I was born on the 5th of November 1959 in Brussels, Belgium. My mom had promised her friend Freddy, who was to become a priest, that she would name her first born son after him: Freddy. My parents met because they were both friends of Freddy. But my dad felt he should have a choice in the name of his son. They named me Luc and gave me Freddy as a middle name.
I went to Africa, the Belgian Congo, within a few weeks of being born. My mom and I stayed there for a year and returned to Belgium as the independence revolution was starting in the Congo. My brother, a year younger than me, was born in Brussels shortly after our return. My dad stayed in the Congo an extra year.
When my dad returned to Belgium I acted like I did not know him. My early years in Belgium were spent with my brother and two cousins. It felt like paradise. Then, suddenly, we were transplanted to Canada. No more cousins. We went to a French school from France. The transition was difficult for my mom. She wanted to stay in Belgium as she felt very faithful to her family.
I was the kind of kid who remained in himself. I was already more interested in the inner world. My brother was the opposite. He climbed trees and was all into the world.
In school, I was bullied. I guess kids feel drawn to do that to get kids turned inwards be more like them.
I love traveling and was happy when I was able to get scholarships to do graduate work in the US. I went to Seattle, WA. But I knew that what I was getting my PhD in, Biostatistics, was not my world. I could do it well, but I had no interest in contributing to the field. I did not know what else to do.
I became a writer. But none of what I was writing was publishable. It was a period of my life where I was learning about myself and the world and how to heal. It was a period during which I experienced a few miracles. It was changing the way I understood life.
When I moved to Rochester, I got introduced to meditation, healing and yoga. That’s what helped me see how I wanted to be a psychotherapist. It was to become what I call today: Mindfulness Psychotherapy.
My hobbies: talking with people, hiking, photography, community, teaching, and writing.
2. In the three years that we’ve known each other, you’ve asked me important questions; ones that changed my life. It seems that you help others by asking questions rather than giving advice. How do those questions come to you?
It is true that I avoid giving advice. I received so many that did not hit the mark that I vowed never to do that unless I am able to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I ask questions to put myself in the other person’s shoes. As long as I am not able to feel and understand how a person experiences her situation, I cannot know what would work best for her. I may venture some advice at times but I immediately ask if my advice hit the mark.
In other words, I respect people’s free will. We each have our own truth. I don’t want someone to do or think something because I suggest it, but because they want to try it or think it.
But I also ask other kinds of question, questions that help the other reflect on something from a new perspective. Perhaps those are the questions you are referring to.
A person’s behavior is completely logical if we understand her paradigm. When I see what part of a paradigm is responsible for a behavior a person wants to change, I try to find a way to address that. I may be direct about it. But sometimes it seems more effective to help a person see it for herself. It can create an Aha! moment. So then I ask a question that challenges the paradigm.
This does not work if a person is not ready for it. It has to happen at the right time. How to know the right time? Trust life. If life brings a challenge to someone, she is probably ready to learn something new. I think inwardly of possible reasons life may send that particular challenge given what I know about the person. I look for a match between how life is working with that person and what I think that person is trying to overcome. Then I ask questions accordingly.
3. You are also a big questioner in your own life. What answers do you seek? What is your perceived destination?
Well… in a way I don’t seek answers… I seek peace, I seek love, I seek joy, I seek harmony within myself and the outside world… In the process, I meet resistance and obstacles.
So I ask: Why this resistance? Why this obstacle? Why the lack of peace?
My first important question probably came as a result of my wish for the world: We need more harmony in this world. We need to live more according to our dreams and be valued for our gifts. So why do people forget their dreams?
And I promised myself never to forget mine.
I also asked myself:
1) Why do I feel so different from my peers?
2) When will I meet like-minded people?
I was a teenager then and the answer came that I would start meeting like-minded people in my mid twenties.
During my first marriage my question was: Why isn’t this working?
The answer was: Because you are meant to live different lives. But because we were supposed to be committed to each other we could not see it and instead we expected answers from each other. That was impossible.
One of my spoken questions was: What is my purpose in life?
One of my unspoken questions was: What kind of psychotherapist do I want to be?
Life answered in many unexpected ways.
One question was: I want to experience unconditional love.
When I felt it and it disappeared, I wanted to know how to get back there, not just a minute but forever. The answer was: Drop your worries!
Today I feel I have asked all my questions and I need to refine my ways of applying the answers in my life. But I still ask how I can help others in specific ways. My perceived destination is: I see myself as a jolly laughing spiritual master.
4. You said you felt different from your peers. You are a very emotional, deep, open man. How has it affected you to feel so “different,” exhibiting “feminine” attributes that are not easily accepted in our patriarchal society?
Interesting question. I thought I would answer it with a few words at first… It wasn’t to be short as I learned a lot from this question. Thanks.
I’ll talk first from what I became aware of as I grew up and then go back deeper in my childhood. Then I’ll reflect on how that led me to who I am today.
I don’t remember being called a sissy or gay or any of the French versions of these labels as a kid, so kids did not seem to tease me or bully me because of my feminine side.
The way the world talked about men and women attributes shocked me at first… to realize people had these views about men and women and I did not fit the mold. I knew I was intuitive and it was supposed be a female attribute. It was, in a way, my first awareness that what I heard from the outside world did not match my experience. I did not question myself because of it. But I did not get a sense that it was a patriarchal view. I got a sense it was a misguided human view. The same way that later when I took a psychology course that did not seem to speak to the way I perceived human nature or that I hear women and men both repeating what they hear without questioning it, such as: “depression is the result of a brain chemical imbalance.”
In a way, it affected me positively because it helped me hold my own counsel and have a critical ear to everything. At first, I liked engaging in intellectual discussions about everything, questioning everything. But I soon found myself feeling superior because I had this knowledge that seemed at odds with a lot of accepted views… this sense of superiority compensated for a sense of inadequacy I had not been aware of.
The feeling of inadequacy came from before I could speak or be aware of the outside world views. I may have been born with it, but it was made manifest by my parents ignoring me when I cried as an infant and turned up the music to teach me independence. And my parents thought I was disabled because I did not act like a little boy who tries to escape his play pen, I was not physical. So, I grew up feeling something was wrong with me. Perhaps I was born with this feeling. But I did not know why. I did not know that it was related to my parents’ expectations of the feminine and the masculine perceptions of who I should be. So I did not grow up thinking of it as a feminine vs. masculine issue.
I remember dressing in women’s clothes for Halloween once, and looking at my genitals trying to make them look female. How old was I? 7? a young teen?… Inwardly I had a sense of not being male enough…
I was being bullied in school and my father thought I should learn judo to defend myself like a man. But that did not seem to hit the mark for me.
As a teenager, I was attracted to girls and felt inadequate. I feared not being male enough for them.
My dad tried to hook me up with a hunter to give me a male bonding experience, but the hunter was a drunk and we ended up staying at the pub the whole day. I got stung by a bee in the pub. Wild!
It is interesting to reflect back on all this now because I had a positive experience of my feminine side and a negative experience of my masculine side and the efforts of my dad with my masculine side were off the mark. My mom on the other hand had some kind of fear of men, but never acknowledged it. So it is not surprising I felt the way I did given that my parents did not know what to do with me. I had to raise myself.
I was naturally drawn to gays and lesbians for their sensitivity.
I remember going to a hardware store in my 30’s to rent some tools and having a mini panic attack. I was entering the world of men. I used the tools and returned them. I never had a panic attack at a hardware store ever again. That experience helped me break out of some fear of not being man enough. I had to grow as a man by living.
But I also had to grow as a human being in a world of people who did not know how to help me. When I had stress symptoms that’s all the doctors could tell me. They did not know how to help. I had to figure it out myself. I had to learn to care for myself.
So my experience was that of an emasculated man with a feminine side I cared about, but also of a human who did not know what being a human was and with no one to guide him. I was born in a culture that did not know itself enough to teach me how to care for myself. So the whole experience of being a feminine man sort of dissolved into a bigger issue…that of learning to navigate the human experience.
I don’t blame it on the culture being patriarchal as neither men nor women had solutions for me. It feels as though both men and women are lost in this world. Men took over the leadership a long time ago and women went along with it, at first. Women have worked hard to reclaim their voice and presence, so they are more equal to men than they have ever been. They have challenged the patriarchal paradigm but have not yet put forth a different one. I see both men and women as lost at this point and perhaps acknowledging it could be the start of a beautiful renewal for humanity.
I did find solutions from spiritual teachers and from within me.
I often felt as though I had to prove myself to others… I still react that way now and again out of habit I suppose. I need to make peace with being different. We are all different. No need to feel less than, or inadequate, anymore.
5. Please talk about your struggle with money and what insights you gained from it.
When I first tried to tackle it and I asked my guidance how to solve this issue, the answer was: Love!
I did not understand. I still tried to figure out a practical, down-to-earth solution to my problem.
But at some point, since nothing worked, I remembered that I had to stop worrying, a message I had received in the early 90s when I asked inwardly how to be in a space of unconditional love all the time. So I started a meditation on happiness and voilà… problem solved!
But it wasn’t as easy as that because when I first started that meditation in 1996 or so, I was falling asleep within 10 minutes of doing it. My brain would shut down. So something had to shift. I struggled a long time before I was ready. One big help was the help in self-worth I received from a spiritual teacher I study with.
In retrospect, my fear of money was really bigger than that, it was a fear of not getting any support, a fear that I didn’t matter. In this light it makes more sense that Love is the answer! Learning to see my worth and love myself, and then letting go of worries became possible!
6. Do you think that people who work on themselves are egocentric? Coming to love ourselves can be a long, painful journey. Is this because it’s not meant to be?
There is a perception from some Christians that any work on self is selfish. I was talking with a Christian about doing yoga and he did not get it. He told me that was selfish. That is a total misunderstanding.
Ideally we want to make ourselves as available to be of service as possible. This is not possible if we are self-centered.
Also it is not possible if our spirit isn’t free. We cannot really be of service if we are stuck inside, because service needs to come with love. If we cannot be of service with love, we are robots… it drains those we help as much as our self.
If we help others and feel overwhelmed… it is time to work on clearing the inner space so our spirit is free to love again. That’s what doing yoga is about. That’s what working on self is about.
There may be some who work on self and it becomes an obsession… that is to be avoided as well!
Egocentric individuals are people who are self-centered. They cannot see life from someone else’s perspective. Everything revolves around them. They don’t know love.
People who love themselves can love others because we are all mirrors to each other.
Loving ourselves is a long journey because there is much to love!!! We are infinite. Another way to look at this is to imagine the work it would be to love each human being on the planet. Some are easy to love, and others not so easy. But in order to love ourselves completely, that’s the work we need to do. That’s why it takes so long!
7. It is astounding to me how many people struggle with anxiety. Why the stress? What can we do about it? Can we become free of this?
Yes we can!
Why the stress?
Stress comes from a lack of balance between the inside world and the outside world. If we had no inside world, there would be no stress. Our culture lives with the assumption that we have no inside world. If we live according to our culture’s rules without paying attention to our inside world, we experience a conflict between what our inside world wants and what the outside world wants from us, and we are torn in between.
What can we do about it?
We need to see that we have a choice.
We have to become mindful of our inside world and create a life of balance between the inside and outside worlds. We have to overcome the tendency to feel like a victim or powerless and know that we matter, that our inside world needs a voice and we are the ones to hear it and to give it the style of expression it needs because no one else can.
Stress becomes a notice that we have forgotten to pay attention to something our inside world wants us to know. Mindfulness becomes a way to connect with our self, a way to love our self, by accepting what we are here to accomplish every day, every moment. We enter our true journey.
Instead of being a slave to our cultural environment, we need to establish a relationship with our self and with life. When we do this, we tap into synchronicity, which is how life supports our journey.
8. What do you think is the most important thing for people to explore?
Self knowledge. There are 2 aspects to this: What your dreams are and what holds you back.
They go together. You can only know what holds you back if you try and do something out of your comfort zone. Your dreams are usually at least in part out of your comfort zone. That’s how you grow.
I meet people who say they don’t have any dreams. That’s not true. They do. But they learned not to pay attention to them. They may have been told their dreams are childish, or unrealistic, or that they won’t make any money at it. If people don’t follow their dreams, they get depressed. The quest is to try and remember our dreams, so we can overcome what holds us back, be happy and free.