You Are Stronger than You Think
As a young girl, Megan Lynch (then, Megan Riggs) cared for the animals on the farm in Kentucky where her family rented a modest home. She was especially fond of caring for the horses–dusting off their hooves, cleaning their frogs (the fleshy part of the hooves), and grooming them. There were also cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Megan enjoyed spending time with all of them.
One day, a man came to the farm with a trailer. She shared with him the names she had given her animal friends, to which the man replied with the names of every fast food restaurant where the animals would eventually be served as food. Mortified, Megan adopted a vegetarian diet.
At this point, you might think, “Great, another story about why I should become a vegetarian.” While Megan still proudly maintains a vegetarian diet, this story is one about the power of empathy. Even at a young age, Megan had a clear understanding of how she could impact our world through personal, deliberate action; this attitude and sentiment would later serve to inspire her to lead others by example.
As a modest family, the Riggs often turned to music as a favored family pastime. Mom and dad played piano and guitar, and Megan began playing guitar and singing as a child. Thus, Megan also learned the value of human connection–and connection with the world around her–at a young age. This talent, too, would later serve her through adulthood.
Seeing oneself in others
As Megan grew older, she became more conscious of the perpetual issue of poverty in our country. Drawing from and motivated by personal experience, she was determined to invest time in making a difference in the lives of others. As the first in her family to go to college, Megan studied theatre, where she further developed her ability to empathize with others. “In theatre,” Megan said, “you have to learn to assume the roles of the characters you portray, and you have to do so honestly, in order to give a genuine performance.” Wanting to learn more about poverty–and in a sense, striving to more honestly assume that role–Megan traveled overseas in an effort to experience life through the eyes of the poverty-stricken.
Megan spent two years teaching English in China. “Without a doubt, we have poverty here in America, but it wasn’t until I traveled overseas that my eyes were opened to the magnitude of this issue worldwide.” In the same spirit that led her to adopt a vegetarian diet, Megan was determined to identify actions she could take to have an impact on the world around her, and so she returned home, eager to get to work.
Embracing empathy through action and teaching
Teaching was a natural role for Megan, as she helped teach her younger brother to read. After working and leading various efforts with non-profit agencies, she began teaching at a local elementary school. With a focus on empowerment, Megan says, “Teaching is like…you can’t explain what a song is like to someone…you have to play the song and allow them to hear it for themselves.” This is the philosophy she now employs as a yoga instructor…but even Megan will tell you, she did not always live a healthy lifestyle.
Inspired by wanting to help her family adopt a healthier lifestyle, Megan took up running. While her life experience and education laid the foundation for her empathetic spirit, 2009 was really the point where Megan’s journey was put into action by pounding the pavement…literally. “I was frustrated with my life choices when it came to fitness, and I saw the same in my family, and the only way I could see to bring forth change was to just start doing something.” So Megan and her father started running together. Megan continued training while overseas, and would eventually run several half-marathons and at least one full marathon (future marathons pending). As a novice runner myself, I asked what strategies she used for longer distances.
Running, fitness, and personal growth
“There are times my mind wants to quit. And so, I go through a list of people I know, and tell myself something that is important to each of them. And I also think about the people I am helping by demonstrating my willingness to push through adversity.” On her blog (abodyandabrain.com), Megan recounts beginning her journey with running: “I would run a little, then gasp for air. When I started doing research on proper form, then actually try to run that way, I felt almost immediately better. And the more I ran, the less I wanted fatty foods, sweets, and alcohol.” Practicing yoga eventually led Megan to pursue her teaching certification, and she now regularly teaches vinyasa classes, as well as a 40-day personal revolution workshop, wherein she encourages students to confront fears and patterned thinking.
Megan the teacher, Megan the student
Fearlessly, Megan fully immerses herself in the trenches of all efforts in which she hopes to inspire others. In her 40-day workshop, Megan challenged herself to identify ways to be more loving and empathetic with others, rather than adopting what she calls her “default responses” in human interaction. One of the most remarkable things about Megan is her ability to visualize a goal for a student and/or loved one, and then pursue that goal, as if she were that person.
Now a wife and mother, Megan’s perspective on life has expanded, and she continues to strive for personal growth. As we forge ahead through the second month of the new year, Megan is committed to finding more ways to bring out the potential in those around her.
“You are stronger than you think you are,” Megan says.
In what ways will you prove this to be true?
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