To make a long story a little less long, a girl we have known since we were wearing diapers got in touch with us and said, “YOU HAVE TO MEET THIS CHICK VALERIE!” So, what do you do when one dwells in Ireland and the other is traveling all over God’s green earth spreading her awesomeness wherever she goes? You have a Facebook message introduction. “Val meet The Sister Project, The Sister Project Meet Val.” One thing led to another, and the next thing you know, Val and I (Michelle) are at our favorite little place,The York Tavern talking and sharing like we have been friends for eons. I left thinking to myself, wow, super duper cool ass chick. Ya know when you just click? There is that connection. It is easy. You can relate on EVERY SINGLE LEVEL. Yeah, needless to say we are friends, she’s inspiring and we don’t want to keep her to ourselves any longer than we already have. You need to meet her too.
Val is a little bit of everything. She is actually kind of ridiculous. She is the author of her first book, Enlightenment Is Sexy. She is the brains behind her killer blog. Bet you can’t guess the name? Enlightenment Is Sexy. She is a spokeswoman for Trancendental Meditation (TM), she is a lover of animals, incredible sister (perhaps what I love about her most) and all around good human.
World, meet Val Gangas. Our first TSP Profile.
1. If you can pinpoint one thing meditating regularly has done for you, what would it be?
It has definitely given me a sense of personal freedom and a feeling of limitlessness. It makes me feel like anything is possible while leaving me with a super groovy vibe.
2. It’s fair to say that everyone has days or moments where they feel hopeless, incredibly stressed and surrounded by negative vibes…knowing what you know and doing what you do, what tips can you offer our readers who may need a little new year pick me up?
Whenever I am feeling bummed I always tell myself, “this too shall pass.” Nothing ever stays bad forever and usually there is some sort of lesson that you need to learn that is knocking on your door. Pain is one of our greatest teachers. Part of the human condition is not paying attention until you are brought to your knees. When everything is hunky-dory, we just cruise along; when the shit hits the fan, we start getting real serious about improving our lives because the suffering is usually too much to bear. Once we recognize what’s going on, we can start seeing difficult times as opportunities in disguise. We can say to ourselves, “here we go again, it’s growth time!”
3. How do you begin your day?
When I wake up in the morning I am a total zombie. I’m not really a morning person, so I always grind up some delicious coffee beans and make a fresh pot of fantastic coffee. I don’t like to jump right on my laptop or phone so I usually read something uplifting and positive while I’m drinking my coffee. I have my favorite book of poetry “Love Poems From God” next to my bed. Nine times out of ten I read a couple poems and just ease into my day. Then I sit up in bed and meditate for 20 minutes. I know it sounds weird that I drink coffee before I meditate, but honestly if I don’t, I usually fall back asleep in the middle of my meditation. One cup of coffee brings me back to planet earth. After I’ve finished getting my TM on, I jump in the shower, make a green juice, let my creature out and get going with my work. I mostly work in coffee shops, so as soon as I’m ready I bounce and get out of the house. Easy, breezy, 1-2-3.
4. How do you end your day?
I try not to work past 9p.m. because I find that it keeps me up at night. If I’m not out for the evening I usually take a long detox salt bath with my own mix of sea salt, epsom salt, baking soda and lavender oil. I light some little candles around the tub, throw on some tunes and just totally chillax. Then I usually make a pot of tea with this great cinnamon honey I found and either watch an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN or Charlie Rose. I’m totally obsessed with both shows and with the magic of DVR there is always an episode waiting for me. I don’t really want to think by the end of the night so a bath, tea and an hour of mindless, but fun tv does the trick. Then I crawl into bed, close my eyes and think about what I want to figure out while I sleep. I have been doing this for years. I ask myself a question right before I fall asleep, something I’m confused about or something I need to sort out and then I give it up to the universe. I usually wake up with a clear answer. It’s one of my favorite Jedi mind tricks.
5. If you could teach anyone to meditate (famous or nonfamous, groups of people or an individual) who would it be and why?
Wow, that’s a really cool question. I guess the most important group of people that I think should be meditating are children. To give them that experience at the start of their lives is one of the greatest gifts you could give them; you are setting them up with a natural tool to fight stress, connect to a higher power as well as other people, think clearer, see further and have peace in their hearts. If every child in the world learned to meditate, we would have a very different world in 10-15 years. I have chills even thinking about it.
6. What makes Transcendental Meditation different than other forms of meditation?
It’s a mantra-based meditation that is taught by a highly trained TM teacher. The technique has kept its purity because of the strict rules it has for becoming a teacher. There is a huge difference between reading a book or watching a youtube video to learn how to meditate and actually sitting down with a teacher for four days in a row with clear instructions. I also had the experience that some energy—I can’t really explain it—was being passed on to me during the short ceremony that takes place the first day you learn. It really all just came together and with the help of my teacher I knew how to mediate in about five minutes. It was incredible. At this point I have seen hundreds of people learn transcendental meditation. Some famous, some young, some old, and it always make me giggle inside when they say, “I just can’t meditate, I’ve tried.” I’m always like, oh boy, here it comes. Then they learn from a TM teacher and they realize meditating is as easy as breathing. They always look totally shocked after the first time they go deep and it makes me laugh. Muahahahahaha
7. For the eager learners, how does one begin meditating?
The easiest way is to visit TM.org and click on the orange “Find A TM teacher” button. You’ll be prompted to enter some basic info and then just sit back and wait. Someone will contact you and let you know who the closest TM teacher is in your area. It’s super easy.
I would also recommend reading Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s book, Transcendence and Jack Forem’s Transcendental Meditation. They are both super informative books on the technique written by highly evolved geniuses. They are my go-to books for new meditators.
8. Do you use any props, certain clothing, aromatherapy or incense when you meditate?
Nope. Nothing. I just sit up, close my eyes, think my mantra, and off I go. No aids are needed.
9. What inspired you to begin your blog, Enlightenment is Sexy?
After I wrote my book, Enlightenment Is Sexy, Every Woman’s Guide To A Magic Life, I wanted to create a space on the interweb where creative, spiritually-minded, awesome humans could have place to read about living differently—a place where other writers could post their blogs and a home for my work. I do a lot of life coaching and website design, I sell killer products, and I speak about living from the inside out. My website has provided me with a vehicle to live my wildest dreams and share my passion with my peeps all over the globe. I never could have dreamt that something so kick-ass would have been possible for me. My site is more than blog, it’s a little piece of my soul. I’m so happy that I poured so much love into creating a home for Enlightenment Is Sexy. It was totally worth it.
10. Who is your celebrity crush?
Well, I’m going to have to name two people. Father Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest and a total wizard. He is my spiritual hero. I turn to him for a lot of guidance and clarity. I can’t get enough of his talks and books. Rohr is definitely my literary jam.
As far as just a totally sexy dude, I dig Elon Musk. I love men who go out there and change the world in a big way. He is a mixture of brains and balls with a dash of crazy. A perfect combo platter. He’s pretty easy on the eyes too. ME-YOWWWW!
11. What is The David Lynch Foundation’s mission and what is it your connection to the organization? Have you met Mr. Lynch?
The David Lynch Foundation teaches TM to at-risk populations like students in underprivileged communities, the homeless, veterans, inmates and people with HIV. It is an incredible organization. They are in various countries around the world just plowing through people’s trauma and stress. Through meditation, they are changing so many lives. They routinely turn around schools that have struggled in the past, they give veterans suffering with PTSD a second chance at peace and happiness, and basically they just give people in desperate need a way out of their suffering. I am so proud to say that I have been connected to this organization. When I was working at Harpo Studios (Oprah’s company) DLF was overseeing the project. After learning to mediate, Oprah wanted to offer this technique to everyone in her company. I happened to land in her office in Chicago where I helped the teachers systematically instruct most of her staff and executives. I saw how organized the system was and it became clear to me how DLF could be brought into any organization or school and just get down to business. I knew I was a part of something big when I got involved with TM and the David Lynch Foundation.
On another cool note, DLF always has the best fundraisers. Because so many famous people practice TM and love David, they are always star-studded events. I got to meet David at one of his events that was honoring legendary talent manager and producer George Shapiro with Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld (a long time meditator) and a bunch of other famous people. He was really kind and had the softest hands I have ever felt. I told him his hands were as smooth as butter (yes, that’s what I decided to say when meeting him—insert confused look). I’m dying laughing while typing this!!
12. Where is the coolest place you have ever meditated?
I have mediated all over creation—the back of a cab in NYC, airplanes, with Oprah and her executives, with a group of 800 people—but my favorite place I ever meditated thus far was in Houston at Rothko Chapel. It is a really simple chapel with the artist’s (Rothko) black paintings hanging from the ceiling. My good friend is a pilot in Fairfield, Iowa (half the town does TM) and we flew one of the planes down to Houston for the weekend. After dragging him to the Jung Center and all the art galleries around town, we stumbled into this chapel. It was totally silent and I suggested we sit down and meditate. Well, it was the deepest and most cosmic meditation I had ever had. My little soul filled up the space of the entire chapel and I had a feeling that was larger than life. It was as though I took off on a rocket ship and my essence embodied the whole universe at once. That was one hell of an experience. TM has given me the keys to the kingdom and allowed me to experience the cosmos in a way that I never knew was possible. How’s that for kick-ass??
13. You asked us so we must ask you, what is your daily mantra?
I wouldn’t really call it a mantra since I already have a mantra for my meditation practice, but I have a prayer that I say every day. After I’ve finished meditating, I also have a little one-on-one with God. I say the same thing day after day: “God, use me, show me what to do and I’ll do it. You lead the way and I will follow.” After I learned to meditate and started letting my intuition lead the way, I quickly realized that my intuition was really just a channel for God, the universe, the source—whatever you want to call it—to lead the way. As soon as I figured that out, I totally listened to my gut. I knew that God had a way cooler plan for me than I could ever dream up, so I let go and let God, literally. My life ever since has been filled with magic. For me, it’s the only way to roll. Period.
14. Coffee or tea? Gold or silver? Wine or vodka? Lavender or eucalyptus? Heels or boots? Green juice or smoothies? Forest or ocean?
Coffee. Gold. Big, bold California Cabs. Lavender. Boots (I’m a total tomboy). Green Juice, and not that bullshit green juice that’s all apples—I’m hardcore with my green drinks. Ocean, but the trees are definitely my friends.