Monique Minahan

yoga. life. love. grief.

When I’m Gone Please Don’t Have a Funeral

IMG_7674When my husband passed away 13 years ago we hadn’t talked about what kind of funeral he wanted. At 25, I was too afraid to have the conversation.

When my 98-year-old great-grandmother passed last month on the hunter’s full moon, I finally found the courage to consider what I would hope for upon my passing.

It’s one of those difficult and powerful conversations, the kind that set us free to live fuller, love bigger and fear less. What do you want upon your passing? How does contemplating your death inform your life? What would you say or do today if you knew you would not be here tomorrow?


When I’m gone please don’t have a funeral,
but do gather in some wild outdoor space.

Don’t hold on to society’s standards of loss,
but do hold on to your loved ones.

Let everyone speak or have the opportunity to speak. If they choose not to speak just let there be silence where the words would be. Hold the space for their choice to be heard.

Don’t praise the good and downgrade the bad, just say it how it was, not how we would have liked it to be.

Let there be singing or chanting or wailing, whatever it is you do.
Open your throat and let it rise from your belly like our ancestors did.

Let there be dancing, as awkward as it will feel. Let the grief move through your bones however it will.

Let there be flowers. Not the perfect kind but the wild kind that don’t match and know how to be messy and beautiful at the same time.

Bring your fear with you, on your face or in your pocket. The fear of stepping outside the box, the fear of death, the fear of breaking open, the fear of not knowing what to do or not knowing what to say.

Bring your love with you. The kind you reserve for your partner or your children. Bring it in buckets and share some with everyone you meet.

When it’s time to part I hope you part slowly, after a collective exhale, maybe pausing at the bottom of the breath until you feel that urgency to breathe, that urgency to live.

And then go live.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

I Believe in The Human Heart


What do we do when we see it coming at us too fast to escape, too strong to fight against?

Death, illness, trauma or tragedy.

Those things that bring us to our knees in prayer or in weakness, but leveled, hurting, imploding.


When we can’t hide the wail behind our walls of sanity, when there’s no civilized way out because there was no civilized way in, can we connect with each other here? Here in the mud, here in the muck. Can we who have not been leveled descend, not to dig them out, but to sit with them in their pain?

Isn’t this the ultimate honor, this holding our fellow human (with our arms or words or presence) in birth or in death, in grief or in gratitude, in sorrow or in success but with compassion?

Is this what it means to be human? To sit with another in this deep trench of vulnerability, beneath all the layers of what-we-thought-mattered and to finally know, on the level of our bones, the only thing that matters and has ever mattered is love.

Not the small love we only offer to those who love us back. The big love that does not require reciprocity. The love that asks the hard questions and listens to the uncomfortable answers. The love that is enlarged by our differences instead of threatened by them. The love that heals by seeing our weakness, acknowledging our pain, welcoming our humanity and loving us, not in spite of it, but because of it.

That’s the question for humanity. Can we love bigger? Can we at least try?

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Plan A

plan a

Somewhere in my teens or 20s I missed the turn sign that announced:
You are now leaving your Plan A life and heading for Plan B.

Who knew the path back to Plan A would be so hard to find,
be the journey of a lifetime,
a pilgrimage into the heart that would deliver me,
not to the golden gates of Plan A but to the starting line.

no map,
no compass,
just this heart,
just these questions,
just this knowing what it wasn’t,
just this commitment to staying the course.

The friends and teachers I’ve met along the way tell me their stories,
share a little bit of their soul to encourage me onward (or inward as the case may be.)
Often we travel together for a time and then diverge,
for we must each listen to our own calling.

This living is a learning, an unlearning, a growing,
a coming together and a falling apart,
a practice in loving. Not the soft kind reserved for kittens and babies,
the powerful kind that can heal countries and families and the humans who make up those families.

I keep an eye out for the sign that says I am detouring back to Plan B,
because while both paths begin at birth and end at death, one only requires I live while the other demands I come alive.

Being Human

sage stick

I wonder how we can dignify this human experience
our birth days and our funerals
our love stories and our tragedies
our collapses and our relapses
our wounds, scars and beauty

I don’t have the answer,
but I have this embrace I offer you each time we meet
I have this heart that beats and breaks like yours

I have this experience of being strong, weak, injured, alone, hopeful, dejected, empowered, pained
this experience of being human that I hold out as an offering
as the torch I sometimes carry for you and you sometimes carry for me

It’s a place to start.
It’s a conversation to have.
It’s a question to ask.

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.

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