Shannon Paige is a yoga teacher, yoga teacher’s teacher, storyteller and TedX speaker. She infuses her bodies of work with a fullness of artful living and passion for life on and off the yoga mat. Her instruments of instruction and expression are detailed and clear woven through a fluid progression of myth, imagery, poetry and truth. Shannon encourages and supports the practitioner to unlock secrets held in the human heart, release stuck patterns that no longer serve, and attain new levels of integrated embodiment. She is described by many as being “confidently vulnerable;” as a result, she is one who inspires positive change. Off the mat, she loves to spend time in the sun, wake surf, and run. Based out of Boulder, Colorado and her home studio and school, Earth Yoga Boulder and the School of Embodied Poetry, Shannon globetrots to deliver transformative classes, talks, trainings and retreats.
What do I do best?
Question number one, this question, almost gives me hives. Interestingly enough, when I first sat down with it, I noted that if this question were written in the reverse, ‘What I do worst’, I would have had a fast and familiar set of answers. In fact, I could have submitted a laundry list of places where I feel I fall short personally and professionally. I did not feel an immediate connection to doing anything so well that I could consider myself a gold star example.
I realize, this is all too common for many of us and that my struggle is not unique.
Recognizing that perhaps this question, therefore, has a purpose beyond my fear of revealing my short comings, feeling distant from a best gift, or offering a canned yoga professional answer of best-est-ness on the mat, in the studio, or on the meditation cushion, I decided to sit with the discomfort of it.
With this discomfort and a sinking feeling of falling short, no perfect answer to “What I do best,” I began to piddle around my house. I put in a load of laundry, folded the one before it, and folded even the fitted sheets to a tight square, so that they fit into their designated spot in the linen closet. I made snacks and lunches for the day to follow, assessed the refrigerator and marketed on the grocery list the needed items for the coming week. I cleaned the kitchen, made the bed, and re-organized the pantry. I walked the dogs, straightened my beloved’s side of the closet, and polished the wood in the living room. I swept and vacuumed.
After this stream of activities, I lit candles, turned on some Billy Holiday, and fluffed pillows until the entire place, room to room, burst with an amber glow of comfort and serenity. I sat down with a mug of tea and I realized I felt a strong sensation of satisfaction and calm. Order, for me, calms. When everything in my nest is clean and straightened, organized and just so, I feel like my best self. Tending to my home and nest makes me feel better. It always has.
Boom. This is my gift. This is my best-est-something! I am a world class “nester”. I am extraordinary at cultivating our sacred ‘home’ space to make me and Jeff feel held, organized and aimed at all the challenges, victories, losses, and hard questions outside these walls. It’s not just being good or skilled at organizing and cleaning, it is that it feeds me. Further, it’s more than wanting a pretty place to call home, I am actually in love with the process of making it feel beautiful and inviting. After a day of both of us running our own businesses, I get to come here and nurture the space which in turn nourishes us both. We come here to not escape professional challenges, but rather to become bolstered and refueled by this extraordinary calm and beloved home.
I know, to some, it’s odd to love what many of my friends call ‘chores’. However, by tending to this place, I feel as though I set a foundation from which to lift dreams and operate the vast machine of my busy life. Perhaps some of our gifts and what we are best at are hidden it what could be considered the mundane and simple.
I claim my simple gold star. I am a true, skilled, and potentially the world’s best ‘nester’!!
What makes me the best version of myself?
I, like many, have been told no, shot down, diagnosed with cancer, cut open, broken up with, downsized, bullied, fired, criticized, lied about, radiated, divorced, over-edited, and even publically shamed. Life has not been overwhelmingly kind. However, life has been life, it brought me to this point and I attribute it to a sense of resilience and the hashtag #shepersisted.
I feel the grit of that hashtag deeply. It was originated to celebrate Senator Elizabeth Warren’s persistence in the face of being told to stop talking, stand down, and shut up. She was told this while making a point that needed to be made. Instead of giving up, sitting small, and being silent, #shepersisted. Her lack of hush was pretty awesome. Politically you might not like her; however, I feel certain that she would let that opinion stop her. She has a focus, a passion, and regardless of political obstacles, she has a skillset intact to not give up, nor back down to bullies and the louder voices. I admire that resilience.
Sometimes life has thrown some people, circumstances, and illnesses at me that have made me want to hide silent and quiet underneath the covers. I certainly did not want to amend my plans, in these instances, to allow incoming obstacles to become part my roots and foundation. In fact, I feel like I have had to summon impossible, herculean strength several times, just to get through a Tuesday.
However, get up I did. Get going, I went. Push through, I pressed. Something in me, leveraged something to move forward.
I remember when an ex-boyfriend and I were tearfully breaking up, he said, “I am not worried about you. I am worried about me. You are the most resilient creature I know.” I am sure he made it through, but it was the most painful split of my life and several mornings, I could barely breathe. However, I did. All the while I kept practicing, writing, working and altering my life plans to not include him.
Since then, I have often reflected upon his words. I am not sure I had previously seen myself in that light. Sure, I knew I had a capacity to keep going, but since then, I have rested back into knowing it has helped me become me.
Resilience is a skill. It can be learned, developed and honed. The first time a person doesn’t give up, in the face of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, I feel that he or she taps into resilience. That this ‘keep going attitude’ transfers the energy of anxiety and fear into creativity and action. Creativity short circuits fear. Growing one’s resilience is critical to success in love, life, and profession. Resilience is the key to confidence. It grows a good human.
Of course, resilience building is not the easy path. Some circumstances will be so radically root rocking that one may have to move forward on a completely unexpected path, with an altered sense of belonging, and a different sense of being. Absolutely, this may be painful. However, this is where the rubber meets the road, as the pain might just be an unavoidable inspiration to step forward anyway. The best way to move out of the uncomfortable is to do just that, move.
Action has been critical to my resilience. I am my best self when I take the first step, particularly it feels like it might break me. This poem by David Whyte has gotten me to step out from underneath the covers and forward on many a dark day.
Start Close In
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way of starting
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems
What are my aspirations?
Personally, I aspire to be a loving wife, a good friend, a great daughter, a caring confidant, and a patient soul. I aspire to invest in my vital being and restful wisdom to feel vibrant many more days than I feel low. I look forward to incredible conversations, unique friends, eccentric moments and spending my golden years on a sailboat with my beloved, leaving the traditional world of retirement in our wake. I wish to be the eccentric old lady who is unbothered by those who would have her appear, speak or write in some other way. I am aimed at leaving a legacy behind of generosity, gumption, and a creative spirit that inspires others.
Professionally, my aspirations are anchored directly into my personal goals. I have lived the professional life of all consuming work and have felt the great cost of family and personal relationships. I have chased money and learned that it never holds a hand or dries a tear. I have overlooked holes in a marriage and busily filled them with accolades instead of healing them with honest inquiry. I have built up a professional persona, only to watch it tumble from its own pedestal. All these lessons hard earned and well-learned, I am not driven by fame or followers. I am happiest, most abundant and authentic when I am able to be creative. I like leveraging that creativity as an entrepreneur. Though being a solo act requires a bit of hustle, it suits me and offers me the spaces of self-reflection that keep me on the path of becoming my ‘best me’.
Knowing this truth for me, I want to continue to spark beings. I aspire to serve others on similar and different paths of solo and entrepreneur work in the yoga world. I aspire to keep teaching and writing on topics that serve those who are seeking a resource to help inspire and support their unique gifts, voice and offerings.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success is becoming a fairly accomplished wake surfer at age 46! Truth, it is incredibly challenging for adults to learn something new. The older we get, the more the human brain avoids any dodgy new endeavor, as it might end in failure. The brain effectively pairs failure with certain death. This link keeps us safe and alive. The brain is particularly clear on new activities that appear obviously dangerous. It is not a huge leap to see that surfing behind a motor boat, at 11mph, without a rope, in a lake, with other boats, might be treacherous.
At 43, I was introduced to the sport by my beloved. He has been boating and engaged in water sports since he was a small child. When invited to his boat for the first time, I was blown away at these seemingly death-defying sports he loved. He and his friends, seemed to effortlessly surf the static wave behind the boat with elegance and ease. I saw them make majestic turns, spin in circles, and perform incredible jumps. I was most impressed when several of them did not even use a rope to stand up on the surf board. They simply placed the surf board on the back deck of the boat and surfed off directly into the wave. They then surfed back onto that same deck when they were finished. Some of them never even got their hair wet! It appeared beautifully impossible. I was in awe.
When asked if I wanted to try it, I declined and stated that I was absolutely content to watch. I was. Further, I was certain that I could not even stand up on board, let alone someday let go of the rope, and never look as graceful as all of these lifelong water babies.
Somehow and someway, Jeff convinced me to give it a try, nearly a month later. I had literally watched almost every day for just over three weeks. There were fewer people on the boat that afternoon and everyone was really encouraging. They let me know that standing up would be the hardest part of this entire learning process,.
No one has ever been more correct.
I didn’t stand up on my first attempt, nor my second, third, forth or fifth attempt. After these five tug and splashes, I was so exhausted that I came back onboard. The next day, I gave it another go. Again, I was pulled up and over and off the board. Over and over, Jeff had to circle around and line me up for another attempt. Everyone was so kind. Jeff was so patient and encouraging. The time I did stand up, the cheers were deeply palpable in my heart. I was so surprised and elated that I fell right on over, but surfaced with a big smile across my face. I knew it would be a long row to how, but I gained a determination and apparently something called ‘surf stoke’.
It took a whole season to get good at letting go of the rope and remain confident that the engine was tucked well under the boat, unable to cut me to bits. It took yet another season to become skilled at the mystical surf on and off trick. It took this last year to learn to catch some air and make turns that spray huge amounts of water to which I have heard, “dude, that’s a chick! She can surf!”
They are right. I can.
I am 46 years old and have taught this middle-aged brain a few new tricks. It is the most empowering thing I have ever done. I consider learning something this bizarre, at this stage of my life, my greatest success.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My most challenging moment was the decision to end my last marriage. My previous husband was a kind man. He was a funny man, deeply likeable and beloved by everyone who came in contact with him. He was deeply woven into my family. He was overtly affectionate in public and everyone assumed that we had the perfect connection.
I can’t quite explain it, but there was a hollow pain from the beginning. We didn’t have the intimate honesty to fill it.
There were secrets. There were revelations. Words were said. Damage was done. We both tried to forgive, but neither of us could ever forget. We just simply hurt one another, differently but deeply. Healing was accomplished on the outside, to our families, yoga community and friends, we looked stronger. However, we could not quite get through the inner mending.
Instead of unraveling then, for years, we became excellent roommates and dear supporters of one another’s endeavors and pursuits. We made it through a massive change in our business and his profession, a financial crisis, and a scary medical emergency with my mother.
There was palpable love but an ultimate lack of grit. Gritless, a bizarre event and betrayal left me with something new inside the place of hollow pain, to which I had become so accustomed. It was a pain beyond explanation. That day, the earth cracked and I fell in.
We separated. We split the house and pets for two months.
I ultimately filed for divorce. It went fast. We put the house on the market. It sold in six hours. We moved out and in opposite directions three weeks later.
The decision shattered my family it distanced so many friends. I am not sure that they will ever heal their disappointment in my failed marriage. The words of, “but you guys were so great. Really, you should try to make it work. The hell you know is better than the hell you don’t know. Really, Shannon, there are no other men out there. You are too old to start over.”
I could not heed that advice. It is not just that the marriage was broken; it is that it broke me.
This breaking changed the course of me, not just my life or my last name. Ultimately, the second I made the decision to let go, I let in a string of new versions of myself. Trying on these new adaptations, I made mistakes but I made progress.
By choosing divorce, I chose the unsafe path, perhaps for the first time in my life. It ultimately led me to a healing I could not have found otherwise. The hollow pain eventually passed into its innate grace of possibility. I stopped viewing myself as damaged goods, a dented can. I let go of other’s disappointment at what they saw as a failure. I took a chance on something new, better, maybe even best.
The path, for all its potholes, led me to today. Today, I rest back into my best and strongest relationship of trust, honesty, intimacy, and fantastic love – not just with my fiancé, but with myself.
‘Now, take the one step you must take, your own.’
I wear this final line of a poem I wrote several years ago on my right forearm. It reminds me, many times every day that I can live in connection with others, even deep connection another; however, ultimately, I am responsible for the life I live. No matter how challenging, I am on the line for the decisions I make and the steps I take.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Personally, I admire my mom. I swear she is the strongest woman on the planet. She has stood up for herself and others in moments and circumstances that are truly incredible and required unreal bravery. I know that it is often considered a curse to grow up and become your mother; however, it is a great aspiration of mine.
Professionally, I am inspired by Brene Brown. Of course, I love her progression of books. I know many passages by heart and use her words when I am asked to give advice to a friend. She is an amazing resource. What I love more than her written work; however, is her first Ted talk. She speaks about shame and vulnerability with those actual qualities palpable in her words and visible in her eyes. She is clearly terrified and she speaks anyway. At points, her voice shakes but she is unabashedly herself. She is brilliant. She demonstrates the very powerful combination of living and being in the world with confident vulnerability. I aspire to live out loud in these qualities.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
The Water. The Ocean.
I was born in Riverton, WY. I grew up in Monument, CO. I live and work in Boulder, CO. I have led a life that has been oddly landlocked, considering my love of the ocean.
Immediately, upon making it to any shore, my breath finds an easy rhythm. My mind slows. My life moves at the humble pace of my body, rather than the urgency of the clock. It is my happy place and dream destination, for certain.
Just as much as I love the ocean, I have a second place that brings me the same degree of peace, kindness of pace, and calm in my heart. That is the spot squarely in front of, sitting next to, or wrapped up in the arms of my best friend and fiancé. He reminds me, often without words that laughter is the best medicine, that the power of rest should never be underestimated, and that every day is an adventure.
So, it makes sense that the ultimate place, for me, involves both Jeff and the ocean. Jeff and I have a shared dream of selling it all. We dream of selling the house, the art, the books, and the belongings; in order to buy a Catamaran, set the sail, and catch the winds to explore the world from that oceanic point of view.
Loving the ocean is one thing, dreaming about life on a boat is another, but knowing that you won’t kill each other when confined in a small space – priceless. I know that in my heart of hearts, that is the ultimate happy place whose time will come!
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My favorite product is Sun Basket, which is a grocery-meal delivery service. A box arrives every Tuesday with three perfectly portioned meals for us to prepare. This service allows us to choose and cook recipes we probably would not otherwise select. The produce and meats are all organic and the spices are all measured and included. Plus, we look forward to the end of the say and the preparation of these dishes. It is our wind down time, in which we get to invoke our creativity and nurturing spirits! www.sunbasket.com
My second favorite product is also a service, Naked Wines. This site organizes and shares small wine producers around the globe, who do not have their own marketing budgets or effective distribution. The price range is across a wide spectrum and the selections are amazingly vast. Once a month, I make my selections and wait for the box with baited breath! www.nakedwines.com
Before my career in the yoga industry, I ran restaurants. My most notable position was for ten years with a Boulder-based and award winning fine dining establishment, as the General Manager and sommelier. My passion for excellent wine goes hand in hand with my love of cooking.
My Current Passions?
My current passions are…
• My beloved – Jeff is my best friend and great love.
• My dogs – Isis and Willie.
• Running – not fast, nor far. Just getting out there is a gift, almost every day.
• My studio – I co-own this studio with my best friend Sarah. Both the studio and the lady inspire me like crazy!
• Teaching Yoga Teachers – Being part of persons taking their passion for yoga public is beyond the beyond for me!
• Wake Surfing – I love this sport! I only wish that summer lasted longer so that the season could be as well!
• Summer – I swear, summer is my spirit animal. I love and appreciate having four seasons in Colorado. However, our summers are incredible!
• The Water – whether it be the ocean or the Boulder Rez, I love being on or near the water. It uplifts me.
• Social Justice and Inclusivity – Since the past election, I have become quite active and impassioned about creating ‘the more beautiful world we know is possible’, to quote philosopher Charles Eisenstein.
• Cooking! It is my favorite time of each day.
• Wine and Friends – I love sharing a beautiful glass of wine with friends. It is so celebratory, even if just a Tuesday.
• Writing – I am passionate about this form of self-expression, in myself and helping to cultivate it in others.
• Yoga – I am revived in my passion for my mat-based practice. Here, I am no longer chasing the fantastic and seemingly impossible pose. Instead, I find myself lingering and loving simple movement with a much more subtle and pervasive intensity.
• Piddling and Nesting – I am deeply in love with my home. I love creating space, cleaning, polishing, folding, dusting and enjoying a space of home.
• Gray – I am deeply passionate about the color gray. I wear it always. It goes with everything. It is elegant and makes me feel beautiful.
• Earl Grey Tea – I love a cup of this tea, every day. I drink it with coconut milk, honey, and coconut oil… amazing.
• Mythology – Studying and sharing myth is my jam. I adore making it interesting and approachable to others.
Doorway, Clothing - Om Collection, Photographer - Sierra Voss
The Creek, Clothing - Om Collection, Photographer - Sierra Voss
Dawn, Clothing - Om Collection, Photographer - Sierra Voss
Denver Yoga Festival - Photographer - Kelly Shroads
Yoga -Shannon - Photographer - Stacey Potter