I feel like I’m a woman of many slashes. But I celebrate succinctness, so I guess, in a single word, I’m a teacher.
3rd Ritual is very much my life’s work, but I’m also involved in a couple of other projects. I’ve never publicly explained that 3rd Ritual is really one of a trifecta of offerings. It’s a labor of love. When I say that, people are often like, “Well, then how do you make money?” That comes from the work that I do at Sky Ting, as well as with a new wellness startup that’s still under wraps.
I see the alphabet: A is red, B is a kind of orange-y brown, C is a charcoal-y, grayish-purple.
I have a very heightened sense of smell. As we say in spiritual talk, I’m an HSP—a highly sensitive person, and my sense of smell is definitely one of those little antennas. It’s invisible but it’s always firing. I also have synesthesia. Both of those inform who I am as a person and the way I create things.
Synesthesia can manifest in different ways for different people, but it’s essentially when one of the sensory or cognitive pathways leads to an involuntary association with a second pathway. I don’t know if I explained that properly, but for me, scents have a color associated with them, as do letters and numbers.
I see the alphabet: A is red, B is a kind of orange-y brown, C is a charcoal-y, grayish-purple. It’s been that way since I was really little. I remember always trying to explain that to other people. It wasn’t until I was in a meditation class where someone else described their synesthesia that I realized not everybody sees things that way. That was a revelation.
The need to have a repeated series of small acts has always been vital to my sense of safety and ability to exist.
The need to have a repeated series of small acts has always been vital to my sense of safety and ability to exist. There’s a psychoanalytical approach to unpacking that, which is, my mom died when I was young, and so putting myself to bed at night—all these things—was a way to mother myself. But I think the kinder way and the way that I like to think of it now is that it was a ritual. It was an attempt to create order in what was an otherwise chaotic world.
I’m from Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Why do people always think it’s Toronto? I was born and raised there and then when I was in middle school, my dad moved to Quebec. But I still went to high school in Ottawa. That ended up having a really big impact, I think, on my life. Without traffic, it was an hour drive to get to my school. Before I had my license or access to a car, it meant that in order for my dad to be at work on time, he would often drop me off an hour or two before school started and then pick me up later as well.
So I had this really weird experience of having to figure out what to do with myself at seven in the morning in this suburban neighborhood. For most teenagers, that either means you can get into some trouble or you can learn to sit with the discomfort. While I definitely did get into trouble, I also found this Jewish community center down the street from my school, thank god. It’s where I took my first yoga class. There was a teacher there who really welcomed me in. She seemed like this incredibly evolved adult, but, in hindsight, she was probably 19.
I think in some ways that saved my life because it gave me something I could always find my way back to. When I had a panic attack at university and the nurse at the local health clinic told me to go practice yoga, that didn’t seem crazy. I already knew what that looked like—it wasn’t a foreign and scary thing. And I found my way back to it again after experiencing my biggest heartbreak and the end of a really tumultuous relationship in my early 20s.
For the first 10 years of my teaching career, I really kept yoga separate from the rest of my professional life. It was a secret. While teaching at this yoga studio in NoHo, I would get changed in the bathroom because I didn’t want people to see me looking all corporate. And then at my day job working for a tech company, I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was using all my saved up vacation days to go on a yoga retreat. I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously. Now I realize how much they both informed the other.
At my job, people would congratulate me on my ability to remain calm in this incredibly intense, high-stress environment. That was because I was secretly doing box breathing during meetings where they’re telling us that our budgets had been slashed. Meanwhile, during my yoga classes, I would talk about the return on your investment, like, “We have 60 minutes, what is the ROI here?” I would focus on poses that were really geared towards people sitting at desks all day or hunching at a screen. That was a really helpful entry point for a lot of people who weren’t ready for the philosophical elements behind yoga.
I moved to New York from Toronto without a job or a place to live or any friends. I had just ended a relationship and was really sad. I had also been working for a public figure in Toronto who was a very, very, very difficult boss. I never dreamed I’d talk about this on record, but thanks to the #MeToo movement, now I’m not the first.
Moving was one of the crazier things I’ve ever done. I bought a one-way plane ticket with two suitcases. I either gave away or sold the remainder of my belongings. I rented an Airbnb for two weeks, and within those two weeks, I found a job, found an apartment with somebody who is one of my best friends to this day, and met the man to whom I’m now married.
I think that’s an example of how powerful a mindset shift can be. I’d been in this environment where I felt I was a victim of both my romantic partner and my boss. When that happens, you can end up thinking, Well, the common thread is me, therefore it’s my fault and something’s wrong with me. Giving myself an entirely clean slate meant that I literally had nothing to lose. I’d given it all away already.
Giving myself an entirely clean slate meant that I literally had nothing to lose.
At 3rd Ritual, I like to say that our offering is equal parts tools and techniques. We create physical objects—like the bell candle, which uses fire, gravity, and sound to measure time—and share techniques that are our way of modernizing and distilling ancient wisdom. We pull from a wide variety of sources, so it’s non-dogmatic. Anything is fair game, from art and architecture to poetry and religious philosophy.
We are trying to, by way of the tools or even something as simple as a post shared on Instagram, help people slow down and make sense of what comes up in that stillness. In a society where we’re so conditioned to have this constant stream of stimulation and information, stillness is a pretty intense juxtaposition. It can almost feel like you’re being confronted with the silence of yourself, and the mind then tries to fill it.
I first started smoking weed in high school, but I think it’s safe to say that that was one of the darker periods of my life. When I went to college, I didn’t touch it. I associated it with secrecy and peer pressure and some of the people that it was tied to. So I didn’t smoke weed for a long time. But then I moved to New York and met my husband, Pierre.
Pierre is one of those people who, everything he does, he does with intention. You know that saying, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything? That’s him. He doesn’t talk about his morning coffee as a ritual, but it is. He has an old-school coffee machine and grinds his own beans using a manual system. He is the greatest living example of the way that I want to be in that—whether somebody is watching or witnessing or not—he’s the same. That consistency is really safe and really grounding.
One of his rituals is rolling a joint at night. It’s a clear marker between working and being productive, and resting and being more passive—like watching a movie or whatever. It reframed weed for me as something that could be safe, creative, positive and fun. That’s when I got back into it, and now it’s definitely become a regular part of my routine.
There’s this Ram Dass quote where he says, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear,” and to me, that’s the thread between wellness and weed. So much of this work is about releasing the burdens of our past and the anxieties about our future so that we can be in the moment and wake up to what’s happening here and now. The trouble with that—and it's why so challenging—is that the voices of our memories and our worries can be quite loud. But weed, at least in my own experience, helps turn down that volume. It’s also why—and I’m sure this has already been said in many interviews before—food tastes better and jokes are funnier and sex is better when you’re stoned.
It feels important to be honest about one of the tools that’s really helped me transcend my anxiety, self-loathing, and self-inflicted suffering in a way that I’ve never done before, because I live in the wellness world where a lot of false narratives are being spun. The idea that you just wake up in the morning and drink a glass of lemon water and have a perfect day—that’s such bullshit.
Now someone will be able to google my name and find out this thing about me that some of my best friends and colleagues don’t even know, but it’s real and it’s true: part of my ability to recognize and hold space for myself, to be really devoted to meditation and yoga and mindfulness, comes from being able to smoke weed. Same for my love of journaling and writing, and reading New Yorker cartoons.
When people look at the yin-yang symbol, they often think it’s binary. But it’s actually non-dualistic. It’s about the relationship between the two, and the constant ebb and flow. As somebody who is type-A, addicted to productivity, and a recovering perfectionist, smoking weed is instrumental in my ability to rest and to give myself permission to create something without worrying so much about the finished product. Instead, I get really lost in the process and prioritize the act itself.
I had this deep, dark secret that I was running a mindful business and yet I was so stressed out I couldn’t sleep.
I’m really trying to move away from needing to be on the other side of things in order to speak freely about something that’s, I don’t know, “taboo.” Talking about money has been part of that for me, because I’m trying to demystify it and just make it another tool. I grew up in a house where you didn’t talk about money and that created this mindset of scarcity about it for me, which meant that I also wasn’t great at managing it.
When I left my day job to start 3rd Ritual, I gave myself about a year to do R & D and saved up a small budget with which to launch the company. Then I completely blew past that because I was naive and making physical products is really expensive. The less that you make of something, the more costly it is. This probably sounds so obvious, but I was so green. I had only ever worked in tech, so I had no idea what it meant to have something hand-cast in brass, or how much these things actually cost. That was a real steep learning curve.
I looked at what a lot of other folks do in this space: I pursued venture capital for a while. It was awful. It felt like I had to make a lot of compromises that would turn something that I loved and believed in so deeply into something totally watered down and not all that different from a million other things that already existed in the world. I had this deep, dark secret that I was running a mindful business and yet I was so stressed out I couldn’t sleep.
Money was at the root of a lot of that. We didn’t end up raising and instead I pared down the business so that it wouldn’t take up all of my time. At the risk of oversimplifying it, I shifted my mind away from from the binary, from believing that it had to either be really big and venture-backed and scale really fast, or that it was a fucking failure and I needed to shut it down. Instead, I recognized that there was actually this third way, which was medium-sized and meaningful.
I don’t make money from 3rd Ritual and that feels like a scary thing to admit. But I also know that talking about it will help to dissolve that shame. So that’s why I am, right now, doing something that feels scary and vulnerable because I also know that that’s the medicine.
I have a trifecta of offerings—mind, body, spirit. 3rd Ritual is the spirit. I serve the body by teaching yoga through Sky Ting. Then the mind piece kicks in with the new wellness startup I'm working with. And I can, in all honesty, say that venture capital is the best thing that never happened to me, full stop.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Jenn Tardif photographed by Meredith Jenks around Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.