The following interview took place in London one sunny July day in 2012. Pilar Lillo is the psychologist who helped to set up the children’s charity The Girasol Foundation In this interview Pilar talks about her experience of using Creative Relaxation both personally and in her professional roles over a 20 year period.
Q: Who taught you Creative Relaxation, what was your experience with it?
A: When I finished my training in psychology, I was looking for something to help me professionally. I knew Dr Eugenio Herrero (the designer of Creative Relaxation/CR), and I asked him for some advice to continue developing my knowledge about psychology. He suggested that I do the CR Training, so I took the training with him in 1983, I was 23 years old. For a while, I used the technique every day, to prepare myself for the day in a positive way, then I started to work for an organisation called Girasol in their community centre, to help people who had drug addiction problems. CR was one of the main tools that we used as part of that programme.
Q: What was Eugenio like as a person?
A: Eugenio was a brilliant psychiatrist. He was very natural and he liked to help people feel better. He was easy to be with and a very generous person. He always said that we had the same power to make our lives easy or make our lives difficult. He transmitted to his patients and friends that we are responsible for our lives and the first step is being aware of our body and mind and to understand that they are one. He believed in the development of human potential. He was a peaceful man and you could tell that he lived in state of relaxation.
Q: What kind of things did the people in the drug rehabilitation programme say that they experienced with Creative Relaxation?
A: Maybe this is going to sound strange, but many of them said that they felt the same feelings during CR as those they looked for when they took drugs. They discovered happiness, peace, balance and confidence inside themselves. This was the most common answer, when we asked patients about their experience of the technique. Many of them said that they found a part of themselves that they had never met before. The Girasol drug rehabilitation programme was very successful in Spain.
Q: How many years did you train adults?
A: When I was working in Girasol I trained drug dependent adults as part of their one to one doing therapy and I taught them CR. I also used it with private clients over a 20 year period. Eugenio believed that CR was an essential preparation for any kind of therapy
Q: What kind of issues did your private clients have which CR helped?
A: Depression, anxiety, a bad time with the family, or for some, they weren’t able to cope with life at all. For many of my clients CR was an important crutch. When you start in therapy you deal with difficult things, and you need resources to cope with this, and to enable you to continue with the therapy and to make all the necessary changes in your life. CR gives you a sense of control, and that you have the power to deal with things in your life. People tend to think that things just happen in their lives and they don’t have any control over it, but with CR you start to feel that you are creating your life and you are responsible for it and therefore you have some control. You are the designer. This understanding gives you some kind of power.
Q: So the world is a mirror to what’s inside you?
A: Exactly, so to understand how you create your life, you need to start to be aware of you as a whole: body and mind. In order to be the owner of your life, you need to be at home in your body. Your body gives you a lot of information about where you are. Imagine a map, when you go to a park, you see a sign saying ‘You are here’ it’s the same with the body. If I feel a knot in my stomach this is information to listen to and I can ask myself, ‘Ok Pilar what kind of thoughts or images are you creating?’, my body gives me a signal. The good thing is that the CR gave me tools to use, which can help change things very quickly.
Q: So how would you change a negative thought using CR?
A: For me a powerful tool is to feel my body, because the body gives me a clue about what is happening in my mind so I relax my body, and by the time I’ve finished relaxing my body, my breathing is relaxed and then I do my ‘I’m calm’, meaning ‘I’m here and now’, and then for me, when I’m here and breathing repeating these two words, the negative thought goes away.
Q: So it’s the practise of being in the present moment?
A: Exactly, fear only exists in the future, when I’m here and now there is nothing, and feelings of guilt or remorse are in the past. All these kinds of feelings only exist in the past. In the present moment nothing bad is happening, I’m breathing and feeling my reality and I am ok.
Q: Is it possible for you to say how you feel that CR has helped you over the years in different situations?
A: I am a very passionate person, and I always used more energy than the situation required. If a situation required 30% I always put in 100%. In the end I was exhausted, and I felt a lack of energy, and for me CR has been my saviour, because now I only use the necessary amount of energy for the situation, I am more balanced. I still have to pay attention because CR is not magic, I need to continue using it.
Q: Have there been any unexpected benefits?
A: I don’t know if it’s unexpected but it’s easier for me to be more detached from emotional situations. As soon as I realise that I am too involved in an emotional situation, it’s easier for me to take a step back and detach. It gets easier and easier as time goes on. I feel more balanced in general. I don’t take life too seriously anymore.
Q: There is a story that we sometimes read in the trainings The Key to Happiness. How do you think CR can be a key to happiness?
A: As I said at the beginning of the interview, we are the lead characters of our life, we are not victims. We are the creators of our life and we have the power, the key, and the answers inside us. External things only give us short-term satisfaction and superficial answers.
I’ll give you and example. During many years people told me how brilliant I was in my profession, but inside of me I didn’t believe it. One day I realised that the most important compliment was the one coming from inside me, then the compliments from others sounded better but they were not so essential anymore. The key is inside, and once you find it you can open many doors. With Creative Relaxation we are learning to open these doors.
Q: Why do you think children should learn this technique?
A:Yes, I believe that if children can learn this skill of how to relax at an early stage in their life that this will bring benefits which will last a lifetime. Creative Relaxation teaches children that well-being comes from the person’s own internal resources, not from the outside world, it shows them how to make use of and develop their resources which is a great preparation for their rest of their lives and may well help prevent un-necessary suffering later in life. I really believe that this is training which should form part of the school curriculum.
Q: To explain to people who don’t know the technique, how does CR help you to become the creator of your life?
A: We are hardly at home, we live in our heads believing that we are what we think and we are disconnected from who we really are. If you live in your head you only pay attention to your thinking and the non-stop chattering inside of you. It’s like you are only half a human being. It’s completely different when you feel your whole body, when you put together the body and mind you get the whole human being. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. If you are only living with your head, you are missing a very important ally in the body, its like you are incomplete. With this kind of feeling of being complete, you can do whatever you want, you can practise meditation, and your meditation will have a better quality to it. Before starting meditation I always do my physical relaxation. You can also study better, you are going to memorise much better what you study. This is a very practical application of the technique. There are also physical benefits such as improvements in memory and concentration.
Q: You are more present and less preoccupied by your own thoughts and emotions?
A: Yes, like now, I am here with you telling you my experience of how CR helped me in my life, and I am present with you. When I train new trainers, I insist that they have to be in a state of relaxation when they deliver a training, because when you do this you transmit something else, you are present and when you are present people notice. Its very powerful.
Another thing that I loved to hear Eugenio say when he taught creative Relaxation, is ‘ I am not going to teach you something that you don’t know, I going to remind you of something that you forgot.’ Its something that I loved about this technique because it can help people discover resources that they already have and bring them out for their own benefit and the benefit of other people. The most complicated part of this technique is the practice. If you don’t practice you won’t get anything.
I would like to finish by remembering what Eugenio said about the purpose of CR:
‘I am only trying to open the door to the possibilities of what we can do, which will remain dormant and ignored if we don’t explore and develop them.’