Getting out of our head & back into the flow 

I’m not good at movement. I’m that person in the Zumba class that always goes to the right when everyone goes left or lifts the wrong leg in yoga.

For the last two years, I’ve been practicing martial arts. It has helped a lot, but I still suck. What do I keep doing it? Because many of the limitations that hinder my movement at the dojo, also block me in life. 

Right now I have an issue with timing, and my sensei gave me some tough love about it yesterday: “Either you don’t know what you are doing, which is not your case. Or you have a problem with balance. Or you are so much in your head that you are your own worst enemy.”

The last point hit home. For the last few months I’ve been so intent on doing every step right, that timing and flow didn’t even cross my mind.

But I feel that is true of many of us in our daily lives as well, especially when we start new ventures. We focus so much on getting to a point where we feel confident and do things correctly that, sometimes, we let opportunities pass. We first drown in doubt, then, in regret. 

I remember listening to Oprah one day (yes, I confess I like her) and she said, "Prepare, prepare, prepare and then let go." My sensei had similar advice yesterday: "practice, practice, practice until it becomes part of you, so you don’t need to think."

The same happens with meditation, the more we practice, practice and practice, the more it percolates our daily lives and lets us go of anger and worry. The less we live in our heads, the more we flow with life. 


How it took a delayed flight, 6 screaming toddlers and lots of poop to get a glimpse of the precept of “Be compassionate…”

Three years ago, I took a sabbatical from advertising to dive deeper into my Reiki practice. It was a priceless experience but one that let me with the certainty that, what I wanted, was to integrate my practice into everyday life.

Back in advertising, I get to practice Do not anger and Do not worry almost everyday. Many other times I get to feel the beauty of Be grateful. But until now, the precept of being compassionate to yourself and others was elusive. Sometimes I would feel compassion for others or for myself (ok, also indulgence.) But the two together? I didn’t even know there was such a thing and that it would feel so different.

So when my boss told me I was to travel to San Francisco for a meeting, I had no idea what was in store for me. I was just thinking, “Yes: Miles!”

My plane was overbooked and given that it was United (skull fracture, anyone?) I was a little worried. Boarding was very peaceful and cordial, if a bit messy. I got to my aisle seat on the last row, just next to the bathroom. Great!

People started to settle next to me. Mostly families with toddlers and babies. Excited. Scared. Screaming. Very, very loud. Not the most auspicious beginning. But it was a short flight: only 6 hours.

Well, not really. The engine had an issue, so we were delayed. And delayed. And delayed.

People were restless. Parents fretted. Toddlers pooped, screamed, cried, and pulled at each other’s hair. A young couple decided to break up next to me while waiting for the bathroom (really, people?). Groups were forming next to me and would hit my shoulder. The dad sitting next to me kept on making me stand up to go and check on his family. Then an “emotional support” dog wasn’t feeling well and the owners were desperate trying to get him to do number 2 in the bathroom, which he did on the floor after hours of stress and just before a woman walking barefoot came in.

The noise. The smell. The pushing.

I just wanted it to stop. I felt like crying and screaming, ‘Why me?’

Sniffing a bit, I put my earbuds on and started doing purifying breath (a Reiki-practice that’s grounding and calming).

And there amidst the chaos, I started to feel peaceful and light.

I was emotionally engineered by my upbringing to be a victim. It’s my default mode. But at that moment it dawned on me: I wasn’t one. We all were struggling. Parents were trying their best to manage their kids. Flight attendants were trying to remain calm and helpful.

We were all in the same boat.

The expression may be trite, but I felt the meaning with my whole body and spirit.

The lightness, warmth and peacefulness that ensued allowed me to survive the flight and, even better, actually enjoy it.

When the twin toddlers in front of me started blocking my screen with their tiny hands in the middle of a movie, I tickled them. Seeing the relief on the mom’s face (who probably was expecting me to scream) was worth missing a few minutes of what I had to admit was a very boring movie.

When the flight attendant brought me the wrong dinner, I just smiled and asked if there was any other choice left. There was and it ended up being complimentary (with United: absolutely flabbergasting).

I do have one confession: I loved when we hit pretty rough turbulence and people remained in their seat.

After almost ten hours in the crowded plane, I landed in San Francisco energized, content and ready for my journey there.

And inspired to keep on exploring the Reiki precept “Be compassionate to yourself and to others.”


Reiki precepts and the illusion behind racism

As in many spiritual practices, Reiki has a list of precepts that act as guideposts towards enlightenment. Originally written in Japanese, there are many different ways to translate these in English. However, these days, when issues related to racism are constantly making the front page, one particular version of the first Reiki precept really calls to me: “Do not bear fear, for fear is an illusion."

If the root behind racism is fear, it’s then also an illusion. A matter of subjective perception. Of people wanting to see what they want to see (or fear) in others.

Take me, for example. I was born in Belgium but moved to Venezuela as a child. When the so called Bolivarian revolution started to get traction, people frequently harassed me. I was too white. Too skinny. An imperialist. I was part of the problem destroying the country. Soon, they hoped, when Chávez took power, I would be gone.

I was gone indeed. As soon as I finished my studies, I moved the the US, finally settling in New York, where I happily got lost in the most diverse city in the world.

Only a few years later the war with Iraq started during the Bush government. People who saw my European passport and discerned the slight French intonation in my mostly Spanish accent screamed at me: "Go home, Frenchy. Go back to your country, freedom hater.”

At the same time, I decided to stop attending the Belgian club meetings because members kept asking me, “Where are you from? You’re too dark to be Belgian.”

Other people also called me brown because of my Spanish accent. Often on the same day I was called a  treacherous Frenchy.

Later on, at a big multinational advertising agency (emphasis on multinational) I was told it was a pity that I spoke with the “stupid” accent. Spanish. The person who said it meant to be kind.  Other people would speak slowly to me, using 6th grade vocabulary, until they found out I was born in Belgium and then, like if nothing, started talking normally.  

Who’s right? Am I white? Brown? Smart? Stupid? Slow? Imperialist? Low class socialist? Sophisticated? Lowly educated?

Does racism make any rational sense?

It’s difficult for me to believe that it does given my personal experience.

It’s just a very convenient way to blame other people for our own problems as individuals and as societies.

So every time we feel anger towards someone, every time we feel a derogatory, racist, or sexist thought forming in our head, let’s pause and reflect on the why.

Why does this person trigger so much anger in us?

Why do we feel the need to hurt him or her?

Why do we need to feel superior, better or in the right versus the other person?

Are we just displacing self hate and self blame?

The more awareness and attention we pay to our feelings and our actions, the more we’ll understand our true nature, and the more at peace we will feel with ourselves.