Friends Friday: Megan Monahan (Author of Don't Hate, Meditate!)
It’s easy to “I’m fine” our way through life. Well, it’s easy to “I’m fine” our way through life for a limited amount of time. At some point the stress we keep ignoring catches up. No matter how well we convince ourselves that we really are truly, totally, absolutely “fine,” it eventually does come and punch us in the gut.
That punch can look like a lot of things to a lot of people, but we all know the feeling. The ‘shit…I’ve been pushing myself too hard’ feeling. The ‘I can’t live like this anymore’ feeling. I’ve been there! Life is busy and demanding. You get to a point where you want the world to pause so you can stand still and get ahead of everything for once. Well, the world won’t pause, but there are ways that you can. If you follow along on my wild social media adventures - in between videos of my kids dancing to Drake and me showing you my favorite products - you know I’ve started to pause a little more through meditation. 🙏
On the first page of Megan Monahan’s book, she talks about how she too tried to ignore that she needed a break. “My health was buckling beneath me as I tried to “I’m fine” my way through my dysfunctional life and unacknowledged feelings,” she writes. “As a result, I experienced a host of physical symptoms, including stress-induced gallstones that necessitated removal of my gall-bladder, as well as a year of chronic hives.”
Eek. Seems bleak, but when her next sentence made me laugh, I knew this girl had a sense of humor and a life outlook I could totally relate to:
“As a general rule, when you start to lose nonvital organs, it’s a sign that something’s not right. Write that down. I did what any twenty-four-year-old at the time would do. I went to therapy and read Eat, Pray, Love.“
Megan went on to become a meditation teacher, coach, and, most recently, author of Don’t Hate, Meditate! She writes from the perspective of someone who once didn’t even know how to google meditation, let alone sit down and find a way for it to help her. She loved her first meditation class, but mostly because the teacher was hot. Um…dead. 😂 She felt, as many of you probably feel, like meditation was a magical mystery for hippies. Upon opening herself up to it, it completely changed her life.
Her book not only helps people of all levels get something out of meditation, but it breaks down myths, offers quizzes to help you better understand what you need, guides you through the process and makes you lol along the way. She’s real y’all, and you’ll probably want to hang out with her if you read it. I unfortunately can’t hook that up for you, but I did ask Megan to answer your questions about meditation. Thank you to everyone who sent one on Instagram! 👇
Megan answers your questions:
What's your fav meditation tip? (A general takeaway for meditators of all levels!) - @taylorchantal
The benefit of you taking time to meditate shows up outside of your meditation. So, just sit down and do it! Regardless of your experience in meditation, you'll start to see the benefits show up in your life as long as you're doing it!
How does one get past the original awkwardness to truly gain reward from meditation? - @kathp227
One of my favorite quotes is this- "if you can't sit with yourself for 20 minutes, what makes you think anyone else can?" lol. I whole heartedly recommend approaching meditation and that time that you spend with your thoughts, with your mind/body/soul, with acceptance and non-judgement. Meditation is the time when you get to simply notice what you notice. Not the time that you have to sit down and "fix" or "strategize" a game plan to change what you don't like.
Is there a better time to meditate and how long is best? - @shelbdoob
Any meditation at any length is better than none! Kind of like working out. Something is better than nothing. I meditate for 20 minutes twice a day- if that's an overwhelming thought for you, start with 10 minutes once a day and keep working your way up. As you build confidence and start to see the benefits in your life, meditation will be something you likely crave.
Where to begin? I can not be still or be in silence for 5 mins! My brain goes crazy. - @thereal_beckyg & Is it best to try and quiet the mind or focus on positive thoughts? - @rubysusieq
If I told you that meditation isn't about "stopping your thoughts" would you still struggle? It's totally natural to feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, especially in the beginning. It's estimated we have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day- that's a lot of fucking thoughts. And it takes practice being comfortable witnessing them rather than responding to every single one. Practice focusing your attention on your breath for 5 minutes. As you inhale, silently repeat "I AM” and as you exhale, silently repeat "HERE NOW.” Set an alarm and for those 5 minutes, if your attention drifts to one of your other thoughts, gently let it go and come back to your breath and the silent repetition of "I AM- HERE NOW.” Practice building that muscle of awareness to be able to bring your mind back to where you are in this moment, with your breath.
How can I use meditation to not binge on junk food when stressed? - @rosemarie.hunter
One of the most beautiful benefits of meditation is that it gives you more time between the stimulus in your life and your response to it. At a certain point, you'll be able to notice your thought/your physical craving for junk food and be able to more consciously decide (in the space between the thought and you reaching for the cupcake -insert your junk food of choice here) if that's really the actioon you want to take. Meditation is also the antidote to stress, so in time you will physiologically begin to transform parts of your brain (thanks, science) that activate your stress response. And as you slow down your body's reaction time you won't as frequently or as inapproiately activate that stress response. Over time you'll both mentally and physically slow down the speed at which you jump into the stress pool and probanly won't grab the cupcake along the way.
I absolutely cannot shut my brain off. Thoughts creep in. How do I get started?! - @ally_boyle
What is your favorite mantra? - @shayla__jean
As long as you have a pulse, you're going to have thoughts. Just because you sit down to meditate doesn't mean your mind is going to lovingly take a break from the whole "being alive and mentally active" thing. That's great news! It means you're still alive. Be ok with the thoughts. But also, practice being the witness of the thoughts. We are used to believing every thought we have and replying to every thought we have.
Reminder - you are not your thoughts! (Best news ever). You are the thinker of the thoughts - the awareness of the thought. In meditation, we get to rest in that witnessing awareness where we notice. I like to meditate with a mantra, which is a sanskeit word for "mind vehicle.” Try starting with the mantra "So Hum,” which represents the essence "I am". The beauty with meditating with this mantra is two fold. First, you're giving your mind what it wants, which is a "thought" - So Hum. But because that "thought" isn't in your native tongue, it doesn't as easily drag you into that never-ending stream of consciousness. So Hum doesn't mean anything to your mind so it gives you this neutrality to rest in.
This mantra is also great because it can be linked with your breath, which gives you an additional anchor for your attention. To practice that, with each inhale silently repeat SO and with each exhale HUM. Know that your mind will drift to the other thoughts, to a sound, to physical sensations in your body - when you notice you've drifted from the mantra, gently come back to it. Every time you drift and come back imagine you're doing a mini mental rep in your mind- building that witnessing awareness. Your thoughts are the birthplace of all creation in your life - becoming aware of your thoughts before you automatically co-sign them and invite them to architect your reality is where some of your greatest power lies. But in order to do that, you have to cultivate that awareness.
How do you not make your grocery list? Asking for a friend :) - @macciantimakeup
If I told you right before you meditated not to make a grocery list in meditation, the first thing you would think of is that damn list. The hack is to allow yourself to notice when you drift to the list and with complete non-judgement notice you've gone there. Then gently let the list go and come back to whatever that meditation has you focusing on (your breath, mantra etc). Think of that grocery list like a text that's coming in that you're acknowledging but choosing not to reply to right away.
Is it possible to meditate while being physically active? - @makhalyna
There are lots of different ways to meditate. It is absolutely possible to mindfully and with present moment awareness go for a walk/run, cook, etc. However, because you're moving there's still quite a lot of activity physically/mentally. If you have a practice like that, definitely continue doing it. But if you've never tried silent/sitting meditation I would urge you to because there are physiological benefits and experiences that are available to you in that stillness.
Here’s one of Megan’s guided meditation videos if you want to see how it feels! Let me know if you have any more questions and I’m sure she’d be happy to answer them - or I can try to help since I’d consider myself a regular meditator now!! It’s incredible how fulfilling it can be to take the time to connect with yourself. You are not your thoughts, you are worthy of a break, and you are powerful. Meditating helped me realize that and if it’s something you’re interested in, I hope you give it a try!
Click here to pre-order Megan’s book! It’s a great place to start OR a great companion for meditation if you’re already into it. 😍
Love you all! 💕