By Janae Jean and Spencer Schluter
For this month’s interview, we had the pleasure to share in conversation with author Megan Griswold. Megan grew up in California in a family that embraced New Age Californian culture. She studied at Barnard College, earned an MA from Yale and later went on to earn a licentiate degree from the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture. She trained in many modalities and has received certifications as a doula, shiatsu practitioner, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and in wilderness medicine, among others. She has worked in many diverse fields including as a mountain instructor, a Classical Five element acupuncturist, a freelance reporter, a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered and an off-the-grid interior designer. She currently resides primarily in a yurt in Kelly, Wyoming.
Megan is the author of The Book of Help: A Memoir in Remedies where she shares personal recollections from her experiences with many different healing modalities, wellness techniques and spiritual practices. Visit www.MeganGriswold.com and www.LittleMovingSpaces.com for more information about her work. Follow her on social media on Instagram @MeganEatonGriswold, on Facebook @TheBookOfHelp and on Twitter @Megan_Griswold.
The following is a brief excerpt of our in-depth conversation. To find out more about community, acupuncture and alternative medicine, off-the-grid living, how to decide if a healing modality or practitioner is right for you, as well as Megan’s personal healing journey, listen to the entire interview at www.ConsciousCommunityMagazine.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. All 36 episodes of the Conscious Community Podcast are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Player.FM, YouTube and other popular podcatchers.
Janae: You describe your book as a memoir of remedies, would you like to elaborate on what that means to you?
Megan Griswold: Yeah. I had a rather unusual upbringing. My family was very immersed in “New Age stuff.” When I was born I was assigned a Christian Science practitioner; by age seven, I asked Santa for my first mantra for Christmas and got one; and by age 12, I was taking weekend workshops. So, I’ve done over 15,000 hours of spiritual and New Age practices organically—not as an experiment. Then I was married, my husband got arrested for soliciting a prostitute who was an undercover cop. That experience put enough pressure of a certain kind that I dove into what I knew to do when I was in pain or having a challenge. That was these alternative experiments. The book reads more like a novel; it starts on the night of his arrest. Every chapter kicks off with the name of that therapy, purpose, cost, equipment needed and humiliation factor (that is my favorite). The book mentions over 200 healing practices, and there are about 100 that provide the lens to tell the story.
MG: Yeah. I think in a lot of times, whether it’s in a group setting, one-on-one or even with just yourself, you can be embarrassed. I’ve been embarrassed with just me watching. During a silent retreat, the meditation teacher sent me up in the woods to do this stick-mashing exercise alone. I was just so embarrassed to do the whole thing with just myself.
Now, however many years later, I had to do this trailer for the book where I had to reenact some of the activities in the book. So, I had to do the same exercise. I was in the middle of Grand Teton National Park, and I stamped out this little place in the snow and did the stick-smashing exercise. I had to raise sticks over my head and yell like a lunatic. My friend was photographing, and she had an assistant with her who was doing the steady-cam. There was this funny moment when she looked at her assistant and said, “I think I should have told you more about the book.” [Laughs.] I had started in and went berserk, and I thought, “Oh my God! I’ve obviously changed!” This had mortified me years ago by myself, and here I could do it in front of people. Tourists were driving by and filming it; it was ridiculous! In a different moment, I would have definitely been more embarrassed.
JJ: I could see the humiliation factor being a valuable part of the therapy by helping you to get over yourself.
MG: Exactly! I like to name it as humiliating, rather than pretend that it’s not a little uncomfortable to do these types of things.
SS: It is difficult, if not impossible, to go through life totally independent from other human beings. I think the root cause of toxic masculinity is how our culture socializes men not to talk about their feelings. In order to find spiritual engagement, emotional growth, a therapist that works for you, or any of these things that are going to help heal you as a man, you have to acknowledge that you need other people. This applies to women equally. If you want to be independent, not co-dependent, you need to know how to find the right people to help you.
MG: I definitely think that culturally women are encouraged to be curious and looking for insight. I think it’s absolutely true that men aren’t encouraged to do that. Certainly, the challenges I’ve dealt with have to do with being around a wonderful man who wasn’t given the tools he needed to deal with the hand he was dealt.
JJ: Besides writing this book, your website says you reside in a yurt, and you’re an off-the-grid interior designer. Can you tell us a bit about that?
MG: One thing that I find particularly nourishing is being outside in the back country. (I used to be a mountain guide instructor.) While I was working on becoming a full-time writer, I was cultivating other income streams. It turned out I was good at making pretty places and turning them into Airbnb type businesses. I had the opportunity to rent a yurt and then another yurt, in this unintentionally intentional or intentionally unintentional community in the middle of Grand Teton National Park. It’s a little bit like living in New York and stumbling into a rent-controlled apartment. So, after renting a couple yurts in this community, I got to build one. That developed into its own design project, separate from the Airbnb operations that I started. I started to be able to merge my interests and spend all this time outside and erect this beautiful space that’s affordable. The project turned into an online resource for other people who want to curate beautiful places for themselves that are essentially off-the-grid.
JJ: Are you part of a community there?
MG: I knew myself well enough that I knew that I did not want to be completely isolated. I like that we have this interaction in the bathhouse doing dishes or laundry, or that we’re looking out for each other. Somebody will look out for my solar panels or clean them off or vice versa; or I’ll look after somebody’s pup.
I think something interesting happens when we don’t have much insulation. I think with very thin walls, you feel what is going on under the other roofs. It’s like when you sleep outside in tents and you cycle up with the moon. I think you are cycling up with your neighbors and what’s going on with them. You become sensitive to that.
Janae Jean serves as an editor and media consultant Conscious Community Magazine. Visit her blog www.janaejean.com for more about her music composition and sound healing, as well as her tea and ceremony writing. Visit www.perennialmusicandarts.com for about music lessons and arts education.
Spencer Schluter serves as an advertising account manager, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. Visit www.yggstudios.com for more about his freelance design and consulting work. He is also a master level Reiki and traditional Chinese Qigong practitioner.