News Update

We’re planning our 2016 Mindfulness based Symptom Management (MBSM) programs for stress, pain & chronic illness, and burnout symptom management. Starting January 2016, you can look forward to

  • General symptom/stress management courses every two months.
  • Specialized programs and Mindful Self-Compassion twice a year.
  • Six-week Alumni courses twice a year!

No more long waits to get into our programs!

Read about the M4 courses here. If you are a healthcare professional and interested in entering our Professional Training Path in mindfulness skills, read about it here.

Mindful Self-Compassion 5-Day Intensive, Toronto ON 2016


Christopher GermerLynette Monteiro
Toronto ON Canada

MAY 30 – JUNE 3, 2016

Join us in the exciting city of Toronto for a week of practice in Mindful Self-Compassion.

The Mindful Self-Compassion Intensive is offered as a five-day program and qualifies as the prerequisite for training as a Mindful Self-Compassion teacher. Please see the Center For Mindful Self-Compassion for more details on teacher training.

Mindful Self-Compassion is a research-supported program developed by Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff. Research studies on self-compassion show that it can lower anxiety and depression, and improve our relationships with others.

The intensive will introduce participants to the three components of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness. Participants will learn how to bring this directly into their lives through experiential exercises, meditations, movement practices, and small and large group work. Meditations will cultivate the practice of loving kindness, compassion and equanimity. Sessions will include both didactic and experiential components.

We are pleased to offered this as part of the Certificate Program in Applied Mindfulness Meditation at the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work Continuing Education.

Registration and housing details.

PTSD, Growth & Recovery: Bouncing Forward by Michaela Haas

Trauma and its sequelae are likely the greatest challenge we face as individuals who have experienced them and as healthcare professionals who try to help. For decades and generations, post-traumatic experiences have been misunderstood, mislabeled, and misrepresented. It wasn’t that long ago when I found myself in a shouting match with a military medical healthcare individual who kept screaming at me, “There is no SUCH thing as PTSD!” It wasn’t that long ago when I listened to some of my education program cohort telling me my reactions to what I felt was professorial bullying were probably “cultural” and “well, you know, not Canadian-like.”

Ironically or may be because of all that, much of my practice today involves working with individuals who are trying to come to grips with the aftermath of a traumatic event. We’ve come a very long way in understanding PTSD as a psychological and physiological process. Our treatment protocols have improved both in detection and resolution. Improved but not perfect. While we have reliable interventions that can help in the areas of physical and mental health, we still fall short in the areas of organization recognition, compassionate healing periods, and eradicating the stigma that comes with acknowledging we suffer with PTSD.

In Michaela Haas’ new book, Bouncing Forward: Transforming bad breaks into breakthroughs, we have a hopeful message. It’s important to say at the outset that this is not a feel-good or pie-in-the-sky promise that good times are coming. Haas, a journalist and well-known author, has done deep research to pull together researchers passionate about the topic and the personal stories of recovery from trauma making the book delicious flow of intertwining narratives.

Recovery is an important factor in any discussion of PTSD but less discussed is the factor of remission. One study¹ showed that approximately 44% people who experience trauma do recover spontaneously. In the first 5 months, remission was 52% whereas later than 5 months it was 37%. People who experienced natural disasters have higher rates of remission than people who also were diagnosed with physical injury. Early treatment also affected the rates of remission in the positive direction. In other words, on-going symptoms of PTSD are connected to the amount of time that elapses from the trauma, co-existing physical illness, and if treatment is delayed.

Despite this, as Haas reports in her book, researchers Tedeschi and Calhoun note “90% of survivors report at least one aspect of posttraumatic growth.” That is, the process of going through these struggles resulted in positive change and a renewed perspective on their lives. Haas is careful to show in each of the personal stories that it is not an easy path to posttraumatic growth. In fact, it is a lifetime process of discovering that very strength that is quietly sustaining us – sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly. And Haas pulls together a remarkable community to speak to this process of growth.

Well known individuals like Maya Angelou, Coco Schumann, and Temple Grandin offer their experiences alongside others like a female medic who was the first prisoner in the Iraq war, a surfer paralyzed in a surfing accident, a young woman whose body doesn’t tell her it’s in pain. Their stories are far from saccharine or filled with angelic overtones; they are human in their frustration, honest about times of hopelessness, transparent about the dark alley and neighbourhoods in which they took residence. Better yet there’s no righteousness in their recovery because each one is clear that getting better is not a noun but a verb. Recovering moment-by-moment and not some fixed end goal.

Haas includes the strategies each person in her book used that helped them. It’s a huge table set with many different approaches that are physical, mental, and spiritual. And woven through all this are helpful conversations with researchers Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun who specialize in the field of posttraumatic growth.

This is a book I highly recommend because in the face of all the struggles we encounter as we try to manage and work with posttrauma symptoms, it helps to know there are also supportive dimensions that can and are developing from these struggles. It’s also really important to be clear here (and somewhat sad that I even have to say this): posttraumatic growth does not take our healthcare or workplace organizations off the hook to provide assistance. The research is also clear that early detection and treatment are a factor to recovery. And perhaps the potential of posttraumatic growth can be encouragement for a more compassionate stance to all who suffer from PTSD.


¹Morinna, N., Wicherts, J.M., Lobbrecht, J. & Priebe, S. (2014). Remission from post-traumatic stress disorder in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of long term outcome studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(3), 249-255.

Michael Stone workshop in Ottawa December 7-8, 2015

We are pleased to announce a collaborative venture with Leading Edge Seminars to present this workshop with Michael Stone. Note that you will receive a discount by indicating you are responding via the OMC links.

Michael Stone is a psychotherapist and renowned lecturer on the integration of mindfulness and mental health. His previous presentation in Ottawa on mindfulness and clinical interventions was an in-depth teaching that was experiential and informative for healthcare clinicians.

Leading Edge Seminars and Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic is pleased to offer you a 10% discount on registrations for

Living an Intimate Life: Exploring the Existential Dimension in Clinical Work
Led by Michael Stone, MA
Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 (Toronto)/ Dec. 7 – 8 (Ottawa location)

Although clients come with emotional or cognitive troubles, much of our work is as existential as it is methodical. Michael Stone is one of Canada’s leaders in the field of mindfulness in clinical practice. He will explore how boredom, loneliness, change, depression , and anxiety are examples of symptoms that have deep spiritual roots.

Click for full workshop description.

To receive this discount*:

Enter the code omc10 in the box labelled “flyer code” at the bottom of the online registration form just before you hit “submit”. After you hit submit, you should see an account of the amount owing that shows that you have received 10% off. If you do NOT, please do not complete payment. Just call us at 416-964-1133/888-291-1133 so that we correct the amount owing.

*Note: This discount can also be applied on top of the Multiple registration discount too! Register with a friend or more than one workshop and you will get 10% off of the multiple rate for the Michael Stone workshop.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call Leading Edge Seminars at 416-964-1133/888-291-113 or email

2015 M4 Teacher Training Graduates

We are proud to celebrate our 10th anniversary of Teacher Training and welcome our 2015 cohort of mindfulness teachers who completed the M4 training requirements in the first full 3-day training retreat. Congratulations to all and we look forward to an on-going sharing in your insights and great work! Many thanks as well to our coach teachers, Brittany Glynn, Lakshmi Sundaram, Sheila Robertson, and Jessie Bossé.


2015 TTR Group

I am not this body: Mindfulness for Pain Management

maple shadowPain is unavoidable. We inhabit a system that is engineered to become wonky, cranky, and otherwise uncooperative over time. We know this conceptually but not when and how it matters. Why me? What now? tend to be our responses when the body fails us – as it inevitably does. In case you think this is only a problem for aging folk or those afflicted with strange hard-to-diagnose illnesses, it’s not. Athletes injure themselves. Random acts happen to young and old alike that leave them having to reshape not only their bodies but their mental attitudes towards their entire life.

Joy is unavoidable too. We have a resilient system that is subtly wired to sense into experiences that nourish and sustain us. We don’t know this in the definition of sensing joy; we hope and believe it will be true some day – if we’re really good, work hard, and check off all the boxes that we think entitle us to joy. And it’s not just aging folk who do that. In fact, the older you get the more you begin to see that it’s not the boxes you’ve checked off that brought you joy in any lasting way.

And then stuff happens. Like illness. Random events. Unplanned halts. Stuff. And in our frustration and anger we turn onto the machinery because we see our bodies as just that – the CanadArm of our mind. It is interesting to realize that until pain hits us, we don’t fully see how over-identified we are with what our body is. When we become unable to do the things we once took for granted, we lose our identity of being capable (because of the body), strong (because of the body), competent (because of the body) and so on. Pain of injury and illness is unavoidable. Suffering or stress arises when we feel we’ve lost our identity as someone capable, strong, and competent. However, pain is an important message from our body to pay attention; when we resist hearing it we get caught up in a deep suffering about who we are and all our fears about self, others, and the future.

There’s a mindfulness approach based in Buddhist psychology that teaches a dis-identification with these ideas of who we are (because of the body) or that we can only be who we were (with the body we had). This is not the same as dissociating from our body although under extreme stress and high levels of pain a dissociation can happen. “Dis-identification” is a process of seeing that our definition of who we are, if only based in external concepts is very, very limited.

“I am not my body” simply means there is so much more to me than just this physical container, biological process, and mental state. By extension “I am not my pain” means these sensations do not define who I am, they are not a mark of my character or potential.

This is important. We can sense the pain, discomfort, and even the frustration, sadness, and loss of our current situation; then we take the next step of turning towards it to see that these are sensations and not something that defines us. (This is also a powerful mindful approach to emotional pain.) And from that joy is accessible because it is also present as part of our experience.

V&S balcony1I recently had the pleasure of attending a pain management training taught by Vidyamala Burch and Singhashri Gazmuri at the beautiful Garrison Institute. The program is called Breathworks (because breath works!) and, of all the training programs I’ve attended, it is the most clearly set out and well-paced teaching in pain management. As you might have read in other parts of this blog, I have been in partnership with fibromyalgia since 1998. I am grateful every day that I have been able to work (crazy hours – do as I teach, not as I embody), travel, practice my meditation at long retreats, and otherwise live a vibrant life. Breathworks offered me additional insight to this partnership I have with my bodymind.

  • Pacing – set a timer to ring every 20 mins. Stand up, breathe, stretch for 3 mins. Repeat.
  • Check into your body. What do you sense? Are there echoes of stress?
  • Be kind.
  • Laugh.
  • Be disciplined – not just with the pacing but also with discerning when to move into the pain sensations and when to step back.
  • Experience leads us to the soft edges and hard edges. Can you tell the difference?

Burch and Gazmuri are wonderful teachers who fully embody they practice and their craft. If you need inspiration, read Burch’s story of her severe injuries and her journey to where she is now. There are also online courses and I highly recommend these two books: Living Well with Pain and Illness by Vidyamala Burch and Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman’s excellent book You are not your pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being—An Eight-Week Program.

Pain management is actually a misnomer. What we are cultivating is expectation management.

And finally, let go of that belief in happy endings; there are only happy beginnings in each moment we stop resisting the reality of our pain.

Craig Mackie RSW joins OMC

Craig We are pleased to welcome Craig Mackie RSW to the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. Craig has a BA in developmental psychology, MA in philosophy and a Masters of Social Work. He has worked in therapeutic recreation, mental health, and social services for over 10 years. He is a certified Transformative Mindfulness practitioner, 16 Guidelines international facilitator trainer, and has taken multiple trainings in clinical and mindfulness modalities. Currently he teaches in the Applied Mindfulness Meditation program at the University of Toronto and is the Director of Essential Change.

At the clinic, Craig will be offering mindfulness programs for youth and adults.

Program and contact information on the adult and youth programs can be downloaded here:

Youth – Transformative Mindfulness.

Adults- Transformative Mindfulness.


Self-Compassion Practices for Emotional Distress: It’s not just about being kind

leavesSelf-Compassion practices and programs are gaining momentum in psychological treatments and look like they might well become the next wave of transforming our painful feelings. Mindful Self-Compassion (1), developed by Drs. Christopher Germer and Kristen Neff, is an approach that can be both an adjunct to conventional therapies as well as a stand-alone treatment model. The interesting and very useful aspects of this approach are its applicability to our multilayered experiences of suffering. First, let’s look at what they define as Self-Compassion.

Neff (2) describes it as a three-fold system that are antidotes to the experiences that cause us suffering. (A sidebar note: Suffering is typically described as Pain multiplied by our Resistance to the reality of that pain (3)). Here’s a table that summarizes Neff’s definition of self-compassion.

How suffering happens

Self-Compassion practices that transform suffering

Dispersed, over-identified with our pain, autopilot


Isolated (shame, blame, anxiety)

Common Humanity

Self-blame, critical, negative self-appraisals


When we become fused with our pain, see it as taking over the entire horizon, we suffer from that pain. It’s a layer that rolls out over the initial hurt: the anxiety about the pain, what it means, how we believe it now defines us. Feeling that way tends to lead to isolating ourselves from others; but that’s also isolating ourselves from help and support. Typically, we feel shame because we think we should have better control, be stronger, be better; this adds to the isolation. Of course, we’re also in a culture that values independent action, take-charge solutions, which is not always the best approach. Because we these limitations, we use the tools we have learned from childhood. Get over it! Suck it up! I shouldn’t feel this way! This self-critical mind is the Inner Critic. It’s a bit like a good friend who has your best interests at heart but is also really, REALLY unskillful in how to motivate you. It knows you more intimately than anyone in the world. It knows your good, even great qualities. And it unfortunately uses your achievements, those carrots, like a stick.

Many of the practices in Mindful Self-Compassion are intended to change how we respond to our pain and how to tone down that Inner Critic. Mindfulness de-fuses us from our painful experience. Seeing our Common Humanity, that we are not alone or unique in our suffering allows us to feel less shame and reach out. Self-Kindness teaches us that we are worthy of that help and support. Practices like loving-kindness, empathy-eliciting exercises, affectionate responses to our experiences engage us in a conversation with ourselves that – because it’s kind – we’re more likely to hear and feel encouraged to follow through. (Practice  meditations are here.)

Self-Compassion doesn’t stop at being kind; that would end up being a bit self-involved. It goes deeper by connecting us with our physiological up-regulation that accompanies emotional distress. When we encounter difficult situations that are crises or even traumatic, our entire body becomes up-regulated, activated. In cases of trauma, we stay outside our Window of Tolerance (see graph below, 4) and that can lead to many kinds of painful reactions. Eventually, the body regulates itself but it can be a long, tough process.

There’s little research on the mechanisms by which self-compassion effects change. However, one study (5) showed that overall self-compassion scores are related to lowered avoidance of experiential distress. In other words, self-compassion is connected to a willingness to feel what we feel despite the discomfort in it. When we can do that, we’re less likely to feel the world is a scary, frightening place. So bringing ourselves back into that Window of Tolerance in a physical, emotional, and mental way is very important.

The practice of Soften-Soothe-Allow in the Self-Compassion can help to facilitate a down-regulation of internal distress. Softening our tension around the experience of distress (picture the effect of a warm compress on a sore muscle) meets our physical needs. Soothing (picture the effect of a back rub or hug) meets our emotional need. Allowing the experience just be what it is rather than what our fears tell us it will be (picture the effect of seeing the situation for what it is) meets our cognitive/mental needs. When we apply this to internal distress it looks like the picture below (6).



On the left side of the midline is a graphic of our system when it is hyper-aroused (or hypo-aroused) by stress, crises, trauma. When affected, we pop out of the zone of resilience and stay out there until we eventually reset. On the right side are two ways we can use the soften-soothe-allow practice to bring us back into the Window of Tolerance. It can be (and best as) a continuous practice. Stop signs, red lights, phone calls, and so on are opportunities to practice. When we really up-regulated, there’s already a body memory of that soften-soothe-allow process and it’s more likely to be helpful to reset.

The meditation is here. Make it your practice for week or a month and see how it helps!


1. Center for Mindful Self-Compassion
2. Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself. Self and Identity, 2: 85–101.
3. Shinzen Young
4. Ogden, P., Minton, K., and Pain, C. (2006). Trauma and the body: A sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy. New York: Norton
5. Thompson, B.L. and Waltz, J. (2008). Self-Compassion and PTSD Symptom Severity. Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 21, No. 6, December 2008, pp. 556–558.
6. Adapted from Monteiro, L. and Musten R.F. (2013). Mindfulness Starts Here: an eight-week guide to skillful living. Victoria BC: Friesen Press.