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  • Writer's pictureYAM Patel

Why should we have a Work-Life Balance

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheena Patel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sheena, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?

There was a long period in my life, where I worked and lived in my sympathetic nervous system. I had succumbed to the system believing that only when I was working was I being productive. That in order to deserve happiness, joy and downtime, I had to earn it through work. I like so many defined success by how much I made, what I owned, and my position in the Businesses and NGO’s I worked in or owned. Simply put I had attached my self worth and happiness to work and all that it afforded me. Balance for me back then, was working all week, more than nine hours a day and then going nuts on the weekend or transforming into a sloth in front of a TV. At one point I was working 7 days a week, thinking I would rest on holidays or when I retired.

That is until I hit rock bottom in my personal life and lost everything in nearly every other aspect of my life. For it was here, under a rock, shrouded in darkness, did I begin the yogic journey into myself and all its layers. The more I studied with gurus, doctors, trauma surgeons, sound healers etc, the more I understood that in order for me to find inner joy, happiness and unending success, my life had to mirror my body. A human body that only operates efficiently when in balance, on a daily basis. A body whose sympathetic flight and flight stress system must be balanced by its parasympathetic calm healing system. I had finally understood that every moment, that was my life, had to be lived in balance, in order for me to have the clarity and awareness to follow my true path, a path that has led me to a life of joy and magic and great success.

To do that, I opened my own studio teaching the most ancient discipline in the world, Yoga. I am the only teacher. Although I can fill every class, I teach only a couple of hours a day. Then I swim the ocean, I write, I meditate, I play with my godchild, I spend time with nature, and I enjoy every moment of my life in a body that gives me gratitude everyday. I have reduced my lifestyle to reflect my needs rather than my desires.

The less I have, the happier and freer I am. I had no idea how much I was killing and hurting myself until that moment it all disappeared. When I spent my life working, my hair was brittle, my skin dry, I suffered from constipation, I was tired and my stomach constantly rebelled. Today, all of that and more has gone as I live a life in homeostasis.

People tend to forget that their life is only ever the moment they are in. That at any moment this life can be taken from them. They tend to live in a past that no longer exists except in the form of an illusion or in an anticipated future that has yet to arrive. Each gives rise to fear, which then drives them to work and live out of balance with the entire planet and themselves. Thus giving rise to diseases, depression, anxiety, and well you know the list.

Few of us actually live our life, with awareness and balance. What therefore is Balance to me. It is this. The point at which you work and live daily a life where your bodily systems, which is a manifestation of the universe we were birthed from, remains in balance. Or moves back into balance quickly after a short period of stress or adrenaline. My fellow humans please know that your bodies were never meant to remain in long term stress. It was not set up that way.

When a volcano moves out of balance it erupts and destroys a part of itself. When the earth moves out of balance it quakes, cracking itself in half to release the pressure. We humans are no different. When we move out of balance we break, we crack, we erupt in anger, we drink, we take drugs we do anything else but change ourselves and by extension our work/life balance. We can live with so much less than we think. We can live magical lives just by changing what sits in our mind, because reality is merely a projection of our mind. But to do all of this, we need time to ponder, to contemplate, to introspect, to heal our bodies, cleanse our minds and to know ourselves. For that to happen we need time and for time to appear we need balance between work and quiet time for ourselves.

What should our readers know about your business?

I did not always start out as a yogi. I was born and raised in Zambia and by some extraordinary convoluted path, I ended up doing my masters in Canada, in International Development and Business. I did my masters thesis with the World bank bank in Zambia where in the recess of my mind, I began to learn about the politics of development.

I had always wanted to change the world, I just had no idea back then that the only way to do so was to create change in the human and rest would fall into place.

My first job was on the border of the Congo and Zambia with three of the largest mining companies in the world. They wanted to buy the mines and they wanted me to tell them what to do with all the social infrastructure. The schools, hospitals, soccer fields etc. It was a good project and I was awed by what I experienced there. However, in the end demands of bribes and a kickback led them to walk away. It was the first time I began to understand what I was up against in this world.

Upon returning to Canada over a year later, I joined a large NGO as a director of their social enterprise department. For years I built projects for kids in gangs, new immigrants and the homeless. I raised money, I connected with those in political and economic power,, and money and yet everyday I woke up in the same reality. It was like playing that game where frogs pop up and you have to hit them with a hammer.

Over time I started to become exhausted by the business of development. It felt as if what I was doing was merely perpetuating underdevelopment to keep myself in a job. A little confusing really, because I thought the goal of development was to put ourselves out of a job?

So I decided I needed perspective, to take a step back and ask myself what I was I doing and why I was doing it. Was it really to create change, or was it to appease something within myself. So I took a sabbatical, packed my things and went to live with wild animals for a year in South Africa and Mozambique. No words can explain how beautiful and full a life without humans was for a year. How, when I just listened, all of nature and its inhabitants taught me so much about them and myself. When I was nearly killed by five cheetahs, bitten by a baby jaguar, and found my ponytail in the mouth of a Tiger, did I fully begin to appreciate what it meant to be alive.

When I returned to the human heavy world, I decided to try out the private sector and its allure of wealth and power. I knew by now that my life was limited in this magnificent human form, so I was going to live as many lives as possible in this one lifetime. I joined an exhibition company whose clients were in the defense and aviation industry. As a result I went to every airshow in the world and once again found myself in a male dominated industry. I played night golf, went to the races, parties in the Eiffel tower and everything else I could not have imagined. As fabulous as the entire experience was, at some point my heart could no longer handle conversations about bombing other countries. The justifications of war and the ideas that had been built up around it made me want to climb back into the jungle from which I have emerged. When had we humans stopped seeing each other as one species, but as separate from one another. How did we not know that every word, action, thought, behavior we engaged in affected every other being in the world and by extension our own being.

So I fled to Cabo Verde. Here I entered a new world and new experience, which would once again challenge and grow me. Like everything else in my life, it would show me what I was capable of and how impossibles were always possible.

With my newly acquired partner we opened and ran the first kitesurfing, windsurfing and surf schools in Cabo Verde. He knew the business and the sport. I knew humans and the enormous capacity of my brain to learn anything. So began my dance with the ocean. I learned to kitesurf and windsurf. I got left in the ocean and was found by a fishing boat. I met the most interesting people and it took me years for all the local surfers to respect me. For no girl had ever entered their domain. But I loved men, for I had been raised and surrounded by many of them all my life, so I knew how to make my way through their world, in a way that’s healthy for me.

It was here that I realized that more than anything else, what brought me joy was to teach. By now I was on the yogic path and was teaching both yoga and windsurfing, when I was not growing and running the schools. It had only taken me 35 years and a multitude of amazing lives to find my gift, my purpose on this planet. But it was also here, in the schools, that I completely got lost in the work and the self built expectations of running a business. I worked seven days a week for years, until I realized that I had transformed into a reactive being. I was so tired that all I did was react to everything around me, thus giving rise to a personality that mirrored a yoyo. I had no space or time to respond to my life, I merely reacted to it.

I was so exhausted that when our instructors started leaving to open their own schools I was bitter at them. Angry that they were taking all I had taught them to open a competing school. It took me a long time and much introspection to change that narrative in my head. So that one day I woke up and was so grateful that we had given birth to eleven locally run kitesurfing schools. That there was more than enough room for all of us, so much so, that whenever I could I sent them clients. It was a great lesson to learn, that in life, my only competition was myself. But more importantly, the journey was about being a better, more selfless human. When I learnt that lesson, the schools excelled beyound all our expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, that life, like all the others I lived were brilliant, even when I suffered deeply in them. Slowly they were all teaching me to experience all this world had to offer, without attaching to it, but evolving from it into a better more aware human. I learnt to forgive myself for my mistakes, I learnt that no matter how successful you thought you were, one day it could all be taken away from you. Which was exactly what happened when covid hit.

When the dust settled and nothing was left, I looked inside and realized how much of my self worth I had attached to my business. So when it all disappeared I felt empty and lost, no longer knowing who I was. Covid had finally given me the time and space to find me.

When I emerged from covid I was another human, walking into a new life. A life and business that for once was going to be created by me and not by another.

I had opened my studio 7 years before covid, while I still had the water sports schools. At that time I had three teachers and taught when I could. Everyone had told me that a yoga studio would never survive on an island in the middle of nowhere. That I was crazy to do it. Good thing I am a little crazy, because against all odds I opened it. It did better than anyone expected. However, when covid happened I had no idea when the world would reopen. If tourists would return to the island, and if I could actually make a living from yoga, for I had always had other businesses.

What Yoga gave me was faith and the power of manifestation of thought. When covid ended I decided that I would be the only teacher in the studio. I no longer wanted to teach just asanas, I wanted to teach the entire ancient cosmic science, that is Yoga. Once again, I was told that people wanted the exercise not the discipline and my studio would fail. I was also told to change my website as it did not look professional like all the others out there. But I did not want to be like everyone else, I was me, a unique individual who would follow my path not everyone else’s.

There is a reason I no longer confer with anyone else but my consciousness on matters of my life.

All my life I have dared to be different. I have believed that when we awaken our unique creativity, there are so many other ways to live our lives. You just have to have the courage and faith in yourself to do so. I have never followed the herd. I have never had a business plan and I have never followed any business model. When I need an answer or a direction, I sit in silence, enter myself and just listen. On bigger issues, I have a select group who will give me eight different perspectives, on which I ponder. I know that I and I alone am the source of my happiness, my security and my success.

Most importantly, I now define what success is in my life. It is no longer a definition based on money, fame, or power. It is based on my health, the state of my being and how much light is radiating out of me.

Please know this. That every impossible is possible in this world. You just have to take the journey into you, connect with your consciousness and let it guide you. You have to put fear into the penalty box, purify your mind of any negative conditioning that has ever been put into it, and open your heart to love. Every single one of you is a hop, skip and two jumps away from a magnificent life in which you run your own business. A business that reflects you.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

Although I live in Cabo Verde I am going to answer this question for Arizona. I recently spent a month in this awe inspiring state that surprised me every single day. It challenged every expectation I had and left me speechless.

I began with a trip to Sedona and the energy vortexes that exist in this mystical place. Never have I visited a place that was so powerful and beautiful that I left a different person from when I arrived there. We climbed two of the vortex’s and the views and energy was nothing short of spectacular. As I meditated early in the morning under a tree, the light that moved through me created healing where I still needed to heal.

We went to the airport scenic spot and shared a sunset with kind humans, the mountains, the sky and the clouds. Then we went stargazing with telescopes and I was able to leave this world and enter another.

Back in Phoenix we spent a day kayaking down the salt river setting out from Saguaro Lake Ranch. I could have done that trip a hundred times and each time I would have been in love with it. The start from the ranch through the rocks, gave rise to a peace in me so strong that I wanted time to stop.

From there, we went to antelope canyon via a fabulous Navaho rest stop and ate the largest taco I have ever encountered. We took the early tour. The minute I stepped in the canyon, I knew I was witnessing creation. I was in the presence of millions of years of history and just how beautiful our planet is. As we neared the end of the tour, I was so overwhelmed by the energy coming off the rocks, the tales it was telling me, that I cried from the love they filled me with. But also for all the pain we humans had given to the planet. A living entity. It was one of the most extraordinary places I have ever visited, and I have travelled a lot.

The next day we took kayaks out onto Lake Powell and once again the scenery left me breathless. The swim in the lake left me feeling cleaner, lighter and freer.

Finally we went and spent the day at the main grand canyon. No pictures, movies or videos prepared me for what I witnessed or felt in its presence. I never wanted to leave. I was hypnotized. No matter how much I absorbed it, I knew it would never be enough. It always left me wanting more. The energy that radiated off it, stilled my being and gave rise to peace. I was in love with all those rocks and light that surrounded them.

Somewhere in all of that, we had a car accident near Flagstaff, where it was a literal miracle that we walked away without a single injury. It was not our fault and if anyone is to blame, it is the lack of awareness and the cell phone that guided the other driver. But I mention the crash, as the state troopers that showed up were amazing. The kindest police I have ever met. So much so I wanted to put them in my pocket and take them home.

Thank you Arizona for allowing me to experience you. For surprising me with your landscape, your hospitality and your utter magnificence. You changed a part of me forever. I will be back.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

Thank you Covid and for every teacher that has walked through my life in the last 17 years. For 17 years I have had the privilege to study with some of the most enlightened humans on this planet. There are too many to name here, but they know who they are, as many still walk beside me. Every single day I give them gratitude and every moment I share with them, I give thanks. They do not need public recognition for that is the request of the ego. That I am on this journey and am creating change in all who pass through my life is all the recognition they or I seek.

As for Covid I give gratitude to it most days. Because of that virus I lost nearly everything, on the desert island in the middle of the Atlantic, on which I have now lived for 17years. When I did, I stepped into the final stages of the yogic journey, into meditation. It is here that I finally connected to my true self, from which a unique creativity rose. A creativity that gave birth to a novel, that transformed my studio into a place like no other I had ever been to, and to an absolute faith that the studio and my life would arrive exactly as it was meant to arrive.

Both covid and all my teachers showed me that by just being my true self, knowing my gifts and my purpose and surrendering to the journey, I would get paid to be me and create lasting change in every student that walked through my door. Now really if that is not magic, I don’t know what is.

Instagram: yoga_caboverde

Other: Yoga: Where the Impossible Meets the Possible. The True Mystical Love Story between the Human and the Universe. Available on Amazon. Soon all the classes in my studio will also be live on zoom. (A new challenge for me) So even if you are in Arizona you to can experience magic. Keep an eye out on the web site.

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