Authenticity. The first person I met at the The 2.0 Toronto Summit Conference was in a partial state of undress. She wasn’t trying to show off her abs – she was giving an attendee the shirt off of her back.
This was not going to be a typical fitness event.
“My motivation was to break the mold of industry, where people compete out of ego,” explained 2.0 founder Julian Ho, “and build a better platform, where people connect in the name of altruism.”
The ethos of altruism was clear throughout the event. There was the volunteer who gave up her own shirt so an attendee could have the size she wanted. Presenters (2.0 Masters) fixed form and offered praise well after their own presentation ended. Attendees shifted and twisted to make room for one another in close quarters with a welcoming smile. The event itself was a philanthropic endeavor, benefitting the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
The 2.0 Summit Conference aimed to connect veteran members of the wellness community with new members, and grow the “tribe” (as Ho calls it). One hundred of us gathered in the Extension Room, an airy, high-ceilinged barre studio in Corktown, to hear from and participate in workouts by nine presenters.
With mats laid out just inches apart, we were encouraged to talk to, flow into, and make contact with our neighbors through partner exercises and poses. By way of introduction, we were told to hug several random strangers for a full five seconds. That is a long time to hug anyone, let alone a complete stranger from whom you are now separated only by a thin layer of spandex. But the concept for this year’s event – authenticity – included the idea of getting uncomfortable in order to become comfortable with yourself. So we hugged (and giggled).
Then, over the course of three hours, under the instruction of nine presenters, we worked out. We flowed like animals, recited the “pledge of champions,” learned to make body art, high-fived a stranger between pushups, tried to find some rhythm to the tune of mid-90s hip-hop, and became untangled. We also “worked in” as each presenter spent time talking about a particular theme based on a word assigned to them by Ho. There was love, ritual, integrity, and eventually, authenticity, which was the overarching theme of the event.
Bits of wisdom were sprinkled throughout, by each of the presenters:
- “Practice makes permanent” – Julian Ho
- Don’t be afraid to “fuck it up” – Ben Dussault
- “Exposing your weaknesses and sharing them will make you physically stronger. Take the time to be vulnerable” – Jamie Snow
- “Rest like a champion” – Sylva Mischke
- “The best part of ritual is when you move past it” – Delos Reyes
- “Until you really love yourself, the love that you put out there might be shifted or tainted” – Amber Joliat
- “Your authentic or true self is who you are to you” – Melissa Tung
Once the event wound down with a surprise performance by a lovely singer-songwriter and some closing words from Ho, we were invited to refuel with snacks from The Goods and nomz, and boxed water from Flow. We rolled up our yoga mats and hugged our neighbors with a closeness that was now a touch less awkward, just as full of laughter, and much more sweaty.
Q&A with 2.0 Summit Conference Founder, Julian Ho
Well TO Do: Why was it important to you to organize an event like this in Toronto? What inspired you to launch this event last year?
Julian Ho: Toronto is home to multiculturalism, mosaic diversity, and open-mindedness. Hence, Toronto is the perfect breeding ground for a collaborative and interconnected fitness community. My inspiration came from The Macy Conferences in the 1940’s. Their goals was to promote meaningful communication across scientific disciplines, and restore unity to science.
My motivation was to break the mold of industry, where people compete out of ego, and build a better platform, where people connect in the name of altruism. It is this ethos that inspired 2.0’s birth 4 years ago. I am extremely grateful to those that have believed in my vision and passion ever since.
WTD: There are so many fitness events around the city, but 2.0 sets itself apart in part because of the concepts of fitness experts not only leading a workout but a talk (work-in) as well. What was the impetus behind creating a more holistic event?
JH: In my first ever experience with Yoga, I was told that Asana (poses) acts as a preparation for meditation. In order to achieve a peaceful mind, one must first achieve a peaceful body. The aim is to release any stress and anxiety, untangle and unwind so that the mind can focus deeply.
In my studies with Paul Chek (holistic health guru), ‘working-in’ can be just as if not more important than ‘working-out’. It is the balance of Yin and Yang that must be more deeply investigated in the western world.
To the majority, fitness is seen as a vehicle for aesthetic and physical improvement, but I see the word ‘fitness’ as a vehicle for the integration of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development. We are greater than the sum of its parts, which speaks to holism as the approach we should all be taking should we endeavor to enlighten.
WTD: Tell us a bit about the theme of Authenticity. Why did you choose it for this year’s theme and what does it mean to you? What does it mean in terms of the fitness and wellness community?
JH: To be completely honest, last year I separated from my girlfriend of 4 years. It was and will remain one of the deepest wounds to my heart. From that breakup, I made ‘Adversity as fuel’ my personal mantra for 2015. It helped me climb to new heights in education and career I never would have imagined.
To this day, I am tremendously curious and fascinated by the concept and power of love. Instead of using negative to fuel positive, instead of sourcing motivation from external love, I paradigm shifted to self-love. Authenticity as fuel is my personal mantra for 2016. “Just do you” is the tagline that my inner circle of friends use with each other when faced with adversity and indecision. Journeying to Authenticity is about loving thyself first. When fitness and wellness can be used as vehicles for self-betterment, new definitions of love are birthed.
WTD: On the website, you ask the questions we need to ask ourselves to “authenticate your legacy”. Can you share your answers to the same questions?
- What is your one love? Connecting with people, nature, and things.
- Who can you love becoming? A curator of experiences for connection. A content creator for the future of fitness. An empathetic father. A loving and supportive son and brother.
- What drives you? Hope for a kinder and more conscious future.
- What do you dream about? A world that works together to create, discover, and explore new frontiers in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Collaborating with like-minded individuals on projects that push the boundaries of the human spirit.
- What do you want to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for connecting people with others and connecting with themselves. I would like to be remembered more for my questions than my answers. I would also like to be remembered for my creative leadership, my loyalty, and my kinship.
WTD: How do you choose the Masters for your events?
JH: The presenters are first and foremost my mentors and friends. I look up to them because of their courage, leadership, and open-mindedness. I trust in their integrity, ability, and devotion to their craft. They are people that see fitness, wellness, and movement as an opportunity to coach to higher principles of life and lifestyle.
WTD: You refer to the industry as “divided” on the 2.0 website. We know what you mean: a huge part of the mission behind Well TO Do is to bring together all of the amazing events, places, and people in the Toronto wellness community. Can you talk a bit more about why the community is so divided as well as how we can bring it together?
JH: I mentioned at the 2.0 Summit today that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift. The specialists gave us invention and innovation, but now is the time to honour the specialists by listening to the generalists. These generalists are not the best at one thing, they are simply good at many things. Because of this diversity of expertise, they can empathize with many disciplines, see patterns and connections, and bring a level of interbeing like never before.
We can only go so far alone, we must surrender the ego, entrust in others, and work together to create a community out of an industry. By working together, we can push the boundaries towards new frontiers in fitness.
WTD: Why did you decide to dedicate this year’s event to CAMH and why is that cause important? How will the event benefit CAMH?
JH: 2.0’s journey to authenticity is a mission to improve mental health awareness. CAMH is a leader in research, development, and fundraising for a brighter and stronger future in mental health. 2.0’s efforts throughout the year via its monthly workshops and today’s summit are multi-purpose. We aimed to coach virtues and values through holistic fitness experiences that not only raise money, but raise holistic intelligence, and the overall mental health of those involved. A win-win-win situation for 2.0 organizers and presenters, 2.0 tribe members and participants, and CAMH.
Today, I didn’t approach the topic of mental health conventionally. I didn’t use technical terms, nor did I really tap into the verbiage that most expect when speaking about ‘mental health’. My approach with 2.0 today was to move away from the heaviness, the clinical, the textbook, and the sterility, and make mental health conversational through anecdotes, positivity, and tangible teachings via fitness. I believe mental health needs to be approached multi-sensory: kinesthetic, auditorily, and visually.
WTD: With so much fitness and wellness advice and “expertise” available all over social media from experts and “experts”, why is it important for you to bring the community together in person?
JH: I believe my generation is the bridge between those that were born without the internet and those that were born with it. My generation knows what it’s like to climb trees, read books, research via encyclopedias, use a paper map, and be lost in nature. My generation also knows how to hashtag, screenshot, snap, google, and tweet. Bringing the community together in person is the best way humans have connected authentically throughout history. I encouraged the use of tech and social media to share today’s celebration because the world needs to see these magical moments. We have still yet so much to learn about online vs. offline pros and cons, for now, we must experiment and leverage both worlds as vividly as possible.
WTD: What is exciting to you right now about the Toronto wellness community?
JH: The word wellness can be so broad and expansive if you choose to think about it that way. We are liberated by our means and methods to expose wellness for what it can be. We just need the courage to do so, and that starts with vulnerability. I am excited by people’s perspectives on wellness and how they are playing off of history’s best practices. In Toronto, I am excited by the cross-pollination of experts, brands, companies, teachers, institutes, genres, disciplines, industries, and communities. 2.0 is just one tiny example of this. I am glad to be part of this excitement.
Beyond Toronto, I am excited by Ido Portal, Kelly Starrett, Andreo Spina, Tom Myers, John Berardi, Michael Pollan, Paul Chek, Tim Ferriss, and many more as they relate directly or indirectly to wellness.
To read more about the 2.0 Toronto Summit Conference and get updates on next year’s event, click here.