This is the eighth in our series of interviews to deepen the connections between all of us who love the sea and Sea Soul Blessings. And today, we’re interviewing Sheila Pai.
Sheila talks about the sea as metaphor, her love of nature, the joy of living fully, and the value of learning how to be responsible for ourselves. She also shares some beautiful images of how she uses the Sea Soul Blessings alongside her own cards.
Tell us a little bit about you:
I’m Sheila Pai. I live outside of Philadelphia and I’m 42. I have a nine year old and a seven year old.
I teach high school English, and I also have a business that works with mindful communication and self care for women and couples.
Right now, I’m transitioning in this work to also include teachers, teens and parents at schools.
What does nature, and the sea in particular, mean to you?
For me, nature is so grounding. I’m not meant to live in the suburbs, or in the city – I grew up in the countryside in Kansas – and I don’t think I realise how much of a toll it takes on me to be away from it all until I’m back in nature.
“Even just walking in the little woods nearby, my whole nervous system realigns and settles. I feel more whole and connected, and healed. Nature heals me.”
I’m actually more of a freshwater person than a sea person, I love to play and be in fresh water – but I find the sea to be such a powerful metaphor – and I think in metaphors!
Its vastness, its expansiveness.
That sense of primordial mother you can feel in the cycles of the tides and the rhythm of the waves.
There’s such a sense of persistence and cyclical consistency in the sea (which I don’t do so well myself!).
I love that it can be so variable, and how this represents our emotions – some days so calm, full of peaceful beauty; and on other days, such a powerful energetic force, one that can be destructive – very much a metaphor for emotions like anger and grief.
How do you feel on a good day?
On a good day, I’m open, full of wonder and curiosity. I will approach difficult situations with curiosity rather than reactivity.
There’s a spaciousness and an ease that I feel, a simple joy, awe at the preciousness of life, of being alive, of being with people, even if I’m at work.
It’s the simple beauty of living – on a good day, I can access that. Even if I’m experiencing something challenging.
How do you feel on a bad day?
My hard days tend to happen when I’m overwhelmed. And then I withdraw, contract. I have very little resource, so I’m short tempered. I’m not able to be present or to respond without being reactive and scattered.
Who or what is inspiring or influencing you right now?
I’m very inspired by nature, constantly. The teens that I work with also really inspire me to be more of myself, as a model for them. Poetry – beautiful lines of poetry.
And then people – I’m really inspired by people showing up in the mess; in the celebration. I am so jazzed watching other people live fully!
What do you worry about on a typical day?
Oh goodness. What do I worry about? That I’m not doing everything. That my son is having a hard time. That my kids will bicker forever and ever and ever. That I won’t fulfil my purpose, fully.
There’s often the tension of “am I doing enough? Which of these things should I do now?” – I worry about finding balance I guess. Which doesn’t necessarily help me to be balanced!
Where do you find joy?
Everywhere. Anywhere. I truly feel in awe, and enjoy the time when I’m able to be present to living. Or even around somebody else who is doing that – like a child, or nature itself.
“Nature brings me so much joy – I’m like “oh look at that little leaf on the ground!”. It doesn’t matter how tiny it is, or how many times I’ve seen that same little flower there decaying on the ground. I get so much joy from noticing little things like that – they’re the tiny joys of life.”
My big joys would be things like being able to speak this weekend to an ex-student of mine who’s just graduated. And hearing how much I mean to other people – that’s one of those deep satisfying joys – one that makes me realise I’m OK. That lifts me so high. That’s the enneagram 2 in me obviously…!
What do you love to do, read, watch or listen to?
I read and listen to a lot of poetry, and poetic people.
On Being with Krista Tippett is a podcast that I love – her interviews focus on what it means to be human.
So whether it’s a physicist or a poet or a psychologist, the discussions are always poetic, spiritual, exploring things that might seem mundane but which draw us towards the larger world outside of ourselves, just like poetry does.
I love writers that do that – like Robin Wall Kimmerer. I love moss, and she writes about plants in such a poetic way: her research was the basis of the main character in Liz Gilbert’s book, The Signature of All Things – I love her.
The other major thing I love to do is baking, cooking, eating – that’s number one on the list. In fact I’m baking today – apple turnovers, with the apples that the kids and I picked last week.
What makes you cross?
Not getting enough sleep. Not eating foods that align with my system. Being dehydrated. Being distracted by my computer – or rather, trying to focus on my computer, and then somebody else wanting my attention. I definitely get more angry when I’m overwhelmed. So when I’m busy – if I’m also tired and all those other things happen – it’s not going to go well for my kids…
How do you look after yourself?
I’ve been enjoying baths with Epsom salts lately. I think that’s partly due to the transition between seasons – and also, I’m an air sign, so I really need to be grounded with earth and water.
Walking. I’ve also been doing these high interval training workouts or “functional workouts” – over the last six months, I’ve learnt that I need to move a lot. More than my couchy little self wants!
I used to be very hyperactive as a child, but I’ve realised that as an adult I also need to move, even when I don’t want to. So that my nervous system can function at its peak, and my body can feel good. It’s not about working out so I can look a certain way – I need to work out because it makes everything else better.
“The other form of self care that is so major for me is making time to connect with friends. I have two local friends, and we talk every day on video chat about everything – that saves me daily. And my listening partnerships – I also have two listening partners, one of five parenting tools from Hand in Hand Parenting – and that’s such a major piece of my care. “
What would you most like to change about your life?
I really can’t think of anything that I would want to do differently – because I wouldn’t want to lose anything that had come from even the difficult situations.
The only thing I would like to change relates to my cousin, who died two years ago. I didn’t have as much connection with him as I would have liked, because he lived in India, but I really wish things had been different for him.
And if he hadn’t died, I would have liked to have been in more contact.
What have you learnt about life that you wish you’d understood earlier?
I think the most important lesson would be that I am responsible for myself – my feelings, my needs. And only my feelings, my needs.
“I am not responsible for the feelings and needs of other people. I’m not responsible for their reactions. I am not responsible for fixing everyone’s life so that they are happy and healthy (Even my own kids). I am not responsible for other people’s choices (Especially my kids). I am responsible for setting my own boundaries. I am responsible for caring for and about myself. “
How would you describe Sea Soul Blessings in 3 words?
Powerful. Practical. Inspired/Inspiring.
How do you use your Sea Soul Blessings? What do they help you to change?
I draw a Sea Soul Blessings card, and then I draw a card from my own deck – which is a deck I made myself. The combination of the two gets me outside of my head and into possibility.
The Sea Soul Blessing words bring the direction and guidance that I need in the day.
They also feel like deeply compassionate gentle care: the way that they are written, the look of them. It softens me to have them around.
If someone was thinking about trying Sea Soul Blessings, how would you encourage them?
I would say that they’re super simple. Don’t be afraid to take a quick ten seconds to try them – it doesn’t have to be a whole hour card reading.
Let it be easy – that’s the idea, to let it be as simple as it can be.
And then, conversely, use them to build your own deeper practice that feels good – maybe you want to pair it with another card deck, pair it with journaling, pair it with drawing.
Maybe you want to put it on an altar, maybe you want to read it, go on a walk and meditate – or use that mantra during your work-out. Let it be easy to use, and then let it be easy to apply.
You can connect with Sheila at SheilaPai.com
If you’d like to be featured in one of these interviews, get in touch!
If you’d like to get yourself some Sea Soul Blessings, do that right here.
You might enjoy the other interviews in the Sea Soul Community series so far: