News Update

 HAVE A WONDERFUL SUMMER!

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Information sessions for our September-October courses will be starting soon. Read about the M4 courses here. To receive information about the schedule for the information sessions, click here to send us your contact information.

If you are a healthcare professional and interested in entering our Professional Training Path in mindfulness skills, read about it here.

 

Credible Teachers of Mindfulness: How can you know?

Mindfulness-Based programs have become the go-to treatment around the world and their popularity has made treatment more accessible in many ways. Despite the popularity or maybe because of it, several articles have argued against mindfulness because it  (1) seems to be the fix-it for many ills, (2) doesn’t stay true to its Buddhist roots and (3) understates its “dark side”. There is concern that mindfulness therapies and programs are often sold as much better than the traditional methods of treating depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. Such concerns were supported when a recent study showed that statistically mindfulness-based therapies (MBTs) have a moderate effect when studied in comparison with wait-list controls and when participants are compared to their pre-post scores. More than that, MBTs are not better than traditional cognitive behavioural therapy or pharmacological treatments. The deepest concern however relates to the qualifications of those who teach mindfulness as more and more programs are offered by individuals and groups with little or no training in mindfulness concepts and approaches.

Elisha Goldstein, writing for the magazine Mindfulness, re-stated some of these issues that constitute a “mindfulness backlash” in his recent blog post which claimed that there is little evidence for a backlash. What stands out in his discussion about the issues facing programs that offer mindfulness is the emphasis on trusting that “skilled mindfulness teachers” will neither over-sell the treatment scope and that “credible teachers” will walk participants through their misunderstanding of what is mindfulness. Goldstein goes on to say – even more emphatically – that it is important to seek out teachers who are well-trained. He adds a link to finding qualified teachers via the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, the birthplace of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

What is left unsaid however is that the focus of all discussions and debates of mindfulness programs are anchored in the original one, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This particular program was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and the acronym has taken on an iconic status much like the terms Xerox or Kleenex. When most professionals discuss mindfulness programs they are typically referring to MBSR unless it is clear from the outset that the topic is related to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). This assumption leads to confusion because MBSR, while being the original, is not the only mindfulness treatment program.

Does it matter? Absolutely. While most programs have a similar format (8-10 weeks, groups, meditation and yoga, etc.), significant aspects of the program will differ. Even more than that, the type of training and confirmation of skills of the teacher will differ considerably. And since Goldstein makes a very good point that we need to find credible teachers, it is important to note that not all qualified mindfulness teachers will have been trained in MBSR itself.

Recently, the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts (CFM-UMass; the home base for MBSR and training of MBSR teachers) announced a format of teacher training that includes training those who will train teachers. While it’s perfectly understandable that CFM-UMass has taken a firm stand in cultivating MBSR teachers, this move is not without its detractors. However, it will filter those who have been teaching without full training at CFM-UMass and passing their programs off as MBSR. Nevertheless, this raises a difficult issue for those who have been trained in approaches that are not MBSR but which are legitimate approaches; the cachet of the term MBSR now takes on a more serious tone because many identify it as THE treatment program and may be confused by others.

That being the case, it is important to know that there are a number of other training centres that train teachers for mindfulness programs.

The M4 Program, Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. The M4 (includes Mindfulness-Based Symptom Management; MBSM) training is in-depth and takes as long as a year. It requires applicants to have a clear rationale for wanting the training and expects a high level of participation. They attend the 8-week program as participants and do twice the expected formal and informal practices. They must attend a silent retreat in the year of their training. Current research and topics in mindfulness treatments are researched especially in their area of interest of specialization. They attend a training in the specifics of the delivering the program and in cultivating teacher qualities. Before teaching the M4 potential teachers must teach under supervision (qualification level) and then teach for 3 sessions with senior teachers in the clinic for Certification.

MBSR, University of Massachusetts, Center for Mindfulness. This is the original MBSR program and the training is extensive.

MBCT, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies. The training in MBCT is offered through various forms of study and teacher development. This program is supported by the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (University of Toronto) which offers a certificate in MBCT.

MiCBT, Mindfulness integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. An approach to mindfulness that weaves together Western psychology with Eastern principles of mindfulness. Training is comprehensive and a graduate diploma is offered for teachers.

Applied Mindfulness Meditation, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. This program offers what is likely one of the most extensive trainings in mindfulness, meditation, and all its attendant components.

Training in the UK. This website lists various programs that train mindfulness teachers, including MBCT teachers. Rebecca Crane and her colleagues at Bangor University have also developed a teaching assessment protocol for the cultivation of mindfulness teachers which is a gold standard for any teacher who is dedicated to cultivating their skills.

Mindful Self-Compassion, Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. Developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff, Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) has developed a following in the last year as the teacher training becomes more available globally.

UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute. For training in various mindfulness-based programs such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Mindful Eating, etc.

Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy offers a certificate program in mindfulness and psychotherapy. The founding practitioners include Paul Fulton, Christopher Germer, Ronald Siegel, Trudy Goodman – all well-regarded in the field of meditation and clinical psychology.

If you intend to take a mindfulness program, ask the sticky questions. It’s your health and your wellbeing. Be informed. The program may not be MBSR. And it may be something valid and well-supported in its own right.

 

2014 Teacher Training Graduates

Graduates of M4 Teacher Training - Foundational Level

Graduates of M4 Teacher Training – Foundational Level

 

Please welcome our new graduates of the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic M4 Program Teacher Training (Level I – Foundations of Mindfulness).

It was an amazing weekend filled with flooded out rental rooms and air conditioners that struggled with the heat! This weekend retreat capped the participants hard work that, in some cases, took a year of study and practice. These graduates have completed the 8-week M4 program, researched and reviewed the current issues in mindfulness treatments, attended silent retreats, and developed practice in the program fundamentals of a mindfulness program. In this retreat, they will have practiced the essentials of a mindfulness program including incorporating ethics into a mindfulness curriculum.

A deep bow of gratitude to our senior teachers (Level II – Certified) who helped with the training.

 

Further Comments on Happiness

Lynette Monteiro:

A brilliant examination of the way we become caught in the false promises of the Happiness Industry. Also read the previous post, a review of Sarah Ahmed book, The Promise of Happiness.

Originally posted on Smiling Buddha Cabaret:

Drawing in part on some of the points made in Sara Ahmed’s book The Promise of Happiness, which I just reviewed in the last post, as well as current events there are a few more points about the topic of happiness I wish to touch upon.

Self-help books are full of advice about attaining “happiness” but many of them don’t define what they mean by “happiness”.

What does “happiness” even mean in common parlance? Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen answers. Words like blissful, relaxed, stress-free, joyful, carefree, comfortable, ecstatic and peaceful would possibly be used. The problem with these is they don’t really refer to anything. They have no relation to one’s context. They are states of being that seem to be achievable in isolation or that is the way they come across in these books and other media.

The thing is we don’t live…

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Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa Officially Proclaimed

Lynette Monteiro:

We are honoured to have been invited to be part of this historic moment in MENtal Health progress in Canada. The first ever Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day proclaimed in Ottawa and actioned by Jean-Francois Claude, a graduate of the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic’s M4 program. Thank you, J.F. and may this initiative grow into a nation-wide endeavour!

Originally posted on The Men's Depression Education Network (Men's D.E.N.):

Mayor Jim Watson (r) and Orléans Ward City Councillor Bob Monette (l) present TheMensDEN.ca founder, Jean-François Claude, with the official Proclamation marking June 10, 2014 as Men's Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa. PHOTO: Benjamin Leikin, Ottawa Public Health.

Mayor Jim Watson (r) and Orléans Ward City Councillor Bob Monette (l) present TheMensDEN.ca founder, Jean-François Claude, with the official Proclamation marking June 10, 2014 as Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa. PHOTO: Benjamin Leikin, Ottawa Public Health.

Ottawa ON – The first of what will hopefully be an annual Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa was held on Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

The day kicked off with a special presentation ceremony in Mayor Jim Watson’s Office at Ottawa City Hall, where The Men’s D.E.N. founder, Jean-François Claude, received a framed, signed copy of the official City of Ottawa Proclamation from the Mayor and City Councillor Bob Monette.

Representatives from The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic, Partners for Mental Health, the Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre and Ottawa Public Health were also in attendance.

The day was capped off with Breaking Down…

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Building Safeness: How to get intimate with our inner critic

chive heart

We all want to feel safe. It’s important. When we feel safe, we feel confident and more willingly open ourselves to new experiences. In fact, feeling safe leads to the willingness to take risks – to risk being known, being seen, loving and feeling loved. As we encounter the world in all its various ways of showing us what being safe means, we learn to open and close our hearts (and minds) when we feel respected or rejected. Paul Gilbert¹, the developer of Compassion Focused Therapy, uses the term “safeness” to describe the experience of being safe. It’s different from “safety” or “safety-seeking” which tend to be what we do when we are engaged in the threat evaluation/response processes.

There are many things in our environment that we have learned are safe and many we have learned are unsafe. Hot stoves, fast-moving traffic, dark alleys and the like are easy to discern in terms of their safety. Emotion-cued environments are harder to figure out. Our childhood experiences are a fruitful ground where we learn many of our lessons about safeness and safety. Angry voices, certain words, patterns of relationships and other features of interpersonal relationships can become cues for safeness. We typically know the degree of safeness from the language and tone of the person speaking to or interacting with us. Safeness with respect to our inner dialogue is no different from our external experience.

Most people, when asked about their inner voice, smile sheepishly and confess it’s not a pleasant one. But almost immediately, they will begin to defend their not-so-silent partner. “It’s how I motivate myself.” “I’d never know how to avoid mistakes I make if I didn’t remind myself that I can screw up.” While all this is true, the sad fact is, our inner critical voice is often what keeps us from engaging with life. More than that, the inner critic leaves us feeling threatened rather than safe.

Like all relationships, our relationship with our inner critic is complicated. We suspect it’s trying to help but it sure doesn’t feel like it at times. We’d like to turn it off but we’re afraid without it we’d become a lazy lump on the couch. We want it gone forever but it’s a hard-wired part of who we are. We’d like to make peace with it but we’re not ready for that inner group hug. We think it just wants us to be careful and wise but it sounds like it’s telling us can’t do anything right, ever! And to add insult to injury, no one knows us better than that inner critic. It knows all the buttons to push to get us to start or stop. It knows our vulnerabilities and strengths, often over-emphasizing the former and diminishing the latter. It is like being inseparable from an unruly, impolite friend who has really good intentions to keep us safe but can’t create safeness. It is intimate with every aspect of who we are and that also makes it primed for self-compassion²‚³.

However, befriending a person like that is a challenge at the best of times; befriending ourselves in the worst of our times can be daunting. That’s why we need to take slow, quiet steps towards engaging with the inner critic.

Step 1. Mindfulness. It’s hard to be in the presence of harshness, so mindfulness practice helps us stay grounded and aware when the inner critic begins its monologue of dire warnings. Mindfulness of our emotions helps us stay connected with the impact of the words. It also tells us when we’ve had enough and need to get off that nasty train of thoughts.

Step 2. Acknowledge we heard its message. This sounds strange because it may feel like we’re agreeing with it. Notice we are saying, “I hear you,” and not “You’re right.” Everyone has a perspective and the point of view of the inner critic is just one perspective on our life. As we become more comfortable with acknowledging its voice, we can try to acknowledge its attempt to help. Eventually with practice, we may get to say “Thanks for alerting me. I’ve got this!” Remember we can’t fight the inner critic with brute strength; we have to soften around it.

Step 3. Strong back, soft front: respect the partnership. The inner critic is really our attempt at feeling solid in our life; that’s the strong back. We have opinions, ideas, feelings and a reality that is meaningful. We are also of a softer nature that is attentive and giving, accommodating and caring. We feel our vulnerability and openness in relationships. The balance between the strong back and soft front helps us be flexible and available emotionally.

Meditation practices you can try:

1. Lovingkindness and compassion meditations help us develop less fear of being wounded. The inner critic tries to toughen us up against external criticisms and that subtly makes these criticisms seem more threatening than they are and the wounds deeper than they might be.

2. Giving and receiving compassion meditations can help to create space and calm between ourselves and our inner critic. Although the meditations are intended to give compassion to another person in our life who needs it, we could see the inner critic as an aspect of ourselves that needs compassion too.

3. Compassion Breaks and “Soften-Soothe-Allow” meditations help to develop presence in the face of the monologue we heard internally.

———–

With notes from Glynn, Brittany, Mindful Self-Compassion 8-week program, Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic

¹Gilbert, Paul (2009). The Compassionate Mind: A new approach to life’s challenges. New Harbinger Publications: CA

²Germer, Christopher (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion:Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press: NY

³Neff, Kristin (2011). Self-Compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. William Morrow: NY

 

A Complaint-Free World: The deepest practice of compassion

Stop complaining? No way. It’s how we vent, share our pain, give voice to injustices! But is it?

Recently, a dear colleague and friend got me into this practice of being complaint-free. It’s a program started by Will Bowen who was encouraging his congregation to develop a new habit. It takes 21-days to form a new habit. (Well, for the most diligent among us, anyway!) So, for 21-days can you commit to not complaining? Bowen describes complaining this way:

To “Complain” is defined as “to express pain, grief, or discontent.” Surely, it makes sense to express pain, grief or discontent occasionally but most people do so constantly. In so doing, they are talking and thinking about what they do not want in their life and, thereby, attracting more pain, grief and discontent. Instead, think and talk about what you are grateful for. Talk about what you DO want and not what you DON’T want.

This is a great description of our tendency to fall into the trap of unintentionally reinforcing a bad habit. Our actual intention is rooted in being self-compassionate. When we feel pain, it makes sense to seek out support, get advice, ask for a reality check. It is part of what we can do to care for our distress in a healthy way. Rather than isolating ourselves, we seek out others who can validate a common experience of pain. It also helps us to bring a tender awareness to our pain, a way of being mindful of it. When we turn towards our pain rather than away from it, we reduce our reactivity and avoidance of its experience. We can take experiential responsibility for it. In other words, it’s not something that is being done to us but rather something we feel within us that is not only valid but also within our capacity to manage. As we learn to approach our pain, we cultivate a kindness in our attention of it, a willingness to attend to it in a wise and healthy way.

In reality, what actually happens? Our sharing and seeking out of relief can become a way of resisting that pain. We seek out justification for its injustice, its unfairness, its insolence in preventing us from getting what we want. We complain. This is a form of resisting what is happening, of looking away by creating stories about the pain. And by doing so we transform our pain into suffering.  A popular expression of this process is to see pain and suffering as this equation:

Suffering = pain X resistance

Suffering is the way in which we meet our pain. Out tendency is to push it away, cling to what was (pleasant), or to be misled in our minds about what is really happening.

Sometimes it’s hard to dive into a mindfulness or self-compassion practice because the chatter in our head is so loud and relentless. Taking this step of slowing down the rate of complaints makes it a bit more manageable. It restores the energy we spend dispensing judgment on ourselves and of others.

Give it a try!

 

On the origins of my journey to recovery…

Lynette Monteiro:

A powerful story of meeting depression with openness and courage.

Originally posted on The Men's Depression Education Network (Men's D.E.N.):

(Originally published in April 2013 at MensDepression.org.)Jean-François Claude, Founder, The Men's D.E.N.

In the late Spring of 2012, I went to see my General Practitioner (GP) after a nine-year hiatus. I was physically healthy throughout my thirties, and simply did not see a need for any kind of medical check-up.

What finally prompted me to make the call, and virtually beg my doctor’s office to take me back as a patient, was self-diagnosed professional burnout. I’d been burning the candle at both ends for so long, that I’d finally hit a wall after a string of 60 to 70 hour work weeks.  The BlackBerry was, for years, a permanent fixture in my hand, and unplugging, even for just a few hours, was to my mind not even a remote possibility and simply unfathomable.

Imagine my state of shock when my GP promptly informed me that “burnout” was not a medical condition and that in…

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