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During this global transition, the need for leaders who can operate within a different framework and capabilities is clear. An up-level of perspective with a responsive skillset and a clear process to make decisions is required for this new terrain. These are our wisdom gathering conversations following our PowHERhouse FireCircle model of group listening for HER. 

Welcome to Gather for Her 


ARTISTRY OF IMPACT #3 A Gather for HER Conversation with Carey Dillen

The Artistry of Conscious Leadership

Gather for Her welcomed Carey Dillen, President of YYOGA, Advisor to Victory Square Technology, Mentor with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Member of YPO, a CPA, CA, Investor and a speaker, her 20+ years of experience spanning start-up to rapid growth environments, Dillen brings an entrepreneurial drive, strategic mind and a strong vision to grow people, profits and purpose while leading a healthy, active and values-based life. 

Giving back to her community is a central part of her life. She has been an advisor and board member for non-profit and high-profile organizations like 2016 Americas Masters Games, 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, Sport BC, BC Athletics and SBC Insurance Ltd., as well as championing donations to non-profit organizations through YYOGA’s social impact program, We Move Together.

She holds a Bachelor of Commerce, a CA-CPA designation and was nominated for YWCA's 2019 Women of Distinction in the business and professions category.



Our moderator Christina Benty is a Systems Engineer and Strategist, retired politician, facilitator, governance coach, athlete and jazz singer. Christina’s focus is human systems within governance and organizational systems. 

Our host Charlene SanJenko is the founder of PowHERhouse. She is a mobilizer of brave, whole, healthy leaders who are ready to make a world-class Impact both Locally + Globally. 

Our story tracker is core-communication specialist Tina Overbury. Tina works in story, guiding individuals and organizations to bring their authentic narrative to the surface for human connection. 

Our graphic recorder is Sharon Marshall, an Indigenous entrepreneur of Cree and European ancestry, Skills Development Trainer and Facilitator, and the founder of DEVA Training & Staffing Solutions.

Gather for HER Carey Dillen

This is our Conversation:

Charlene SanJenko: Good morning and welcome to Gather for Her. I’m super excited to welcome you to what I know is going to be a rich conversation. We have been gathering since the beginning of April 2020, and our intention is to initiate conversations and talk about what women leaders are going through right now, and to allow a real, honest conversation to form. The collective wisdom from all of us takes us to places we couldn’t have planned. Every single conversation, as we allow it to take form, is deeply rich, and very valuable. What we think is going to happen doesn’t always go there, and that's what makes it even more fun. 

Before we begin I want to pause and acknowledge the lands we are gathering on. I live on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, here on the traditional lands of the Squamish First Nation and I'll ask you to reflect for a moment in gratitude for the lands on which you call home across Canada and internationally. 

My co-host is Christina Benty, she is all about being curious, staying in the room and encouraging a culture of excellence among teams, government and leaders? Good morning, Christina.

Christina Benty CB: Good morning everyone, I am really looking forward to this conversation because I'm very interested in the dialogue about conscious leadership. 

CSJ: Yes there is always so much here isn’t there? Tina Overbury is our co-host and tracker. You will see how Tina contributes, listens and reflects back to us. I want to make mention of our Indigenous sister who is not here in person today, Sharon Marshall. She is our graphic recorder and will be listening to the conversation and everything shared in the chat to visually draw out what she hears. She brings an indigenous lens and will be offering her reflections as a visual representation. This morning, the three of us, also known as The Braid, are super excited to introduce our special guest today: Carey Dillen. Good morning, Carey. Thank you for joining us.

Carey Dillen CD: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to spark this conversation around conscious leadership and mindfulness. I think everybody has heard those buzzwords and how we can take it into our life and how we lead. To me, that's part of the artistry of this conversation. I'm looking forward to sharing some insights and hearing from you guys, where you're at in your own journey, and maybe offer some tools and tips to help you get there. 

CSJ: So let’s kick things off and we'll see where it goes. Our theme throughout this month has been the artistry of impact and I'm curious today, how we overlay this conversation with where we’ve been. I see us walking into life after lockdown and wondering what do we need to do differently? I think it leaves us all a bit dumbfounded. So Carey, let’s start with you. What comes up for you when I say the artistry of impact? What does that mean to you in connection to conscious leadership?

CD: It's the term that is interesting to me. It sparked more questions for me right out of the gate.

  • How do we as leaders get clear on making an impact? 
  • What are the tools we use to figure that out? 
  • How do you access your present leadership? 

It started off with questions, and then I thought about the other strand. Artistry is how you access your own creativity and brilliance, which is a personal journey of going inside. For me, I'm a more impactful leader when I have mindful movement in my life. It’s been running, it’s been yoga, and it's been meditation, but no matter what the modality is, it’s always mindful movement. What works for you to be able to tap into your artistry?


How do you access your present leadership? - Carey Dillen

CSJ: I love that. When I think about the intersection of the artistry of impact and conscious leadership, it's about being willing to admit that perhaps we have more questions than answers, and we don't have it all figured. We have a blank canvas, and we can choose to paint with one color and think that's it, we're done but how silly is that? To me that's the intersection of what we are not tapping into, but could. What might be possible if we really open to all of the colours? 

CB: You know what I loved? Carey just said, I'm a more impactful leader when...  Finish that sentence for yourself. Everyone should be doing that. I've done a lot of journal writing lately and if I were to give myself a prescription to be my best self, it is always things like: eating well, movement, meditation, and connecting with friends. It’s all of the bits and pieces of our life that contribute to building our foundation so that we can be more impactful. Paying attention to what the things are that bring out your energy so you can serve at the highest level. That's a great start to the conversation.


I'm a more impactful leader when...- Carey Dillen


CD: I want to add when you feel like you're in your flow, you're in it. You know when you are, and when you’re not. It's sort of like when you said: I'm painting with one color but there’s other colours in your toolkit. Do you even know that? When I feel stuck or out of alignment, that's when I go to yoga. When you’re not in perfect flow it means you're not totally present, and with yourself. So for me, when I feel stuck, that's when I remember there's more colors out there and I gotta go find them.

CB: And I want to add one more thing. I think one of the worst things we can do is try to plow through something when we're out of that flow place. We say things like: I'm just going to hunker down and do it but that’s when it’s completely counterproductive.

CD: Yes, that's when you need to stop and be present with what's what's going on.

CSJ: Tina, I'm gonna throw it over to you. I'm curious what you're hearing and how to take this even to a deeper level.

Tina Overbury TO: Well, it started right with Carey when she used the word spark, and then she said it again. The story of spark is in the room and so is conscious leadership, and it's almost like we have to shake our brain a bit to sort out what that means. I like this idea of making room sparks and retraining our thoughts about what it means to be conscious. Sparks don’t happen in the known, they happen in the unknown. Conscious leadership is this idea of being in flow, a place where there is space for new colors to arrive. Yes, what comes up for me is understanding what consciousness even means, versus what we think it is.


When I feel stuck, that's when I remember there's more colors to paint with out there, and I gotta go find them.  - Carey Dillen


CSJ: Yeah, so interesting. I think for me, the starting point is definitely just being more intentional and stopping to ask:

Am I in flow right now? 

Am I in my zone of genius?

Am I going to be my most impactful?

And if I’m not at my most impactful, this takes me to my next question for Carey. As the president of YYOGA, I know you bring your history in sport, the Olympics, your contribution, the athletic outlet, and your athleticism. I'm curious now, as you're leading this very community centered, yet national organization, how has this influenced your dedication to get more leaders on the mat? I think we all know the benefits of yoga, and breathing, and relaxation and calming our adrenals, but will yoga make you a better leader coming out of this global pandemic? That's my bold ask. Carey where does that statement take you?

CD: It takes me to so many places. We are in a changed world, right? There's no doubt about it, and change causes stress. What's coming up for me is remember that we are all going through  this as a collective community and there's going to be so much need for support with mental health issues coming out of this for years to come. Yoga is a practice that can help support that.

Lots of people say I can’t do yoga, I'm not bendy enough, but that’s not what Yoga is about. It's been around for 3000 years. So clearly, there's something to it. Yoga is about connecting your body to your breath, and putting your body into positions of stress as you learn how to calm your reactions, or what I call mind fluctuations. Through this practice, you train your body, your mind and your breath how to be when you are off the mat. So when we’re in these stressful situations like today, we have tools to move us through that stress. This is how we can come back to the present, calm ourselves and our mind. Yoga is the practice of meditation, moving through postures, calming fluctuations in our mind and creating a space for creativity. How do you deal with stress and move forward into action? It's not necessarily about yoga but about accessing tools to connect our breath, lower our stress and create that mind-body connection for ourselves. 

CSJ: I really want to chew on this for a while because I've never heard anyone talk about yoga this way. It's as if Yoga is a training for life. It’s a preparation and a meditation. What I hear is preparing for impact. I wanted to open it up to you Christina and Tina because this is some juicy stuff.

CB: A couple of things I absolutely loved. I heard Carey say a number of times: leaving it on the mat, and I’ve been envisioning what that means. It's so multi-dimensional, right? It has actually informed my own work with leaders, bringing them to a version of the mat, getting them present before we start our work and what I think is really interesting is the ancient practice of connecting the breath to the body, and the value of that research. Current research is demonstrating empirical evidence about bringing our non-anxious presence into the environment so that you are ready to lead during an impact. Again, I think about my work with elected officials. Bringing your non-anxious presence to all challenging situations is more important than anything else. How do we get there? It starts with connecting the breath to the body because that's where we access our cognitive abilities. You can’t have access until we connect that breath with our body.

TO: Okay, I need to jump in. Did anyone watch Jacinda Ardern last week during her onscreen interview as a 5.8 earthquake struck New Zealand and shook the newsroom? All I can think of right now is what you just said Christina: bringing your non-anxious presence into the environment. There she is, in the middle of an earthquake while on camera. She was aware. She named it. The camera people checked in with her: ‘How are you?’ They asked, ‘Yeah, I'm good’, she said. She talked about what was going on and let everyone watching know she was safe. 

CD: She was being present in the moment, and because she was present, she was calm. She could connect to what's going on. She clearly taps into something for herself that she's cultivated. Yoga is a practice. It's a daily mindful, deliberate thing you do, and it's a constant evolution of tapping into where you are right now to be present and create space for what's to come. It’s learning how to create tools for yourself when you're under stress. It’s learning how to breathe and calm your nervous system. 

TO: I have a question and it’s about the dance of being present while in public. I'm curious what you might add to that because in leadership we are often out in front of the public. What can you bring to this concept of being fully present while being public too? 

CB: I think the value is in how we cultivate mindfulness and presence. I keep going back to what Carey said about getting leaders on the mat to practice being grounded during difficult things and breathing through difficulties. In terms of being out in the public it’s the importance of being present internally, but also externally. It is paying attention to the meta perspective of what's going on around you and what's going on in the room. 

  • What's the energy? 
  • What's the temperature?
  • What’s your internal dialogue? 

It's a both-and. It's cultivating both simultaneously which comes with time and practice. Oftentimes, it starts with paying so much attention to your internal dialogue that you're actually not paying attention to what's going on in the meta. So being able to cultivate ‘both/and’ is very key for leaders.

CD: Really well said, Christina. I do feel like a big part is starting inward to help create the foundation to look outward. From there we can build on that to create a bigger impact out in the leadership world. Just like taking a breath is so grounding. Think about it, when you're frazzled and somebody says just breathe, and you’re like…. Yeah…. Right. But then you do, and you get a little bit of what you need and the energy dissipates to bring you into the present moment. It's fascinating how breathing is such an unconscious thing until you make it conscious. It calms your inner spirit.

CSJ: just amazing. I think it would be super fun today to leave this conversation with a prescription. That's what Christina started with. If we boiled this down to its simplest form: 


What would our prescription be as conscious leaders? What are our top three? - Charlene SanJenko

It means being conscious. What I heard Carey say when it's hitting the fan, consciously go back to your breath. I'm curious what other pieces might be added? I want to touch quickly on the importance of the word practice because I don't want us to glaze over it. Carey has a huge background in the Olympics which is a much bigger story for another day but I want to mention how fascinated I am with high level performance in sport. The dedication of Olympians and how they get up at 4am to practice their sport, practice their sport, and continue to practice their sport for decades. When people take on a leadership role, they have a title with a bunch of words but what is their practice? I want to ask: 


How long have you been dedicated to this?  Have you been getting up at 4am?  What is your leadership practice? How are you living your dedication?  -Charlene SanJenko

I'd like to hear about the practice that's going to make you the leader. I want to back up the bus for a minute and talk about the importance of having a personal practice as a conscious leader.

TO: (laughing) This is what we call FireSpeak at PowHERhouse. It happens when Char gets super fired up about real change. I just love it when she FireSpeaks a little bit.

CSJ: The practice is important whether it’s yoga or something else. I want to simplify this because back to Carey’s comment about not being bendy, it’s not about that - it’s about asking: what's your dedication on a daily basis to becoming a better leader? 

CD: Yes! What are the tools? What are the pieces? 

  • Mindfulness
  • Be present through breath
  • Have a practice
  • Conscious leadership

If I bring it back to my yoga roots, the practice creates the inner calm. Calming the mind fluctuations to create space for creativity and artistry for that next level of impact. I think these pieces are critical. It's the mindset of being fearless, and moving from fear to possibility. It’s not about being bendy. It’s about breath and possibility, and being ready to handle fear when it comes up. It’s about being fluid. I'll go back to one of your analogies with the image of the painting and drawing with one color. Now we have a whole rainbow. Right? Don't let fear exclude you from the possibility of taking that leap. There is the mindset piece, which for me, I call it being fearless and being really open to possibilities and being willing to step into those possibilities. 


Calming the mind fluctuations to create space for creativity and artistry for that next level of impact.  

- Carey Dillen


CSJ: So I would say that the third piece is consciously creating space. Like Christina said, if you're just plowing through, take a breath to come to the present, and then instead give yourself some space for a walk, or a run, or do some stretching, call a friend. Who is your lifeline? If we were writing a prescription about how to go from fear to possibility and how to consciously integrate more conscious leadership in our lives. 

  1. Number one, go back to the breath. 
  2. Number two, prioritize the cultivation of the practice.
  3. Number three, consciously create the space you need. 

You said something interesting the other day about the physical space of your practice. Can you speak to that Carey?

CD: Thanks for asking. At YYOGA, when anyone steps into our spaces, things are incredibly clean. The walls are white, the coloring is soft, there is gentle lighting, and everything is clear. We've consciously made the choice of white throughout and we receive questions about that because it can feel sterile, but people are already coming into the space with so much stimulus. When they enter into YYOGA it’s really about stepping away from overstimulation to become present with yourself to connect with yourself. I like to think of it as the people are the color in the space. 

TO: Can I add in here? I’m hearing a fourth step that doesn't always get named. I almost think it's implied and it’s about what happens in this space when possibility arrives. I want to suggest the fourth step is to trust. Trust what happens in the space you’ve just created for yourself. 

  • consciously breathe
  • consciously cultivate
  • consciously create the space 
  • consciously trust

Trust the impulse that happens when we do the practice of conscious leadership. What do you think about that, Christina?

CB: I'm gonna back up a little bit but I like what you said about trust. I'm going to weave that into what I want to say. One of my favorite sayings is from Muhammad Ali, where he said, I didn't like to get up at 5 am and run every morning and work out but I love being a world champion. 

I don't think we should be afraid of words like discipline and practice. For example, you probably don't have to be disciplined to brush your teeth, right? You don't argue with yourself, oh gosh, I have to brush my teeth, you just do it. When we cultivate practices and disciplines into our lives we get to the point where we stop arguing and our practice becomes our operating system. 

I think that what Carey is talking about is very much the same. We are learning to cultivate that mindfulness and connection to breath. When it becomes a practice this ties us back to trust. It’s how we can trust what we may not see in the moment, but overtime, shows up in our rearview mirror. Imagine looking back right now and noticing how much less anxious and calm you’ve become. What if you noticed how that way of being impacts your team and environment? 

Graphic recording - Episode 8 - Carey

Closing Circle Offerings

From Charlene SanJenko - CEO/Founder of PowHERhouse: I want to pick up on trust as my closing thought because as humans, we are born with trust until something causes us to lose it. Through a practice and preparation we can recreate our natural, trusting set point. Back to my sports analogy, when someone is fully prepared, they know they've put the time. They’ve been in practice of their craft, and in that, they have so much trust. They have faith because they know what they've put in. They know the 4am mornings. They don’t get to the starting block and say: ‘Oh, I hope this all works’. No, they know what they’ve done. They know they are ready. 

Preparation equals trust. 

Preparation equals confidence. 

Preparation equals bravery. 

From Carey Dillen: Go find that one thing to practice that will calm your mind fluctuations and create space to tap into your creativity as a great leader. It only needs to be one thing. Keep bringing yourself back to that place and build your foundation. In the beginning I found mindful movement and it has adapted with me over time. Sometimes it's going for a walk in nature. Find one thing that works for you because it will be magical as it transforms your thoughts and actions from there. I'll leave you with that as you consciously breathe.

From Christina Benty - Co-Host: Believe it or not, I'm going to be brief. A quote fell out of my PowHERhouse journal here and I thought I would read it. It's from Martha Beck. She says: You need the heart of a lion to rest in a culture that never rests. I'm going to change that to: you need the heart of a lion to breathe In a culture that never breathes.

From TinaO - Story Tracker: I'm going to do two things here, I’m going to be Tina the Story Tracker, and then Tina, just me. Just ‘me’, is really inspired from this as an artist. It's like watching figure skating, or a painter or a singer. They make it look so easy because of all the things we talked about. They do the practice so ‘it’ can happen. It's like muscle memory and it's the tipping point of how we operate at a high level, sustainably. My personal final thoughts are about the discipline of showing up which is being devoted to our artistry. 

From a tracking perspective, what I keep hearing again and again and again is consciousness in the realm of ‘space’. I come back to YYOGA’s white walls and carving out a practice there. Consciousness is a choice when we make a practice of developing it. 

Charlene SanJenko: Thank you for the conversation this morning. What resonates for me is consciousness as a choice. It really is. I want to thank you, Carey. I know YYOGA has some amazing opportunities for us to step more fully into our consciousness practice both online via your subscriptions and the zoom opportunities as well. 

To my co-hosts, thank you as always, for making the conversation much more interesting and  juicy and entertaining than I could ever do on my own.  



Chi-Miigwech (Big Thank You)


To watch the forty-five minute interview in its entirety click here


Read Carey's PowHERhouse portrait here.




Gather for Her is a series of wisdom gathering conversations with women who lead. Each recorded session follows PowHERhouse’s FireCircle model of group listening, witnessing and harvesting to support the leaders of today through the fire of our time. 

Today’s conversation was moderated by Christina Benty, Owner of Strategic Leadership Solutions, story tracked by Core Story Specialist Tina Overbury, graphic recorded and Indigenous informed by Sharon Marshall of DEVA, and hosted by PowHERhouse CEO and founder, Charlene SanJenko. 


PowHERhouse gratefully acknowledges the support of the Indigenous Screen Office to help bring GATHER for HER to a wider audience.

1 Comment

  1. GATHER for HER 2021 Announcement ⋆ PowHERhouse on November 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    […] E08 |  Carey Dillen | […]

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