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!

Fostering the Mind of Poverty

Is it unethical to bring awareness to certain life circumstances?

by Lynette Monteiro & Frank Musten

The Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic Teacher Training Retreat brings out the best in our participants and this session was no different.  One of the questions that arose from our examination of the impact of the various exercises we invite a class to do was particularly thought-provoking.  This question is also central to refining our intention as teachers of and participants in any Mindfulness-Based program.

“What are the ethics of an exercise that brings attention and awareness to a lack in their life?”

We take many levels of our comfort for granted; Cheri Maples, co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Justice, calls these assumptions “unearned assets”.  By virtue of our gender, race, creed, and access to education, certain avenues that get us what we need are available to us.  By virtue of our education, we enjoy a “value-added” level of credibility when we speak to people.  Our patients grant us, in our initial meeting, a trust and assumption that we likely are competent because of the title and degree.  We don’t have to work for these “credibility assets” because they come as a package along with the labels.

The specific question asked by one of our participants was about the ethics of asking someone to do the raisin exercise if this person may be in a financially tough situation and may not have enough food at home.  On the surface this may seem like a non sequitor however it raises a deeper question about the impact of our work as mindfulness teachers.  What are the unearned assets we bring to class?  What are the assumptions we operate from that could highlight a hardship or a lack in our participants’ lives that may not be helpful?

This is a tough and complex question.  Let’s look at the intention of mindfulness.  It is to bring not only awareness but also value to our life as it is.  Our tendency is to only see what is missing, to see the glass half full.  When we start from this stance our tendency is to continue down the path of probing for lack.  “What if my participants don’t even have a glass; what if they don’t even have potable water?”  This is where, we believe, the true work of practice happens.  The issue is absolutely about the glass and the water.  And it is neither about the glass nor the water. Continue reading

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.

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!

MBCT course at Kripalu

Our dear colleagues Susan Woods and Miv London are teaching a weekend-long course in MBCT at Kripalu.  From the Kripalu site:

The Mindful Heart of Psychotherapy: An Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy


Susan Woods and Miriam London

Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW, is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in private practice. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings since she began practicing in 1989. Susan provides supervision and consultation in mindfulness-based approaches to…
Full Bio & Programs



Miriam “Miv” London, PhD, received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University in 1984 and has held a variety of clinical and academic positions. Since 1994, she has worked at the University of Vermont…
Full Bio & Programs

For mental-health professionals and students.

Mindfulness is an approach that allows both clients and therapists to relate to themselves and their lives with wisdom and equanimity. The role and usefulness of mindfulness-based interventions in clinical practice has been the subject of much research and discussion. Less understood is the role of a personal mindfulness practice for clinicians. If we take the view that mindfulness is more than a prescriptive technique, and is a valid way of life, then the potential transformative aspect of this way of being for the clinician is a significant factor in the delivery of mindfulness-based approaches.

This 2-day training for professionals interested in the interface of mindfulness in clinical treatment will be both didactic and experiential. We will discuss the structure and delivery of a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program and practice various MBCT skills with an emphasis on their application to cases of preventing depression relapse. The workshop will also include time for personal mindfulness practice.

Recommended reading Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, and John Teasdale, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Guilford Press) and Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way through Depression (Guilford Press).

CE Credits

This program is eligible for :
  • 11.5 credits for social workers (SW), $20 additional charge
  • 11.5 credits for certified counselors (NBCC), $20 additional charge
  • 11.5 credits for psychologists (PSY), $20 additional charge