The Single Diaries brunches with yoga teacher Megan D’Amico.
Megan D’Amico graduated magna cum laude from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Communication Studies. We met by chance when she was assigned to be the fourth roommate in our dorm suite, proof that everything happens for a reason. She later became my big sis in our sorority, influenced my decision to stay in L.A. after college, and continues to inspire me in so many ways. This past summer, I had the privilege of witnessing the start of a new chapter in her life: Megan’s graduation day to become a certified Kundalini yoga instructor—an unexpectedly emotional day for me.
In an experience as spiritual as yoga, your teacher’s energy guides the class more than anything else. Her classes are always a perfect start to the week: stimulating, motivating, and thoughtful. Megan shares her journey, her philosophy, and the lessons she learned to get to where she is.
C: Tell me about the first yoga class that turned you on to the practice.
I can tell you that when I walked into that 7pm corporate gym yoga class on a Monday night, I had no idea that my life would never be the same when I walked out. I felt like I was being let in on all of life’s biggest and best secrets. This was the way to carry yourself through your life, and here was how. I couldn’t wait to share this knowledge with everyone close to me, because it made complete sense to me. I felt an indescribable release after the class; I felt as though I had flushed out my entire system of all negativity. It’s as though my mind and body just let go of the things that were no longer serving them, right then and there. That’s what yoga does.
I knew that I would need to do this for the rest of my life.
C: That was step one. Not too long after, you made another decision that solidified your connection to your practice. Let’s talk about Costa Rica.
I’m not sure that I have a lot of milestones, but my yoga retreat in Costa Rica was definitely one of them. I knew I wanted to do something like this for so long, and I was going to do whatever I had to do to make it a reality. I had actually spent an entire night frantically Googling “yoga retreats” until 2am—desperate for a refresher, a reminder that there really was more to life.
That next day in yoga class, my teacher announced his annual Yoga Retreat and Excursion Trip to Costa Rica in the summer. I sold my car to cover the costs. I told work that I was not only leaving for a week, but also unreachable (due to the no-technology policy), and I went. I put aside all the excuses for why I shouldn’t go and I committed to my decision. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything. It was the most sure I’ve ever been about anything in my life.
Our days began with the sunrise. (Waking up with the earth has a tremendous effect on one’s psyche.) Days were jam-packed with multiple yoga and mediation sessions, hidden lagoons and private beaches, water swings and rainforest zip lines, boat rides to scenery straight out of Jurassic Park (no, really… Jurassic Park was filmed there!). I couldn’t have imagined a more necessary and perfectly-tailored change of routine.
But Costa Rica was as much a challenge as it was a respite. Yes, yoga soothed my soul, and each day I grew closer to becoming a teacher. That was only one of the reasons I made the trek to the jungle. Neon painted skies served as a backdrop for long overdue reflection and daily tests of endurance. Going from impromptu ab classes after a morning of rigorous hiking and hours of power yoga to holding complex, physically and emotionally taxing postures for up to 60 minutes… Just how far could I push myself? How much could I grow? This was my challenge.
Then we spent one day navigating the rugged Costa Rican landscape, hiking for hours before seeing the hidden falls. Finally, I made it. THIS is what I came for, and I wasn’t going to let a moment go to waste. I marched in the water, heading to the falls in my galoshes, socks and all. When I reached it, I immersed myself completely in the cascading water, and I felt the earth’s energy surge through my veins. I was so very in touch with my senses—invigorated, clear, empowered, reborn. This is how I envision heaven. My respite.
C: I remember you coming back from that trip elated. I know that’s when you decided to take the next step in your practice… What were the biggest challenges about taking on a teacher training?
Aside from the challenge of finding balance between the training and my full-time job, I think the biggest challenge I faced was my own self. The program is rigorous and demands a lot of you. Your commitment and devotion to your practice are truly tested. There I was, paying a few grand, compromising my precious weekends and at times I couldn’t even bring myself to do what I had come to do. It was facing the reality of myself: looking in the mirror and really seeing myself for the first time. It forced me to evaluate exactly where I was in life and if I was living up to my own expectations.
C: What else did you learn about yourself during that time?
What didn’t I learn? I learned that we as people are works in progress, and we always will be. (As we should be!) Going into the program I thought to myself “Wow, I can’t wait until the end of this because then I will be exactly the person I want to be”… as if it were some kind of “Get Rich Quick” program. Well, we all know those are full of broken promises. Life is evolving. We are infinite. There is no end. We are here to be who we want to be NOW, at this very moment… not when we get our degree, not when we lose five pounds, not when we find someone who loves us back. Now. We are here to use our own inherent gifts to make the world a better place. Our purpose is to transform darkness into light, in every opportunity we get.
C: How did you find balance during that time with a demanding full-time job, a serious relationship, and everything else a superbly single girl has in her schedule?
I reminded myself that I was doing this for me and that you get out of it what you put in (like most other things). Everything happens in equal and opposite proportions; that’s what the infinity sign symbolizes, and I try to live my life with that in mind. I think it’s one of the most valuable lessons.
C: It’s so important to remember to do things for yourself, something essential for all of us to become the best version of ourselves. What advice can you give to someone who wants to go through a training program?
DO IT. That’s the only advice you’ll need.
C: How does yoga guide your everyday life?
There are all types of yoga and all levels of study, but the most fundamental thing that it teaches across the board is to breathe. In yoga, they say that the way you behave on your mat is the way you behave in life. Are you giving yourself shortcuts? Are you letting your ego take over? Are you out to prove something to yourself? To others? Yoga forces you to evaluate where you are in life. Make sure you like what you see. Just as you use your breath to move through challenging postures, do the same for uncomfortable or painful situations in life. Deep, conscious breathing will get you through anything.
C: Has your experience led to any other influential moments?
Costa Rica was transformative. I will never be the same. As we made our descent into Los Angeles, my focus was to approach life with a renewed and refreshed outlook. This is absolutely what I did. I practiced conscious breathing throughout my work day, attended yoga classes, ate clean, and even conceived a beach yoga class that I taught with a fellow Costa Rica graduate. My life was different… improved, without a doubt. But I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the complete transformation I had set out to feel. What was holding me back? What I grew to understand was that the trip to Costa Rica itself was not the answer. However, it provided me with the tools to see my life from an objective standpoint and to take an active role in that life.
There are some things that call out to you, so blatantly that you can’t ignore them. (Can I get an “amen”?) Well, this was one of those things. If I ignored that feeling within—my intuition, the authentic voice that makes me who I am, a voice that learned to be heard in Costa Rica—then I would be denying myself the life I so desperately sought to discover on my trip. I would be depriving myself of the life I am destined to live.
So I quit my job of 5 years to focus on my family and myself, giving up all sense of security. This is the kind of thing I always read about people doing and didn’t think I’d ever be able to do. But a friend gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten in a simple text: “Have faith.” It wasn’t until I saw those words that I realized how much faith I didn’t have. From that moment, I changed my outlook and my approach, and things have started aligning themselves in my favor.
C: What is your definition of “success”?
I have always said that success, to me, is happiness. But what is happiness? Happiness is the ability to appreciate where you are at any given moment in your life and be grateful for everything you have—even though you may not have everything you want. Welcome the challenges, bless the heartaches; there cannot be light without darkness nor darkness without light. Understanding that, and truly living it, is success.
C: Who are your biggest teachers?
My teachers are every person and situation I am met with. We are all teachers deep down. We all have some lesson, however big or small, to bring to others. Every person and every instance comes into your life for a reason. Find the lesson.
C: I love that. On the note of “teachers,” how do you foster relationships with your inner circle?
A few years ago I came to a realization that I was always putting myself first when it came to my friends and, in a way, taking my friendships for granted: hanging out when it was convenient for me, talking on the phone when I had something to share, and only reaching out when I needed something.
I wish I could remember the moment I faced what a terrible friend I was, but I decided from that moment on I was going to change my approach entirely. I made a New Year’s resolution to become a better friend. That was it. My resolution wasn’t about me or for me. It was about those who had given so much to me over the years, and it was finally my time to be the friend they deserved.
Now, I consciously note the things going on in each of my friends’ lives—a new job, a big test, relationship status—and I will ask them about it. I will reach out just to check in and ask them how their day is going, or let them know I was thinking of them. We can become so selfish sometimes and, while that’s a healthy trait for a young person at times, it can cloud your ability to see outside of your own limited reality. Usually the times when I’m upset or feeling sorry for myself are the times I remember how many wonderful people in my life could probably use a friend at that moment.
C: For the record, you were never a terrible friend; we are our own worst critics. We are all guilty of having to put ourselves first, but being a good friend to others does help you become a better friend to yourself. I often find inspiration through my own friendships, including ours. Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in things that are foreign to me. Whenever I travel to a new destination, meet a new person outside of my social circle, or learn about something I knew nothing about, I am reminded how incredibly vast our world is. And if we simply stay in our comfort zone, we are remaining a tiny grain of sand in the universe. It is our right and our privilege to discover the world around us and figure out how we can contribute in some way to this wonderful life. That unknown place, intriguing person, or fascinating thing inspires me to continue to search and explore and gather as much information and personal experience as I can in this life. We have so much to learn.
C: What is your motto?
Onward and upward. If you are not continually improving yourself, then what’s the point? Move on from anything holding you back, move past all suffering, and be your biggest, bravest self.
C: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
I would tell her to chill out, take a deep breath, and take everything in. Stop comparing. Know you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Follow your intuition; you were right from the start.
C: How do you take care of your inner single girl?
I remind myself that everything I need is inside of me. It’s actually very simple if you think about it, but it can change your life.
C: Where will your next big trip be?
Asia, definitely Asia. I have a burning desire to go to Thailand. When it burns, that’s when I know.
C: What’s next?
For the first time in so many years, I don’t know. But I could not be happier. Just like the last of the 5 Sutras of the Aquarian Age (the principles on which my teacher training was based) says, “Vibrate the cosmos, and the cosmos shall clear the path.” When you open yourself up to positivity, opportunity, and the unknown, magical things start to happen… Just try it!
The Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age
- Recognize that the other person is you.
- There is a way through every block.
- When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.
- Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.
- Vibrate the cosmos, and the cosmos shall clear the path.
There is no doubt in my mind that something great is just around the corner for Megan, and I can’t wait to see where life brings her next. To see more from Megan and to hear about upcoming classes, follow her.
Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.