aware_ sits down with Marianne Abbott and Natalie Herb, founders of the Berlin-based platform Soul Collective, to explore the true meaning of mindful living.
The internet is divided over Goop. In 2020 the wellness and lifestyle brand, founded by celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow, was fined $145,000 for cajoling its audience to buy “vagina eggs”. The sale of a product falsely claiming to “enhance orgasm and improve bladder control” sparked a wave of anger and distrust that shook the internet. Rolling Stone described the brand as “outright dangerous” through “recommending ridiculous, prohibitively expensive products and medically dubious, therapeutic treatments” (Rolling Stone). Fast forward to earlier this year when Paltrow released a more sensitive exploration into the delicate art of connecting; “Sex, Love, & Goop”, is a confronting, and surprisingly moving Netflix show following couples struggling to connect sexually.
Whether you love or hate it, Goop is a reaction to a modern desire to reconnect both with ourselves and those around us. The wider wellness industry, valued at a staggering $4.5 trillion in 2018, is indicative of the harsh reality that technology and social media – despite the initial intention – prevent us from looking inwards.
Whilst a 3-week yoga retreat on a tropical island would undeniably do us all the world of good, Soul Collective Berlin, founded by friends Marianne Abbott and Natalie Herb, is the platform to show you that reconnecting is about opening minds, not tugging on purse strings. Soul Collective – the first iteration of which started in New York – promotes local events prioritizing mindfulness, well-being and personal growth. Through their weekly newsletter, Soul Sessions, they expand the conversation about living consciously, interviewing Berlin-based healers, teachers and experts on their individual practices and work – inspiring their community to live authentically.
aware_ sat down with Abbott and Herb to discuss what mindful living truly means and why, at times, wellness practices should be taken with a pinch of salt.
aware_: What motivated you to start the collective?
Soul Collective: Not everyone knows this, but Soul Collective was actually started by a group of friends in New York. Marianne is friends with one of the founding members, Corine, so we reached out to her when we had the idea to expand the project to Berlin and they gave us complete creative freedom. Before launching Soul Collective Berlin, we had already been seeking out community events with a focus on mindfulness and sustainability, so it felt natural to start sharing on the platform and everything unfolded from there.
aware_: Mindful living has become such a buzz “phrase”, what does it mean to you both as a collective, and individually?
Natalie: Mindful living will look different for each person, and it shouldn’t be strict or dogmatic. For me, I became curious about exploring who I am as a person in this world, and things like yoga and meditation help me reconnect to myself, and sequentially led me to explore other topics and go deeper. It may sound cheesy, but we all have our own journey’s and we’re only responsible for our own choices.
Marianne: To me, living mindfully is being intentional about how I spend my time and how I connect with others. It’s reflecting on my choices and how they impact the environment, my well-being and the people in my life.
aware_: The Soul Session interviews are really inspiring and sometimes shocking (the woman who didn’t eat for 4 days and nights). What impact do you hope to have on your reader? Do you have to be careful about what you recommend to your audience?
Soul Collective: Beyond “living consciously”, there are dozens of buzzwords/ phrases we’re constantly hearing and honestly a lot of times people don’t know what they mean or are afraid to ask. The mission behind our newsletter is to have experts demystify the mindfulness practices and healing modalities you may have heard of in passing but haven’t had the opportunity to really dive into. And yes, some interviews may be shocking and some topics may make some people feel uncomfortable. We hope our readers take it with a grain of salt and use their best discretion, while also getting out of their comfort zone and expanding their awareness.
aware_: Is there an interview that has stood out to each of you in particular?
Natalie: That’s a tough question! It’s like choosing your favorite child. Honestly, nearly every week we say to each other “wow, this interview was so great, I think this is one of my favorites.” We get so excited to read our interviewee’s answers and to get to know them better and on a more personal level. Many interviews have led to friendships, which also has been beautiful.
Marianne: I feel like I learn so much with each interview. One that stood out to me recently was with Siobhán from Primitivkollektiv. I loved learning about new concepts like deep ecology and social permaculture while putting this one together. I was also particularly inspired by Primitivkollektiv’s ongoing Inner Landscapes project which asks participants to examine their personal connection to nature.
aware_: Next to yoga, what other practises does Soul Collective focus on? How do you incorporate a sustainable ethos?
Soul Collective: Beyond yoga, we regularly engage with mindfulness practices like meditation, breathwork and sound healing, as well as with well-being topics like herbalism, integrative nutrition, bodywork and energy healing. From early on, we knew that we wanted to have a focus on supporting local initiatives and small businesses. The key way we incorporate a sustainable ethos is by staying local and encouraging Berliners to delve into the communities right outside their doorsteps.
aware_: At a time when community couldn’t be more necessary, how are you managing the impact of the pandemic?
Soul Collective: When COVID and lockdown first hit, we saw the need for connection and community — even if that meant it was in the digital sphere. Which is ultimately how Soul Sessions came to be. We saw how yoga teachers, healing practitioners and facilitators were transitioning to having their offerings online, and we thought: what better way to highlight their work than to have interviews? It’s been so inspiring and heartwarming to hear back from people that they’ve made connections through our interviews.
aware_: We’re right on the brink of a new year, what does 2022 hold for the collective?
Soul Collective: Right now we’re working on a new website that will have more features and offerings which we’re really excited about! We’re also really looking forward to collaborating with Pura Vida Festival again in 2022 (one of our highlights from this past year) and bringing together some of our past guests from Soul Sessions to offer a variety of healing services. So far a lot of our collaborations have happened organically and we’re always open to new ideas! Feel free to reach out to us, we love hearing from you.
For in-depth interviews on mindful living, more information on upcoming events and how to sign up to the Soul Collective newsletter follow this link.
By Eliza Edwards