Latika Menon, associate professor of physics at Northeastern, has accomplished a lot in her career so far. She’s contributed to nearly 100 scientific publications. She’s become the principal investigator in a lab specializing in the study of nanomaterials. She’s even founded her own company, Menon Laboratories, which develops filtration membranes for water treatment and synthesizes and sells nanomaterials to researchers and businesses.
However, Menon says that all of these achievements would not have been possible were it not for another, even greater achievement: finding clarity through breathing and meditation.
“Growing up I was focused on my career,” Menon said. “I reached a point where I was like, where is all this research headed?”
Meditation helped her to answer that question.
“We hear about meditation and calming the mind, but there is no easy way to do that,” Menon said. “I learned about these techniques where you do a lot of breathing.”
There is a powerful connection between the breath and the mind, and research on meditation shows that we can alter our emotional state simply by breathing differently. One popular breathing technique is called Sudarshan Kriya, or “sky,” and has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Menon first learned about sky breathing 10 years ago. Now, she practices it every day – sometimes meditating for up to two hours. She calls it her “mental hygiene” routine.
“I never leave my home without meditating. It’s the best part of my day,” Menon said, adding that after meditating, “I find I have more clarity, more focus in what I do throughout the day.”
She says that regular breathing and meditation has helped her to find the bravery to move outside her comfort zone. She founded Menon Laboratories in 2013. In 2014, she received an MBA from Northeastern to further develop her business acumen. Menon says she is able to teach, run her lab, and run her company all at the same time because of the centeredness she finds through meditation.
By making meditation a part of her daily life, Menon has also discovered connections between her breathing work and her background as a physicist.
“We are all made up of atoms, and negative charge is at the surface of atoms,” she said. “That’s true of us, too.
“Negative emotions form an envelope around us,” Menon continued. “What’s within us is pure joy. Breathing and meditation give us a glimpse of that consciousness and going to that pure joy within.”
Menon not only practices meditation for her own benefit, she also devotes time to passing the benefits of the practice onto others. She trained as a yoga and meditation teacher in 2016. For the last six months, she has led guided meditations for both beginning and advanced students at Boston’s Nonprofit Center, located right next to South Station. Sometimes her meditation sessions incorporate yoga, which Menon says can assist with the union of the mind, breath, and body. She has taught meditation to some 200 people so far, mostly students and young professionals from Boston and Cambridge.
In 2016, Menon worked with leaders at Northeastern’s Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service to found NU YesPlus, a Northeastern chapter of a program that’s part of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). NU YesPlus held a silent retreat on campus in March, and they also hold regular meetings and workshops in Northeastern’s Sacred Space.
Menon is also helping to organize Yoga Immersion Boston, a two-day event that will take place at the Hynes Convention Center in mid-May.
By leading guided meditations, Menon hopes to help others become less anxious, more centered, and more comfortable as leaders – just as she has been able to do for herself.
“A leader has to be someone who’s strong. Only then can they lead others,” Menon said. “These techniques give you that strength.”