Wise Women Wednesday: Shannon Dunne

Photo by Erin Scott

Photo by Erin Scott

It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions.  These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.  

This week I'm interviewing Shannon Dunne.  We serendipitously met in the lobby of a hotel in Paris.  I'd just finished breakfast and needed to ask the front desk a question.  Shannon had just flown in from DC, was running on no sleep and her room wasn't ready.  Somehow I knew she and I were supposed to be friends. I had a hunch she was there for the same retreat I was.  "Are you here for the Kimberly Wilson retreat I asked?" She looked at me blankly before replying with a smile "Yes".  "Why don't you come up to my room and freshen up and then we can go walk around Paris until your room is ready?" I asked.  That was the beginning of our friendship.  

Q. Who are you?
I am Shannon Dunne. I am an independent female, a dancer, Mom, musician, a writer, and activist, a meditator and a Yogi, a teacher, a friend, and a giant walking ball of feelings.

Q. What is your work?
What do I get paid for,? I get paid to perform, mostly traditional Irish music and dance, I get paid to teach people traditional Irish music and dance, I get paid to help communities create music and dance opportunities either at festivals or community dances,I get paid to teach children how to work on creative projects.

My work personally is along the same lines. Personally I am always looking to both express myself independently and fully, and not be blown off course when I interact with other people.  I am also tryingt to help people with the same things, either my son, or my students, or my audience.    

Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?A. This year has been so strange. In the spring I did a CD, DVD, book project for Irish music and dance. It was a CD of music for dancers to start to learn the tunes and have something to dance to, and the DVD an instructional DVD of my dancing and my steps. 

I thought that as we headed into the fall I will continue that work, and promote that project. It was a massive undertaking. But then as we hit the fall Jack was looking at colleges, and then the election happened. 

My work has shifted quite a bit, and now I have a pet project of a website that is designed to help people become active voices in their communities in order to help shape America. 

Music and dance for me right now is a break, even though it's paid, rather than work.  It's where I only have to worry about being myself.    

In 2017, I am very excited to start moving towards our midyear show, which is going to be a multi-age community based variety show, involving comedy, melodrama, virtuosity.   This is to present Irish music and dance in a set up that's not unlike the Muppet show.  Something that's entertaining, but also presents the beauty of the tradition. 

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did
A. I think putting myself out there giving commentary on politics was very frightening. Especially as a performer, and as a leader in my community, and as someone who makes money based on what people think of them, it was very scary to start putting myself out there personally.  I was worried about losing fans, or losing friends, or losing my mind.   

I just felt that I didn't have a choice. I have the ability to speak honestly to large groups of people. And I felt like I was seeing something coming towards us that was dangerous, and was a manipulation. Not unlike show business.  It was clear that I could see something that either people couldn't see, or didn't want to see.    Or, even scarier, didn't want to admit or express for fear of rejection by their community.     This seemed like it was too important to stay out of. 

Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you?
I don't think so. 

I think that right now I'm in a bit of a holding pattern, with Jack going off to college, and all of that represents. 

I had Jack when I was 22 years old, and so everything I've done up until this point has been about trying to balance both making money and surviving, making the world into a place I would want to send him off into, and also feeding me artistically.   

Now that Jack is going off to college, I think it would be really wonderful to get back into theater.  I feel like I have some things to say in that arena. But I think that kind of work is going to have to wait until I'm acting solely as an individual.

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Oh man. Not to drink so much.   Not to listen to what other people think you should be doing.   Have confidence.    That my emotions are my TOOLS and not an ILLNESS or FLAW. 

Maybe to believe in myself  earlier than I actually did. I look back and I wasted so much time questioning my own instincts. I think that we don't help children listen to their instincts. I think we're constantly telling them what to feel, or what to do with those feelings.  We generally don't help children have feelings and LISTEN to them.

Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
Lately I can't stop thinking about that Zen story. The story about the man who breaks his leg falling off a horse and everyone says what bad luck. But then the man doesn't have to go off to war and so everyone says what good luck. And the whole time the Zen master saying "We'll See".

I also really love breathing exercises. 

Photo of Enoch Chan

Photo of Enoch Chan

Q. what keeps you teaching, or writing, or creating when you don't feel like it?
A. I have a lot of routines set up, that I've set up in the past year. The tracking of those routines, rather than the quality of the  work itself, is how I judge how I'm doing. 

Did I show up and do yoga? Did I write today? Did I dance today? Did I eat today? And also making sure that I'm checking in with myself. 

If I don't want to do something, why? Because it's usually the why that is the thing that I should be creating about.    

Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I think something that's come to me in the past year, from a bunch of different sources, is how much we know, what we don't give ourselves the credit to acknowledge. 

In the past year I've opened myself so much more to my instincts. Not acting out of them, necessarily, but listening to what they're telling me.  It's been revolutionary. I honestly can't believe that I had access to all of this information about the world, how I interpret it, what I know about it, and I haven't been using it. 

I think especially with readers like yours, it's very important that people who are on the brink of enlightenment, consciousness, mindfulness and those types of mental states, that we realize that we have so many tools at our disposal. I think people are self-medicating, but I think we should be doing the opposite. I think we should be allowing ourselves to feel discomfort and learning from that discomfort.

Q. How do you live a Life of abundance?
I do a lot of gratitude work. I do a lot of meditating. Both of those things have really helped me to realize that abundance comes from within. That our consciousness is on ending and it's creativity, and that in any moment there are so many opportunities to make something new, to feel a feeling, to truly live, to create something beautiful. I've been trying to cultivate that in my life, especially in this period of great change.

Q. What's your favorite Yoga Pose?
Oh this is so hard! I love them all so much, though my arms have been really weak lately and so I'm not so into anything like down dog or chatarunga. I really like supported fish, or heart openers, that are passive. I totally have a problem with my neck where I'm always worried about what I'm supposed be doing with my head. It's such a ridiculous thing, but I think I'm not alone. For some reason letting the head go in an active position is really hard for me.  Letting it go with support is easier.   (Paging Dr Freud...)

Q. Who inspires you
A. People who create, people who do their thing, people who make themselves happy in everyday life. 

Like I love this blog because it's a labor of love. 

I love people who make beautiful things, or people who get really deep into their work. 

There was a video of a Nigerian woman dancing in the street, she was just a woman, she was somebody's aunt or something, she was going for it. 

That's what I look for in a regular basis, those people who are just trying to open themselves up to the world around them and let things flow through. Instead of trying to make something happen, opening yourself so that something can flow through and manifest.  

Photo by Enoch Chan

Photo by Enoch Chan