Interview with Sita Sunar, founder of Conscious Mandal
We met beautiful Sita in the Netherlands not too long ago, and we were honoured to take part in her full-moon women's circle, set in a forest just outside of Amsterdam. We learned about her ancestral knowledge of Ayurveda, meditation, and we learned about the Moon. All that accompanied by her delicious home-made Indian chai and food. We sat down with her to learn more about her life and her new business Conscious Mandal. If you are based in the Netherlands, make sure to check out her women's circles.
Do you believe you have found your purpose, if so would you mind sharing it with us?
I am so grateful that I have consciously recognised my purpose that fills me with joy and love. Who would have known after 20years of doing what I did as a child will come back in a full circle and feel like a homecoming! Growing up in colourful India to humble Nepalese parents, life was simple. However, having two old sisters and six other girl cousins meant we moved in a pack - referring to wolves here because I am reading "Women Who Run with the Wolves" and it's so good! This beautiful relationship amongst us sisters felt like massive support, pure friendship and nurturing. Also, one of the most profound experiences of my life because it taught us the true essence of community and sisterhood. So this purpose (dharma) is all intertwined into these beautiful elements that are based on the foundation of creating a community that empowers women to step into their most divine feminine beings.
You recently created Conscious Mandal, please tell us what led you there and what it is?
We as women thrive in community, living in tune with mother nature, having more profound connections with cosmos and our families. Growing up in India this was a big part of my life, until now. As a South Asian woman living and working in Amsterdam, I felt these elements of sisterhood were missing. Don't get me wrong; I agree that Amsterdam has great yoga/mindful teachers, other ancient Asian/South American elements of spirituality and many cosmic/conscious women who share their wisdom and inspire others. Also, I agree that Amsterdam has beautiful nature, local farms/vegetation, and most amazing lush gardens. However, I felt these elements were very stand alone and exclusive in their approach. So through my journey of finding a community that welcomes all elements of being, came Conscious Mandal.
It all started in my living room with few girlfriends sharing a big pot of curry. Food can be so healing and nourishing at the same time; just some simple vegetarian food connected us so profoundly, we felt safe to share our stories. I still remember that first women circle and every single one since then feels like a trip back to the memory lane of my childhood. We gathered once a week in a big circle, and it was an inclusive affair - kids, grandmas, mothers, sisters, friends, neighbours, aunties. Grandams shared their wisdom and stories of mythical goddesses; mothers shared their knowledge of life & recipes, and sisters talked about friendship and love. Everyone took a turn to their stand at this Mandals to share their stories or superpowers. As a 10year old, I shared my superpower through dance and entertainment. I mean that's the best children could do at that age and experience.
In a nutshell, Conscious Mandal is just that. A representation of women when they are thriving in life, feel connected to mother nature & their divine feminine. I am a small piece of this Mandal who is passionate about facilitating and creating sacred space for women through holistic experiences like pranayama, moon ritual, Ayurveda, mythical goddess rituals, and others. My favourite part of Mandal (gathering) is that we offer our Mandal to another sister. We know our community is full of beautiful magic ladies who have so much wisdom to share and empower.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is a tried and tested element of my living/working life in the city, combined with some simple Ayurvedic rituals that I grew up with.
I feel there is something so magical about the calmness of the early morning. So to immerse into this magic of early morning, I am usually awake by 4-5 am. As soon as I open my eyes, I offer a gratitude affirmation and find it in my heart to be grateful for even on days when it's harder to see it.
I love drinking a big glass of warm water first thing in the morning, and depending on what my body asks I may do a freshly grated ginger tea or dried organic Tulsi tea as my second cup. By then it's time for the elimination duty calls. Sorry If it makes anyone feel uncomfortable talking about our natural elimination cycles, but in Ayurveda, it's something we discuss a lot. So coming back - As I am brewing my second pot of tea, I get ready for my practice. A quick face rinse is a cleansing ritual that removes any excess pitta from the night's sleep. With refreshed energy, I am ready for my morning practice. Keeping my morning practice intuitive and listening to the needs of my body is essential to me, so I fluctuate between asanas, pranayama, meditation or a quick run with a long juicy stretch. From here on my city lifestyle kicks in, so it's the shower, getting ready and getting to work. How important is self-care to you, and do you often implement it into your regular rituals?
I value and see self-care as our new health care. So yes, it's a big part of my daily life. On a day to day basis when I am working, it could be as simple as making a nice warm dinner after work. Food is so healing and nurturing.
But there are so many different elements in my self-care routine and this list could go extensively long, so I am going to name a few of my favourites. Carving time to give me a coconut oil hair massage is my ultimate favourite. It connects and grounds me to my roots and culture. Food is celebrated in my house so indulging in some soulful Ayurvedic cooking is my journey back to my mom's kitchen. And last but the best- the universal way to our homecoming "within-mind, body & soul". The beauty of this is we can all curate our routines according to our needs. So for me, this can be indulging in some downtime during the new moon, meditating with an intention on the full moon, connecting to nature, aroma bath with candles and books, the list goes on.
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic non-constitution related tips that our readers can apply?
So one of the central beliefs of Ayurveda is what we eat reflects our well being. So my number tip is to eat seasonally. And our mother nature knows the best, so I see food as our biggest healer. So I can't emphasise enough, that what we put in our bodies makes our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Ayurveda also believes that no two people are the same, so having your unique ritual will help you build resistance to disease.
The last one will sound very simple but more challenging to follow through.
Eat slowly. Chewing your food to mushy bits helps your body to digest, process and rest. According to Ayurveda, 90% of illness comes from our gut. And a good healthy gut, means your body can digest, process and eliminate every meal you have consumed. So chewing your food to mushy bits will do 50% of your digestion in the mouth according to Ayurveda.
Has there been a profound event in your life that has changed your path and mindset?
Without getting too philosophical - I believe everything happens for a reason, and sometimes it's hard to see it if we are in the midst of it all.
My decision to move to the Netherlands was one of the most significant decisions of my life! Which turned into a series of events that led me to my most immense transformation journey and homecoming. Who would have thought moving 1000s of miles away from home will inspire me to connect more deeply to my roots.
What does Ayurveda mean to you in your daily life?
Ayurveda to me, is a way of living in harmony with mother nature and our true nature. So Ayurveda translated into my daily life means living in sync with mother nature - eating, moving, sleeping, according to the circadian rhythm and translating one of the ultimate beliefs of Ayurveda "what we put in our bodies affects our overall well being" through food.
What are your 3 go-to ingredients?
This is one of the most challenging questions to answer but here are 3 of my favourite ingredient that I can't cook without Turmeric, ghee and cumin,
What is your favourite way to use Turmeric, be it in your beauty regime or recipes?
I use Turmeric in everything I cook, including salads! But I would say my favourite way to use Turmeric will be cooking a big pot of dal and khichadi.
What is your top tip to practice balance during uncertain times?
Stay close to your loved ones and your community, even if it means digitally.
Share with us a quote that inspires you.
"When we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestors from the wounds that run deep in our family.
When we heal our ancestors, we heal the world from the wounds that run deep in humanity."
By Mariam Rose
What are some of your favourite ways to wind down?
Living in the city means our natural night cycle is disturbed because of light pollution. So after dinner, I keep the lights in my house to a bare minimum. This routine helps our bodies to take this as a sign of unwinding and preparing for a night's slumber.
I try my best not to use any electronics 30mins before sleep and instead cosy up in bed with a cup of night tea and a book. Oh for the last few months I have been indulging on some palo santo just before bed. It creates a relaxing and very zen-like ambience.