September 27, 2021
It’s mid-morning, and I log onto the eM Life platform to participate in a Mindful Daily with teacher Beatriz Gonzalez-Flecha. The topic is about bringing a beginner’s mind to your life, and with a rich Argentinian accent, Beatriz talks about how we often go through things on cruise control without being present for the experience.
“We don’t enjoy the interaction or activity in the same way we could if we were in a beginner’s mind, experiencing the freshness of the first time,” she says.
It’s a rare treat for me to experience a teacher’s mindfulness session before I interview them, so when Beatriz and I sat down together a week later, I was excited to know more about her story.
Q: Where are you based out of and what’s your favorite thing about it?
“The Boston area, and I love the Fall foliage around here. Here you can be in a city with the cultural life around but you’re close to nature too. We have the ocean, we have mountains – well, we call them mountains but they’re not really mountains – and we have the woods so the landscape is amazing. You can get to Canada and New York in a few hours so it is well located for the type of things that I like. And I like being close to New York without living in New York, it’s perfect but it’s getting a little too big now,” she says.
Being in Orlando, I tell Beatriz that I can relate to living in a city that’s getting bigger all the time, but we both love the culture and diversity that comes from that growth.
“It’s very international here; there are people from all over the place…you can learn a lot and you can find very interesting people from all over the world,” she says.
Q: How do you start your day?
There are a few teachers that laugh when I ask this question – Beatriz is one of them.
“I don’t have a ritual. I used to have time for practice at the beginning of the day but I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t have a regular practice time now. There is nothing special – I wake up, get a shower, have breakfast, and start with whatever happens.”
Searching for a way to phrase that more mindfully, she clarifies: “I start with being present for the day.”
Q: How did mindfulness find you and how long have you been practicing?
“I’m from Argentina, and I came here to Harvard to do biomedical science training. There was a bunch of fellows from different countries, and one from Latin America was working in neuroscience so she starts telling me about the benefits of meditation and how it really works to help you understand yourself. She had a scientific background and introduced that whole concept to me as science,” she says.
Now practicing mindfulness for close to 30 years, Beatriz says it happened as “a series of coincidences at the right time and in the right sequence, and then I never stopped.”
Q: What’s your favorite mindfulness practice right now?
“No favorite practice right now, but I like being in the present moment – it’s very portable. Going for walks and being in nature and being aware of what’s happening around you. It can happen anywhere. It can happen in downtown Boston, in the woods,” she says.
Q: What’s your favorite eM Life program to teach?
“I only teach the Mindful Dailies and I love them. Fourteen minutes can change your day, but thinking about reserving time for the practice can be one big obstacle. That’s what I love about the dailies, and they happen all day long.”
Q: What’s your advice to people who are new to mindfulness or who are curious about it?
“Start slowly and start with something that you feel is easy and works for you, then you can feel the momentum and then change practices and go in a different direction. But to get started, I tell people to find a practice that feels good to them, like movement or silence, or for some people, it’s more about mindful inquiry. There are so many different possibilities and it’s a matter of exploring,” she says.
We go back to the concept of the freshness of the first time, as she discussed in the Mindful Daily session where I first met her, and she says that “freshness” can be felt by newcomers to mindfulness as well.
“It’s a way to know you are in the present moment. If there is no freshness, it’s an idea in your mind and it may be completely different than what’s actually happening,” she says.
Written by Becky Greiner