Ep 03 – Sarah Shannon – Sarah Shannon Yoga

Sarah Shannon - Sarah Shannon Yoga
In this episode of A Pivotal Moment, host Mark Cahalane speaks to Sarah Shannon, owner of Sarah Shannon Yoga. Sarah gave up a successful corporate law career over five years ago to pursue her growing interests and passions. She moved to Portugal where she now shares the tools, practices and wisdom that she has learnt along this path.
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Podcast Episode Transcript – Sarah Shannon – Sarah Shannon Yoga

Mark Cahalane 

Hello and welcome to A Pivotal Moment, a podcast series about ordinary people who made extraordinary decisions both in their business and personal lives. I’m Mark Cahalan and in this episode, I’ll be talking to Sarah Shannon, who, after a successful career as a solicitor, followed her north wind and is now happily living and working in Portugal as a yoga teacher. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. We’re going to talk about your journey to where you are today and maybe just as we start, you might tell us where are you? 

Sarah Shannon 

Thanks, Mark. It’s a pleasure to be on and I am chatting to you from Portugal in the South Algarve, very, very sunny, and bright and blue skies today. 

Mark Cahalane 

Sounds very different to where we are today in Dublin and Sarah, maybe starting off, you might tell us a little bit about your, your background, your family, where you grew up. 

Sarah Shannon 

I grew up in Dublin and I went to school locally. I was living in Goatstown near there and grew up the eldest of three girls. Two sisters. And growing up, I never really knew what I wanted to do. You know when you ask somebody like what? What? What’s their passion? And I used to hate that question because I had no idea I was just kind of going along with it all and I went from school to go study business and legal in UCD. Still a little unsure what to. I went to all the accountancy interviews and was accepted into one of the accountancy firms, but I had this kind of inner sense that that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but I still didn’t know. So I went and did journalism and go to college for a year. It wasn’t really feeling like this is really my calling and it was. During that time, actually, media law really interests me. I then decided to go and. Continue on the legal route and get my qualification and yeah, I qualified as a lawyer and was there for almost six years in a corporate law firm in Dublin. 

Mark Cahalane 

And So what attracted you? You said media law. But what attracted you to that profession in general? 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah, like and two of Mark, that was probably the only thing when I think about it that just kind of interests me. Like, but I often wonder what did bring me to law because it was never something that I really wanted to do. I think it was more of a case of I didn’t know what I wanted to do and maybe on a quite a subconscious level, being a lawyer represented success is I was doing well. And all of my school subjects. So I thought, OK, I, you know, I could, I could do this kind of test myself, but there was no real like, you know, love or passion or. My matching of my, my, my talents and my gifts. So yeah, I think yeah, I just unconsciously flowed into law and didn’t really ask many questions. Where you were reluctant, solicitor, that’s when I think about it, but like unaware. Solicitor kind of. You know, just. Going along Monday to Friday, do the work. This is a job. That was it. I didn’t know I could be passionate about something I did. I didn’t know I could be incredibly confident in it and fulfilled my work. 

Mark Cahalane 

You mentioned, Sarah, that you know you were competent in the area. You looked at accountancy firms, et cetera. What was it about you that allowed you to be a good solicitor? 

Sarah Shannon 

I think diligence hard worker, you know, race it concentrating and attention to detail. These are all skills that I have that that really helped enjoying problem solving probably being just you know a good girl like doing the work and used to very kind of. Hierarchical structures in school and didn’t really question that. You know, if it all felt very. Normal. I suppose that kind of can work quite well in those settings. 

Mark Cahalane 

It sounds listening to you though, Sarah, there was clearly something else going on for you, even at an early stage. Did you find what you were doing initially satisfying? 

Sarah Shannon 

I think I found during the exams, funnily enough, satisfying, because to train and to train there’s the F1 exams and. Then into black hole to do further exams. And there’s this, you know process whereby you have to get over these hurdles and I think you know as a woman in my 20s, I was in the world that was quite satisfying to me. 

Mark Cahalane 

And answer you’re. Looking at making a change how early on in your career did that come the desire, the awareness that you wanted to do something different? 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah, quite lazy actually worked like I would. I did. I trained and then I after the training ship I applied to you to reinterview, you know, for the law firm that I was in and I was accepted onto the corporate team. So that was like another hurdle and accepted. OK, great. And it was really actually, after all, the hurdles had been finished. Which would should be. Perhaps the time to just really enjoy the career, that’s when I really started to ask questions. And I had this urge and desire. To go travelling. And I had was almost three years PQ. So post qualification and I thought OK to my mind a little bit I said I I’d love to join a different law firm. You know the market started. To happen like that, the people were moving. Around a lot. So I thought, OK, I’ll move lawful. But in that meantime, I’ll take a few months to myself. That was the best thing I ever did. And those few months actually ended up being a year. I stayed away travelling around Southeast Asia, away from everything. You know that I thought I was away from. I was on my own. 3031 backpacking around Southeast Asia and it was there. I got to really begin. To ask questions. 

Mark Cahalane 

Listening to when you talk about law, you talk about process, you talk about the progress you made and then you’re travelling around Southeast Asia. So there’s clearly a an inner dialogue going on for you. Were you afraid at this stage or what was the emotion you were experiencing? Because it seemed like you were moving away from something highly structured? To something very free and spontaneous. 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah, like such extremes that probably suits my inner rebel a little bit. As well, I went from that structure of being a solicitor and suddenly I’m backpacking, staying in hostels, living on a shoestring budget, and there I really found. I felt this is life. This is freedom. I couldn’t believe I got to. Do this you. Know it was just the most freeing thing, but. Like everything, when there’s no structure and I remember actually really looking forward to coming home, when I finally did and funnily enough, I went back into a law firm craving a bit of stability structure. And also kind. A bit like. OK, so you know, life can’t be. Free all the time. If you gotta get back, that was what I was saying to myself. But that didn’t last long. 

Mark Cahalane 

I’m really curious. Here when you went back into the law firm or what was the first day like you’ve been away travelling, you’ve been getting to know a different part of you and a part of you. Clearly your inner essence, and then suddenly you’re back in a law firm. What? What was that first day like? 

Sarah Shannon 

It was. It was. Actually kind of exciting, because just as you mentioned, like my inner essence, I thought, OK, I can bring this into the workplace. And I was feeling excited about the structure of it, so I went in all guns blazing, kind of like we. Can do this. You know, I found my interest and passions. I could do them on the weekend. And I could work. During the week, it seemed like a perfect combination. One maybe could support the other and that that lasted. You know, I worked really hard. I and I got a promotion and promoted to associate in my first six months and I decided to take that time after Christmas to. Go away on a holiday. To reward myself but a. Holiday for me then was going to an. Ashram in India where to dress in? White every day and sit. On the. Floor eating food up my hands. And very strict like meditation. And yoga. But it was there again that. I had to. Stop and listen. And it was actually this one moment, you know, these one moments in your life that just almost change everything and they’re just so simple. And I was. I’d rented loads of books from the. Restaurant library on meditation. Yoga and they were all spread out in front in front of me on the grass during our free time and I was reading them all. I was taking down notes and this girl sat down beside me and said, wow, you’re so interested. What do you do back home? And I looked at her and I just felt like it was this moment that I was looking down on myself, but. This doesn’t even make sense, I said. I’m a corporate lawyer. I’m, you know, felt like a clown in a costume because I really. It’s like this, you know, isn’t that’s. Not what I’m interested in. 

Mark Cahalane 

So a pivotal moment. Clearly, Sarah, you also write incredibly arrogantly about the North wind and the call of the North wind and gently feeling that so from that moment, how did you move on? What decisions did you make, what was going on to bring you to where? You are now. 

Sarah Shannon 

Thank you, mark. I love writing to make sense at all and the North wind was something that I have noticed in my life. Shows up and it’s actually from. From this film the Shocker. I’m not sure if you know, but in the film the woman is very connected with nature and she listens to the wind to guide her. She was a healer travelling around the world and the wind would signal to her it was time to move. And what I realised was in my life, though these inner north wind moments are, you know, stirrings that are urging me to take a look, to move. To change something up and what I’ve learned is that if I can listen to them, they’re very gentle breeze, listen and get curious. It’s much easier and nicer than waiting for the storm to literally bang down the house and say, listen, this needs to change. So I’m really always curious about, you know, you know whispers. Following my curiosity, where is this leading me and it was it was that north wind that that brought me to Portugal. I just started to notice that yes, I loved what I was doing, but there was something more that I was looking for change in lifestyle and these whispers. Now you know, I use a journal library to my writing journaling. To write down about these whispers and it’s amazing. Where they where they guided me. 

Mark Cahalane 

You had that pivotal moment in the Ashram and you felt like you were in a clown in a costume. So this is a fairly radical change. You’re in a very structured life and you have made a decision were you afraid, were you excited? Can you remember Sarah, back to that time emotionally, where were you? 

Sarah Shannon 

Oh, I can remember that so well because it was January time I came back into the office. I’ve been two weeks in India feeling so good. I arrived in the office and I was like, wow, you look so, so rested, so clear, you know, my face, my eyes. And I thought, OK. Yeah. Sit down at the desk. Bring this piece. To my work and. Yeah, sure. That day I was in the in the office till 11:00. O’clock that. Night brought in. On loads of deals that were happening. It was a busy time and I remember looking in the mirror as I left the office. My eyes were all bloodshot, my skin was all blotchy. I haven’t eaten. I didn’t feel good and I just thought, no, this this is not the way I can live, but life change. I’ve learned that it there’s a big long process in it and it wasn’t, you know, until six months later that I actually left law and those few months that followed that time in the ashram were very difficult. Like what you speak about? Their work. You’re deep in the unknown. No clarity. It’s a very uncomfortable space to be. And but I dug deep. I had tools like yoga and meditation, and I started to dream and vision. My future? I had no idea what it was going to be. I was looking at everything. Pure communications. I was kind of trying to think of something close to law, but not law. I had no idea where the road was taking me. What I did. I used that time. There to vision. I need vision. Boards I was cutting out snippets of. Things just what? What would my dream life dream work look and feel like? I didn’t know what it was, but I knew. And I had words like, you know, I was in nature helping people project, work, adventure. And I didn’t know what it was gonna be. But when I look back on those words, you know, that is what my work is now. 

Mark Cahalane 

Were you looking for advice from friends and family? Was that complicating things? For you were. Your family and friends worried that this. What’s going? On, yeah. 

Sarah Shannon 

Yes, family and friends. I especially family, you know, have a great support network with my mum and dad and my sisters. And I chatted with my mum. And dad a. Lot and they were really helpful in encouraging my ideas, but also we’re quite concerned as well for me, you know, what are you going to do? How you gonna make a living? You. Know adventure sounds great, but how will that you? Know that very practical stuff that. I would find challenging sometimes because you have these big dreams, but then. It’s a very practical part. But it was actually. I was Hemming and hawing. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I was actually living at home at the time. I’d. I’d moved back. Home and after the end. Of the relationship. So I was back home. So I was actually very close to my support. Network and they. Could see. My discomfort, and it was actually my dad who said to me just hand it in hand in your notice, because I’d literally had it in my back pocket for weeks and it was that kind of little gentle encouragement of, OK, just do it. And did it that day with no idea what I was going. To do next. 

Mark Cahalane 

Was that exciting? Or how did that feel? 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah. Yes, it was. It was thrilling, actually. Because yes, I had no idea what I wanted. Do, but I’d spend the time dreaming and visioning and just getting into that feeling of a lot of different life could look like and I’d spend time with it as well. It wasn’t a new dream like I’d nurtured it and I’d, you know, find other people and whether it’s social media or websites that are doing similar. Doing things that that appealed to me, so that bolsters that my son. I believe, and I also decided, OK, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to mind the gap. I’m going to go off and. Do my yoga. Teacher training because. I’m fascinated. I’m really interested in yoga and I’ll do that for myself and then I’m gonna walk the Camino to Santiago and there will give me all the answers, is what I believed. So I had two months planned so. The day I turned off my computer in the law firm for the last time, I thought here we. Go life games. 

Mark Cahalane 

And did the answer come to you on the Camino? 

Sarah Shannon 

No, it’s a wonderful place to go for inspiration, cause every so many people there at some juncture in their life and I got lots of ideas. But I arrived in Santiago with the dream of moving out of Dublin, either to go or Cork, and I was going to become a writer. What was the plan? I didn’t know. What about? And I had that plan and I felt excited by it. I’d talked and walked with writers, and I loved the idea of moving somewhere on my own and. I got back to Dublin and this is where sometimes these, you know, these chance meetings. I was. I was in a restaurant and I went into a friend. You know I. Kind of knew from over the years and he owns a cafe in in Dublin and he said I’ve been following your story because I was blogging about it and that’s what I feel. Also the wonderful thing about sometimes. Knowing no words, I was blogging about leaving law and my journey. And he said you. Should come and do yoga in the. Cafe and I’m kind. Of thinking ohh, I’ll have to commute. I’ve got this plan of being in a cottage somewhere, writing and but I. Still knew it was a good opportunity. So I took it and I used to do a Sunday night and Monday night class in my mind and I started kind of feeling all this isn’t really what I want to do. Couple of classes in I felt wow this I felt like myself for the first time and then people really started coming back showing up and I could see I was. I was helping people and that’s really where it began. So before that moment, I hadn’t considered yoga as a career. And also it was a difficult one then and even for my family to even see it as a career as well because it’s relatively new. And I was also just doing the two classes a week in that mine, so it wasn’t exactly hugely supportive career, but it’s amazing what can grow from that seed that was planted then. 

Mark Cahalane 

And from that moment on, Sir, was your mind made-up that yoga was going to be? The start of a new life A. New career for you? 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah, Mark, that was that was it. I haven’t. I haven’t stopped teaching since four years over four years ago. And yes, I never looked back. Never. Yeah, I felt well. It was kind of that sense of adventure. I was thinking I’m on this path now and. Yes, it was a yoga class. Then I started working with corporates, you know, going back into places like law firms, accountancy firms and I was. Teaching yoga there and. Then I was doing meditation and then doing talks. And it was just beginning. The world was widening and widening. And I yeah, I felt from the very first moment. We’re so excited to be finally on a path, but. Size of me. 

Mark Cahalane 

But there was more change to come. Portugal, how did that all happen? 

Sarah Shannon 

More change to come. I remember when I said I was moving to Portugal and my friend said she said you don’t sit still for long because that was another big, big change I’ve been teaching in Dublin for a number of years and pandemic came along and that really forced me to shake things up. And become an online teacher and it actually provided a massive opportunity and bananas to me at the. But I move my whole business online and continue teaching younger classes, corporate classes and once I got up and running, I was a very busy time and I was living in an apartment across the Rd from my family. And yeah, I was extremely fulfilled by my. Work, but I. Felt there was more to my life, you know, I wanted to. Meet my partner. I wanted a lifestyle that I really felt matched my. Dream, you know I. Was yoga teacher, but I was also inside a lot and I was at the laptop and I just thought by moving. Away just to. To create a life for myself, really. And I guess it was really about moving away from where the family home was starting. That part of my life, family and I again this is, you know, back to the drawing board, literally vision boards out snippets cutting out images of where I’d like to live. And what it would look like? What? It would feel like. And gathering words. And I was putting them all together on a vision board. And when I looked back and I at the time I thought it was Wicklow or somewhere not so far from Dublin. Yeah. Wicklow was really at an area. I was looking. At somewhere where I could be in nature and. Have a community. Of and do my retreats the dream of world and free was being boring. As well, so that was all. On the board, when I look at. It now it’s. Actually, like it’s all blue. Sky is very sunny, so I don’t know what part of Wicklow I was visiting, but I did not know it was Portugal and I think I would have actually been a bit terrified to move so far away from my family and also move from my business and my clients. I think if someone had said that to me, I would have said no. Not too much, but bit by best the inspiration just came and. That was like a. Something that was put in my mind, you know, I knew what I wanted. I knew all the things. And Portugal just was an idea. Just that just wouldn’t go away and I’ve been. Coming here a lot of. The child and all through my teenage years. So, I knew it and I. Knew some people here and I thought I’d give it a try. And that was this time. Actually, two years ago, so. I moved. I packed my bags. Once again, once at my apartment and moved to Portugal with this dream of wild and free and meeting the man of my dreams, and both manifested in months after moving to Portugal. So once again I was showing this, you know, the north wind, the whispers, the uncomfortable face. Is dreaming and visioning, letting go, you know, by actually moving or changing and then blossoming blooming. You know, that’s the cycle I keep saying in my life. 

Mark Cahalane 

So, you let go to get the things you wanted. 

Sarah Shannon 

Yeah, exactly. It’s a bit of a process because I was holding on to those things bit by bit, let them go and again best move I made. 

Mark Cahalane 

You’re getting married in June, Sarah. I know. So, congratulations on that. It’s lovely to see how you’ve manifested all the things that you wanted. You mentioned wild and free there. What is wild and free? 

Sarah Shannon 

Wildway is a way of living. It’s living our authentic self and those words are words I’ve always carried with me and I created this wild and free retreat, and the retreat is a is a place to go to. And it’s, yeah, discovering our authentic self, which sounds. Very easy you know I live my authentic life, but I’ve found it difficult. Many, many challenges, so the tools and practises I share on the retreat are all of the things that helped me move into more authentic living things like meditation, journaling, yoga. I also bring in sound healers. We do a sound bath, the cow ceremony, Wild woman workshop. And see swimming and just being around other oh women, you know, hearing stories being supported. And it’s been an incredible journey. You know women, it started with mainly Irish women flying over. Not so far, you know, Dublin to Farrell or wherever in Ireland, they’re coming. And now it’s grown. You know, I had women from the States and Scotland, England, Germany, all coming in and amazing healing and deep work has done in our treats. And I’ve just completed my 10th one since moving here. I have to start my next one soon. And it’s been a dream come true. It’s such an honour to do this. 

Mark Cahalane 

So, I’m sure there must be women you meet on wild and free who are very similar to you at three years ago, who are stressed, tired, wondering, is there something else they can do? What advice would you give to anyone who finds themselves in that situation? You call it your North wind, but as you look back now and the change you’ve gone through? What would you say to anyone who’s hearing you now thinking I’d like to do something else? 

Sarah Shannon 

I would say like acknowledged us and know that perhaps it’s the beginning of a very exciting journey, but it does not have to be done, you know, straight away to take time to make space for yourself so that you can listen using tools and practises, meditation, journaling, gather. With other women that you find inspiring listen to podcasts, I always ask the women like, what are you curious about? Well, we have this beautiful practise at the back of the journal things that I love we right at the top and then we start to feel that doesn’t even have to be associated. At work, things that I love and I believe they are our breadcrumbs to bring us to our passions and just, yeah, get curious, get very, very curious about your interests and see where they lead. I get many women looking for something more and whether it’s more self-love. Work more from their work. Or their relationships. Yeah, and lots of lots of lawyers come. 

Mark Cahalane 

I can well imagine, Sir, just as we’re coming to the end. Two last questions, if that’s OK. Do you miss anything about? 

Sarah Shannon 

No, no, I don’t miss. Anything. The only thing that would be perhaps Nice. As I’m a. Solo business owner things like annual leave and having a steady salary. But other than that, nothing. 

Mark Cahalane 

And finally, Sarah, how is Sarah, the yoga teacher? Different to Sarah, the solicitor? Have you changed? 

Sarah Shannon 

Yes, very different. Now I’m still, I’m still the. Old me, I I’ve changed. Because I have much bigger lust for life. And you know, when I look back on that woman in her 20s and early 30s, working as a lawyer, she was so lost and unfun. Built and when I. Look at so the yoga teacher she’s on. A path that I. Truly believe is my soul’s path and that that’s a very exciting place to be because you can’t really go wrong. You just keep walking this path and that is incredibly liberating and free. So, I suppose when I think of the comparison. You know, one woman is 3 and the other is trapped. 

Mark Cahalane 

Sarah Shannon, it has been a pleasure listening to the free version of you. Thank you very, very much for your time. 

Sarah Shannon 

Thank you, mark. It’s been an absolute pleasure. 

Mark Cahalane 

You’ve been listening to a pivotal moment. My name is Mark Cahalane. I help businesses tell compelling stories to engage their stakeholders. I Coach senior business leaders on systemic change and leadership. I partner business teams to help them drive high performance. And when business relationships go wrong and help them all negotiate better ways of working together, you can find out more. My take on these topics at marteloleadership.com. 

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