We are 10 Years Old!

Ten years ago, we (Frank Musten & Lynette Monteiro) were inspired by the development of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (see Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A new approach to preventing relapse by Zindel Segal, J. Mark Williams & John Teasdale; Guilford Press) and, after a brief correspondence with Dr. Segal, launched the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. It was a scary venture despite our experience as therapists and use of meditation in individual sessions as an adjunct to progressive muscular relaxation. We also were refining our experiences in the Buddhist community, learning more and more about the foundations of mindfulness, in particular the role of ethics in guiding lifestyle changes. The program took shape as a process of understanding the nature of “symptoms” which reflected our clinical training and interest in finding a way view psychological difficulties such as depression and anxiety as an interaction between internal and external sensation experiences.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe concepts of mindfulness were still new and not always welcomed by the medical and psychological communities then. So much has changed since! The first class started in May 2003 and was held in a conference room at the Riverside Hospital. It was so crowded – not because of a large enrollment but because of a three-piece horseshoe conference table that took up most of the space. When we did the Body Scan, some participants had to lie down with their legs out the door or under the table itself; one even lay down on top of the table. Still, despite the random sounds of walls and doors being drilled during the Awareness of Breath meditations, transformations occurred.


The next year the OMC moved to a little space that resembled a very short bowling alley. Here, courses in Mindfulness-Based Symptom Management (MBSM) unfolded over many years. Participants joined us to learn how to breathe through physical and emotional pain, with joy and woe, in sickness and health. It was a joining ceremony in each class, meeting ourselves for the first time and embracing this stranger we had become. It didn’t matter whether we spoke of teacher or participant; change happened.

In 2008, we began the Teacher Training Program at the request of many colleagues. The focus on an Ethics-Based Mindfulness Program was appealing for many professionals who understood intuitively that healthy choices could only come out of a set of principles that directed those choices. The Five Skillful Habits, as the core of the OMC program, was innovative and participants as well as teacher trainees welcomed the idea that skillful choices cannot be left to a process of “just paying attention.”

The OMC moved into new space five years ago and now is composed of several wonderful teachers who facilitate courses in Core Mindfulness, Burnout Resilience, Self-Compassion for Health Care Professionals, Pain & Chronic Illness Management and who coach the Teacher Training Retreat. The OMC is also a Practicuum training facility for PhD candidates in Clinical Psychology at the School of Psychology, University of Ottawa.


We have been blessed with the generous involvement of the Ottawa community in creating this safe and quiet space where so much healing can happen.

Book-posterOur future is bright and exciting. Our book, Mindfulness Starts Here: An eight-week guide to skillful living, will be published soon and we look forward to continuing to offer our support and care to an ever-growing community of mindfulness practitioners.

Thank you for all you have done to make this a reality!

A Celebration of 10-years and a new site!

The OMC began in 2003 with a class of 10 people drawn from our private practice.  We met in a conference room at the Riverside Hospital that barely fit 12 of us and a three-section oak conference table.  Each evening that table had to be stacked in the corner so we could do the Body Scan lying down.  The intercom would blare and the code alarms would sound.  Somehow we managed.

Now, ten years later, we practice in a lovely meditation room set next to our offices available for daily meditations, classes, and the Alumni sessions.  On this 10th series of sessions, we are offering four classes of MBSR and look forward to this ever-increasing spiral outward into society.  We continue with our professional training in Foundational Mindfulness-Based Interventions, a course we have conducted continuously since 2005.

In celebration, we have just published our new website and will move our blog there.  Please join us.  There are still a few tweaks on the blog page that need to be done and we hope that will be completed shortly.

The inaugural post will be a review of Mark Williams’ terrific book, Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world.

Thank you to all our participants whose enthusiasm and dedication made all this possible!  May your days be light and joyful.  May your practice bring you peace and love.

New courses at the OMC

We are thrilled to announce three new courses scheduled on the OMC roster.

Managing Chronic Illness

Discovering our lives may be limited because of a chronic illness can be difficult to accept.  Emotionally and psychologically, this is a challenge in a world that values productivity and performance.  Often, we spend time trying to push past the symptoms and only make things worse for ourselves.  Sometimes, the symptoms don’t make sense because we think we’re taking good care of ourselves and yet it seems not to make any difference.  You may be trying to manage the symptoms and pushing yourself to the edge which can drain your already limited resources.  Self-care is not a bad word.  Self-care is an important skill to develop if we are to meet our symptoms in a way that does not make the experience escalate.  Understanding limits, how to set them, and why this is a form of generosity can increase our health and well-being.

Our 8-week Mindful Skills for Chronic Illness course (2012 May on Tuesdays; 10-11:30AM) can help you learn how to live well in the life you now have.

Managing Caregiver Stress

It’s not unusual that caregivers put the needs of loved ones who are ill or disabled first.  That means there is not enough self-care being practiced to stay healthy and present for the ongoing demands of being a caregiver. You may be running on empty and feel anxious that it means you don’t care.  Caring for someone means being generous with your time and resources; it is a commitment to being present to their life as it is right now.  But, generosity is only effective and sustainable if you take time to replenish yourself.

Our 6-week Mindful Skills in Caregiving course (2012 November 12 – Dec 17 Mondays; 4-6 PM) can help you learn how to balance the needs of those you care about and your own need to stay healthy and steady in the face of uncertainty.

Mindfulness for Health Care Professionals

This course will be offered in Fall 2012 as a dedicated 8-week training for Health Care Professionals who are interested in developing mindfulness-based intervention skills or consolidating mindfulness skills they learned in a short workshop or course.  The course is composed of the foundations of mindfulness, meditation and experiential practices, inquiry training, and has written requirements for completion.

Please check our Calendar for dates and times or contact the OMC Registrar for more information.

Springing into a new future

Happenings at the OMC

The OMC began its Spring programming on May 4 with two MBI classes and another on May 6 focusing on burnout resiliency training.  The classes are at capacity but we managed to squeeze in a couple of extra folks who really, really wanted to join up for a life change.  How can you say, “No!”

This semester also folds in health care professionals taking our Training Practicuum in preparation for a training retreat in July 2011.  We particularly love it when professionals of all health care traditions join us with open hearts, willing to leap into this paradigm shift model of providing care.  We are also continuing with the 8-week program at the Royal Ottawa Hospital for frontline staff.  And while this last course is not a training to deliver an MBI program, we feel it has a huge impact on the community because we see changes in the way most health care professionals approach their patients after deepening their practice of self-care.

This semester also marks our third cycle of program assessment through various questionnaires which examine the effects of our approach to a Mindfulness-Based Intervention program on symptoms of depression, anxiety, burnout, self-compassion, and spirituality.  And, with the Guidebook completed, we will be test-driving it with the help of three amazing health care professionals.

Books in the review stack

Our friend Bruno Cayoun’s new book Mindfulness-integrated CBT: Principles and Practice can be found at MiCBT Institute.  From the website:

Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or MiCBT is a sophisticated integration of skills developed with mindfulness training and principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The Mindfulness-CBT integration represents the effort of authors and clinicians from multidisciplinary backgrounds whose dedication to the scientific inquiry, creativity, and openness has contributed to the current paradigm shift in psychotherapy…MORE>>>

Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion is also on the stack and we’re looking forward to bringing her wisdom to these blog pages – and of course to our practice and teachings!

All in all a fantastic way to greet the warmer and brighter days, opening up into caring for each other.

Happy Spring, Everyone!  And thank you for your continuing practice!


Compulsion is being trapped in a known psychic reality, a dead-end space.  Freedom is in the unknown.  If you believe there is an unknown everywhere in your own body, in your relationships with other people, in political institutions, in the universe, then you have maximum freedom.  If you examine old beliefs and realize they are limits to be overcome, and can also realize you don’t have to have a belief about something you don’t yet know anything about, you are free.

John C. Tilly

In a letter from a graduate of the OMC program. Thank you!

Teacher Training Graduates 2010

On November 28, 2010, eleven participants of the Professional Training Program in Mindfulness-Based Interventions completed their practicuum and training retreat.  This is an intense program requiring them to attend the 8-week course, write reflections on books and articles, design their own program or attend to the unique needs of their own mental health population, and then participate in a profoundly personal retreat that digs deep to unroot old habits of serving without real engagement.  We confront our fatigue and burnout, bear witness to our desire to serve willingly and rekindle our hope for a better health care future for all.

 It was our privilege to foster this group of professionals (chaplains, social workers, advocates, physicians, nurses, counsellors) along their path to delivering health care in a more deeply compassionate way.  Each time we give a retreat like this, we are honored to see not only a group of professionals transcend barriers of job function and titles but to experience a renewed love for our work.

Watch out, World!  The face of health care is changing – one enlightened body at a time!

Five Skillful Habits – the heart of the OMC program

We’re thrilled to share our first publication in a journal:

Five Skillful Habits: An ethics-based mindfulness intervention has been published in Counseling and Spirituality, 2010.

This is a culmination of 7 years of courses at the OMC.  We’ve always been conerned about the ways in which the idea of mindfulness can be misunderstood in a teaching process.  Our courses have been guided by the core of practice which is based in cultivating understanding so that we can direct behaviours towards a healthy outcome.  Healthy, in this case, means beneficial, useful, sustaining, and regenerating.  This article explores the need for a framework of self-directed ethical practice in mindfulness interventions and shows how to do it.

We have been helped by the courage of over 400 participants in our programs who have contributed to our understanding of how best to teach and support a practice of mindfulness.  Thank you to all of you who attended the programs, practiced diligently, and continue to support yourselves through ongoing practice!

Lynette Monteiro & Frank Musten