Michelle Maldonado is the Founder of Lucenscia, a firm dedicated to human flourishing and mindful business transformation.
She is an internationally certified mindfulness and emotional intelligence teacher whose work focuses on leadership development nestled on a foundation of neuroscience and research.
Michelle has been recognized as one of the “12 Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement,” “Woman of The Year,” and a “Top Corporate Leader,” with her work featured in several prominent publications.
What is the teaching that is most important to you?
The teaching that is most important to me is self-love. I think the lack of it is at the root of many of the ills, wounds, and discontent of humanity. When we don’t love ourselves, how can we possibly fully and genuinely love others? How can we give what we don’t actually have? When we are in a healthy and right relationship with ourselves, we naturally have the capacity to build our muscle to honor, respect, and interact in the world with grace, compassion, and wise action.
What helps you practice self-compassion?
Believe it or not, when I see or experience something beautiful – like someone I love, an act of kindness or compassion, or something in nature – it triggers something inside me that inspires me to turn that external appreciation inward as a reminder of our connection and interdependence. I was told long ago that we cannot see in others what is not also within ourselves. So, if I see beauty, I must have beauty within (and the same is true with other things ranging from the pleasant to not-so-pleasant). Sending into that deeply fuels my self-compassion.
What are you most insecure about and what helped?
I feel most insecure about whether my son is safe in the world in this current, national climate. As a mother, I feel fearful and that fear makes me insecure about my ability to protect him and keep him safe. What helps me is that we have good communication in our family, so we talk about the tough stuff together, all the time. My husband and I teach him about how to carry himself in the world and how to embody compassion toward himself and others as he learns to navigate challenging and beautiful spaces, places, and people. I meditate to help calm my worries, helping me to gain clarity and trust that all we can do is the best we can in these moments.
Tell us about the last time you cried and how you soothed yourself.
The last time I cried was when George Floyd was murdered; the scene was played repeatedly on TV. It reminded me of Rodney King in 1991, except Mr. King survived. I soothed myself by allowing myself to cry. I did not try to stop myself and sobbed with my entire body until it ached. It felt like I was crying for centuries of injustice that had culminated in this moment … a moment we had all experienced so many times before. Crying and holding myself was my soothing. I told myself that it was OK to feel how I felt. It was OK for my emotions to run the spectrum – from rage, to sadness and grief, to hope and more. And, when I finished crying, I sat in stillness to just be as things settled. Finally, when I was ready, I asked myself what did I want to do about it? The “it” was my way of turning my soothing and self-compassion into wise action for change within our deeply wounded, but beautiful common humanity.
What have you let go of that made your life a little easier?
I let go of worrying about what other people think of me. It’s not that I don’t care or don’t want authentic connection and relationships. It’s deeper than that. It is more that I know who I am, and I know my worth. I love myself. That was not the case for a large part of my life. Like many, over the years, people had told me that I was not worthy and, also like many, I believed them. With time, self-care and learning to love myself, however, I not only became comfortable in my own skin, but I have embodied and embraced my own power and authenticity. This gift has made things not just a little easier, but profoundly easier in life.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Brownies with homemade whipped cream. Period. (OK, maybe also Double Stuff Oreos, too.)
Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as your dinner guest?
My husband, Roberto. He is my best friend and partner in the world. Whenever I have a free moment, I experience boundless joy, love, peace, and laughter when I am with him. It is magical, so much so I really don’t have the words.
What is a funny, embarrassing moment from your life?
Wow, there are so many – it’s hard to choose just one. Well, I do have a chuckle-worthy moment from college. I had just arrived in New York City as a freshman. Coming from a small New England town where literally everyone knew your name and every third person was related to you, I was excited to be in the big city growing into my confidence and independence. One of my first explorations was to check out the nightclub scene. I loved to dance (and still do!). So, a friend and I made our way down to what was then one of the hottest clubs in the city called, “The World.”
While we were there, it seemed that my friend kept getting asked to dance over and over and I was just, well … standing there. Then, all of a sudden, I made eye contact with a very handsome young man as he walked toward me and smiled. Inside, I was really excited, I figured, this is it! Finally, I am going to dance with someone. I even started to dance a little while standing in place as he approached, keeping my eyes locked on his. When he finally reached me, he leaned in and said, “You have toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe,” and then pulled away, looked at me to make sure I heard him, smiled and walked away. It was so funny that even I had to laugh!