica Jago. ‘She is the best.’ ‘You’re going to learn so much.’ ‘I’m jealous.’ It made me even more excited!
Off to Milan. At the airport, there was a minivan waiting because it takes another hour and a half to get to the mountain top where Mandali is located, in the North of Italy overlooking Lake d’Orta. Imagine the last part of the drive hairpin road after hairpin road because we had to go up to 800 meters. The first thing you see when you arrive is a passage full of amethyst gemstones. Magnificent. And when I’m standing on the balcony of my room, I notice the space, the phenomenal view of the mountains and the lake and the tranquility of the place. I don’t hear anything except church bells and birds singing in the distance. What a true blessing.
The design of the retreat exudes calm, and they used rich materials to create a luxurious atmosphere. The bed sleeps wonderfully, you have a rain shower at your disposal, and the rooms have a lounge bed with a view over the lake (some of the rooms face the other side though). There are many public places where you can read a book or look out over the mountains. There’s a silent room above the restaurant for example. The restaurant itself has an outdoor terrace. And there is a swimming pool and jacuzzi with a view. Because we are lucky this week – it is 25 degrees every day or warmer – a lot of people use this space. Nevertheless, Mandali will be beautiful in weather because you’re almost floating between the clouds and whether it’s raining, snowing or if the sun shines, you are always in direct contact with nature.
The program of the retreat has a daily rhythm. The first meditation is at seven o’clock in the morning followed by a yoga class. After breakfast, Artist Time is there to generate our creativity. And there’s a yoga and meditation class at five o’clock. In between, you can look out over the mountains and think about what you have learned or read a book. And after the excellent vegetarian Italian buffet, we usually go to bed at around 9.30pm. I tried to read something in bed, but I couldn’t open my eyes any longer. When you’re here, you know you get enough rest.
Every retreat is different, but the unique thing about the Silence and Solitude Retreat was that we treated every chakra. I didn’t know much about chakras, but I’ve learned that they are energy points in your body that affect the balance in your life. It is essential that these energy points flow well because if there is a blockage, it can stand in the way of your overall balance. For example, as a disease or uncertainty about a specific part of life.
You can balance the chakras via meditation and yoga, but there are many other ways. For example, we had to write a lot in our diary, and I’ve noticed that the answers to my questions almost came naturally. Another assignment was to go into nature (there was a pilgrims path to a church 150 meters below) and gather all kinds of beautiful things that we eventually had to turn into a work of art. I stepped out of the door of my room and thought: ‘Oh no, I forgot my phone.’ But then I realized that I didn’t want to watch the world through the lens of my camera today, so I left it at home. It felt like I could be more present and experience the view more intensely. Note to self: leave your phone at home more often. Also in cities.
I turned off my phone during the entire retreat. I used it to see what time it was, created a folder called ‘FORBIDDEN’ and put all my addictive apps in it (like Instagram, mail, and Facebook), and I did not respond to messages. After the retreat, I have a completely different relationship with my phone. I checked the news fairly often, and my guilty pleasures were celebrity news and funny movies. Until someone from the group said: ‘Think carefully about what you pay attention to.’ Because soon you will be 80 and it would be terrible to find out I’ve spent many days of my life watching stupid movies and knowing everything about the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, while I can do so many other things at that time. Going into nature for example!
I’ve learned a thousand things. One of those things was the infinity circle we had to draw. I use it a lot at home now, so maybe it helps someone who reads this too. Often I think in a circle, and I can’t seem to get out of it. For example, someone makes a comment, and I keep on thinking all the time: ‘I’m so stupid,’ ‘I should have done this or that’ and ‘Why can’t I do it?’. If you turn a circle into an infinity circle, you see you can get to the other side. I visualized the doors of the vault in London’s The Ned (the one that has a role in James Bond’s Goldfinger) standing in between the circle of small thoughts and the circle of more space. If I can open the doors I can take a short break, see the thoughts/problems from a distance and automatically more spacious and self-loving solutions will come to me.
I can’t express my gratefulness enough. The combination Mandali, Delight and Erica Jago is worth gold for me. My batteries are charged, I have had a complete spiritual cleansing, I feel super good, and I also took some constructive steps in ‘real life’ already. I’ve met so many lovely people there – and also at home, I feel blessed with all the close family members and friends I have around me. But the most important thing is self-love. And although I love to inspire people with travel tips, I have now learned that there is a boundary between giving to others and don’t forget to take time to pamper and inspire myself.
Thank you, Erica, Delight, and Mandali for this wonderful week!
(Ps: Erica is working on a book about chakras which she self-publishes. As I also publish the guides myself, I love to share the link of her book as a supporter of independent publishers. Just click this link and learn all about the chakras in a modern way)