I was thinking of people who I would like to interview for Earth Mind Body. People who have had some pretty amazing life experiences that they could share with our readers and Ashley J. Hassard was one of the first people who came to mind. I was lucky enough to steal some of her time for a few questions. Enjoy!
Ashley! Thanks so much for taking the time to do an interview with me. We met a few years back when we were on the same Tough Mudder team. Since then I’ve been following your endeavors and you are one busy woman. Modelling, motivational speaking, acting and much more. Tell is a little bit about yourself and what you are up to right now.
Ha, Well at this exact moment, I’m actually about 10,000 feet up in the air on a flight to Udaipur, India, about to take a group of 24 amazing youth on a once in a lifetime international service-learning trip. So that’s kinda cool!
Aside from that though, there are a whole bunch of things that I’m up to and that I do.
By trade I’m a teacher, motivational speaker, and leadership facilitator, and over the past year I’ve spent most of my time teaching in Toronto classrooms, facilitating dozens of youth with Me to We in places like Kenya, China, India, and Nicaragua, and traveling across Canada speaking to thousands of youth about the realities of hunger and the importance of food security.
In truth though, I’m more of just a life enthusiast and I think it’s because of that that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a whole range of other amazing things over the past little while.
From walking the runway for some of Toronto’s most promising designers to filming a variety of music videos and commercials for top Canadian talent, I’ve been really fortunate as of late to work with some really creative people making some great names for themselves in the industry.
I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to try my hand behind the scenes recently. Together with some of Toronto’s creative elite I was recently able to launch Creative Demand Co., which is this really neat multidisciplinary boutique agency that provides creative content and strategies for brands and artist. Focusing on brand marketing, management, and representation, we hope to change the outlook of Canada to the creative world.
And then the final big thing that I’m working on these days is Skyn Magazine, which is this online lifestyle and culture magazine that I started working on with Emmanuel Alexander, a phenomenal Toronto based photographer who has been the pinnacle of inspiration for me these days. Together we specialize in trying to provide jaw dropping, mind blowing visuals that not only entice readers, but also captivate them and empower them to create their own art.
That’s my big thing, empowering others to push their own perceived limits, and to create things that they are proud of. As strange and as varied as my life is, I think that that’s actually the key uniting factor – helping other people achieve their dreams. Whether it’s supporting local photographers with Skyn or motivating youth to change the world with Me to We, the constant seems to just be the fact that no matter what I’m doing, I love empowering people to see that they can in fact achieve their dreams and finding ways that I can help them to do so.
Earth Mind Body is all about staying healthy in mind, body and spirit by using the environment around us. Wether it be exploring a new trail, going on a trip, trying a new recipe or taking up an extreme sport. What do you do to keep balance in your life and stay healthy when sometimes it feels like there isn’t any time left in the day.
You’re totally right; it can be really tricky to stay balanced in our fast paced modern day society. I think the first thing for me when it comes to finding that inner equilibrium is to discover what it is that you love. For me personally, that involves being physically active, mentally stimulated, and emotionally fulfilled, which is a tall order for anyone on a regular basis, but it’s definitely not impossible. It’s all about figuring out what your non-negotiables are, what are those things that you as a person need in order to be the best version of you that you can be. You think about them, plan for them, and commit yourself to them.
For me, that’s going for my 2 mile run every day, constantly pushing myself to try new things, and starting and ending my day with someone I love. If I can have those three things, then I know no matter what, I will be balanced.
I find that my biggest problem is making the time to have a healthy diet. I’m always on the go and I’m always active but sometimes I still feel the urge to eat like it’s Super Bowl Sunday haha. Any secret recipes or favourite foods?
Ha, oh man, tell me about it – as a newly discovered ‘foodie’ I’m constantly finding myself drawn to and indulging in delicious new recipes. It’s tough though because part of me definitely wants to explore all the new taste sensations, while the other part really wants to try and stay healthy too. What I’ve found though is that you can have your cake and eat it too, you just have to be a bit creative with it. There’s this wicked middle ground where you can take healthy ingredients and combine them to make really creative and delicious tasteful luxuries, and that’s pretty much how I satisfy both my need for flavor and my desire for nutrition.
My favorite food-fusion as of late are my Apple Butter Crunches. You take one whole granny smith apple, slice it thinly, and coat one side of each apple with peanut butter, granola, and just a couple of raisons. Drizzle just a little bit of honey on there and you’re golden!
As a Torontonian, do you have any favourite spots where you like to escape the hustle and bustle of city life?
If I told you it was a cemetery would you laugh at me? Growing up, my dad used to take me to cemeteries. We’d ride our bikes through the paths, practice reading by reading the tombstones, and talk for hours under the canopy trees. They became this magical place for me, and so, to this day, whenever I want to escape the realities of day-to-day life I somehow always find myself at a cemetery.
It looks like your work has taken you to some pretty amazing places around the world. Traveling to California was one of the best experiences of my life because I was surrounded by nature and the possibilities were endless. Any favourite travel spots? What made them so special for you?
One of my favorite places of all time would have to be Ghana. I traveled there about 3 years ago with a group of student volunteers and it absolutely captivated me with its lush vegetation, clear blue skies, rich culture and fascinating history. What I loved most about Ghana however was the optimistic “Ghanain State of Mind”. Everywhere you went people were smiling, enjoying that which they did have rather than that which they did not, and just celebrating life in general. When they walked down the street they’d always ask each other “Eti Sen” (“How are you?”) and the customary response was always “Ayay”, which loosely translated means “I’m fine.” It was the type of “I’m fine” that reminded you that everything was alright, that nothing was that bad, and if it was, it wouldn’t always be. It was a “fine” state of mind, where rather than viewing things negatively, they automatically tried to take the sunny perspective and see the best in every situation. The idea being that even if things weren’t alright now, eventually they would be. I loved that. As an internal optimist myself it resonated with me and it was so powerful and so moving to be able to see an entire community of people really embody that optimistic mentality.
As you already know, after our first Tough Mudder I became slightly addicted…Any more Tough Mudders or anything else exciting for you in the near future?
Ha, that is a good question. Tough Mudder was amazing, and definitely addicting. I loved it because it was such a fun endurance exercise that really had me pushing myself to the limit in a challenging way. Once you do something like that where you realize that not only is physical endurance possible, but it’s actually a heck of a lot of fun, it’s definitely hard not to want to do it again. So what did I do? I did it again! After two Tough Mudder’s though I realized that what I was really looking for was less of a one-time experience and more of a constant pursuit of similar continual new challenges that I could enjoy a little more regularly. I started searching for something that could provide me with that same exciting fitness stimulus but that I could enjoy on a regular basis and actually stumbled upon this really cool company called FitSet. It’s this new Canadian company that offers you this amazing all access pass to a whole bunch of boutique fitness studios across town. From mini tough mudder obstacle training at places like Alpha Obstacle to weighted ballet bar classes at venues like the Extension Room, FitSet offers this wicked variety of awesome challenges throughout the city that make every day feel like race day.
That is amazing to hear! I’m actually going to be doing an interview and training video with Fitset very soon : ) On a bit of a different note, I find that so many people out there are becoming more interested in fitness for the wrong reasons. They are self conscious about their body image and want to change in order to please others instead of working towards a healthier lifestyle in order to benefit themselves.
Earth Mind Body is a health based initiative to promote a healthier lifestyle to hopefully produce a happier lifestyle. Is there any advice that you could maybe share to those who are struggling with body image?
When it comes to body image, I think the first best piece of advice that I ever received was: “Beauty begins the moment you begin to love yourself.”
When you start to love yourself and the body you’re in everything changes; you start taking better care of yourself, you start exercising more, you start sleeping properly, you start eating better, and best of all, you start to glow with this warm inner confidence that just starts shining out of you.
The second best piece of advice I’ve ever received was to “Always remember that you are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul.”
This one resonates a lot with me because so often I think people in our society constantly associate who they are with how they look, when in reality, they are two separate things. Yes, how you look can affect who you are, and who you are can affect how you look, but they are not exactly one in the same. You are not made up of numbers, muscles or pounds, you have them, but they are not you. You are made up of love and happiness, memories and knowledge. You’re every good conversation you’ve ever had and every song you’ve ever heard. You are your thoughts and dreams, hopes and desires. You have way more substance than muscles and pounds, and the moment you realize this is the moment you can truly begin to love yourself.
Thank you so much for time and I can’t wait to see what your next adventure is!
Thanks Sam – pleasures been all mine! J
To learn more, head on over to http://www.ashleyhassard.com