Meet our new Youth Program Director: Megan.
I am the world’s biggest dreamer. In high school, I was never listening to the teacher because I was consistently in my own world, living within my own head. Instead of focusing on the Constitution or the anatomy of a cell or how exactly supply and demand worked within the American economy, I was fantasizing about creating my own document of rules in my own kingdom, figuring out how to survive within the tiny world of a cell, or contemplating what people would be wanting to buy and sell within that same kingdom inside my head. And, most times, these fantasies ended far away from anything educational and far closer to adventuring, with me traveling beneath an ocean and searching for sunken shipwrecks, or trying to survive in a jungle (much like Tarzan).
It was very easy for me to become, in a sense, addicted to these fantasies. Conscious dreaming became a need. If I wasn’t imagining something beyond my own reality, then I was wasting my time. I longed for the in-between moments of sleeping and waking, where imagination melded with experience and emotion. I knew it was my body’s way of communicating with me, and my body had fascinating things to say—and said them in strange and beautiful ways. I had no more desire to live within a real reality—all I wanted was the freedom of my imagination. I wanted to be able to contemplate the muted colors of sunset mixed with the watery colors of a painting, and how those colors could be the background to my world. I wanted to be able to build incredible architecture that defied gravity and shook the bands of physics—without ever needing to worry about the logistics. I wanted to live in a place I could continue to discover, create, and explore every single moment, never having to worry about the boring sameness of real life.
And don’t get me wrong—my childhood wasn’t bad, not at all. I had incredible parents I could look up to. I had great friends who took care of me and loved me and put up with my blank looks and far-away gazes. I had two sisters who understood me in their own ways and loved me for it, even if their imaginations weren’t quite as aggressive. I led a good life. And what was happening to me might sound beautiful and creative, but not bringing myself back to the present and what was before me was hindering my mind, hindering my progress in life. It wasn’t until yoga gently nudged its way into it that I realized the full danger of what I had become.
My first experience with yoga was in high school. I had just begun to dance, and was greatly enjoying the benefits of being able to imagine myself moving, twisting, and turning every time I heard music playing (to add to the list of things I was excited about fantasizing). I was learning that my body was flexible, and I was learning that I could increase that flexibility. I should also mention that my wonderful, hard-working, military father is a bit of a fitness junkie, but in a balanced, he-eats-healthy-and-runs-seven-miles-a-day-while-still-finding-time-to-do-everything-else kind of way. When I started dancing, he started yoga. And then he introduced me to it.
My life didn’t change, not automatically. But the day he got me to do yoga with him stirred something within me. It wasn’t a huge thing. It was a simple, “this exercise fits me” kind of feeling. I was intrigued. I started doing yoga with him on and off, every week or so. When I became an officer on the dance team in high school, I made sure that I could teach “Yoga Fridays” as part of our early morning stretch sessions. The poses were intriguing and different—they were all about stretching as well as strengthening, something my high school mind could feel blown by. My yoga experience in high school can accurately be described as a light-hearted, fun one.
In college, things changed. Luckily for me, I was intelligent enough in high school that I could get away completely with not paying attention in class and still get As; I could daydream as much as I wanted and still do well in everything. But it was a rude awakening for me that in college, I actually had to study. This strange, alien way of doing things caused a lot of distress, a lot of failure, and a lot of rethinking how to live. An eating disorder that I struggled with my entire life, and that I kept myself from thinking about through my fantasies, suddenly appeared right in front of me, a stark creature that I could no longer ignore. Trying to pay attention in class when, for the rest of my life, I was in the habit of not doing so, was extremely difficult (especially in the general classes that everyone is required to take). I was, simply put, a mess. A big mess. And, through the stress and the changes, I forgot about yoga. My entire freshman year was one big mistake after another, until I could ignore myself no longer. I looked in the mirror the summer after my first year of college and realized something—I needed balance. I needed something to change. I needed to embed myself in the reality I had allowed myself to dismiss for too long.
And so, sophomore year, I found my way back to yoga. And, most importantly, I found my way to meditation. I learned that closing my eyes and focusing on my breath caused my brain to do something it had never wanted to before—focus on what was happening at that moment. And nothing else. No far away trips to Europe. No discussions with myself on the anatomy of a character I was creating and forming in my head. No flights over the earth as a bird-like creature, seeing everything from a perspective few, if any, people really take the time to truly see. Just the breath. Just the space I was creating for myself in the present. I had finally found my way of connecting myself again to the person I was at that moment, to the people in my life, and to my own reality.
Yes, it took a lot of time. Yes, I still have days where all I want is to be in my own head. Yes, I’m still struggling with so many things. But meditation helped me to realize that the most important thing we do in life is breathe, and focus on that breath. That if we simply live and be present, things will start clicking into place. I still love my imagination, and I still love creating things within my mind, but meditation gave me a conduit of productivity; if I focus on the present for an hour a day, I can more consciously channel my overactive imagination into my writing, and maybe my mind won’t be so stuck on things that are not within my reality. I’ve also realized that when I pay more attention to the people in my life, reality is far more fulfilling than I’d imagined it to be.