Megan Monahan’s story is one of self-propelled purpose. She wasn’t raised with any lavender-scented sense of wellbeing, nor was meditation any part of her childhood. While her time at her church provided an element of spirituality, her connection to herself, was, well, disconnected. A stressful job at a big talent agency in the international music department? Check. A sick parent? Count that in, too.
Add it all together and it’s no wonder Monahan sought out something to calm her frayed nerves. After googling (natch) the subject, she found Deepak Chopra’s center, dove into workshops there, and quickly had a hard time taking her job seriously. She quit, shifted her focus from music to meditation and studied at The Chopra Center, where she became a certified instructor.
Now she not only leads the meditation program at Wanderlust in Hollywood, but she also helps clients at her eponymous company find their own inner connection through primordial sound mediation and lifestyle coaching. Want to know more? Read on.
A Time to Quit:
For Monahan, moving on from her hectic job was a matter of health: “I was having a lot of physical symptoms,” she says. “My therapist told me I needed a way to deal with the stress, but I didn’t want to take Xanax. I wanted to figure what was going on.”
When she found Deepak Chopra’s center in San Diego, she traveled downstate to see “what they were drinking,” she says, with a laugh. “I got a consultation, and then a few months later I went for a retreat on emotional integration. Within a year I had quit my job.”
A Time to Remember:
While Monahan had never meditated or been part of the wellness world before, when she started, she experienced something many new devotees discuss. “It was the feeling of remembering stuff you hadn’t remembered in this life,” she explains. “As soon as I learned about meditation and Ayurveda, it was something I could all of a sudden talk about. I surrendered to that. I don’t know if it was something I could pinpoint then, but it’s a remembrance of who you are. It’s a certain degree of stillness, serenity and connection to who you are beyond the role you play and the thoughts you have in your mind. When all of that is stripped away, there’s nothing that is threatening that—no fear or restriction. It’s a safe space within yourself that you end up floating in during your meditation. That instantly felt familiar.”
A Time That Many Fear:
Want to try meditation, but feeling nervous? You’re not alone, and for Monahan, the fear is born of a misconception. While many incorrectly think meditation is about “stopping your thoughts or silencing your mind, it’s not!” she says, with a huge laugh. “As long as you’re active, you’ll have thoughts. We spend so much time in our mind. It’s a busy place. So the idea of trying to stop it, it’s ridiculous and untrue. I think the fear is around a hesitation. People aren’t sure what mediation might reveal or how it might shift how you’re currently thinking.”
Monahan continues to explain that at the base of it, replacing the “autopilot space” we’re accustomed to with an awareness of self and thoughts calls for responsibility over the state of your body and mind. “As soon as you wake up to that, you can’t BS your way through life,” she adds. “Not everyone wants to do that.”
A Time for Discovery:
In Monahan’s case, this new awareness provoked a confrontation with her own bouts of codependency. She found that her sense of wellbeing often relied too heavily on others’ feelings. Anger and resentment also bubbled within her, requiring release. “Meditation reveals how you’re conditioned,” she explains. “By the time you’re seven or eight, your set point is initiated, and you’ve been given that prescription for the glasses you see everything through. Everything else just reinforces that. A lot of my conditioning was cynical, and that perpetuated a really specific reality that wasn’t ultimately what I want. So every time you meditate, it’s like you’re washing away that conditioned behavior. It worked for me.”
A Time to Start:
Whether you’re a complete newbie or someone who has dipped a toe in the vast ocean of options, to try meditation, Monahan’s first choice is a class when available. Like a personal trainer, having someone who can guide you is always better than running around doing figurative meditation burpees on your own. Letting someone hold space for you and walk you through the activity can help you relax into the new process. Finding a teacher and connecting with the community in your area are also helpful options.
If that’s not possible, Monahan suggests Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation challenge, an online choice that offers e-mails with meditation guides. Apps like Calm and Headspace also provide easy-to-access resources!
A Time to Be Comfortable:
Once you’ve chosen your space to breathe, remember a few key things. First, says Monahan: Dress comfortably. Don’t spend your time worrying about what you look like or if your skinny jeans are just a tad too, erm, skinny. “Everyone’s eyes are closed, so be comfortable,” she says.
Next, and most importantly, “Let go of the idea that something needs to happen,” says Monahan. “There is no way to ‘do meditation incorrectly.’ It’s not a destination or a linear journey that’s trackable. Sit down and have your experience. You’re going to have meditations where your mind feels turbulent. Most classes will have a focus point, whether a mantra or your breath. Your only job is to practice building your awareness.”
A Time to Choose Between Options:
Now that meditation has come more into mainstream consciousness, the options are multiplying.
Monahan teaches mantra meditation, as her lineage supports. She also offers primordial sound meditation: “Deepak unearthed this when he severed ties with the transcendental meditation movement,” she says. “It’s similar as it’s based on mantras based on birth info. The mantra you are given represents the sound the earth was eminating when you were born. That’s a link to the deepest level of yourself. You were a soul with infinite potential. Transcendental meditation is similar. It’s a mantra you receive that has to do with how old you are when you receive your mantra.”
Also popular is mindfulness meditation which focuses on breath and the stimuli around you, too. “I actually have a hard time with mindfulness meditation!” adds Monahan. “Essentially, you’re practicing sitting in a space, witnessing awareness. It shows you, you are not the thoughts. You are the thinker of the thoughts. So you focus and are aware of everything around you—the sounds, the smells, everything—as you notice your mind drift. So it’s about being aware without engaging with whatever it is. The more you can live in that space, witnessing awareness, the less attached to outcome you are, and the more patient and less judgmental you are. That space between the stimulus and response allows you to choose when you want to engage and how you want to engage.”
A Time to Choose…Today:
Since the meditation boom just a few years ago, it’s been fascinating to watch the arena grow and swerve more into mainstream culture. Monahan thinks this blossoming is based on people looking for more choice in their lives. “Meditation is about being able to choose: acknowledge how you’re feeling, but then take a step back and offer to the world the thing that will elevate it the most,” she says. “It’s easy to get caught up in collective energy, especially fear and energy of future place that hasn’t happened yet. Meditation helps you stay present so we can handle what’s actually happening. If you’re reading this, you’ve made it through every moment. We can choose how we want to see the moment and what we want to offer. It doesn’t mean that’s necessarily what you wanted, but you can empower the self you are paying attention to and the words you are speaking.”
A Time to Add Tools:
On top of going to a class or using an online app, Monahan loves replaying her day in her head at night—without judgment or involvement. Simply watch the day go by, and use the time as a tool to witness awareness.
She also suggests free-style journaling. Set an alarm for five minutes and write whatever comes to you without lifting the pen off your page. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just let your emotions flow freely for a mindful, grounding session.
Finally, find exercise that feels meditative. For Monahan, that’s spinning. “When I’m spinning, riding to beat of music and focusing on which foot is going where and when, I can’t really think about much else,” she says. “That’s very meditative.”
A Time to Clear Space:
Perhaps you’ve considered meditation, but also wondered how it will serve you practically. Perhaps it’s creating a less stressful internal life. But Monahan also says, “Meditation has this way of clearing out the things that aren’t serving you, helping you create space for what you want. For example, at the start of my time with one client, she was at a job she hated, single but wanting a healthy relationship. Within a few months she had a new job and new life balance, plus she met the man of her dreams. She credits meditation. It was the common denominator.”
“And in my case, I used to be fairly reactive,” she continues. “But later, one time I was going to see a client at a hotel, and I gave my card to the valet. He drove my car through a wall, like a movie moment. When he showed me my car sticking out of the wall, my blood pressure never rose. I was in my body, but also witnessing. Throughout that entire exchange I didn’t raise my voice. I could have freaked out or engaged, but I didn’t. As a result, my experience of that moment was completely different.”
A Time to Look at Your Med-Expectations:
Many new meditators wonder, “When will this ‘work?’” That question, says Monahan, can influence your practice—and not yield better results in the meantime. “It’s important to have a conversation with yourself about expectations,” she says. “It’s not about putting a timeline on it. If you want to feel less stressed, yes, you’ll see those results quickly. And if you want to connect with your worth and self, you’ll feel that too, and you’ll get the benefits regardless of why you came. But, you need to set an intention with meditation, because in and of itself, it can seem inactive. To go to a class for 45 minutes can seem like a waste of time. But the benefits will absolutely show up in your life—perhaps just not at the exact moment you thought. Instead, you’ll slowly feel the way you process the reality happening around you shifting.”
“Then, take note of those moments and when your meditation shows up—and when it is absent,” she adds. “The client I mentioned earlier stopped meditating because everything had gotten better. She called me six months later and things had shifted again because she had halted her practice. Yes, you can run on fumes for a while, but you are working a muscle. Give your meditation practice credit and effort.”
Megan’s SBS Mantra: Be Mindful. I don't think you can be anything if you’re not connected to who you are. The root of everything resides in the deepest level of "you." The more you can connect with that, the easier it is to be everything else.
Megan’s LA Favorites:
Healthy Restaurants: Crossroads Kitchen or Cafe Gratitude
Splurge Meal: Gluten-free, vegan nachos from Real Food Daily
Meditation Book: Secrets of Meditation by Davidji
Meditation Resources: The Chopra Center
Wellness Book: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
Calming Activity: Spinning at Cycle House