Interview Of the Week with Esther Pena: Mindfulness Meditation and complementary therapies

During the lockdown many people are struggling with anxiety and depression, especially in countries where the quarantine is very strict. One of those countries is Spain, where Esther is from. She decided to start a project, called Seijaku, on Instagram and YouTube that helps to provide stress relief via meditation, photography and balanced lifestyle tips. Seijaku started as a personal project but Esther’s online meditation sessions have become more and more popular all around the Spanish speaking world, and recently reached the US, too.

Si desear leer la entrevista de Esther en espanol haga click aqui

Why the name, Sejiaku?

It’s a Japanese word that perfectly describes the project I’m working on. It means tranquility, serenity in the middle of the chaos. This is what we all need right now.

How did you start your project?

I’ve been studying complementary therapies for many years. Interestingly learning these therapies came to me through my TV career. I have been working in television for more than 20 years. In my last years as a TV director I focused on international projects like reality shows. I travelled to amazing countries, I had incredible adventures, I survived natural catastrophes, I learned about many cultures, I met many people through my job. And many times the people I met introduced me to different holistic techniques that slowly led me to a new direction in life. I love my job, I still work in television and I have lots of work in Spain and abroad, but now I also practice as a group meditation guide and I do photography. I believe my pictures capture the calmness of our world and help us to find peace in ourselves and generate calmness in turn. My goal with Seijaku is to create balance in your life. A calm mental state inside you and around you.

Have you always had this calmness in you?

Not at all. I had to work hard for it. I was very anxious, although it didn’t seem like it because it was all inside. I always had tension in my shoulders and neck, it was hard for me to relax. Also, especially when I was a teenager, I was quite insecure. It was difficult for me to interact in groups and I couldn’t communicate my feelings easily. I didn’t really realize all this until I went to couple’s therapy with my former partner. At the time I was managing many people on a TV show. I was unaware of what was happening within me; I was surprised when the psychologist told me that I had communication blockages and she suggested I try Reiki. Despite being very cynical, I tried it and the therapy had an amazing impact on me. I started to open up and understand myself more. Now I laugh about at it but after that first session it took a month and all my courage to tell one of my colleagues about my experience. Believe me, it was a big deal.

When I returned to Madrid, two of my best friends signed up for a Reiki course but I didn’t think it was for me. Everything changed when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I read that Reiki could help reduce the side effects of chemo, so I said to myself “Esther, you have to learn Reiki to help your mother!”.

Fortunately, my mother’s illness progressed better than expected and she recovered well and with only a few radiation sessions. I started to practice on all my family members, friends and colleagues. It worked so well that many of them started to learn Reiki with me. After my mother’s condition improved, one of my aunts was also diagnosed with cancer. The chemo hit her very hard. Every sound bothered her, she didn’t even have the strength to get up from the couch, and she had a continuous buzzing in her head. I could not believe how fast her symptoms got better when I gave her Reiki. After just a few treatments she went shopping at Ikea!  

And now you are a Reiki Master.

I am, in two different kinds of Reiki. This is the highest level you can achieve. When you are a Master you can teach and do attunement to people. The WHO has officially recognized Reiki as a complementary treatment method and a few hospitals in the world offer Reiki to cancer and other patients to relieve their pain. They also use Reiki in a few prisons and in Australian drug and alcohol addiction centres.

Then my job took me to another country and again another door opened. I went to India and I met people who introduced Ayurveda to me, which is the world’s oldest holistic healing system. Ayurveda became part of my life through my own illness. Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Besides my standard medical treatment, an Ayurvedic doctor worked with me to make my immune system stronger, and my parents, who became Reiki practitioners after my mother recovered from her cancer, helped me at home with it. The support from my friends and family and many therapist friends was amazing, I’m so grateful for that. 

It seems these therapies have many benefits.

I do believe that complementary therapies can help. But it is important to know that the treatments  I learned (foot reflexology, Zen Touch, metamorphic technique, Reiki) act only as a complement. It is not recommended to suspend any standard medical treatment to replace it with any of these techniques. They don’t replace conventional treatments, but they help to lessen their side effects and help to recover better and faster. I don’t think that Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine is better than the Occidental, but it is worth a try. The known and the closest is not always the best. You have to open up a little bit and get out of that comfort zone….

And now you do meditation.

I practice Mindfulness Meditation. It is a great method to lower mental activity and now I can tell you it is really simple to practice. In the beginning I thought it was not for me. I just couldn’t stop thinking no matter how hard I tried to stop my thoughts. I needed time to understand that that is not the goal. The goal is to learn to live in the present moment and gain control over your mind. I developed my own meditation style and I decided to share it via my online sessions. The feedback has been amazing. People are contacting from all around the world telling me that they’ve never managed to relax like they do during my meditation. I hear many times that there is something in my voice. Some people say that I’ve changed their
life. Insight Timer, which is one of the most popular meditation apps, rated me on top for three weeks. I’m on YouTube’s recommendation list now, New York publications have recognized my meditation and now I’m here on the BWG from Los Angeles.

What would you say to people who want to try meditation?

Don’t think “meditation is not for me”. There is some literature around that says meditation makes your mind blank and it stops us from thinking. In reality it’s really hard to achieve that, it takes many years of training. So, don’t be scared of that just now! The goal in Mindfulness is just to relax your  mind and be in the present. If you pay attention, you realize that our thoughts are always on the past or in the future. Hardly ever in the now. We’re working on being here, right now with a special briefing technique that you can practice everywhere, noticing what each of your body parts feels like, leaving your thoughts and returning to yourself.

If you would like to join Esther’s free meditation sessions, join her on Instagram @Sei.jaku (her sessions are only in Spanish at the moment) or visit her website here

Mindfulness Techniques (in Spanish) on YouTube

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