Happy 50th (Flag Day)

Have you heard of ‘Flag Day’?
The Canadian flag is 50 years old this February – and this calls for a party.
If you’re downtown Vancouver on Feb 12th, get yourself a ticket to see John Furlong OC, OBC, CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as Senator Nancy Greene Raine OC, OBC, OD, gold medal winning alpine skier and Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century.

Remember the 2010 Olympics?… Feb 12 is the 5th anniversary of the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremony.
So much to celebrate!

Wear your team Canada gear and think of how awesome this country is.
More info available here: Canadian Club of Vancouver


Ramblings from Manila

I love the Philippines.
It’s been wonderful being out here for the last number of weeks. As I sit on a bus going out of Manila I thought I’d share some of the surprising things I experienced in the last week. These are by no means the highlights – just a stream of odd events since last Saturday…

Frightened random children
So here is something I didn’t know. Apparently it isn’t common to wear a bikini in the Philippines. Most women will wear their bathing suit and then cover themselves with shorts and a t-shirt when swimming in public places. I was not aware of this when I whipped off my dress and jumped into the country club pool in my teeny-weeney-red-bikini. Many heads turned, children looked thoroughly afraid, and cell phone cameras appeared. For a moment it crossed my mind that I must have had some Janet Jacksonesque slip, but I checked… the girls were in place. Fortunately there were no heart attacks as a result. So I’m exaggerating a bit (but only a bit). Lesson: It’s not normal to wear a bathing suit that is more revealing than your underwear in the Philippines.

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Got into a cockfight
Well not really. I was shocked when upon walking along the back of a large passenger ferry from Cebu to Manila, I came across a small farm’s worth of chickens with their feet tied to the door. More shocking was that I seemed to have entered their claimed ‘zone’ and I had a fine time escaping unharmed. This boat was it’s own little example of urban farming – maybe Gregor Robertson would like it.


And speaking of chickens…
You can’t escape them. One night when walking home I saw what looked like a man carrying an armful of pineapples. It was dark at this point and right when I was passing by him, the assortment of inanimate fruit came flying at me in a cacophony of clucking and feathers. Turns out he was carrying a few chickens – again you just can’t escape them.

Had Some ‘Chicken Joy’
So a few weeks ago an entire nation was in an uproar. Local fast food chain ‘Jollibee’ ran out of chicken in some of its stores. You can’t imagine the outrage. People were calling for the mayors of some cities to step down, and for laws on transit routes to change all because there was a shortage of fried chicken at Jollibee. No other chain seemed to have a similar problem – KFC was pumping out transfats without fail, but at Jollibee the fiasco became known as #ChickenSad. Given this apparent passion, it was time for me to try it out.


Got beat by the drink
In the Philippines the drinks are stronger. At home there is a regulated amount of liquor that can go in a pitcher. This is not the case in the Philippines, as twice now I’ve been beaten by sharing a pitcher of some local cocktail that seems to be mostly fruit juice but in reality is mostly liquor. Watch out.

Those are all of my random thoughts for the moment.
Remember #itsmorefuninthephilippines


While Hiding From a Typhoon



Where am I?
When I was traveling a lot last year, I used to often have this feeling. I’d wake up in Helsinki after having been in Warsaw the previous day, or in New York after having been in Japan a day before. The last few weeks, however, I’ve woken up in a Taiwanese monastery with the regularity of 5am meditation. Today was different. Outside my room rains pummeled the ground and winds attacked branches from trees.
It’s typhoon season in Taiwan and the country was expected to be hit with some severe weather. I was no longer in the monastery but tucked away in the mountains at Quingde, a small Buddhist temple that was only accessible by a tiny winding dirt road for kilometers to the top. This place felt magical. Four monks live there full time throughout the year, making Quingde a very quiet and secluded place for spiritual practice.


Leaving for Asia to learn meditation may have sounded very ‘Eat Pray Love’ – esque to many of my friends. It even sounded a bit cliche to me. I remember joking around about how I was going to find enlightenment on top of a mountain when leaving Vancouver.
This is what I learned at the mountain: You don’t have to climb a mountain in the East to learn about spirituality.
It was beautiful, and I awoke to many answers I had been looking for, the biggest was that ‘place’ was pretty insignificant. No matter how far you travel whatever is on your mind from home will follow – we can’t ever run from what is going on inside of us.
The second is that ‘impermanence’ is a reality. The people we love and our material possessions can’t be held on to. At any time they can vanish, or our own life can vanish too. The best we can do is try to give of ourselves along the way and try to make the world a bit better and others’ lives a bit more pleasant.
What struck me was the kindness I’ve been shown by complete strangers in the past few months – people who have helped light my path and shared with me a meal, their time, and their wisdom. Everything we do if it is done with good intention can be a type of cultivation and practice.
I’ve never felt so fulfilled as I do today – with complete gratitude.


Things I Learned at a Buddhist Monastery

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This summer I ended up at a Chinese Buddhist Monastery in South Taiwan for one month of meditation, vegetarianism, and leading a semi-monastic life. Random – no chance. Causes and Conditions man!

Why did I choose to do this?

Since visiting the ancient city of Sarnath in India one year ago, I began to become increasingly interested in Buddhism (Sarnath is where the first turning of the ‘Dharma Wheels’ took place by Sakyamuni Buddha himself). This fascination with Buddhism as a philosophy, religion, and practice grew and I wanted to learn more.

Hailing from Vancouver I’ve been exposed to a lot of yoga and meditation, but everything I was seeing seemed pretty commercial and trendy. Yogalates – no thanks. So, enter monastery life.


What was it like?

Nothing like I expected. I was driven to the monastery by a monk while Iggy Azalea played on the radio… huh. Aside from my initial confusion I was amazed by how modern Fo Guang Shan monastery was. Wow electricity, plumbing, Wi-Fi, AC, etc… I must have expected to be living in a jungle based on how surprised I was. I also spent a full week in silent meditation for an ‘intensive retreat’. We meditated for about 6 hours a day. More on this later.

Here are some shorts quips of things I learned:

Monastics are people too

The first day I arrived at the monastery I saw a monk checking Facebook… I really did think that renunciants meditated all day and shunned society. While some do, many of the folks at Fo Guang Shan are actively engaged in the community and the world. It’s known as humanistic Buddhism where the idea is to integrate Buddhist practice into daily life and try to make the world a better and more peaceful place. I’m not kidding… a Venerable just Whats-Apped me this morning :P

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It’s good to shut up.

I realized almost everything we say is useless and pretty egotistical when shrunk down – I’ll speak for myself on this! Silence is power and allows for knowledge to grow in its place.

We don’t need meat.

Yes, I’m from Alberta and love my Alberta beef. I really thought it would be some horrifying experience to not eat meat for a month. Really, it’s fine. You will survive. Being a vegetarian or just eating a little less meat might actually change your life. I lost weight and felt better. That and it’s better for the planet :)

You can adapt to anything.

…even waking up at 5am. Handwashing your clothes. Being a vegan. Living in a foreign country. Sharing living quarters with HUGE roaches (this came post-monastery). Being broke. Being alone. It’s fear that keeps us from being happy when, no matter the situation happiness is already there if we change our perspective.

Fo Guang Shan

Hard work is good work.

At the monastery we have to participate in community work. This includes anything from sweeping the grounds, to carrying supplies, to washing the shrine. Most of it is tough, and most of it is in the scorching hot sun in the middle of the afternoon. The first few times I dreaded the time for work. It was exhausting! But I soon realized that there was joy in doing things that were difficult and monotonous. As sweat dripped (more like poured off of my body) while sweeping, I cultivated a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to help and contribute. Talk about a powerful shift.


We don’t need much.

I’m fortunate to have grown up in Canada. I believe it really is the most wonderful place. That said I’ve also been very privileged and and developed material expectations that are completely excessive and out of touch with the rest of the world in addition to the limits of this planet’s resources. Every day I become more conscious of this and through the lessons of impermanence ‘stuff’ has become less and less important to me. In fact I realized how much ‘stuff’ is holding me back in life, rooting me to a place and sometimes clouding my ideas of success. Venerable Hui Feng gave a Dharma talk where he said, “We have to realize that one day when we die, someone will walk through our home and decide what to do with everything we’ve collected – it doesn’t last and neither do we.” In life we spend time collecting and accumulating, but for what?

These are just a few of my thoughts that from time at Fo Guang Shan. More to come later.

And no. I did NOT shave my head.



Russia China Pipeline Deal – Elephant in the Room at BC LNG Conference


Last week, the BC Government held its second annual LNG In BC Conference, with over 1,400 delegates representing some of the world’s top players in the natural gas industry. The province’s Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman noted that this year’s conference saw an increase of almost 1,000 delegates.

Most panels centered on the potential opportunity for a BC LNG industry, but the elephant in the room at the Vancouver Convention Center was a natural gas pipeline deal signed between Russia and China on the eve of the conference. Though barely addressed from the stage, it provided a powerful reminder to delegates of the competitive international market the province will have to navigate to make its LNG vision a reality.

Bad timing for BC LNG players

Russia’s completion of a $400-billion deal to satisfy approximately one third of China’s gas needs is bad timing for BC LNG, as companies such as Chevron and Petronas look towards final investment decisions over the next year.

Natural gas will be supplied to China for the low cost of $10-$11 a unit, providing China a bargaining advantage to reduce energy prices from other potential trading partners in North America. Canadian exporters has their hopes set on $16/unit, based on the higher prices Japan is paying following the Fukushima-driven shutdown of its nuclear sector.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that this is the biggest contract in the history of the country’s gas sector, a reality which was absent from virtually all conversation on the global natural gas market discussed at the conference.

Clark downplays contract’s significance

Premier Clark brushed off questions as to whether this agreement would have a negative impact on BC’s race to export LNG, saying that her government had anticipated the deal. Much of this hinges on whether the province can secure final investment decisions and nail down competitive tax rates quickly enough to be a credible player in the LNG market. Given that many of these details are far from being confirmed, questions arise as to whether LNG is the ‘generational opportunity’ it is being presented as for BC.

With 14 LNG projects proposed alongside intense global competition, Premier Clark acknowledged that so far, only two of these projects are nearing final investment before the next election. The smaller Woodfibre LNG near Squamish looks like the best bet for the first project, but it is meeting with growing opposition from local groups.

Pressure on to speed up BC LNG

Read the rest:  Commonsense Canadian


10151938_10154030810100521_2066915600349760988_nRYLA is a program geared to young people started by Rotary International.  It’s a leadership camp that focuses on service above self.  I had the pleasure of attending a number of years ago and have been involved as a program facilitator ever since.  This year RYLA brought together some amazing young leaders from Canada and the United States for a weekend of growth, learning, and getting to know one another.

Every year is pretty special, and this year was no different.  I met two young guys who put their dreams into action and started their own restaurant, a woman who became inspired to start her own business, and a recent grad heading off to pursue his dreams at Harvard.  Everyone had their own unique and inspiring story.  One of the speakers, Bob Blacker, aide de camp to the former BC Lt. Gov Steven Point, told us about a project he spearheaded through Rotary.

He talked about the ‘git r done’ attitude that they used to development the Rotary/Government House partnership which has seen them build libraries on aboriginal reserves across British Columbia.  In some of these remote communities, the literacy rate is as low as 2%, something which most Canadians have no idea about. Using a strong network of community-minded Rotarians, and local ‘spark plugs’ who believe in the project, libraries filled with books and computers have started popping up across the province.  I wanted to share this project as a reminder to people about the power of putting an idea into action, as well as to encourage you to support them.

Find out more about the Literacy Project here.

And while you’re at it, if you’re a Rotarian please consider supporting your district’s RYLA by sending your young leaders to participate!

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