Category: Conversations

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Creating Mindful Experiences With Meghan Godin

After graduating from design school and working as a user-experience and product designer in New York City for many years, Meghan Godin decided it was time to go try something new. She knew she wanted to start something of her own, but was not quite sure what that was. After moving to live by the water in Northern Michigan for a summer to reflect and rediscover conscious living, her path became clear. With a passion for mindful living, intentional design, thoughtful conversation, and creating spaces where a sense of community can thrive, Meghan began Some_____Things, a mindful, design-oriented company dedicated to helping hotels, retailers, and makers evolve their businesses through creating authentic environments and memorable experiences.


“Something that defines me is this notion of inclusivity and bringing people together in really intentional and thoughtful ways.”


Living By The Water

Taking a break and living by the water positively impacted and inspired Meghan in a big way. “I think the water in general has such healing properties,” she shared. “Especially if you just need to get thoughts out and think clearly.” While Meghan was collecting her thoughts and organizing her mind, she discovered multiple mindfulness practices that helped her to do so. She consistently journaled and wrote, as well as meditated and practiced yoga daily. Meghan shared that mindfulness allows you to “put intentions into the universe and see it come to fruition in interesting ways.” Living this way gave her a fresh perspective on what she wanted to do and how she wanted to live her life.


“The universe speaks to you when you’re tapped into finding your path and journey.”


Innovating, Creating & Designing

Megan began to ask herself questions like, “what would be an ideal job for me? What would be the ideal business that I would want to create? How do I want to live?” She also paid attention to her love for travel, hotels, retailers, and small, mindful brands that have a story to tell. Shortly after, she came across a book of poems called, “Some Natural Things” which inspired the idea for Some_____Things. With Some_____Things, Meghan gets to develop brand stories and evolve experiences for people and businesses while innovating, creating and designing mindful environments and products.


“It’s wonderful to see how design can play into any environment.”


Creating Mindful Experiences

One of the most important elements in creating an inviting atmosphere and mindful experience for guests is incorporating all the senses. For example, scent reminds people of places they’ve stayed and music can alter the mood of an environment. With hotels, Meghan immerses herself in the location’s culture to get an understanding of how to convey the nature of the place. Her goal is to make people feel as if they have learned something new. “You can tell if people feel light when they walk in.” Meghan loves what she does and is grateful for the opportunity to be able to create experiences and influence them with her own unique tastes and her passion for mindfulness, often without many limitations.


“I’m going to influence it in the most intentional ways because that’s my heart and my soul.”


Reflection, Patience & Compassion

Meghan uses journaling to check in with herself and plan her day. After waking up, the first thing she does is reflect on three things she is grateful for then writes down her intentions for the day. This helps her stay organized and prioritize her to-do list without overwhelming herself. She then takes five or ten minutes to meditate before beginning her day.

She expressed that as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to become very self-focused. Through living mindfully, and incorporating mindfulness into what she does, she has learned how to be patient and have compassion for others. While looking out for yourself is important, she shared how important it is to also ask yourself, “How can I make sure that I’m also doing for others?”


Meghan’s Questions for KYŌ:

  • How am I helping those outside of me?
  • Is this in line with what I truly want to be doing?
  • Where do I see myself in three months? Six months?


Photography by 1 Hotels

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Collaboration & Creativity with Brandon Harrar

Brandon Harrar is passionate about design, branding, and the process it takes to produce work for clients.  Although he enjoyed working in advertising as a media buyer & campaign manager, a lot of his free time was spent on freelance design contracts. Since he was spending so much energy on side gigs, he realized he could live a more fulfilled and mindful life if he grew his client base into something of his own. So, he took the leap to try something new, combining his creative passions with his unrelenting desire to build something for himself and began HRVST, a creative agency for growing brands that is passionate about collaboration and creativity.


“I felt like I needed to grow in a different way.”


The Process

Brandon is as passionate about design as he is about the process. “I really love business development,” he told us. “I love process and I love organization and efficiency.” From onboarding, to selling an idea, to executing work, to mitigating risks with a client, to handing off work, Brandon loves every step of the process. Paying attention to where his passions lay, and pursuing a career in that direction, was Brandon’s first step towards living a more mindful life. With a handful of loyal clients already by his side, and a passion for design and business development, beginning a company of his own just made sense.


“I love design and I love functional products that help people.”


A World of Opportunity

Beginning a creative agency was intimidating at first, especially with so many people telling him it was a saturated market. However, Brandon looked at the industry differently. Rather than dwelling on the negative challenges, he focused on the positive opportunities. He told himself, while there are thousands of creative agencies and freelancers, there are even more untapped businesses that haven’t been approached yet or don’t know what they’re missing out on. Plus, with the internet, language barriers and time differences aren’t limiting.


“Your client base is the world.”


Collaboration & Creativity

Brandon prioritizes growing a positive environment at HRVST. Maintaining a unique space where people can work collaboratively, creatively, and find inspiration — it’s the people that make the difference. “HRVST wouldn’t be what it is if we didn’t have a group of really cool, open minded, easy going, incredibly talented, amazing people.” Rather than counting down the clock until it’s time to leave, HRVST is made up of a small, but growing team of creative and hardworking individuals who appreciate and are mindful of one another. As part of a collective, members of HRVST care about the work they’re producing together.


Journaling to Forget 

For Brandon, mindfulness means “being aware of everything you have going on in your life, things that have happened, and things that are coming up.” Brandon uses project management systems like Asana to stay organized, aware, and, therefore, mindful. He also journals. “I started writing because I had so much going on that I needed to get it down on paper or on my phone.” Brandon journals so that he doesn’t have to physically remember certain, specific things anymore. It’s a way to let go and shut off.


“I journal and use project management systems to relieve myself of having to remember things.”


Although phones can sometimes be overwhelming with so much going on in them, they are also an incredible tool. “It’s full of distractions, but it’s full of even more possibilities and opportunities.” Brandon writes whenever he feels the need to get something out of his system and put something down, so having his phone on him whenever the moment arises helps him remain mindful. Journaling, whether on paper or on a mobile device, allows him to organize his thoughts and his life.


“You need a place for yourself, where you can put it all down.”


Brandon Harrar’s Questions for Kyō:

  • What’s the last thing you figured out?
  • What are the next 5 things you want to get done?
  • What would the people who know you well suggest you do?


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Compassionate Living With Leo Babauta

Changing one’s life often begins with changing little things first. For Leo Babauta, changing daily habits included eating healthier as a vegan, exercising, decluttering, and simplifying his life in order to feel balanced and renewed. “Once I figured out some things that worked with one habit, I started changing a whole bunch of different habits.” With a refreshed perspective on life and a new appreciation for mindful living, Leo began writing his blog, Zen Habits, and eventually wrote a book under the same name. He now strives to positively impact others through his work while living mindfully and compassionately.


Nurturing Positive Change

Leo is passionate about helping guide others towards a positive, healthy, and mindful lifestyle. Along with his blog and book, Zen Habits, Leo also creates online courses called “Sea Change” as part of his mission to help others find their path and change their habits.


“Mindfulness and simplicity are both at the core of all of that change.”


Leo is also working towards organizing live events and retreats where people “can get together and find the power of human connection to undergo transformation.” Leo recognizes the power of human relationships, and acknowledges that being open and honest with others can lead to the most profound kind of change in one’s life.


Shaped by Others

Leo acknowledges that who he is and where he is today is the result of many people. “I believe that we are all interconnected and we are constantly influencing who we are. And I believe that who I am is created by everyone who I’ve had contact with.” Rather than having an individualistic outlook on life, Leo encourages others to pay attention to, and give thanks to, those who surround us.

This philosophy is integral to everything Leo does. Since other people have positively impacted him and his life, Leo wants to do the same for others. Leo constantly keeps others in mind and often reflects on his own life experiences to connect with others and help them through their struggles.


“Connecting with people through a shared struggle and then helping them in a compassionate way really warms my heart.”


Shifting Your Focus to Serve Others

“One of the key things that I work with nowadays is helping people deal with struggles, uncertainty, and fear in their lives, and turning that into something joyful, grateful, and mindful.”

We often procrastinate or get distracted by our fears. Whether it’s a fear of failure or judgement, Leo likes to encourage others to think about who you’re serving, and the meaningful impact you will have on others upon completion of the task, rather than focusing on made up negative outcomes.


“If I’m not as self-centred (on fear) and instead focus on the creation that can help others, that’s a huge shift for me.”


Not only does Leo care about people, but, as a vegan, he is also mindful about “removing himself from contributing to the suffering of other beings.” Leo expressed, “for me, it’s an amazing way of life.” However, he understands that eating vegan isn’t necessarily realistic or desirable for everybody. Rather than pushing others to do the exact same things as him, he supports and encourages people to discover their own ways to make the world a better place.


Mindfulness & Self-Compassion

For Leo, mindfulness is “paying attention to what’s happening right now.” Leo aims to incorporate four main passions into his everyday life: meditation, reflection, creation and health. As a husband and father of six, it can sometimes be a struggle to include extensive exercises in each area, which is also where mindfulness comes in. Rather than being hard on himself for not following a strict regimented schedule, he practices self-compassion, allowing himself breaks and completing modified mindfulness exercises instead.

Self-compassion is something else Leo cares greatly about. If mindfulness means paying attention to the present, it also means paying attention to how we treat and affect others, as well as ourselves.


“Paying attention to right now is the door that opens to unseen worlds and amazing possibilities.”


Leo Babauta’s Questions for KYŌ:

  • What are we creating together?
  • Who am I serving?
  • What is my intention for today?


Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash


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The Other Art Of Living With Sophie Trem

Sophie Trem is all about embracing the journey as much as the destination. After years of reading self-development books, exploring mindfulness practices, and learning from life experiences like being a mother of two, Sophie can now say that she has found her way. After working in fashion for a long time, Sophie launched her blog, The Other Art of Living, four years ago and began The Good Mood Class one year ago. She lives life mindfully and encourages others to do the same.


The Other Art of Living

By applying all the things she had read, Sophie began living a more mindful and fulfilled life. She would discover things that really stuck with her, then share those tips, tricks, and ways of thinking with her family and friends. She explains how it was a slow process getting to the point she is at now. “It goes step by step,” she explains. “You must try, fall, get up, and never be afraid to do it again.” Eventually, she began to share her ideas to a blog, and that’s how The Other Art of Living began.


“The Other Art of Living is about anything that contributes to a better life, and that’s what the journey is all about.”


Positivity for All

With the success of her blog and a desire to reach more people, Sophie began The Good Mood Class, a workshop designed to help others to live a fulfilled, mindful life.


“It’s a combination of how to balance the mind, soul and body.”


The Good Mood Class encourages simple but powerful basics that helped Sophie with her own life. These fundamentals include knowing yourself, nurturing positive thinking, and appreciating the power of now. Sophie emphasizes how important it is to begin by really getting to know and understand yourself so you can begin to distinguish what matters and what doesn’t.


“I started to think about what was essential to me. Now it seems so obvious, but at the beginning, I was really not aware, and it was so difficult to differentiate what was important or not.”


A Conscious Awareness

Through all of this, Sophie now understands the power of mindfulness and the importance of remaining present and consciously aware. “Being conscious is that little thing that makes all the difference,” shares Sophie. “Today, most people are not conscious about what they do, think, or feel. That’s often what leads to stress, anger, and pain.” By making the conscious effort to understand ourselves, we can better understand the world.


Clearing Your Mind

When asked what Sophie does to remain mindful, she said she incorporates The Good Mood Class practices, positive thinking, and chakra clearing into her regular routine. “Meditation and mindfulness is great to help make your mind clear and silent.” Sophie shares how important it is to keep a clear mind by explaining that too much information pollutes your mind.


“When you don’t think clearly, it unfortunately leads to the wrong destination.”


Embracing Change

Something so simple, but so important, is recognizing that if you want your life to be different, you must first change yourself. Whether it’s wearing something different or trying something new that you’re not used to, Sophie explains, “You can’t get somewhere else by taking the same path every day.” The key, however, is changing the way you think first. “Then you will see life differently,” shares Sophie. “It all starts in your mind.”


“I discovered what the universe was about once I was open to something different.”


Sophie’s Questions for KYŌ:

  • How do you feel right now?
  • What do you want? Why?
  • What do you do and why are you doing it?

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Balance in a Tech-Driven World With Kai Brach

Kai Brach is a talented web designer passionate about using the Internet to create meaningful connections and share ideas. After years of designing for the web where his work would eventually get swept away and replaced by something newer, Kai longed for the earlier days of the Internet. “I started to feel quite cynical about the web community. It had become more and more about making money and consumerism than what the web was originally intended for: to connect people and share ideas.”

That’s when Kai decided to try something new by “taking tech off the screen” and started Offscreen; a real, printed magazine with a thoughtful, human-centered take on technology and the web. Offscreen magazine “celebrates the human side of technology and the web” and “explores innovative ideas through introspective writing and human stories.” Kai uses Offscreen as a way to mindfully reflect on our tech-driven lifestyles and ask critical questions about how we shape technology and how technology shapes us.


“The world of pixels was where I felt at home.”


The Power of Offscreen

Kai has been publishing Offscreen for more than five years and takes on a range of roles in order to produce the small, independent one-man magazine, now on its 17th issue. “Wearing the many different hats of a publisher, editor, designer, business owner, etc. challenges me every day.” Although difficult at times, Offscreen has proven to be the most satisfying creative endeavor Kai has every taken on. Along the way, Kai has met many thoughtful, kind, and talented people, re-establishing his belief in the tech/web industry as a community that can making a lasting, impactful change in the world.


“Receiving supportive, heartfelt feedback from my readers is the absolute highlight of what I do.”


Maintaining Balance in a Tech-Driven World

A printed magazine covering web and tech may seem counterintuitive, but it is Kai’s contribution to a more mindful world. Kai recognizes that in today’s world powered by technology, many applications are created to encourage addictive behaviour patterns. “We’re still at the beginning of figuring out what impact these new, ever-demanding technologies have on us.”


“While as consumers we can’t change the design of these tools, we can learn about and be aware of the addictive behaviour patterns and then actively push back.”


Sticking to the hardcopy version for Offscreen magazine is integral to what Kai believes in. Although reading a print magazine can momentarily offer a break from a busy world, he admits that it doesn’t address the underlying problem. “If we want a more balanced approach to tech, we need to realize and break unintentional patterns.”, Kai explains.


“We need to find ways to think more clearly about ourselves by removing external distractions.”


Putting Things into Perspective

Removing yourself from your everyday environment and traveling to new places is an excellent way to feel rejuvenated and gain perspective. Before Kai began Offscreen, the German-born designer-turned-publisher spent years travelling, studying and working in Australia, Asia and the US.


“This extended time [travelling] by myself has transformed me into the person I am today.”


Travel remains an important element in his life, having just returned from a hiking trip to the European Alps. “I absolutely love the mountains. It’s the ideal reminder of our complete insignificance and puts everything we do into perspective.”

Kai’s Questions for the Kyō:

  • What can I do to align my life (including my work) with my ethical and moral values?
  • Am I spending enough time nurturing relationships with the people I love?
  • Am I taking this too seriously?


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Maintaining An Inner Awareness With Haile Thomas

Haile Thomas is a motivational speaker, youth health advocate, vegan chef, and the founder and executive director of The HAPPY Org., an organization focused on educating and empowering young people to embrace healthy eating through a number of programs and resources. She is passionate about inspiring others to live healthy, mindful lives, and strives to be her best self, remembering to be “a leader and not a follower”. On top of all this, Haile also makes time for her family, her friends, and for school, and she’s only sixteen.

Even with all the success she has had, Haile Thomas shows no signs of slowing down. For her, the sky is the limit, and she wants to change the world and spread the message that food, healthy eating, and mindfulness is powerful.


Major Milestones

Haile’s journey started at eight years old when her father was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. At such an emotional time, Haile’s family came together to support one another and work as a team. Together, they were able to reverse his condition with healthy eating and exercise. This big moment changed her perception of health and well-being, igniting a passion within her to spread the word of how powerful food is and how impactful healthy eating can be. At ten years old, she gave her first speech. An advantage of starting so young meant that she hadn’t built any barriers, yet. She wasn’t nervous or scared of judgement, she was just excited for the opportunity to share her message.


“As we get older, rather than blossoming more we are withering down and getting less confident and secure in our unique opinions and thoughts.”


Haile wants to teach youth to be mindful of this, encouraging them to embrace who they are and find confidence in being themselves. “It’s easy and more comfortable to follow the crowd. Everybody wants to take the comfortable route and not be singled out. But it’s more fun to be singled out, because at the end of the day, in terms of fulfillment, it’s about you and not everybody else.”


“I’m an individual, I don’t have to follow the rules, and I can be authentically myself without having regrets about that. Starting with that foundation is a huge part in my confidence in what I have to offer to the world.”


An Inner Awareness

Something Haile has recently begun to learn is how to deal with outside forces and how they affect you, especially when it comes to friends and family. Many of us can relate to experiences of losing friends or growing apart from people we care about. For Haile, it was a lesson in being mindful about what was going on in her life, and learning to open up to others while also being honest with herself.


“Mindfulness is an inner awareness of how the world on the outside impacts you on the inside.”


Haile speaks with such wisdom. For her, mindfulness is “being able to interpret and understand all the feelings and experiences and emotions that occur when the outside world is happening” and “making a decision on how you’re going to react to those things.” When friends move on or have a change of heart, Haile now knows to look deeper into what happened. “So many people who are doing what they love and are successful in doing that find that so many people drift away.” Rather than point the finger at herself and immediately wonder what she did wrong, she tries “practicing mindfulness in the way that I react to it, then releasing it and moving forward.” Haile explained, “I can’t control what goes on and what other people perceive, but at least I’m being honest about what I’m feeling and what’s going on with me.”


 “As long as I put out good energy and good things into the world, then people who appreciate that and also agree with that will come along.”


Mindful in More Ways Than One

With her many jobs, school, and the responsibility to maintain a social media presence, Haile is almost always working. Because of this, it is important to Haile to find time in the day to stop and take a break. Haile incorporates mindfulness into her life in many ways including disconnecting from social media to read a book or to be with family. She shares that “sometimes, disconnecting from the work that I’m doing allows me to get back to who I am without it.”


“I enjoy disconnecting sometimes. It reminds me that I’m not my work.”


Whenever Haile feels overwhelmed, she recognizes that she needs to “reorganize what needs to be prioritized.” Getting organized sometimes means taking a break, and Haile explained that it’s the little things that make a difference. Sometimes she makes time for yoga, or for five minutes of meditation in the morning. Sometimes all it takes is being present while eating to truly enjoy a meal and who you’re eating with.


Journaling for Everyday & Everybody

Haile understands the benefit of writing down your thoughts to clear your mind from any issues or frustrations. “Working through these things can be so helpful,” she shared. Haile also writes down five things she is grateful for every morning. “It sets a tone and it brings you back to square one – to be mindful in approaching the day and how to handle everything from the outside.”


“Expressing gratitude in that way is an amazing thing.”


There are many perceptions of what journaling means, and many ways to experience it. Haile would love for more youth to try journaling, and explained that the first thing to do is “remove the labels of what journaling is.” She expressed, “Journaling can truly be anything you want it to be. It’s just a way to express yourself.” Haile enjoys using journaling for creative writing, practicing gratitude, and setting goals. “It’s completely customizable to you, because it’s your experience,” she explained. “It’s not for older people, it’s not for younger people. It’s just an experience.”


Haile’s Questions for KYŌ:

  • How are you going to step into today with confidence?
  • How are you going to expand your mind today?
  • What do you love about yourself?


Photography by

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Expression & Exploration With Marianna Jamadi

Sometimes it takes doing something you don’t love to discover what you do. This was true for Marianna Jamadi who, although now a successful photographer, for a long time was unsure of the direction she was headed. Marianna went to school for business, but always had a spark of creativity within her. While working in the fashion industry for many years, she remembered how much she enjoyed a photography elective she took back in college. She then enrolled in a continuing education course for 35mm film slides, igniting the spark within her. With a new love for photography and a longing to travel again, she quit her corporate job, sold her belongings, and left New York to pursue her passion.


Embracing the Unknown

As a child of immigrants, much of Marianna’s life growing up consisted of travelling with her family to visit relatives abroad. Marianna shared, “Travel is something that was always part of my life.” After living in the same city for seven years, she decided it was time to go. She always wanted to shoot travel photography, and after years of working in the corporate world, she realized she “was ready to be uncomfortable.”

Although scary and intimidating to leave the comfort of the familiar, she told herself “it’s now or never.” Marianna believes that opportunities open up when you trust that things will work out. That’s when she moved abroad and began her new journey.


“It’s about listening and trusting. Not only yourself, but the universe and what’s happening.”


A Mindful Traveler

For Marianna, travelling to and photographing new places allows her to practice mindfulness. “In terms of reflective processes… I’m realizing that travel is my mindful meditation in a lot of ways.” Travelling allowed Marianna to practice and explore photography without any expectations. She also learned to balance knowing when to take pictures, and when to leave her camera behind. She would ask herself, “Do you want to experience it? Or do you want to document it?”

When Marianna visits somewhere new, she always gives herself a day or two to explore without her camera. This lets her sense the energy and get a feel for the vibe around her without looking through a lens. For Marianna, it’s about becoming culturally aware, observing people and remaining present. Doing so allows her to portray the places she visits and the people she meets through her photography in a more meaningful way.


“Once your eyes are open, your eyes are open.”


More Than a Photographer

Marianna wanted to change the idea that travel was just an individual experience. She helped begin El Camino Travel, a company that offers authentic group travel experiences. El Camino cares about people and creating memories by pairing groups with a travel photographer to document their experience and create lasting memories. Marianna also runs her own company, Nomadic Habit, where she uses the power of imagery and words to tell the stories of the people she meets and places she experiences. Nomadic Habit was born out of a dream to share the power of movement, travel, and people in hopes of dispelling fear and invoking curiosity in the minds and hearts of others.

Marianna is also involved with VSCO in a project to photograph and write about members of the Periferia Dance Company, an initiative that, through the language of dance, analyzes the context of the Caribbean coast in Cartagena, Columbia, as a territory marked by its colonial legacy. Marianna hopes that through her photos, she can begin a conversation. “I was looking for an avenue to tell that story,” shared Marianna. “I wanted to use what I could do [photography] to continue that conversation.


“It’s important to live a life to create ripples, to hopefully create waves.”


Expression & Exploration

Marianna expresses herself through her photography and explained that it is an avenue for exploration as well as healing. Similarly to how photography is the way Marianna digests the world around her, writing allows her to be creative and release her thoughts, feelings and frustrations. When she doesn’t write, she notices, “My body feels like it needs it. My mind needs it.” Photography allows her to learn things about the world and writing helps her discover things about herself.

 “I’m my most happy when I am discovering something new… The experience of discovery to me is so fulfilling.”

With photography and writing at the center of what she does, Marianna is able to live a mindful life while travelling and visiting new places. She hopes to continue to make a difference in other’s lives, while making the most of her own.


Marianna’s Questions for KYŌ:

  • How do you feel?
  • Are you being true to yourself?
  • How am I being impactful?


Photography by Marianna Jamadi







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The Power of Perspective With Om Malik

Om Malik is the founder of Gigaom, a technology blog and media company, and a partner at True Ventures, a firm dedicated to investing in tech startups. Om also writes his own blog and is a photographer. After a near death experience and getting a second chance at life, Om now lives a mindful life focused on living in the present. Whether it’s how he views his place in the world, what he chooses to photograph, or how he lives his life, Om appreciates the power of perspective.


Putting Things into Perspective

Like many people in today’s busy world, Om was putting his work before himself and his health. Working long hours and in a constant state of busyness, Om didn’t put emphasis on the importance of taking a break and being mindful of your body, mind and soul. Then, his life was turned upside down.

Ten years ago, Om Malik suffered a heart attack placing him in the ICU for weeks. Having to fight for his life, and realizing that he can’t control what happens in his life, changed his entire perspective and outlook. Om now lives in the present, focusing on the now and planning for the next few days, rather than the far future. “If you want to piss off God,” he joked, “You make plans.”


“Forget about the past and focus on the present and the near future. I’m really happy with that approach to life.”


Photographing a Feeling

With a new gained perspective on life, and the desire to experience the beauty there is in the world around him while living in the present, Om turned to photography. Going on photography trips began as a way to take a break from the world of tech, and is now an extension of him, his thoughts and feelings.

When you look at Om’s photography, it is clear that his work is full of both powerful emotions and a calm sense of peace. “I find photography a way of capturing what I’m feeling and sharing it with others.” Om visits different locations across the world and tries to capture the essence of a place as well as how he is feeling in that spot. For him, photography allows him to convey how he feels with others, while checking in with how he feels himself.


“I’m trying to capture a feeling.”


In the Grand Scheme of Things

Visiting places like the Arctic for his photography trips really puts into perspective how small we are in the grand scheme of things, reminding him to remain mindful and present. Om understands how easy it is to get lost in your day-to-day work life. To combat this, he suggests to take a step back and ask yourself, “Are you living your life by a set of rules and regulations set by society?” Too often, people get wrapped up in their own lives without paying attention to the bigger picture.

After Om’s life altering, near death experience, and through gaining a more balanced outlook on life with photography, he explained that his biggest life lesson was to learn how to lower his expectations – of himself and of everything – because we only have the present. Rather than worrying about what is coming next for him, he lives his life one step at a time, remaining grateful for what he has.


“What matters to me is enjoying what we have.”


When asked what he is specifically grateful for, he eloquently responded: Everything. A second chance at life, my family, my friends. The gift to see and the gift to be alive.


Om’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What are my expectations for myself?
  • What am I going to do for the next 3 days?
  • Am I living life by my own set of rules?


Photography by Om Malik

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A Passion for Minimalism with Alberto Negro

Alberto Negro is a recent graduate and young entrepreneur passionate about design and minimalism. For somebody who at one point didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, he has come quite a long way. Taking a year off after high school shaped who Alberto is. He used this time productively to discover his passion, read, explore his creative side, and meet new people for inspiration.

Then, with a new-found love for design and minimalism, during his university education he began 5 STYLE. Starting as a minimalist lifestyle brand existing on social media, it is now an award-winning design-led magazine called “the destination for minimal luxury.” Alberto also co-founded Minimalism Life, a collaborative project with other minimalist designers intended to “help you live more with less.” Alberto is passionate about incorporating creativity and minimalism into his work and his life, all in pursuit of his purpose.

“I wanted to make sure the thing I created actually gave value to me and my followers.”


A Creative Challenge

In University, Alberto was looking for a creative challenge. He wanted to spend his time in a meaningful way, creating something he was passionate about. Since he loved design and “always had a good eye for things,” he began collecting images of design, fashion, travel, photography, and other things that he liked, all of which evolved around minimalism.

For Alberto, his love for minimalism grew from being a product designer and wanting to create pieces that were minimal and simple. The focus is “less is more” and living life, and designing, with only the essentials, stripping away unnecessary extras. He then taught himself how to design websites, sometimes even during class. “For me, school was pretty much my part time gig.” He continued to challenge himself by trying new things and eventually pursuing his passion of creating a brand. Thus, 5 STYLE was born.

“The one thing I wanted to do in my life was to create my own brand.”


Minimalism for Life

For Alberto, his love for minimalism, and his desire to put it out into the world, isn’t just about design, but a lifestyle. He wanted to share this passion with the world. “I was trying to find out what to do with my life,” and not surprisingly, that thing would be minimalism and design. He realized, “We need to make the biggest website about minimalism.”

“I think collaboration is so powerful.”

So, with the success of 5 STYLE, he co-founded Minimalism Life with Minimalissimo and The Minimalists, a collaborative hub between minimalist designers and influencers, publishing weekly journal articles, monthly newsletters, and premium thematic volumes. Minimalism Life is receiving 60,000 visitors to month, just in the first year, and Alberto is excited about the potential that both 5 STYLE and Minimalism Life has to change the world.


Discovering Your Purpose

Alberto remembers how his University experience helped him discover his purpose. While other students went out partying, Alberto shared, “I would spend my Friday nights in creating stuff.” Alberto’s life now consists of the very things he loves to do and is passionate about: helping others discover minimalism and using his love for design and creativity while doing so. “If you find your own purpose, and you make sure the purpose you have is also your job, then it’s incredible.” The beauty in discovering your purpose is that your life no longer becomes a balance between work life and personal life, but then “your life is just life.”


Alberto’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • Is this the best thing for me?
  • Am I doing my best work?
  • What is my purpose in life?


Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash

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Beyond the Waterfall with David Airey

David Airey left his position as a designer in a cancer charity to pursue brand identity design and writing as a full-time independent graphic designer. He also has a successful blog and has written two books, “Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities” and “Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business.” David’s passion for what he does is evident throughout his work, and he attributes his happiness and mindfulness to loving what he does.


“Being happier in my work means I’m less worried about what the next thing is. I can focus more on what I’m doing now rather than thinking ahead too much.”


Multitasking Does Not Equal Mindfulness

Multitasking is often viewed as a positive skill, but it usually means you’re not being mindful about what you do. David believes in the power of slowing down, switching off, and focusing on one thing at a time for the best results. “The more you can switch off and focus on one thing, the better you’re going to be at that thing.” Rather than doing multiple tasks at the same time, David suggests doing them in order, one after the other.  Ensuring each task can receive your full attention is how David remains mindful in his creative work and everyday life.


Stopping in Order to Keep Going

David takes at least five minutes a day to clear his thoughts, focus on his breathing, and refresh his mind. He meditates in silence or with music and a guiding voice (in person or with an app). When he is feeling over worked or unbalanced, a quick moment of meditation offers immediate results. “If you just take a little time out of your day, every day, for five minutes, it’s going to help. You’re going to feel relaxed and less stressed.”


“It takes a very short time [of meditating] before you feel the benefits.”


Meditation & The Waterfall

Meditating offers instant relief, but sometimes it’s hard to do. David acknowledges that meditation takes practice, and shared a Buddhist analogy he refers to. “If you picture your mind like a waterfall, the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions, and mindfulness is the space behind that.” He explained that meditation is trying to get past your rushing thoughts to focus on the calm space behind the waterfall.


“If you can break from that even for just a few seconds at a time, the more you do it the better you’ll get at it.”


Gratitude and Living In The Now

An exercise in gratitude David practices is writing down 5 good things that happened that day. “I found myself going through days not really appreciating what I had.” Being grateful for what you currently have, rather than focusing on the future, helps you stay present. “If you’re always thinking about what’s coming next, you tend to lose track of what’s happening now, and now is the only moment we have. The more you can be in that moment, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of it and the happier you’ll be.”


“Now is the only moment we have.”


David’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What can I change?
  • What’s the worst that can happen?


Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

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Pursuing Your Passion With Alex Castellani

Boxcar Social is a fusion between a café and a bar. All six locations across Toronto offer a social atmosphere where the staff is passionate about coffee, wine, craft beers, bourbon and scotch. Their mission is to “strive to create the most unique tasting experience,” and Alex Castellani has an important role in making this happen. As one of the four minds behind the creation of Boxcar Social, Alex has found a way to bring his passions into his work and be mindful while doing so.


Two Categories

So, what does Alex do? He shared that he wears many different hats. “It’s a tapestry of me being a teacher, instructor and leader.” While these titles sound glamourous, he explains that he is also working behind the scenes as a recipe builder and coffee taster and is involved in customer service as a food runner, dish washer and waiter when needed.

As for what Alex cares about, he broke it down for us into two categories: sensory experiences and people. Whether it’s taste, aromatic profiling, music, or the aesthetic design of something, Alex chases sensory experiences. He also cares about people, whether it’s teaching, front of house customer service, or managing people in a company.

'Sensory experiences and people. Those are the two categories that define my life.' Click To Tweet

From Vision to Reality

For the five years before Boxcar Social was created, Alex was involved in all facets of the coffee world. He worked as a barista, managed cafés, taught at the Canadian Barista Academy, roasted coffee for a company in Toronto and had a consulting company devoted to helping lay the ground work for new cafés by training their staff and designing their coffee program and the café itself.

Although he loved coffee, Alex wasn’t fully in love with what he was doing. “I was helping other people accomplish their vision,” he recalls. That’s when his now business partner came to him with the idea for Boxcar Social. “That’s when it was decided,” explained Alex. “Basically, once a vision was formulated of what that place could be and that I could use this project as an expression of things that I am passionate about… That was it.”

Continuing the Pursuit

Alex is wholly devoted to Boxcar Social and is passionate about his involvement in the world of sensory experiences. He envisioned a life where he loved what he did for work, and made it happen. “I crafted my work to be the thing in my life that I love to do… I own my work.”

The phrase, “my work is my life” doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Although many people don’t understand why somebody would continue to work at home, Alex thinks they’ve got it backwards. “I will go home after 12 hours of work and try out cocktail recipes, new craft beers, try wines… It’s natural for me to get home and continue that pursuit.”

'I have the personality to wholly involve myself into one single thing.' Click To Tweet


Slow Conversations

Managing six different locations and having so many different titles creates a busy work life. Rather than making time outside of work to slow down and be present, Alex uses his job as an opportunity to be mindful. He shares how he makes time to consistently sit down with his staff one on one to “connect as individuals.”

“I want people in my company to have a forum to express things safely. So, I take time to talk to them. I use it therapeutically for myself, as well, because so many times it makes me slow down and reflect a lot because they’re slow conversations. They’re not inquisitions. They’re about reflection.”

Alex appreciates the potential of having a slow, meaningful conversation. “I think these interactions with colleagues and staff force you to articulate ideas. When you are forced to articulate something, it makes you conceptualize it in a more focused way… It certainly makes you slow down, reflect, take time and articulate.”

'It’s wildly productive to slow down.' Click To Tweet

The Importance of Happiness

In order for Alex to be successful, he needs to feel energized, inspired and happy. “I have to love my job first. I have to be super passionate about what I do… If I’m not happy with my work it’s extremely hard for me to be happy as a person.”

Alex believes in the importance of asking yourself if you’re happy, because if the answer is no, then it’s time to reflect upon how you can change that.


Alex’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What are you grateful for?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What energizes you?
  • Do you love what you do?


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A Desire to Help Others With Jacqui Sinfield

Jacqui Sinfield is a Montreal based coach for adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She is also the author of her award-winning blog “Untapped Brilliance” and the book “Untapped Brilliance: How to Reach Your Full Potential as an Adult with ADHD.” Jacqui always knew that she wanted to help people. When she was diagnosed with dyslexia, she had no idea that her condition would lead her towards helping others with similar struggles through coaching.


The Desire to Help

As a freshman in high school, Jacqui had to make the big life decision of which direction she wanted to pursue. “I had to decide quite early on what I wanted to do. I decided to be a nurse because 1) I like helping people, and 2) I couldn’t imagine sitting in an office day in and day out.”

Jacqui’s favourite part of being a nurse, and what she was best at, was communicating with others. “I realized I was good at talking with and interacting with people.” She thought, “Maybe I don’t need to stay in nursing to be able to achieve my goal of helping people. Maybe there’s something else I can do.”

I was just driven by helping people and spending time with people. That’s what my guiding star was. Click To Tweet

Discovering Potential

A turning point in Jacqui’s career was discovering that she had dyslexia. While she wasn’t being fulfilled by her position as a nurse, she realized she could still help others by incorporating her personal experiences of struggling with dyslexia. She then discovered coaching and made a choice to switch paths and help people with ADHD. “Although the two conditions are different, they are very similar,” she shared. “People would ask, “Are you psychic? Are you living in my head?” But I just knew intuitively what was happening.”


Personalized Support

Jacqui explained that what she does as a coach for people with ADHD is help them implement natural things to help their condition. Taking Omega 3, eating protein with every meal, exercising, meditation and journaling are some of the things she encourages.

“Everyone experiences ADHD differently… We really want to marry what I know works with people with ADHD with their personality, their type of ADHD, and their preferences so that they can implement all these steps in a really natural, effortless way.”


Everyday Writing

Jacqui writes every single day, and for her, it takes many different forms. What she likes to begin with in the morning is a “brain dump” to help her get whatever is on her mind onto paper. This ensures her head is clear for when she writes articles for her blog. She also makes time to reflective write, either at the end of the day or during her commute, and maintains a productivity journal.

It helps my mental health to write. Click To Tweet

Away with Worries

When asked what mindfulness means to her, Jacqui stated, “Being present as much as possible in the moment.” She recalls how she’s always been a worrier. “If I’m not being present in the moment, then I’m worrying and creating anxiety for myself.” Jacqui likes to write down all of her worries and concerns. “It’s almost like magic. If you write down all your worries, within 48 hours they will resolve. Either because you’ve taken action, or they weren’t as big as you thought, or because something in the universe rearranged itself.”

It’s almost like magic. If you write down all your worries, within 48 hours they will resolve. Click To Tweet

 Jacqui recognizes the power of writing and encourages her clients to keep journals, make lists, and write. She believes that the act of putting your thoughts onto paper helps to clear busy minds, release worries, remain present and maintain mindfulness.


Jacqui’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What worked today?
  • What didn’t work today?
  • What could I do differently?


Photo by Breather on Unsplash





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Exploring Mindfulness Through Tea With Jesse Jacobs

Samovar Tea is more than just another café or tea house, it’s a spiritual sanctuary where customers are invited to explore their senses and experience a time of mindfulness and conscious presence through tea. Jesse Jacobs, the founder and owner of Samovar Tea, spoke with us about his passion for tea and its connection to mindfulness.


Entering the World of Tea

Jesse began his mindfulness journey after realizing his corporate career was not bringing him true joy or fulfillment. “I woke up one day feeling overwhelmed by the machine I was a part of and the miniscule contribution that I seemed to be making,” shares Jesse. He realized that he was giving up hours of his life in exchange for a pay cheque. “That at some point became more painful than the security that it offered.”

Jesse was in search of something more fulfilling. When he decided to begin Samovar Tea, he wanted to incorporate mindfulness into the entire experience. This would help balance the creativity and expressiveness of his passion, while also maintaining all the variables that come with starting and running a business.

I see business as a canvas; as another form of art. Click To Tweet

Tea & Mindfulness

Jesse’s venture with tea is more than just running a business, it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. He realized the potential of tea from visiting Japan and Scandinavia; places where tea culture had a big impact. “The practice of tea in traditional societies is yet another pathway for personal development. That appealed to me as a personal path, a spiritual path and as something I can provide to the public.” In a modern world focused on work, consumption, and running along the treadmill-of-life that lacks meaning, Jesse thought, “Maybe the experience behind tea and the history of it has relevance to this day and age.”

I feel good about waking up every morning and delivering something that is genuinely helpful to people. Click To Tweet

 A Sensory Experience

To Jesse, mindfulness is “a practice of emptying the mind so I can be present in the moment” and “having as clear of a perception as possible to see the truth more clearly.” Jesse wanted others to experience life in the present moment, and realized he could touch people’s lives with tea by incorporating all five senses into his Samovar Tea locations.

Life is becoming more sensual because of tea. Click To Tweet

Sight, touch, taste, smell and sound all play a role. For example, walls are stripped from everything that isn’t essential in order to provide meaningful focal points, and seating is organized to offer a theatre experience, while other senses are awoken through the tea itself.

Jesse continues to live a mindful life by remaining present and incorporating thoughtfulness and creativity into his business and sharing it with others. In order to truly experience what Jesse has created, you’ll just have to visit Samovar Tea yourself!


Jesse’s Questions the KYŌ App:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What are my needs?
  • What’s the one thing I need to do to move forward?
  • What’s the worst that’s going to happen?

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Spiritual Direction with Lacy Clark Ellman

Lacy Ellman is a spiritual director and runs A Sacred Journey, a website she created focused on incorporating spirituality and intention into people’s travels and daily life. Lacy is passionate about guiding others along their life journey and helping them find their true selves. As an entrepreneur who has developed her own brand and provides classes, writes a blog and offers a spiritual journey product line on Etsy, she is constantly experiencing moments of self-reflection for both herself and her business. She consistently asks herself and her clients questions, and although some of them seem simple, she believes they are the key to unlocking big truths; Truths about ourselves and our lives.


Spiritual Direction

What is Spiritual Direction? Lacy explains that what she offers is a one on one relationship with her clients, similar to a life coach or to therapy. “What it focuses on is the movement of God in your life… It’s about being intentional in everyday life.” Lacy shared that encountering God, and being mindful, doesn’t have to only occur in a church or on special sites, but rather can be experienced in our everyday life and simple tasks. From cooking daily meals, to time spent with family and friends, to days at work, these are all opportunities for mindfulness and spirituality.

Lacy’s role as a Spiritual Director is to help her clients experience a time of mindfulness. “My role is to hold a space for them and find that sacred thread of meaning that’s woven about their experiences and help them journey deeper to their true self.” She teaches people to be more present and the importance of slowing down and paying attention. [SL1]

'True spiritual practice is paying attention.' Click To Tweet

The Invitation to Show Up

Recognizing the importance of mindfulness is the first step, but knowing where to start can be difficult. Mindfulness means paying closer attention to what is around you and what is in your mind and it begins with a willingness to learn. “The invitation is to show up,” shares Lacy.

Along her own personal journey, Lacy’s discovery of spirituality was a paradigm shift. Growing up, she was taught that prayer was about bringing things to God, when really, one can just sit in God’s presence and just be. Lacy explains how this is similar to mindfulness and meditation. “Just be. You don’t have to do.” A tip she has for beginners is to take an everyday task or habit, such as having your morning coffee, and use that as a chance to meditate.

'Be in the moment and don’t do anything. Just be with the task.' Click To Tweet

The Importance of Asking Questions

No matter your life’s journey, it is important to ask yourself questions. “Questions help you locate yourself,” explains Lacy. “The questions that you have are the questions of your soul.” She explains that these important questions are deeply embedded within ourselves and they are all clues to who we truly are.

Whether you write your responses to these questions down, discuss them aloud or just sit and ponder them quietly, learning how to consistently ask yourself questions is a learning process. “The process of asking yourself questions, of being inquisitive and curious, is an ongoing practice.”


Lacy is passionate about what she does and is grateful for moments when she connects with others about spiritual direction. She likes to think of these moments as a “spark”, and they inspire her passions. “Those sparks remind me of what I’m enthusiastic about; Bringing others into the conversation feels like a launching pad for things to come.”

Lacy’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • Is this what I want to be doing?
  • What will make me feel better?
  • What truly nourishes me and my life?

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Cold Showers, Spring-loaded shoes & Letting Go with Kevin Rose

When one of the founders of Digg says he tries to start every day with a 1-minute freezing cold shower, you take notice. Sure, it’s your first instinct to ask Kevin Rose about tech investments and entrepreneurship, but like many of us, his accomplishments don’t define him. Thankfully, he was kind enough share some of the lessons he’s learned through the years.


Once a Builder, Always a Builder

When we asked Kevin to describe who he is as a person, he stumbled. We were expecting a long list of accomplishments that includes credits like working at Google Ventures and investing in (at the time) startups like Facebook and Twitter. But instead of sounding like a LinkedIn profile, Kevin explained how he’s constantly evolving, both personally and professionally.

“I never have a concrete answer for that because I’m changing all the time. I’m always learning,” he says. “But ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been a builder trying to invent things.” Whether he’s building a new app, or building a successful team, Kevin’s instinct to innovate is quite consistent.

'When I was a kid, I once opened up my tennis shoes to put springs in them so I could jump like Jordan' Click To Tweet


Outgrowing Ego

As a successful entrepreneur, tech investor, and podcaster, Kevin has learned a lot in his career. But one piece of advice he would tell his younger self is to, “let go of the ego and ask the dumb questions. Ego only gets in the way of achieving things,” he shares.

Setting the ego aside isn’t easy, but the ability to let things go is something Kevin is starting to master. “What I realized in my 30s is that I would try to plan and control things. But as you get older you realize there’s so much out of your control,” he explains.


The Art of Letting Go

Kevin is a natural planner. Whether it’s in his personal or professional life, he likes to plot things out and know his next move. He used to think he could define happiness before it happened, but as he got older he began to realize that, “You can’t have these hard and fast rules about happiness and life. There’s too much structure there to take the randomness that occurs.” And it’s this ability to embrace the randomness that’s helped bring balance to Kevin’s life.


Mindfulness is the Ability to Float

When it comes to being mindful, Kevin meditates as much as he can. He reflects and thinks about a process that allows him to obtain balance both personally and professionally. But meditation and living a mindful lifestyle didn’t come over night, it was something he realized later in his career.

'It’s about accepting what is.' Click To Tweet

“The best analogy is swimming. When you’re in the water and you start grasping at things to hold onto, you can tire yourself out. But if you let go, you can just float,” he explains. “It’s about accepting what is. Learning these principles has allowed me to relax and appreciate the day,” he says.

With regards to letting go, Kevin is also a big supporter of journaling and the concept of reflection. “Journaling is a form of self-therapy. It lets you release feelings. It’s such a powerful tool that anyone can use and it’s something you can do on your own,” he says.

Kevin is currently developing Oak Meditation, an app that trains people on how to meditate. “I found that a lot of the meditation apps tell you what you can do and when, but I always wanted something that could help me get trained up so I could go on my own,” he says

And when you look at his career in technology, his investments, and what he’s built since those spring-loaded tennis shoes, carving his own path is something Kevin Rose is pretty good at. To stay connected with Kevin head over to THE JOURNAL, a monthly newsletter with product reviews, podcasts and articles.


Kevin’s questions for the KYŌ App:

  • Am I finding balance?
  • How can I empower someone else today?
  • If I’m building something, what’s my insight?