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Balancing Fear and Trust in Hong Kong: An Interview with Amanda Casgar

By Caroline Joan Peixoto /

Balancing Fear and Trust in Hong Kong: An Interview with Amanda Casgar

Meet Amanda, the Director of Brand and Community for Lululemon Asia and a member of our advisory team here at DAO! With a background in yoga and a habit of staring fear in the eye, she’s created a life of practice that’s led to some incredible transformation. Living in Hong Kong, her interaction with Traditional Chinese Medicine opened a new world of practice - and something she readily added to her toolkit. Her business development and branding know-how, in combination with a personal experience with Chinese medicine, has led her to consult with DAO Labs.

Caroline: Tell us a little bit about your background with yoga, and how you encountered Chinese medicine.

Amanda: I’ve always been a yogi, I’ve practiced yoga for probably 20 years, and I have always, I guess, as an adult, always been interested in and pursued natural “growth” ideas. This idea of mindfulness and wellness and philosophy in different kinds of ways. Yoga isn’t so different than Chinese medicine. There are a lot of different tautologies out there that are available for us to learn about.

When I moved to Asia I decided I wanted to have some sort of Eastern practice. I had all these western practices, and yoga, but I knew living in Asia, I didn’t want to go home without having some way of that place. I didn’t know that would be, I was completely open.

So I started seeing a TCM doctor because my friend had some issues with her gut, and had incredible results. I went to the doctor, not with any major specific complaints or ailments or issues that were preventing me from really loving my life, but I just went to go and be with this woman, to sit with her, wanting to see how she cares. She only spoke Cantonese, and some broken English, so I communicated through sign language, and she was just a loving women, so nurturing, and tender, and attentive, and it really turned me onto the idea of Chinese medicine, and the idea of how they treat symptoms.

C: You didn’t go with any particular problem?

A: Haha, you know, in my life, I’ve never been one of those people who wakes up, has a beautiful poop, and goes on to have a beautiful day. I’ve always been jealous of that! So that was my arbitrary complaint. I went with wanting to have a very consistent digestion - because digestion leads to so many other things in the body.

Flowers - Balancing Fear and Trust

C: So what did you learn in seeing these doctors? Did it become a practice?

A: You know, I don’t purport to understand it, but what I do have is trust in people in their expertise and tradition. I don’t understand how stringing certain poses together in yoga leads to a breakthrough mentally, but in practicing for so many years I know that that’s true. So, there’s a lot of trust to be had for these practices, and I would say that Chinese medicine is as much a practice as it is a science.

I understand more about TCM, and now this is a tool in my toolkit that I have. So now, if I have a headache for three days, do I take Advil, or do I go see Dr. Grace for a treatment of acupuncture and herbs?  Now, I’m much more inclined to choose the latter. Because it’s more holistic approach. And the rest of it is much more symptomatic, it’s much more of a routine and adoption with the herbs.

C: How did you get involved with DAO?

A: I have been in this business of wellness and this category of branding and business for such a long time that I knew right away that DAO was a big idea. It’s a great idea, it’s the right time, and I think DAO is approaching it from the right way. We’re not creating this company because it’s trending, but because the team believes in the product, and what it can create for people in their lives, because of what it’s created for us in our lives. And it comes from a genuine love and affection for the east.

Amanda Casgar - Acupuncture

C: Tell us a bit about how you got to Hong Kong.

A: Well, I’m from Ohio, and moved to Chicago in college, which was a big deal for me. After Chicago, I moved to New York and thought, oh this makes me nervous, but followed that nervous feeling because it’s productive. I lived in New York for 12 years and thought it was the center of the universe.

I went to London for a six-month work project and quickly realized that of course, New York is not the center of the universe. Then, when my company asked me to move to Asia, I thought that that was crazy. It was this really scary place to me, but again, I had to follow that nervous feeling. So I moved. And now I can’t imagine if every single person in the world had the ability to be or live or travel to the other side of the world - how it would expand understanding, and relationship, and empathy. I just think it’s the most powerful thing.

C: What motivated you to take that huge jump?

A: My ego. Ego is good and bad, too much ego and you can’t be in a relationship with people, and not enough, and you hold yourself back. I knew if I said no I would always regret it, and that was the healthy ego lighting a fire under my ass and saying, “do this.”

You know, it never occurred to me that my work life (in branding) and my personal life (in yoga) could be the same. But quickly after joining Lululemon, I realized it could, because of what an incredible company they are. Just recently in Asia we had 10,000 people come practice with us over six weeks in six cities, and it was so incredible. These people are smiling and hugging and laughing and dancing and filled with joy.

I think fear is such an important emotion to tap into, because whatever I find that I am afraid of, it’s something that I need to follow. I’ve found that in following it I become really expanded, and I grow in really powerful ways.

Amanda Casgar Yoga

C: How do you balance that fear and the need to jump off into the deep end?

A: The practice that I come back to always is trust. Trust in myself, and my ability. If you look at the coin of fear, if you flip it over all you have is faith and trust. I trust the universe. The universe is conspiring in my favor - and I always come back to that mantra and that belief. And what else do we have but trust? That’s what I learned in yoga and that continues to support me.

Fearlessness is not productive because you have no relationship to what maybe could actually hurt you or be destructive. But being brave is when you actually have a fear, but you make a choice, knowing that fear exists. When you experience that quality, you should celebrate yourself.

C: What has wellness become to you? What does it mean in your practice?

A: I think a lot about being human beings. We’re the only species who comes unformed. We come to this planet, and we have to figure out who we are. We don’t come knowing who we are - a kangaroo comes as a kangaroo and knows exactly what it’s supposed to do. We don’t get that! What does it mean to be a fully self-expressed alive human being? It’s such an individual thing.

For me, I read a lot. I am always trying to expand my teachership. Who are the teachers I can learn from? I meditate every morning before I get up and I journal every night before I go to bed. The journaling is something that I added a year and a half ago and it’s been the most transformative. I seek to understand, never just letting it be, and maintain the idea that being in practice is a practice. There’s not a conclusion to this work. It’s not like there’s an end, it’s just a process, which actually creates a lot of generosity. If there was an end there might be pressure around it, but there’s not!

 

Caroline Joan Peixoto is a writer born in New Jersey. Since then, she’s lived in Portugal, Rwanda, California, and Colorado, where she currently lives with her photographer boyfriend and wild African dingo. She’s continually inspired by travel and history, and energized by simple living. Connect with her @carolinejoan or caroline@mydaolabs.com

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