We had the opportunity to spend a week with Dr. Victor Pineda while he was speaking at The Science of Nun-Duality Conference at the University of Hawaii last year.
Victor has traveled the world, from Burning Man to the Ganges in India—all from a wheelchair, with limited mobility and 11% lung capacity. Our goal was to better understand how he experiences the world from his unique body. We asked him what it means to be embodied.
This man has a contagiously optimistic and forward thinking approach to living.
A bit more about Victor: Dr. Victor Pineda is a documentary filmmaker, social development scholar, and disability rights advocate.
As a child, Pineda was diagnosed with Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA-Type II), a form of muscular dystrophy. However, as an adult, he was examined by a neurophysiologist who, with the use of electromyography, determined that there was no evidence to suggest Spinal muscular atrophy. The specific cause of Pineda's muscle weakness currently remains undefined.
Here's a 1-minute video, where Victor describes his understanding of embodiment —>
Why are you in Hawaii?
Victor: I’m in Hawaii to exchange ideas with a group of philosophers and to explore the concept of disability through both Eastern and Western philosophy. I’m also here to create some scenes, to shoot some material for my documentary film “12 Bends”. And I’m here to have a great time with a few of my friends.
What does embodiment mean to you?
Victor: Embodiment means embracing your physical form in its beauty and complexity, all of its perfections and imperfections. Embodiment means unlocking the strength of your spirit by cherishing, nourishing, and maintaining the vessel that carries it.
Would you say that you live an embodied lifestyle?
Victor: I would say that my body is an incredibly important vessel and if I don’t take care of it, doesn't take care of me. So, I have a routine that I stretch, that I meditate, that I feel my body: where I give my body an ability to experience freedom, I give my body an experience of joy, of pleasure, of relaxation. SO understanding that your body is also a friend is important, because too often I feel that your mind becomes the way that you express who you are and a lot of times we forgot that the body is part of that story so I guess I do live an embodied lifestyle because I actively try to balance those two.
What life experiences help you feel alive and in touch with your body?
Victor: I absolutely love to travel with my friends. I love going to exotic places, exploring. I love feeling the different temperatures, smelling the different scents. Tasting the different foods. I love activating my senses in different places and I love to challenge myself because within each place, especially when you travel, you confront barriers, obstacles you confront different kinds of puzzles. And so I find it quite thrilling to work through those puzzles and to bring together various bodies to solve those puzzles together. So I love travel, and I’m so grateful to have Carolina and Ariel with me on this adventure in Hawaii.
Victor at Burning Man 2016
What obstacles do you face living in your body? How do you move through these obstacles?
Victor: Sure well, I have to consider the reality, which is that I only use 11% of my lung capacity—the reality that I barely have enough strength to lift my arm to my chin but not to scratch my nose or wipe a tear from my eye. I have to consider that I depend on other people to help me get dressed, prepare food or simply help me get out of bed in the morning or hand me a glass of water. So there are a variety of ways in which I have to renegotiate my body vis-à-vis a particular place. And so I do realize that this negotiation is something that I have to get really good at.
I have to realize that I myself have limitations and others around me have limitations but yet not be defined by those limitations.
And so when we think about expressing ourselves fully, one way to transcend our limitations is by actually embracing them. And I’m working on a feature film that explores this topic more in depth as well. So im here in Hawaii, partly to explore that particular question: how do we transcend our limitations? How do we go beyond our daily lives and find more meaning...and Hawaii is, you know, this magical place that has already inspired me and allowed me to explore both my mind my spirit and my body and understand and appreciate them in a new light.
What are some feelings that you have about your place in this world?
Victor: Well, I’m very excited to tell my story. I’m excited about the ability to connect deeply with people. I’m excited about the ability to touch people and also to receive blessings and give blessings. So I’m excited about interdependence. I’m excited about supporting each other. I’m excited about discovering things that are unique about each one of us. And letting them come out to the surface—in a sense I want us each to overflow with joy and with love. And by doing that I think we can make the world a better place.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself that the audience might want to know?
Victor: I think that each one of us has a unique journey and a unique story and that when we embrace who we really are, we can really allow the deepest part of ourselves to create a ripple and to create a change and to impact people in a positive way. And so whether it's through the public speaking or the filmmaking or the teaching that I do, I’m always trying to leave the world a little bit better than the way that I found it.
Where can people learn more about your projects?
Victor: I want to invite you to learn more about our world at worldenabled.org. also @worldenabled on Twitter and so on and so forth on social media. But also just realize that people with disabilities are in every community, SO you can reach out to a local independent living center. You can look at adaptive sports programs. You can volunteer to work in different arts programs for people with disabilities and really encourage everybody to connect with each other on a human level. And whether or not we have disabilities, we each have talents and hopes and dreams and fears and that’s really the ultimate story, which is the human story—and it’s a story of understanding the human condition and also transcending it.
Victor is currently working on a compelling documentary film about life from his perspective: Click, HERE to support his fundraiser:
"Using a variety of innovative filmmaking techniques, and fueled by a willingness to expose my own unique fragility, 12 Bends takes you inside the mind and body of the sort of man from whom traditional media would often prefer to look away."