Founding the Moksha Institute. My story.
All of my life, I remember searching for that “thriving” feeling. I felt a thirst for life. I wanted to see the world, taste the flavors of experience, and live boldly. I grew up in a small, farming town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I was reared by a single mother with meager means; my mother sacrificed everything for us. Her sacrifices set in me a profound determination to prove myself in the world, to get out of my small town, and to “make it.”
So, I worked. I put myself through College in 3 years and completed a Ph.D. in 4. By the time I was 23 years old, I was working as an external consultant for Fortune 1000 companies implementing performance management / succession planning systems, conducting team building workshops, leading culture change interventions, and coaching leaders…
In 2002, I moved into internal roles with Monsanto and then Furniture Brands International (2006) leading the Organizational Development function. In 2009, I took over Human Resources responsibility for Lane and Broyhill as the Vice President of HR.
I had “made it.” I had “things” – a big house, a designer car, and all the trappings of success. Late at night, though, I was still reading and studying (with an almost feverish ferocity) the Sacred teachings of the East. In spite of my material comforts and my high-powered leadership position, I still felt a thirst for knowledge – and wholeness… I still deeply wanted to know and understand why we are here, what really made us happy, and how the Sacred teachings connected to our modern Science.
Seek and you will find.
As a VP of HR, I worked through perhaps the most difficult period in the history of the US furniture industry. The economic crash combined with massive changes in manufacturing decimated the furniture industry. These changes were compounded by large restructuring initiatives in order to control costs and maximize efficiencies. While leading HR, over 7000 associates lost their jobs at Furniture Brands. I was a part of each one of those position eliminations. Talk about karma… Going into work each day to plan restructuring initiatives and the complete cataclysm of my fellow humans’ lives and then coming home to my large house and fine furnishings, left me feeling the weight of hypocrisy. I was a farm kid, after all, and those getting “packages” were mothers and fathers trying to support their families. Also, I knew from my scientific understanding that what happens to others deeply impacts all of us; wellbeing is not solely an individual experience, but one that has universal implications (see Harvard’s research on Interpersonal Neurobiology).
In 2011, as I was presenting a package to an employee, the employee started laughing. I thought this was a strange reaction, and checked in. The associate told me that he was laughing at the irony of life. See, he had just learned that he was terminally ill and had an estimated 4 months to live. Obviously, this conversation stopped the HR script immediately. We proceeded to have the most real human dialogue I have ever had with another human. Toward the end of the conversation, he asked me about my feelings about corporate America, life, and what I really “wanted” to actualize.
I told him that I spent most of my nights staying up late reading about Eastern philosophy, had an informal Ph.D. in religious studies, and longed to teach people the secrets of living an abundant life, which were perfectly laid out in the esoteric doctrines. Saying this out loud was transformative. I knew, in this moment, that I needed to change my life to live my truth.
I took a year to formulate my new vision, I made dramatic life changes, I quit my corporate job as VP of HR , I went through a divorce, I sold my home and my car, and became a yoga teacher.
I started a mindfulness-based consulting firm combining the science of leadership and organizational development and the art of applying evidence-based practices to transform at the personal and organizational level. I have been honored to share our hearts and passion with companies such as New Balance, Driscoll's, Ameren, Peabody, Wellsfargo, Monsanto, Barnes Jewish Hospital and the University of Pikeville KY.
For over 17 years, Sheila has been practicing devotional contemplative practices to awaken my own heart, to lead authentically and to heal my body/mind. She sees her highest calling as a teacher to support the awakening of the highest self and to connect others to their innate wisdom.
The road to my calling has been winding and each life experience has uniquely prepared me to fully realize my dharma. I honor my stepmother, Nancy, who initially exposed me to meditation and energy work when I was 16 years of age. I honor my father and mother who taught me the importance of common humanity, hardwork, integrity and service. I honor my small town that taught me the importance of accountability, the goodness of people and the importance of real relationships.
I began yoga at age 18 to increase my physical strength and found an inner calm I had never known before. While pursuing my personal practice, I also completed my graduate studies and became a licensed clinical social worker.
For 10 years I worked with individuals, healing from trauma, living in poverty and working toward a better future. My efforts were in the realms of human rights, housing rights, LGBT equality, economic justice, domestic violence, refugee resettlement and community activism. For five years at Redevleopment Opportunities for Women, I collaboratively created a cutting edge economic justice empowerment program, national economic education curriculum and the REAP training institute to promote financial equality for battered women across the country. I presented and trained at state conferences, legistative hearings, and at national conferences to attorneys, adovcates and funders.
Soon, I came to realize that real change – societal or individual – would not happen with the same energy that created our problems. I protested. I fought. I cried. I spent every drop of sweat in my crusade for equality, justice, and to end human suffering making myself ill in the process. With time, unconditional love, bodywork and deep resiliency training including gratitude, forgivness and i-rest, I came to a knowing that love and forgiveness are imperative to healing the world.
In 2006, I felt called to teach yoga, lead retreats, offer cross training to my collegues on heart based authentic communication, prevention and treatment of burnout and contemplative practices in leadership and therapy..
I studied mindfullness practice and the neuroscience of contemplative practices such as diaphramtic breathing, meditaiton, i-rest, gratitude, forgiveness, chi-gong, taoism, native american healing and self compassion. I was thrilled that the scientific community was finally documenting the brain and overall health benefits to doing such simple practices. I was inspired to learn more about the life work of John Upledger and how to assist individuals in accessing their own internal resources to heal past physical and emotinal trauma. I continue to train and study with Upledger Institute and integrate cranial sacral therapy into my my work as an educator, coach and therapist,
I met my beloved in 2012 and we started a company that we hoped would create more happiness and positivity in the world. Our mission is to improve the the lives of people living and working in the world. We humbly serve individuals working in corporation, nonprofits, universities and small businesses. Together we are a powerful and engaging force that inspires the hearts and minds of leaders and teams to step courageously into their best selves.