The Power of Healing with Maria Dominique Lopez
In the fall of 2019, Maria Dominique Lopez was in a trance state while meditating and felt strong tingling in her palms. She had no idea what the tingling in her hands meant, or why every time she touched someone in pain, their pain went away. After months of research, she decided to take her first Reiki course and learned that what she was experiencing was Reiki. Now it is her mission to help a new generation come to consciousness and ascend to their own universal calling.
Maria’s interview is followed by a story about the Power of Resilience by Elena Christopoulos, the founder of a sustainability management consulting firm, Elena's contributions have helped create over 500,000+ green jobs worldwide with 60% of the positions going to women and BIPOC. As a climate scientist and political advisor, she has actively worked throughout her career to bring more women and BIPOC to the table, in both fields and has successfully managed over 40 political and environmental campaigns worldwide. As a Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica her role is to advise City Council on sustainability issues and policies relevant to women and girls. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, She uses her voice to ensure we are represented.
Our episode ends with a guided mediation from Maria Dominique Lopez.
[01:03] Maria Dominique Lopez on what she is most passionate about
[01:26] Maria Dominique Lopez on her work
[02:11] Maria Dominique Lopez on her childhood and spiritual beginnings
[04:36] Maria Dominique Lopez on remembering her Reiki awakening
[05:09] Maria Dominique Lopez on the beginning of her meditation journey
[08:40] Maria Dominique Lopez on the origin of Reiki
[11:35] Maria Dominique Lopez on how she began practicing Reiki
[14:11] Maria Dominique Lopez on the benefits of Reiki
[15:45] Maria Dominique Lopez on how often she performs Reiki
[17:47] Maria Dominique Lopez on one’s first experience of Reiki
[18:30] Maria Dominique Lopez on what she has learned from practicing Reiki
[22:53] Maria Dominique Lopez on her background in opera
[27:44] Maria Dominique Lopez on advice to her younger self
[29:02] Maria Dominique Lopez on a trait that has helped her succeed
[33:50] Maria Dominique Lopez on her biggest professional challenge
[34:53] Maria Dominique Lopez on the most rewarding part of her life practice
[35:51] Maria Dominique Lopez on her dream for women
[36:39] Maria Dominique Lopez on her mantra
[36:48] Maria Dominique Lopez on her definition of success
[37:19] Maria Dominique Lopez on her advice to young women
[38:56] Elena Christopoulos on the power of resilience
[46:45] Maria Dominique Lopez leads a guided meditation
Passionistas: Hi, we're sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, the founders of The Passionistas Project, where we give women a platform to tell their own unfiltered stories. On every episode, we discuss the unique ways in which each woman is following her passions, talk about how she defines success, and explore her path to breaking down the barriers that women too often face.
Today we'll be talking with Maria Dominique Lopez. In the fall of 2019, Maria was in a trance state while meditating and felt strong tingling in her palms. She had no idea what the tingling in her hands meant, or why every time she touched someone in pain, their pain went away. After months of research, she decided to take her first Reiki course and learned that what she was experiencing was Reiki. Now it is her mission to help a new generation come to consciousness and ascend to their own universal calling. So please welcome Maria Dominique Lopez.
Maria: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Passionistas: We’re really excited to hear more about this. What are you most passionate about?
Maria: Healing. I'm most passionate about healing, absolutely a thousand percent. There's so much of my life that has been changed and altered since I started my own healing journey, and now I help people embark on theirs every day, and it's, oh, it's the most amazing work that I've ever done with my life, and I just, I so love it.
Passionistas: What is that work that you do?
Maria: So I work as an energy healer, doing performing Reiki mostly. I also am an intuitive energy reader, so I offer intuitive energy readings as well. I am a certified Reiki master and also a spiritual mentor, which is basically a fancy way of saying life coach without all of the homework or the rah rah shish boomba. We really, we really dive into the shadows of your life and work through the things that really need healing in ways that will promote specifically post-traumatic growth. So, that involves usually a spiritual practice of some kind.
Passionistas: So, let’s take a little step back and tell us a little bit about your childhood, where you were born, if you had even had any consciousness of any of this kind of stuff back then.
Maria: Sure. So I was born in New London, Connecticut. My dad was stationed at the base there, the naval base, and I was born just off base. It was a pretty difficult pregnancy for my mom. There were a lot of health issues. And so I was born in the hospital off base, and then we actually only lived in Connecticut till I was three months old. My dad was medically discharged from the Navy as a hundred percent disabled veteran. And so then we moved to Seattle, Washington, where the majority of their family lived at the time; both of their sets of parents lived there. And so I was kind of raised there. And my dad actually was a professional ice hockey coach, so we ended up moving a lot. We moved from Washington to Mexico City where he built the Olympic hockey program for Mexico. We moved to Phoenix where he coached for the Tucson Road Runners, I think is what they used to be called. I don't know what they are now, but they were an IHL team. Then we moved to Houston, and he coached for the Houston Arrows for a little while. And then, you know, so we moved all over the place basically when I was a kid.
Was I conscious of Reiki as a child? The answer is yes, but accidentally. I didn't realize until I became a Reiki master. And I was meditating one day, and this memory came to me of when I was, I think I must have been maybe six or seven years old. And I was with my cousins, Janine and Desiree, and we would go picking blackberries. There were these wild blackberry brambles behind my grandma's house. And so in the summertimes we would go and we would pick all the blackberries we could possibly handle and, like, eat them all before we could even get them home. And we'd just covered in blackberry juice and just a total mess, you know. And so we were headed down the hill, back from the brambles to my grandmother's house, and my cousin Desiree fell. And I don't remember if she hurt her ankle or her knee, but I remember her falling and, like, twisting something and being hurt. And right then, I mean, I was like maybe seven, I think six, I knelt down and I put my hands on her, and I was like, “Okay, if I concentrate hard enough, I can take her pain away.” And of course, we were kids. You know, we laughed, we thought it was fun pretending, blah, blah, blah. Right? But even then, something about me understood that this was possible, and I totally forgot about it until about three years ago when I started practicing Reiki and I was like, “Oh my God, I've always been a Reiki healer, and I didn't even know it.”
Passionistas: That's incredible. That is so cool.
Maria: Thank you.
Passionistas: Does she remember that experience?
Maria: She does. And I think at the time we both just laughed it off. You know, we just thought it was make believe and we didn't really, and I know, you know, she and Janine, they don't really ascribe or believe in Reiki now even. And so it's interesting that, like, we both remember that situation, and I became this Reiki healer, but it's still something that we haven't had the chance to try together yet since I've become a Reiki healer. So, hopefully some day.
Passionistas: So, tell us about that journey. So, when did you first get into, I know you do meditation, so when did you first get into that practice and what inspired you to do that?
Maria: Yeah, so, I got into meditation in about 2018, so several years now. And I started meditating because my best friend, one of my oldest friends. I've known him for over half my life. We were freshman undergrad musicians together. He was a professional percussionist and I was an opera singer. His name is Ben Irons, and he just published his first book, actually: “Mindfulness for Musicians.” So, that's kind of cool —a little plug for my best friend there. But he actually taught me how to meditate. He'd been meditating for about 10 years at the time. And I kept saying things, “I need to meditate. I know I'll get around to it. Like, I wanna learn. I know I need to learn, I should learn how to meditate,” all these things, right? And finally one day, he was like, “Maria, why don't you?” And I said, “Well, you know, I gotta be honest, since we've become a little bit more vulnerable in our friendship, and I feel comfortable sharing this with you. I know it's silly, but I just, I'm worried I'm gonna be bad at it.” And he proceeded to laugh in my face, at my perfectionist ass. And he said, “Maria, there is no such thing as being bad at meditation.” He said, “You know, that's why they call it a meditation practice. They don't call it meditation Olympics. There's no gold medal to be won. There's no competition. There's no potential, like, quantifiable measurement of how good you are at it. It's just a practice.” He said, “Some days you'll have efficient days where you'll sit down on the cushion, and you'll tap right in, and you'll have this amazing 45 minute trancey meditation, and you're just gonna, like, fly to the stars. And some days you're gonna have less than efficient days where you're gonna sit down on the cushion, and you're not gonna be able to stop thinking about how your right toe itches, and you're gonna be running through your grocery store list in your head for the whole 30 minutes, and you're just gonna be counting every second wondering when you can get off the cushion.” He said, “On the efficient days, you're gonna learn a lot. On the less than efficient days, you're gonna learn even more. There is no way for you to screw this up.” And I think the perfectionist inside of me just needed someone to give me that permission.
So I started the very next day. And I started with three minutes a day, and it was torture. And then I finally got up to about five minutes a day after a couple weeks, and that was even worse. And finally, after about three months of doing five minutes a day, I went back to him and I was like, “I can't, I can't get past five minutes a day. I don't know what to do.” And he was like, “All right, let me teach you a meditation that changed my meditation practice overnight, and it really, it changed my life.” And I was like, “Okay, yeah, gimme that magic pill. Give it to me.” And so he taught me the Mettā Bhāvanā. The Mettā Bhāvanā is from the Vipassana tradition of meditation, and it translates in Sanskrit to “loving kindness” in English. So, if you've ever done a loving kindness meditation, you've done the Mettā Bhāvanā And there are a million “loving kindness” meditations for free on YouTube. I highly suggest anyone who's listening to this, go check 'em out. They're incredible. But I started doing the Mettā Bhāvanā every day, and I immediately went from five minutes to 30 minutes and then to 45 minutes. In six months time, I was sitting every day for 45 minutes. And not only that, but in six months time, my entire, I was a totally different person, a completely different person. I went from being reactive in a miserable marriage that was failing, that was very verbally abusive from both sides, to becoming this person who was full of love and compassion, who became the healer that I became because of this practice. So it really, it changed the whole landscape of my future. This one thing.
Passionistas: So, explain to people what Reiki is and how you—we told a little bit of your story in the intro—but how you became, how you started practicing it.
Maria: So, Reiki is an indigenous shamanic Japanese Shinto healing practice based in the Shinto religion. It has, however, been whitewashed and colonized by the Western healing world, so much so that it is no longer associated with any of those practices, other than the fact that it is still associated with Japan—because Reiki is a Japanese word, meaning “universal life force.” And what it is, is it's this practice whereby practitioners place their hands onto a receiver, and the receiver has their energy basically balanced.
So, from a scientific standpoint, what that means is, you and me and this computer that I'm talking to right now, and my cat and the moon and oxygen and literally everything in existence is all at the very—we’re talking broad strokes of quantum mechanics now—at the very quantum level, we're all made up of the same matter, quantum matter, right? Just different conglomerations of the same matter. So, it's kind of like how that Aspen Forest in Utah is made up of 50,000 trees, but it's actually one tree. It's one of the largest organisms on earth, and it looks like 50,000 trees cuz they're all united under the ground by the same root system. Our root system—existence is root system, is quantum matter. We are all one giant organism, if you think about it from a quantum level. Mind you, quantum physics has now been as of, I think maybe like five or six years ago, the most proven science on Earth, which means that there have been more experiments done with more conclusive evidence to the same conclusion than chemistry, than biology. So we know for a scientific fact—you know, depending on how much you believe in science; I personally very much believe in science—but we know for a scientific fact that we live in a quantum universe, and that we are, in fact, one quantum organism. So with that understanding ,what Reiki actually is, is quantum healing. I channel quantum matter that is around you and in you, more of that into you. I'm not giving you my energy. I'm like a meat straw through which the energy flows. I'm just like the lido deck director being like, “Here, right this way to your energy,” right? So, in that in that sense, I don't get exhausted when I give Reiki. It doesn't hurt me. It doesn't drain me. It actually makes me feel great, because I'm receiving Reiki as I give you Reiki. And that's really what it is; it’s just a name for quantum healing. Every single indigenous culture in the history of humanity has had some sort of hands-on quantum healing practice. Unfortunately, due to colonization, most of the names of those practices have been lost. So, we're very fortunate that Reiki has survived in the ways that it has survived in order for us to be able to have access to at least one type of healing in that way.
Passionistas: What was the incident that happened that helped you realize as an adult that you had this skill, power, what's the right word to use?
Maria: What happened was, I was meditating with Ben, with my meditation instructor, and I started to feel this tingling in my palms. And I had just maybe a couple weeks prior been in a car accident. So I thought, “Oh, maybe there's nerve damage or something happening here.” You know, again, I like science, I like the things that are quantifiably provable, right? So, I started feeling this tingling in my hands. And in fact, when I was meditating, I opened my eyes ‘cause I could feel this tingling, and I was like, “This is so weird.” I had been working with tantric energy and moving energy through the body for a while. I'd been working with meditation and breath. So, I had started feeling tingling in other places. And I had a Reiki master, and I was receiving Reiki from her frequently as well, so I understood the concept, but I also didn't think it could be happening to me. Like, I didn't think that I had the access to that. So, I was meditating, felt this tingling in my hands, opened my eyes, and my hands were, like, glowing, right? With this, like, golden light. And it was almost like an aura, you know? You see an aura, and it goes away in a second. It was like that. So, it went away. The glowing went away immediately, and I was like, “Okay, I'm not on drugs. What is happening here?” But what I figured was that it would just go away. Maybe it was nerve damage or whatever. Well, the tingling didn't stop for three months. I had such a hard time with how much energy was going through me. I couldn't sleep at night. Like, at the time, I was married to my ex-husband, and I would just roll over in bed just to put a hand on him to get rid of some of the energy. ‘Cause I was like, “What is this? Like, go away. I need to sleep,” right? And every time, like I said in my bio, every time I would put my hands on someone who was in pain, their pain went away. It was so weird. And so finally, I asked my Reiki master, and I was like, “I think maybe this is Reiki. I don't really know.” She was like, “It sounds like it to me. Maybe you should take a class.” So I went and got certified, and it turns out that I had just accidentally universally attuned myself to Reiki. Which, now I run my own Reiki certification program, and I actually will not certify my students until they have figured out how to attune themselves to the energy. Because there are a lot of Reiki courses you can take. You can take a weekend course at the Marriott today and get a Reiki certification for $99. The problem is, all you'll be learning to do is write the alphabet, right? Basically, you're learning how to write the Reiki symbols, and then hopefully the energy will come, you know? But that's what I teach. I teach you how to universally attune yourself and access that Reiki, and then I certify my students to legitimize their practices within the Western framework of needing certifications. But you can't get a certification from me until you can actually channel the energy.
Passionistas: So, what are the benefits of Reiki?
Maria: So many scientific benefits of Reiki. There have been tons of studies done. I definitely recommend checking out Reiki.org if you're ever interested in reading the multitude of scientific studies that are out there about it. But generally, we've got lowered cortisol levels—which is the stress hormone, lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rates, so increased circulation of oxygen and blood through the heart, which can improve cardiovascular function. We've got increased myelin development on the nerve endings on the myelin sheath of nerve endings, which can help to rewire the nervous system and remove trauma that is held in our autonomic nervous system. Not only that, but myelin sheath development also coats our brain and our neural pathways, which means that developing that myelin sheath lining in the brain also can help with neuroplasticity, which is basically brain youth. It's how we learn and how we retain information. So, there's a lot of benefit to Reiki just scientifically, but people who've received Reiki also report sleeping better, losing weight or gaining weight if that's what they're looking for, improved metabolism. I've seen Reiki cure cancer, for crying out loud. Like, there are lots of things that it can do. I had a friend with hemorrhoids last week. I went and gave her Reiki, and her hemorrhoids are gone. Like it's just, she was gonna have to have surgery. You know, it's kind of amazing how it works, but scientifically proven, we've got a lot of different real scientific things that it does, which is great.
Passionistas: How often do people come to you for services? Is it like a monthly thing?
Maria: You know, it depends. I like to tell my clients that if a Reiki practitioner says to you, “Okay, you need to see me every week for the health and balance of your system,” they're probably just trying to get your weekly money. I believe strongly that your spirit, your heart, your soul, your body knows what you need to heal. And if you need Reiki, there'll be a random thought that'll pop into your mind and be like, “Man, I could use some Reiki.” And that's when you call me. But I do have programs, both my Reiki master certification program and my trauma healing program, The Phoenix Rising—both of those programs, I require people to get weekly Reiki, and the reason why is very specific. For my trauma healing program, weekly Reiki helps to literally rewire your autonomic nervous system so you can release trauma that's held in the body. But if we aren't doing that, it takes a lot longer. You can rewire your nervous system on your own. You don't need the help of Reiki. It just, it's kind of like training a cat. It takes a lot of patience, and it takes a lot of time, but it is possible, right? That's why most people think that you can't heal or cure trauma. Like, you can never get rid of it; you just get better at coping with it over time. That’s not true. Trauma is held in two places in our bodies: one—our brain, and two—our autonomic nervous system. Your brain can process through trauma in 38 seconds. It's incredible how fast our brain can actually process trauma, but our body holds onto it forever until we figure out how to reprogram and rewire the autonomic nervous system. And there's a very important reason why it does that, right? Its whole job is to make sure we survive. It's an evolutionarily created construct. So, we are literally trying to hack our evolution to release trauma from the body. Reiki helps to speed up that process, but only if you're doing it regularly. And then with my Ascension 101 program, with my Reiki certification program, the reason why I have weekly Reiki for that is because we're opening up your channels to become attuned right to the universe. And the more Reiki you receive, the more quickly you become attuned to that Reiki. That’s all.
Passionistas: So, for someone who's never had Reiki, what do you experience during a Reiki session?
Maria: Well, it differs. It differs based off of the person who's receiving it. I've had clients report that they feel tingling all over their body. They feel heat and warmth. They see flashes of light or colors behind their eyes. I've had clients who have visitations from their ancestors, from, like, their, you know, grandmother who passed away or their father who just passed away, or things like that. It really depends on the person. But one thing that I have noticed happens a lot during Reiki sessions is people fall asleep. A lot of people get so relaxed entering into that data state that they do just fall right asleep.
Passionistas: What have you learned most about yourself from this practice?
Maria: That is such a great question. What haven't I learned about myself from practicing Reiki? You know, becoming a Reiki master and really beginning to offer healing to others really required me to make sure that I was a pure channel, and to make sure that I am energetically, we call it—my mentor and I—we call it “squeaky clean energetic.” Right? So, we like to be the kind of people where, if I'm gonna be messing around in your energy, I can't be bringing my own crap into that, because it's disturbing to the energetic field, right? So, that's been, I think, one of the biggest things that's changed about me, is I've had to really heal a lot of my own crap in order to be able to help others heal. Not because I needed to know what it was like in order to lead them—because we're all just walking each other home. Right? That's what Ramdas said: “We’re all just walking each other home.” But because I couldn’t energetically and ethically stand for being anything less than energetically squeaky clean. When I started helping others heal, I was struggling with an eating disorder, for example. Here I am guiding women to love themselves unconditionally, to open their heart chakras in a way that allows them to see that they are worthy of love and acceptance and a beautiful, joyous life simply because they exist; not because of how they look, not because of what they achieve, not because of what they do. And yet here I was eating one meal a day for the last 10 years, right? So I finally had to face myself and go, “What are you doing? Like, you can't continue to preach this and then practice something totally different. It's going to make sure that, it's going to completely guarantee that the people you are trying to guide won't heal themselves. Because you lead by example now.” And I think that was the biggest thing, really, that's changed about me, is understanding and really stepping into leadership, which was hard for me. I did not wanna do it. I was like, “I just wanna give people Reiki and let them do their thing. Like, I don't wanna have to do any of this.” And a lot of Reiki healers, they'll place their hands on someone, and they won't say a damn word. Which is fine, but I couldn't stop myself. My body became a mirror for my clients. I could feel pains in their body, and I just started channeling things that they needed to hear, and I just became a leader. And I didn't want to, and I had to anyway. I fought against that “life coach” term for forever. I did not wanna do it, because who wants to listen to someone who's so fucked up? Nobody should be listening to me, right? You can bleep that if you need to. Sorry. But you know, nobody's gonna listen to a leader who who hasn't got her shit together. And that's at least what I thought. What I realized is, a leader is someone who's relatable, who's vulnerable, who can walk with someone and say, “Oh yeah, I've been here before. Here's why I realized this was not gonna work for me, and here's why I can tell you honestly that it's not gonna work for you. But also, do I understand your struggle? Hell yes.”
Passionistas: So, how can people work with you?
Maria: I have several ways you can do one-on-one Reiki sessions with me. I sell them in single sessions or sessions of 5 or 10 packs. You can do spiritual mentoring with me, which is basically like therapy, but with more empathy and connection and fewer boundaries of, like, laws and, you know, HIPAA regulations. But everything is confidential, and that's in single sessions as well. 5 packs or 10 packs. I've got “The Phoenix Rising,” which is my one-on-one, three month long trauma healing program designed specifically to help you achieve post-traumatic growth and heal your trauma once and for all. And then I've got a wait list started for working with me to become a Reiki certified Reiki master in my year long certified, uh, excuse me, my year long Reiki master certification program, “Ascension 101.” And then finally, the last way to work with me is, if you are in a couple dynamic, whether that's two sisters or a mother-father, or, you know, father-child, parent-child relationship or romantic relationship. I have sessions called the “We Method.” They are two hour long spiritual mentoring sessions for couples, people who want to improve their bond and their love, whatever that is, whether it's romantic, platonic, or familial. And that is all the ways you can work with me.
Passionistas: We would be remiss if we did not ask you about your past as an opera singer and possibly your present as an opera singer. So tell us about that.
Maria: Yeah, so, I have a bachelor's and master's degree in opera performance from Northern Arizona University, and I studied privately with a teacher from Boston Conservatory Music after that for a couple of years. So I've been singing opera professionally now since 2010. And I have had the great blessing of singing all over the world, of singing with incredible musicians. I made my Kennedy Center debut right before the pandemic hit. I also was blessed to be able to sing in Disney's “Coco.” So, I've had this, like, really, really amazing experience recently of really developing this musical career.
And then the pandemic hit. And when the pandemic hit, of course, singers being super spreaders, we were shut down. Everything was shut down. And it was so interesting just to watch, like, every company claim Force Majeure. No singer got paid even for contracts that were already signed. And I kind of was left adrift, you know? And it was funny because the timing of the universe is so amazing that I had already been, I'd already received my Reiki one certification right before the pandemic hit. And I was weighing the options. I was like, “I love healing. I love Reiki. I love this energy. I'm like really passionate about this, but I've loved music for so long. Like, maybe, but maybe it's time to quit. Maybe I should quit and really start something with this Reiki thing. But I don't know what to do.” And I was like, “Oh, what do I do? What do I do?” And then pandemic, hit, and now no Reiki. I mean, no, no music at all, right? So I was like, “Well, I guess the universe decided for me. We’re gonna create a business doing Reiki now, and we'll see where it goes.”
And now, the interesting thing is, is that, the music industry is hard. You know, it's really hard. It's very toxic, especially the opera industry is very toxic. It's very racist, it's very misogynistic, it's very fatphobic. And these are things that we are working, as younger singers, that we're working on trying to fix about our industry even now as we speak. And hopefully we can do that before the entire industry, you know, implodes on itself because no one wants to work for it anymore. We'll see. But I realized that I had been so burned out on singing because of the minutiae that came with it, and because of, honestly, I was full-time singing when the Pandemic hit. I was one of those people very blessed to support myself entirely on my singing, which is crazy. That doesn't happen. And I was taking every project I could, saying “yes” to everything. Whether or not I wanted to make that art, did not matter. Were they paying me? Great. I was gonna do it. And now that I'm able to not only dive deeply into this thing that I'm so passionate about in healing people and support myself in that way, now I get to turn to music in this way that really allows me to celebrate the art. I get to only take projects I wanna take, whether they're paying me or not. Or I get to only take projects that pay me really well, if that's what I want. But I have the choice now. And because I received that choice back, it was amazing, but my perfectionism died immediately. Almost immediately. I was so scared. You know, in the classical music industry, especially in singing opera, it's all about mimicry. You wanna sound exactly like performance practice has been since 1600 when they wrote that opera. You know, we don't put in our own artistry, we don't put in our own, you know, licks or anything like that, that makes it uniquely ours. You do it the way that the composer wrote it, and you only do it that way. And so if you're not perfect, you're not getting rehired. And that was, that made me into someone who was so tightly wound and so scared and nervous about, like, getting back into it that I would just, oh man, I just, every habit I had with regards to being in the music industry and learning music and performing music was just so devoid of life. And now I get to be here with this music, with this amazing art, and I don't care if I don't get rehired. So I get to be a little bit more artistic. I get to have adventure, and of course I still have respect for the art form and what's required, but all of the fear is gone. And that's yet another unexpected gift that becoming a Reiki practitioner gave me.
Passionistas: Wow. What an amazing story of transformation. I love that. You are, by the way, our second Passionista involved with “Coco.” I know. That's so cool. We have an actress named Selene Luna, who played Tia Rosita.
Maria: Oh, my gosh, wow!
Passionistas: Yeah, that’s funny.
Maria: I only had three seconds of fame in “Coco.” Literally. I'm not exaggerating. Mine is less, but my name's still in the credits, so.
Passionistas: That’s excellent. So, thinking back to your younger self that laid your hands on your cousin to try to take away her pain. What advice would you give to that young girl?
Maria: Believe in magic. Believe in yourself. You know? I think that is the thing that happens to our children so, so quickly when they're raised, is they, they start believing in magic. They start believing in themselves. They start believing anything is possible, and they begin with really understanding and expressing their most authentic selves. And then we let our societal ego mind get in the way of that. We teach them shame. We teach them how to be smaller to fit in. We teach them how to homogenize themselves, their dreams, their educations, their art, their magic. We teach them how to strip themselves of everything that makes them unique in order to fit in. And that is, it has devastating consequences. And if I had had a parent that was able to tell me that as a young child, I think perhaps I would've found Reiki a lot sooner. And I think also, I would've definitely experienced far less trauma than I did throughout my life.
Passionistas: Is there a particular trait that you have that you think has helped you succeed in your life?
Maria: Resilience, I think, you know? Post-traumatic growth is definitely something that has been my constant companion in this life. And just to—for our listeners who don't know what post-traumatic growth is—post-traumatic growth is a psychological term that was first coined by scientists in the mid 90s, early to mid 90s. But it's actually a psychological phenomenon that has existed since the beginning of humanity. And every sacred text talks about it. The Bible talks about it, the Quran, you know, Buddhism has talks about this. And this is the idea that suffering births transformation. Post-traumatic growth specifically is identified as a psychological phenomenon whereby we are better, happier, more well adjusted, more authentically ourselves, more joyous because of our trauma, not in spite of it. That our trauma makes us better. And there are only about 10% of people who suffer from trauma that ever actually get to achieve post-traumatic growth. All the studies that they've done on it have shown three main indicating markers of what will help you to develop post-traumatic growth: number one is a community of support, number two is resilience, and number three is a spiritual or faith practice. The numbers are exceedingly high for people who have those three pillars in place to achieve post-traumatic growth.
I did not grow up with a spiritual or faith practice. My parents raised me to be agnostic, bordering on atheistic, but they did raise me to believe that if you're a good person, no matter what you believe, if you treat other people with love and humanity and brotherhood, then you're gonna be fine at the end of this life, no matter what happens to you. And I think the biggest thing, though, that my parents taught me that I had growing up, that has allowed me to achieve post-traumatic growth, was resilience. Resilience is this idea that we can bounce back. It's the idea that allows us to accept that failure is positive, not negative. Which, you would think that for a perfectionist like me, wouldn't be the case. And that perfectionism was definitely developed in college as I became a classical musician, but I wasn't always that way. And I think, truly, truly, I believe that resilience was what made me more capable of being successful and more capable of being the healer that I am today. Have you heard of that marshmallow spaghetti experiment?
Passioniastas: No. Tell us more.
Maria: I cannot remember the name of the sociologist who created this experiment. But it's been going on now for about 30 years, I think. And basically what they do, and they've gone all over the world and they've done this for groups of people. They go to boardrooms, they go to classrooms, they go to colleges, all sorts of places. It's considered a team building exercise. And what they do is they break people out into small groups of like five or six, and they give them: a very large marshmallow, like one of the extra jumbo sized ones, like, I don't know, 15 pieces or something of raw spaghetti, and then, like, three feet of clear tape. Everybody gets the same thing and then they say, “Okay, you have 20 minutes to build the tallest, freestanding structure that you can. But the only caveat is the marshmallow must be at the very top. Ready, set, go.” Guess who are the group of people who, time and time again, have been proven to be the worst at this? MBAs. Yep. People with Masters of Business Administration. The people who are the best at it? Kindergartners. Kid you not, kindergartners. They’ve, like, by far and away have made so much higher free-standing structures. And the reason why is because adults, especially those of us who've been taught there's a specific way to do things, right? Like an MBA. This is how you build a business. Step one, step two, step three, right? That what we'll do is we break into groups, and the first thing we do is, we jockey for power. Who's gonna be the leader of the group? Who’s going to make the decisions of everyone's ideas? Then everyone has to take time to present their ideas to the leader of the group. And then we all discuss, like, “Okay, well, this is what might happen, and this is what might not happen. Oh, this probably won't work, and here's why.” Right? And then by the time we finally come up with an idea that might be executable, we've got three minutes left to build our structure. And of course, if it fails, we have no time to fix it. Whereas kindergartners don't understand the concept of failure equating to shame. That was something that our societal ego mind gave them later, right? So they go, “Alright, well, let's just see.” They don't pick a leader. They don't care who leads. They're just like, “Okay, well, let's try this.” And then they put it together, and they go, “Okay, well that didn't work. Alright. Try this now. Okay. Ooh, what if we do this? Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then finally, by the end, they had this enormous freestanding structure, and they did it in five minutes. Right? So, this teaches us that failure is the way to succeed. If we are willing to be brave enough to fail, we will eventually get to success. That is what resilience teaches us, and that’s why I think I've been able to get where I am.
Passionistas: What’s been your biggest professional challenge and how did you overcome it?
Maria: I think my biggest professional challenge has been that I don't know the first thing about owning a business. I was a music major. And you would think that because performance musicians, like, people with performance degrees become their own businesses, they become individual entities, right? You would think that they would've taught us something in college about business, but they taught us nothing. Not one thing about running our own businesses, not tax, literally nothing. So, that's been my biggest challenge in becoming a business owner, was learning how to actually business. I'm very, very blessed that I found a business coach early on who is amazing, who knows just how to speak to me. She's become a mentee of mine as well. And so, we've had this really beautiful symbiotic relationship, and she's really helped me build my business from the ground up. But that was my biggest challenge by far.
Passionistas: Yeah. That’s, I think, a common thing for most people who all of a sudden become entrepreneurs. What's been the most rewarding part of becoming a Reiki master?
Maria: Definitely the ripple effect. That, and the ripple effect is also my, it's my business mission. You know, it's the whole part of my—I call it my life practice, is what I call my business, ‘cause it's so much more than that. And everything in my life has been leading up to this, you know. But I think it's the ripple effect. I've watched the people that I work with heal themselves. And then I watch them heal their families. I watch them heal their relationship with their children. I watch them lead by example to their friends and family, and that to me is…ugh, I get teary just thinking about it, because it's so exciting to me. My whole goal in life is to heal as many people as humanly possible before breath leaves my lungs. And in watching people execute that ripple effect of healing in their own lives and in their own families, it's working. It's really working.
Passionistas: What’s your dream for women?
Maria: My dream for women? Oh, I have so many. My dream for women is that we be able to really, consciously, compassionately, and lovingly see our way through and past and away from the patriarchy. Away from our dominator colonizing culture. And that is going to require us to teach—as mothers and sisters and lovers and friends—to teach every man in our lives to do the same. That is, that is my deep dream for women and for all humanity, is an end to the patriarchy.
Passionistas: Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Maria: The heart cannot be broken. Only the walls that I have built around my heart can be broken.
Passionistas: What's your definition of success?
Maria: It's changed a lot over the years, you know? I think colonization taught me one way of viewing success, and decolonizing my mind has taught me quite another. And I think, honestly, to me, success is what we talked about earlier, and that squeaky clean energetics. If I can look in the mirror at the end of every day and be really satisfied with who I'm looking at, that's success.
Passionistas: What advice would you give to a young woman that wants to follow her passions?
Maria: I would tell her that the most important key to following her passions is believing that she's worthy of following them, believing that she's worthy of achieving them. That's what I would tell her. It's not even about just go and do it, because you can go and try and dive into the deep end, but if there's something inside of you that believes that you're not capable or worthy of achieving it, you never will. Because you will hold yourself back. We do it all the time, subconsciously—unintentionally—but subconsciously, we self-sabotage all the time from success because we don't believe we're worthy of it. So, that's what I would tell her. I would say believe. Believe in yourself.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to our interview with Maria Dominique Lopez. We wanted to give you a special treat this week. Each year we host the power of Passionistas Women's Equality Summit, and we ask women, many of them from marginalized communities to share stories on topics that are most important to them.
One of our speakers was Elena Christopoulos, the founder of a sustainability management consulting firm. Elena's contributions have helped create over 500,000 green jobs worldwide with 60% of the positions going to women and people from the BIPOC community. As a climate scientist and political advisor, Elena has actively worked throughout her career to bring women and BIPOC people to the table in both fields, and has successfully managed over 40 political and environmental campaigns worldwide.
Here's Elena's story on the power of resilience.
Elena: Hi, my name is Elena Christopoulos. I'm a climate scientist, political consultant based in Santa Monica, California and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And this is my story of equality. How one wind turbine created 500,000 green jobs worldwide with 60% going to women and BIPOC.
I grew up in Europe and traveled quite a bit when I was young. It really allowed me to think outside the box. As a child, I had a huge appreciation for the food we ate, the water we drank, the air we breathed. I knew where everything came from. It was just the way I grew up. And it caused me to have a huge passion for Mother Nature, for all its glory, and I had that early on in life.
Fast forward to starting university. I went to Queens University in Canada and, using other influences in my life, plus my upbringing, I had this vision to implement a wind turbine in downtown Toronto. Now, many people thought my vision was unusual, shall we say. I didn't have a track record of this. It was an idea. Nonetheless, I went to try to recruit folks who thought this idea and helped me with this. Interesting enough, men stepped up and women did not. I really had to recruit the women and I would get, the usual response would be, “Elena, I'm not qualified enough. Elena, I don't have the confidence, Elena, I don't think I can do it.” And I didn't hear that response from one man. I didn't hear it at all from one man. And this is an undergrad in university. So I took pause. And none of the men told me that they felt unqualified for the job, not one.
So, you know, I started to think, “Where are the women in STEM?” I mean, I got into science because I didn't see any women in my classrooms. I didn't see any women in public school in elementary school. So, where are the women in STEM? And here I am implementing an idea, and again, where are the women? So the job got completed. I recruited enough women, and happy to say that it was 60% women and BIPOC and LGBTQIA+, and that was no easy feat. I really had to recruit women. And because of that I got a beautiful project. We worked wonderfully together, and it was the beginning of my career, which I didn’t know. The turbine took 256 homes off the grid, and it's really because of the women, I have to say.
So the project finished, it wrapped, and I was approached by a person running for mayor of a very large city, and the mayor said to me, you know, “Are you interested in running my campaign?” Now, my first response was, “I don't have a political science degree. I've never worked in politics.” And he stopped me cold my tracks and said, “Elena, are you trying to tell me you're not qualified enough? ‘Cause I'm actually coming to you for the request.” So, it looked like the same exact thing that happened when I was trying to recruit women in STEM for a wind turbine project now was at my door. So I took this opportunity to my three mentors who I've had early, quite early on in my life. And they said to me, “So, Elena, what do you think? Do you actually like the platform? Do you agree with what's going on?” And I just, before I started to say the, “I don't think I can do this, I don't think, I’m not qualified,” my mentor stopped me cold in my tracks again and said, “Elena, he's chosen you. It's really up to you if you wanna go forward in this. He already thinks you're qualified.” and you know, most women feel that they have to be, have 100% of the qualifications for any job they go after. Where men, it's about 60%. And that's still true today, actually. So, what happened? I realized, looking around, where are the women in science? Where are the women in politics? I created my own consulting firm. And I also, hearing that response to me, hearing doubt to my younger self—well, I'm gonna be kind to myself, but it's difficult to hear me say those things.
So, I created a consulting firm because of the STEM gender gap. You know, as a climate scientist and political consultant, I realized early on that there was this gender gap, and I wanted to do something concrete. I wanted to create a pathway for women into science and politics, if they chose it. So to date, that one wind turbine in downtown Toronto, which took 256 homes off the grid, was the first urban sighted wind turbine, the first micro feed-in-tariff program. It's created 500,000 jobs. And we are just getting started, I'm really happy to say. It's my lifetime goal to increase the percentage of environmental scientists from 28% to 50%. I'm getting closer with my consulting firm and with mentoring women.
So, was creating a firm daunting? Of course it was, but I wouldn't change a thing. It's important to use your voice, and I decided to use it by helping women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, in representation. Representation matters. It's really important. Because it's important for younger generations to see themselves in boardrooms, in science labs, on campaigns, on the campaign trail. Mentoring is also important, and I highly recommend that you find a mentor as soon as you can. I don't care if you're just beginning your career or at sunset of your career. Mentors give you perspective that you can't otherwise find other, in any other way. Now, I urge you all to do something and try something out of your comfort zone, taking risk, because you know what? The rewards are so wonderful. And of course, you’re most likely to fail a few times. I did. But that's where the learning is, you see? Failing forward and moving forward, because I know you can do it. I know it won't be easy, but do believe in yourself, and hey, give it a try. I recently heard this mantra from, I will say a Peloton instructor. Her name's Christine. I am, I can, I will, I do. I am, I can, I will, I do. I am, I can, I will, I do. Powerful words, powerful mantra, and really apply to anything in your life. And, by the way, if you're ever interested in implementing a wind turbine, getting into STEM or STEAM, or entering politics, or interested in running a campaign, well, my zoom is always open to you. I'll always be cheering you on, always. And remember: I am, I can, I will, I do. Thank you.
Passionistas: We wanted to share one more thing with you this week. After our interview with Maria Dominique Lopez ended, she very generously offered to record a guided meditation for all of the Passionistas in our community. What follows here is that very beautiful gift from Maria. So please, find a quiet space free from distractions. Get comfortable and let Maria help you transform your day.
Maria: Welcome. Welcome to this space. Take a moment now to ground yourself and just be, with your breath. You can have your eyes open or closed. You can be sitting, standing, laying, even walking, whatever is most comfortable for you.
Take a deep breath in now. Let the oxygen fill every corner of your lungs. And then slowly exhale, making sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale. Nice and slow. Good. You may find that there are some places—in your lungs, maybe a space in between one of your ribs, maybe a spot in the back of your spine—where the oxygen just simply doesn't wanna go. It's a little tense or a little tight. That's okay. This is just your beautiful body holding space for whatever worries or tension, whatever fears or heaviness is sitting with you. Your body is doing you the beautiful favor of holding that space. But that's no longer needed now. So, as you take this next deep breath in, invite whatever tension is in your body to go. Thank it for its effort and release. Good.
On this next breath in, I want you to notice that instead of your lungs filling with oxygen, it actually feels like it's your heart that's expanding with every breath in. Your heart muscle gets wider and wider as you breathe in, and as you breathe out, it releases a little bit of tension. Whatever tightness is being held there. Breathing in love, expanding in that feeling. Breathing out toxicity, anxiety and fear. Good. Breathing in love, feeling that heart grow bigger and bigger. Breathing out toxicity, anxiety, and fear. So relaxing.
As you continue this breathing into your heart, you're going to notice that your heart begins to feel warm, nice and warm. A spark has been lit inside your heart, and it heats you from the inside. Moving outward in radiating waves of heat that fill your entire body with every breath. The spark grows bigger into flame, the heat grows warmer, and the waves of heat radiate outward even farther than your body. Outward, further and further into the room. All of this love heating up the entire room around you. As it does, you begin to feel these amazing feelings of love, joy, ecstasy, happiness, tranquility, adventure, excitement, peace, devotion. Beautiful, expanding feelings in your heart that just build and build with every breath, the heat growing, the love growing until it feels like it's going to peak, so much so that it will just burst right out of you.
With one final breath, you exhale out all of that love out into the world. Beyond the room, beyond your home, beyond your town, beyond your state, out into the entire world. Your heart beating for you, and beating for all. Doesn't that feel amazing, to love everything? Allowing yourself a gentle smile, you can welcome yourself back to the space.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to this week's installment of The Passionistas Project. To learn more about Maria Dominique Lopez's work as a Reiki master, visit AscendingArts.exchange. Follow Elena Christopoulos on Instagram @BeingElenaLA.
And be sure to visit ThePassionistasProject.com to sign up for our mailing list, find all the ways you can follow us on social media, and join our worldwide community of women working together to level the playing field for us all. We'll be back next week with another Passionista who is defining success on her own terms and breaking down the barriers for herself and women everywhere. Until then, stay well and stay passionate.
Learn more about Maria.
Learn more about Elena.
Hear the complete episode here.