Sit Down to Rise Up: An Interview with Author, Entrepreneur and Community Organizer Shelly Tygielski
In this episode, meditation teacher and author, Shelly Tygielski talks of her personal journey leading toward the core insight from her new book Sit Down and Rise Up that the “secret of life is this: show up.” Join us for this conversation about the role mindfulness practice and creating community can play in safeguarding our well-being during these challenging times as we emerge from COVID19. Shelly describes how she built a “pandemic of love” that has resulted in not only millions of dollars of philanthropic aid but, more importantly, created a community of meaningful connection between those giving and receiving.
After spending nearly 20 years in Corporate America, immersed in Fortune 1000 organizations and holding executive positions leading public and privately held companies, Shelly decided to stop following the expected path and start following her lifelong passion – mindfulness and meditation. Her journey began by teaching free meditation classes Sunday morning on the sands of Hollywood Beach, Florida. What started as a group of 12 friends blossomed into a community of more than 15,000 in a matter of two years – a diverse mix of souls that proclaimed itself “The Sand Tribe”. The class is always free. The warm welcome is for anyone who shows up. Shelly’s work is built around one simple precept: No Barrier To Entry. She wants everyone to have access to the joys and health benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Not just those with means. At the heart of Shelly’s practice is a fierce justice warrior and social activist. Shelly combines the pragmatic business skills she learned in the corporate world with the tenets of mediation and mindfulness to make the world a better place. Shelly is deeply involved in offering trauma-informed healing practices to communities affected by gun violence and mass shootings and has led fully funded retreats for survivors and victims’ families representing Parkland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Aurora, Columbine and more. She was featured on the cover of Mindful Magazine® in June 2019 for her work in this space. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, once again Shelly rose to the occasion. On March 14th, 2020, at the dawn of the crisis, she posted two simple Google forms online. One read “Get Help” the other “Give Help”. The next morning, she was shocked to find hundreds of requests from both sides of the equation. She began directly matching those in need with patrons willing to help them meet their needs and the Pandemic of Love movement was born. Those few hundred requests grew to thousands; which grew to over 600,000 people matched within six months. To date, Pandemic of Love boasts nearly 1000 volunteers worldwide and has directly exchanged nearly $40 million in donations. It has been featured on international newsfeeds and network television, including CNN, BBC and The Kelly Clarkson Show. It has enjoyed incredible support from influencers such as Debra Messing, Chelsea Handler, Maria Shriver, Busy Phillips and Kristen Bell. Pandemic of Love continues to match those in need during this crisis directly with patrons who can help through their grassroots mutual aid platform. This work will continue well beyond the pandemic and Shelly is committed to formalizing mutual aid in communities across the world. Shelly has been an organizer and speaker for the Women’s March. She works to support organizations such as March For Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, indigenous tribes such as the Navajo and Hopi, and other groups committed to social justice and driving real change. In doing so, she’s also seen the toll that activism can take on people. The exhaustion. The let downs. Even feelings of failure and hopelessness. That’s why a big part of what Shelly teaches today is self-care. She believes that – in Audre Lorde’s words – “self-care is an act of resistance” unto itself because the only way to make change is to maintain your energy, health and mental wellbeing. And the only way to achieve that is through the building of communities of care. Shelly shares her methods of self-care in her upcoming book titled “Sit Down To Rise Up” which will be available in the Fall of 2021. She’s also recorded a series of workshops with Recorded Books, available on Audible, including a series on “Self-Care for Turbulent Times.” Shelly is a student of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and is certified in MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction). She is also an in-process certified Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (founded at Google over a decade ago) teacher. Her contemplations and lessons shared freely over social media have gained tens of thousands of followers, and she was recently referred to as one of the most “Powerful Women in Mindfulness” by mindful.org. Shelly holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and a Master’s Degree from Columbia University.