This a continuation of our interview with “grey nomad” Monique Giroux in Wander’s Early 2023 issue.
After a 30-year career in financial services and the not-for-profit sector, Monique Giroux took early retirement at 55, traded in her business suit for hiking boots, and sold her home and possessions to pursue a slower-paced, minimalist, nomadic lifestyle.
Monique made a commitment to herself in 2019 to live an anxiety-free life by finding calm and peace of mind after an enlightening experience in Bali. Immersing herself in self-study and becoming a certified Forest Therapy Guide, Reiki Master, meditation, yoga nidra, and restorative yoga teacher, Monique is now breathing deeply. She works with clients to help them slow down and connect with their inner voice and intuition through nature connection and energy healing.
Founder of The Flourishment Collective, Monique is now travelling the world with her partner sharing stories of #2suitcases1laptop and the forest therapy guides she meets along the way. She is working on her first book, downloaded in a deep meditative state during a 9-day silent Buddhist retreat.
She shares distance reiki with clients around the world, supports women’s retreats, and mentors and trains new forest therapy guides. She continues to use her corporate experience as one of the female founders of the climate start-up Homes to Zero and consults on partnership and not-for-profit projects on occasion.
We connected with Monique while she was working and playing in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.
Wander: You mentioned doing a 9-day silent Buddhist retreat – was that difficult? How did that experience shape you?
Monique: I had been doing guided meditation for many years to help me fall asleep. In 2021, shortly after my early retirement, I signed up for a silent meditation retreat hosted by Bhante Vimalaramsi, a Mahāthera American Buddhist Monk). As this was during the pandemic, Bhante moved the retreat online, and I decided to do the retreat in silence and seclusion at a friend’s cabin in the woods.
There were 12 of us altogether, and we only met once on the first night to get our instructions: sit in a chair, feet on the ground, sit up straight, and not too comfortable. We were to stay in meditation from the moment we woke up, while walking, and in every waking moment. After long sittings, we were to go on fast-paced walks. We were to always have a Buddha smile. We were invited to smile with our mind, eyes, lips, and heart. The final instructions on that first day were bedtime at 10 pm and to get up at 5 am. We were to keep our minds light, have fun, and not be too hard on ourselves.
So, with instructions in hand, we said goodbye and began our retreat.
I got comfortable but not too comfortable and prepared myself for the first 30 minutes of seated meditation. I almost fell asleep several times. I kept looking at the clock to see if the 30 minutes were over, only to find only a few minutes had gone by and wondered how time could go so slowly. My mind was distracted, but I persevered. Eventually, I felt a wave of calm wash over me like a warm blanket of stillness.
Every afternoon I had a quick check-in with Bhante, who would ask questions and give new instructions. Eventually, I spent some time in a state of equanimity, which felt like a silent, quiet place where I could observe what arose in my thoughts without getting attached, resisting, or trying to change them. This was a place of mental clarity, inner peace, and emotional balance with glimpses of universal consciousness filled with love and compassion for myself and all beings. A place of nothing and everything.
I loved being in this place.
The most profound thing that happened was on day five, about two hours into meditation, I received a download of an entire book—12 chapters, the title of each chapter and the title of the book. This was hugely distracting for my meditation efforts as I was excited to start writing the story. Bhante reminded me that I could start writing when the retreat was over. Today, I am part of the Hay House Writer’s Community, intending to submit my book proposal this June.
There are progressive levels to meditation, and with this retreat, I learned so much about what my mind is clinging to and craving and how to fill myself with love and joy and radiate that love out to the world. Learning to meditate feels a lot like learning to run. In the beginning, you focus on the discomfort, the pain, and the distracting thoughts until you get in the flow. Then you want to stay in that place forever.
“I was on a quest to breathe deeply and find peace of mind. By slowing down, connecting to nature, becoming aware of my energy, and finding joy within myself, I began to hear my inner voice. I began to notice synchronicities and signs the universe was communicating to me, and I began to trust those signs. I connected with my intuition and let myself be guided by it. I became my own teacher. This is the path I am on today. I don’t know where it will lead, but I trust that it is taking me toward my purpose here on earth.”
Connect with grey nomad Monique at linktr.ee/flourishment.