5 Questions With: Christina Disler of Werklab

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March is mindfulness month so in my hunt to find great people to feature, I stumbled across Werklab, a beautiful and mindful co-working space in Vancouver that was founded by Christina Disler. They recently celebrated their 1st anniversary and have already had a very positive impact on the local entrepreneurs and working community here in Vancouver. We had a super enlightening conversation that lasted far longer than I expected so I’m sharing with you today some excerpts from my great chat with Christina, who shares her inspiration for the space and their mindful mission.

1) Can you give us some background on Werklab and how it all started?

My sister, who is an artist (all the artwork in the space is hers!), was living in Amsterdam before and had told me about the world of co-working. A few years ago, I went to an HR conference and found this stat has stood out for me. The stat said that by 2020, 40% of the work force will be freelancers, contractors, temp workers and that the work force will change. It was a statistic that rocked my world because I realized that 2020 wasn’t that far away. It was at the end of 2015 when the idea came up. The stat was becoming more and more real and the fact that we’re in a tech hub and the real estate’s high, I really looked at it from the light of social impact and almost from a light of project instead of a money-making business. I will admit that I come from a privileged position where I loaned money from my dad to do the construction. I’m also not trying to squeeze every penny out of this whereas I think that for a lot of other spaces, it’s hard to have integrity with building community when there’s really high bills to pay. We have a good rent here and at the end of the day, once you pay your membership fee, you’re part of this community, we don’t pinch you for anything else.

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2) How does Werklab work?

Some spaces do daily drop-ins, here we’re completely membership based. You don’t have to be here full-time. You can start off with just 5 days a month and work your way up. It’s hard to build community when you have all these transient workers signing up online for only a day. How do you foster trust, safety and vulnerability when you don’t know who the next person is that is coming in? We also have a vetting system, we interview people before they enter the space to ensure that they align with our culture and what we’re trying to do. We don’t just want someone that’s going to come in and just use it as an office, we want someone who wants to sign on and be a part of this community.

When I opened Werklab, I didn’t study the best co-working spaces, I studied the best places to work. At the end of the day, someone can come up with a fancier place to work at and more gadgets, but what people are here for is an intrinsic value. It reminds me of working at some of the cool companies; they aren’t necessarily paying you the top dollar they’re offering you an experience. What do you feel when you’re coming through the door? What’s the energy like? All those things are important. 

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3) What separates Werklab from other co-working spaces?

We actually don’t call ourselves a co-working space but rather a modern day work club because everything is membership based and we’re a mindful space. We have yoga classes and we hold events. For example, we’ll have someone from a natural cosmetic shop come in or we’ll have lunch and learns on health, etc. At the end of the day, the way we work has totally shifted because of technology, even when you leave here you’re still working in bed. So we’re trying to infuse and offer you things that you wouldn’t maybe have time to go out and do because you have so much work or are working on a big project deadline. We want to bring those things to you.

We have 73 members now and we try to get at least once a week, something going on in the space. We want to bring people together with the more natural human stuff, I want people to have real authentic talk in this space. 

Also, with the design of the space, we wanted to offer different areas for you to move around. People think that only graphic designers or coders, those are the creative people that are not working 9 to 5. But in reality, a lot of people work remote. You don’t have to be an “in your face creative” to be in a space like this because at the end of the day, creativity is in everything we do – it’s in problem solving, it’s thinking outside the box, it’s critical thinking, etc. It doesn’t mean that you need to be the best artist in order to be creative.

A lot of the time when we get stuck on a road block with work, movement – moving into a new part of the space, standing up, meditating on our bean bag, being able to stretch out on the couch or just having a quick chat in the coffee area, can all of a sudden reset you.

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4) Who are the people that have been drawn to the space?

The demographic is a total range. I thought we’d have a lot of people from the neighbourhood because we’re the furthest space East in downtown Vancouver but we have people driving all the way from Kits and all over town to come here, which is pretty special. Right before people start, we send them a questionnaire that has nothing to do with what they do – asking them where they grew up, where they were born, what’s one thing people wouldn’t know about them, etc. So even before people come in for orientation, we try to find links and connection with others in the space so that they already feel like they belong on day 1, even if they don’t know anyone. I really try to make an effort to go around with them and be there to support them. People call this home, it’s funny but true.

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5) A lot of the people in the community seem to really help each other out here in Vancouver, what does it mean to you to be a part of that and how has it helped?

I think the more as a business we become authentic and the more it is aligned with who I am and who I stand for, all of a sudden all these pieces start falling into place and just feels so serendipitous. There’s something really special about people on the west coast, following their crazy independent paths. It can sometimes feel so alone on the journey and can sometimes be really challenging but there’s so much support for Vancouver as a whole. I don’t know if it’s always been that way but that’s how things are shifting. I was talking to another local entrepreneur – Sonia from Woodlot and we were chatting about how expensive Vancouver is, so a lot of people have side hustles to make extra cash on the side. And all of a sudden, those side hustles start doing really well so they run with it. We’re all trying to survive together and there’s a really beautiful energy around this community. 

The past year has been a wild ride. It’s this living and breathing organism that changes shape every day but you just have to be present with it. It has been quite the mindfulness task in itself to let it happen. 

For more info on Werklab, go here.

5 Questions With: Anita Cheung of Moment Meditation

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Meditation has become an important part of my life these past couple of months. If you’ve been following this website, you may have seen some of my previous posts on leading a more mindful life. I was thrilled to find out that Vancouver has a great new space called Moment Meditation, located right in downtown. I wanted to find out more about this meditation oasis so I sat down with one of Moment’s co-founders Anita Cheung this week. I hope our conversation will inspire you to check them out!

1) What was the inspiration behind this space?

There are three founders, Evian, Hiroko and myselF. We all found meditation through various points in our life but we found each other in a really interesting way. Moment the brand, the concept as it is, is a drop-in meditation studio, which was technically started almost two and a half years ago. I had this crazy idea to open a drop-in meditation studio as a pop-up for a week back in 2014. This was in Chinatown, it was a street front retail space that I took over for a week and ran it like I do Moment. You could come in and do audio-guided meditations, there were group classes and at night we had speaker events and mindful dinners. That was completely self-funded. I felt so compelled to do it because meditation had a really huge impact on me, it helped me come out of depression. It was one of the long-lasting tools that really stuck. I am very passionate about it and wanted to share it with the world.

But at the time, I didn’t think there was a living to be had from meditation, it didn’t feel right. I focused on my other projects and left Moment as it was. Not this past December but the one before, it crept up again and I had this desire to create a mobile meditation space. The opportunity came up for a one-day pop-up because a friend had a trailer I could borrow. That got a little bit of press because it was right around Christmas and everyone is stressed out during that time but now they had an oasis right in downtown Vancouver to take a moment. The next day Evian called me, I didn’t know him but we started talking and he said I have this idea and you’re doing it, can we partner? So we met and chatted a little bit and the next time I met him, he was with Hiroko and they had already been talking about. It was serendipitous because they were talking about it and the next day Evian saw it in the newspaper. Our original intention and still our intention now is to create a mobile fleet of meditation spaces. Our intention is to have one in Chicago, LA, London and here. We opened this space as a pilot for our project. We got the keys to this place in September, now just hired a bunch of teachers and now it’s out in the world. 

2) What are some of the services and classes that people can come and take at Moment right now?

Right now we have a class schedule that is similar to a fitness studio; early morning, after work and a few in mid-day. They are 45 minute classes except for lunch, who are only 30 mins. All of our classes are structured around different parts of the brain that are trained or activated when you meditate. Hiroko’s background is in content development, she’s a psychologist expert in all-things brain. She has created the program around Calm, Focus and Happiness, because those are three distinct parts of the brain. So people can choose those three classes or they can choose a Moment Signature class. We’re looking to roll out a couple of other fun features like virtual classes, so projecting some big players in meditation from LA, New York, onto our screens and have people come in. We have a couple of big players locally that are going to be leading some of the classes here.

Other things that people can do, is just book in, kind of like car2go, you can book 5, 10, 30 mins of quiet time at the studio. 

The third pillar is our measurability of meditation. Hiroko spent her life doing this kind of work on a one-on-one level with her patients at her clinic practice. What we’ve created is this space and the technology that allows people to measure how they are meditating and how it’s working for them. What we call the MQ, it’s like an IQ but “Mindfulness Quotient“, is basically your ability to respond to stress. It looks at your brainwave activity, breath rate and heart rate, muscle tension and puts you through this little stress test and then shows you how well you can focus and how well you can bounce back from being in a stressful environment. What science has told us is that if you meditate, you can do that much more quickly, you’re more flexible, you’re more resilient. So people can really see the numbers behind, if I meditate for a month, come back at the end of the meditation and see what your score is and how it has changed. 

3) What are the tools that people can use when they come in for individual meditation?

We have audio-guided meditations, there are five to choose from right now. We are looking to change it up so that there’s a menu and every month there’s a special. This month we have Casey-Jo from The Peak, she has an amazing voice and she’s recorded something for us. Next month, we are doing a spoken-word meditation. We will constantly cycle things in and out. We’ll record some of our teachers as well but we’re hoping to expand to even more people. 

4) For people that are new to meditation, what would you recommend as a good introduction for them?

I would recommend a group class because there’s strength in numbers. Our classes are fun. They’re 45 mins long but you’re not meditating for 45 mins. There’s a portion at the beginning that’s either just writing or drawing, a quiet moment that just gets you out of your work mode and into this contemplative mode. There’s a lot of chatting, you get to meet some great people that are like-minded and in the same boat. It’s all guided, so 10 mins of guided meditation, we come back up, we have a chat and ask questions. So then we’ll dive into a second meditation 10 mins max and have a quick chat afterwards and then you’re done. 

5) Do you find that the city of Vancouver is a city that is open to this kind of space?

I think that the city is getting there and that there’s a lot of education that is still to be had, which surprised us. It’s a fun surprise because we get to educate people on what it means to be meditating and how different it is from yoga, how it stands alone from yoga. The time is right, the tide is changing, people are open to it. If we would have done it two years ago, it wouldn’t have gone as well. People are curious now. There’s still that bit of fear but we’re noticing that people are interested and craving it almost. 

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For more information on Moment Meditation, go here.

Driving Mindfully with the Ford Edge

12991094_1719719268246182_7594874660587216206_nApril being Stress Awareness Month, I partnered up with Ford Canada to learn more about being mindful behind the wheel. Mindfulness is one of the subject matters that I’ve been exploring a lot more as of late. I have been trying a bunch of different apps and challenges to become more mindful in all aspects of my life.

With the help of the brand new 2016 Ford Edge, I went on a mindfulness adventure last weekend to explore some of the gems in and out of the city.

FullSizeRender(12)13055455_1720087844875991_8976517641422716414_nThere are a ton of great features on the car that make you feel a lot more at ease while driving. Some of my favorite features include the 10-Way Power Driver’s Seat, that allows you to sit the most comfortably, the Voice-Activated Navigation and Entertainment System that allows you to stay focused on the road and keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times without having to lean over, Heated and Air Conditioned Fronts Seats, Front 180-Degree Camera and Rear View Camera for maximum security and the BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert that lends an extra hand while driving.

FullSizeRender(6)FullSizeRender(10)FullSizeRender(17)FullSizeRender(2)FullSizeRender(1)FullSizeRender(15)FullSizeRender(14)For this mindfulness weekend, I was also able to get a one on one session with Toronto yoga-instructor YuMee Chung, who gave me some helpful tips on how to stay calm, mindful and comfortable behind the wheel. Some of her tips are:

Tip 1Take Time To Stretch Before You Drive – either by doing the Triangle Pose or other stretches that are familiar to you. It will loosen up your muscles.

Tip 2Sit With Care – using the 10-Way Power Driver’s Seat you can find the perfect seating position to provide low back support. You can also use the heated seat to soothe lower back pain.

Tip 3Set Your Shoulders – Sit tall and roll your shoulders back to avoid slouching. You can also avoid “tech neck” by bringing your chin back until your earlobes hover over your shoulders.

Tip 4Get A Grip – Avoid clenching your fists when driving. At a stop light, you can rotate your wrists and give your hands a good shake.

Tip 5Slow Breath In, Deep Breath Out – It helps you destress, clear the mind and energize your body.

FullSizeRender(11)FullSizeRender(4)With these new tips in hand, I took the Ford Edge to Cheltenham for a picnic and a hike at the Cheltenham Badlands. The drive in the countryside was incredibly peaceful. I made sure to take deep breaths and enjoy the relaxing drive and the present moment. Leaving the city, even if just for a few hours always makes me feel so energized and inspired.

FullSizeRender(5)FullSizeRender(9)On Sunday, I took the car with me to the stunning Aga Khan Museum in North York and to the Scarborough Bluffs. I rarely get to go that far north or east since I don’t own a car so I was thankful to have the opportunity to visit these two beautiful locations.

FullSizeRender(19)FullSizeRender(20)I really enjoyed driving in the Ford Edge throughout the weekend. With the sunroof open, the sun shining, light music playing and open roads in front of me, it was hard not to be mindful and enjoy the present moment. The car made me feel at ease, made me feel secure and offered me all the little extras to made my mindfulness adventure the most memorable.

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