Destiny was definitely in the air for Deb Gee when she saw a posting for a job in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, after having spent 10 years in Toronto doing what she described as “living and working the event planner’s dream/nightmare of burning the candle at both ends.”
“I always found refuge in yoga,” she said. “So when things were really tough in my life, I would get back on the mat and that would always pull me up, reinvigorate me and allow me to carry on. But I finally made the difficult decision to end that cycle and frenetic pace and move back to my roots and family in Vancouver.”
Seeking work-life balance, she found it in spades when she accepted the offer to work for Vancouver-based Lululemon Athletica as experience designer, with “mindful performance” recently being added to the title. Two years later, she’s as centered as ever and passionate about continuing to share her knowledge through teaching and speaking at events, including PCMA’s Singapore MICE Forum last month.
Lululemon’s mindful performance team focuses on the personal development journey afforded its employees, from meditation and yoga to inspirational retreats and beyond.
“We always say we’re a personal development company first that happens to make yoga pants,” Gee said.
Gee spearheads a number of event activations for the company, such as new strategy rollouts, yoga summits, team retreats and corporate leadership conferences. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise and overall health and wellness are the key components of every experience she designs, and every event aims to touch on all the senses.
“I bring our concepts to life and help people capture the essence of what we’re trying to roll out or teach,” she said. “It’s weaving in sensory experiences throughout and taking care of attendees’ needs so they can be completely present and immersed through taste, touch, sight, smell and an overall sense of well-being.”
Carving out time to physically breathe is also imperative, she added.
“We will often open a meeting or a session with a meditation or with a breathing session,” said Gee, who was surprised how the meditation sessions at Lululemon did wonders for her own performance. “I would walk out and feel like I had just woken up and had the best cup of coffee. I’d feel so cleansed and refreshed and ready to take on a whole new start to my day.”
At Lululemon’s head office, Gee recently built a meditation oasis that is now being recreated for different events.
“It has a beautiful Persian carpet, and I brought nature into it with a huge palm tree and a water element with nebulizers that give off mists of essential oils,” she said. “It’s a curated place where people can go and sit comfortably, have a tranquil experience and get away from all the chatter.”
Meanwhile, “The Breathing Room” Gee created for the TED Conference in Vancouver has been a great success.
“It’s a beautiful dome. Inside, it has eight meditation chairs and really lovely billowy curtains to separate the person sitting next to you and then a side table with headphones and an iPad that plays a guided meditation,” she said. “When they sit down, we bring over a hot towel that’s infused with eucalyptus and lavender. They sit back, put the noise canceling headphones on and have what we call ‘breathing room.’”
Gee said Lululemon also often opens its large meeting with yoga, so attendees can get in tune with their body, a vital element of personal development, she added. Other wellness activities have included mindful, silent walks in nature, guided hikes and dance sessions that suddenly break up a day of intense, thought-provoking conversation by playing a top 10 hit that gets people out of their comfort zones.
Meanwhile, a signature Gee event feature is “refresh stations” with essential oil mists, peppermint rubs and other natural remedies.
Culinary wellness is another focal point.
“We have really mindful snacks, such as a good dark chocolate, and beautiful infused waters,” she said. “With all the dietary preferences and allergies nowadays, we also try to build a menu with something for everyone by having whole, deconstructed foods—build your own rice bowl, breakfast bowl or power bowl, for example.”
In the end, incorporating wellness into agendas is a win-win for everybody, Gee said.
“It allows attendees to be connected, present and focused on the information they are receiving and the experience they are having,” she said. “It’s a return on investment for the person at the helm who is paying the bills as well as for the attendees who walk away saying, ‘Wow, that was different. I feel invigorated. I loved it.’”