Text: Natalia Fiszka, Pictures: Kasia Kiliszek
Is there something more to women than flesh and blood? A soul? A spirit? An extremely strong intuition? Sixth sense? I’m not a fan of presenting women as witches or mystical creatures, since women believed to have supernatural powers are being hunted and killed until this day in many places on our globe. Obviously, the fear of “witches” and scapegoating have their roots not only in centuries-long tradition, but also in an extremely poor level of education in some regions.
However, have you ever wondered why so many cultures (also our ancestors here in the West) persecuted women for their mysterious ways? Why women? And is this something that we were scared of for so long, really terrifying or rather fascinating?
I had the pleasure of discussing the mystical side of women with Marinella Benelli, a 38-year-old Italian who found her vocation in rainy England. She reminded me of how important it is to let a little bit of magic into our lives, listen to the inner voice, be in tune with our bodies and hearts. Is Marinella a wizard? No. She’s a mother, a yoga teacher, a bodyworker and I’d call her a spiritual guide or “a kind of witch”.
Becoming a holistic therapist came gradually
With a master’s degree in communications, Marinella moved to England for a few months in order to improve her English. Sounds like a sound plan, right? But then the love of her life happened, a year-long travel to India and South-East Asia happened, and so did the feeling of being connected to something deeply spiritual. Having hit the age of thirty, Marinella understood that she’d to change her life path in order to reach fulfilment. Ever since she’s gone to India, pieces started falling in place. Marinella began courses that would allow her to become a massage therapist, and then subsequently a yoga teacher, a menstrual mentor and a postpartum… sister. Marinella’s life story taught me to keep my eyes, ears and, most importantly, my heart open, because you never know which one of all the ordinary days will be your game changer.
I believe in living in harmony with Nature’s cycles
Her fascination with Nature’s cycles started in her early childhood days spent in the Tuscan countryside abundant with flora and fauna. This fascination was later nourished by the inspiring trip to India and Marinella’s discovery of Ayurveda, India’s ancient holistic health care system based on the understanding of the link between the maha (‘great’ in Sanskrit) cycles of Nature and our inner cycles. Following Ayurveda helped her understand that being in tune with Nature encourages balance inside of us, and being balanced inside lets us become our real selves, which ultimately makes us truly happy.
Then one day a book, “The Pill. Are You Sure It’s for You?” by Alexandra Pope and Jane Bennett, literally fell from a shelf and opened itself at Marinella’s feet. She claims that the book allowed her to reconnect with her menstrual cycle, after many years of disconnection with her Feminine centre and suppressing her natural inner rhythm due to the use of contraceptive pill. And this was the beginning of a new journey into holistic self-care and menstrual wellness. As a result of which, Marinella studied to become a yoga teacher and met her Calling “to mother mothers”. The latter unfolded almost magically to Marinella during a meditation while training with her mentor Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. This event is so emotionally loaded and intimate that I decided to quote Marinella’s own words unchanged:
“I did a pregnancy yoga teacher course with Uma in Autumn 2010 in London. I’d just started working as her assistant at that time. One afternoon we’re doing some deep energy work, within all the beautiful nourishing practices she teaches, focusing on grief and loss experienced during pregnancy and birth. The atmosphere in the room became really dense with emotions. So many stories unfolded through the eyes of the many women there. The group was as big as 35-40 teachers from all over the world. It was beautiful!
At one point Uma asked us to lie down and she guided us through a kind of meditation/visualisation. She played a mantra with her shruti box to tune us in. I remember my heart and mind traveling a long way. I felt like I was back in my mother's womb and it was an incredible feeling… It still makes me shiver now... I could hear my mother's heartbeat and then this line about looking after mothers. As I later realised, it was my Calling ‘to mother mothers’. The voice inside of me asked me to embrace it. It assured me that I could do it even if I wasn’t a mother myself. I somehow felt that the Calling was necessary to heal all the grief and the pain in my maternal lineage, to heal my ancestors and future generations...
By the end of this meditation I was in a complete shock. Tears were flooding down my cheeks. It felt incredibly powerful and magical.
I left trying to find a quiet green spot in order to zone out and gather my thoughts. I wrote down every bit I could remember from this journey, my feelings, sensations, while breathing deeply, crying, connecting to my heart and womb...”
It took Marinella almost a year to find the confidence to follow that Calling. However, the inner voice truly resonated with her so she simply had to do something for it. First, Marinella started teaching pregnancy classes and offering pregnancy massage. Her intention was to create a community of mothers and spreading awareness of women’s postnatal needs. A postnatal training was her next step. After that she’s fully embraced her vocation working and caring for hundreds of mothers and their babies. This is her passion, her happiness, and her path.
Being a mother is a limit experience
Last year, after years of being a massage therapist and practicing yoga with pregnant and postnatal women, Marinella became a mother herself. The field of her expertise helped her before and during labour as she fully trusted her body and her “female superpowers”, but she admitted that nothing and nobody prepared her for what came afterwards.
During the second trimester of her pregnancy, Marinella became obsessed with nourishing herself while nursing her baby. She’s done a lot of research on postpartum self-care but found very little. There’s lots of professional guidance for women during pregnancy and birth, but at the same time it seemed to her that plenty could be done for freshly baked mothers. Becoming a new mother is a challenging and yet, empowering experience. Mentally, physically and emotionally (even for those who never say so).
Her own postpartum journey and motherhood, led Marinella to focus her work primarily on postnatal nurturing, hoping that all mothers may fully allow themselves to practice daily self-care while caring for their new babies. She’s an ambassador of a new post-birth culture in which mother’s the centre. Following the traditional cultures of our world, along with Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, Marinella advocates that postnatal time, when mothers need special care and nurture themselves in their new role, should be considered to last 3 years and not, as it is today, 6 weeks.
Among other practices, Marinella teaches postpartum self-care workshops and also performs Closing the Bones Ceremony, which is a beautiful intimate ritual of nurturing a mother after her passage of giving birth, and her journey into motherhood.
Read more about Marinella’s work here.