NAME: Jen Parker and Anamari Becker
COMPANY: Whole Living
TITLE(S): JEN – Nutritionist and Wellness Coach. ANAMARI – Yoga Instructor and Educator
AGE: Jen – 31, Anamari - 38
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? We are two healthy, fun-loving, day-dreaming, excitable, tea-drinkers!
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today?
Jen: I have spent the past 6 years studying Nutritional Medicine while raising my two little knee highs and exploring the world as a family. It has been a beautiful, wonderful, fulfilling experience becoming a mother, but I won’t say it’s not without its frustrations. Mainly time, and needing more of it. So while some of the days have been long and all of the years have been quick, I never lost the vision of what I wanted to do when I had finished my studies and could make enough time available. I kept my mummy brain sane by blogging and offering community health and wellness talks along the way, but this year I promised myself that I would work more on the business side and build a brand I was proud of.
Anamari: I met Jen 5 years ago through mutual friends and we hit it off instantly. I have spent most of my life traveling the world. With Parents from two different continents, I spent a lot of time in flight, so to speak, to see one or the other. In my uni days I landed in Hawaii for a couple of years. Not too shabby and what an amazing experience. I came to love the slow pace of island life. Funnily enough my next stop was NYC, which of course is just the opposite in so many ways, but what I found was that even in the hustle and bustle I could carve out a little nook of cosmic bliss. I started to really delve into my practice there. When I’d leave the studio, my legs seemed to glide along the pavement and the busy bodies trucking by faded into a blur. I was in love. After that it seemed no matter where I lived or stayed; Australia, Detroit, Alaska, India, New Zealand, Antiqua (what a hoge poge of places I know), my practice was always with me. 10 years ago, when I started teaching I always felt like it was a privilege and I still do. I have been so so so so very lucky to have had some amazing teachers including my very cosmic and yet grounding husband. We run a super traditional school together with students that are like family. I guess the short of it is, no matter what you choose to do, there will always be bumps in the road, but I like texture, it makes things interesting.
When, Jen came home from her tropical adventures I was so excited. We’d worked together before on bits and pieces. You know when you just jive with someone, kind of like tea and chocolate or a deliciously cold watermelon smoothie in the warm sun, well that’s us… and when we caught up we were both feeling inspired to combine our passions. From here the love child; Whole Living, was born!
Jen: It’s been a whirlwind few months and we are incredibly excited to have launched Whole Living to the local community in Newcastle. Whole Living offers holistic health practices that anyone can incorporate into their lives, and the community response has been fantastic.
So with our feet firmly grounded in the day-to-day activities of building connections with the community and the launch of the Walking into Wellness Workshops, we are still keeping our sights on the horizon.
Anamari: The skies the limit, as they say. In today’s world, I believe our imagination is our only limitation. We are already putting together an online program and an audio series. I’d love to bring the program we’re working on now, to the schools that I currently teach in. Young people are our future and I have a real passion towards laying healthy holistic foundations for them. There are so many beautiful, talented people all around us; as we grow we want to bring together a collective of wellness minded people that all share the same vision, but offer different components of wellness to the world.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is you elevator pitch on what you do? We educate using simple practices to teach holistic health to the community
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) Absolutely! We both love working in the industry we are in, we are continually inspired and have been working towards this for many, many years.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? We believe that success is a journey, and we are at the beginning of ours.
Success looks like a world where our personal and business aspirations are balanced, fulfilling and rewarding.
It helps when we both can be mindful and in the moment to celebrate the small stuff, when you start out it’s all too easy to focus too much on the big picture and miss all the beautiful little successes along the way.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)? Oh gosh that would be a long list. But here goes; from grass root community projects to international luxury health retreats, working with schools to teach children where their food comes from, how to use yoga practices to de-stress and find contentment, plus online programs that people all over the world can access, there is so much we wish to do.
Whole living as a concept has no boundaries, which I guess can be dangerous if it means we have no direction, but we are tackling each component of what we want to achieve bit by bit, with mindfulness and (mostly) patience
Whatever we achieve it has to balance with our family commitments, it’s also got to be authentic, and while finding the balance isn’t always easy, we help each other when we get lost.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in?
Jen: I studied Natural Medicine and majored in Nutritional Medicine, I also have half a Business/Marketing degree and lots of passion – honestly what can’t be learnt or outsourced when you are passionate about making it happen!
Anamari: My studies have been through; Yoga Shelter, Yoga Medics, K.Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, and I have apprenticed under and taught with Daniel Fanthorpe (Authorised Level 2, KPJAYI) for almost 5 years.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date?
Anamari: To be honest there are so many. I am really fortunate, I work with kids all year round and you watch the way their perception changes through yoga. I also work with a whole bunch of tough rugby boys and it is absolutely amazing to watch old injuries disintegrate with each breath. Recently, and this is going to sound so crazy, the most rewarding experience was flipping a baby. (Laughter). I didn’t actually take a baby and flip it. One of my clients is pregnant and she went for a scan and the baby had turned around so she wasn’t going to be able to have a natural birth. She was disappointed, but I said to her, “no problem”. Yoga is so amazing! Through some really gentle postures, movements and breathing we created space and the baby felt free to turn herself/himself around. It was the best text to get. “the baby flipped”. Now she is 39 weeks and having a natural birth. What an amazing experience.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace?
Jen: My work bench is a $40 Kmart table (an upgrade from the couch!) it overlooks my garden where I can watch the children and sneak in some work, I have a beautiful drooping violet that Anamari gave me. I keep the space minimal, mostly neutral and white with a few plants and lots of imagination. I do most of the graphic design, social media and writing. Anamari is a more on the ground style worker so it works well, I need to be home with the children so I can manage the work around the school runs and often work through the night when the house is peaceful and I can pump out some quality time.
Anamari: Ashtanga Yoga Newcastle Studio is one of my workspaces, it’s a light filled loft studio with wooden floors and plants, I love plants, I have so many, my husband always gives me ‘the look’ when I start growing another cutting. When I’m not at the studio or around town, I am so blessed to I live right at the beach, the perfect place to find a bit of stillness and get the creative juices flowing.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? Time. And needing more of it!!! It’s always the rarest commodity. The community/following/support can be slow to pick up, but we have been lucky that we can pull on the existing client base at the yoga studio and for years Jen has been building an online presence through Nourish Your Soul so reaching out to them has helped also. Collaborations and community have most definitely been the key so far.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load?
Jen: Haha well recently I had that moment when the little voice of doubt in the back of my head was trying to convince me that I would be a flop at one of our workshops, I was nervous to present the course and hadn’t been sleeping well as I was up all night preparing the material. It took a while but eventually I came to a place that I accepted my nerves and rather than try to stop feeling them, I got on with it and took them along for the ride. After about 10-15 minutes of presenting something shifted and I just felt comfortable. It helped that the group of women we were working with were so easy to be with. After that I relaxed and my sense of humour came through. Presenting when relaxed is so much easier!!
Anamari: I think every good yogi has a cry. Crying is such a great release. Teaching so many people is a lot sometimes. Each student is someone that you care for, their struggles are your struggles. Yoga by its nature provokes emotion. It is a really hard skill to learn how to not allow yourself to totally take on what someone else is going through. I listen to a lot of stories, joy filled and very sad. I can say that recently I have shed tears out of joy and sorrow.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career?
Anamari: Jen amazes me, she’s like the little engine that could, her ability to power on of course surges through me. We both want Whole Living to be the best work we can do. We hold ourselves to a really high standard. So yeah, we do put pressure on ourselves, but we are so lucky because we both have husbands who know when to tell us to take it down a notch. In this regard I’ve always been consistent. I was a bit of a nerd in school, I love learning, I love sharing and I love teaching, but I want what I put out there to be correct, accessible and applicable!
Jen: Yes the pressure is on because it’s the little details and quality that makes me tick and I want the experience of coming to our events to be holistic and experiential. It’s the lavender stem in the wellness handout packs, the texture of the recycled card of the folders, the smell of the sweet incense as people arrive at our space, I am definitely a details person.
So while being at home for 6 years with the knee highs, I have been banking all my passion, energy and drive and now I seem to have endless energy. (Laughter) Pressure also comes from being a chronic multitasker which means that I work hard to find a place that I can produce meaningful work while also meeting the needs of my family. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it!
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough?
Anamari: Praise my practice! What a refuge. There is nothing like stepping on my mat and sorting things out for me. Sweat and tears, it’s all good. I was also really lucky to grow up in a household with the most inspiring individual, Suzy Becker, she was always positive and persistent. There was never a task too big. Sometimes I think to myself, WWSBD, What Would Suzy Becker Do. I hit my mat, sweat it out, cry it out, pull my socks up and visualize the best outlook.
Jen: I have found the most useful strategy is to compartmentalize life and set aside very specific times for doing what needs to be done. I know the times of day that are out for work (breakfast and dinner/bedtime) and so I jump in with both feet to be a mama and wife, then I know lunch time when my daughter sleeps and evenings when everyone sleeps is a good time, so I am really focused on what I want to achieve and do my best to meet my expectations. I also carve out pockets of time that are just for me and it might just be making a smoothie or washing my face with as much love as I can, but these things mean a lot to me.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how?
Anamari: Absolutely, when you eat, sleep and breathe whole living, naturally the same sort of people become your circle. Birds of a feather. On the romantic side, I actually met my husband through yoga, flexible and amazing, hubba hubba! We both start work really early and like the simple pleasures; quality time, yummy whole food, our practice, and time to sit and reflect, so as you can probably guess the days of going out and pulling an all-nighter are long gone. A late night these days is 10pm, haha. Wow. We also work 6-7 days a week.
Jen: I agree with Anamari – walking the talk naturally brings like-minded folk into your life. I feel that when I chose to live an inspired life – or a creative life that it was integral that I learnt to meet the personal needs of those in my life too, how easy it would have been to be consumed by the work that I love! So living by my core values helps me make judgements calls on what needs to be done and this means that being present with my people even though my to-do list is arm length (or more), is who I choose to be and makes that anxiety of getting it all done easier to deal with.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How?
Anamari: That’s such an interesting question. Even though I talk all day, there are very few conversations. I do spend a lot of time alone. Whenever I do feel lonely, I try to remember that there is a difference between being lonely, and being alone. Learning to sit with aloneness is a great skill to have. Really it’s just self-love.
Jen: There have been parts of my personal journey that have been very lonely… I lived in paradise in the tropics for 3 years, whilst on a daily basis I made the most of the beachy humid lifestyle, however my partner worked away and I raised the kids for that time almost alone. Of course I met people, people who became family. But it was still some of my most challenging times, it reinforced how important community is. I have always surrounded myself with a bustling and full life and having the community, my people, removed was a very new experience.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights?
Anamari: Because I am so passionate about what I do, I always want my work to be quality. Going over what I am going teach to a new group can and has kept me up at night, there’s nothing like a room full of teenagers staring at you to get the nerves going. Sometimes conversations keep me up. If a student has disclosed something to me and it has been a particularly disconcerting topic I might run that convo over and over again in my mind, thinking of other possible answers I could have given. So in a nut shell, passion and duty of care.
Jen: Passion and duty of care sums it up for me too. Hello magnesium supplements to help my nervous system calm down!
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently?
Anamari: There has been many times throughout my career that I have questioned my abilities, or stepped to the side because I didn’t think what I would produce would be perfect enough. If I could do it again I wouldn’t worry so much about being perfect and I would just put myself out there.
Jen: I sometimes wonder if I had completed my studies right out of school would that have been better, would I be further down the road now, but honestly I had such wonderful years before I found my ‘calling’ that I can’t regret them.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
Anamari: You are worth it. You can do it. You are supported. You are loved. Put your head down. Pull your socks up. Smile. Dream big, and go for it.
Jen: You are valuable. Your 31 year old self believes in you, and so should you! Work hard, every tiny step is another step forward. Remember to laugh often, dream big, eat well and be present with every beautiful and not so beautiful moment – it all has something to offer.
Who are some women in business you admire & why?
Anamari: It’s probably mega cheesy, but you Samantha. I mean, you faked it til you made it, which is a quote that goes way back for me. You stay true to yourself by being involved with your business from the ground up, which I am sure is a huge feat.
Jen: Oh yes, Lisa Messenger is amazing and I love what she brings to the world through Renegade Collective and just love the niche she has created, how hard she has worked and what she has achieved through being humble, authentic and business minded.
Then I look at Isabella and Elizabeth aka the Gypsy Spell Sisters and I am so inspired by their journey and what they share with the world, for me what Spell brings is such an enticing and authentic brand, they have built a community, built a business and raised families - all on Aussie soil. How inspiring!
And other women like Anita Roddick, Jodhi Meares, Lorna Jane Clarkson, Sarah-Jane Clarke & Heidi Middleton, Beyoncé (and there would be more) these are all women who work hard and keep it real.
Um, I have to say it. Samantha Wills – Gosh I bet everyone is going to say that, buts it’s the truth, I’m totally a fan-girl, it’s the way that you communicate with your followers that got me hooked and it’s something I bring into my own practice as a business women. [Aw! thank you BOTH! this is so lovely, and means the world! heart full - thank you! - SWx]
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with?
Anamari: Compassion, humility and finding that bit of humour or silver lining no matter the circumstances. I think that’s why Jen and I work so well together.
Jen: Humility, Passion, Conviction, Compassion, I like to be around the feelers and thinkers of the world!
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? I have to agree, I’m not sure it does exist, we do our best and continually try to remember boundaries. There are times when I say right - put down the phone, get off the computer, it can wait! Jen and I are so alike in this respect. We both try to allow time for our families, unplug and be in the moment!
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Haha. yes, it’s been a long road. Sometimes we think why didn’t we just get a desk job so we can clock in at 8 and leave at 5, and then we remember, oh yeah, we did that once and we hated it!
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? That you don’t work much and you have so much extra time to sloth about. Exactly the opposite, we’re out here hustlin’, dreaming and daring to cross boundaries.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Honour the people you work with, and for. Be of service, and put integrity into everything you do.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what?
Anamari: Even in the times that I have thought about “getting out”, I’m just drawn right back in. Some of my most treasured moments I have, have been a result of what I do, I wouldn’t trade it for the easier road.
Jen: I like living a full life – I may regret saying that one day! But I do, I thrive on this, even when I’m not thriving -- “It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.”
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’- we want to lead by example. We want people to remember that being healthy is accessible, it’s easy and most of all it enhances every aspect of their lives.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)?When I look at the people I admire in business, it’s because of what they offer the world – and not necessarily their core business, it’s the role model aspect that inspires me, who is trying to sell me this and why would I bring it into my life. When I connect with that element of business it keeps me feeling centered. One brand that does that so well is the SW brand and so naturally when we were invited to be interviewed it was a pinch ourselves - happy dancing moment. To be a part of something that we admire, respect and find so darn useful (yes we have read FOUNDATION articles at 3am!) is very inspiring and exciting. Thank you SO much Samantha.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
“Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness.”
“an eye for an eye will only blind the whole world”
“we can’t change anything until we accept it”
“if you aim for the moon, you’ll always hit the stars”
“the mind is everything, what you think you become”