FOUNDER OF 3RD RITUAL & YOGA TEACHER, NEW YORK CITY
"Because deep down you have a dark secret that you’re actually a monster, or broken, or bad — to me that's the very catalyst that'll help you find your way home."
TALKS THE FLOW STATE, RITUALS & CULTIVATING LIGHT MOMENTS DURING DARK TIMES
I had never met Jenn until the day I interviewed and photographed her for Hello! Sun but I always find it so fascinating how you can be pulled and attracted to different people and how I am forever grateful that up until now my intuition hasn’t failed me yet. If it’s not her radiant beauty that strikes you at first then it will most likely be the sincerity and honesty that’s paired with every spoken word and everything she seems to do. A mother, the founder of a small business 3rd Ritual, product developer and yoga teacher along with everything else she does, it was a wonder to watch her move so swiftly through the garden and stay so soft like she had the world by her side.
Together we touched on a lot of things - things we agreed upon, things that were new and a lot of things I needed to rehear and relearn. We spoke about surviving, leaning into the darkness when it appears, hitting rock bottom and making time even when things aren’t perfect. The reminder to find stillness and reevaluate our thoughts and the voices and the questioning of what is?
This interview has been a long work in progress but I am so grateful to finally be able to put this up and share. I know that my work on this interview has allowed me to revisit so many things and reshape and realign my perspectives and again, as I always say, I really hope you find something that resonates a deeper questioning within you too. Much love x
I FIND MORNING RITUALS AND HOW PEOPLE START THEIR DAY SO INTERESTING. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNINGS?
I'm tempted to answer this facetiously because I feel like this is frequently asked on wellness blogs and yet, the answers often leave me feeling pretty unwell. Like, “oh I wake up and casually meditate for three uninterrupted hours, then drink a glass of lemon water and have a perfect day." Can you imagine? In all honesty, I have a toddler so part of my practice at present has been honing a new outlook as to what counts, with a bias towards quality vs quantity. I'm lucky if I take more than two sips of my tea while it's still warm as I frantically try to get my daughter ready for the day. That said, I do begin each day by placing one hand on my heart, taking a few deep and mindful breaths, and giving thanks. That way, no matter what else unfolds, I get to dictate the way the day begins, with a sense of gratitude for all that's going well before opening up my computer to be reminded of all that isn't. It's important to note that there is nothing too small: some days I give thanks for the tree outside my window or the simple fact that my husband is lying next to me and our daughter in the next room, both healthy and home. I guess my point is that it's less about what you do and more about why you do it.
I SMILED THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH BECAUSE I FEEL YOU TOUCHED ON MANY REASONS WHY I FELT SO COMPELLED TO START HELLO! SUN. I FEEL LIKE ESPECIALLY NOW MORE THAN EVER WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, THE THINGS THAT ARE PRESENTED ABOUT WELLNESS OR SELF CARE SOMETIMES APPEAR SO UNATTAINABLE FOR MOST PEOPLE AND IT’S REALLY REFRESHING THAT YOU TOUCHED ON THESE THINGS. IN THIS TIME AND SPACE RIGHT NOW, HOW DO YOU CULTIVATE MOMENTS TO BE PRESENT? WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I used to feel shy about my obsession with organization but as I get older, and simultaneously more trusting in my own abilities to make good decisions, I've realized that rules and boundaries can actually foster more creativity and compassion. Think about how we started this interview: I texted you to make sure we were still on because I've literally blocked out every hour of my day. And I know, that might sound incredibly rigid but some of the items on my calendar slash to-do list, which have become one and the same, include things like yoga or a night at home alone, which are admittedly the hardest appointments to keep. When I feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I've committed to, I try and force myself to practice even though it seems frivolous to take an extended break mid-day. Sometimes I forget and let my anxiety get the better of me, scrambling to answer as many emails I can as if that's the cure. But when I can get myself to my mat, or even just sit on the floor and breathe, whatever's waiting on the other side is always inevitably less daunting and a little easier to take on. My husband's a designer and gifted me with the saying, “measure twice, cut once” and that has since become a little mantra for me. When we move half as fast, we notice twice as much. Removing the added layer of needing to get everything done as quickly as possible can often improve the quality of what you put out. And creating little containers to be creative or still can end up being the greatest productivity hack of all.
I LIKE WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT THE UNDOING TO DO AND I FEEL LIKE IT’S NICE TO MENTION THAT IN A TIME WHERE I FEEL PEOPLE MAY HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE ART OF SLOWING DOWN. NEW YORK ISN’T THE EASIEST CITY TO SLOW DOWN IN LET ALONE LIVE AND I KNOW THAT RITUALS IS A BIG PART OF YOUR LIFE AND YOUR BUSINESS SO I WANTED TO ASK - ARE THERE CERTAIN RITUALS OR THINGS THAT YOU DO THAT HELP YOU DEAL WITH THE EFFECTS OF ANXIETY OR FEELING DOWN & UNINSPIRED? WHAT ARE THE CERTAIN RITUALS OR PRACTICES THAT HAS AIDED YOU PERSONALLY OR THAT YOU FIND YOURSELF INCORPORATING INTO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?
I love that question! It’s important to acknowledge that different things work for different people at different times and these practices are ever-evolving and in constant relationship with your environment and circumstance. I have synesthesia so scent has always been an effective tool in holding my attention with the goal of quieting my mind. I'm also a big advocate for activities like painting, journaling, flower-arranging, baking, and anything really that gets you out from behind a screen and working with your hands, and ideally into some semblance of flow state. In the subtle body, the hands are an extension of the heart, so the simple act of kneading dough or tending to a garden becomes a threshold for transformation as the space between thoughts begins to lengthen over time.
Rituals, like any sacred act, need to be nurtured. They can run the risk of them becoming routine, almost chore-like, but regardless of the act itself, the way to protect and harness the alchemical effects of these practices is to approach them with reverence, intention, and your full attention. The practice itself can be something that’s invisible, like Sama Vritti breathing, because at its core, it's for you from you, it's personal, not performative, and felt but not necessarily seen.
I think that one of the pitfalls of wellness as it becomes more ubiquitous and mainstream is the dangerously-thin line between self-care and self-obsession. There's actually an expression in spiritual circles called "navel-gazing" which refers to the risk of becoming so focused on self-inquiry and self-improvement that you start subscribing to the false notion that you also exist at the center of the universe. When in fact, one of the more surefire ways to feel good is to do good, to get out of your own way by performing an act of kindness for another. In my darkest of times, I tend to self-isolate and have to learn time and time again that the antidote to shame is connection. One of my go-to reads on this subject is the Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
You mentioned how hard it can be to live in New York —I don't disagree but I think that the reason we live here and that it's challenging to survive here are one and the same. It's a city with abundant talent and opportunity and we're rich in creativity, community and diversity but all of that access and stimulation can foster an addiction to a constant doing. I think a lot about this as I imagine where my daughter will grow up and how big of a role I know her surroundings will have on her upbringing. But regardless of where we end up geographically, I always return to my core values as both a parent, teacher and human which includes kindness to self and others, resilience, and compassion. In that regard, it becomes less about the hand you're dealt and more about how you play your cards.
THIS MADE ME THINK ABOUT SOMETHING MY FRIEND HAD SAID AND WHICH STAYED WITH ME FOR SOME TIME. SHE SAID WE’RE LIVING IN A TIME WHERE PEOPLE ARE LIVING THEIR LIVES SCREAMING - HOW DO I MATTER, NOW? HOW DO I MATTER AS QUICKLY AS I CAN AND HOW CAN I MATTER RIGHT NOW? I CAN ONLY IMAGINE IT TO BE SUCH AN ISOLATING MINDSET.
I feel that and it makes me sad because it highlights the never-ending search for external validation and I say never-ending because as cheesy as it may sound, the only person who can fulfill that very human need for love and acceptance is you.
YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING ABOUT THE FLOW STATE - WHAT IS THAT AND COULD YOU ELABORATE?
You know when you're “in the zone” and so fully immersed in an activity that you have no concept of time or distractions? When the process itself leads to joy and focus almost trance-like? That's flow state. It's a close cousin of mindfulness in that they both anchor us to the space between our thoughts — recognizing and surrendering to a state of being.
THROUGH YOUR TEACHING OF YOGA AND YOUR EXPERIENCES - WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU KEEP GOING BACK TO THAT YOU THINK PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR?
I see these practices as reminders... they're tools and techniques that help us return to what once was. We are all born with innocence, curiosity, and imagination but overtime collect armor, often in the form of limiting beliefs, that we wear like costumes in an attempt to protect ourselves from getting hurt by disguising our inner childlike nature. I believe that at their core, all religions and spiritual lineages are saying the same thing: that the answers you seek are in the very questions you're asking and that the knowledge you strive to acquire just needs to be uncovered... the most impactful wisdom comes from within and the greatest sense of love purpose isn't out there but in here [places hand on heart] and if hearing this feels totally abstract and unobtainable then please trust me when I promise you that you’re closer than you think.
I didn’t have much autonomy as a child and was faced with quite a bit of change early on so that’s when I first developed a relationship with ritual. Although I didn't have the vocabulary for it at the time - a ritual consisted of a series of small acts that helped me feel safe. I was lucky to find yoga in high school where I was pretty intensely bullied and it was meditation that came to the rescue after my first panic attack through University. Even after many years on the quote-unquote spiritual path, I'm still amazed by the ways in which these teachings will continue to meet you where you are.
I think the reason why I feel most at home in the world when I’m teaching is that I get to be in service to something far greater than me. I feel so much more connected to the divine or spirit or whatever you want to call it when sharing the tools and techniques that have made the biggest impact on my own attempts at cultivating joy. A friend of mine gifted me with a beautiful metaphor from the Kabbalah which is to recognize that you are not a cup waiting to receive the elixir of the universe because a cup will inevitably become full and overflow. Instead, you must liken yourself to a straw so that the elixir of the universe can run right through you. I love that so much because it helps me reconcile my deep desire to share these teachings without a fear of my ego being at play.
IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S UNOBTAINABLE THEN YOU’RE CLOSER THAN YOU THINK?
If hearing this description of lightness or connection to god (if that’s not a scary word) or an internal compass that's waiting to guide you everywhere you'd like to go feels like something you couldn’t be further from because deep down you have a dark secret that you’re actually a monster, or broken, or bad — to me that's the very catalyst that'll help you find your way home.
Sometimes we need to lean into the darkness in order to see that first glimmer of light. It is often the same experiences that break our hearts and leave us feeling hopeless, that in hindsight, also help us find our greatest depths of strength and faith through the process of restoration.
SOMETIMES I FIND PEOPLE CAN GIVE YOU THE INFORMATION YOU NEED BUT IT’S WHEN YOU’RE IN THAT PLACE OF COMPLETE DARKNESS WHERE YOU ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE THAT WE REALLY OPEN TO THE RECEIVING AND THE DIGESTING OF IT. ROCK BOTTOM, IT’S AN AWFUL PLACE TO BE BUT IT’S A PLACE WHERE WE MAY BE THE LEAST RESISTANT AND SURRENDERING BECAUSE NOTHING ELSE HAD BEEN WORKING.
I couldn't agree more. We do have the power to change our minds but any shift requires commitment. Every day we have a million thoughts and they can cause stress, anxiety, or depression so there’s an important choice to be made: is this an obstacle or a lesson? Is this happening to me or for me? Replacing “if I only get X or do Y then I'll deserve to be happy” with “I deserve to rest and receive and yes, find and feel joy here and now because ultimately that's all there is.” And, I'm not saying any of this is easy, but that's where it's important to remember that this is a life long practice and the more we do it the easier it'll become.