A Conversation with Tsila
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A Conversation with Tsila

Heidi of Tribe 14 interviewed Tsila, Knowmads’ designated wise woman, and formed the conversation beautifully into words.


Tsila is a fantastic woman that is difficult to pin down in words – She has been doing coaching work before there was even a word for it, has traveled through the world to learn not from books but from where all the philosophies originated from, and she is a co-founder of our beloved Knowmads school. As a guide for all the students, we are all very used to pouring our hearts out and letting her hold space for us while we do the talking and share our stories. Today I am very honored to have the chance to hear her story instead, to get a glimpse into this amazing woman’s life.

Humanity’s Biggest Problem

H: From years of experience talking with your clients, what do you think is the most common thing that people struggle with/humanity’s biggest problem?
T: It seems to be a human tendency for people to lack self-esteem; it is the belief that we lack impact in the world; that we are powerless. This notion is the biggest hurdle that hold us back from realizing our true powers; some of us get a glimpse of what we are capable of, but so few of us dare to actually live it!
Not bringing your gifts to the world is a both a disservice to yourself and to the world. To fight against the belief of powerlessness is a duty to oneself and to the world we live in.

Work Ethics and Life Choices

T: I never worked for something that I do not agree with; I never had a boss; I never had anyone telling me what to do. But this is not a matter of choice, I simply can’t – It is out of the question for anyone else to dictate how I spend my day. There are times where there isn’t enough work, and money is running low; I simply have to do what I have to do.
My neighbor and I were old friends but we live in different realities, she with her big kitchen and fancy closet, me with our two teeny rooms and three noisy kids. Few years back, she asked me, ‘Aren’t you sorry for your choices? Wouldn’t you have opted to work for the institutions that you got offers from, and have that constant money and stable paycheck?’
I said to her, ‘Indeed, I am sorry. I am sorry for not going more wild with my life! I should have pushed even farther’. She was completely in shock.

Tsila and Her Children

T: I am very grateful for having three kids, for they are the ways I ground myself. I am always the dreamer type, always living in the clouds, but they bring me back to reality, to stay close to home. When I gave birth, I really did stay home to be with them, instead of going back to work in three months. I breastfed all my kids; that was the time when formula came out and everyone believed that it was the best nutrition for your kids. There are people who says that I am pioneer; I don’t know what that means, I just do what I think is right for them.
One of my biggest prides is that my kids want to spend time with me — They want my company. We have a meaningful relationship; something deeper than friendship, it is this ability to create meaningfulness that makes it special. I remember there is this conversation with the neighbor; she was shocked to find out that I would stay up late to talk with my son.
‘What? You stayed up until 4am to talk with your son? Where do you find some much to talk about?’
From a young age, I have asked them to give criticism. Of course you use different language across different ages, but the essential question is ‘Mother is not perfect, I can make mistakes; what do you think I can do better?’ This creates a special relationship between us.
H: Inviting criticism from your own children is quite a feat! Is authority never an issue for you?
T: Authority is never a worry. There was a time when they were being very naughty, using all sorts of bad words imaginable. I looked them in the eye and said firmly: ‘Nobody talks to me like this’.
I only needed to do it once. They never talked in a disrespectful way to me again.
H: This magical power is surely envied by a lot of mothers I know. It seems that you demand respect from your kids.
T: I live it. I live what I talk, and I own my strengths and weaknesses.

On Aging

T: I really enjoy who I am becoming. Life doesn’t get easier, but it makes much more sense as I grow older.
H: I love that you use ‘becoming’ instead of ‘became’. It denotes a sense of constant growth!
T: In my old mind, I am this witch living at the edge of the village. People come to me when they have a problem; this woman has an issue with her husband, that person has some complaints about the shoulder. They would come and sit, talk, and a day or two later they leave. This person would bring a chicken as a gift, that person brings a bag of rice, and that’s how I spend my days.
Nowadays we have to call this a business, a clinic, a psychiatry hospital; all our professional language is there to mask and disguise the function that it is. But at the heart it is all very simple, it is a place for you to be healed; it is an archetype, everybody understands that it without explanation.

Tsila facilitates Tribe 15 at Knowmads.

Founding Knowmads

H: Tell me about how Knowmads first got started.
T: I knew Pieter for years from Israel, when he was doing an outpost for KaosPilot. He was the team leader, while Guus was a student there. I worked with the students there for three months. Everyone was very happy.
After the Rotterdam KaosPilot [fell] apart, everyone wants to start something new to continue alternative education in Holland. Pieter invited me to join the team, so at first I would come four or five times a year to Amsterdam. Pieter is very practically-minded, and all throughout his life he is constantly meeting new people; but when he needs spirituality he knows where to find that too. We have this understanding between us without words.
Pieter is the businessmen that take care of all the practical things, while I focuses on the group processes and personal development. Floris is all about creativity and play. Working with such diversity is amazing, because we would never argue from the same chair; I wouldn’t argue about how that business deal should be conducted, now would I tell Floris how to do his play and bodywork. Everyone has their domain. In this way, we are never competing with one another, but we are co-creating.

Tsila & Floris during Tribe 8’s Tribal Trip 

H: What is your biggest learning from the experience of founding Knowmads?
T: It is very hard to do things without money. It is a shame that you have to make a decision based on money, but not what you want. We want the world for our students, but we can’t.
There is a nice saying: ‘The way to get there, is the way to be there; and the way to be there, is the way to get there’.
It is very important to do things in one heart; you cannot have the management fighting and bickering [with] one another, while telling the students to co-create and learn together. Walking the talk takes time. There is a nice saying that demonstrate this: ‘You gotta go slow to go fast’. Invest in relationships, put in time and effort to nurture that trust, and you can pick up the fruits much faster. At the end of the day, it’s all about people.

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