News Update

Information sessions (required; no charge) for the upcoming FALL 8-week MBSM programs will be scheduled for August 2017. Please contact us to register for them.

Programs

Mindfulness Based Symptom Management for Pain & Chronic Illness (M4PCI) is scheduled for the Fall.

Mindfulness Based Symptom Management (M4CORE) for stress, depression, anxiety begins September 2017 (two programs, registration permitting), 6-8PM.

Mindfulness Based Symptom Management OSI (M4OSI) is a mindfulness program for active service military, Veterans, and First Responders with an Operational Stress Injury (OSI). Please Contact us for more information. 

Read more about the M4 courses here.

Viewpoint Psychotherapy offers mindfulness workshops

Siobhan Nearey, Registered Psychotherapist and OMC-trained mindfulness teacher, has opened her private practice! Please visit Viewpoint Psychotherapy for information on the terrific workshops she will be offering.

 

DE-STRESS YOUR SPRING

Three one-hour talks with Siobhan Nearey, Registered Psychotherapist, about reducing your stress and putting the spring back into your step!

Special rate: All three talks for $60. Please email talks@vpt123.ca for discount code.

Please subscribe to our newsletter for more information on events.

So, What’s the Deal with Mindfulness?        Tues, Apr 4, 2017 @ 7:00 pm,  cost: $25               Buy Tickets

Wondering what’s up with mindfulness? Research indicates that it benefits our physical and mental well-being. But isn’t that just one more thing to squeeze into our busy lives?

Coping with Job Stress                                     Wed, Apr 12, 2017 @ 7:00 pm,  cost: $25                Buy Tickets

Are you stressed at work? Isn’t everyone? There’s no magic wand to change our workplaces into supportive and empowering spaces. So, how can you get your life back when work is running you down?

Taking Care of Yourself in a Busy World      Thu, Apr 20, 2017 @ 7:00 pm,  cost: $25             Buy Tickets

Do you find yourself taking care of others, but neglecting your own needs? Do you criticize yourself because you can’t get everything done? Come and learn some self-compassion and self-care techniques that will help you take care of you.

Location: 2487 Kaladar Ave, room 215 (sorry, no elevator)

Call or text: 613-700-4969     Email: talks@vpt123.ca

Special rate: All three talks for $60

Book Review: Make peace with your mind by Mark Coleman

Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist has gifted us a powerful set of directions that liberate from that most insidious part of ourselves: the inner critic. In Make Peace with Your Mind (New World Library), the inner critic is revealed in its history, purpose and misguided intentions and Coleman makes it completely accessible. So let me start with what I usually reserve for the last line:

Get this book.
Devour it.
Don’t apologize for stopping conversations, meals or entire relationships in order to consult it – mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-kiss.

About the book

Make Peace with Your Mind is set up to encourage practice. Don’t be daunted by the thirty-one chapters. I timed them and each took about 15-20 mins to read. But I was impatient to get to the practice section so take at least 30 mins to savour the words. Then spend a goodly time with the practices. Some are written reflections, some require wandering out into your world. Either way, these are crucial. As I often say in the mindfulness groups I run: Practice is who you become. It may as well be someone you want to be.

Reading Coleman’s perceptive insights into the inner critic – who it really is, how it came to be, how it is embedded in our mind and body – is like turning towards an aspect of ourselves with which we are deeply intimate yet see through blurred eyes. He begins with a big sky view inviting us to see the breadth and depth of this inner process in a way that is, at the same time, immense and safe. After sketching out “The Big Picture” (the first section), he dives into the intricate nature of the inner critic: Self-judgment and How to Work with the Critic. Then ironically, it gets tough: Love and Compassion for ourselves. How can we learn to love ourselves after years and years of being gaslit into no longer trusting our experience of who we truly are. But it’s only when we can connect with ourselves without the filters of fear and anxiety that we can also reach out to others and offer them the same safety through love. Coleman walks us through these stages of understanding and steps to freedom with kind attention and a gentle nudge.

Who’s afraid of the inner critic?

One of the first practices in this book invites us to take a few moments observing people (while sitting in a public place) and noticing all their faults. Then we are asked to notice what we feel internally. Then we observe people and look for their goodness and again, notice what we feel. It doesn’t take a stretch to see that the former leaves us feeling rather negative and the latter feeling good. Coleman points out that this latter feeling is really where he – and any of us – would prefer to be. Subtly, he also frames it as a choice we have – and, I would add one we made routinely without awareness.

Becoming aware of our inner voice that is harsh and critical can be a challenging and somewhat scary journey. After all, that process of singling out missteps, mistakes and misdemeanors is one way we believe we stay honest and can be motivated to try, try harder, try hardest of everyone. It’s an age-old training, likely hard-wired as a survival strategy, keeping us in social herds and adhering to their rules. Of course, over time, these self-judgments can become derogatory commentaries that run like a 24-hour transmission from some personal hell radio. But it’s all we know.

The practices invite us to hack these sound waves. First and what I really resonated with in this book, is that we are all the same in having a mantra of self-deprecation (he calls it the “not enough” mantra) and we are all unique in what that is in its specifics. Mine is the “I never try hard enough.” That inevitably gets me on the train to “the Rideau Street Bridge where I’ll be homeless, living in a cardboard box!”

Coleman populates his book with examples offered by people he’s trained or treated. My favourite is the image offered by someone who spoke of having an entire boardroom in her head. Being intensely averse to sitting on boards, I can see that my own boardroom is crowded with nay-sayers, scowlers, nit-pickers and ghostly figures of failures past. After reading this section, I decided to dissolve this board of mis-directors and turn the room into a meditation space!

Finally, my favourite quote in the book:

(T)he fact that something is true does not justify the critic’s using it as ammunition to undermine our self-worth.

It complements Hafiz.

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.”

About the author

Mark Coleman is a mindfulness and meditation teacher in the Insight tradition. He teaches at Spirit Rock in California and, with Martin Aylward, offers a year-long program that trains mindfulness teachers. He is an executive coach and a master teacher for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute developed by Google. His previous book, Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in nature as a path of self-discovery, brings the practice of mindfulness into nature.

5 Essentials to Help Your Mindfulness Practice

At the start of our Mindfulness Based Symptom Management (MBSM) program, I ask the participants what they think mindfulness is. They usually say some version of “Being in the Now” or “The Present Moment”.  I ask again at the end of the eight weeks and typically they say, “It’s being aware” or “It’s knowing that everything changes – and that’s ok” or “It’s seeing what’s going on and letting it teach you.”

An academic, scholarly definition of mindfulness is a practice of attention that makes us more aware of our inner and outer experiences so that we can make wise choices and learn from the results. That may seem a lot to try to fit into two hours a week for eight weeks but somehow it does get across. Mindfulness is a practice of developing a discerning mind. And while it sounds simple, it isn’t easy.

Here are five essentials about mindfulness you may find helpful in your practice.

You’re always practicing something; it may as well be something healthy. There’s no getting around this; your brain is constantly taking information in from your inner and outer contact with the environment. When you get angry at every car that cuts you off on the highway, you’re pulling together an inner and outer set of experiences that ends with a reaction. That pattern, reinforced everyday, becomes your go-to action when you feel unfairly treated or threatened. How about building a different set of endpoint responses to those triggers?


The mind is shameless. Beginning practitioners get really upset when they first sit down and try to still the mind. It gets quite overwhelming: breathe, pay attention to the breath, come back when you wander, treat thoughts like clouds. That’s a lot of doing for a non-doing practice. It helps to see that the nature of the mind is to be active. And that it’s quite indiscriminate in where it lands or flits to next. The difficulty is not that the mind is like a drunk monkey that’s been stung by a bee. It’s that we get upset at that poor monkey and try to wrestle it to the ground. Like the nursery rhyme says: Leave it alone and it will come home.

 

 It’s all about the BEST – that’s Body-Emotions-Sensations-Thinking. In other words, it’s not just about thoughts. We tend to give our thinking brain a place of honour and trust every thought we have. Sometimes you may hear “Thoughts are not facts” as a way of unhooking from that belief in the supremacy of cognitions. In fact, the body takes the lead in how we become aware of an experience. Sensations inform the brain. Our past experiences with clusters of sensations provide us with a language that we call emotions. Thinking is a latecomer to the scene, trying to make some sense out of the clusters, looking for causes that explain their presence. Essentially, it’s easier to calm the body than to talk yourself out of a feeling you’re caught in (try yelling at someone to calm down). Practice paying attention to your body, listen closely to see if you can catch the early signals of an arising sensation that builds to a label (emotion).  Use the breath to soothe the sensation in the body.


Give up hope. That sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? Hope keeps us going so why give it up? Sometimes, as T.S. Elliot wrote, we “hope for the wrong thing.” Because we suffer, we want to stop suffering.  But when we think in this all-or-nothing way, we’re setting up expectations that can only disappoint us. So, it’s not that we should be pessimistic or inhabit an Eeyore mind. It’s about taking small steps and assessing how it’s working. Don’t expect to sit rock-solid still; that’s not the point anyway. See what minimal shift is necessary to bring some ease or relief. Stay with just this breath; don’t worry about the remaining thousand to get done before the meditation ends. Take just this step, eat just this mouthful, stay just here.

 

Be kind and cultivate skillful laziness. It’s good investment when you’re kind to yourself. The biggest fear is that if we cut ourselves some slack, we will become lazy, useless lumps on the sofa. Mindfulness is really skillfully being lazy. When we practice, we’re attending to the right and minimum dose required to see a change. It’s called a Just Noticeable Difference or JND. What’s the least intervention needed to see a shift in mood, behaviour, thinking pattern? Now listen to your inner critic. It’s likely going on a rant about how risky this laziness thing is! How are you ever going to get things done, get ahead, be successful? The inner critic is thinking in extreme terms: you must always be going at full tilt and success must come now. Skillful laziness is really skillful investment of our resources for the best outcome. What is possible in this moment, given these conditions?

 

Bonus essential 

Mindfulness is a No Fail Zone. Even when you think you aren’t practising, you are –

because you noticed you aren’t.

5 Essentials JPEG version for download

Book Review: Siddhartha’s Brain by James Kingsland

sid-brainSiddhartha’s Brain, written by science journalist James Kingsland, opens with what would be a somewhat shocking quote from Ajahn Amaro, a Buddhist monastic in the UK.

We are all mentally ill.

While this should not quite raise the eyebrows of mental health professionals, it is a rather bald (apologies to Ajahn Amaro!) statement to make in public. However, it does set the tone of Kingsland’s book which takes, by turns, an unflinching look at the state of the mindfulness industry today and the roots of its conception in Buddhist teachings. Kingsland presents his work imaginatively. Using the development of the Buddha, Siddhartha, from pampered and protected prince to a teacher of the Eightfold Path to liberation from suffering, he weaves what we know of Siddhartha’s quest and practice into what we know of the results of our current pursuit of liberation through mindfulness. And, it begins with acknowledging that we are all mentally ill.

In this insightful book interlacing the current findings of brain function, mental states, and mental health with the teachings of Buddhist psychology, Kingsland is a craftsman in making neuroscience accessible and presenting it through the lens of contemplative practices. Using the story of Siddhartha Gautama’s own journey to enlightenment, he draws a rich landscape of the merging of Eastern contemplative practice, Western psychology, and contemporary mindfulness.

As a device to introduce us to the roots of contemporary mindfulness and place the history and progress of the Western approach to knowing the mind in that historical context, Kingsland has done a much better job than most writers. Siddhartha’s Brain doesn’t fall into a polemic of modern science or a contemplative holier-than-thou pit; that is refreshing. The writing is crisp and clear, quiet and confident. It invites examination of concepts not by attempting to convince but by introducing perspectives that are easily testable by the reader. Of course, that is in essence the basic teaching of the Buddha: ehi passiko – come and see (for yourself).

Kingsland makes the important point – as have many Buddhist teachers – that one does not have to be Buddhist to meditate or benefit from the practice. In fact, one of the enjoyable aspects of Siddhartha’s Brain is a broader bandwidth than just a Buddhist social and political transmission of wisdom. Kingsland draws from evolution science, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy, weaving them together  with ease. Most poignant for me was his examination of the early beginnings of meditation through the stories of Herbert Benson and the Transcendental Meditation practitioners of Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Benson’s downfall in the community of psychology is a sad part of our collective history and Kingsland’s insight into Benson’s work – that the foundation of all meditation is the evocation of the relaxation response – is a validation of Benson’s valuable work.

I particularly recommend Chapters Three and Four for their lucid descriptions of the roots (The Cloud of Unknowing) and rationale (The Second Dart) for meditation and practice (and a more universal presentation than just a Buddhist one). It’s a bit more of a slog in Chapter Five (The Man Who Disappeared) only because the idea of a “self” that is not fixed in any one definition or role is still alien to our Western senses. Even in psychology today the discussion of identity is a confounding mess with terms like self-esteem, self-image, existential self, categorical self – all of which rests on a concept of a separate(d), individuated entity. Chapter Five will challenge your notions of these variegated and rarefied selves but also introduce you to the social neuroscience that actually supports the observation that there is no fixed unity called a “Self”. As Kingsland puts it:

Thus, from moment to moment, each of us is no more than a unique blend of spices, a homemade garam masala. (p. 101)

My favourite part of the book is the running theme of the Default Mode Network (DMN), a concept gaining much traction in the neuroscience of mindfulness to explain the fluid state of connection/disconnection that can lead to rumination as well as creativity. Kingsland’s description of how the DMN plays a role as our “Self app” that “(posts) repetitive messages of a personal nature on the screen” is a brilliant image of what happens when we wander down those “dark neighbourhoods” noted by the writer Anne Lamott as places she “never goes alone”.

Kingsland continues in Chapter Ten (Wonderful and Marvelous):

The marvel is that we can learn to control at will the signals that determine which track we take at any particular moment. By honing our powers of attention and emotion regulation through mindfulness practice, we can, if we wish, restrict the time we spend in self-focused, narrative mode of thinking that can lead to anxiety and depression. We can choose to take the scenic route, favouring a more experiential mode of being in which we are not held captive by our thoughts but rather treat them as transient mental events. (p. 235)

Now, I do have two quibbles – not with the book itself but the information offered from two sources. First, (p. 249) when inquiring into the frequently made claim that meditation can trigger unstable mind states, researcher Britta Hölzel is quoted as saying (somewhat flat-footedly) that “I (Hölzel) have never seen any major problems like that in our classes.” This is a common statement I hear from researchers and teachers of various mindfulness-based programs, which while true evades the question itself. In fact, we have, at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic, had many applicants to our program who want to learn mindfulness and are fearful because previous experiences have resulted in intense mental distress, including dissociation, depersonalization, and profound anxiety. Whereas it is quite likely that in Hölzel’s experience there have not been such occurrences, it does not therefore mean this is not an area to be sensitive about as clinicians and to investigate further as researchers. Ottawa psychologist Nicola Wright and colleagues have written about adapting mindfulness for vulnerable populations and it does behoove us to acknowledge this as a necessary direction for future research and definitely for caution.

Second, Ajhan Amaro, who seems to have been a delightful guide and teacher for Kingsland, wrote an important response to our target article in Mindfulness (journal). He calls for a need to include ethics explicitly as a core component of mindfulness programs. I do respect the stance taken by MBSR developers that the cultivation of ethical action is inherent in its programming (see discussion on p. 269 of Siddhartha’s Brain). However, a statement of presumed fact is not a substantiated fact nor does it address whether the outcome is in the desired direction. Given that no therapeutic intervention is values-neutral, the examination of how mindfulness can become weaponized (see my earlier blog post) is important. After all, we are collectively responsible to examine if mindfulness training does give rise to skillful action and ultimately compassion for ourselves and all others.

Kingsland has done well in this book to translate complex concepts into accessible knowledge and convey ancient wisdom with a gentle, inviting voice. If you are at all fascinated by how and why our brains and being are the way they are, read this book. If you are curious about how meditation and mindfulness practices can help with the everyday struggles of just being human, read this book.

Interested in working for a mindfulness clinic? We’re looking!

omc logo

Interested in working in a mindful environment?

Want to learn more about mindfulness and support those who do?

Curious, open-minded, creative?

We’re looking for someone who can be supportive, compassionate, and disciplined in their work with others.

 

RECEPTIONIST/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

The Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic (OMC) & Sea Glass Psychological Services (SGPS) are two aspects mental health services provided through a mindfulness-based treatment centre and the private practices of Drs. Lynette Monteiro and Frank Musten, Psychologists, and clinical associates. The group of professionals practising together under the umbrella of the OMC forms a cooperative delivering mental health services through mindfulness-based programs. The OMC conducts at least fifteen 8-week mindfulness programs annually along with retreats and workshops. Sea Glass PS is comprised of the private practice psychological services of Drs. Frank Musten and Lynette Monteiro, offering individual psychotherapy and personnel selection services for various security organizations.

Administrative services, while primarily dedicated to the activities of the OMC, occasionally involves some aspects of the SGPS such as scoring tests or setting up for assessments. This is a contract position based on an hourly rate for 15 hours per week with employee benefits (CPP, EI). There is a six month probation period to ensure a good fit with the organization.

Job description for Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

The incumbent will be responsible for the following for the OMC

  • Read and respond to emails inquiring about the MBSM & MSC programs
  • Setting up sign up through Eventbrite for information sessions and monitoring the flow of registrants
  • Respond to phone calls about the programs offered as above
  • Photocopying materials as required for the clinic
  • On line ordering of materials (printing of handouts by Staples) for programs
  • Preparing receipts for participants in courses or events
  • Data entry of course and event evaluations
  • General filing duties (client files and expense receipts) including creating labels for file folders
  • Attend events to support registration desk (some may be during evenings and/or weekends)

The incumbent will be responsible for the following for SGPS

  • Forwarding phone calls and emails to psychologists
  • Scanning & scoring test forms when necessary
  • Faxing materials requested by external agencies
  • General filing duties

All listed duties are open to change based on the growing needs of the OMC and/or SPGS.

 

Applicant Attributes

Applicants should have an interest in mindfulness and open to working in an environment that fosters a mindful approach to interactions. They should have experience and be comfortable working with current technology. Experience with Word, Excel, templates, online set up of event registration, email protocols, cloud-based data storage and retrieval, and standard filing.

The applicant we hope to work with will be sensitive to the population we serve, attending to their needs with patience and kindness. They will also be assertive in expressing their own needs, meeting the needs of those who seek information about the organizations’ services and with professionals who work in the organization. Additional attributes we seek are as follows:

  • Able to work in a quiet atmosphere with sensitivity to mental health issues
  • Excellent email (grammatical, tone and phrasing) and phone (polite, patient, straightforward) skills
  • Conscientious and reliable in carrying out the tasks as outlined above
  • Attentive to routine tasks
  • Good organization skills with the ability to stay focussed
  • Open to evolving ways of doing things
  • Creative and willing to take on challenges
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Able to recover well from typical missteps
  • Good stress awareness and coping skills

This position is best-suited for someone with matured interpersonal skills, seeking part-time employment, is retired or semi-retired, and with a flexible availability for occasional evening or weekend duties.

If you believe you have these attributes and enjoy working in a dynamic and encouraging setting, please forward you resume to our address below or via email (mindful [at] ottawamindfulnessclinic.com – insert @ for [a]) with the subject header “ADMIN APPLICATION”. Cover letter should include direct experience with software and programs mentioned in the above job description and a statement of expected salary range.

Please note that due to the volume of calls we receive regarding the clinic programs, we cannot respond to phone inquiries about this position. You may email us or submit your resume with cover letter.

Mail application to: Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic, 595 Montreal Road, Suite 301, Ottawa ON K1K 4L2

Download PDF version here.

Are you weaponizing your mindfulness skills?

Kwan Yin1Allan faithfully attended each class of the Mindfulness-based Stress Management program we offer at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. He shared openly about his anxiety and insecurity as a father to three children and a son caring for ill parents. The heart of his distress though was in his relationship with Debra, his partner of 15 years; their relationship had devolved into a series of sniping comments and hurtful neglect. He wanted so much to restore the intimacy and love they had once shared. He missed how it sustained him through his demanding job and personal illness. He knew she did too; after all they seemed to do a lot of arguing over who was more unhappy in the marriage. Continue reading

Into the Magic Shop by Dr. James Doty MD: the magic in mindfulness and compassion

51cjzFQElSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Into the Magic Shop by Dr. James Doty, founder and director of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), captivates from the first page and continues at an unrelenting pace through Doty’s life, beginning with a disadvantaged childhood to his current work as a leader in the field of compassion training. The book opens with a searing description of brain surgery he conducted on a 4-year-old, intense not because of any tired trope about blood and gore but in how it stands as a practice of the heart. This is Doty several years away from the pivotal point in his life: a 12-year-old discovering from a loving presence the mind’s ability to transform itself.

Continue reading