I had the privilege of spending a few choice moments with Jemma Rivera yesterday afternoon towards the end of The BaliSpirit Festival. I was first captivated by her flawless and organic beauty, and even more overtaken by what radiates from within this goddess on earth.
A: Is this your first BaliSpirit Festival?
J: It is my second, I was here last year as a guest. It’s my first year presenting, and it’s so inspiring.
A: What has been your experience of the festival?
J: It sublime, heart opening, grounding, enriching. I think of what the Dalai Lama has said, love and compassion are a necessity, not a luxury, and without them, humanity can’t survive. We have all come from all over the planet, to this one place to share in the magic of Bali, to step out of our ego and to open our heart. We are here to further develop ourselves as agents of change, and to fill our well, our heart with these like-minded people so we may go out and share it with the rest of the world.
A: What sparked the shift from performing to the more spiritual side of your journey?
J: Whilst I was at the height of my dance career, at the age of 22, I was diagnosed with a liver condition and began exploring the healing arts. And following that I was cast in a TV series in Australia as a character that needed to know how to do martial arts, I ended up training in a Kung Fu school, where I came across Qi Gong. It was this gorgeous balance of the yang of martial arts with a yin aspect. I was hooked, it spoke to me in every cell in my body. I found the profound effects of Qi Gong and meditation unbelievable, they helped me maintain my energy while performing eight shows a week with just one day off. I was putting so much attention on the healing arts, and where you put your attention, energy flows, so I was coming to all of these opportunities to further my studying and really seeing that I loved working in this way. The universe supports us.
And now, you know, I don’t see them as different. Performing is a form of healing, it’s shamanic and story telling.
A: Who are your teachers?
J: There are quite a lot. I honor each of the traditions I have studied; mindful meditation, Tai Chi, Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, because the source is the same. I am currently furthering my studies in Tantra with Uma Inder, which offers another way of looking at things as well. All sister philosophies work with this Hatha energy, and I have always wanted to delve deeper into the sacred teachings of India, because I am part Indian, and that is a part of me, of my culture, my heritage, my ancestry. I feel that there is an essence in all of these teachings that is the same, and it is the vibration of this essence that I hold deeply in my heart. I love Twee Merrigan, she has such integrity. You know, I feel that everyone is my teacher. I don’t really want to put anyone up on a pedestal, I’m very mindful of that as well.
A: Life missions through community activism is a strong theme this year at BaliSpirit. I’ve read that you are on a quest to guide people to discover their own true nature and to reach their full potential in love, inspiration, authenticity and freedom. How do you access this in yourself and your students?
J: Let me start with my own experience, because I feel that I can only share from my own story. My desire has always been to find my true self. I began, I was born in the Philippines and moved to the west, and there was immediately a culture disconnect, a part of me I felt didn’t fit or was missing. What started out as a quest for a reemergence with my cultural identity flowed into a need to look deeper inside, rather than comparing myself with others in the outside, I was looking inward and finding what my gifts were, my individuality. I want to impart in others this sense of being able to accept who they are, what they look like, loving the bodies we have chosen to be in, finding how it serves us, and how we can serve it to the best of our ability. I am really about empowering people to just love, and be in that space of who they are and what they’ve got. With that groundwork we can go deeper, what are our individual gifts and talents. And from there, you can feel the essence and quality of who you are, in all you do. We have that, a vibration specific to us, and when we are living in this way, it is pure and potent.
A: Beyond the yoga and movement of the individual, it seems we are returning into a place of community as a refuge. The sangha is the new Buddha, as the Dalai Lama says. Can you comment on that and how a gathering like BaliSpirit fits into this need for connecting?
J: What comes to mind immediately is a Japanese proverb, and it says that all of life is connected by a red thread, a flexible thread that is unreadable. And now, you and I have woven together a part of that thread, and we will go off and meet others and connect with them, and weave together one brilliant web of the world, of humanity. We are all linked, interconnected in the web of life.
After the interview Jemma had a moment to reflect, she came to me and thanked me for the question of who her teachers have been over the years. She said she thought it would be a most perfect practice to sit down and write them all out, and what they have taught her, and thank them.
This is the essence of Jemma Rivera.
Pure. Beauty. Love.