At Your Home Without Me with Vanessa Serrano
Confined Bodies, but Free Souls. At Last
‘When I bared my soul it seems you did not hear‘
Joe Jackson | Body and Soul
Singer and songwriter Erykah Badu recently posted on Instagram a drawing of a person seated in a lotus position. “If you can’t go outside,” the caption read, “go inside.”
“A sound advice,” wrote Diane Von Furstenberg who shared the post @therealdvf.
‘If you can’t go outside, go inside’ is exactly what Mexican author and entrepreneur Vanessa Serrano—who has developed her professional work as a path to search for her own purpose—invites people to focus on.
“I believe we should take today’s opportunity to observe our minds,” Vanessa told me in a phone interview.
To ease people’s confinement, Serrano has created a series of free online sessions in Spanish called Healing Detox and Spiritual Awakening.
“Slowing down and silence is what our souls need to be heard and taken care of,” Serrano says, thus echoing the words of Yuval Noah Harari who explained that daily meditation allows him to “actually observe reality as it is, while for the other twenty-two hours I get overwhelmed by emails and tweets and cute-puppy videos.” Harari, who just published a must-read opinion on the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, adds that “without the focus and clarity provided by this practice,” he “could not have written Sapiens or Homo Deus,” and of course the 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which he concluded with a chapter on the need for people to allow themselves time to meditate.
Working on self-awareness and awakening, Serrano adds, could perhaps help us collectively let empathy become the dominating force as French intellectual Jacques Attali suggests and prefer a global and collaborative responsibility to a new form of totalitarianism as Harari hopes.
In a completely unprecedented situation, 3 billion human beings must now be confined in their homes somewhere around the world from South Africa to India, from New York City to Paris in an attempt to slow down and eventually contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our bodies are confined. What about our souls?
Vanessa Serrano: Our souls are free at last. Our bodies are confined indeed—and we are perhaps also mentally confined—but our souls are being noticed. Slowing down and silence are what our souls need to be heard and taken care of. Yet, if we don’t listen to ourselves and develop inner connections, then our souls remain blocked and, therefore, confined just like our bodies are.
Spirituality is the wisdom of self-knowledge
Is this what you call a need for spirituality?
We are always carrying a part of emptiness, regardless of our external activities. People regularly experience a form of satisfaction for days on, but they eventually always reach bottom and ask themselves, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ Our constant distractions prevent our souls from wandering free.
Now that we cannot go out anymore and live a glamorous life, we can focus on our own awareness and wonder perhaps why we need a closet full of clothes we barely wear. Now is an opportunity for building skills that allow us to have a more fulfilled life and a better balance between body and soul.
Spirituality is not the same as religion, is it?
Spirituality is not religion. It is self-knowledge. Spirituality is the wisdom of self-knowledge and the realization of how the universe manifests through an individual. We all are channels for the universe to express itself through intuitions revealed by our inner wisdom. Spirituality allows people to better take care of themselves and be in control of their lives.
Now that we have this ‘alone’ time, we can pause and search for our true essence
But how can people take control of their lives at a time when they are asked to stay home and away from physical connections with others?
I believe that we should take advantage of today’s opportunity to observe our minds. We are so used to thinking based on external circumstances and people’s opinion. Now that we have this ‘alone’ time, we can pause and search for our true essence, listen to our feelings, to the causes of our emotional states, and thus to our true selves.
In other words, to give way to awareness, but how?
I always advise people to practice yoga, meditation and cooking because these are three ways for me to feel and to be present.
Spirituality is a way to be able to enjoy the time-being. Whether we like what we see in the mirror or whether we are healthy or not, without being in the present, it is hard to feel happiness.
Yet, to be in the present moment, one has to be at peace and develop a state of mind that allows the person to observe its soul. The act of cooking or of practicing yoga are therefore perfect methods to meditate. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting, silent, eyes closed and listening to one’s breath; meditation involves a connection between you and any activity that you like. It allows you to observe how you function at peace and in harmony. This is the path to better know who you really are.
Peace and harmony are two challenging concepts not only when people are isolated but furthermore when they are anxious about their future, scared for their health, and missing the physical connections with siblings, friends, colleagues and actually unknown people they usually interact with.
This situation eventually will pass. Today is a time and a space to really value the significant things in our lives because this as well is spirituality. It is always at a time of loss—loss from youth, loss of health, loss of a loved one, loss of liberties, which we are experiencing—that people start to spiritually awaken themselves. The search for strength is within and not outside our bodies. Spirituality—our souls—are the only lasting, eternal, part of who we are. Spirituality, however, does not happen in one day: it takes daily and permanent practice to create this inner and essential connection.
Spirituality—our souls—are the only lasting, eternal, part of who we are
How does this spirituality materialize?
It is about discovering this essence, this power, this light and energy that exist within each of us, which are reflected by our breathing and the life inside our bodies. Once we connect with this essential part of who we are, this spiritual inner-self, we become a fortress and finally accept that we cannot control circumstances but the way we react to them.
The only thing one can control is oneself.
The only way to make positive and daily decisions is by directing our minds to be aligned with our spiritual essence.
Can everyone achieve it?
Yes, but it depends on whether a person wants to change or not, whether that person devotes all its confined time to a cell phone or decides to slow down, find a peace of mind and focus on activities at the moment this person is experiencing them. As a result, this person will start connecting with its true essence and will not be scared by vulnerability, sadness and emptiness. These feelings are normal, and our souls will then accept and overcome them.
It seems that it’s almost acceptable to be bored in these circumstances.
It is okay to be bored but not to be anxious, and to me the concept of boredom infers a sense of anxiety, a form of desperation because there is all of sudden nothing left to do. We should not let ourselves be led by anxiety.
Let’s rephrase it: is it okay not to do anything?
It is perfectly fine not to do anything and just enjoy and observe the present moment, to breathe and be grateful of being alive and having an opportunity of being a better person. We are usually so intertwined with the lives of other people that perhaps is it time to connect with ourselves and ask the question, ‘when this is over, what do I want to do, how do I want to change the direction of my life towards a more significant purpose, what do I want to feel, who is the person I want to be?’
It is perfectly fine not to do anything and just enjoy and observe the present moment
We may need even more spirituality once we will come out of this state of physical confinement to rebuild trust and relaunch personal interactions.
We will want to be guided by our intuition and not our ego—which is always trying to be pretentious, always trying to dominate and win any situation. But if we learn to live with lower expectations, to appreciate the present whatever it is and to be grateful for simple things, of being satisfied and not feeling empty, spirituality has then become a wonderful gift that we won’t let go of once this confinement ends.
Economists and scholars are trying to define what a post covid-19 world will look like. Harari spoke about the choice humanity will have to make between “the route of disunity” and “the path of global solidarity,” and the latter implies a consciousness of what is and what is less necessary in our lives. Attali went further and predicts that empathy will determine to whom political power will belong. “The dominant economic sectors will also be related to empathy: health, hospitality, food, education and the environment,” the French intellectual wrote. He then added, “We will stop buying useless things in a frenzied manner and return to the essential, making the best use of our time on this planet, which we will have learned to recognize as rare and precious.”
Is empathy the future?
Absolutely. But to achieve empathy, you need spirituality, which ultimately helps transcend the egocentric way of thinking. If we were able to not think about ourselves exclusively, then we would be capable of servicing and giving to others, and humanity will then be so different.
You decided to specifically help people during this time of confinement by offering them a seven-day free workshop during which they will learn to focus on their souls and to make time for more spiritual awareness. This workshop is now available online for a small fee of 500 pesos.
What do you want to share with people?
This workshop is composed of three daily practices to help them find more clarity in their lives with enhanced self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-control.
The first practice lasts between 40 to 50 minutes. I am teaching one yoga posture a day—so a total of seven by the end of the program. This is not a yoga class, but rather a ritual to help people experience one concept a day: patience, tolerance for myself, positivity, enjoying my life etc. Once people learn these practices, they will be able to recreate them every morning for 20 minutes long after the workshop is finished. It will help them take control of the mind rather than letting the mind and circumstances take control of them.
The second practice is called “Cellular Cooking.” I am sharing videos of recipes realized with simple ingredients. First, because the simplicity of things allows us to meditate and to be grateful. We feed ourselves all the time without gratefulness to the universe not only for the richness, the texture, and the aroma of the earth bounties, but also for all the benefits—vitamins, proteins and antioxidants we find in them, but our minds are always wandering elsewhere during our meals. Secondly, the recipes will be simple because it is particularly difficult at the moment to find sophisticated ingredients. So, cooking will be itself a meditation.
The third practice is a short three to five-minute evening meditation. There are a different one each night based on the theme of the morning’s posture. This meditation will be a series of questions for the participant to think, recognize, accept and let go what was discovered throughout the day.
Vanessa Serrano is an author, public speaker, entrepreneur and corporate director. She has founded, among others, ZERTÚ, a holistic platform for personal improvement and self-transformation.
To conclude: after interviewing Vanessa Serrano, whom I had first met ahead of Women’s Forum Mexico 2017 where she spoke on “Enabling Women Leaders to Act for their Health,” I thought about an album I had not listened to in a very long time. I was a teenager when it came out, and its music was part of a Corsican summer I dearly remember; it was considered as one of Joe Jackson’s best albums: Body and Soul.
Here is one of the songs from Body and Soul: The Verdict
Did you do me right?
Did I do right by you?
When I bared my soul it seems you did not hear
Can this be true?
Am I fool to fight?
I could do just what you say
But I’m following my heart and that takes me another way
It’s not easy when there’s no one giving prizes at the end
Waiting in the wings
Wishing that the band would start to play
As the show begins
Wonder what the critics have to say
For the verdict
Some people live so fast
They’re so scared of getting old
Some people keep on working
All they do is line their graves with gold
We don’t know what happens when we die
We only know we die too soon
But we have to try or else our world becomes a waiting room
Would you testify for me?
I think I’d do the same for you
Waiting in the dark
Waiting for the phone to ring all day
My witness disappears
Wonder what the jury has to say
For the verdict