Why I’m surrendering to this time

Sunrise from home

Sunrise from home

For days I’ve been noticing my slowing down. 

Letting things fall through, letting them spill as they may, and prioritizing my wellbeing. Honoring the impermanence of life. Reckoning with the possibility of people close to me dying due to this virus.  And many more getting sick in the coming year.

If you’ve been reading about climate change then in one form or another you’ve been exposed to the approaching collapse of our system as we know it; whether due to our bravery or due to our denial remains to be seen. But a huge unraveling must occur because our planet simply can’t sustain the human life we have designed so far.  

As covid-19 spreads and everything comes to a halt I hear the words “this is just a drill,” whispering in the background.

We have known a radical turning must occur if we are to ensure future life on earth. Enter a tiny virus which “coincidentally” shows us that stopping, slowing down, and changing is necessary to preserve human life. And yet, we resist this change.

Last week my inbox became an email avalanche of VIRTUAL EVERYTHING (with some notable exceptions). I noticed my first reaction was to maintain some sort of normal. For plans to keep going. But then I let go.

After each passing day these questions blossomed; 

What are we keeping at bay in the business and busyness of life? 

Why are we scrambling to move everything online, remote, or virtual as fast as possible?

Also, is it me or did it get noisier? And why must we keep the noise anyway… staying busy, moving?

Are we running away from something? 

Are we afraid of embracing the pause? The stillness? 

The company of our own selves? 

What if we have created a busy life and busy world because we’re all just running away from something, just fast enough to stay barely ahead? 

And if so, what if we pause?

What if we stop? 

What if we turn around and look at the thing chasing after us? 

I remember the first time I stopped running.

Like a champ I had been achieving. Winning. Building. Getting sh*t done. SUCCEEDING.

And one day my therapist asked me: “what are you running away from?”

Her question stumped me. I stopped.

I could suddenly feel the monster breathing down my neck, and could almost see it, mouth open wide, fangs and nails... 

I turned around.

The monster was there.

And for the first time I had a choice - I could choose to surrender.

And I did.

I surrendered to the crushing truth my fears were revealing to me about myself, my ambition, my drive to keep moving. 

The monster I had been running away from through my entire life actually was trying to tell me something. 

I listened.

And on the other side was beauty, was possibility, was love.

So now I  wonder, what if this forced pause is an opportunity for all of us?

What if we surrender and look at the monster in the eye? 

Ask ‘what do you have to teach me now?’

Or better yet, what if we surrender further and lay our heads in the monster’s mouth and say ‘go ahead, eat me’? (Just like the cave story of Milarepa, the Tibetan saint.)

Maybe, just maybe, those monsters have a lot to teach us. 

And the Earth is maybe, just maybe, preparing us for a reason. 

Asking us to stop so we may notice that which we have built an entire life, an entire world and reality, desperate to avoid; that big hairy monster called Fear. 

We can choose to surrender to it. 

We can go beyond it.

I’m still here. 

I’m still doing it. 

Learning new ways of surrendering to the unknown that scares me so much. Letting it awaken in me compassion, forgiveness, kindness, love. Trusting the light beyond the deep darkness.

May we let this time bring forth our greatest light to balance our shadow.

May these times of great suffering for many not need to return to teach us the lesson again. 

Sending you love, peace and fortitude to face (y)our monsters. 

-Christine Nieves 

A prayer in times of coronavirus



Can we breathe in the beauty of this world and also hold deep grief for those who die and will die due to our very fragile order?

The same order that keeps most people from being able to stay home because they have to go out to keep the system moving despite their lives (in an attempt to, ironically, sustain their lives!).

What kind of system commits suicide to exist? What kind of system would instead sustain life?

This invisible little thing called a virus, that is not even a living entity, is bringing home a profound truth - ours is a suicidal system that does not sustain life.

Instead, it expenses life, particularly that of people who are poor, who are women, who are black, brown, indigenous, in prison, differently abled, aging, sick, in pain... this global pause and the potential millions of deaths should not go in vain.

Are we awake beyond the panic, the fear?

Can we actually see beyond the headlines and ask what is all of this loss doing here to teach us?

And how will we change — individually and most crucially, collectively — to make sure we don’t need to learn this lesson again?

#Coronavirus is but one manifestation of so many other viruses in our system and yet, this one is causing us to pause.

Let us welcome this pause.

Let us be humble, compassionate and kind.

Above all, let the pain of this moment move us to wise action.

We deserve better, Puerto Rico

One Thing I know to be true: it is hard to hate someone up close; move in. (And I thank Brené Brown for these words). And this is exactly what we must do now.

MOVE IN and get really close to those we feel driven to hate.

Gracias Zulma Oliveras por compartir esta imagen.

Gracias Zulma Oliveras por compartir esta imagen.

In PuertoRico hatred is even more complex.

Our self-disdain comes from such a profound wound we fuel narratives where we blame ourselves. We feel that the violence done to us is justified and deserved. We self-punish, self-sabotage and police anyone who doesn't.

Let’s get something very clear:

Boricuas don’t deserve this.

We don't deserve a corrupt government.

We don't deserve public servants who hide aid.

We don't deserve police who decide when our manifestations end and do so using tear gas.

We don't deserve to be punished for a debt we did not create.

We don’t deserve coward politicians who are expert gymnasts at avoiding blame while profiting behind the scenes.

We don't deserve to be spoken about as if we are property, as if our future can be discarded or traded, exploited, experimented on, withheld until everyone else cashes out.

We don’t deserve for our land to be treated as a menu, for others to pick and chose while our people have no options but to leave.

Let us pay attention to the thoughts, the words, the phrases we entertain in the wake of the manifestations.

Let us pay attention to how narratives that belittle protesters distract from the profound, systemic violence our people are experiencing daily from a public system that no longer serves us.

We DESERVE every bit of an ethical, responsible, transparent and visionary leadership in government, in our public structures and in how our money is being spent. NOW.

We have the right to demand this on the streets until we get what we PAID for, with money yes, and with the over 4,000 lives who are no longer with us.

Above all, we DESERVE the liberation that comes from taking radical responsibility of our role as citizens, our role as co-creators of this reality, and our power and potential to change this mess..

We DESERVE to see in government and in office the same whole-hearted, honest, and self-critical leadership we are seeing emerging in the south, the same we saw after Hurricane Maria across our Apoyo Mutuo centers, collaborating across the archipelago, believing that a different reality is possible.

The opposite of corruption is more than justice (which we all need and deserve!).

The opposite of corruption is radical responsibility. And that requires we move up close; it requires we move in. Anyone can spew hate from the bleachers. If you are that person, get on the arena. Go see up close. The opposite of corruption is the people taking ownership of what has always been ours. And doing so despite the designed scarcity (and fabricated ignorance as a dear friend of mine likes to say) that keeps us fighting each other for scraps and surface promises.

Radical responsibility means rising. It means not being afraid to show ourselves. And it also means letting go of that voice that says we should stay small.

It’s time we see ourselves for what we really are.

We are more than the stories we’ve heard about us.

And I know it, and you know it.

It’s scary, yes. Because we haven’t existed outside a mediocre government for generations. And while our memories may not be able to think back to a government we are proud of that represents us, our bodies do.

We have each other. Truly. And if you can’t look to your left and right and see outstanding leaders, then you are hanging out in the wrong crowd or spending too much screen time without taking action.

THIS as an invitation ~ to embody radical responsibility and demand it from those in office.

This is how we are paving the way in 2020.

Therein lies our liberation.

Así se Emerge


La pertenencia es algo que llevo toda la vida buscando. Agarrándola en el aire como una niña que busca atrapar luciérnagas. Y en una isla colonizada, la pertenencia se siente en el estómago - su vacío, su ausencia. El sentido de pertenecer muere en manos de la colonización. El sentimiento de que somos de esta tierra y que esta tierra es nuestra para amar y respetar queda remplazado por el peso de las cadenas. La violencia de la colonización ha germinado desconfianza como bejuco en monte - creciendo sin distinguir, sin prejuiciar… prolifera. La desconfianza a su vez es la que corroe la pertenencia. 400 años más tarde, nos encontramos con corazones rasguñados por los estragos de las desconfianzas crónicas, cíclicas, transgeneracionales, que duelen más aún cuando vienen del lugar que consideramos seguro: nuestra familia, nuestro equipo, nuestra comunidad, nuestro país.

La semana pasada participé de un taller de tres días facilitado por el Instituto de Estrategias Emergentes y al culminarlo entendí porqué me fui de Puerto Rico. En adición a irme por no encontrar forma de crecer dignamente en nuestro archipiélago, me fui porque mi sentido de pertenencia estaba quebrado. El no pertenecer me quitaba el oxigeno, pero no me había dado cuenta que estaba ahogada hasta que el proceso de estar juntos la semana pasada me devolvió el respiro. Tragué aire. En los tres días del instituto practiqué el ejercicio de dejarme poner la máscara de oxígeno antes de ponérsela al otro, y fue así que nos llenamos los pulmones. Recibimos y dimos aliento en un ciclo que asemeja la forma asombrosa en que la vida se regenera, alimenta y recibe, recibe y alimenta. Paramos de correr y nos dejamos caer al fin. Que no es cosa sencilla en este país cuando dejar de correr y dejarse caer significa fracaso, perderlo todo.

Pero en esos días encontramos cómo hacerlo. Nos permitimos el lujo de sentir, de honrar las emociones que nos aprietan el cuerpo. A nuestra propia forma, en pluralidad de maneras y estilos permitimos un duelo necesario. El dolor de reconocer que ni en los espacios más sagrados de nuestro trabajo por crear un nuevo país nos sentimos siempre a salvo, o con espacio para ser vulnerables, para dejarnos caer con la certeza de que la red aparecerá, de“dejarnos ver la espalda,” como dijo Xiomara Caro. Se nos queda el sabor a sangre en la boca de los antepasados, la sospecha, la culpa de sobrevivir por ser cimarrona y la ansiedad de escasez y precariedad, la vergüenza de estar un poquitito mejor que el otro.

 “En un país de esclavos andar con la cabeza en alto es asunto muy serio,” escribió Mayra Santos Febres. Al fin entendí que cargamos todavía con el miedo a que nos corten la cabeza. Miedo a nuestro poder y libertad. Cargamos con la vergüenza y culpa de estar bien (física, económica, emocional y psicológicamente) o de no estarlo, cargamos con la desconfianza de ser juzgados, de que nos vuelvan a herir… con el miedo, o peor, la expectativa, de que la violencia de hace cuatro siglos se manifestará dentro de los mismos espacios donde buscamos transformarla por otra cosa. Eso nos quita el oxígeno. Y no es posible crear algo nuevo desde la supervivencia. 

Estando con 60 otras almas abrimos los pulmones, llenamos el pecho, confirmamos que buscamos lo mismo - el soplo de vida y regeneración de las almas ancestrales que siguen aquí y nos urgen crear lo más preciado que nos quitaron hace tanto tiempo: Pertenecernos. Ver reflejada en nuestros ríos, lagos, montes, playas, y cuevas nuestra grandeza, nuestro valor. Vernos como íntegros, dignos, completos, libres, fuertes. Amadas. Contar con un rigor colectivo que nos reta a crecer, a rendir cuentas… y nos da aliento, nos enternece. Perdonar, pedir perdón. 


Llegué a casa. Y para nuestras ancestras que fueron desterradas, esclavizadas, y forzadas a esconderse en su propia tierra, regresar a casa, pertenecer, confiar, perdonar y sanar es acto revolucionario y de transformación. Es hora de ver espacios y rituales de perdón como el oasis que nos permite parar de correr, que nos permite desplomarnos… llegar a la común unidad. Crear. Construir. Desde ese oasis podemos vernos de cerca. Vernos las caras, las lágrimas, las cicatrizes, las heridas. También vernos las alegrías, el gozo, la contentura, la creatividad. Y así nunca repetir lo que hicieron aquellos que decidieron colonizarnos: el acto de la deshumanización. Así es que se emerge.