Graduate Spotlight: Meghan Goyer
Goyer is a past participant in the Emerging Leaders Program. She completed her graduate degree in religious studies this year.
Becoming happily absorbed, writer Martha Beck states, is the starting point of innovation. The idea of being allabsorbed by an activity is sometimes called “flow”—an optimal state of mind allowing us to access our creative subconscious selves. For many, an avocation is where we discover this phenomenon. “Yoga and trapeze and ritual are all about flow,” says Goyer.
In her case, yoga studies and aerial work on a trapeze have had a dramatic effect. The air up there, she says, is very fine and rare indeed—a place of the wonderful unknown, a place of discovery and joy.
Goyer, who earned a master’s in religious studies this year, is a Double Dawg who discovered these passions in adulthood. When she was younger, she once watched her father assume a yoga pose in the living room and burst into laughter. Goyer was a teenager—a time when our adolescent self is more self-conscious than trusting—especially of the subconscious.
“We were at a lake in Alabama,” remembers Goyer. “Dad read about yoga and wanted to try it. He sat down in a yoga pose and we started laughing. I had a funny start with it.”
Her own experience with yoga wouldn’t occur until 2006. Yet her father, a Presbyterian minister in Atlanta, was demonstrating open-mindedness to his daughter, something which stayed with her.
Goyer had a flexible body and a mind full of questions. Today, she assumes yoga poses like a lithe human question mark, and performs “aerial dance” on a single point trapeze. These pursuits are one means of accessing more creative ways of being in the world, psychologists explain.
Carolyn Humphrey met Goyer last fall at the Emerging Leaders Program. Humphrey, who works with the Consulting Psychology Group in Charlotte, believes creativity originates “from something you’re passionate about.”
When this passionate response occurs, it is ideally bound up with a personal evolution, one which concerns “the mastery of self, action and relationships.” That golden trifecta, Humphrey explains, provides grounding and a deeper opportunity for the gifted.
Unleashing a curiosity that gets squelched too often—Goyer kept exploring. Her father led the way by his own example. “I’m so appreciative about that,” she says.
Goyer was a gymnast until middle school, then explored lacrosse, drama and amateur dance in high school. “I took a beginner’s ballet class my senior year!” She played college lacrosse at UGA.
In 2005, Goyer was an undergraduate at UGA studying eastern religion.
“Cal Clements visited the class to teach us yoga, in order to offer an embodied exploration of a practice we were studying intellectually. I took multiple classes under Professor Kai Reidel and became friends with Cal (the founder of Rubber Soul Yoga Revolution in Athens). He hadn’t opened a studio yet, but I came to a class he led in the Founders Garden. It was my first experience of yoga.”
Then Goyer bumped into a painful wall—inwardly, she wrestled with depression. Her artist mother had died when Goyer was 16.
“I didn’t get into yoga hardcore until 2007/2008, during the school year. I had been depressed and thought, maybe I should try yoga. I started going a lot, and seriously thank yoga for helping me get out of that place.”
Emotional doors began to fly open for Goyer. She made enormous strides towards self-governance through yoga. The practice and discipline moved her beyond depression. “I think it was the waking up, getting out of my head and into my body and finding the energy to go forth.”
Goyer managed the Loft Art Supply in Athens during one summer. “I learned about every material and had so much fun working with different media.” Meanwhile, she studied religion, painted, and reconnected with a love of photography. The problem wasn’t that she didn’t find things to be passionate about—the problem was she had found so many things to be passionate about.
With undergraduate school completed in 2008, Goyer took an important year off after spending five years pursuing options at UGA. During that year she painted. Then, she attended a trapeze and aerial dance performance and signed up for a class at Canopy Studio in Athens. Trapeze work seemed the antithesis of the earth-bound principles of yoga.
That was when Goyer truly started to fly.
Goyer discovered yet another passion: flying through space. “It was exhilarating. We didn’t do tricks at the beginning, but being on the trapeze was so awesome.” Here, old gymnastics, yoga, dance and even lacrosse skills came to bear. “It’s called aerial dance, on a single point trapeze,” she explains. “It’s different than a circus trapeze.”
The initial phase concerned building strength, which came easily given Goyer’s physical pursuits. “Once we developed that, we moved into the creative side—transitions and energies you bring to it. We explored that, working in groups of two and individually.”
Goyer developed greater strength as she contorted and pushed her body through the air. She also gathered other strengths. She discovered it was more and more comfortable to inhabit her own life as well.
“I realized I was super passionate about creativity, and becoming comfortable in your own body and being able to access your creativity in your own body,” she explains.
“(But) I think creativity comes from some (different) kind of comfort. It is your brain connecting things in a new way. If you have walls up, I don’t know—there’s some neurological function that influences this. I was comfortable, and that energy would flow and I would be aware of it, and let myself be open. I realized the importance of the process of becoming comfortable.”
Meanwhile, Goyer’s open mind also reflected the experience of what Humphrey calls “flow”. Two important things happened. “Which were both big parts of that year off for me,” she writes by e-mail. Goyer, in experimenting with her personal identity, shaved her head. She explains that she did not want hair, a physical attribute, to identify her. Then, Goyer made her first trip to Rwanda, working and living at a boys’ school for six weeks.
Later, she returned to Rwanda. “On the second trip, we did art therapy work with the boys.”
Afterward, Goyer returned to Athens and began applying to graduate schools. “I ended up studying at UGA for lots of reasons.” Employing the same self-questioning she always used, Goyer confronted herself: “Okay, nowyou’re going to grad school. What are you interested in?”
“I was sitting in on two classes in religion because I’m a big old nerd. My prof, Carolyn Medine asked, ‘When are you coming into the department?’ It hadn’t occurred to me that it was a possibility.” Again, more questions than answers flowed.
Medine’s comment stayed with Goyer. Yet, post Rwanda, she toyed with becoming an art therapist. “The reason I did not land on art therapy was because I felt it was too narrow and I would get bored without a wider range of stimulation and skills.”
Goyer was conflicted. “Mom was an artist, and she returned to art school when I was growing up.” She struggled for clarity, bumping up against this emotional scar tissue: “Was I doing art because of my Mom or because that was what I wanted to do?”
Meanwhile, Goyer had been painting so much she had enough pieces to assemble a show. “I ritually honored my experience of learning,” she says. “I had my own exit show at Walker’s downtown.” That exit provided Goyer with the closure needed.
Goyer deliberately pulled away to reflect. She used yoga and the trapeze for outlets. She realized the answer with stunned recognition. It was as if taken from a Joseph Campbell tutorial on the power of myth and meaning-making—something that became a phenomenon when Campbell and broadcaster Bill Moyer discussed it in a 1980s television series.
The answer was a single word: “Ritual.” That word illumined Goyer’s next steps. She started to explore ritual through religious studies, an inter-disciplinary program. Ritual seems oppositional to innovation and creativity, but Goyer disagrees.
“We have to be innovative—looking outside of where you expect a formal ritual to be.”
Goyer’s research addressed how the structure of ritual can be used intentionally. “What that means is, at the least it requires reverence for something wholly other, intention, and some kind of self-reflection,” Goyer explains.
She finds a more comfortable spot, crosses her legs and smiles. Next, Goyer would like to explore opening a business integrating mind-body and health. She might incorporate massage therapy and nutrition into the business model. If the concept is broad enough, inter-disciplinary enough, she smiles, it will keep her engaged.
“I am a pilgrim on the path,” Goyer says. “Just pay attention; it’s the first step to everything.” The path, she explains, could take you almost anywhere. Even straight up in the air on a flying trapeze.