Sitting on a bench outside Sattva Retreat Center’s kitchen in Rishikesh, India, Megan seemed so at ease perched there that I thought perhaps she had been living at the retreat. She sipped on a warm ginger, lemon, honey drink (a staple beverage of Sattva and many health-oriented retreats in India). I came to uncover that Megan had been there for one week, but had been traveling through India before and had designed her lifestyle after college to be one of the traveler having spent time working in Italy and traveling across Europe. These experiences added to her likely already friendly and familiar demeanor opened Megan up to take in others in a way that, to someone first meeting her, would make you believe that she herself was a mainstay, wherever she happened to plant herself.
It was this, her free spirit and her depth at the age of 24 that allowed me to connect and love this sweet young woman who had experienced her own 180 and was about to step into another.
What's been the most impactful 180 degree change you've made in your journey so far?
I had just graduated from college with a liberal arts degree and instead of fielding the ubiquitous “Oh, cool, so what are you going to do with that?” I signed up for a boring job with a big title. Quickly, I was wearing suits, drinking Starbucks coffee by the liter and eating a lot of take out. I had a boyfriend who was also opting for the beaten path and instead of asking ourselves life’s more challenging questions, we were watching the Food Network. I kept hearing a voice whisper “more” and I tried my best to ignore it. Eventually, it became deafening, so I hit “undo” on almost everything to sign up for a yoga teacher training and sit at the front desk of The Hub in West LA (which remains, to this day, the greatest job I’ve ever had). The challenging part was the build up.
I think 180s are often times reduced to seemingly logistical narratives: “I was doing this thing that was - in one way or another - not fulfilling me and then, all of a sudden, I decided not to do that thing anymore and do this thing instead.” And maybe for some people, it goes down just like that. Not so much for me. There was doubt and fear and the unknown…. beckoning. I had to fight for this “alternative lifestyle” both with myself and with the people who loved me.
Family and friends want the best for you but they can’t always see your vision for the blank canvas.
So in choosing to leave the job and the boyfriend and the beaten path, I didn’t just get a new set of life circumstances – I got a whole new way of living. Every day since then has been about being my own Sherpa in a big world with endless opportunities.
You've 180'd geography, jobs, ways of thinking and being: is there a quote or a mantra that has helped you make transitions in your life easier?
Yes! Big fan of the quotes and the mantras. My college roommate had this collection of quotes printed in fun fonts on designer paper and she ripped out one for me from Joseph Campbell that said “Follow your bliss.” I kept that piece of paper for years and it travelled all over the world with me. Every time I would move, whether it was to my structurally unsound hale in Hawaii or my exceedingly damp basement apartment in Trastevere, this quote quietly saluted me every time I left my bedroom. I think “Follow your bliss” can sound sort of flippant like, “if it’s not aces today then bail.” But I never saw it that way. It was a reminder that bliss is what got me wherever I was so when things were hard, as they often have been over these past years, it helped me remain steadfast. Also, these words are taken from the larger quote which is truly the greatest advice I’ve chosen to accept thus far:
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.” -Joseph Campbell
Tell us about how traveling has helped you tap inside yourself?
Traveling means a lot of “me” time. I travel solo so most of the time it’s just me, my backpack and Tripadvisor against the world. And in spite of what Instagram (my profile included) may portray, traveling is not always sunset mai tais and selfies on the Champs Elysees. A lot of times traveling alone is lonely and challenging. There are major setbacks. The hostel I booked isn’t at all where I thought it would be and I’d rather eat a bug than turn on data roaming. I’m sick and I don’t speak Italian so I’m going to start playing Charades: Grey’s Anatomy edition. Traveling by myself has, beyond all else, taught me that I am a badass. I know with all of my heart that when the chips are down and I am the only person looking out for me, I can help myself. That is an incredibly empowering feeling for any human, especially a young woman.
You're recently stayed at an ashram to work for 10 days. What sparked this spontaneous adventure? What was it like? What were your successes and challenges? What did you learn?
My favorite thing about India is how thin the veil between material and immaterial worlds really is. With that in mind, I was keeping myself very open to receive hints – however subtle – from Spirit. So when I met Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (mercifully, Sadhvi for short) one night after a beautiful aarti ceremony at Parmath Niketan and she said “I think you should come stay here and work with me,” the only response I could muster was “YES!” Admittedly, I was already like one of those old men scouring crowded beaches with metal detectors waiting to strike gold. This moment was gold. As you know, I am pretty hell bent on doing my best to follow my bliss, jumping right in. So I didn’t ask any questions. I just showed up and said “How can I be of service?” It was challenging in all the ways I expected and in a bunch of ways I didn’t expect. Expected: Girl from Orange County embraces Indian ashram’s food, hours and standards of cleanliness. Unexpected: Girl from Orange County learns (yet again) all that glitters may not be gold, but even fools’ gold can be an opportunity to go deeper in yourself. Honestly, I was frustrated for most of my time in the ashram. Frustrated that things/people weren’t as organized or as saturated in the bhav as I’d imagined they would be. But that was my lesson, my karma, my opportunity to see Spirit where she doesn’t so blatantly exist. I wouldn’t trade those ten days for anything.
What do love right now?
Right now, I am having a passionate love affair with morning pages. They are my quiet sacred space. It is amazing what flows out into those blank pages. I cannot tell you how many times I have surprised myself in there. I wake up around 7 and it’s still pretty quiet in my house. I make myself a cup of tea (also loving Tevana’s White Ayurvedic Chai), open my journal, write the date, and forget that I am in a human suit. Pen hits paper and I am in an alternate reality. Sometimes I give myself advice. Sometimes something far greater than me gives me advice. Sometimes I ask questions. Sometimes I make grocery lists. But I always, always, always come out feeling like I just had an awesome chat with my best friend.
f you could go back and give your former self one piece of advice, how old would you be and what words of wisdom would you give?
When Liz Gilbert was asked a question similar to this one, she said something along the lines of “That punk? She wouldn’t listen to anything anyone had to say anyway…” and that was very much me, too. I needed to live every moment of my life.
That said, I would beam my older and hopefully wiser self to the Gypsy Den in Costa Mesa where sixteen year old me would often eat mac and cheese during her lunch breaks and I would say this:
“You do not need a reason to be in pain. Your heart is broken and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to fall. You are sad. So be sad. You are confused. So be confused. There is no shortcut, there is no way out but through. This is your path, to know suffering, and to become so very intimate with it that you can always go back to visit because some day, my darling girl, you will stand before others who are sad and confused and suffering you will say with tears in your eyes and an open heart ‘I understand.’ You will understand. You will categorically know suffering. It doesn’t matter how or why, what color or shape it comes in, you will know hopelessness and you will know darkness. With that knowing, you will then create a safe space for those people to be with their suffering, to become intimate with it. So be here now, as much as it hurts, and fall to the depths of your self and slowly, surely, build yourself back up with as much love and grace as you can muster in every moment.”