For career woman and mom Monica Verplank, life wasn't always so serene. The former assistant superintendent of instructional services at Grand Haven Public Schools traveled much for her job and spent long hours of educational leadership training. She loved her work, but knew as she started her family that the rigorous course was not conducive to the life she imagined. Several months after her first child was born, Monica left the district and started consulting part time. It was the best of both worlds; she could raise her family and still work with clients, developing curriculum and tapping into her professional experiences. Still, there was a higher calling Monica was only just beginning to hear.
After her second child's birth, Monica started practicing yoga to "reclaim my own body after trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, and nursing." She dabbled in meditation and even went on some retreats. "I absolutely fell in love with the whole philosophy on life of meditation," she said. She began practicing Ayurveda, a five thousand-year-old "natural healing" practice founded in India that centers on "living in balance with yourself and the world around you."
Monica went through a training program at the Chopra Center and started teaching classes once a month for hospice staff workers. She added a class for her son's preschool. And at home, Monica's entire family began to integrate yogic and meditative practices into everyday life. "I've been practicing meditation for six years and it's made a huge difference in my life," Monica said. Because the members of her family are more in tune with their own emotions and each other's, they can gauge appropriate responses instead of reacting to unexpected situations. "Now I have a little more quiet in my mind," Monica said, "and I can look at situations with a more 360-degree scan. I can ask, 'What is the context here?' and respond to that situation rather than react to it."
Monica leads guided meditation classes that often begin with several minutes of silence while students repeat an inward mantra. She also teaches intentional wellness classes. Her career in education has come full circle. And although her focus has shifted from curriculum guides to an emphasis on homeostasis, the teacher in her is fulfilled.
"When it comes down to it, we all simply want to be happy, to have an inner happiness flowing within us," Monica said. Through the practice and instruction of meditation, Monica brings serenity, peace, and harmony to the world.
Written by: Erika Rose is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer.