When they arrived at the peak of the mountain, they knew it instantly: this is the place. They both felt it. After many quests and travels, Wouter and Wildrik finally found the perfect location for their spiritual retreat, Mandali. At the edge of Lago d’Orta in Northern Italy, they were deeply affected by the mystical views and breathtaking surroundings.
‘An exceptional life of excess’ sums up Wouter Tavecchio’s (41) and Wildrik Timmerman’s (41) past quite accurately. As teenagers, the anti-drugs and alcohol idealists bounced from dance event to dance event in their native Holland. ‘Let the music be your drug’ was their motto. In their twenties they launched their own event business and when they merged with big industry player ID&T they entered the international stage and became millionaires at a young age.
“From 2006 to 2013, the sky was the limit. We had it all: success, money and fame. It was a life of limitless luxury, but it felt very empty”
“We were missing a meaning of our career. We didn’t know what we stood for anymore”, says Wouter who remembers the restlessness he experienced regularly during that period.
These feelings peaked when Wouter’s and Wildrik’s workdays hit the 20-hour mark and their chase after the next big thing became more and more ridiculous. “We were never satisfied and we never reached the limit”. Burnt out and overworked, the two started reminiscing about their early start-up years, when their events were small and intimate, organized for an in-crowd of die-hard music fans. They realized they raced right past their sweet spot with so much speed that they didn’t even see it.
“Our company had morphed into a big commercial beast that we couldn’t tame anymore”. This was the moment when Wouter and Wildrik decided to sell. The offer on the table was astronomical and the men knew it would make their early investors (mostly friends and family) instant millionaires. “Going against our principles, we signed the contract. But it took us a while to accept this extremely capitalist, deal-with-the-devil ending of this phase in our life”.
That was in 2013, but their spiritual quest started a few years earlier. “We were always spiritually inclined and big on finding deeper meaning. Our festivals were very eco-friendly and we reduced disposable water bottle sales by offering free tap water instead. We were also spreading subtle spiritual messages with projectors at our dance events”, says Wildrik.
“Wouter was becoming more and more fascinated with Buddhism and visited Rinpoche Sogyal’s monastery several times”
He read The Tibetan book of living and dying and spent a lot of time in the Buddhist Sangha program in Amsterdam. His meditation practice brought him so much, that he deepened his research into self inquiry and interconnectedness. Wildrik nursed his overworked brain with books by Eckhart Tolle. A New Earth in particular allowed him to look at the world differently and redefine his own role in it.
When their spiritual quest led them to Cáli Ornelas, they were impressed with her self-developed Yossum method. Yossum is short for Yoga, Silence, Self Understanding and Meditation, pillars of a program she uses to establish lasting transformations in her pupils’ lives. “After attending her retreat in Ladakh, our connection proved to be very strong. We talked for hours about meditation and the importance of inner peace. Eventually we decided to join forces and start the Yossum foundation to spread her method at retreats that we organized. Fairly quickly after that, we started looking for an accommodation that offered room for approximately twenty overnight guests”, Wouter says.
It wasn’t easy to find such a place, especially one with beautiful aesthetic, a sustainability stamp of approval and peaceful surroundings. So why not build one? Their exciting but very long search for the right location eventually led to the edge of Lago d’Orta in Northern Italy.
“The esoteric atmosphere explains why so many monasteries and churches were built on the little island of San Giulio, in the middle of the lake”
“Cáli had a very strong feeling about this place and she asked us to come see it too”, remembers Wouter. “We took a realtor with us hoping to find a suitable building in the area. But with no luck. Disappointment set in quickly, because we had been looking for a location for nearly two years now”. Cáli remained remarkably optimistic and told her friends to just wait. “She was right”, admits Wildrik, “the next day our realtor phoned to tell us he found an old hotel near the village of Quarna Sopra that was just put up for sale by its owners. Our heart sank when we saw the run-down state that the hotel was in, but as soon as we saw the view from the balcony, we knew that this was the right spot. Although expensive and with no budget left to renovate the hotel, we bought the land. It felt serendipitous when we sold our company six months later and could afford to build our retreat, that we named Mandali – after the Sanskrit word Mandala, meaning circle, connection and community. A perfect name for what we offer here: an accessible place for everyone who is open to personal growth, finding inner peace and fulfillment”.
The next hurdle was to hire an architect. “It was not easy to find an architect who understood our vision. We thought we found a good one, based in Milan, but when the final design proved he was feeding his own ego more than incorporating our requests for pureness and connection, we called it off. Cáli was the one that heard about the brothers Gian Carlo and Matteo, two architects with a style that is organic, sustainable and authentic. Once we met them we were surprised that they lived so close. Their vision and aesthetic were exactly what we were looking for. We chose old and local materials. The buildings at Mandali are new, but it seems as if the buildings are very old. Some guests feel like they’re staying at a monastery because of the robust marble tiles and stuccoed walls. But also because of the location high up on the rocks in a completely peaceful and quiet area”.
The two gentlemen look out over the lake from their lounge chairs and enjoy the majestic view. “Mandali opened in March”, says Wouter. “We are proud but mostly grateful that we were able to create this special and unique place. Our dream is to help as many people as possible with their own quest to return to their inner self, to heal and to recharge. We want to help people live their life to the fullest through experiences at Mandali that remind them of the pure joy of life”.
“Mandali is a non-profit organization. We wrote a contract that states that it cannot ever be used as a commercial hotel”
“The higher goal is to spread spiritual awareness and to make this silent retreat accessible and affordable for everyone. Low-income guests can fill in a special form to receive a discount. Now more than ever we feel that giving back brings so much happiness!”
At Mandali you can join yoga, meditation, silent, personal development and body care retreats. The teachers at Mandali are Sarah Powers, Loch Kelly, Eric Dowsett, Richard Schwartz, Krishnananda & Amana and Kaypacha. If you prefer to just enjoy the surroundings, yoga, meditation and massages, sign up for the Mandali Experience for 3, 5 or 8 days.