54. Christian de la Huerta: Curiosity – the key to personal growth

Sue Stockdale talks to Christian De La Huerta, about how curiosity plays an important role in personal growth, enabling us to become aware of sub-conscious patterns of behaviour that may be holding us back from having a fulfilling life. Christian is a personal transformation coach, TEDx speaker, and author of Awakening the Soul of Power, described by music icon Gloria Estefan as “a balm for the soul.”

With 30 years of experience, Christian is a sought-after spiritual teacher, personal transformation coach and leading voice in the breathwork community. He has travelled the world offering inspiring and transformational retreats combining psychological and spiritual teachings with lasting and life-changing effects. An award-winning, critically acclaimed author, he has spoken at numerous universities and conferences and on the TEDx stage.

Find out more about Christian De La Huerta and receive a free guided meditation, power practices and a chapter from the book, visit his website: https://soulfulpower.com

Connect with Christian on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn  and YouTube and find his book on Goodreads and Amazon

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Key Quotes:

‘I have been supporting people for the last 30 years transforming from lives of self-doubt, and self-questioning to lives of self-confidence, personal empowerment, and connectedness to ourselves, to others, and to something greater than ourselves’.

‘There are many things that we take for granted. One of the ways that coloured my early childhood in Cuba we had a TV, but there was nothing worth watching. So instead, we grew up reading books and for that, I’m really grateful’.

‘It made me, like many of us do, reject parts of who I am in that desire to be accepted’. 

‘We’re so good at adapting- we’re creatures of adaptation. The problem with that is that we often sacrifice big aspects of ourselves for that illusion of acceptance’.

‘The ego is that part of us that takes everything personally that reacts, that defends, that judges, that has expectations, and demands, about others and ourselves’.

‘The simple word of ‘curiosity’ is stepping back from all that stuff, from all that judgment, all that thinking that we know, from all that charge, that that need to be right’. 

‘When we ask those deep, difficult questions and we have the courage and the willingness to go within and to look inside of ourselves, the rewards are infinite’.

‘No matter what the curve balls life, life continues to throw out our way – we always get to choose how we show up and respond’.

Christian De La Huerta Transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: hi, I’m Sue Stockdale, and welcome to the access to inspiration podcast where each week we share stories from incredible people. Whether it’s a pilot, project manager or a podcaster, each of their amazing stories have the power to strengthen shape and challenge your views of the world. I hope that the conversation ignites new possibilities within you and causes you to reflect and think. Our podcast is a not-for-profit and we do want to measure the impact that it has on listeners. So we’ve created a short three minute survey, which you can link to in the show notes. And we’d love to hear from you. You know, we’re always on the lookout for interesting and inspiring guests. And today’s guest is no exception to that. Christian De La Huerta has been a personal transformation coach for over 30 years, supporting people to create lives, filled with meaning and purpose.

He is also a TEDx speaker and in his latest book Awakening The Soul of Power it got great reviews, including one from singer Gloria Estefan who described it as ‘balm for the soul of anyone searching for answers to life’s difficult questions’. That got me curious. I’m really interested to learn Christian’s story today and how he transformed from a shy introvert to a successful motivational speaker. Welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:29] Christian: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Speaking with you.

[00:01:34] Sue: Now you describe yourself as I mentioned in the intro there as a personal transformation coach, I’m wondering how you define transformation.

[00:01:44] Christian: The word that is most commonly compared to his change. For me, transformation is a deeper, more permanent state of being. So what I have been supporting people to do for the last 30 years plus has been transforming from lives of self doubt, self-questioning self hatred, even to lives of self-confidence from essentially, disempowerment dis- connectedness to an experience of personal empowerment and connectedness to it, to in every sense of the word to ourselves, to others, to something greater than ourselves. So, those are just a couple of examples of what transformation means to me,

[00:02:23] Sue: really, in a way, what you’re saying is once people change, they don’t go back when they’re transformed.

[00:02:28] Christian: Exactly. It’s almost like a irreversible leap in consciousness and yeah, sometimes we forget and we react and fall back into old patterns of being. But what we do now is we catch it in the moment and we correct it. We make amends. We. As opposed to the way that we were doing it before, where it was just mostly driven by subconscious stuff that we weren’t even aware of.

[00:02:51] Sue: Well, I’m going to be intrigued to find out more about that in our conversation. A little bit, Christian, I guess I want to, first of all, understand what caused you [00:03:00] to be interested in that area of work in the first place, because I’m guessing that perhaps your own personal journey in a way led you to what you’re working on today.

[00:03:11] Christian: How perceptive. I think I’ve always been on that journey, both for myself and in terms of assisting others on it, like, I was the type of person that even as a kid, people came to me with their secrets and with questions for advice and stuff like that. So that gift or that ability, or that sense of mission, I translated differently at different points in my life.

So at some point. I thought I wanted to be a priest. My father was a psychiatrist. So later I thought I was going to follow in his footsteps, not so much in psychiatry because I didn’t want to go to med school, but I was on a track to get a PhD in psychology until life took me in a different direction. I now discovered breath work and jumped tracks. Never went for the PhD.

[00:03:52] Sue: You’ve had a few twists and turns in your life to date. And I know that from the earlier stages of your life, you were an immigrant from Cuba into the U S at the age of 10. Tell us about what that change in your life. How did you cope with that?

[00:04:07] Christian: That’s a really good question. That was a traumatic transformation for me. And it’s hard to convey. I mean, the difference of having been raised in a communist regime for those of us who live in the west, that we take so many things for. And you know, who live in democratic societies, so many choices, so many rights, some of the freedoms and liberties that we take for granted.

That are just not available in autocratic, dictatorial regimes, no matter what shade, you know, whether they’re very extreme right or very extreme left. So my parents were involved in counter revolutionary activities. So they were actually conspiring against the Castro regime after the Revolution. And even though we were too young and we didn’t really know what was going on, it was hard to avoid the underlying, the undercurrent of fear because out of their pot of friends who were working together, they were the only ones who either weren’t killed at the firing squad or spent 20 years in jail, in prison.

And so it’s hard to convey what that’s like, you know, and then just to mention a little bit. Like things that we take for granted, what’s chewing gum to us. We stick a piece of gum in her mouth and we spit it out without even thinking about it. And we had a better than most because my parents had friends who worked in foreign embassies. So once in a while here, we used to get a box of Chiclets. I don’t know if you remember the little box of Chiclets, but we just split it between the kids because we were a large family with nine kids. And then we chew our gum and at the end of the day, get a glass of water with just a little bit of water in the, in the bottom and put some toothpaste in it and then stick our gum in it. So it’d be minty the next day and keep that going sometimes for a week or two until my mom found it and throw it out. So it’s just to illustrate just the many things that we take for granted. One of the ways that colored my early childhood Tuesday, you know, we had a TV, but there was nothing worth watching. So instead of we grew up reading books and for that, I’m really grateful.

It made the transition to [00:06:00] the states to English language easier because I had that relationship with words. So I think that facilitated my learning under language. And we also grew up creating and inventing our own games and pastimes. And for that, I’m also really grateful. Then when we came over to the states, without speaking a word of English, that was tough because we moved to a small rural town and in Georgia, one of the Southern states and most people didn’t take kindly to foreigners. And like most kids, I was pre-adolescent we have such a need to belong and to be accepted that it was three years. I went through a phase of like really learning the language and mastering it to a certain degree. And they made like many of us do like kind of rejected parts of who I am and that desire to be accepted.

And so I went through this phase of rejecting my Latino heritage and interestingly enough life and it’s curve balls. Then we moved to Miami where I went to a Catholic private school that was probably 99% Cuban American. So then I stood out again. I was different again, I was the other again, because I sounded like a Georgia peach.

So not to mention the real unmentionable issue that I was dealing with. Which is even at that young age, I already knew that I was gay. And so trying to reconcile this desire me to make a difference to serve the sacred as I understood it, that well, being told by this religion that I was anathema, that it was an abomination in the eyes of God and that I was going to burn in hell for eternity.

It made for an interesting adolescence. I can say that probably it was one long depression with suicidal thoughts here and there. The gift of that, is that going through those difficult years and that difficult experience, it deepened me, it forced me to ask some profound existential questions about who I was and where I belonged and what am I here for and what is my connection to something greater and to others.

And so it also gave me the ability to understand and to empathize with, to feel compassion for somebody else’s pain. And I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. And, you know, flash forward that, which is a Testament to the teachings that I share and write about is that today, no matter the details, no matter the circumstances of my life, whether a relationship works out or does it whether a project succeeds or it fails in quotes, never, ever do I question my sense of self-worth that is healed and it’s established and it’s unshakeable.

[00:08:22] Sue: You’re describing to us those ups and downs, those challenges that you faced and the things that you were learning as you integrated into a new country. One of the things you mentioned there, Christian was about how you chose to adapt yourself, to fit into the environment in which you were experiencing in which you were living.

And I’m wondering in terms of the work that you do these days with your clients and whether that is a prevalent situation that many other people find themselves in is that they have subconsciously perhaps to fit in as opposed to recognizing their own identity and who are. [00:09:00]

[00:09:00] Christian: Oh my God. Yes, that is huge. That’s a huge part of the human experience. I think that need to belong as a profound need in us. And we’re so good at adapting. We’re creatures of adaptation. The problem with that is that we often sacrifice big aspects of ourselves for that illusion of acceptance. So there’s a huge price to pay. And that connects totally to this book that I’ve written about power, because so often I would say most of us have sold out our intrinsic nature, our preferences, our desires, our beliefs, our sense of personal power for that illusion of acceptance and illusion, because if we’re showing up less than authentic as a part of ourselves, but not fully ourselves. We can’t be met fully in return. Right. So that other person’s only going to respond to whatever it is that either partial or illusion of our persona that we’re putting forth. So it’s not even authentic acceptance. So it’s not an effective strategy for any of us.

[00:10:01] Sue: And you’re making me think about thinking and reflection because. Also making an assumption here that as a teenager, growing up in America, that while you were going through all of these experiences, maybe you weren’t actually thinking and reflecting on them, they were just happening to you. It wasn’t the case. Or were you reflecting as you were going along? Because in my experience, certainly teenagers, aren’t always thinking about the kind of meaning of life question. They’re more just experiencing.

[00:10:29] Christian: Yeah, both. So I think that’s one of the gifts of having been raised gay and feeling different is that I, and many other people have had to face those profound existential questions earlier in life.

For me, it was a matter of survival. Like, who am I? What am I doing here? And what is my connection to creation? So, yes, I was asking those deeper questions earlier on, but I didn’t have the perspective that I needed to understand that, that point in my life, my worldview. Very strictly limited by the Catholic worldview.

It was the Catholic worldview. So that colored my perceptions about myself, about what’s right. What’s wrong. But this life about an afterlife about what the sacred is until it just got to the point, you know, my late teens that it just didn’t work anymore. It couldn’t hold me back anymore. And three things happen.

You’re like actually got, as far as when I was in high school, a senior in high school to meet with the head of the novitiate. The guy who decided, who got into the Jesuit, who accepted one is the novitiate as a potential priest. And thankfully he was a wise man who said, well, you know, why don’t you do a couple of years of college and then we’ll talk.

And so in those couple of years, several things happened. One was, I took a class in philosophy and existentialism, which began a process of questioning a bit of Catholic worldview. I also had a phase of experimentation with mind expanding substances, which deepened that process of questions. And actually begin to question reality as I had known it.

And then the third thing that happened was that I fell in love. And for the first time I had a lot of sex as a teenager, but it [00:12:00] was always from a deep, dark, hidden place. And guilt-ridden once I fell in love, it was like in that moment, I remember the first kiss in that moment. I knew just being gay, wasn’t wrong and it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t a sin and it wasn’t an illness.

And from that moment on there, wasn’t a priest or minister around. Or an, a mom or a psychiatrist that could tell me otherwise I just knew. And those three things, that combination of those three experiences was very powerful. And after that, the Jesuits did not stand a chance

[00:12:32] Sue: and that’s, I can imagine, so sounds very powerful experience as you’re describing it. The conversation continues in a few seconds after this. If you had a busy person and probably always feeling behind, then you may be wondering how you can get more done in less time. One solution is working with a virtual assistant. They can help with social media, graphic design, customer service, copywriting, digital marketing, and many more tasks. iWorker is a social enterprise that connects you to talented remote workers from countries in crisis.

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So what’s going through my mind is for the listener who may be asking themselves some challenging questions about their life, their work, their career, their identity. One can come up exploring a question from curiosity, which is the theme of this podcast series this time. Or we can come from a place of judgment. And I’m wondering from your experience of coaching your client, What are some of the practical things that people can do to go down the path of curiosity rather than the path of judgment?

[00:14:10] Christian: Okay. I think just by posing the question you’re, you’re providing the answer, but one thing that would be helpful is to understand the ego mind, and we don’t have time to get into it here in this conversation. I spent probably the first quarter of the books talking about the ego and what it is and how it keeps us in a self-made prison. And so much to say about that, but here’s a quick visual, if you put a football in the center of a stadium, that’s what the ego is. It’s our sense of individual personality.

This is Christian over here that Sue over there, who we are is actually the stadium. And we’ve allowed this tiny, tiny, infinite testable part of who we are to think that it is all who we are and to make some really important consequential choices from its small limited and always fear-based perspective. So the ego is that part of us that takes everything [00:15:00] personally that reacts that the fence, that judges that has expectations and demands about others and ourselves.

And so once we begin to understand how that little football works, we can begin to make choices. And so we’ve made that choice that you’re just pointing to. So rather than approach it from a place of being right, we’re thinking that we’re right. And then the judgment that comes as a consequences. Like I know, and I would never do something like that.

The ego is very self-righteous. And not only that, but it went to law school and then appoints itself, judge, jury, and prosecutor all into one. It knows exactly what the other person did that was wrong, what the punishment should be and delivers it. So what’s implicit in your simple word of curiosity is stepping back, stepping back from all that stuff from all that judgment, all that thinking that we know from all that charge that need to be right.

And just being in the question, it’s like, you know, That’s all it takes is that maybe it’s like, maybe I can’t imagine that I would ever do blah, blah, blah, whatever the other person did, but maybe, maybe if it had been raised by their parents and their parents before them in their culture, maybe who knows what was going on in their brain biochemistry or any other stuff that I don’t know about. Maybe, maybe I would have done the same, probably not, but just that question takes us back from that place of self righteous. And begins to open up the possibility for connection, for communication, for forgiveness, the simple word, curiosity, where there’s so much writing on that.

[00:16:29] Sue: So with that, the possibility that you introduced into the conversation, there are Christian there, you were thinking about possibilities of yourself and your career in the future. And having had the advice to take a couple of years in college and then reflect on what you did next. What did the next part of the journey? What possibilities did then open up?

[00:16:47] Christian: Well, interesting. Well, like many people, I threw the baby out with the baptismal water. So for so many years, for most of my twenties, I wanted nothing to do with anything that’s smacked of, of spirituality. I confused it with religion. I didn’t know there was a difference. And so I spent most of my twenties focused on my professional development, my personal growth, a couple of relationships. And by the end of my twenties, I had had a pretty successful life. I had a very enviable life. Nice cushy job. Working for a psychiatric and addictions hospital and community relations.

And yet it seemed, I got to the point as I was approaching the dreaded 30 that the more that I had and the more that I was sought after there had to be something more, I just kept thinking. There has to be more how to condo on the water. I had a sports car, the Armani Suits and the more that I had, the more that I sought after professionally or personally, it’s like, none of it was enough.

And I kept thinking there has to be more. And then I started reconnecting. I started re-exploring with spirituality and from an Eastern perspective. So I started looking at meditation and breath, work and concepts from Buddhism and Hinduism and from indigenous traditions and little by little, I reconnected with that rejected part of [00:18:00] myself.

Which looking back on it, it was just as ludicrous the years that I spent trying to reject my sexuality, as I did rejected my spirituality know they’re both inherent parts of who we are as humans, you know, no regrets, that journey. It’s part of what makes me who I am. And it has given me the understanding to help other people out of their self-made prison.

And how to navigate the conditioning of family and society and the culture and religion. And so that we can finally come to that place within ourselves, where we’re determined, we make the choices. And it’s soon as you know, it’s, it’s a difficult journey. It’s a lot easier in a way to be kind of coast through life.

And to not question why we believe in the things we believe and why we do the things we do. And like many people do it just to numb out and self-medicating. TV or drugs or alcohol or food or sugar or computer gaming or social media or shopping, or the multiple ways that we’re so good at numbing out and running away from ourselves and from our inner demons.

And from those deep hard questions that you started this conversation on. And yet, yes, the path that is more difficult when we ask those questions and what we have the courage and the willingness to go within and to look inside of ourselves, the rewards are infinite and can probably all summed into one word, a freedom, freedom.

[00:19:23] Sue: So for any listener that is in a position where it, perhaps it identifying with some of the situations that you’re describing there, Christian, that maybe I’ve got to the senior level in their career, they’ve earned them money. They want to earn whatever it might be. And they are starting to ask some of those questions and they have that sense of fearfulness. And a lack of courage or not wanting to go there. What would you suggest that can help them to take those first few steps into the unknown?

[00:19:49] Christian: Yeah, that’s beautiful. And so again, I go back to understanding what the ego is because part of the function of the ego is to maintain the status quo. Even if the status quo is miserable, the ego doesn’t evaluate, whether it’s, you know, anywhere in that spectrum of comfortable to misery.

It’s job is to maintain things the way that they are. So anything that signifies change with a possibility of change, it’s going to be threat. So start there. So understanding that the other part of it is the larger part. It was the stadium. Part of us is not only not afraid of change, but we’re actually cliff divers were looking for that sense of adventure.

So we know that when we dive off that cliff into the unknown, then that will appear or better yet the wings are going to sprout and we’re going to soar. And yes, I understand the fear of change. I get it. I’ve lived it. And, but I ask them this what’s scarier that leap into the unknown saying yes. And going on that date or going on that job interview or leaving the company.

For the possibility of more or the possibility of freedom? Sure. That’s scary to the ego. What’s to me, what’s infinitely scarier is that another year, five years, 30 years will go [00:21:00] by and we’ll find ourselves stuck in situations, in jobs, in relationships that are sucking the very life force out of us. To me, that’s infinitely.

[00:21:10] Sue: So, how have you used your curiosity to take you forward recently? Because I’m imagining that in order to support other people to step into that unknown, perhaps we have to practice it ourselves. And I’m curious to know how you’ve done that.

[00:21:23] Christian: Well, like many people I had to, I had to pivot last year, I’ve been doing retreats and workshops and speaking all over the world for the last 30 years. And suddenly I went from a hundred thousand miles on an airplane to zero. So that’s the one thing that we can count on that life is going to continue throwing curve balls. Our way that, that we know is going to happen. So rather than feeling victimized by life or in that helpless relationship with life or disempowered, Relationship to life. If we just frame it this way, that no matter what happened in the past, things that we can do, nothing about no matter what happens coming forward, no matter what the curve balls life continues to throw out our way. We always get to choose how we show up in response and even putting it in those words with that slight reframe slight, but huge. that reframe pops us out of that victim mindset and that drift in life experience, we always get to choose. So choice is there and we always get to do that. So it would have been easy for me to go into what was man, what am I going to do now? And fear. So what I did was. Here’s an opportunity. I was able to write this book.

That’s probably been brewing inside of me for 10 years, was able to finish it. And I was able to what I’ve known for years I needed to do, which was to create virtual online programming that I’ve known. If I was going to reach people and scale my work and reach people that may never come to one of my retreats, COVID forced my hand. Like I had to, I had to do it. So the curiosity began and write what rather than feeling disempowered and afraid it’s okay. Well, here it is. What am I going to do? How am I going to show up in response to the situation about which I can do nothing except how I show up in response that I have a choice about?

[00:23:09] Sue: Well, I think you’ve given us a lovely example of how to reframe when thinking in the face of challenge. How to have that courage to step into the unknown, maybe to understand and learn a bit more about the ego and how that influences our behavior and how we see ourselves. And I think I want to find out more about the work that you do, Christian, about the book you’ve been talking about today. How can we do that?

[00:23:31] Christian: Wherever books are sold, so you can get it at your local. Watkins you can get it on Amazon. And in terms of how to reach me, probably the best way is my website, which is soulful power.com. From there, they can access the different social media and for your listeners, if they will go to my website again, soulful power.com and get on my email list.

And we all know how easy it is to unsubscribe down the road. If it doesn’t work for you, just click unsubscribe. [00:24:00] Maybe just by virtue of getting on the email list, they’ll get a sample chapter of the book that talks about what it means to live a heroic life. In the 21st century, don’t get some power practices that are designed to apply the teachings and the concepts to our lives to integrate them into our lives so that they don’t stay at the level of information because we don’t need more information. So we know this week we’ve got information overload. What we need is transformation to go back to that word. And so that’s what those practices are designed to do. And then they’ll also get a guided meditation about trust, short teaching. And I got a meditation about trust, which I created to help us navigate these times of fear and chaos and uncertain.

[00:24:41] Sue: Well, there’s some great resources for our listeners to go and search show and connect with the Christian has been really insightful and fascinating to speak to you today. I’ve got that visual image in my head, and I have a football in the middle of a stadium. I’m going to hold in my mind and think about in relation to the that’s been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today.

[00:25:01] Christian: Thank you so much. I enjoyed the conversation. It was easy. You ask some deep questions. I liked the natural flow of the conversation. Thank you for having me. I thank you for having the podcast. I know that in, in your willingness to do that, many lives are being changed and transformed and impacted.

[00:25:18] Sue: I hope you enjoy listening to Christian. Talk about his own life’s journey and how he coaches and supports others. Wasn’t it cause you to reflect on? Remember, you’ll find transcriptions of this and all the other episodes on the website, access to inspiration.org. Why not look us up on social media. We’re on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

And remember, just to take three minutes to fill in that impact survey and leave us your comments about how this podcast has impacted you next week. I’ll be speaking to Chaewon Yoo who cycled from Shanghai to London taking over 30 weeks to do so. What an amazing event. I hope you’ll join me then to hear all about it.