SOTO - The School Of The Origins
Expressive Arts and Practices based on the Four Elements
SOTO organizes workshops, retreats, rituals, and adventures in nature to offer unique experiences of the self.
It does so by inviting your creativity to be a bridge between the surrounding nature and your own inner nature. Painting, collaging, movements, or sounds... You will find your own privileged way of receiving and transmitting the information that is relevant to you.
Each one of us has a universe inside, a universe of thoughts, emotions, sensations, knowledge, skills, talents, experiences, and dreams. We all have our inner oceans, our mountains, caves, skies and deserts. Our dawns and our nights. SOTO invites the refinement of perception to penetrate the mirror between the inner and the outer, between the concrete and the subtle, at the service of a clearer connection with our own essential self. This translates into a better access to our own gifts, in alignment with our personal "call" or "medicine".
The History of the Yeuàs
The concept of the Four Elements as building blocks of creation entered my awareness during high school, when I first read about Paracelsus and discovered Alchemy. I later learned that many cultures, if not all, have at least at a certain point in time variously named and worshipped both the elements as building blocks of creation, as well as the multifaceted faces of nature. The great Vedic gods of Fire and Wind and traditional Chinese Medicine are well known examples.During my university years while delving in Theater Anthropology I researched shamanism, trance and ecstatic practices. While examining archived documentaries I found precious records of rituals from all over the world, including some from West Africa, especially from the Yoruba culture. Like in many other African traditions, the forces of nature are anthropomorphized and widely celebrated among the Yorubas. Subsequently I spent a few years in Southern India immersed in the dravidian culture of TuluNadu with its many rituals and rich theater forms.
By then I had absorbed a way of looking at the manifestations of nature as something alive, sacred, and pertinent to my own inner nature.
It was not until much later, when I joined an Afro-Brazilian Umbanda Temple, that what I had learned about West Africa came back to me. The syncretic religions among which Umbanda is the most recent, are rooted in the African cruel diaspora of enslavement and have developed as a combination of the slaves' original African world view and rituals, christian saints and beliefs due to the initial forced conversion, and local indigenous lore and practices. For seven years, the forces of nature called Orishas became part of my daily life within the ritual discipline of that Temple. I particularly admired the Xire, a wheel-like diagram portraying sixteen qualities related to the Four Elements. Eventually my spiritual development called me elsewhere. Enriched and matured by that experience I returned to my original quest to develop a spirituality free from religion and institution, yet deep and authentic. I have infused the diagram I now call the Wheel of Life with my experiences and understandings, and after ten years of deep personal inquiries and practices I started teaching its 16 Intelligences I named Yeuàs. You will discover that the words I use for these Intelligences, as well as the word Yeuà intentionally do not have any meaning, they are sounds evocative of the vibrational field they represent.
Many experience a sensation of "going home" when they attend SOTO workshops and start developing their own relationship with these omnipresent qualities. You will discover resonances with almost every ancient tradition, because working with Nature and the impulse of "seeing It through the eyes of the Elements" is ancestral, archetypal and cross-cultural.
SOTO: The School
SOTO's inquiries aim at the meta-level, natural desire to understand external and internal nature through some kind of map or classification. The concept of the Four Elements, as a map or a lens, has been embraced since the beginning of time. In fact its familiarity is imbedded in our DNA. SOTO's approach reaches for the "weft" - over and under which all the other (culturally based) "warps" are woven...each creating its own beautiful texture worth of respect and often source of further understanding.
In most traditional areas the forces of nature are anthropomorphized and their characteristics are transmitted through myth and ritual. Because of this the information commonly available about them more or less varies from one geographical area to another and from shrine to shrine. Most of what is available is based on religion or culture. Therefore, even if some descriptions overlap, their interpretations may differ. While I acknowledge my debt to the ancestors who have developed an understanding of the Four Elements and of the Forces of Nature through time, I found myself developing an approach to these Intelligences detached from religion. I focus on our human experience and understanding of nature and on how it mirrors our own internal world. My aim is empowerment of the authentic individual soul and spirit , responsibility and freedom. Nature becomes a teacher and its Intelligences are Archetypes very close to the Source of creation and of Life. Out of the exploration of my personal relationship with these Intelligences I invite others to do the same through two main creative avenues: BodYnvocations and SOTO, the School of the Origins.
In the BodYnvocations CD you get a first taste of the 16 Intelligences through movement. I am writing the book on the 16 Intelligences, but I don't have a date of completion yet.
At the moment taking a SOTO workshop with me is the only way to learn this approach to the Four Elements and the Wheel of the 16 Intelligences, but soon there will be “Guardians of the Wheel” ready to start offering SOTO programs after completing the required course work and mentorship. This is the SOTO "Training pathway" to enable those interested in sharing the Wheel to do so with sufficient preparation and subsequent permission by SOTO. When all the details will be in place, they will be posted here.
The SOTO information, experiences, and teachings have many practical applications. As a psychotherapist I have used its principles and the movements in clinical situations with very good results.
SOTO's main purpose is to help each one of us to reach a deeper and clearer connection with our own essential nature, which means better access to our own gifts, alignment with our "destiny" or "medicine", and a sense of "belonging" in this life and enchantment with the life force that runs throughout the universe. It is not a small goal, but a worthy one. To achieve this goal is a journey, and any helpful tool on the way is, in my eyes, most welcomed. This journey brings more freedom at every step.
SOTO helps us live our life more fully, and see how our personality and soul are mirrored in nature, just as nature sees itself in us, because we are one of its expressions. Personal experience, individual creativity, accessing our capacity to vision, and also the discoveries of science play an important role in SOTO. This is a journey "home", because we all already know the 16, as they live in us and color our life experiences, but we have lost the map. Rediscovering it has been very empowering to me, and to others.
The Structure of the School
I was honored to receive this knowledge that became the School of the Origins through teachings and rituals I followed in various traditions, and through my dreams. The School is enriched by many of the practices and concepts I have long loved and have found most helpful in my personal and spiritual evolution. Considering the times we live in and the way human beings are evolving, it is crucial for me to find depth, meaning and efficacy in practices freed from a specific religion or tradition. The School turns to Nature as a source of information and wisdom, both practically and metaphorically. The School of the Origins is organized in four main pathways: The Way of Nature, The Way of Imagination, The Way of Sound, and the Way of Ritual. Look at Programs At A Glance to find SOTO's programs and events.
The Four Elements
The Four Elements are universal, ancient, cross cultural archetypes. In SOTO each element is expressed through four qualities, which we refer to as “the Intelligences” or Yeuàs. Ancient and modern traditions call them by different names and offer their own interpretation. SOTO embraces 16 main Intelligences. The Wheel of Life that comprises them is a cosmological map, a prismatic lens one may choose to use as an aid for creative expression, self- understanding, and spiritual exploration. Examining the interactive relationship of these Intelligences of Nature we notice that they reproduce themselves in the universe at infinity, like fractals. They reflect and infuse internal and external experiences. Easily recognizable in nature, they are part of our daily life. Brining awareness to their presence and meeting them as mirrors of our inner nature help us feel the magic and the interconnectedness of all life and offer opportunities for clarity of intent and direction in our spiritual development.
Creativity as a path, a key, and a destination
SOTO engages your creativity at all levels. Starting with the way fundamental concepts are shared and immediately translated into a personal direct experience - through drum journeys, visioning, movements, sounds, and expressive arts of various kinds, including the beautiful method of SoulCollage(R).
You will always be self-directing your own explorations, using your own intuition and imagination.
The Way of Nature, the Way of Imagination, the Way of Sound and Music, and the Way of Ritual interlace and overlap in various ways to enrich the experience and to offer options for your unique personal expression. Such personal connection anchors this ancient approach to the Four Elements into the depths of your being. To let your most authentic self unfold and transform your daily life.
The Way of Nature
This path examines the Wheel of Life and its 16 Intelligences grouped according to the Four Elements of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. The Wheel is a cosmological lens that helps us frame and understand our experiences. The theoretical aspects of learning the Wheel of Life fundamentals is interwoven with practices during which we observe, listen, reflect and express ourselves, and our connection with nature, through creativity (in all its aspects: 2D, 3D, writing, dancing, playing music according to personal preference and to the characteristics of each program).
The Way of Imagination
Imagination is interwoven throughout all of the programs, because creativity and imagination are the tools we use to discover, process, share and express our journey. But more specifically, the Way of Imagination wishes to teach empowering techniques to those interested in refining their expressive skills. SoulCollage and other expressive arts are applied to refine perception. This heightening helps us cultivate the capacity to receive and transmit, to use our “second senses”, and to discover, filter, express, integrate and nurture the soul.
The Way of Sound and Music
The communication with the invisible realm of spirit is sought through sound, poetry and vibration, with the help of sacred instruments, voice and through visioning during individual “visioning work”. This is a path of self healing, inner silence, and also of service if one is called to help others through these tools. The drum and other sound practices are based on indigenous teachings, linked to the Four Elements and informed by what has recently been called a ‘Paleolithic’ or ‘cross-cultural Shamanic’ world view of intimate interconnectedness with the rhythms of nature. This is a very practical path that aims to strengthen access to one's inner wisdom and to the help of spirit guides through sound and music.
The Way of Ritual
This path is, like the others, based on the Wheel of Life, and will be sought by those who have affinity with rituals and with altered states of consciousness. This is a way to participate and/or bring forth transmissions from the Invisible Realm. There are many ways to embody this transmission (i.e. automatic writing, trance dance, ecstatic states, dreaming, visions, etc), and we will examine and practice depending on who and what is available. It is a path of service, devotion and humility open to those called to it as active participants or as com-participants (receiving the benefits of the rituals) and does not include the use of any mind altering substances.