To see Jade Meunier in her graduation gown, diploma in hand, you might never guess she was once a Buddhist nun.
The 30-year-old speaks with a quiet poise, each word carefully thought out as she mills about with her fellow grads at the Nova Scotia Community College's Kingstec campus.
She and 400 other students crossed the stage in Kentville Friday morning. But before that, the business and administration graduate lived in Gampo Abbey monastery, where she shaved her head and donned the robes of a nun.
Gampo Abbey is a Buddhist monastery founded in 1983 near the northern tip of Cape Breton in Pleasant Bay. It follows the Shambhala school of Buddhism, which is practiced across Nova Scotia.
Guided by an intuitive feeling
Meunier, who's originally from Quebec, held several administrative positions at the abbey and also cooked for her fellow devotees during her time there from 2011-2015. About 60 people live at the monastery, which offers regular tours to the public.
Now that she has her diploma, Meunier hopes to open a general store somewhere in rural Nova Scotia.
The high-pressure world of being a small business owner may seem to run counter to the simple, non-materialistic life of a monk or nun.
"It wasn't very logical to be honest," Meunier acknowledges.
"I think I tend to live my life more intuitively for better or for worse. I just had a strong gut feeling."
5 hours of daily meditation
Meunier says living a monastic life wasn't easy, with long periods of silence, hard work and five hours of daily meditation.
"It was a pretty demanding schedule. We had to be very physically, emotionally and psychologically stable," she said.
Meunier, who currently works in a general store in Inverness, believes her Buddhist teachings will be a valuable guide to her future as a business woman.
"If we take the time to appreciate and be grateful for what we have, then we can imbue this materialism with a greater preciousness to conserve society instead of harming it."
Meunier still practices Buddhism and meditates for about a half hour every morning.