The Covid-19 pandemic took the world by storm. All around the world people had to start adapting to the new normal. Work from home or just being at home which was once a luxury started looking like a burden and filled with burden. This was a time people needed attention to be given to mental health more than ever. A lot of people were away from their loved ones, individuals who used socialising as a means to cope with stress started feeling overwhelmed, parents working from home were feeling burdened by their children being around 24/7 and just the inevitability and danger of the pandemic left many families and individuals shocked and concerned.
This is when our mental health warriors took it upon themselves to create awareness about mental health. The media actively got involved in promoting mental health as well. We saw therapists all around the world tirelessly learning how to use the online portals such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and many others to take their sessions online. And we also saw the birth of many mental health organisations and services trying to bring calm during a time of panic.
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In India, the stigma related to mental health such as fear of being judged or shamed slowly saw its end. Though it was a minor change, it did help people come forward and ask for help, and also urged their loved ones to as well. With the state of Goa rooted in stigma related to mental health, many organisations in Goa have been trying to nurture change over the years. In Goa there is a lack of information and exposure to mental health issues. There is also an apathy towards mental health labelling a person seeking therapy as weak or ‘MAD’.
We often neglect the fact that physical health is linked to our mental health. More often than not, our physical health is compromised because of our mental health. We need to understand our wounds so we can heal them.
‘Healing is not linear but it is possible’
This was the very foundation upon which Rhiya and Tanya started the ‘Circle of Soultitude’ in their home state of Goa in July 2020, to educate people to start speaking about their mental health struggles and break stigmas.
At Goan Insider, we spoke about how ‘Circle of Soulitude’ and it’s community have been making changes in the field of mental health in Goa. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about ‘Circle of Soulitude’. How long has it been since its inception?
We are a company that’s wellness based. We organise support groups, wellness retreats, workshops, campaigns and also offer counselling. We are branching out into wellness products that are handmade, natural and organic. We believe the secret to good mental health is not just therapy, it’s a daily discussion and an every day practice of building a better you through self care and overall personality development. We started the company in the month of July 2020 officially.
How did you come up with the name?
The name ‘soulitude’ comes from the idea that you find your soul in solitude and the ‘circle’ is the community we intend to build around this idea.
What made you start ‘Circle of Soulitude’?
Our personal experiences have been such that they have made us dive deeper into our roots, relationships with ourselves and those around us. We’ve come to understand a lot of concepts on this journey that we would like to share with people. Healing is not linear but it is possible. There is no one way to go about it but it doesn’t have to be dark and difficult. We want to promote the idea that dealing with your mental health can be a fun process and that it is for everybody.
What are the key concepts that your organisation follows?
We are based on the foundation of self healing. What it means is that most of our internal conflict or external struggles come from our childhood conditioning, the ego, parental wounds and inner child wounds. Trauma is considered to be an incident of great loss or emotional pain. What we don’t realise is that trauma could be a small incident that left a deep impact on your mind. All of us have trauma conditioning. All of us need ego work. This is something we want to make people aware about. Self healing means to be conscious of all these aspects of our lives and how it has shaped our personalities. We believe the majority of your healing comes from understanding these concepts.
Tell us a little about yourself. What were you doing before you started this?
At young ages both of us volunteered at NGOs and underwent training but chose different fields of study. Tanya just completed her masters in corporate psychology and has interned and volunteered with a few NGOs. Rhiya moved from a corporate job to working for humans of bombay and was also pursuing her masters in literature. Due to the pandemic, her exams had been postponed. It was during this lockdown that we realised that this is our life purpose and decided to follow it since we’ve always felt very passionately about it.
What kind of workshops do you’ll offer?
We offer different kinds of workshops, from art workshops to certified workshops for professionals. The duration of the workshops goes from one day to one week depending on the kind of workshop.
Is it easy having your sessions online? What are the online tools you’ll use to conduct your sessions?
It is not the easiest but it is not entirely difficult. It is convenient but also compromises on the connection and impact between the counselor and the people. We use platforms such as Zoom.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
The biggest misconception is that we, Tanya and Rhiya conduct therapy which is not true. We are the mediators between counsellors and clients. Our counsellors do not conduct any assessments or prescribe medication. Other than that, we think people may be a little confused as to what exactly we are trying to say. When you speak of concepts such as conditioning or parental wounds it’s easy to think we are blaming parents or society, but there is a difference between blame and accountability. It can trigger a lot of people but all we are doing is trying to bring more awareness about the human mind and personality. We believe working on ourselves should be an everyday practice of unlearning certain patterns of behaviour.
Could you tell us a little about what happens at the retreats that you’ll organise?
The retreats are a getaway for soul searching. It’s a 4 day stay at a resort in Goa wherein people have a planned schedule. There are indoor activities and outdoor activities, workshops, yoga and meditation. The whole program is built around the overall development of a human being. We also work on metal blocks such as public speaking, suppression etc. We also believe healing through art can be powerful and all this is incorporated in these programs.
What do you feel about mental health and its acceptance in the state of Goa?
Goa is a small place where everybody knows everybody and we think it’s one of the reasons why people refrain from speaking out about their mental health. We want to eradicate this shame people feel or this need to maintain false fronts. We want to build a society that is free, open and safe. Even in schools mental health is not discussed as much as it should be, neither are the right concepts discussed among the adults. There is a lack of information and exposure. There is also an apathy toward mental health and this attitude that emotions make you weak. That vulnerability being expressed or personal freedom being exercised is a cry for attention. A lot of sexism, patriarchy, discrimination still exists in Goa which further is an obstacle to the expression of oneself.
Are there any schools of psychology that you’ll follow? If so, which are they and why did you choose them?
We don’t just follow a few, it would be safe to say we follow all. The mind isn’t just one thing, it is everything. Although self healing strays from conventional psychology and its practices. We have a more holistic approach to mental health combining psychology and spirituality.
What gets you excited about ‘Circle of Soulitude’?
What is more exciting than following your life purpose? When you follow a certain path that takes you to your healing and then you get the opportunity to share those experiences with other people so they too can walk the healing journey is the most rewarding. It is the smiles in our support groups, the free expression, the tears, the overwhelming feeling of oneness that has been driving us.
Tell us how a day at your organisation looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you start operations till you stop them for the day.
As we are in a pandemic our operations are limited to our homes. We start work in the morning but at times it goes on till late hours. We are currently putting everything together piece by piece so we can give people the experience they are looking for till this pandemic is over. Our support groups happen two times a week wherein we meet our counselor for the day and new faces on zoom.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
The circle begins with the founders- Tanya and Rhiya. We met each other in school at the age of 13. We have a two year age gap between us. We bonded well back in school and we never imagined we’d call ourselves business partners some day. We have 4 counsellors- Tanya Keni, Chandni Asolkar, Richelle Carvalho, Meenakshi Mhambre on board at the moment, whom we’ve known personally. Prince Colaco does our digital marketing/strategy, while Shugan Dias and Royston Rodrigues help us with videography. All these people complete the circle.
What is next for ‘Circle of Soulitude’?
We are wellness based and are currently branching out and will be selling handmade, organic products on our E- commerce website because we believe self care is an essential part of maintaining good mental health. These are local manufacturers who make beautiful, effective products which we want to make available to people all over the country. We are also working on making more workshops available. We are starting a campaign in collaboration with All India Radio in August 2020. Going further, after the pandemic is over, we will start with our retreats.
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