Perspectives: May Lim, Chief Healing Officer
The demands of the legal profession can be challenging and nowadays, there is much emphasis on mental health. Former corporate lawyer turned therapeutic yoga teacher, May Lim, spent over twenty years in private practice and in-house (including at Yahoo and Richemont) before joining Eversheds Sutherland’s Konexo arm as a consultant in Hong Kong.
May is also an urban yogini and has lived in Nepal, learning about Buddhist philosophy, meditation and yoga. As she explains, it was the most profound experience of her life.
Can you tell us about ‘Heal with May’?
Heal with May is the venture I set up in response to my calling, which is to promote self-love and acceptance through healing and connection. It offers therapeutic yoga and healing arts through my signature S.h.ě. 舍 System™, designed to heal issues in your tissues and restore flow.
My mission is to help executives and women over 40 stay juicy, healthy and peaceful so they don't struggle with burnout, accelerated aging and disconnect from their innate essence.
Not many lawyers start businesses in pursuit of their spiritual calling. How did it happen for you?
I guess when it comes to my calling, there isn’t a roadmap or clearly defined path like that of a solicitor. It took many years in the making, following one dot to another; although it didn’t all make sense to me at the time, I was guided by my intuition and faith.
Then one day, I had a profound awakening which became the pivotal moment in switching my career, giving me the courage to bite the bullet and start my healing business. All the dots which had brought me to that point began to make sense.
Why then did you enter the law?
I was brought up in a traditional Chinese family where we were encouraged to choose a professional career. I decided to be a lawyer and, at the suggestion of my high school teacher, I applied to Cambridge University and was accepted by Magdalene College to study law.
That was your first time in the UK. What challenges did you face?
Yes, and I couldn’t believe how it could get dark at 4pm! As one of very few female Asian students, part of my challenge was to adapt to a predominantly male and white environment. It wasn’t easy but I learnt to be resilient from those circumstances. And in fact, I became the first woman cox for Magdalene's rowing team.
After Cambridge, you trained and qualified in London and Hong Kong, then went in-house shortly after?
I trained at Linklaters then joined Yahoo as its first legal corporate counsel in Asia, becoming the company’s 11th employee in Hong Kong. It was during the internet boom when Yahoo was basically a start-up – as well as being the lawyer, I sometimes doubled up as the receptionist!
Being my first in-house experience, I learned a lot about dealing with people – building rapport and giving practical, commercial advice. Eventually I was offered my boss’s job to be Yahoo’s Asia General Counsel.
What happened next?
I told my boss I couldn’t take the job because I wanted to hang out with the monks in Nepal! The persistent inner calling to seek the ‘truth’ became something I couldn't ignore. So I made a very bold decision and turned down the promotion, quit my job, sold my Mercedes and travelled to Nepal, where I lived for two years.
How would you describe your time in Nepal?
It was the most profound experience of my life. I enrolled at the Buddhist Academy where I studied the Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy, as well as receiving teachings from my kind guru Rinpoche (which means the ‘precious one’ in Tibetan).
I also underwent a few solo retreats to put theories about meditation into embodied experience and met His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
After Nepal, you returned to your lawyer life.
I would have stayed, but Rinpoche said to me, ‘You can’t sit in a cave forever. Your practice is to return to where you came from to test what you have realised and help all beings to your best ability.’
You then took up various in-house roles, culminating as Chief Legal Counsel, Asia Pacific for Richemont. Was that the pinnacle of your in-house career?
It was a great role. Richemont owns several of the world's leading companies in the field of luxury goods and I was mandated to build its legal operations in Asia Pacific. A highly rewarding but challenging role at the same time.
What did that do to your mental health?
To be honest, I didn’t take good care of myself then. The role was very demanding with long hours; the team was lean, so most days I worked late and far too hard, often until 3am. Over time, the stress of the job and long hours took a toll on my health – I struggled to stay balanced, and my pressure cooker nearly exploded.
Do you think the personality traits of lawyers make them more prone to stress?
For people who work in a fast-paced, high-stress and competitive environment, be it the law or another profession, if you don’t adopt a set of tools to help regulate stress, your nervous system will eventually cave in. That can lead to physical tension and chronic mental or emotional stress which can cause serious health problems.
I know this because I’ve been there. And it’s why I’m spreading such tools through my teaching – to help my corporate friends, so they aren’t overwhelmed by stress.
You were also a consultant with our Konexo service. What was that like?
It was a perfect fit, and I’m so grateful to Konexo for their support. The part-time legal role was exactly what I needed because I didn’t want a full-time return to law, but I needed to make a living.
Konexo offered me an opportunity to work three days a week, allowing me to undergo my transition from lawyer to healer. They placed me with three companies, including at Eversheds Sutherland, running the Commercial group in Hong Kong.
It was around this time you launched Heal with May?
That’s right. The three-day week gave me time and space to prepare for Heal with May, including attending intensive trainings. In 2018, I started to wind down my part-time legal work and went full-time with Heal with May.
My wish is to support my corporate comrades with simple and effective tools, so they don’t burn out and harden like I did in my corporate days. In retrospect, I was missing these tools to help me stay balanced and centred in a high-stress workplace.
So now, I want to be that missing gap by helping others regulate stress and cultivate resilience for optimum health, performance and wellbeing. I hope that is something we can all aspire to.
If you would like to find out more about May and her healing practice, visit healwithmay.com.