Photography by: Alaina Walder
It’s been raining for what feels like forty days and forty nights. This is springtime in Louisiana. I’ve been planning to re-meet Meghan Price for about a week now, but our plans are continuously foiled. The wind and the deluge and the inevitable flooding that comes with the Louisiana rainy season makes for poor photoshoot conditions. The first thing that I notice about Meghan is that this does not seem to faze her at all. I am a wreck. I am new to this type of time management and I am full of deadline anxiety. But Meghan uses her calm and steady demeanor to reassure me that everything will fall into place at the right time. I am strangely comforted by this type of thinking which seems to be a learned skill that comes from her extensive world experience.
I use the term “re-meet” because this is not the first time Meghan and I have been thrown into orbit together. We were high school classmates. And a lot has happened since then. In the way that is typical of high school acquaintances, we have known of each other for about fifteen years. But this is the first time that I am getting a chance to truly know her. She has traveled over land and seas to become the person she is today: small of frame, quiet in nature, and full to the brim with sacred knowledge. In its current incarnation, that knowledge manifests in her passion for healing and Ayurvedic medicine. She has arrived triumphantly in this phase of her life through a winding and twisting road through faraway countries, attempting to master her own health struggles. She has now returned home to share what she has learned.
“I just started my own business as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Wellness Coach – which is what I currently identify as professionally. My vision for this business is to teach people how to heal themselves through empowerment and education.”
Ayurveda, by definition, is “the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.” This holistic type of medicine requires equilibrium in not only the body, but the mind, and the spirit as well.
“This process of self-healing requires a significant amount of self-awareness, of going inward. In many ways, as our coaching relationship evolves on the path of healing, it is also very much a path of self-actualization – a spiritual path – a path towards health, wellness, and wholeness. Healing, in this way, is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience and quite literally transcends time and space, allowing individuals to heal generations of illness.”
The one thing I remember about Meghan Price from high school is that her family owned an alligator ranch not far from my house. This is typically something you wouldn’t forget about someone once you had come to know it. Hearing her speak on this many years later is both new and familiar at the same time.
“Because we lived in the middle of nowhere, I spent a decent amount of time playing alone outside. I think growing up with thousands of alligators literally in my backyard definitely was a unique type of energetic support in the field of healing, intuition, and ancient wisdom. They’re such a magnificent species – they heal themselves and therefore do not carry disease, are very instinctive and intuitive creatures, and are over 8 million years old – one of the oldest species in the animal kingdom!”
Meghan speaks about her first experiences as a child playing outdoors at her parents’ ranch, taking care of the animals, connecting with nature, and being fascinated with the body and the way it works. She also recounts her time spent with her mother praying the rosary, which would later serve as the foundation for her spiritual practice.
“My mom raised my four siblings and me as Catholic, my dad was agnostic, but didn’t force religion on any of us. My siblings weren’t into it but I felt a natural call to it- particularly to praying the rosary. I really enjoyed praying. My mom and I used to pray rosaries weekly together, and even daily when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. I witnessed the power of prayer at a young age and that definitely has stuck with me ever since.”
It was this type of healing through prayer that not only comforted, but moved Meghan to act when she began to experience illness herself. At the age of 15, Meghan decided that she wanted to become a doctor. She threw herself into her studies, assuring that she would make good grades all through high school, in order to be accepted to a great medical school. But all of her time and efforts invested came to a screeching halt at the time of her college graduation.
“My senior year at LSU, I was planning to apply to medical school when I started having some severe health issues. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing my symptoms and gave me multiple diagnoses, all under the umbrella of autoimmune disorders. They kept passing me from specialist to specialist trying to treat all the symptoms they could without ever even attempting to look for a root cause. Furthermore, all symptoms were treated independently rather than collectively which was ineffective. I was having massive allergic reactions, seizures, full immune shutdowns. I was put on a variety of internal and topical steroids, antibiotics, and took various tests to no avail – literally nothing worked. My body was not responding to the treatments and my symptoms were getting worse. My symptoms were affecting my quality of life to the point that I could not eat or sleep.”
After having to cancel her medical school admissions exams due to a severe allergic reaction, she made a sharp left turn onto the road less traveled that would change her experience forever.
“You see, when I would have an allergic response to food, medicine, the environment, or stress, my primary symptom was that my eyes would swell shut. I literally couldn’t see. So, using my breath, I taught myself how to meditate. It was my senior year of college. After prepping for the MCAT, and then missing my exams because of my eyes swelling shut, I spent hours laying on the floor of my bedroom in Baton Rouge, meditating. After I got to a certain stillness within my mind and body through meditation, I began visualizing what I wanted my eyes, my tissues, my cells to do. I was a pre-med student, so I spent a lot of time studying on a cellular level, what was going on in the body. I scientifically knew what was wrong with my immune system and what it was doing, I just couldn’t figure out why – no one could. So I spent hours visualizing what I WANTED my immune system to be doing. I visualized, in essence, a perfect immune system and balance within my body, on a cellular level. I know this sounds insane – but it was the only thing that worked. After a few hours of meditation and visualization, my eyes would unswell and I could go to class again – something multiple doctors and multiple cortisone shots could not achieve.”
Using that same method of silent and fervent petition that was also present in her mother’s rosaries, Meghan had found something that worked for her. Seeing this success lead her on a journey, along with her mom in tow, to Rhinebeck, New York, where they attended alterative medicine workshops at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
“I went on a trip with her my senior year of college and decided to do a work-study program there after graduating with my Pre-Med degree as a sort of gap year deep dive into the world of ‘complementary and alternative medicine’. It was there that I was exposed to everything from acupuncture, Ayurveda, chiropractic medicine, energy medicine, yoga therapeutics, hypnosis, Reiki, astrology, and everything in between. I took some powerful courses with incredible healers that changed my life.”
But this would only be an introduction into a full-blown adventure that would take Meghan across the world.
“I realized I was just dipping my toes into this world of ‘alternative healing.’ Something I noticed while studying with these teachers was that many of them traveled to the source at some point in their lives to study with shamans and medicine people from around the world. This made a lot of sense to me and I started to become interested in the similarities that some of these ancient healing practices had in common. I noticed many of them had roots in the cradles of civilization and were thousands of years old. This was going to not only take more than a gap year but a lifetime of study. It really inspired me to want to visit all of these places and to dedicate my life to listening and learning from these people. However, in order to do that, I needed money and free time. I was a broke college graduate and med school dropout. I spent the next year completing a yoga training course and subsequently teaching yoga in the mountains in Colorado, asking the Universe to send me a job opportunity that would afford me the opportunity to travel the world to study meditation and traditional medicine.”
This is how Meghan found Alaska. While teaching yoga at her health clinic in Colorado, she met a client turned friend that worked as a tour guide in the mountains of Alaska.
“Although naturally very adventurous and likeable, I’m a very introverted, shy, and quiet person. I lived in Colorado at the time teaching yoga and that felt new and different from Louisiana but comfortable and allowed me to continue being a relatively shy, introverted, quiet person who kept to myself. My perception of Alaska was of some far away Arctic tundra that was treeless, incredibly cold, and relatively empty – like Antarctica. I lived in the beautiful, massive mountains of Colorado teaching yoga – surely the Universe has some yoga opportunity for me there. After literally weeks of my friend trying to convince me to give it a shot, I decided maybe it could be for me. Every week he filled me with facts about Alaska particularly related to my interests. He told me about the wildflowers and herbs and lakes and mountains and that he thought I would be a great guide because I was very personable and open-minded. He reminded me I grew up with tourism, as my family owned an alligator ranch that was a tourist attraction in our backyard. He mentioned I’d have no problem adjusting and that it was the perfect opportunity to sign a contract to work and save in the summer in Alaska and be financially stable and time and location free to study and travel in the winter. He really sold me. He was totally right too.”
Seeing an opportunity to become financially stable enough to pursue her true passion, Meghan agreed to take a leap of faith into the wilds of Alaska.
“I also saw it as an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge me in areas I would not likely challenge myself otherwise. I had to step out of my shell and become a leader and a guide. It would help me develop speaking skills and organizational skills, both of which I was lacking at the time. It was terrifying and I hated it first, but after a year, I fell in love. I firmly believe Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Meghan attributes her dynamic and adaptable spirit to her time spent in Alaska navigating the state and learning to deal with harsh conditions, on-the-job adversity, cumbersome itineraries, and wildly changing sceneries. She became well acquainted with the beast that is the natural world, and has left changed ever since.
“Alaska gave me more than I could have ever possibly hoped. It shaped me in ways I cannot even begin to put into words. I’m a firm believer that your habits and how you spend your days shape your future. I spent most of my twenties in Alaska or abroad, waking up in new places daily, learning new languages, constantly being stimulated, rarely living a single day the same way. I learned how to manage incredible stress, uncertainty, and use my spiritual practice as my only anchor. I traveled with a yoga mat, a mini altar, and a blender – that’s how I stayed healthy and sane. My experience there truly changed my life and touched my soul. I lived and worked there every summer, save 2016, from 2013-2019. It was my primary source of income for all of my 20s. It was, whether I planned it or not, my career for the better part of a decade.”
Keeping her sights set on her true calling, to learn and become proficient at Ayurvedic healing, she used her resources acquired in Alaska as a springboard into her studies in India.
“I had made connections with Ayurvedic doctors online and through healers, acquaintances, and teachers I had met in the States. However, when I arrived my first time in India in 2017, I realized India does not give a f**k about your plans. She has her own plans for you. The two doctors I had scheduled to visit and study with had family emergencies come up at the last minute. I discovered this literally as I was arriving in India for the first time. That was scheduled to be my first four weeks in India and my primary reason for being in the South. Now what was I to do? I was staying at a guesthouse in Cochin, India, where I saw a small advertisement for Amma – the ‘hugging saint’. Some fellow travelers were planning to go visit her and suggested I do the same. I was really intent on studying Ayurveda so I declined and spent another few days trying to contact other schools and centers in the area to study Ayurveda. Finally, with no success, I surrendered my search and decided to go stay at Amma’s ashram for a few days and meet this ‘hugging saint’. I’m very skeptical of spiritual teachers because I’ve witnessed pretty profound abuse from certain leaders. I ultimately believe the world is our best teacher. After arriving, my life changed. I had a very difficult first few days there but something kept me there. I sat in Amma’s presence, listened to her teachings, prayed with her, and fell in love with her. Long story short, I stayed for over a month. I not only found a little bit of Ayurveda there but I found, more importantly, the most inspiring human I have ever met, and my spiritual teacher.”
There at the ashram she connected with an Ayurvedic doctor that suggested she take up her studies back in the States under Dr. Vasant Lad, BAMSC at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. It was there that she completed her formal education. But how was it adjusting to life in India? How was it different than living here in the United States for so long?
“India is entirely different from the US but not entirely different from New Orleans. It is a land of poor roads, a festival every weekend, questionable drinking water, frequent power outages, incredible culture, delicious food, mesmerizing music, deep spirituality, and beautiful people – sounds sort of like New Orleans, right?” She laughs.
She feels the major differences in Indian life versus American life are the sheer size and density of the populations, the vast diversity in culture that comes with age and experience of nation, and the spirit that encapsulates the country altogether.
“The spirit of India is unmatched. Perhaps it is rooted in its age, culture, or even spirituality, I’m not sure; but people there are truly ALIVE. The spirit of the country dances in the sights, smells, colors, flavors, textures, and sounds. People are kind-hearted and treat everyone like family – they are peaceful spirits. I’ve never sat in the presence of so many enlightened beings. I do recognize God in everyone but people have a way of channeling it differently in India. For some reason, I feel like in the US, most people are living sort of mindlessly, not believing in much, surviving not thriving, under our capitalistic society that values monetary wealth over health and happiness. People are sort of dead – uninspired, not living in the present, perpetuating suffering and trauma, and slaves to addiction and action. People have a really difficult time with moderation, mindfulness, and stillness. Our culture isn’t conducive to it. At least where I have been in India, people tend to be grateful, inspired, and practice moderation. They have an easier time being still.”
But even the spirit of India was no match for the chaos that set in during the COVID pandemic. Life became complicated and difficult for Meghan when she contracted the virus during her stay in the country.
“I planned to leave in the first week of April 2020 to return to work in Alaska. I got COVID the week before and then the entire country shut down. All flights were cancelled and I was quite literally trapped in India. The US government was sending repatriation planes at a simple fee of over $2,500 and I had to find a way to make it 6 hours to the closest airport in a different state while they were closing the borders. I also wasn’t sure if I was contagious or could get the virus again and didn’t want to be responsible for spreading COVID. So I waited it out a couple of months through one of the hottest spring seasons they’d ever had. Lockdown in India was the strictest lockdown in the world. People were not allowed to leave their houses. Some guesthouses were locked from the outside in. I had chosen a guesthouse with lots of natural light because I had moved there in the winter. Most places where I was staying in rural India had no heat or air conditioning. So I moved there because the natural light would warm up the room during the day. Well when lockdown brought us from winter to spring and quickly to summer – my dorm room stayed at a temperature of over 105 degrees for over a week. This was a huge factor in my decision to leave as soon as possible because I quite literally couldn’t escape the heat. There were still no flights leaving India except repatriation flights and the US had already come and gone. My only hope was to get a repatriation flight to another country and catch a connecting flight from there.”
After many painful weeks of holding out hope, Meghan was gratefully connected with a repatriation flight in early June.
“I was incredibly hesitant to return to the US. I had nowhere to go and no job. My job in Alaska was cancelled for the summer, had very little savings left, and that was my only source of income since I graduated college. I was overwhelmed. It was much more affordable to stay in India – I just knew my health was suffering because I was confined to a dorm room for over a month. So I came back during the extreme social justice outrage, about a week after the death of George Floyd and landed in Atlanta during the riots. It was an intense adjustment and culture shock to say the least.”
And so Meghan awaits her next adventure from her New Orleans apartment as she attends to her master’s degree at Tulane University.
“The program I’m in at Tulane is a master’s in Healthcare Leadership and Management program. It differs from traditional healthcare management programs in that it emphasizes decentralization of bureaucratic, scientific management systems in favor of innovative, enlightened leadership and empowered organizational members.”
Her five-year plan includes the opening of her own wellness clinic where she will share her knowledge and world experiences for those that seek a greater form of wellness.
“I envision this clinic to be a sort of teaching clinic as well as producing substantial research in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. I think the self-healing programs and one on one coaching I offer online with my personal coaching business between now and then will begin to form a basis for some community programs offered in the clinic. Lastly, I hope to do a PhD program in India in sustainable development to implement this into the structure and foundation of the clinic and it’s practices. It is my hope that this model will help inspire systemic healthcare reform globally.”
We could not be two more different people, me, eternally governed by the water of my emotions. She, fueled by the fire of her determination and fearlessness. But we have come to be unlikely friends with many shared interests despite our duel natures. After the rains came and went, we met under the oaks of Fontainebleau State Park for pictures and discussion. Despite her extensive travels and all that she has seen, the Louisiana oak trees still speak to her. We are both at home in this place. As our feet struggle to find dry ground among the expansive puddles turned lakes overnight, we talk about the future. She speaks worry over the current state of Western medicine, having seen its pitfalls both personally and professionally.
“Illness is not what it used to be. The rise of chronic disease including mental illness often stems from trauma and/or stress. For healing to occur, services must be individualized, patient-centered, and doctors and nurses must listen to their patients with compassion. However, they are never taught this. In order to truly listen, doctors and nurses must be present and they must use their heart in addition to their brain.”
She attests that this intermingling of both Eastern and Western philosophies is vital for the survival of medicine.
Health is a complicated issue, one that takes perhaps a lifetime to fully understand, if you ever come to a stopping place at all. It is an endless question that has spawned infinite solutions and ideas. It is, for Meghan, a question worth traveling to the ends of the earth and back again to answer. Her story is, for lack of better words, breathtaking, and relentless in the pursuit of knowledge.
“The medical symbol, the caduceus, is honestly the perfect image for true healing. It is this union of opposites. It is a symbol used in all cultures, globally, and my wish for the future is that it comes alive. You see…the caduceus is a staff with two snakes wrapping around each other and a pair of wings at the top. It was traditionally carried by Hermes and is now carried by healers of all types. Each and every human has this symbol within them. And each and every human is indeed their own best healer.”
Thank you, Meghan, for the wisdom.