Monique Minahan

yoga. life. love. grief.

What Are You Waiting For?

woodsWhat are you waiting for?

The world will never approve those big dreams
those too-good-to-be-trues

It will never applaud your going-for-broke
your trusting your instinct
your following your heart

You must approve yourself
trust in it all and risk it all
that heart, that gut, that comfortable life
it must all get put on the line
(the one that keeps moving forward)

This living fully is not a choice but a calling
in the pilgrimage we find the confirmation we seek
in the discomfort we find the aliveness we crave

it is hidden not in the place we search but in our bones
it is trapped in our very being that we push aside trying to please others

we must sojourn to the emptiness we fear to find the enoughness within
and journey it back to the home of our heart where it can seed, rest, and grow
big enough to support our souls and all living beings we encounter
strong enough to cradle vulnerability in its boughs and set her down softly into the world.

It’s a question that has many excuses but only one answer.
What are you waiting for?

The 4 Gratitudes

shadowsI am so grateful he comes home every night
and sleeps in my bed
and loves our child
and holds us together

I am so grateful he is my teacher
those little eyes so wise and clear
reminding me of what matters
and what doesn’t
sharing giggles and tears and teaching me patience
every step of the way

I am so grateful I said yes
the day my brother offered to buy her for me
those human eyes in that furry body
and that I didn’t know she would tear my life and home apart
only to help me rebuild it full of love

I am so grateful we four sync our hearts together
day in and day out
in love, in sadness, in triumph, in loss
and witness the unraveling of our egos
and the stringing together of our souls

one heartbeat at a time.

The Hard Things

I want to speak of the breakthroughs and the dreams achieved
and not about how I keep running up against the edges of my heart.

those cold, stubborn edges that don’t want to budge for anyone,
soften for anyone,
open for anyone,
which is why she often has to be broken open in joy or sorrow.

I want to preach of strength and success
and not of looking in the mirror at weakness, fragility, emptiness,
or of the patience it takes to sit with the nothingness
and hold space for its very existence
until the enoughness emerges out of the dark womb
and cries out for the very first time.

I want to tout the answers
and not the questions no one wants to hear:

when is the first time we hated something about our reflection?
who planted the seeds of shame in our hearts?
why did we leave our dreams to follow someone else’s dream?

I want to speak of hand-holding and baby-cuddling and sweet nothings,
but I don’t

because those are the easy things,
those are the things that dance proudly on the stage of our life,
the things that don’t hide in corners and only reveal themselves in shadows.

but these, the hard things,
are just as sacred,
deserve as much a voice and a listen,
crave just as much love as the easy things

if not more.

My Life Mala

malaWe all wear our stories in some way or another, don’t we?

They make us who we are (and sometimes keep us from becoming who we can be if we let them define us too narrowly.)

I started making what I call “Life Malas” because each marker is placed for a life event. I used yellow jade for manipura chakra (solar plexus), green jade for anahata chakra (heart), green ruby zoisite for sahasrara chakra (crown), and a spiral shell I found on the beach because it feels like home.

I made this one for me, so I placed the green jade marker beads at the times when my life and heart were busted open. Marker 1 is at 25, the age I was when Nathan died. Marker 2 is at 37, when my baby was born. Marker 3 is at 98, the age of my great-grandmother, born in 1917, who is breathing her last breaths this year.

Stringing the beads under the darkness of a new moon, it occurred to me that at one of these beads I will pass away myself (and that this life is not a dress rehearsal, so I’ve got to live it right the first time.)

There are 108 beads in a mala, and if I get to see bead 98 like my grandma, I’ll count myself very lucky. I’ll count myself lucky to see 39 this month.

I made this mala necklace to remind me that both loss and life are part of the same cycle. They coexist beautifully if I let them, and if I practice embracing both rather than inviting one and rejecting the other, I get to experience the full depth of being human instead of just skimming the surface.

My life mala is an outward representation of the integrity, cohesiveness and beauty that emerges when I allow every experience to support the next one. Broken or fragmented as they appear at times, when I view them all together they form this fragile but beautiful thing called life.

Originally published on YogaOne.


full moon

There was a time when the sun and the moon were my only constants.

I could see both out my window and, although I didn’t know it at the time, they were serving as my nonjudgemental friends, as the witness to an inner life that I shared with almost no one.

They rose with me, set with me and refused to leave my side.

At some point I ventured into mama ocean and over and over tested her watery strength to hold all the parts of me that needed holding, challenging, cleansing, nourishing.

During this period a connection was created between nature and myself that has never waivered. Sunsets are always a time of respectful silence and awe. Full moons and new moons are cycles of filling and emptying. Mama Ocean is my mirror, reflecting back to me every nuanced mood shamelessly, as all things in nature live.


I return to nature time and again to take solace in her light, in her darkness, and in her wild wisdom. Tonight I sat under her light and listened. I didn’t ask my questions. I didn’t ask for anything. I just listened.

There, in the listening, I found clarity. Which is to say I came home. Home to my heart that houses that same light, darkness and wildness I often seek.

I share it with you here. On these pages. In this voice. In person or online, face to face or heart to heart. Shamelessly. As we are all entitled to share our hearts.


We Were Wild Once

IMG_2143We were wild once you know.

We howled without embarrassment,
we cried out for what we needed,

We did not know our skin color mattered because
our heart pumped so perfectly.

We did not know looks were important because
we saw smiles instead of symmetry.

We did not know judgement because
we were too busy being curious.

I wonder if we can take off our otherness now and then
(and hang it in the closet next to our fears & judgements & inadequacies)
and just sit here

you and me in our strong bones,
listening to our beating hearts,
asking our questions that have no answers

maybe in this magic moment we will feel the urge to howl
and not care what we sound like.

When it is time for us to part I hope we
put on our otherness slowly,
so that perhaps we see our laugh lines instead of our wrinkles,
our sameness instead of our differences,
our humanity instead of our insanity,

maybe we walk away a little wilder, a little more whole and a little changed
having remembered where we came from is not so different from where we are.

Originally published on elephantjournal.

The Words

writethe words don’t ask us to fake it
and the words don’t ask us to make it
the words just ask us to open
to where we are, to what we are, to who we are

they invite us to tell our story
and they encourage us to speak our truth
they remind us we are free and whole
even when we are broken and caged

come here and be, they beckon
and who can resist that, to come here and be
it’s too easy, it’s too free
it’s too you. it’s too me

when our wail can no longer be contained
we find ourselves at their door
we enter clumsy human beings
and exit creatures of grace

they hold our hearts shamelessly
shape-shifting to whatever is needed
allowing us to unravel our cells
one word at a time

when we are tongue-tied and writer-blocked
they wait patiently for
the trickle or the flood or the downpour
with open arms

so write your words whatever they are
the words your heart is whispering in your ear
the words you are afraid someone will read
the words that will set you free.

Choosing Moments Over Memories

IMG_2033I am asking myself these days how can I slow down inside so that the external speed of life does not diminish my ability to soak it all in, marinate in it, allow it, and not be bulldozed by it.

My little one is growing so fast and I don’t want to have memories.

I want to have moments.

Moments that I was Here for, moments that I laughed in, cried in, broke in, and healed in, but moments that I felt echo through my whole being.

And if at the end I remember them, well that would be wonderful. Call it a bonus. But I want more than anything to be here now.

I’ve been really inviting myself to be more present in my day-to-day life because while meditation and stillness feel miraculous, the majority of my time is spent in unstillness, in movement, jumping from one moment to the next without time to pause.

So I tried a trick I learned a lifetime ago but get lazy about. I try to engage with life as if I am doing everything for the very first time.

It’s the very first time I’ve seen water come out of the spout.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen my son smile.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen a blue sky.
It’s the very first time I’ve smelled garlic toasting in the pan.
It’s the first time I’ve tasted a strawberry.
It’s the very first time I’ve sat on this couch and felt my body relax.
It’s the very first time I’ve changed a diaper.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard a dog bark.
It’s the very first time I’ve hugged my husband.
It’s the first time I’ve smelled a rose.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt rain.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard my son cry.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt tired and achy.
It’s the very first time I’ve done yoga.
It’s the very first time I’ve moved my legs to walk.
It’s the very first time I’ve smiled.
It’s the very first time I’ve looked in my husband’s blue eyes.
It’s the first time I’ve said, I love you.

Oh how things slow down inside me, melt inside me, and how the gratitude rises like a bubble I can’t suppress. I’m always close to tears because the magnitude of life on this level is hard for my small human form to hold. So I keep stretching my heart bigger to hold it all, to receive it all, and to reflect it all back.

The world keeps speeding along, but as much as I can I try to slow down my perception, my experience, my quality of life so I can soak up the moments fully during the only time they will be with me, right now.

The Exhale

FullSizeRender (5)The bottom of the exhale is the scariest place to be.

In yoga
In the ocean
In life

We are beyond empty here
Completely exposed,
in need,
at the mercy of life to grant us that next

As terrifying as it is,
it is just as liberating
just as f***ing freeing
to have nothing,
to hold nothing,
to own nothing

except this pause,
this longer-than-I-can-stand pause
where mortality and humility and fragility merge
into a kind of this-could-be-it ultimatum

That’s why it’s so scary
That’s why it’s so necessary
That’s why we must visit the darkness,
the emptiness,
the bottomless pit of our exhale

So we learn what we must do with our inhale

Our lifelong gift of inhales that are never guaranteed,
but so rich and fertile with the promise of life
that we take them for granted

We expect them to be there
until they’re not.

They’re not there, inflating the heart and soul of the mate you’re hugging.
They’re not there, lifting the belly and warming the skin of the mother you need.
They’re not there, creating that oh-so-familiar sound you expect beside you.

Then we realize we’re there,
at the bottom of our exhale,
without everything we need to survive,
to move, to proceed with this moment.

Yet while our surface starts its slow crumble
and we feel our feet begin to give way,
our heart in a slow-motion implosion,
something deeper is not moved by the terror,
by the fear

In between reaching and releasing there is this:
just this.

Just this nothingness,
just this everythingness,
just this radical presence,
just this.

When your next inhale graces you
try not to forget the landscape of nothingness
in your rush to climb to the top of everything

Visit it from time to time to remember
why you are here
why we are here
what really matters
while we still can.

Healing the BodyMind Through Yoga

Early on in my yoga practice I would often experience an emotional reaction during corpse pose (savasana). Lying still, I would get a lump in my throat and suddenly find tears quietly rolling down my cheeks. I didn’t know it at the time, but my yoga practice was releasing long-held grief from my body.

When grief and recovery from trauma have been processed by the mind, life may begin to seem approachable again and many people feel they can move forward; but the same processes of recovery and healing are essential to the body as well.

Feeling a strong emotional release in a yoga pose or during final relaxation is far from uncommon. One of yoga’s most powerful side effects is its ability to release and heal the BodyMind. Not just the body. Not just the mind. The combined, interconnected, undivided BodyMind.

BodyMind is a term coined by Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who pioneered scientific research into the field of Mind-Body Medicine, advancing our understanding of what are called neuropeptides, or messenger molecules that carry information from the mind to the body and back again through body fluids. These neuropeptides are found throughout our bodies in the heart, sexual organs, and the limbic system, to name a few.

Dr. Pert breaks this concept down with an example of the gut. The entire lining of our intestines is lined with these particular transmitters. She posits, “It seems entirely possible to me that the richness of the receptors may be why a lot of people feel their emotions in their gut – why they have a ‘gut feeling.’”

She further comments: “I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.”

When we move our bodies through yoga, our BodyMind is allowed expression. It can begin to release emotion and tension that’s been stuck in our bodies perhaps years after we think we’ve mentally processed the event.

Exploring these heavy emotions in our yoga practice, whether intentionally or accidentally, might feel intimidating. Resourcing is a technique that helps us stay present during uncomfortable or overwhelming sensations by finding and connecting to a resource, such as the breath or one of the five senses. This connection works like an anchor for a boat and we can begin to observe sensations safely, without fear of getting lost in the sea of our experience.

mothersdayflierJoin me this Mother’s Day in San Diego at Yoga One for a special commemorative practice where we will explore three ways to use resourcing with yoga, as well as learn how to identify where emotions reside in our individual bodies. We will focus specifically on how to apply these tools when dealing with loss and grief.

This practice is for anyone interested in learning how to use yoga as a supportive healing modality, but especially for anyone who has lost their mother and would welcome a supportive, safe, non-judgemental environment to honor their mother on Mother’s Day.

Loss is something we will all experience in our lifetime. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Our yoga practice will not show us a way out of grief, but it can show us a way through and support us through every stage of healing.

Note: If this is something you’re interested in but find the cost prohibitive or cannot attend for some other reason, please contact me to arrange a way for you to receive the information.

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