About Dominic Vallée

Personal history

I was born in the late 70’s on the south shore of Montreal, Canada. My childhood was strangely atypical, given that the settings were basically standard québécois suburban conditions. I was a solitary child, my alcoholic/workaholic dad’s 5th and my mom’s precious only, and although I had step-siblings, there weren’t much a part of my daily life. My closest friends were the 3 children of a neighbouring protestant Haitian family.

Following my parent’s divorce at around 11, I (was) bounced around for a while. From the quietude of St-Hubert city, I went to live with my grandparents in the country (in a town where, at the time, sidewalks were somewhat absent), to then move back with my mom to a rough and poor part of Montreal North. At around 13, we came back to the south shore, to another rough and poor neighbourhood of Longueuil city, in an effort to get me closer to my then cancerous and still alcoholic father. The following years were just as eventful. I got kicked out of two schools, mostly because I was going less and less. We moved in with my (also alcoholic) stepdad. At 15, after a car accident I inadvertently caused that left him amputated, I had to move in with my laryngectomized father the next year. That’s when I dropped out of high school, but fortunately also when I started playing music more seriously. I was still 17 when my dad asked me to leave the house and moved out on my own. He passed three years later and is now resting, hopefully, in peace.

My early adulthood was scattered with odd jobs of which my favourite was being a bike courier. I had different music projects, mostly singing and playing guitar in grunge, metal and punk projects until I started experimenting with electronic music in the late 90s. Later, I learned stage lighting and sound as part of a government funded project for dropouts, while eventually starting making a little money with music. By the early 2000’s I had discovered the joys of freelance work and it didn’t take long for me to start learning how to build websites. Along with some tv, advertising and stage music gigs, I spent a few years as a designer and programmer. In 2009, a strange twist of fate pushed me to buy a small tea house in Montreal with my girlfriend at the time, a business we ran for about two years before our relationship ended.

Then in my early thirties and too depressed to go back to any kind of freelancing, I took a job at a renowned tea house, also in Montreal. For the first time, life was somewhat easy. Well, at least financially speaking, as I’ve always had minimal needs. Still, over six years of customer-facing jobs took its toll on my nerves and I ended up burning out. I so then transferred to the same entreprise’s warehouse, working mostly alone on evenings and weekends, listening to countless hours of podcasts, presentations and audiobooks. This lasted for about 3 years until I needed my freedom back. Still interested in visual design, sound and music, I started looking for video editing and motion graphics jobs with minimal success. In truth, my heart was now somewhere else: I needed to write and maybe even teach what I had learned in the most important aspects of my life. At 45, I thought “enough with the bullshit”. My true place is in the areas of spirituality and philosophy.

As I’m writing this, I’m still living in Montreal, near Mount Royal, with my lovely partner and two cats. We’re learning to grow plants.

Spiritual life

Having read that second to last sentence, maybe you’re wondering how in the hell could I end up reaching that conclusion. Well, that’s understandable as I intentionally left out any spiritual aspects, which constitute in fact the main part of my life story. Whatever I went through, I was always considering the deeper aspects of my experiences, relying heavily on introspection.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an observer. I was an “outside kid” ― meaning that I had a natural penchant for marginality ― and both my family and social life exacerbated that trait. Most of the time, I found myself not feeling part of the group, whatever group that was, and so spent my time witnessing and analyzing. Even as a teenager, my hardcore sobriety ― or I should say my absolute hatred for psychotropic substances ― made me a non-participant spectator of drug culture, being a skateboarder and a musician. Later in life, I’d become very good at observing myself, too.

My mother had been a catholic nun, and so I was somewhat raised catholic. I guess. You see, my mom left the convent because she found the experience not religious enough. Even though we did sometimes go to mass, I never felt anything was pushed on me. I don’t remember much of the experience of church except for finding it beautiful. As the priest talked, I dreamingly gazed at the paintings and architecture. Looking back, I recognize that my first experiences of God, or of godliness, were directly related to that of beauty.

I remember a first awakening at around 14, while looking at a postcard showing a Johfra Bosschart painting. By then, my mom was a bit of a new ager, and so I opened up to ideas of so-called astral travelling and reincarnation. It was about that time too that the seed of Zen Buddhism was planted in me, mainly after reading a book of tales and koans by Taisen Deshimaru. My metaphorical mind was also developing rapidly, which is aptly represented by this following quote, found in an old journal:

I could figure out a deep life lesson from a pair of dirty socks, lying on the floor of my room.

14 year old me.

Then, I… errr… “evolved” to a full on Love and Light dude by the age of 18. That phase, during which my friends were worried I had joined a cult, lasted for a good 5 years… long enough for me to realize not only that my problems remained the same, but also that my depression bouts were getting worryingly deeper and much longer. My parting with “new agey” thought was abrupt and apparently led me to an experience I could maybe describe as an enlightenment. Contrary to popular belief, that event did not instantly ― or ever ― turn me into an equanimous and masterful being. Quite the opposite in fact. My landmarks had vanished and I couldn’t form a belief that would stand against the reality of that experience. I believe that, for me, is when the true shadow work started, an episode that would last at least until my early 40s.

To assist me further in my search for Light, or for even more confusion, I encountered the words of Krishnamurti. Although I sometimes found them very difficult, sometimes brutal even, I felt a sympathetic resonance to them. Actually, I thought they were really… punk. An essence of DIY spirit, which I’m all about.

Having reached my thirties, obviously without having thrown myself off a bridge, I was deeply invested in the illumination of my darkest corners. I did intense therapy, and started developing my own ways to do so with various meditative exercises.

I also started doing kendo, a Japanese martial art, which I practiced devotedly for about 4-5 years. That kind of discipline, especially coming without any real effort, was so uncharacteristic of me that I knew I was truly evolving. It also happened that my teacher was an ordained Zen monk who had been a disciple of Deshimaru roshi, mentioned earlier. And so, I learned kendo as a way, as a psychological, philosophical and spiritual practice. I even flirted with the practice of zazen, Zen “meditation”, and sparsely frequented a small temple in my area. That said, the “do what you’re told and don’t ask questions” was, as should’ve been expected, too much for little rebel ol’ me, and my guts urged me to move on. Not only couldn’t I help but improvise my own rituals, that is also when I realized that spirituality shouldn’t only be confined to specific moments of practice. Mindful presence and lucidity, I believe to this day, should be a part of normal life. That is, if one wishes to be truly alive.

Picture by Josée Lecompte

The last few years were spent in somewhat intense introspection and contemplation. Between the solitary evening shifts at the warehouse to the isolation of the pandemic, I’ve instinctively dedicated most of my time to thoughts, mine and those of others, with great focus on their applicability. I aimed not to set myself apart from the world ― “outsider” has always been my default position ― but to figure out how to truly participate in it. Over all those years, I’ve split my own egoic vehicle to pieces, scrutinizing their functions. After all, what’s the use of being a meat machine only to bitch about the terrain, or to prance around incoherently in artificial landscapes? There’s nothing more real than life itself, and most certainly, it is not a dream.

It’s kind of an unsexy cliché, but I’ve come to see terrestrial incarnation as a type of game of pretend. A theatre of sorts. Weak words to describe the most sacred of all cosmic tricks, I know. Knowing that, sleepwalking through life means being the butt of the joke, hence the belly laugh adepts often experience on their moments of enlightenment. Our notions of good and evil, our ambitions, identities and cultures are the mere results of conditioning. Life thus can’t be true, as truth is eternally elusive, and therefore is nothing but a dream.

Some know truth but can’t play the game. Others take part in it but as oblivious pawns. Bridges are needed, and that’s where I come in.

I’ve used the writing of my first book, Zinfaendel: The Mystic’s Path of Self-Knowledge, to synthesize my thoughts and experiences, which I’m now devoted to sharing. At this point, I consider both playfulness and doubt as profoundly spiritual states. Through their embodiment, I thus aim to instil within my beloved human family, both a passion and a curiosity for this big weird game we call Life.