Circles of Women and Philosophical Practice (I)

Disclaimer: This article was first published in the academic journal Interdisciplinary Research in Counseling, Ethics and Philosophy and can be read here.

This article is based on the theoretical framework of Ramona Todor’s dissertation on the same topic: Women’s Circles and Philosophical Practice – Holding Space for Embodied, Immanent Wisdom, which explored potential bridges between two rather different approaches to cultivating wisdom – Circles of Women and Philosophical Practice (or Philosophical Counseling). The dissertation also contained a phenomenological analysis of three interviews with participants of women’s circles from Romania, and will comprise a further article on this topic published on our website.

ABSTRACT: In recent years, traditional approaches to education and development have been increasingly criticized as being predominantly oriented towards developing the mind, at the detriment of the other dimensions of human existence (i.e., body, emotion, intuition, imagination), which have been associated with secondary, less important, or feminine aspects. Such an approach understands and engages these other dimensions merely from a mental perspective, instead of allowing each dimension to develop in its own space and rhythm. This creates a bias referred to as cognicentrism. A case for the shift of cognicentric approaches towards an integrative interplay of the mind, body, emotion, imagination, and intuition is presented in this study. This shift is envisioned as happening by pursuing an embodied, immanent approach towards all dimensions of knowing in an integrative manner. As one of the steps towards this achievement, in the context of philosophical practice, the practice of Circles of Women (CWs) is presented and studied. CWs are presented as spaces where the practice is centred on embodiment and immanence, where the voice of the feminine can be heard, explored, and honoured – aspects perceived as lacking in the context of a traditional philosophical practice. Philosophical practice is presented as having a more accentuated presence on the mental, intellectual sphere, and so a more versed perspective upon matters of ethics and logic – aspects through which CWs could also potentially benefit. The direction and focus of this study is to advance the need for an embodied, immanent approach to philosophical practice, thus building bridges between already existing practices and communities while acknowledging differences and presenting possibilities of complementarity or reciprocal influence.

Key words: women circle, philosophical practice, cognicentrism, immanence, embodiment, feminine


Looking at the world and at society through feminist/feminine, embodied, integrative, or immanent perspectives can bring to light some biases in mainstream approaches to education and knowledge that still remain largely unquestioned. Through these perspectives, the present paper deconstructs some fundamental assumptions found in significant parts of Western culture, Western philosophy, and consequently in Western philosophical practice. More precisely, reason, logic, intellect, mind, cognition –in the Western world they are seen as humanity’s most precious tools. This can be observed in traditional or mainstream educational systems’ curriculum and in what is considered knowledge or science (Thayer-Bacon, 2000). This can also be seen in how traditional or mainstream philosophical practices focus mainly on conceptual, logic-argumentative reasoning tools in order to define, assess and analyze concepts or hypotheses (Barrientos, 2018).

However, to hold that reason is inherently more important than other dimensions of the human experience – or tools of knowing – such as the body, emotion, intuition, and imagination, is arguably based on a constructed assumption at best, and on patriarchal systems of power and oppression at worst. Indeed, developing and refining reason has served an important element in the development of our society in terms of science, medicine, industry, technology, infrastructure, and many other aspects. As Ferrer (2003) and Romero and Albareda (2001), researchers and practitioners of the integrative and participatory approach suggest, in the context of the Western culture, “the inhibition of the primary dimensions of the person – somatic, instinctive, sexual, and certain aspects of the emotional – may have been actually necessary at certain juncture to allow the mergence and maturation of the values of the human heart and consciousness” (Ferrer, 2003, p. 22).

Nevertheless, we have arguably reached a place in our development as a society where the repression of these “other” dimensions or tools is not necessary anymore. Today’s challenges are significantly more related to sedentary lifestyles, alienation, depression, eating disorders, body dimorphic disorders, and the increase in perceived relational and sexual dysfunctions (Simons & Carey, 2001). In this context, reason and intellectual refinement are seen as unable to address the abovementioned challenges by themselves. Thus, reassessing the weight given to the mental dimension in our individual life and society becomes increasingly important, and distributing this weight towards each tool of knowing in an integrative manner becomes meaningful.

The purpose of this article is to explore the practice of CWs as a practice of philosophy. Philosophy is seen as an endeavor towards cultivating wisdom, where wisdom is understood as described by philosopher Ran Lahav (2001, p.8) in his article “Philosophical Counselling as a Quest for Wisdom”. This view is expanded later in this article. Furthermore, whether a state of wisdom can be achieved primarily by intellectual means is questioned. This article is part of the author’s dissertation thesis, and only the theoretical framework is included due to space limit. The dissertation also included a phenomenological study focusing specifically on women’s lived experiences in CWs with respect to the tools of knowing (mind, body, emotion, imagination, intuition), embodiment, and the feminine.

CWs have been chosen as a study topic because they consciously engage precisely with those dimensions traditionally regarded as impediments towards finding wisdom, truth or virtue in the context of philosophical practice. However, through a feminine/feminist, integrative, immanent or embodied perspective, these dimensions are seen as immanent sources of truth, knowledge, and wisdom.

For more clarify, some key terms used in this work are presented below.

Mind, Critical Thinking, Cognicentrism

Throughout this work, reason, mind, and intellect are referred to as those human faculties or tools of knowing which have been used for abstract inquiry, development of objective sciences, and the strive toward impartial knowledge and truth. In this framework, knowledge is assessed and valued using critical thinking, as traditionally defined by philosophers ranging from Plato and Aristotle to 20th century thinkers such as Bertrand Russell (1956), John Dewey (1997), Max Black (1946), or Robert Ennis (1962). Critical thinking, in their view, as interpreted by researcher and philosopher Barbara Thayer-Bacon (2000) in her book Transforming Critical Thinking – Thinking Constructively, is seen as a neutral, objective, and thus unbiased method of differentiating between truth and falsehood.

This view is based on two assumptions – 1) knowers can be separated from what is known, and 2) something is inherently either true or false, with no room in the middle. These assumptions have been comprehensively criticized by Thayer-Bacon (2000). In one of her starting arguments, she shows how in Meno’s Dialogues (Plato, 1943), the main character and philosopher Socrates, although claiming to not know the right answer to Meno’s question regarding what virtue is, still relies on an important yet hidden assumption. He assumes that there will be one true answer, a universal essence, shared by all forms of virtue. Western philosophy, which has been famously referred to as consisting “of a series of footnotes to Plato” by British philosopher A.N. Whitehead (1979, p.39), is heavily influenced by this assumption found in Plato, which “has come under great scrutiny by critical theorists, feminists, womanists, third world feminists, and postmodernists” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.19).

Thayer-Bacon continues to walk us through the ways in which different ideologies impact the way we understand human experiences. Marx and neo-Marxists show the important role that social class plays in the experiences of people. Feminists bring attention to how ‘mankind’ does not equally represent people, but rather subsumes ‘women’ under the category of ‘men’. Radical feminists and queer theorists highlight the category of sexual orientation and gender identity, showing how even ‘woman’ as a category raises issues in erasing differences amongst people. Womanists and third world feminists find that white, middle-class feminist scholars define ‘women’ in such a way that differences of race, ethnicity, and social class are ignored. Postmodernists undergo the philosophical task of deconstructing what counts as knowledge. With all of this in mind, returning to Meno, he is no longer able to give an answer once he agrees to Socrates’ criteria for what counts as knowledge. In this way, Socrates silences Meno, in spite of claiming to not know the answer himself. Socrates has a theory of what counts as knowledge, and so, although he claims to not know the answer to Meno’s questions, he still determines what Meno can offer as evidence, and so what can count as right or wrong. Socrates’ theory is based, in logical terms, on the theory of non-contradiction and the law of the excluded middle, thus allowing for differences to exist, and thereby for difference from truth (or falsity).

Plato envisioned critical thinking as a logical act, where logic is based on “the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle, which force [the other participant in the dialogue] to reply and think into approved channels” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.34). “Logical division […] prevents the discussion from being interrupted by contrary views or responses” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.32). This way, logical division makes it possible for one party to be in complete control over the discussion. “The either/or questions that Socrates asks […] strictly limit the kind of answer Meno can give, […and] the price for deviation is ridicule” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.33). Thayer-Bacon notes that if one attempts to speak on their own, they “can be accused of lack of rigor and lack of understanding of the categories of rational expression” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.37). This creates power imbalances which are easily perpetuated in the context of mainstream philosophical practice today. Thayer-Bacon’s proposal is to embrace a socially constructed view of knowledge, “as something that is in process – always being constructed and reconstructed”, and only capable of being processed with the help of others, “because we are limited, fallible, contextual beings” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.22). Adopting Thayer-Bacon’s insight, critical thinking, as it is traditionally understood, is seen as limited and biased, “in that vital tools of imagination, intuition and emotional feelings are diminished or ignored, while our reasoning tool is highlighted” (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p.5). She shows how the other tools of knowing have been associated with women and indigenous peoples, in turn associated with less importance or inferiority in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, or wisdom.

The paradigm in which knowledge is predominantly associated with the mind has been referred to as cognicentrism (Ferrer, 2003). It has been shown to have its roots in the mind-body dualism usually accredited to Descartes (2008), but which has been traced back to Plato by philosopher J. Dewey (1997). In Plato’s The Republic (1943), Plato holds that our bodies are a hindrance to our knowing, depicting through his divided line model that the lower levels of the line correspond to lower levels of intelligence, which in turn correspond to our physical bodies. The higher levels of the line include truth and knowledge, which are associated by Plato with the mind (Dewey, 1997). Thayer-Bacon (2000) holds that “this mind-body dualism has followed us to the present day” (p.27).

Philosopher Michelle Maiese (2011) presents a further criticism against this mind-body split, this time in the fields of contemporary cognition theories, which, through this perspective, incorrectly hold that the central nervous system is solely sufficient and responsible for consciousness. Thus, she argues for the essentially embodied nature of human consciousness (Maiese, 2011, p.11). This embodiment thesis, in Maiese’s view, holds that “conscious minds are necessary biologically alive and completely embodied in all the vital systems and organs of our living bodies” (Maiese, 2011, p.2). In her view, “emotional consciousness is the place where the heart, the brain, and the rest of the living body all come together, and from which action, perception, and cognition originate” (Maiese, 2011, p.56). She argues that emotions are not explicitly cognitive in the sense portrayed by many popular theories of emotion; however, she thinks that emotion cannot be separated from cognition. In this light, the argument for an integrative, embodied view upon the human experience and the necessity of an integrative practice in philosophy starts to take shape.

Integrative, immanence and embodiment

An integrative philosophical practice is envisioned as a practice that engages into the immanent, embodied tools of knowing (body, emotion, intuition, imagination) without placing mental tools such as logic, reason and intellect on a pedestal (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, Ch.2). This means that although reason is ‘dethroned’ form being the most important tool of knowing, as it was traditionally held, its value remains acknowledged. In order to do this, space needs to be held for each tool of knowing to develop in its own dimension, in its own rhythm, using its own language to express itself. This is seen as opposed to a traditional approach in which the other tools of knowing are inquired into and understood through the perspective of the mind. Immanence refers to that aspect of knowledge or truth that is personal and deep, and emerges from within (Ferrer, 2003). It can be tapped into through intuition, introspection, and spiritual or contemplative practices such as prayer or meditation, and forms of art such as shamanic painting or intuitive dancing (Todor, 2021a).

Another problem that Ferrer (2003) discusses in his article is that because “not much attention is given to the maturation of the somatic, instinctive, sexual and emotional worlds, […] even spiritual leaders and teachers across traditions display an uneven development” (Ferrer, 2003, p.21). He exemplifies this uneven development through cases of practitioners who have high level cognitive and spiritual functioning, yet who experience dysfunctions at the interpersonal, emotional, or sexual behavior. Ferrer speaks of spiritual teachers and practitioners, but arguably the same could be said about philosophical practitioners.

Circles of Women

An overview based on existing literature

CWs are said to have existed across different cultures of the globe (Leidenfrost, 2012b; Longman, 2018), and they are known under diverse names, such as Red Tents, Circles of Women, and Moon Circles (Castro, 2020). According to Longman (2018), women’s circles are “women-only spaces that celebrate sisterhood and the ‘feminine’” (p.1), being “non-institutionalized, often monthly gatherings, for women to come together and relax, meditate, share stories, partake in rituals, heal, nourish, and empower themselves” (Longman, 2018, p.1). Her study shows how CWs offer a space to women from diverse backgrounds that is found to be lacking in the secular-liberal society, a space where women come to “’re/connect’ with each other, their bodies, their inner selves, and sometimes with the sacred”, transcending “boundaries between the religious, the spiritual, and the secular” (Longman, 2018, p.1). Castro (2020) in her study refers to Red Tents as “places of acceptance (of self and others)” (Castro, 2020, p.1) where repressed negative emotions and experiences can be shared, and where women can bond and witness each other outside of the roles they were playing in a patriarchal context.

In Longman’s perspective, CWs are seen as a response to “the perceived failure of neoliberal gender ideology to empower women and transform society within secular modernity” (Longman, 2018, p.2), providing a “refuge from contemporary existence” (Castro, 2020, p. 12). This refuge might be seen as allowing women to discover themselves, womanhood and femininity in a new light, from their own perspective and experience, and not as it has been defined by patriarchal societies. This allows them to question contemporary society, its challenges and their own circumstances from a new perspective, one which honors their personal truth and experience.

The aforementioned researchers address several concerns about CWs, holding that they could be expressive of harmful gender essentialism (Longman, 2018) or perpetuating “hegemonic power relations, systemic inequalities and privilege, particularly regarding biological essentialism and whiteness” (Castro, 2020, p.1).  Other concerns have been criticizing CWs as merely expressing neoliberal, individualist consumer values, referred to as the ‘neoliberal spiritual self’, topic raised by Longman and built upon by Castro.  Although CWs are usually accompanied by open statements regarding inclusivity and diversity of womanhood, in some cases with “explicit mentions of trans women and intersectionality” (Castro, 2020, p.4), another concern lies with the potentially predominant identification of participants as white, cis-gendered, and heterosexual, and their background regarding women’s feminist orientation, high educational level and socioeconomic class (Castro, 2020). In this light, hegemonic norms are considered likely to be reproduced and entrenched. A further criticism lies with the “neoliberal spiritual subject who unwittingly maintains the hegemonic status quo in a quest for personal growth” (Castro, 2020, p4). In this view, the individual is distracted from material and structural inequities, and any residual problems women experience are repackaged as “their individual responsibility” (Castro, 2020, p.5). Critics continue to argue that the practice of CWs is characterized by consumption and affluence, thus limiting access and strengthening contemporary capitalism (Carrette and King, 2005). Other critical views underpinning CWs under the wider umbrella of well-being sphere and self-help practices hold that they “reproduce normative femininities […] with a postfeminist version of the neo-liberal self” (Longman, 2018, p.4).

A further ‘red flag’, as Castro (2020) shows, revolves around the biological aspect of women in reference to “historical and contemporary threads of essentialism in different feminisms” (Castro, 2020, p13), by which womanhood is seen as strictly tied to the binary female sex assigned a birth. This view is based on assumptions regarding what constitutes a biological sex, which aren’t always clearly defined (Buttler, 1993), thus potentially leading to further assumptions about the universality of women’s physiological processes, since not all experiences of womanhood are related to breasts, wombs and menstruation (Castro, 2020, p.13).

Gill (2007) argues that the celebration of “women’s individual capacities to resist patriarchal scripts” accept without questioning neoliberal values while relying upon a “depoliticized mindset” (Gill, 2007, p.611), perpetuating political apathy. This is a common criticism addressed to holistic spiritualities (Finley, 1991).

These arguments lay the foundation for this work’s aim of building bridges between the practice of CWs and the practice of philosophy, seeing that there exists potential for mutual improvement. Traditional philosophical practice could benefit from the embodied, immanent approach from CWs, and CWs could benefit from the philosophical insights into political structures and issues of identity and privilege.

Thus, CWs are vulnerable of being seen as engaging into “cultural or radical feminist principles that in some contexts are seen as retrograde today” (Hollows, 2000, p.10). However, in CWs, “a complete women-centred culture is rejected, and a complete counter-culture based on identity politics for women is not promoted” (Hollows, 2000, p.10). In fact, femininity is re-evaluated in a more “nomadic, affective, and affirmative sense, where agency regarding gender identity and sexual difference emerges through explorative, imaginative, and experiential processes. Femininity is described both in reference to ‘traditional’ feminine characteristics, for example ‘softness’ and ‘gentleness’, and also in abstract, wider terms ranging from “experiencing through the senses, going inwards, receptivity, flowing instead of achieving, and organically connecting” (Hollows, 2000, p.10).

Womanhood, Feminine, Feminism

The term feminine appears mostly in the literature on CWs in the context of a conscious pursuit of rediscovering or returning to a forgotten or hidden feminine in patriarchal societies. Last century’s feminist and postmodern philosophers and thinkers have started to shed light upon the implications that patriarchal societies have been imposing on their people, and since then, feminist thought is said to have undergone four turns, known as ‘the four waves of feminism’ (Rampton ,2008; Rodak, 2020).

CWs are seen as belonging to the now-emerging fourth wave of feminism. One important characteristic of CWs as a fourth wave manifestation is that the insights and seeming contradictions of the previous waves of feminism are deconstructed and integrated.

According to Rampton (2008) and Rodak (2020), the first wave of feminism was known primarily for the women’s suffrage and achieving legal aspects of gender equality in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the second wave expanded to touch more areas of women’s lives such as politics, domesticity, work, family, and sexuality and opened the discussion about domestic violence and martial rape (Pierceson, 2016). Second-wave feminists placed themselves critically against the first wave’s fully essentialist perspective, noting that women have also been exploiting each other, and so questioned the first-wave opinion that being a woman is sufficient for being a feminist.

The third wave in the 1990s started to oppose itself to the very notion of femininity, which was seen as having been defined by men, and was considered sexist. During the third wave, women “internalized male supremacist values” (Rodak, 2020, p.121) and engaged into degenerative, competitive behaviour amongst each other. Having achieved the right to equal opportunities in the workplace, they entered the competitive corporate environments and started playing the game inherently designed by men, for men.

The fourth wave, starting to take shape in the 2010s, is now able to look back on these iterations and cultivate a more conscious feminine/feminist identity. It further deconstructs essentialist perspectives acknowledging the existence of non-traditional, non-hegemonic gender identities, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds. Intersectional feminism and queer theory lay the foundations of these perspectives. Fourth wave feminists note that all people have been affected by patriarchal structures, including cis-gendered men, in that feminine aspects have been suppressed, oppressed, exploited or objectified in everyone alive, not just in women, creating an imbalance in social expectations and roles for everyone. The fourth wave is also characterized by a strong online presence and trans-national influence (Rodak, 2020).

The fight for women’s empowerment by demanding access to equal rights still is an important process towards a just society, taking place at a political level. However, there is great need for subjective, individual, embodied empowerment, too, which has to take place through individual, personal processes. Political and personal activism and empowerment should arguably take place at the same time, in the spirit of Carol Hanisch’s famous slogan – The Personal is Political, published in her 1969 essay under the same name (Hanisch, 2000). In CWs, empowerment starts with the personal, through the creation of ‘safe spaces’, where each woman can share, explore, and/or find her own truth, her own voice, her own inner strength rooted in her own experience of womanhood and femininity – and explore these experiences outside of patriarchal expectations and definitions. This, in turn, creates a different kind of collective experience, which, in turn, can influence the political level.

The Place of Women Circles in Philosophical Practice

A common definition of philosophical practice is increasingly difficult to be found and agreed upon amongst philosophical practitioners (Raabe, 2001). With this in mind, the practice of CWs will now be mapped amongst existing philosophical practices in order to explore the differences and the potential of complementarity between them. Oscar Brenifier’s Via Negativa, and Ran Lahav’s Deep Philosophy are used as references. As already pointed out by Barrientos (2018), the mainstream or traditional practice of philosophy uses a conceptual, logic-argumentative kind of reason in order to conceptualize, define, assess and analyze concepts or hypotheses. This prevailing philosophical tradition, although practiced through diverse methods, is based on: 1) examining arguments and justifications of counselees, 2) clarifying, analysing and defining important terms and concepts used, 3) exposing and assessing underlying assumptions and finding logical implications, 4) highlighting inconsistencies, and 5) exploring traditional theories of philosophy. According to Barrientos, this approach is considered anti-philosophical, because it narrows the ways in which reality can be seen and thus narrowing the broader scope of philosophy of cultivating wisdom in all its forms. Barrientos (2018) gives three examples of philosophical practitioners who engage into a practice of philosophy based on critical thinking – Brenifier, Lebon, and Kreimer’s. For this study’s purpose, Brenifier’s approach will be analyzed. According to Barrientos (2018), Brenifier’s approach to philosophical practice is based on three main activities: identify, problematize, conceptualize. He uses skills such as designing hypotheses, defining and contrasting ideas, and minding questions and answers, all based on critical thinking. Barrientos presents two models in philosophical practice outlined by Ran Lahav – the ‘Grand’ and ‘Small’ model. In this context, the philosophical practice based on critical thinking belongs to the small model, because it does not seek to transform the foundations of life (as would the grand model do), rather it addresses specific needs or difficulties and aims to fix problems, thus becoming a ‘normalizer’ and a ‘satisfaction-provider’ (Barrientos, 2018, p.2). In this regard, critical thinking seems to be more about smartness than about wisdom, which raises the question if this is indeed what the practice of philosophy seeks to be.

The negative way uses a process through which “the mental process tries to reach truth about its object through negation of what it is not” (Brenifier, 2006, p.29). In the practice of philosophy, as envisioned by Brenifier, there is a tradition concerned with the interruption of mental process and so obtaining silence, thus in this context philosophy is related more to an “ascetic conception of ‘being’” (Brenifier, 2006, p.29) than to a kind of science, aiming to show the absurdity of speech. He asserts that “knowledge is in itself immoral, for its pretensions and hypocrisy, its fundamental negligence of virtue, its disdain for the good, and moreover its ignorance of being, its absence of being” (Brenifier, 2006, p.33). In his view, the rational and moral speech is “merely the discourse of convenience and convention” (Brenifier, 2006, p.33). Up until this point, Brenifier’s depiction of the practice of Via Negativa seems to actually strengthen the arguments in favour of this paper’s values. However, at a closer look, in the context of this study’s purpose of holding space of embodied, immanent wisdom, some differences start to take shape.

 Inferring from the way in which Brienifier comments fragments from tales with the famous character Nasruddin, he approves of behaviours of teachers who let students “figure it out, because he trusts them, even though he treats them in an apparently ‘rude’ way, which can hurt their ‘feelings’” (Brenifier, 2006, p.41). In light of this study’s purpose of holding space for emotion, intuition, and the feminine, an approach to philosophical practice, which only ‘bullies’ the participants into realizations, is seen as limited, and could actually perpetuate misogynistic views, be insensitive to trauma-related experiences, and promote unhealthy student-teacher dynamics. Arguably, in the perspective taken in CWs, which is also backed by insights from person-centred approaches to therapy and counseling and positive psychology (Corey, 2014), individual ‘opinions’ shouldn’t be provoked or ridiculed, but honored. By trusting that if given the space to safely share these opinions, benefitting from the unconditional acceptance and listening of others, participants will come to deep realizations about their opinions, or rather, their inner truth and themselves, without the need to be bullied into these realizations.

Ran Lahav’s (2001) Deep Philosophy (DP), on the other hand, has more in common with the practice of CWs. In his view, “unlike in most psychotherapies, the counselling session focuses on philosophizing between the counsellor and counselee, while an open dialogue takes place within the session” (2001, p.8). Sharing the concerns raised throughout this paper, in his article, he views the life of the individual in contemporary Western culture as being “to a large extent, devoid of what can be called wisdom” (Lahav, 2001, p.8). In the book that he co-authored, “What is Deep Philosophy?” (Lahav et. al., 2018), he presents DP as a contemplative way of practicing philosophy, as a group practice. This contemplative method uses more tools than just abstract thinking, by tapping into “a deeper dimension of ourselves” (p.1). As part of the Western tradition, groups reflect on fundamental issues of life, however, unlike the “intellectual discourses of mainstream academic philosophy, in Deep Philosophy we reflect from our inner depth” (Lahav, 2001, p.8). While describing the structure of a DP session, Francesca D’Uva, another co-author of the book, shows how traditional academic philosophical discussions “are often discursive and analytic, not enough to satisfy our yearning for meaning. Discursive philosophy can only think ‘about’ reality and inspect it from a distance, like an external observer” (Lahav, 2001, p.23). DP seeks to build a bridge between theory and reality, and participants seek to ‘reconnect’ with their own reality by tapping into their inner depth (Lahav, 2001, p.24). Until now, the purpose and method of DP is similar with methods used in CWs, however, some differences can be observed in what is used as the object of inquiry or contemplation. In DP, mostly philosophical texts typical to the Western tradition are used, and a contemplative attitude towards them is cultivated in order to guide the mind towards going “beyond the words, into a deeper dimension from which the words themselves originate” (Lahav, 2001, p.25).

CWs do not use philosophical texts in order to tap into this deeper dimension, but the participant’s own person, their own life experiences, their truth, voice, emotions, body, and intuition in themselves. In DP, while reading the texts, participants try not to analyze or criticize them, ”but rather to resonate with the voices of the text, as well as with the voices of our fellow contemplator, in a polyphonic and contemplative dialogue that takes place within the group” (Lahav, 2001, p.24). Similarly, in CWs, participants try not to criticize or analyze what the other participants are sharing, but rather to resonate with their voices and with their truth.

Lahav outlines the skeleton of a Deep Philosophy session, which, although flexible, remains similar and consists of “a centring exercise, an exercise for understanding of the text, contemplative activity, a quiet exercise, closure, and meta-conversation” (Lahav, 2001, p.25). Different kinds of sessions are presented, including “sessions focused on contemplation, sessions focused on understanding the text, sessions focused on sharing personal experiences, and voicing sessions, each containing the basic elements of contemplation, understanding, and sharing of personal experiences. Participants are asked not to talk ‘about’ their experience, […], but rather ‘from’ their experience, as if the words are emerging from the experience while it is happening” (p.32).

Similarly, CWs also share a flexible structure, presented as found in materials from the Global Sisterhood course about CWs (Global Sisterhood circle facilitator course, 2020): 1) Opening and ‘presencing’ (meditation, or centering exercise); 2) Welcome and introductions; 3) Practice/ritual and sharing experience; 4) Intention setting; 5) Meditation; 6) Closing shares and closing. In CWs, a technique called ‘breakthrough-centred sharing’ and sharing while speaking in first person is employed. Participants are invited to share about their own direct experiences, emotions and states in the present moment, avoiding theoretical dialogue and polemics. This way, participants cultivate vulnerability when sharing about their inner worlds, while at the same time remaining centred in their internal, immanent wisdom, and optionally asking for understanding or insights from the group (Global Sisterhood circle facilitator course, 2020).

This immanent, personal experience is celebrated in CWs by allowing it to be ‘seen and heard’ by the other participants through active listening, act which is seen as being therapeutic and liberating in itself. Most circles use the ‘talking stick’ as a form of mediating conversation, so that everyone can have the change to speak and be heard without interruptions (Longman, 2018, p.6). The principle behind talking stick circles is that in turn, a stick is passed to each person (or they can take the stick if they want), and while having the stick, they have the space to ‘bring in’ or share and express what they want, or ‘what is alive in them now’ (Longman, 2018, p.6), without any pressure, meaning that silence is also welcome.

Another key-element in CWs is the co-creation of the practice as a ‘safe-space’. A safe space is nurtured by “[refraining] from giving advice or judgment after one speaks – act which is referred to as ‘holding space’ for another” (Longman, 2018, p.7). CWs are practiced as egalitarian spaces in essence, where there is “respect for the opinion, expression, experience, wisdom, and knowledge of all, regardless of age, education, or background” (Longman, 2018, p.7). In such spaces, nothing has to be done, achieved, or performed, and participants can take a break from ‘doing’ and explore purely ‘being’ in the here and now (Todor, 2021b). These spaces usually contain moments of rest and relaxation, achieved through “simply breathing and slowing down […] what many interviewees perceived as the hectic, high-pressured, and exhausting lives of many women today” (Longman, 2018, p.7). The interviewees in Longman’s study claimed that in circle, “you can ‘be yourself’, and ‘let down masks’; ‘you don’t have to impress and compete with others’, but can simply be ‘seen, acknowledged, nourished and loved’” (Longman, 2018, p.7). By doing this, the space is opened up so that the often repressed dimensions of somatic experience, emotion, intuition, and imagination can come to light. Sensitive topics such as sexuality, menstruation, pain, pleasure, pregnancy, birth, loss of pregnancy, personal identity, feminine spirituality are amongst the common topics in CWs, as described in the author’s dissertation (Todor, 2021a).


Due to the potentially fruitful space between philosophical practice and circles of women, the space is opened for further research. As already argued, the practice of philosophy could find inspiration in the embodied, immanent approach found in CWs, and CWs could benefit from philosophical insights regarding political perspectives and issues of identity and privilege. It is worth mentioning that similar circles exist also for men, and also in non-gendered or ‘mixed’ constellations.

CWs are safe spaces for self-exploration, deep human connection, and engagement with aspects that are largely still hidden or taboo in our society, where women’s raw life experiences can be witnessed. Through the creation of safe spaces and the focus on individual, embodied, immanent experience, CWs create a rare to find space in which subjectivity, the voice of the feminine, and women’s experiences can be expressed and celebrated without being judged, criticized, or attempted to be ‘fixed’ according to norms imposed by patriarchal societies. By witnessing and being witnessed through these processed, participants can observe their own internal judgments that might include internalized misogyny, manifested as unconscious judgments towards oneself or other women. They can engage with the largely repressed somatic, instinctual, sexual or sensual dimensions, which are likely to remain hidden, avoided, or merely observed through an exclusively cognitive approach.

Thus, the case for a more integrative, embodied, immanent and feminine approach to the practice of philosophy is made, and CWs are presented as a practice where the traditionally left out tools of knowing of body, intuition, imagination, and emotion are intentionally engaged with and honored, together with feminine/feminist insights and perspectives. The scope of this paper was also to propose a potential bridge between traditional philosophical practice and the practice of CWs, while recognizing that these approaches can potentially complement each other.


Barrientos-Ratrojo, J. (2018). Why critical thinking is not enough in philosophical practice?, CECAPFi, Mexico City.

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Longman, C. (2018). Women’s circles and the rise of the new feminine: Reclaiming sisterhood, spirituality, and wellbeing. Religions, 9(1): 1–17.

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Rodak, L. (2020). Sisterhood and the 4th wave of feminism: An analysis of circles of women in Poland, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 10(1S): 116S–134S.

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Women’s Circles – An introduction based on existing literature

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This article explores several writings from the still scarce existing literature on the topic of Circles of Women (CWs), addressing both descriptive introductory elements and critical attitudes and shortcomings. Most insights are drawn from Chia Longman’s (2018) article “Women’s circles and the rise of the New Feminine – Reclaiming Sisterhood, Spirituality and Wellbeing”, while my perspective or interpretation as a researcher, participant and young facilitator in the world of CWs is sometimes shared.

Key words: women’s circles, fourth wave feminism, spirituality, post-secularism, neoliberalism

Women’s Circles, circles of women, women’s temples, moon circles, or Red Tents are spaces where women from diverse backgrounds gather to celebrate sisterhood and the ‘feminine’ (Longman, 2018). In her 2018 article, the author Chia Longman defines women’s circles as “non-institutionalized, often monthly gatherings, for women to come together and relax, meditate, share stories, partake in rituals, heal, nourish, and empower themselves” (p.1). These spaces offer women from diverse backgrounds a space that they find lacking in the secular-liberal society – a space where they can “’re/connect’ with each other, their bodies, their inner selves, and sometimes with the sacred” (p.1).

Longman explores how CWs are sometimes seen as an indicative of the strong presence that women have in the subjective well-being culture, comprised of elements ranging from spiritual endeavors such as Yoga and Tantra, to more secular personal growth activities. Critics often correlate CWs as being “merely expressive of  [a] neo-liberal individualist consumer culture or retrograde gender essentialism” (p.1), aspect which will be explored in more detail later on and in following articles and commentaries. Aware of this criticism, Longman’s article argues that in spite of this, CWs can be seen as “sites of sisterhood, solidarity, and dissent, cultivating a new type of femininity” (p.1), sometimes referred to as ‘conscious femininity’. The author shows how in CWs, femininity and sisterhood are practiced in new ways – ways that transcend boundaries between the spiritual, the religious, and the secular. Circles are presented as exemplifying “women’s post-secular agency and subjectivity” (p.1) and as spaces allowing women can explore, share and celebrate themselves.

Most often, circles are held with the occasion of the new moon, a way of honoring a cyclical way of living and the symbolic connection between the lunar calendar and the menstruation cycle. Women-only circles, although rooted in the practice of the circle as a “recurrent format within the context of therapy, and ceremonial and community gathering (e.g., taking circles, family circles, dance circles, prayer circles, drumming circles…)” (p.2), are usually traced back to the feminist spiritual movement of the 1970s and can be encountered in gatherings and rituals within Goddess and Pagan movements (Longman, 2018).

Such circles are found to be especially appealing to women due to their non-linear and non-hierarchical nature, where the ancestral, the ancient, and the cross-cultural aspects of human experience are emphasized and welcomed. Some researchers pin them under the broader umbrella of fourth wave feminism, characterized through trans-national values and a strong online presence. To better understand this, the four waves of feminism are shortly presented in the following paragraphs.

1st wave feminism was fully essentialist, in the sense that women united with other women to feel stronger, while referencing themselves to the position of men and emphasizing being equal to them. Feminism (and sisterhood amongst women, in this sense) was understood as “a common front to compete with men”, and what feminists have in common is “a shared experience of oppression caused by male patriarchy” (Rodak, 2020, p.120S). According to this approach, a proper feminist had to be female. The women’s suffrage movement and their fight for the right to vote during the late 19th century primarily characterize this wave. However, as noted by second-wave feminist and beyond, this movement largely excluded and discriminated against women of color (Delao, 2021).

During 2nd wave feminism, roughly between the 1960s and 1990s, non-hierarchical relations between women start to become important. Realizing the oppression and exploitation of women by other women, questions regarding what it really means to be a feminist start to arise (Rodak, 2020). Issues such as pay equality, reproductive rights, female sexuality, and domestic violence are addressed during this wave. A common feature between the first two waves is that most of these goals were achieved through legislation. Still, although efforts were made to address racial injustice, race and class remained less important than gender equality. Thus, “disparities between white women and white men narrowed, but the inequity between women of color and white men or even between women of color and white women remained the same” (Delao, 2021).

During the 3rd wave of feminism, which emerged from the 1990s, the influence that the patriarchal society has had on women and sisterhood is noted. bell hooks is often quoted as representing the values of this wave, and claims that “femininity, as defined by men, is sexist” (Rodak, 2020 quoting hooks, 1986). From this perspective, women have internalized male supremacist values, such as degenerative, competitive behavior, and were competing with each other, ending up perpetuating the very behavior feminism initially set up against. The third wave “challenged female heteronormativity, sought to redefine femininity and celebrate differences across race, class, and sexual orientations” (Delao, 2021). Sometimes, the word ‘feminism’ is rejected altogether, as are many of the stereotypes enforcing a feminine ideal. ‘Intersectionality’ started to develop here, term coined to “describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics ‘intersect’ with one another and overlap” (Delao, 2021). hooks holds a critical position towards sisterhood, emphasizing [this is my interpretation] that it should not be taken for granted that sisters are identical ideologically or in terms of background and needs, nor even similar. “In order to revitalize sisterhood, differences amongst women should be confronted. To achieve this goal, female consciousness should be transformed” (Rodak, 2020 quoting hooks, 1986).

4th wave feminism is new and still emerging, being still difficult to define, especially scientifically, despite enjoying a high reach in the media and social networks (Rodak, 2020). It can, however, be defined through its anti-essentialist approach including all people, regardless of gender, in the discourse of feminism and sisterhood. In this light, the question transforms from “what women or individuals of all genders have in common, [to] what the conditions to build the bonds between each other are, taking into account the diversity of the members of the group” (Rodak, 2020). The 4th wave is characterized by “action-based viral campaigns, protests, and movements like #MeToo, advancing from the fringes of society into the headlines of our everyday news. […] It has also been characterized as “queer, sex-positive, trans-inclusive, body-positive, and digitally driven” (Delao, 2021), seeking to continue deconstructing gender norms. White male supremacy is mainly confronted, and it is believed that “there is no feminism without an understanding of comprehensive justice that deconstructs systems of power and includes emphasis on racial justice as well as examinations of class, disability, and other issues” (Delao, 2021). Online environments play a crucial role in spreading ideas and bringing together individuals which otherwise would probably not have met.

Returning to the topic of CWs, the possibilities offered by online environments have enabled the women’s circle movement to expand to a broad trans-national audience (Longman, 2018). Longman has empirically researched CWs in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, noting that at the time of her writing very few empirical studies have been done on CWs. She found that the circles were mostly autonomous or loosely affiliated or inspired by transnational circle movements (some examples are The Red Tent or Global Sisterhood).

The circles that she studied do not promote “any particular feminist and/or religious movement or spiritual tradition” (Longman, 2018, p.2). Nevertheless, they do contain features that in common perception and scholarly literature are considered spiritual – “meditation, bodywork, presence of altars, oracle cards, blessings, and sometimes references to the divine or sacred feminine or goddesses” (p.2). However, when the author interviewed CWs participants, they shared that they saw spirituality more as a “personal issue, rather than a pre-requisite of the circle ethos and experience” (p.2). The term ‘spirituality’, although lacking an academic consensus regarding its meaning, is used by Longman to differentiate from established religious practices, as seen in “‘spiritualities of the self’, ‘holistic spiritualities’, and/or ‘Mind Body Spirit’ (MBS) practices” (p.2). The term ‘subjective well-being culture’ is used with the purpose of including what is “referred to as the more secular (non-religious, worldly, or immanent) character of some of the circles […] studied” (p.2). The term ‘post-secular’ is used to describe the “paradoxical present-day condition in which currents of ongoing secularization and religious revival, of disenchantment and re-enchantment, seem to co-exist” (p.2). It also employs the deep entanglements between the religious, the spiritual, and the secular, bringing into light how they can only exist in relation to one another and are therefore influenced by one another.

Through a feminist perspective upon the religious, the spiritual, and the secular, employing a gendered nature in the secular narrative, it becomes visible how the religious realm has assigned an inferior position to the ‘feminine’ – term used here to refer to the private, the emotional, the irrational, the bodily, immanent spheres – as opposed to the ‘masculine’ realms of reason, mind, rationality, transcendence and other Enlightenment ideals (Longman, 2018 quoting Jakobsen and Pellegrini, 2008; Graham, 2012; Aune et al., 2008). Through CWs, women are reclaiming these relegated spheres of the feminine as important, valuable, therapeutic, nurturing, and/or sacred. In this light, Longman argues that CWs are seen as a response to the “perceived failure of (neo-) liberal gender ideology to empower women and transform society within secular modernity” (p.2). This means that from this perspective, women’s empowerment, although visible, has only occurred within a man’s world, where women were allowed to play the ‘game’ design by men for men – where the so-called masculine principles (competition, efficiency, and linearity) are praised and desired for financial, political, and economical success, while feminine principles (such as cooperation, care, cyclicality) are still inferior, invisible, or simply unfruitful in this context. Thus, for the ‘new feminine’ cultivated through women’s circles, achieving success as a woman in a man’s world is not seen as fulfilling, desirable, or enough for creating a world where both masculine and feminine principles are honored and remunerated. To achieve such a world, given the patriarchal history and Euro-Western privilege furthering a masculine structure and benefiting white, cis-gendered men above all other identities (Thayer-Bacon, 2000), a conscious effort in holding space for feminine or non-hegemonic structures is necessary in order to create balance. This statement is not meant as derogatory towards these men, since patriarchy in the context of women circles is understood as hurting not only women and non-traditional gender identities or sexual orientations, but men too. This is because every being is seen as possessing both feminine and a masculine aspects, so if only half of these aspects are valued, imbalances are created on both the individual and collective sphere for everyone involved (Global Sisterhood post, 2020).

Spirituality, Wellbeing and Agency

According to Longman’s (2018) analysis of recent literature on the topic, in much of secular feminism, “religion was seen as an impediment to women’s liberation” (p.3). However, today, in what is referred to as ‘the post-secular turn in feminism’ (Braidotti, 2008), “the assumption that religion would simply always be oppressive to women, and the axiom that secularization accompanies gender equality and sexual liberty, are increasingly called into question” (Longman, 2018, p.3 quoting Butler, 2008; Scott, 2009). On the spiritual side, however, drawing on an analysis of the empirical research done on women’s spirituality in the West, Longman (2018) shows how “longer established counter-cultural and new religious movements and spiritualities such as Wicca, Goddess spirituality, Neo-paganism, and New Age might offer women empowerment lacking in more traditional, patriarchal, and institutionalized religious traditions. [… These movements] might promote gender quality, hold a more positive view towards the female body, and engage in validations of ‘feminine’ values related to practices of healing, care and female solidarity” (p.3, quoting Crowley 2011; Eller 1995; Puttick 1997; Rountree 2004; Salomonsen 2002; Fedele 2012; Fedele and Knibbe 2013; Sointu and Woodhead 2008).

However, criticism towards these movements stresses that in practice, they might not lead to the desired change against gender hierarchies, since “gender and power relations are complex, entangled within their social context and cannot be reduced to a dualistic model of female dominating or female empowering” (Longman, 2018, p.3 quoting Fedele and Knibbe, 2013). Longman, however, views CWs as “a separate phenomenon from these longer-standing movements, communities, and traditions” (p.4). CWs also seem to be more ‘post-secular’ in nature, and can be aligned with “the much broader realm of women’s agency within subjective well-being culture” (p.4). Regarding this topic, social and cultural theorists hold “a far more critical view of the well-being sphere and self-help culture’s tendency to reproduce normative femininities and what it sees as its complicity with a postfeminist version of the neo-liberal self (Longman, 2018, p.4 quoting Salmenniemi and Adamson 2015; Hochschild 1994; Kenny and Bell 2014; Blackman 2004).

The emergence of spirituality and well-being movements for women has been attributed to a ‘subjective turn’ from traditional religion towards “an immanent, reflexive, and expressive selfhood and personal empowerment in a post-traditional society” (Longman, 2018, p.4 quoting Heelas et al. 2005; Houtman and Aupers 2007). This view is contrasted by more critical takes, which see a “rise of the spiritual marketplace which is seen to represent ‘secular consumer culture’” (Longman, 2018, p.4 quoting Lau 2000; Carette and King 2005). A broader critical literature inspired by Foucault extends against the broader sphere of well-being, touching “the realms of popular psychology, self-help, therapy, life-coaching, and personal growth”, depicting these “‘technologies of the self’ as the product of a form of neo-liberal and secular governmentality that forecloses political critique and social change” (p.4 quoting Rose 1998, Wood 2007). Other critics of ‘therapy culture’ and ‘wellness industry’ challenge the way “the new moral imperative towards body and/or mind is directed at the cultivation and management of the happier, healthier, entrepreneurial, and even ‘narcissistic self’, where individual responsibility and self-expression are morphed with the mindset of a free-market economist, and are hence suited to, rather than disruptive of, the demands of neo-liberalism and late-capitalism” (Longman, 2018 quoting Cederström and Spicer 2015).

These debates are relevant from a feminist and gendered perspective. Longman asks: “Do spaces such as women’s circles offer alternative experiences of the self, body, and spirituality that challenge dominant representations of the female – commodified and sexualized – body? Or, conversely, are these ‘new’ femininities perhaps more expressive of a postfeminist neo-liberal governmentality of consumer culture in which individuals are falsely construed [or interpreted] as self-interested economic actors with agency and control over their lives? (quoting Gill and Scharff 2013; Phipps 2014). In her article, she sets out to explore how the femininities cultivated through CWs can be critically analyzed and assessed.

The organizational structure of women’s circles

Through her field study that took place between 2014 and 2017, Longman (2018, p.6) found the following information about the way CWs take place by participating in 20 women’s circles.

Outer structure: Most circles take place in the evening, often around the new moon, and last for about 2.5h. Some circles are self-directed without any affiliation or leadership, while others are offered by women who are involved in other well-being or spiritual practices such as workshops, retreats, yoga, or festivals on a regular basis. Participants usually come in numbers ranging between 6-12 women; however, this number can be smaller or larger. Location-wise, they happen in places ranging from a woman’s home (living room, spare room, attic or barn converted into a ‘temple’) to rented spaces usually use for activities such as yoga, workshops, dance and even in the open air. Before a circle starts, cushion are places in a circle often surrounding an altar in the middle, where flowers, oracle cards, small statues, candles or other decorative or ritual objects can be placed. These objects might also be used to decorate the room, together with shawls and drapes. Incense might be burned and delicate music might be played to create a soft, welcoming atmosphere.

Inner structure: Most circles start with a few welcoming words from the host, after which each participant introduces themselves and/or shares their intention for being present, or something about how they are feeling. One circle facilitator explained how women circles or Red Tents are an ancient phenomenon found in many cultures around the globe. Although nothing extraordinary takes place, “it gives women renewed energy, as it offers a form of support for women to be able to cope better with daily life in a ‘man’s world’. Activities serving as the body of a CW include sharing based on proposed themes (which can include more specific “‘women’s topics’ such as birth, menstruation, sexuality, motherhood, and sisterhood”, or more general topics such as “‘making yourself visible, vulnerability, shame, thankfulness, letting go, the ‘power of the heart’, how to actualize yourself, how to make time and space for yourself within relationships, family, and work, etc.” (p.6). Other activities can be guided meditations or visualizations, “which are referred to as ‘grounding’ or ‘re/connecting with your bodily self and the earth’” (p.6). Activities can also be spontaneous and include personal stories, or craftwork and art such as dancing, singing, chanting, or drumming usually guided by a common theme, ritual, or meditation. Most circles used the ‘talking stick’ as a form of mediating conversation, so that everyone can have the change to speak and be heard without interruptions. The principle behind talking stick circles is that in turn, a stick is passed to each person (or they can take the stick if they want), and while having the stick, they have the space to ‘bring in’ or share and express what they want, or ‘what is alive in them now’ (p.6) without any pressure, meaning that silence is also welcome. A noteworthy remark is that excepting the circles that have been started amongst friends or acquaintances, most participants who attend start out as strangers to each other, and usually interact with each other only inside their circle bond.

Safe Spaces

To create what is referred to as a ‘safe space’, first and foremost, “that which is told in the circle must stay in the circle” (Longman, 2018, p.7). Another element nurturing a safe space is “to refrain from giving advice or judgment after one speaks – act which is referred to as ‘holding space’ for another” (p.7). “The circle is seen as an essentially egalitarian space, where there is respect for the opinion, expression, experience, wisdom, and knowledge of all, regardless of age, education, or background” (p.7). During a circle, nothing has to be done, achieved, or performed. They are space where participants can take a break from ‘doing’ and explore purely ‘being’ in the here and now. They are usually contain moments of rest and relaxation, achieved through “simply breathing and slowing down […] what many interviewees perceived as the hectic, high-pressured, and exhausting lives of many women today” (p.7). In the circle, the interviewees claimed that “you can ‘be yourself’, and ‘let down masks’; ‘you don’t have to impress and compete with others’, but can simply be ‘seen, acknowledged, nourished and loved’” (p.7).

The New Feminine?

In this section of her article, Longman (2018) analyzes the women who are attending women circles and how they experience themselves, womanhood, femininity throughout their lives and careers.

She found that “a substantial number of [her] interviewees who became involved in well-being culture had been professionally active in demanding and/or competitive careers. Some had suffered burnouts and opted out of their former jobs; others had become increasingly frustrated or disillusioned with the neo-liberal ethos in the workplace that stresses competitiveness, shallowness, individualism, rationality, profit, and gain” (p.7). She notes that such traits were often associated with ‘masculinity’. Many women shared that they developed a strong masculine side during their lives and careers (often related with patriarchal values and living in ‘a man’s world’), but found that something was missing. By attending or facilitating spaces where the feminine can be consciously cultivated, they claim to have connected to a part of themselves that was hidden or hurting.

Analytically, Longman (2018) notes that “despite of its centrality in the social constructionist approach to gender, the concept of ‘femininity’ remains somewhat under-theorized” (p.7 quoting Gill and Scharff, 2013). As noted somewhere above, “second-wave feminists saw constructions of femininity as the grounds for women’s oppression” (p.7). From this perspective, females were seen as having been “socialized into feminine behavior and values ‘associated with passivity, submissiveness and dependency’” (p.7). Because of this, during this wave a rejection of feminine identities was propagated as “crucial in producing a feminist identity and consciousness” (p.7 quoting Hollows, 2000, p.10). In this context, “female empowerment sits uneasily with dominant constructions of femininity that have positioned women as ‘other’, ‘irrational, over-sensitive, destined to be wife and mother’, and associated with ‘the body, sex, and sin’” (p.7 quoting Braidotti, 1994, p.235). Longman notes that this negative view of femininity is still dominant in feminist activism and thought, and more positive approaches to second-wave feminism have come to be recently referred to as postfeminism. This kind of radical, cultural feminist thought is often seen as having “re-inscribed stereotypical femininity by simply reversing the values traditionally accorded to gender differences” (p.7). My interpretation of this statement is that by rejecting feminine identities in order “to achieve the autonomy, individuality, and subjectivity that has historically only been accorded to men” (p.7), the proponents of this view accept and reinforce misogynistic values oppressing feminine aspects while cultivating masculine ones. This kind of thought often seen in second-wave feminism has been accused of “biological essentialism” by perpetuating the idea of a ‘unique female nature’, and it is often viewed as exclusionary in it disregard for racial, ethnic, and class differences” (p.8 quoting Alcoff, 1988; Bulgeon, 2011; Rudy 2001) [I would add here sexual orientation and gender identity].

Recently, ‘femininity’ has enjoyed fresh attention regarding the way women (mostly white and middle class) have been represented in popular literature, media, beauty, and body politics, this time influenced by a ‘postfeminist sensibility’. These studies show how “global consumer capitalism and neo-liberalism has incited the emergence of ‘empowered’ female subjectivities’ as ‘entrepreneurs of the self’” (p.8). The worry is that “although these ‘new femininities’ might have displaced earlier constructions of femininity highlighting women’s mothering and caring roles, and they might offer women today more individual agency, freedom, and pleasure, they are also disciplinary in their emphasis on consumerism and self-laboring, and often reproduce dominant forms of (hetero-)sexual attractiveness” (p.8). From today’s gender theory’s perspective, both the regulative and the potentially empowering elements of these representations can be noted. However, Ulrike Dahl (p.36) remarks in her recent work on queer femininity that  “to date, feminist theory still has trouble with the question of femininity” (Longman, 2018, p.8 quoting Dahl, 2017, p.26).

In the next article on the topic, women’s circles will be analyzed in terms of gender identity and intersectional feminism.


Delao, M. (2021). A brief look at the four waves o feminism. The Humanist website,rights%2C%20and%20social%20justice%20movements. (accessed on 22.11.2021)

Global Sisterhood quote from December 8, 2020    (accessed on May 14th 2021)

Longman, C. (2018). Women’s circles and the rise of the new feminine: Reclaiming sisterhood, spirituality, and wellbeing. Religions 9(1): 1–17.

Rodak, L. (2020) “Sisterhood and the 4th wave of feminism: An analysis of circles of women in Poland”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 10(1S), p. 116S–134S. (cccessed: June 24th 2021).

Thayer-Bacon, B. (2000). Transforming critical thinking: Thinking constructively. Teachers College Press, Columbia University

Image source:

Psychedelics are powerful tools for transformation that come with integration challenges

  1. Introduction

The post below is a brief summary of the research conducted by our colleague Victor as part of his MSc dissertation on the transformative effects and integration challenges of psychedelic experiences looking at the Romanian population.

Psychedelic experiences involve users ingesting a psychedelic substance and undergoing an experience where altered states of consciousness, intense emotions, and even mystical experiences are common.

Image above, LSD in blotter form

Scientists have recently begun to understand how psychedelics affect us, especially our brain, and how such a seemingly short experience (between 6-12 hours usually) can have lasting implications as reported by (

One could write an entire article and still not correctly explain the above. However, sometimes a picture speaks more than 1000 words; hence this image of brain interconnectivity on psilocybin (active ingredient in magic mushrooms) compared to placebo can help illuminate these effects further:

Image credit to the Beckley Foundation

In this short blog post, I will be reporting the principal elements and findings of the research I did on the transformative effects and integration challenges of psychedelic experiences for the Romanian population. 

The research topic is close to my heart as I underwent powerful transformative experiences with psychedelics; however also had difficulties in integrating the insights and the experience into daily life, especially in Romania. My own experiences, coupled with the lack of empirical research on psychedelic experiences in Romania, determined me to undergo a mixed-method research project as part of my MSc dissertation.

The objective of my research was to determine what fosters transformation during and after a psychedelic experience, what these transformations are, and what potential integration challenges arise. 

  • Method

Due to limited mixed-method (research combining qualitative and quantitative methods) research in psychedelic this research was done with six in-depth interviews with participants to which a nationwide survey was added that received 39 responses, thus combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Inspiration for the quantitative element came from one of the landmark studies on transformative effects of psychedelic experiences performed by Ronald Griffiths at John Hopkins, particularly in the form of the Persistent Effects Questionnaire (PEQ).  

For those interested in finding out more about that study, here is a link to a recent podcast with Griffiths on the psychology of psychedelics together with Jordan Peterson ( The qualitative data analysis of the interview scripts was done in accordance to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

  • The main results in a nutshell  

Below you can glance at the main findings of this study together with some quotes from the participants that illustrate these results:

  1. Changes in self-perception and understanding of self and world as a result of the psychedelic experience seem to be the triggers for the actual transformations in the participants’ lives.
  1. Transformations can be seen as lasting positive changes in attitude and behavior that span a wide range from embodied, emotional, and spiritual to interpersonal transformations.
  1. There were both personal as well as interpersonal and cultural challenges to the integration process.
  • Implications of results

It is essential to understand what these findings mean and what implications they have. Firstly, when someone experiences what they believe to be their actual death or some very intense hardship, or when they have a profound realization on the nature of being, this tends to leave a powerful imprint on them. This imprint sticks beyond the experience and triggers a process of actual transformation in their lives. 

Getting a glimpse of the psychedelic “innerverse” can have profound transformative implications – image represents person looking at Alex Grey art piece

Secondly, it is interesting to notice a multitude of transformations. However, the most profound changes reported by all participants were related to spiritual transformation, especially opening up to spirituality. Another fundamental shift relates to the interpersonal realm and especially how participants sought deeper and more meaningful relationships with others after the experience. This opens up the possibility for psychedelics to be doorways for people to discover meaning in their lives, something much needed in our society today as highlighted by Psychology Today

Thirdly, the psychedelic experience may well be a viable seed of transformation. However, the integration of the experience into daily life is the nourishing soil needed for enduring development. The integration process, sustained by different integration practices such as yoga and meditation comes with its challenges. Some of the challenges are personal, such as having difficulties in balancing inner and outer work, as some of the participants struggled with more mundane activities and placed more emphasis on inner work. Other challenges are interpersonal and cultural and relate to stigma, communication challenges and struggle for acceptance.

The integration process and practices act as a nourishing soil for lasting transformation

  • Conclusion and future research opportunities

Ultimately, the findings of this study need to be taken with due consideration to the relatively small sample and scope of the dissertation project. However, the results, especially in relation to the transformative effects, seem to be in line with other studies in the scientific literature as portrayed by Stanislas Grof.

More so, empirical research on this topic has not been attempted in Romania, my study covering a significant gap in the national literature. I had powerful and largely positive experiences with psychedelics, hence I must admit my bias on the topic. Some of the limitations of this study, besides my bias, would include the fact that participants with poor mental health were excluded from the study, something that could bring a positivity bias together with the observation that it is sometimes challenging to separate transformations that came directly out of the psychedelic experience and those that arose from a multitude of other factors. 

To address some of the limitations and explore possible cultural differences in greater depth, a future piece of research could be a mixed-method cross-cultural study looking at whether or not there are significant cross-cultural differences in integration challenges. 

As seen in the image below, psychedelic research is becoming ever more popular and I would say that the results of my research warrant even more research into psychedelics, especially using mixed-method research.

Image credit to the Beckley Foundation

Further recommended reading and resources:

Grof, Stanislav (2019). The Way of the Psychonaut Volume One: Encyclopedia for Inner Journeys. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Griffiths, R. R., Richards, W. A., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2006). Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology, 187(3), 268-283.

Sessa, B. (2012). The psychedelic renaissance: Reassessing the role of psychedelic drugs in 21st century psychiatry and society. Muswell Hill Press.

Link to Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS):

Link to psychedelic experience integration workshops: Link to an excellent documentary about psychedelics and their potential:

For more details on the results and methodology of this research project please get in touch with 🙂

Integrative Practice Project – Romania 2020/21 – A brief review

Originally posted in the Alef Field Blog:

In November of last year, 20 participants and four facilitators embarked on a journey to discover what is integrative practice, why it is beneficial and how to actually do it. We covered more details regarding the structure of the project in a previous post so please check it out here if interested:

There was a broad mix of activities to accommodate the holistic nature of this project. We had both theoretical elements in the form of PowerPoint backed mini-lectures on everything from integral theory to lucid dreaming, structures and states of consciousness and different sorts of approaches to yoga and breathwork.

Besides engaging the mind, we also had ample time and sessions of group sharing in the form of circle discussions (based on the ancestral practice of circle initiation and discussion) that engaged the emotional and interpersonal modalities. The vital energies and the body were stimulated by sessions of yoga, breathwork and mobility exercises, whilst the spiritual dimension was served by group guided meditation practices as well as thematic specific discussions.

We also engaged the whole group by playing games together (we played Integration Game), and used exercises of stream of consciousness writing to tap into our inner intuition. In the last session, participants were given the chance to present an optional commitment to integrative practice for another nine months and outline their integrative practice structure and proposed schedule in front of the group.

I deeply appreciated the diversity, enthusiasm and dedication of the whole group which facilitated both deep insights as well as enjoying some humor and laughter. An anecdote comes to mind, when one participant was engaging in what to most of us seemed like a manifestation of spiritual bypassing. Another participant very discretely tried to point this out by recommending some literature on the topic, whilst another, more direct participant interrupted the discussion and basically said something like: “If anyone was wondering what spiritual bypassing is, this is it,” which prompted immediate laughter from the whole group and eased the atmosphere.

During the project, we also developed more insight into the nature of holistic change facilitation. This is not a linear process, it requires patience and trust and relies on a balance of polarities as well as insights from mind, body and emotions alike. We also realized that holistic change facilitation is a process in which the facilitators are also co-participants, and develop and grow throughout the process together with the other participants.

As the overarching theme of the Conscious Community Project indicates, our main aim was to create such a conscious community. Based on both my personal reflection and participants feedback, I think we achieved this aim.

Screenshot from a live Zoom session (with participants’ permission)

We came together as 20 separate participants and four facilitators and we emerged from the project as a conscious community of beings. Below is a selection of relevant feedback from our participants:

“…I don’t know exactly how this happened, however as the project progressed, I felt more and more connected with every other participant, giving me the sense of belonging to a mature network of conscious beings that supported my own growth…this was amazing…” (Andrei)

 “…I felt discouraged at first to start all these practices as I felt I was the only one who was a beginner and had difficulties, however as the project unfolded, a sense of community and mutual support started to emerge and I saw that others were in a similar position to me, which encouraged me to open up and take the courage and commitment to practice more…” (Anon.)

 “I liked the openness and vulnerability of each of us, the sharing of experiences and opinions, the creation of a non-judgmental space that slowly allowed us to be a little more authentic. Also, the fact that you guided us in various techniques, you were with us to teach us the right source, to share your experience and to give us a welcomed advice whenever we needed it” (Valeria)

 “What I liked most was the way the project facilitators conveyed the information. An approach full of understanding, positivity and with a lot of passion for the personal development process. A real inspiration for all participants” (Miruna)

 “It represented and represents my support group in the difficult period we are going through” (Alexandra)

In the future I would like to take the idea of integrative practice and conscious communties to the next level and hopefully create new projects and widen the reach to more participants and broader audiences, in the form of both online projects as well as in-person weekly meetings and even week-long integral practice retreats.

What You Don’t Know is Hurting You – A Book Recommendation

The depths of human consciousness are fascinating, and because of that, it is important to balance our thirst for awareness and spiritual knowledge with the other aspects of life.


It is a common belief that a spiritual life and a life engaged with the material world are incompatible, and that you must choose one over the other. However, this belief seems to rely on a lot of assumptions, such as ‘money necessarily corrupts or is dirty’, ‘the material world only leads to attachments, which are impediments to spiritual growth’, or ‘to be truly spiritual I have to leave any material interests behind”.


We are researching ways of living that allow us to peacefully and meaningfully integrate the two extremes of the spirituality-materialism spectrum while remaining engaged with and relevant to a 21st century world and its possibilities. We are doing this mainly through Integral Theory and the LIP (Living through Integral Practice) model.


In this article we will discuss how to healthily relate to our career by presenting the book What You Don’t Know Is Hurting You by Marion E. Brooks. A career need not be restricted to the corporate world, and for practical reasons we now refer to an occupation that we undertake in which we have the desire for growth and success. Although this book largely presents corporate situations, it shares insights that can be applied on any professional level, and on the personal level, too.


The author took these insights from his own life journey. Having started off from a family without possibilities in a poor area of Texas, he is now an internationally certified executive coach, a global leader, entrepreneur, and corporate executive with twenty years of experience building and leading award-winning teams in the pharmaceutical industry. He unpacks the recipe for success in digestible steps and combines them with insights and wisdom he received from his family and mentors.


The main structure of his book is built around four principles (“The Four P’s”), which he identified that when applied effectively, through actual work, they help accelerate people’s careers and personal success. These principles are Performance, Perceptions, Positioning, and Persistence.


I.     Performance


Here, the impact of EQ (Emotional Quotient) is discussed in comparison with that of IQ (Intelligence Quotient). In short, although historically there was placed a lot of importance on someone’s IQ, modern research shows that it only accounts to 20-30% of a leader’s success.


Emotional Intelligence, on the other hand, is now viewed as the strongest predictor of success in a person’s career. According to Daniel Goleman, the author who popularized the term through his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, EQ is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.


In short, the main idea presented in this chapter is that IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.  There are several studies quoted analyzing why qualified people aren’t getting promoted in the workplace, and the first three reasons are the lack of social skills, the inability to take criticism, and the lack of motivation to keep learning, most of which are related to emotional intelligence.


IQ only varies slightly with education and experience, while EQ can be learned. An insightful four-quadrant model for understanding EQ is presented for better understanding EQ.


The Four Quadrants of the Emotional Competencies Model


  •       Self-awareness means understanding yourself and your emotions

–       Self-awareness is the bedrock of EQ (≠self-criticism)

–       Understand the triggers which drive you from productive to unproductive

–       If you lack self-awareness, your emotions tend to control the situation and you may negatively react to situations which aren’t even personal

–       If you are always feeling the victim of people and situations, it’s a good idea to take a closer look into this aspect

  •       Self-management means managing yourself and your emotions

–       It’s one thing to understand your emotions, and quite another to be able to exhibits control over yourself, especially in trigger situations

  •       Social awareness means understanding others and their emotions

–       Being able to understand and respond to the needs of others

  •       Relationship management refers to managing [the interactions with] others

–       Involves clear communication and effective and constructive handling of conflict

–       Building and maintaining healthy relationships to help you become more productive and impactful

–       “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in what they do, than you can make in two years by trying to get other people interested in you” (Dale Carnegie)


A key aspect to understand related to this model is balance, because almost never is anyone a high achiever in all of them all the time. Brooks writes: “Emotional intelligence is predicated upon leveraging your self-awareness and the awareness of your environment in order to stay focused and to accomplish your objectives and goals.”


A very powerful advice he gives is that “if you’re going to be a leader, then you’re going to have to be able to understand what you’re projecting, not just what you’re saying”. He gives examples of situations in which he unintentionally transmitted messages about himself through his body language or by not saying the right things at the right time that were in this way impeding him to advance towards his goals.


Another valuable insight shared in this book is the comparison between allowing our amygdala to react to negative situations or becoming aware of ourselves and activating our prefrontal cortex in the heat of the moment. The amygdala is the part of our brain managing the flight-or-flight conditioning, negative emotions, and emotional learning. The fight-or-flight mechanism might have worked well for cave people or people going through war or very dangerous situations, but usually at work or in our day-to-day lives there is no need for this response. When we enter this amygdala hijack, not only do we lose control over ourselves, but we also lose approximately 20 IQ points. In this situation, we have given up control to the other person by giving them the upper hand in such situations.


So how can we activate our prefrontal cortex and choose the best option instead of reacting based on primitive emotions? The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain where complex thinking and problem solving occur. Its main activity is considered to be the arrangement of thoughts and actions in accordance with our internal goals.

Some steps that we can take towards activating it is to learn not to take anything personally and to understand that the other person is acting towards their interests, and not against yours. This then makes it easier to start working towards a common goal, instead of, for example, becoming offended that they are not taking your ideas into consideration. When you’re feeling a trigger, pause – take a deep breath, listen to the other person in order to understand their intention. Think instead of react. A good exercise which he proposes for activating the prefrontal cortex in a trigger situation is the following:

1.     What am I feeling? (attacked, disrespected, overlooked, ignored, discounted,…)

2.     Ok, I’m feeling X, but why? (I am afraid I might look bad, they will think they will get over me, they are taking advantage of me,…)

3.     What can I do to stay in the moment and in control? (How do I communicate directly and show empathy for their point of view? What are they saying that I can agree with and build on to put us back on topic?)


This process gives you space to realize that you’ve taken what’s being said too personal, when the other person is just trying to assert or defend something based on their own experience and background.


Brooks also recommends a book called The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz, which is based on ancient teachings and wisdom aiming to shape a modern exploration of freedom and success. The four agreements are:

1.     Be impeccable with your word

2.     Don’t take anything personally

3.     Don’t make assumptions

4.     Always do your best


“A key marker of an emotionally intelligent person is the ability to identify alternative ways to achieve their objective with a win-win outcome in mind.”


II.     Perception


How we are perceived by the others greatly impacts what is going to happen to our career. Brooks says that you can be the most hard-working and loyal employee and still not be perceived that way. He gives some examples of Ivy League educated people with very high IQ who either remained stuck in a position, or who arrived in leading roles in which they failed because of their lack of EQ and leading capabilities. Dr. Maya Angelou says that “people will forget what you said, what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”.


A good idea is to start looking into how you perceive yourself, before looking into how others perceive you. It might be desirable to change the way you perceive yourself and make it match with how you wish others to perceive you.


Another important aspect related to the way you are perceived is the fact that 90% of the decisions made about you and your career are made when you are not in the room (managers and bosses in their meetings or clients deciding if they will return to you). This is why it is important to think about and build a personal brand that will send out the message you want those people to receive. Some key questions to help you do this are:


1.     What are you known for?

2.     What do people say or think when your name is mentioned?

3.     What are your strengths?

4.     What are your areas of opportunity?

This way, you can start taking conscious action in making people aware of you in the light that you want. To start, think about:


1.     How do you show up (wardrobe, hairstyle, how you express yourself, how you walk, sit etc.)? See if they match with who you want to become.

– if you want a new position or want to be seen in a new way, see how you can show up to fit with your new brand

2.     How much confidence do you exude when you walk into a room or meeting?

3.     Try to describe your current brand in three adjectives, and then your ideal brand in three adjectives. How would you change the way you show up to match your ideal brand?


The way you communicate is a great part of the way you are perceived. There are three main components of effective communication, and people often wrongly assume which one is the most important:

–       the content (the spoken words) make up just 7% of effectiveness

–       the voice (tone, inflection, etc.) make up 38%

–       the visual aspect (body language, appearance) make up the majority of 55%


Usually, people mistakenly assign the majority to the actual content.


“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation”.


Developing a confidence ritual before you enter a meeting room or meet with clients can help you set up for success or put you easily back on track fi you are feeling nervous. Some steps are striking a power-pose in the mirror, walking with power, positive self-talk, confident posture, and being organized.



III.     Positioning


If you want to advance in your career, it is important to understand your place in your company or in your field. Three components to effective positioning are creating a career or developmental plan, engaging others into your plan (finding mentors and sponsors to guide you, give you feedback, and promote you), and growing your network.

1.     Understand the structure and hierarchy of your organization,

2.     Usually, people hire people they know, so you must position yourself effectively.

3.     Focus your goals and the way you show up based on your current position and the position you aspire to be

4.     It’s not always about getting to the next level, but getting to the next level of proficiency, or building a new skillset.

5.     Work with you manager, find mentors and work with them, or an executive coach to build a developmental plan for your career.

Research has shown that our annual income will be the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so if we want to aspire high, it is important to start connecting with people who are aspiring high. This does not mean to have only friendships based on interest or to immediately end old friendships, it just means to expand our network towards people with interests similar to those interest we wish to cultivate.



IV.     Persistence

“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Persistence is the opposite of being a victim. Setbacks are always going to happen, yet persistent people know how to face them, learn from them, and turn them into part of their way to success.


“I never lose. I either win, or learn” – Nelson Mandela


An inspiring book full of insights which are indeed inspired by ancient wisdom, we recommend it to anyone wishing to improve their personal and/or professional level. What made me recommend this book is the way Brooks extendedly talks about the importance of being in service of others, searching to give back what we receive, and aiming to make the world a better place.





Integrative practice research project in Romania

Our co-founder Victor recently secured a grant as part of the Conscious Community Project initiated by the Alef Trust. With the grant money, the plan is to organize an integrative practice research project with participants from the local community starting around October this year. More information regarding the project can be found in this article:

As Quantum Civilization is one of the key partners for this project, we will communicate more details soon :

Activități pentru autoizolare

În aceste vremuri incerte, chiar dacă avem mobilitatea restricționată de situația pandemiei, putem alege ce facem cu această situație. Putem vedea toate ocaziile “pierdute” de a călători, de la ieși cu prietenii, de a face bani… dar putem vedea și ocazia de a ne interioriza, vindeca și cunoaște mai bine. De câte ori nu am auzit persoane spunând cât și-ar dori niște timp liber, pentru a sta efectiv acasă? Acum avem ocazia să ne folosim de retragere și izolare în mod conștient, individual și înțelept.

Hai să ne conectăm la interiorul nostru. Hai să ne uităm la acea parte din noi pentru care tot nu am avut timp, pe care mereu am amânat-o. Fă-ți curaj, spune-le celor cu care locuiești că îți vei lua niște timp pentru tine, și recomandă-le să facă la fel. Și aici nu mă refer la timpul pentru noi în care ne uităm la seriale. Nici măcar la timpul în care citim o carte sau în care facem sport. Mă refer la timp în care stăm și lucrăm efectiv cu noi înșine, fără muzică, fără seriale, fără stimuli externi. 

Am să descriu aici câteva din practicile contemplative pe care le-am învățat și pe care le practic, și pe care le poți face și tu, acasă, fără nicio pregătire. Voi sintetiza ce am învățat despre practica contemplativă și meditație în ultimii 4 ani, și sper să găsești ceva folositor aici. 



Ce este meditația? Mulți oameni cred că a medita înseamnă să stai cu picioarele încrucișate și să nu te gândești la nimic, însă nu e chiar așa de simplu. Sunt multe feluri de meditație, pentru scopuri variate. Unele implică lucrul cu gândul, altele nu. Dacă vrei să începi să meditezi, și crezi că trebuie să nu te gândești la nimic, cel mai probabil vei descoperi că nu prea funcționează. Ar fi păcat să rămâi descurăjat/ă și să crezi că meditația nu e pentru tine!

Așa că voi încerca să prezint ce am învățat până acum despre meditație, și diferite feluri prin care ne putem antrena abilitatea de a medita, pe care le putem practica în această perioadă, și oricând de acum încolo.

A.    Ce este meditația?

Meditația nu este doar o activitate făcută când ne așezăm pe o pernă și ‘stăm’. Meditația este despre atenție, focus, a fi în prezent, și scopul este să ajungem să medităm în fiecare moment al zilei, chiar și când dormim. Ce înseamnă asta? De exemplu, când spăl vasele, încerc să fiu prezentă și să conștientizez acea activitate – curăț cu grijă farfuria, sunt recunoscătoare că am apă la robinet, opresc apa când folosesc buretele, mă bucur că am mâncat o masă bună, și sunt bucuroasă să am grijă de lucrurile pe care le folosesc. La fel când mă îmbrac, sunt recunoscătoare să am haine care îmi plac, mă gândesc la oamenii care au lucrat la ele, și îmi propun să cumpăr haine din fair trade, și doar dacă chiar sunt necesare. Meditația este strâns legată de abilitatea de a fi conștienți/te de prezent și tot ce implică acesta (ai să vezi că asta nu înseamnă să ignorăm trecutul și viitorul, ba chiar dimpotrivă, înseamnă să le înțelegem fără proiecții, așteptări, regrete).

Dacă ești la început, sau a apărut o situație care îți tot acaparează mintea, și nu te poți concentra pe ceea ce faci, poate fi indicat să lucrezi efectiv cu gândurile și emoțiile în meditație. Stai tu cu tine, și observă ce apare în minte și în corp. Apucă-te să scrii în jurnal, și fă-ți planuri de cu o seară înainte pentru ce vrei să faci ziua următoare. Mai ales dacă stăm acasă toată ziua, este ușor să lăsăm timpul să treacă fără să facem mare lucru. Găsește 5 activități sau practici pe care vrei să le faci ziua următoare, și propuneți să faci minim 3 din ele.

B.    Concentrare, atenție, focus

Ca să putem medita, avem nevoie de capacitatea de a nu fi distrași de la ceea ce facem. Când am început să practic, chiar încercam să fiu prezentă când spăl vasele, când fac curat, când îmi periez părul, când citesc, când vorbesc cu oameni, dar des mă trezeam gândindu-mă la altceva, la ce voi face azi, la ce aș fi putut să îi spun unei persoane, cum să spun ceva ce mă deranjează, ce se va întâmpla în lume, etc. Pentru a remedia situația, este necesară o practică de antrenare a atenției, a abilității de ne focusa pe un singur punct/task/activitate.

Îți descriu aici câteva practici pe care le poți integra în rutina ta:

1.     În fiecare dimineață, încerc să nu mă uit direct pe smartphone, și să încep să număr de la 100 la 1 în minte, fără să ma gândesc la altceva. Dacă pierd șirul, o iau de la capăt, iar dacă încă număr, și observ că mă gândesc la altceva, calm îmi îndrept atenția înpoi la numărat. Odată ce am devenit confortabilă cu asta, am început să vizualizez cu un număr în față (de exemplu, când număr 100, vizualizez 99 fiind sub 100, apoi când sunt la 99, vizualziez 98 fiind sub 99). Apoi cu 2 numere în față, și cam aici sunt acum. Încerc să vizualizez numerele unu sub altul în jos, și să păstrez atenția fără să oscileze.

Ø  Beneficii: aceasta este o tehnică folosită pentru a antrena abilitatea conștienței în vis (vis lucid), și de a medita profund, în imagini, dincolo de gânduri. Această practică, făcută dimineața, crește șansa de a intra înapoi în starea de vis, și de a rămâne conștienți, număratul menținându-ne atenția. Această practică antrenează abilitatea de a intra în planurile subconștiente, însă ne permite să rămânem focusați/te și conștienți/te (număratul este o tehnică des folosită în inducția hipnotică, și se bazează pe focusarea minții active “nevrotice” pe numărat, pentru a-i da voie minții subconștiente să iasă la suprafață, sau pentru a calibra atenția la planuri mai profunde ale minții.

2. Pentru concentrare și antrenarea memoriei, după ce fac exercițiul cu număratul, încep să îmi narez în gând ce am făcut în ziua precedentă, fără să îmi zboare gândul la detalii despre ce aș mai fi vrut să fac, sau ce mi-a plăcut, etc. Odată ce reușești să faci asta fără distragere, rapid, și în flow, poți să îți amintești ziua de ieri și de alaltăieri.

Ø  Beneficii: prin antrenamentul memoriei, vei putea ‘rula’ din ce în ce mai multe activități mentale într-un timp din ce în ce mai scurt. La fel cum un vis poate dura câteva minute pe ceas, dar pentru tine pot trece câteva ore în lumea visului, la fel poți să înveți să rulezi amintiri, gânduri, planuri, teorii, etc. în din ce  în ce mai puțin timp.

3.    Îmi notez visele într-un carnețel (ca să nu riști să uiți visul, poți face asta fix cum te trezești, înainte de exercițiul cu numărătoarea), și notez chiar dacă abia îmi mai amintesc ceva. Dacă nu îți amintești niciun vis, poți scrie “astăzi nu mi-am amintit visele, dar sunt conștient/ă că visez în fiecare noapte, și vreau sa îmi antrenez abilitatea de a-mi aminti visele.” Această practică îi “spune” subconștientului nostru că ne dorim să îl explorăm, iar mintea se va obișnui să ofere mai multă atenție viselor.

Ø  Sfat: Aveți grijă să nu vă pierdeți în teorii ale interpretării viselor. Yoginii, deși au o practică complexă de yoga a visului, spun că și conținutul visului este până la urmă o proiecție, și nu trebuie să rămânem atașați de el, nici măcar dacă ne apare Buddha, Dumnezeu, îngeri și demoni în vis. După ce ai notat deja visele de ceva timp, de exemplu, o lună, citește-le și caută dacă se repetă motive sau scenarii. Cel mai probabil, de acolo îți poți da seama de o dorință de-a ta pe care nu ai asumat-o, sau de o frică, sau traumă nerezolvată, și poate fi mai ușor să lucrezi cu acestea.

C.    Respirația 

Sunt multe exerciții pe care le putem face cu respirația, dar înainte de toate, este important să avem abilitatea de a rămâne concentrați pe ea (de aceea, este important să facem exercițiile de mai sus care antrenează atenția). Țin minte că la început, încercam să ma concentrez pe respirație, dar sincer nu prea știam ce înseamnă acest lucru, și mereu mă trezeam gândindu-mă la altceva. Însă, chiar dacă suntem la început, nu este niciun timp mai bun de a începe decât ‘acum’, și, cu practică, vom putea înțelege profunzimea acestui aparent simplu act de a respira.

1.     Respirația abdominală

Cu vreo 2 ani in urmă mi-am dat seama că nu știam să respir. Sună comic, dar când am început să înțeleg ce înseamnă de fapt respirația profundă, abdominală, parcă am descoperit un nou fel de a fi. Respirația abdominală este cheia relaxării și a echilibrului. Este ca un mecanism prin care mintea intră în armonie cu corpul și cu emoțiile, și astfel putem vindeca acea disonanță prin care mintea mereu “o ia la fugă”, sau care încearcă să nege sau să controleze emoțiile. Trăim într-o societate cognicentrică, unde mintea este lăudată și antrenată, dar asta nu înseamnă că trebuie să ne controlăm emoțiile cu mintea. Dacă chiar nu ne înțelegem cu propriile emoții, cel mai probabil nu vom scăpa de probleme dacă încercăm să le ‘ascundem sub covor’. Când ai o gâlmă de mizerie sub covor la care tot nu vrei sa te uiți, cel mai probabil te vei tot trezi izbucnind de furie, tristețe, frustrare, sau ce ai ascuns acolo, sau te tot trezești în situații care se repetă și nu știi de ce. Doar pentru că e sub covor, nu înseamnă că nu mai există! Pe mine, respirația abdominală m-a ajutat să eliberez multe emoții reprimate, și deși la început a fost dificil să le accept, se simte minunat odată ce mi le-am asumat.

Am însă un avertisment: nu există leacuri magice. Dacă vrei să te eliberezi de probleme, respirația abdominală nu le va dizolva miraculos. Ce se va întâmpla este că vei deveni mai relaxat/ă, sângele va fi mai oxigenat și îți va hrăni mintea mai bine, iar astfel vei putea fi mai atent/ă și prezent/ă la ceea ce îți propui. O metaforă pentru asta este să vezi mintea ca pe un călăreț, iar calul este respirația. Vei putea să vezi mai clar care sunt emoțiile stocate, și să începi să vezi pe parcursul zilelor ocazii în care poți acționa diferit, schimbând ce te deranjează sau ce nu îți mai este de folos. Tu ești propriul tău maestru. Dacă nu schimbi tu nimic, nimeni nu va schimba pentru tine nimic (cel puțin, nu în direcția în care îți dorești). 

Ø  Cum se face respirația abdominală? Teoretic, ea vine natural odată ce ne reobișnuim cu ea. Dar ca exercițiu de ‘deblocare’, stai în picioare, cu picioarele depărtate la nivelul umerilor, spatele drept, și respiră normal de câteve ori, așa cum îți vine. Apoi, expiră tot afară, și inspiră în abdomenul de jos, încet, treptat, umplându-l cât poți, și în timp ce menții abdomenul plin, încearcă sa umpli cu aer zona stomacului și a plexului solar, și apoi umple pieptul și plămânii, întinzând și umflând astfel trunchiul, ca un balon. Cu respirația ținută de plin, înghite odată, și încearcă UȘOR să presezi aerul în jos, să simți cum se întinde plexul solar, și abdomenul. Nu forța, pentru că asta te poate face să simți că amețești dacă ești la început. Aceasta stă la baza unei practici pe care yoginii o folosesc pentru a genera căldură în corp, și pentru a intra în stări meditative profunde (practica Tummo). Repetă de câteva ori (la început, ajunge și odată, daca te doare). Ideea este să inveți să elasticizezi trunchiul, pentru a relaxa abdomenul și a putea respira abdominal natural. Nu este recomandat dacă ai hernii, ulcere, alte afecțiuni grave abdominale, cardiace, sau pulmonare, sau esti la menstruație.

Ø  Acest antrenament elasticizează abdomenul și plexul solar, permițându-ți să respiri mai ușor și natural abdominal și atunci când stai jos, întins/ă în picioare, sau când mergi. Poți exersa respirația abdominală și stând intins/ă pe pat, pe spate.

Ø  Dacă vrei să vezi diferența, încearcă să respiri abdominal stând pe un scaun înainte să începi această practică, și apoi după ce o faci, și cel mai probabil vei simți diferența. Respirația abdominală face o diferență enormă și la efort susținut, și este cheie în practicile de orgasm extins.


2.     Box Breathing

Există multe aplicații pentru smartphone cu care se poate face acest exercițiu. Eu am una gratuită, de pe Google Play, care se numește Breathe Air. Ce face această aplicație este să numere în intervale pe care le poți seta – de exemplu, începi cu 4 secunde inspirația, 4 secunde ții pe plin, 4 secunde expiri, 4 secunde ții pe gol (vid), timp de câte minute vrei tu – eu recomand cel puțin 8 minute aproape zilnic. Eu am ajuns la intervale de 12 secunde în zilele bune pe fiecare interval destul de repede (10 secunde e sigur), mai ales după ce am învățat respirația abdominală, dar ideea e să nu forțăm, și să ne antrenăm perseverent. Este mai bine să faci 5 minute în fiecare zi, decât o sesiune de o oră odată pe săptămână. Dacă reușești să inspiri și să umpli abdomenul și pieptul, s-ar putea să vezi că reziști mai mult timp decât dacă umpli doar pieptul.

3.     Cele 9 respirații purificatoare (9 Breaths of Purification) din Buddhismul Tibetan

Este o practică simplă și ușoară, care cel mai probabil te va centra și ajuta să te echilibrezi. Este mai greu de explicat în scris, așa că pun un link care o arată aici:

Ø  Până la minutul 4 se explică practica în general, apoi arată în detaliu fiecare mișcare. Odată ce înveți să o faci, nu ar trebui să dureze mai mult de 5 minute.

Ø  Practica ajută și la reglarea capacității de aer din fiecare nară. Dacă ai o nară mai înfundată decât cealaltă, cel mai probabil vei observa la acest exercițiu. Dar nu este nici o problema, cu timpul, căile respiratorii se vor balansa, mai ales dacă faci această practică zilnic.


D.    Care este scopul meditației?

Cunoașterea de sine!

Abilitatea de a ne cunoaște cu tot ce am fost și tot ce suntem, fără să ne mai găsim scuze pentru neajunsuri, eșecuri, succesuri, etc. Odată ce ne rafinăm abilitatea de a fi în prezent, ne vom putea uita la noi înșine și vom putea înțelege mai bine cauzalitatea situației noastre prezente (fie ea bună, fie ea dificilă), și vom putea vedea cum putem să ne schimbăm situația dacă nu ne convine, sau cum să ne bucurăm de ea dacă ne place. Odată ce trecem de filtrul proiecțiilor, nu ne mai mințim pe noi înșine, și nu mai alergăm în cercuri, apare și posibilitatea de a ne vindeca de traume, așteptări nerealiste, regrete, frustrări, nevroze, obsesii, compulsii, etc. Meditând,  învățăm să ascultăm, și să ne ascultăm.



Deja majoritatea știm câte ceva despre Yoga, câteva asane, câteva principii. Deja se găsesc online clase, cursuri, și informații, iar aici nu voi include practici întregi. Însă voi vorbi despre felurile diferite prin care putem practica Yoga.

1.    Când începi ceva, este bine să nu începi cu prea multă intensitate. Probabil toți ne-am apucat o dată de sală și am mers o saptamană sau două aproape zilnic, după care ne-am lăsat. Este de dorit să evităm extremele!

2.     Când am început să fac Yoga, nu prea știam ce este exact, și învățam diferite asane și concepte despre chakre de pe internet. Am reușit să îmi ating vârful picioarelor cu mâinile, și simțeam că progresez. Însă, după ceva timp de făcut Sun Salutations și extensii pentru elasticizare, când am început cu exercițiile de concentrare, mi-am dat seama că nu este de ajuns să stai în asane, dacă mintea îți fuge în toate direcțiile. Sigur, e mai bine să îți fugă mintea în timp ce faci Yoga, decât în timp ce scroll-ui pe facebook, dar totuși. Yoga nu este doar mișcare fizică, și nu are scopul doar de a ne relaxa. Yoga este un sistem de practică vast, care merge dincolo de asane. Este un stil de viață, și include alimentație, concentrare, mindfulness, purificare, vindecare, cunoaștere de sine. Așa că provocarea este să ajungi să faci Yoga singur/ă în aceste zile de izolare, în liniște, doar tu cu corpul, mintea, emoțiile, fricile și dorințele tale.

3.     Popunere: Uită-te la un video cu Surya Namaskar (Salutul Soarelui). Parcurge odată asanele după cum te ghidează video-ul, apoi oprește-l, și ia fiecare asană pe rând și stai în ea 2-3 minute. Respiră în această asană, respiră abdominal. Simte-te tu, pe tine, în liniștea ta. Obervă cum te simți dacă îți place. Obervă cum te simți dacă ți-e greu – te lași sau încerci mai departe? Dacă tot stăm în izolare, hai să și învățăm ceva din ea. Una e practica de Yoga în grup, alta este practica solitară. Când ești singur nu e nimeni să te laude, și nu e nimeni să te incurăjeze, nu e nimeni să te corecteze, și dacă nu știi să îți asumi aceste roluri, vei fi mereu dependent de alții într-un mod nesănătos.

                          -> după ce te obișnuiești cu fiecare asană, poți face Surya Namaskar în mod mai dinamic, de exemplu, primele 6 asane din acest video:

Nu este recomandat să practicați mai departe din acest video fără un instructor.

4.    Dacă nu ești obișnuit/ă cu sesiuni lungi de o oră sau mai mult, gândește-te dacă nu este mai util să faci 3 asane simple zilnic (10 minute), decât să te forțezi cu video-uri de o oră și să te lași peste 3 zile. Îți propun aici 3 asane foarte benefice care, dacă le faci regulat, cel mai probabil vei avea o surpriză. Dacă ești ca mine, primele 3 asane sunt mai dificile și se întâmplă să nu am chef, dar după aceste 3 asane mereu mai fac câteva, pentru că mă ajută să intru într-o stare centrată, prezentă.

–       Padahastasana –  postura mâinilor sub picioare – din picioare, ne aplecăm cu genunchii întinși și încercăm să ne atingem vârfurile picioarelor. Este important să ne elasticizăm picioarele și spatele. Caută-ți limita confortului, dar nu o forța. Chiar dacă nu reușești să îți atingi picioarele, stai acolo 1-3 minute, și respiră. Ai să vezi că respirația face minuni când vine vorba de antrenarea elasticității. Vei vedea că respirând, te obișnuiești cu durerea, și vei putea să te apleci mai mult, treptat, pentru că limita confortului crește.

Ø  Vizualizare corp subtil (opțional): prin picioare, intră energie din pământ și dinamizează prima chakră, iar din corp, se scurg prin mâini blocajele și energia stagnantă

–       Bhujangasana – postura cobrei – întinși pe burtă, mâinile îndoite în dreptul umerilor, ne ridică pe mâini și ducem capul pe spate, fără să forțâm. Dacă începe să doară, încet ne lăsăm înapoi pe burtă, respirăm de câteva ori, și revenim în asană.

Ø  Vizualizare corp subtil (opțional): din pământ, intră prin picioare energie și se urcă pe coloană până în chakra inimii, deschizând-o. Pe fiecare respirație, simțim cum se deblochează coloana, și se deschide inima, iar când ne așezâm înapoi pe burtă conștientizăm efectele și deschiderea.

–      Adho Mukha Svanasana (Postura Câinelui cu fața în jos) – din Bhujangasana ne ridicăm șoldurile, iar laba picioarelor și palmele rămân pe jos, mâinile și picioarele sunt întinse. Ne uităm spre abdomen, în zona buricului, și încercăm să respirăm profund, abdominal, de 3-5 ori. Chiar dacă la început pare grea, această asană cu timpul va deveni o postură minunată de repaus și încărcare în sesiunile mai dinamice de yoga.

Rezumat, dacă ai face tot ce am propus, zilnic:


  • te trezești, notezi visele (5 min)
  • numeri de la 100 la 1 (5 min)
  • îți amintești ziua de ieri (5 min)

Oricând simți:

  • 9 respirații purificatoare (5 min)
  • respirația abdominală (cea cu elasticizarea trunchiului) (5 min)
  • să fim prezenți/te când facem treburi prin casă, ne spălăm, îmbrăcăm etc. (oricum facem aceste lucruri, dar adăugăm 10 min în plus, că poate dacă suntem mai atenți/te ne luăm mai mult timp la fiecare)
  • box breathing (10 min) – recomand dimineața
  • Yoga 3 asane (15 min)


  • facem planul pentru ziua de mâine (5 min)
  • medităm cu muzică liniștită, sau concentrându-ne pe respirație, sau practicând Savasana (Body Scanning) înainte de culcare (10 min) 

Dacă adunăm acest timp => aproximativ o oră. Nu este așa de mult, iar beneficiile sunt enorme. Pe scurt, vei fi mult mai în contact cu tine. Cred că aceasta este de ajuns ca argument, restul este surpriză.

Alte practici pe care le poți include:

  • meditație prin dans
  • uită-te cât de puțin poți pe facebook/știri (doar ce este esențial) 
  • ascultă muzică liniștită
  • mănâncă conștient, mâncare cât mai vie (carnea nu este necesară în dieta omului)
  • sport în cameră (forță, sărituri, etc)
  • citește cărți de dezvoltare personală
  • scrie
  • gândește-te ce putem schimba ca societate pentru a fi mai bine, cum poți contribui, cum te poți schimba tu
  • stai acasă 🙂



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Reflecting with the Right Mindset and Tools

As the year nears its end and we are approaching the moment of the new year’s resolutions we also enter a period of reflection on what has been, what is almost guaranteed to come given the rippling of causality and what we desire to realize given our remaining degrees of freedom. It is important to engage in this practice with the correct mindset and tools if we want it to be a helpful exercise. We suffer from systemic errors in evaluating reality.

               Looking at humanity as a whole, we seem to have a tendency to under evaluate the progress that we make. We tend to be significantly more pessimistic about where the world actually is today in comparison to the reality with which we are dealing with. In his book Factfulness, Hans Rosling & co. show that we suffer from a systemic evaluation problem which affect us across all education levels. What Rosling discovered is that the process through which we evaluate the world is so devastatingly wrong that a chimp which makes random choices can outperform us on a multiple-choice questionnaire about the state of the world.  At the end of the day, highly educated people who take an interest in the world got on average 16% of the test correctly while the chimp picking randomly got 33% correctly.               Given that 12,000 people from 14 countries and from most walk of life suffer from a systemic problem in their evaluation of reality, we must consider that we ourselves will very likely be affected by the same errors in judgement that affect the studied group. While we may blame access to data as a cause for these errors in judgment, we would be wrong in doing so. When applying some of these questions to world leader that have access to the best information in the world at the annual World Economic Forum conference at Davos, still only 61% of the audience got the correct answer to the questions. Thus, the problem is not access to data, but it is our mindsetEasy access to negative news is skewing our view towards pessimism

               Our minds are constantly bombarded with an overflow of negativity, we read and hear on a daily basis about inequality, climate disasters, possible recessions, trade and normal war, terrorism, we hear of new dictators, of democracy decreasing and the rule of law crumbling. Fear and hopelessness are being seeded and watered in the process. As a result of this, in many places in the world, the past 3 to 4 years have each been proclaimed as the worst year ever, one after another of course. On the back of this, our reflex to look for an Edenic past is triggered. We are thinking that as we move forward, we certainly only getting closer to an apocalyptic end. But as Franklin P. Adams pointed out: “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory”. It becomes much easier to see declines if we compare negative events of the present with rose tinted images of the past. Having a mindset of criticism also doesn’t improve our situation and sadly there seems to be a tendency to become ever more catastrophical the more intellectual you are.               One of the reasons that we have such a big problem with appreciating progress is due to the availability heuristic. The easier it is to recall something from memory the more probable we judge it to be. Social media plays a big role in what we see, and generally we are give access to two things: 1) mostly photos and videos of how awesome people we know are doing, because almost no one wishes to post realistic documentation of their life events on such websites, and 2) ever more pessimistic news, as no news report will start with: “I’m here in China where for the past 30 years extreme poverty has decreased by 87.3 percentage points.” As a result of this we see people we know leading a seemingly better life than us and a world with no redeeming qualities that seems to only be getting worse. As a result, it is not surprising we can get stuck in a state of anxiety, pessimism, depression and catastrophically inclined thinking. Some tips on how to overcome our biases

               Now, I am not proposing that we should reverse our view of the world by 180 degrees and paint what is going on around us as completely rosy. However, I do think that we need to look at the world and at ourselves in a different way. Doing so requires that we start becoming aware of the biases that we have. As such, here are some quick tips from Hans Roseling’s book on how to make sure that you are judging your reality as it is and not as your biases consider it to be. I hope that these tips will help you generate a better reflection of the past and allow you to see more of the possibilities that are in front of you.

  1. Information about bad events is more likely to reach us. Progress can generally be found behind a wall of negativity noise. Becoming aware that the amount of times we hear the same bad or good news has no impact on the suffering of happiness it generates is a must. Aka, more bad news does not mean a worse world. It is the aggregate of the number and impact of unique positive and negative events that really matter.When we compare what is happening, we have a tendency to look at the extremes and evaluate based on that. This is a big error because most things tend to happen around the median. Thus, ask yourself if what you are thinking is in fact a generality and not just an extreme that was better printed in your memory.Seeing a momentary increase or decrease does not tell us much about what is really going on. We need to abandon the heuristic that reality moves in a straight line. Very often trends have S-bends, humps and pullbacks. Thus, if we look furthered back and recognize that things are a bit more complicated can we actually succeed in making a proper evaluation.Evaluating the world from a position of fear will make the world seem dangerous. Calm yourself before reflecting on anythingNothing has any value in and by itself. An elephant taken alone is neither big nor small. But if compared to a human he is large, while if compared to a blue whale he is small. Thus, try to think in amounts or rates, as absolutes can easily be misleading.Don’t let yourself think that nothing is happening just because progress or decline in a certain domain of your life or of the world is slow. Big things move slower so make sure that when you are looking at rates of change you are comparing apples with apples before you evaluate. If not sure ask a wise grandpa or grandma. They have been around longer and have a better understanding of how big things evolve and decay.Every single perspective has a narrow and limited view on reality no matter how broad it may seem. Thus, make sure you analyses the same thing from multiple perspectives before you come to a conclusion. Many surprising opportunities await you behind this practice.If you think you have found the fault, or the villain please think again. In reality, almost no effect has a single cause. The more complex the system within which you are searching for a cause the less likely the possibility of a single cause becomes.Finally, remember that there is almost always time. While our high speed, instant access and instant delivery society seems to be pushing us to think that it is now or never, in actuality, very few things will bring about the end of the world if you don’t solve it in the next minute. Thus, remember to take the time to evaluate the situation before you take any action or decision.

               Having personally applied these changes in my own reflection process has been highly empowering. Because once I saw that the world while in a state of constant struggle is getting better over time it allowed me to feel that my efforts are not in vain and that positive change is possible. It also allowed me to see better where I really am and how to evaluate what I am building. Thus, I encourage you to try this out and you might have the same shock that I had when you realize that your current state is much better than you expected and that you have more power than you think.                I hope that this will empower you to drive more positive change in your personal life, at work, and in the larger world in the year that is to come.

How to Set New Foundations for the Dawn of a New, Quantum Civilization?

Moral discourse has suffered greatly within the past 300 years. Due to the schools of thought that popped up during this period we have ended up in a place that has no more true north. One of the main justifications for relativism, is that: the arguments of the various traditions posses what can be called a conceptual incommensurability. This means that the arguments may be internally valid but that there is no rational way of weighing the premises that are employed to set the ground for what is to become an internally valid argument.

Given this conceptual incommensurability it has been proposed that there is no valid reason for any arguments beyond personal choice or, in other words, beyond appeal to irrationality, or whim. Thus, the good ceases to be anything else than what one considers to be good based on completely arbitrary choices. The problem with this attitude is that the ground beneath our feet has been taken away and that currently even those deeds or actions which in the past might have been considered horrendous can be argued for as being good from this hipper relativistic perspective. While there are for sure actions which almost none of the adherents to a relativist position would declare as being permitted, they do this not by following through with their primary concept, ‘may each and everyone’s whim be moral law’, but, based on the remaining remnants of traditional values that are still permeating the intersubjective space.

But, for how long can these remnants keep us safe from a world of utter chaos? The answer is not for too long, if we don’t act to stop the continues decay into absolute ungroundedness. Stopping this process requires us to first understand what went wrong with our understanding of morality and second what we need to do in order to rebuild a meaningful moral backbone for society. These principles, if followed through, need to be so structured as to ensure that they will not lead to a state of utter social deconsolidation and fragmentation (something which the absolute relativist position does not do).

If we look at what morality is, we will find out that it aims to tell us what we have to do in order to reach the good. It aims to move us from a state of lack towards a state of fulfilment. It aims to change our current nature, which is seen as the chief cause for us finding ourselves in the unbearable present and to guide us towards the ideal future. In this sense, it builds within us the elements that are necessary for leading the good life. Or, at least, that is what it should be doing without any recourse to dogma and interests.

As we left the middle ages, one of the main lines of thought in Europe was that there is an unbridgeable gap between what is and what ought to be. And, thus, any ought cannot be grounded in reason. Due to this it is not wrong to make the leap that all hierarchies and rules that have been imposed upon us until this time were imposed in order to ensure the flourishing of some individuals and their close group of acquaintances and to guarantee the maintenance of their power. While it can be stated that this is at least partially true, it doesn’t mean that it is the whole truth. However, due to the realization that these sorts of patriarchal impositions had no valid basis, one cannot blame our ancestors for trying to get out from under their guise. Problems started appearing due to the fact that the only thing that we actually managed to destroy, was the teleological element of the old moral system. Meaning that we were left with the following two elements: the existence of a traditionalistic human nature and moral injections that are antagonistic to human nature because, supposedly, they are good, but with no means that would explain why they truly are good.

The step of obliterating the old teleological foundations was and will be seen as a very important one in further evolution. However, it will also be seen as a painful one. Because once people were left without their ultimate question, all that remained was meaningless. Thus, they jumped on any ideology that could provide them with something equivalent to what they lost, an ideal or a meaning. Hence, we entered the age of ideology that started around the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century and that hopefully is about to end in the near future.

The age of ideology is problematic because it gave us new ends that could replace the old ones. However, it didn’t do much to vanquish the preexisting power hierarchies (the people placed in the hierarchies changed but the hierarchies themselves mostly remained the same). Thus, we used old structures upon which we placed new ideals that were not compatible with the old structures. This led to a state of chaos and to the generation of conflicts so grand and of dictators so veil that they will indefinitely have left scars upon the history of humanity.

Seeing the fail of the exercise of creating just a new ideal we need to do more than this and we need to change all 3 elements of the 3-fold scheme: 1) we need to redefine human nature, 2) we need to create new moral injunctions, and 3) we need to create a new ideal. We need to do all of these in such a way that our statements will not be given a static shape, but that they will be given dynamism.

Our moment in history is uniquely suited for something like this. Due to the change that has taken place over the last 2 generations, our society is in a state of significant chaos. Former limits are being forced to disappear at higher speeds than ever before due to technology that makes them senseless. With every exercise of the imposition of traditional limits, economic well-being diminishes, because the current technologies can only reach peak capacity if they are utilized by humanity, not by nation states, not by religious groups, not by cultural or sub-cultural groups. The forms of the past that relied on this sort of heavy segmentation of humanity in multiple groups are slowly vanishing as they become less and less reliable modes of interaction within a non-segmented world and depends on non-discriminatory technology. Thus, marking the perfect moment for us to engage the restructuring of culture and civilization. However, not on a national, or regional scale as has been done before, but on a transnational and transcultural scale. We are given the opportunity for the first time in human history to truly think and disseminate a new global, human culture and civilization. And for this we need to start from that which I have mentioned in the above paragraph.

Awakening experiences outside of religious or spiritual traditions


As we progress into the 21st century, we can observe that more and more individuals are starting to have spiritual experiences of awakening or transformation outside the ‘walls’ of spiritual traditions (Taylor, 2016). This should come as no surprise to us as over the last decades more and more people abandoned so to speak their traditional beliefs and mainstream religions and went on with their lives, for some, as if spirituality or religion where not necessary or important to deal with. However, as we all face questions of ultimate concern (for example our own mortality) theologians like Paul Tillich argued that we inherently need religion (as found in Bruce 2006). More so Wilber (2017) correctly points out that amongst the many lines of development of intelligence there is spiritual intelligence as well as development in states of consciousness, and the deeper and more profound the state, the more inseparable it is from questions of ultimate concern and spirituality.

This of course is a widely contested notion in our post post-modern society and academic world, I can only speak from personal experience as to why I believe that there is a clear and undeniable need for the spiritual in our lives and even though secularization has had an impact on the way we perceive this spirituality and shifted the locus of our attention, it widely remains pertinent.

In the case of my own spiritual awakening and transformation, I mention I had no background whatsoever in any religion, except for the inherited Christian Orthodox religion from my family. Ever since I was six years old, I did not find comfort in the magic and mythic belief system my religion had to offer. More so, I made the cynic mistake to think that spirituality is something not necessary for me, something only for people with lesser rational abilities.

Transformation for me happened initially outside any spiritual tradition, at a time I was suffering from depression, even though my outside circumstances seemed great. The longer standing depression coupled with a powerful entheogenic trigger (on my own, so outside the shamanic tradition) opened the gates of awakening for me.  As Taylor (2017) also highlights, this sort of transformation outside any spiritual tradition due to hardship and powerful experiences is indeed not only possible but also one of the most used routes to awakening in the 21st century.

In order to be fair, my initial awakening experience happened outside any tradition as already mentioned, however this triggered a massive interest for spiritual traditions like Vajrayana Buddhism which eventually (after a signal I received in a dream) led me to the Drikung Kagyu lineage in the Himalayas.  Ever since I also started intentional spiritual practice, my transformation became more whole and complete. Nowadays, I follow and learn from several spiritual traditions and at the same time maintain my own practices and try to integrally and wisely interweave them both in my personal life as well as my professional life where I try to help create the basis of a 21st century integral lineage of practitioners that had their awakening outside (or largely) outside traditions and are proficient in post-modern thinking as well as being vetted for their realizations by realized masters from traditional lineages.


Bruce, S. (2006). Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion. The Hedgehog Review, 8(1–2), 35–46. Retrieved from

Taylor, S. (2016). From philosophy to phenomenology: The argument for a “soft” perennialism. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 35(2), 17–41.

Taylor, S. (2017). The Leap: The psychology of spiritual awakening. London. Hay House

Wilber, K. (2007). The integral vision. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2017). The religion of tomorrow. Boston: Shambhala.