Shannon Demko has built a career on sharing meaningful mindfulness advice with others.
The Lola member, Shannon Reinard Demko believes that rest is an integral part of the creative process. By incorporating boundaries and wellness practices into her daily life she has found success in teaching others how to be mindful and healthy. When she isn’t cultivating wellness and wellbeing for others you can find her adventuring around the world.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Age: 43 years
What I do: Owner of MindfulMBA
Briefly describe who you are, what you do for work and for fun
I’m a professional coach, yoga and mindfulness instructor, non-profit program director, and entrepreneur. I’m balancing the roles of partner and parent with my love of travel and my (ongoing) quest for more free time for both sleep and adventure.
Share your career story with us including anyone who inspired you along the way
I started college thinking I wanted to be a lawyer. About halfway through, I realized that wasn’t it, but didn’t know what was. I settled on Communications, pursued graduate studies in the subject as well as Business, and then realized something else was missing. Eventually, I found my way to higher education as a career, and eventually into graduate business admissions as an Admissions Director. I draw on these experiences of the “in-between” spaces a lot in my coaching, and whether the work is more about professional guidance, MBA admissions coaching, or mind/body wellness advising, I relish the opportunity to share the mindfulness tools that I wish I had knowledge of when I was in those nerve-wracking transition moments!
I can’t say I’ve had specific inspiration for this path because it’s one of those that you could never plan to have had when looking ahead. It’s just by taking one authentic step at a time and being willing to just be with that for the moment and trust that the next one will appear when it’s time, that you end up with a career, and life, that is truly uniquely your own.
What activities take up most of your time each week and which areas of your life would you like to give more time and energy to?
I saw a meme recently that said something like, “Why do we pretend there are different jobs? All jobs are actually just email,” and there are many days I feel that deep in my bones, lol. The majority of my weekday time is spent toggling between my work as Director of MBA Prep for MLT, working with individual and organizational clients for MindfulMBA, and teaching yoga and meditation classes through Tashi Collective, and in-studio in Atlanta. Family time is important to me, and easiest to come by on weekends, which I try to keep as unscheduled as possible.
Because my schedule is normally flexible (with planning!), I have the luxury of being able to re-calibrate when I feel that balance slipping away.
What wellness practices are a part of your daily/weekly life that help to keep you feeling balanced and grounded?
Every week includes physical movement, meditation or contemplative time, and downtime (reading, socializing, catching up on media content), ideally some of each every day. I have learned that if I don’t put the time for these things on my calendar, it doesn’t happen, so I literally schedule it in and treat it like any other appointment.
I personally don’t buy into the idea that meditation needs to be a highly formalized ritual all the time. Sometimes you just need to sit down, close your eyes, and take 2 or 3 slow, deep breaths. It will change your body chemistry immediately, and everything else that happens next will shift as a result.
How does hustle culture make you feel and has stress had any negative impact on your life? If so, how?
I have fallen hard and fast on many occasions in my life for the rhetoric of “hustle culture,” and burned myself all the way out as a result. It is so pervasive generally, and especially in the world of high-performing professionals in which I coach. It’s intoxicating to test how much you can do in a day! It can be relentless and unforgiving, though, because it’s always hungry. It reduces beautifully complex humans to machines, in a way, but like most things, it’s not all bad. If “hustle culture” motivates you to take an idea that inspires you to fruition, that’s a good thing. If it makes you believe that what you’ve built should only ever get bigger, produce more, reach even more people, etc., then it’s replaced your own wisdom and intuition about your work, which should never happen.
In an ideal world, what would a truly balanced and healthy life “ideally” look like to you, if there were no parameters put around it?
Well, for starters, it would definitely be near the ocean! At least mine would. As for balance, I think a really positive shift would be for all of us to spend less time in front of screens, which gets harder and harder with each passing year. A while back, my phone completely broke, and I had to go a week without one. Although I definitely came to appreciate the conveniences it offered, I also realized how much I had stopped noticing because of it. I went to the doctor and just waited. I went for a run and just listened to birds and other sounds around me. I checked my email, and then I walked away from it. My social media basically went dark. Screens – especially those connected to the internet – train our brains to expect instant gratification, which means that we expect it from each other, too. Think about how quickly you often want to clear out your inbox, or when you expect a response to a text message from a friend or colleague.
How do you feel in this moment of the pandemic? How has it impacted your mental health and wellbeing. Has the pandemic changed how you view wellness in your life and have you made any changes to your lifestyle over the past 18 months?
The early days of the pandemic were really important for me. I realized I had been moving way too fast, and doing way too many things at a time for one human being. Being forced to stay at home, I was able to stop and rest, and I really needed it. My family needed it, too. We built some new rituals (mostly about food! lol) that we have kept up ever since, and I reconnected to a sense of groundedness I hadn’t felt in years. We’re lucky in Atlanta that we have space to move outside, and that it’s reasonable to do that most of the year, so I didn’t feel too stir-crazy, to be honest. Where I am now, though, is honestly disappointed. It seems clear to me that the duration of this experience is being extended by the insertion of politics into a public health emergency, and that is making it harder for us to collectively do what we need to do to get out of it. The silver lining is that it’s been a great opportunity for me to practice what I preach with mindfulness, and to remember that there is a lot of suffering in trying to control what is not yours to control. I’m doing my part, speaking my truth, and doing what I can to help people stay informed, but I cannot do for them what they will not do for themselves, let alone for their communities.
Do you have any hopes (or personal plans) for a permanent shift in the way we work and live moving forward?
Yes! I feel strongly about this. I do think there is value for some jobs in having people physically gather at times, but 40+ hours per week is not necessary, or reasonable. The team that I manage at MLT has always been remote, even before 2020, and we see each other physically 3-5 times per year. We are a fabulous team that not only works well together but really enjoys each others’ company. Best of all, everyone builds the daily schedule that works best for them (for the most part), and as long as the work gets done on time, that’s how it stays. I think that within American culture, we’ve had unreasonable expectations for how people should spend 5 days of every 7 day week, and the majority of the hours of each of those days. We’ve designed a school day that doesn’t align with the timing of the workday, and an expectation for extra-curricular involvement that leaves no time for relaxation, so we’re teaching them to do it all again after us. I have been so hopeful that the forced slow-down of the pandemic would prompt us to push back against the idea that our days should be filled with constant activity. I think it remains to be seen if there is any lasting change, but I know that I’m getting more sleep, and I don’t plan to change that!