Marian Isel Barragán (Interview)

Art by Sam Liacos.

Reiki healer and health coach on honoring heartbreak and being patient when unlearning generational beliefs.

What does emotional wellness mean to you?
These days it means being fully present in my body and feeling the complexities of my emotional landscape, all while honoring and loving myself the entire way. Maintaining good boundaries has also been key in my wellness work.

How can we take better care of ourselves emotionally, in regards to our mental health? 
I think it’s important to know what is going to best serve you right now.

Therapy is important and needs to be normalized. This is especially true for  those of us from working class and/or immigrant backgrounds where this is looked down upon or seen as being ‘weak’ or ‘not thinking positive.’ Nope, we are not here for that! Working with the right mental health professional can change the landscape of your life. 

I had a breakthrough this week about something I discussed with a therapist I was seeing in 2009. Eleven years ago! I heard her words clear as day and was able to ask for what I needed in this particular situation. I’m going to write her an email and let her know.

Energy work, ancestral work, and being in community with people that support and love you is imperative for mental health. 

Finding balance requires remaining fluid and open to change. 

Marian Isel Barragán

How would you advise one to find a balance in the “new normal,” in regards to the pandemic?
Finding balance requires remaining fluid and open to change. 

What works this week, may not work next week, and that is okay. What am I feeling right now? How can I honor myself, my feelings, my pain right now? I always think of Andre 3000 in “Ms. Jackson”: “You can plan a pretty picnic/but you can’t predict the weather.” I can’t think of a time when this has been more true. 

How do you specifically advise brown and Black people to cope and process what feels like a roller-coaster of emotions–especially while being alone in quarantine?
There is a lot of tragedy in our collective family histories: legacies of abuse, colonization, white supremacy, family separation, etc. We survive. We move through. Not without grief, not without blood. Remember that you too, are a moment in history. You too, can be vulnerable, strong, grieving and courageous, all at the same time. 

Lately, I’ve been meditating on my family stories of migration and drawing on them for strength. I don’t even know the full stories sometimes, just bits and pieces and I am focusing on the resilience of the heroes in my lineage (biological and chosen). Someday someone will look back at my story and hopefully draw strength and inspiration from my life. 

Naomi Osaka said recently about her ancestors: “..everytime I remember their blood runs through my veins I am reminded that I cannot lose.” I’m keeping the same energy. We are not alone, even in quarantine. 

As a society we are big on “joyous” occasions, but when do we get to honor our hurt? 

Marian Isel Barragán

How have you seen emotional hurt (such as heartbreak) manifest across other forms of wellness? Any advice on how to prevent it turning into physical pain?
I am a big proponent of energy work in healing and moving through heartbreak. Many of my Reiki clients come to me at the end of a relationship, whether it be a break up or the death/loss of a loved one. As a society we are big on “joyous” occasions, but when do we get to honor our hurt? Besides a funeral?

A broken heart is an excellent time to honor yourself and your new beginning, to invite the lessons, and bring your heart a little peace. I have witnessed people with unresolved heartbreak develop physical illness, emotional issues, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. There are other paths. 

As some are learning and unlearning generational beliefs and behaviors, what is key to keep in mind?
Be patient with yourself and release your timeline expectations. We put pressure on ourselves to undo everything pronto, and it’s so important to remember that these ways of being did not happen overnight–so it’s impossible to undo them overnight. This work is a way of life. 

Remember that generational beliefs do not exist in a vacuum. Understanding how race, class, capitalism, colonialism, white supremacy affects our stories is part of the healing process. “Positive thinking” is not going to free us. Liberation lies within a class, race, gender analysis of the conditions our people existed in and make sure we don’t replicate systems of oppression within our own lives. 

Know that undoing generational beliefs and trauma can be lonely work. There are many people in your family who may be triggered when you begin healing. Please note, that is not your concern. Build a community of people outside your immediate family that are traveling similar paths where you can be in solidarity with each other. 

Self-care is often packaged and sold in ways that are at a certain budget or aesthetic that may not speak to you or your cultural values.

Marian Isel Barragán

Self-care is a complex concept for women of color, specifically immigrants and first-generation Americans. How would you advise first-gen women to practice self-care?
I am a U.S. born Latina, a child of Cuban and Ecuadorian immigrants. My identity was formed in a collective, always in relation to others: I was a daughter, sister, cousin, etc. It wasn’t until I was 20 and living in another country, that I realized I am my own me. We are often taught to think of others and put ourselves last. 

Immigrants and first-generation Americans deal with a laundry list of never ending issues: pressure to survive, to “make it,” to navigate multiple cultural realities, deal with a government that says you don’t belong, etc. 

Self-care is often packaged and sold in ways that are at a certain budget or aesthetic that may not speak to you or your cultural values.

What makes you feel good? What is something that you can do just for yourself? 

How can you empty your head of the constant noise? You can journal, do ancestral baños or rituals, dance, be in nature if it is accessible to you, and connect with your body through healing, touch, and/or orgasm.

Be patient with yourself and release your timeline expectations.

Marian Isel Barragán

What’s your advice on letting go of feelings towards someone that no longer serves us?
I don’t have an easy answer for this since I am a Pisces and always swimming in my feelings.  My answer still feels scary for me, but now I try to dive in. This is a lesson I have learned with time and experience. Dive in, be okay with being messy, and ask for help when you need it. The only way out is through.

I also love to honor endings with ritual. Mark the end, honor the new beginning.

What do you recommend to remain vulnerable during such uncertain times?
This answer is so simple, yet so hard: connect to your breath. Breathe, know that you are present and whole and that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but a badge of courage.

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