Conference Program

The schedule may be updated up until the event, so check back often.

All times are in EST (Eastern Standard Time)

A Neuropsychology of Awakening: Healing and Practicing with the Brain in Mind

Location: Convocation Hall

Discover the recent neuroscience and ancient wisdom of developing spacious awareness, deep contentment, boundless love, and inner peace. Rick Hanson, Ph.D. offers practical tools for an openhearted, joyful, and generous life.

Spacious awareness, deep contentment, boundless love, and inner peace are valuable for everyday life, not just the heights of human potential. Recent neuroscience is revealing how to develop these wonderful ways of being in the human brain. Join psychologist and bestselling author Rick Hanson, Ph.D., for an experiential exploration of:

  • How the body makes the mind
  • Turning passing experiences into lasting inner strengths
  • Neural factors of stable mindfulness
  • Cultivating an unshakable core of resilient well-being
  • Releasing rumination and self-centered thinking
  • Feeling whole in the present moment
  • The neural basis of the sense of oneness and timelessness

The deepest roots of the highest happiness are in the body. At the intersection of modern science and ancient wisdom – which could be called neurodharma – we can find very practical tools for an openhearted, joyful, and generous life.

This experiential workshop will offer user-friendly information with lots of practical methods. No background in neuroscience or mindfulness is needed. There will be opportunity for questions and discussion.

Teachings are appropriate for health care professionals as well as the general public. Health care professionals will be able to incorporate the tools and practices offered in this program in ways beneficial to clients or patients. Continuing Education (CE) credit available.

Learning Objectives:

  • Name two mechanisms of experience-dependent neuroplasticity
  • Give clients two examples of how repeated mental activity changes brain structure
  • Describe temperamental variations in the control of attention
  • Demonstrate to clients two ways to practice mindfulness
  • Summarize the three-stage evolution of the brain and its relationship to the management of our needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection
  • Give three examples, respectively, of how a person could engage in avoiding harms, approaching rewards, and attaching to others while not experiencing stress
  • Describe the Buddhist psychological construct of “craving” as a drive state based on an inner sense of deficit and disturbance in the meeting of needs
  • Describe how stable and relatively intense positive emotions could help stabilize attention through a neural mechanism involving dopamine

Courage and Compassion: Living with a Strong Heart in Challenging Times

Location: Convocation Hall

Learn how to develop courage to face hard facts, and keep going when it’s stressful or scary using positive neuroplasticity to weave grit, self-worth, and confidence into your nervous system.

Psychologist, meditation teacher, and bestselling author Rick Hanson, Ph.D. will teach you how to develop courage to face hard facts, and keep going when it’s stressful or scary using positive neuroplasticity to weave grit, self-worth, and confidence into your own nervous system. You will also learn how to use courage with compassion, expanding the circle of “us” to include all of “them.”

Location: Convocation Hall

Location: Convocation Hall

Location: Outdoors (weather permitting)

Location: Convocation Hall

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

The Death Incubator is a blended digital-analog experiential learning program that provides individuals with the opportunity to explore their relationship to death. It is a collaboration between a visionary artist and VR developer and a mindfulness innovator and clinical psychologist who share a passion to blend ancient and modern wisdom and practices (including Virtual Reality) to create experiences that can transform consciousness.

The Death Incubator is an immersive and mindful deep dive into our beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes towards death and dying. The end of life is a profound and meaningful experience that we often fail to prepare for adequately.

The latest research on the transitions experienced in the dying process point to the benefits of increasing our death literacy. We need training in order to expand our understanding of how to relate to end of life experiences and develop more humane end of life processes and practices. The Death Incubator VR element is an artistic representation of a Near Death Experience (based on research findings from this literature). This is combined with preparatory and integration practices drawn from meditation, creative, psychological and philosophical traditions.

This work brings the best of mindfulness based practices and design principles and blends it with the incredible opportunities provided by the virtual reality environment. Critical in this work is the Mindful360 design approach and integration of mindfulness in the whole process of design, development and delivery. This ensures a mindful relationship to technology and ethical best practice when working with these powerful tools on this important topic.

Technology is often considered the antithesis of mindfulness. We will demonstrate the power of blended approaches that draw on the best of both worlds to support human flourishing and the development of consciousness.

Participants will come away with:

  • An understanding of transformative technology and the power of blending ancient and modern traditions
  • A description and understanding of the Mindful360 Design approach
  • The power of this approach to tackle a particularly important topic - death using data from qualitative studies of near death experiences

Location: Medical Sciences Classrooms

Climate change is the existential issue of our age. This workshop will unpack how we can bring the tools of mindfulness to bear on the issues subverting an effective global response to the climate threat.

In the first part of this workshop we will zero in on the inter-relationships of the 3 threats to effective climate action. Capitalism drives economic growth.. Economic growth, distributed across a larger and larger population base, has been the primary driver of global warming. Capitalism, the spur to innovation and technological progress, has accelerated global warming, as a technologically advanced society is (today) characterized by high energy intensity. The socio-economic effects of unfettered capitalism and technology have subverted the political system. The feedback loop from failed democracy to ineffective regulation and redirection of the economic system and technology completes the death spiral that is the essence of our existential predicament.

In the second part of the workshop we will consider the elements of a mindful response, both at the individual and collective level. Individually we can use the space that mindfulness opens up in our consciousness to select wise action — e.g., reducing our carbon footprint and aligning our action with our insights. We recognize that this does not go far enough, and that it is only through collective action at the national and international level that effective change can be implemented.

Mindfulness can contribute special qualities to meeting these challenges. First, an open awareness of the interconnectedness of all things is essential to understanding our predicament. Second, mindfulness allows practitioners to maintain equanimity in the face of stressful circumstances, of which accelerating climate change is a prime example, and to devote their mental energies to solutions. Third, mindful meditation engenders compassion,, essential if climate justice is to be achieved.

Participants will come away with:

  • A greater awareness of the key political, economic, and social threats we face today
  • A sense of urgency - we need to be active participants in addressing these issues
  • A sense of agency - as mindfulness practitioners and as a mindfulness sector, we can make a difference

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This presentation will explore an Adlerian approach to mindfulness that enhances family relationships by creating a sense of belonging, trust, compassion and kindness. Alfred Adler stated that we are socially embedded or nested in systems, such as families, communities, neighbourhoods, organizations and society (Dreikurs Ferguson, 1999). He suggested that social connection and belonging is a vital human need. This presentation will explore the countless factors that distress a sense of belonging within family systems, and will also explore relevant neurobiological research on mindfulness that identifies the factors in building harmonious and loving family relationships.

With the rise in the use of technology, information overload from social media, financial pressures, caring for children and aging parents, fears and general uncertainty about the future, and divisions in our contemporary society, our sense of connection to ourselves and our families is being threatened. To deepen our ability to be ‘present’ with those we care for, mindfulness enhances love, non-judgement and acceptance of self and others (Kabat-Zinn,2011). With increasing responsibilities as parents and caregivers, we are challenged in creating harmony, balance and belonging. These challenging family systems will be explored, and through experiential-based mindful exercises we will share how presence, belonging and connection can be enhanced. Research suggests that the best way to enhance presence in our relationships is to embody this – the learning comes from our way of Being, and ripples organically through the family system.

Ferguson Dreikurs, E. (1999). Adlerian theory: An introduction. Chicago, IL: Adler School of Professional Psychology.
Kabat-Zinn, J (2011). Some reflections of the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1).281-310

Participants will come away with:

  • Cultivate emotional balance and personal resilience within the family context
  • Increase the ability to flow with the ups and downs of everyday family
  • Utilize self and group wisdom in promoting family well-being

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

For Mindfulness Facilitators, Educators and Helping professionals:
For many practitioners, movement is one of the doorways into the practice, and more mindfulness-based workshops and courses have increasingly allowed more time in their workshops for mindful movement. This can be challenging for facilitators and teachers who have not received professional training in yoga, tai chi, chi gong or other mindful movement modalities. The workshop merges the two wisdom streams of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness, exploring the essentials of guiding mindful movement in a way that enhances self-awareness and enhances the mind-body connection for participants and incorporates options for diversity, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, age, body size and shape, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, physical or mental health and physical or cognitive abilities.

The focus of mindful movement instruction is bringing awareness to the sensations in the body and noticing when the mind has wandered and then gently bringing the attention back to sensations in the body, intentionally cultivating a greater awareness of and groundedness in the body, while noticing what is happening in the mind and emotions.
The workshop will offer movement flows that compliment the themes of Mindfulness-based interventions (MBSR, MBCT, SMART) and provide information required to guide mindful movement/yoga practices safely and authentically, demonstrating modifications, posture options, clarification of contraindications, and a variety of movement flows, including the use of visualizations, that incorporate both the attitudes of mindfulness. It will utilize and show the effective use of language that is invitational

This hour-long workshop will feature creative approaches and provide resources for mindfulness facilitators and teachers to use in professional, educational and community settings.

Participants will come away with:

  • A tool kit of innovative approaches and sequences for guiding mindful movement, incorporating supportive language
  • An understanding of the use of the attitudes of mindfulness to enhance the mind-body connection

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This workshop will explore how to empower educators to create mindful classrooms. Founded on Dani Harris and Danielle Rousseau’s experience in education spanning decades, this 60-minute workshop will guide participants through practical and sustainable ways to create trauma-informed breath-based resilience in classrooms.The workshop will provide practical tools for creating trauma-informed and universally inclusive spaces through breath, self-inquiry and radical self-care. Empirical and experiential best practices in the field of mindfulness and education will build everyone’s capacity for self-care and resilience.

Participants will come away with:

  • An understanding of youth responses to trauma as well as how stress and trauma impact educators
  • Practical ways to access internal resources (breath and movement) in both educators and students
  • Best practices in the field of trauma, resilience, and self-care that are founded on a universally inclusive model

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

In this workshop, we will introduce Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy (EFMT; Gayner, 2019) meditation and how EFMT therapists empathically explore clients’ meditative and current experiencing, comparing and contrasting this with meditation and mindful inquiry in mainstream Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs). MBIs emphasize attending to present-oriented experience in a non-judgmental way and decentering from and letting go of distractions from this, such as difficult thoughts and feelings about the past or future. This creates optimal conditions for experiential and emotional processing, however, MBIs neither specify nor encourage this. In contrast, EFMT integrates experiential and emotional processing into mindfulness meditation and how therapists explore clients’ meditative experience.

EFMT emerged out of research into how to integrate self-compassion more deeply into MBIs to better address issues associated with internalized stigma and high levels of adverse childhood events (ACEs) in HIV+ gay men, such as harsh self-criticism, shame, challenges in interpersonal relationships and complex trauma. EFMT integrates MBIs into Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) to target internal conflicts and unfinished business, navigate issues in daily life, and cultivate growth and flourishing. EFMT clinical groups are being run for HIV+ gay men, psychiatric outpatients, family medicine patients and an artists’ health centre and has been adapted for hospital employee wellness and is used in various settings in individual therapy.

Participants will come away with:

  • Experience and discuss EFMT practice and be able to describe key differences between this and MBI meditation
  • Learn how EFMT therapists/trainers explore meditators' practice using EFT empathic communicative attunement
  • Begin exploring and integrating experiential and emotional processing into their own meditation practice on their own

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Our schools are looking for ways to have youth become contributing citizens of their communities. Yet race/ethnic and socioeconomic groups are continually being marginalized. So, how can a daily mindfulness program, implemented in the classroom lead to a community of equity within the school and the community? This workshop will focus on steps that you can take today to bring about social equity in schools and in our communities through a mindfulness lens.

Participants will come away with:

  • Learn how the Executive Function plays a critical role in social equity
  • Understand the benefits of having a daily mindfulness practice
  • Discuss the topic of social equity and mindfulness

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

One in every five young people in Ontario struggles with mental health issues, most commonly in the form of an anxiety disorder, while access to public support services remains woefully inadequate (CAMH, 2018; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013). Arguably, schools — where young people spend most of their time — provide an ideal venue through which to promote mental wellness for all students. And there is, in fact, growing interest among educators and school boards in providing mindfulness-based programming to this end (Whitley et al., 2013). Mindfulness has been used for several decades in clinical and non-clinical settings to promote mental health (Gouda et al., 2016; Meiklejohn et al., 2012). Scholarly research with school-aged children is limited, however, and the problem of how to fully engage young people in mindfulness remains open. To address this question, Joanne Edmundson Kistruck is focusing her doctoral research on exploring the combination of ‘classical’ elements of mindfulness training with makerspace pedagogy, an emerging trend in education that asks children to build knowledge by building physical models of what they learn. The result is MakerMinds™, co-developed and facilitated with Joanna Sparrow, ND. By combining two disparate pedagogies, this innovative program challenges traditional mindfulness training methods, immerses students in deeply creative work, and encourages them to practise the very mindfulness tools they are learning while making models that both reflect and develop their understanding of how those tools work.

In this interactive workshop, we will discuss research findings, as well as the possibilities and challenges of combining mindfulness with making. Our main focus, however, will be on engaging participants in the hands-on work/play of modelling mindfulness content and exploring how this pedagogical approach might be put to use in participants’ own work.

Participants will come away with:

  • An understanding of makerspace pedagogy and why this innovative approach might be particularly helpful in teaching mindfulness
  • Hands-on experience in how makerspace and mindfulness pedagogies work in combination to excite students and engage them in learning about living mindfully
  • Ideas for incorporating ‘making’ into participants’ own work in mindfulness and mindfulness training with diverse populations

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This is the how-to of becoming a mindful city in one of the least likely places — a rural, blue collar, socially conservative, red state, Kansas small town. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere. Each month, the top leaders in the community — the city manager and the CEOs of the hospital, mental health centre, and chamber of commerce, plus a mindfulness teacher, meet to work on cultivating mindfulness in the community. In the last 3 years, 1% of the population has been trained in 8-week MBSR courses, and another 1% has been trained in mindfulness through the mental health centre. The hospital subsidizes training for community members. Employers pay for staff to be trained. Difficulties will be discussed, as well as strategies such as training leaders, cultivating mindfulness champions, having practice groups within organizations, and others.

Participants will come away with:

  • Cultivating mindfulness in leaders spreads it more effectively
  • A threshold effect can be reached within organizations when a certain number of members are practicing mindfulness
  • Contemplating challenges from a state of mindfulness can lead to creative solutions

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This 60 minute workshop offers a very brief introduction to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.) It provides an opportunity to experience the ACT Matrix both as a mental health clinician, for those participants attending who work in the field, and as a person, noticing, allowing and opening in willingness to be with whatever shows up in the room and whatever shows up inside.
This workshop offers participants the basic theory and philosophy of ACT, including a brief review of empirical findings.
It introduces the ACT Matrix, a tool that fosters present moment awareness, grounded in self-compassion. The Matrix pulls into plain view for us the pre-programmed human patterns we all have in our behaviour that can lead to suffering, and offers us the opportunity to learn to pause and make new choices.
It can help not only with our public behaviour, that seen by others, but also our private behaviour, known only inside ourselves. It can open us to powerful self-compassion in the face of the shame or other unwanted emotions we may experience after developmental injuries or trauma.
The ACT Matrix can re-connect us to our own deeply held values and help us keep these front of mind while we are making everyday choices and interacting with those around us.
The Matrix can be helpful for individuals, couples and families and as part of a group organizing method known as Prosocial, it can even be used in larger groups and communities to provide a clear lens on balancing individual with collective interests. This workshop leads participants through the actual practice of a personal ACT Matrix. The experience can be helpful to participants regardless of context and can be used by anyone, including practitioners or consumers of mental health services, in the workplace, at home and elsewhere.

Participants will come away with:

  • Understand the ACT model highlighting the process of mindfulness
  • Practice using the ACT Matrix to conceptualize personal struggles and experiment with making changes in an ACT framework
  • Explore the applicability of the ACT Matrix to a variety of contexts

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

How can one feel better at work and using technical devices? The workshop explores mindfulness practices that can be integrated into the stream of experiences within a day - and to support a joyful flow in private and at work. We will also examine which technologies are available, which ones are being developed and which ones we can imagine.
Mindfulness has recently been discussed as being supportive of capitalism by providing tools to cope with the status quo (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/14/the-mindfulness-conspiracy-capitalist-spirituality). It has been argued that mindfulness is the “enemy” of activism, compassion (the activity to reduce individual and collective suffering) and ethics - crucial parts of Buddhist and Tibetan practices from which mindfulness is heavily derived from. The workshop addresses the ethical practices and explores a wider range of techniques supportive of active compassion and alertness of inequality.
Similarly, the technology industry has been able to profit from mindfulness with apps, wearables, and VR devices - by adding time spent with pixelated or audio technical devices instead of presence with oneself or other human beings.
How can mindfulness practices become integrated into existing usage of technical devices instead of adding more time? We will discuss developments and research of current solutions, and imagine possible solutions we wish to be developed.
The workshop will inspire controversial conversations on ongoing mindfulness practices. It also offers meditative practices encouraging an active mindset to hopefully feel happier as oneself and with each other, and to be able to enact compassion.

Participants will come away with:

  • What techniques and technologies are accessible or soon available to improve workplaces for digital health
  • How can workplaces be changed to support the well-being of the employees
  • Which futuristic or implementable ideas emerged from the workshop and what could be possible solutions or possibilities to take home or to suggest for one’s workplace

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Can individual mindfulness practice have an impact on social and organisational change or is there a danger that mindfulness can become a form of social control? There is anecdotal evidence that collective mindfulness can change organisational culture but there is little supporting evidence. There is also an increasing body of research that demonstrates that mindfulness can reduce the negative effects of stress, improve mental health and even improve performance. There is growing concern that this may be simple enabling people to anaesthetise themselves from real concerns that we need to address.

'Social Mindfulness' recognises that stress is a natural response to social conditions. Its primary educational function is to empower by developing insight into how we construct a sense of self and how this drives our behaviour. This approach to teaching exploits the workshop environment to gain direct experience of 'social mindfulness', which has three key elements: group effect of self regulation, insight into the way we construct a sense of self and how this affects our behaviour, developing language to describe experiential process. The educational elements of the programme also include: insight into the way we objectify changing experience, theoretical understanding of the effects of 'attentional training' on the mind-body connection, effects of posture on mood and socially constructed self-image and psycho-physiological effects of stretching on fascia. This model of mindfulness practice creates social container giving it an explicit function of social/organisational change, community building and collective action.

This workshop will provide a window into the teaching style applied in the evidence-based Mindfulness-Based Organizational Education (MBOE) programme, which improves Basic Psychological Needs at Work Scale scores for NHS hospital staff (outcomes of study published in the Springer journal, Mindfulness online, 2019).

Participants will come away with:

  • This workshop will change the way participants conceive of mindfulness practice
  • It will give them an understanding of the social mechanisms that give mindfulness the potential to become a force for systemic change driven by collective in organizations, in the community and wider society
  • The participants of this workshop will also receive a copy of 'Social Mindfulness: a guide to meditations from Mindfulness-Based Organizational Education', that acts as a supporting text to the program

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This session will tell the story of one educator's journey to share mindfulness with an entire school board in Northwestern Ontario (TNCDSB).
In 2016, Tiffany Goulet observed that students and staff were struggling with dysregulation, excessive stress, lack of focus, missing connections and struggled to self-regulated. She could see the impacts this was having on well-being, social interactions and academic success. The stress of supporting 30 children that year and being in that system led her first to a near burnout and then to yoga. This would be the beginning of an incredible journey for this teacher.

In 2018-2019, Tiffany wrote and led a $30000 Teacher Learning and Leadership Program project through the Ministry of Education. The project titled The Mindful Movement: A Journey Toward Self-Regulation looked at supporting students in their ability to self-regulated through the sharing of mindfulness practices. She believed that if students experienced mindfulness, took the time each day to practice, reduced stressors and began to embody these practices that this would positively influence them, the classroom and the system. She knew there was something fundamental missing in our current education system and without addressing this, belonging, well-being and academics were affected.

The project spanned an entire year, involved well over 30 staff members in one school alone, hundreds of children and included experts from Peterborough to Mumbai. The goal was to support the staff to experience the practices, understand the benefits and eventually embody and share this naturally in their own classrooms. Feedback from the project indicated that stress levels were reduced, self-awareness increased as did compassion and empathy, all things that needed immediate attention in our current education climate.
Tiffany will share the struggles, the successes, the considerations and the collaboration it took to move mindfulness from one classroom through to an entire system.

Participants will come away with:

  • The appreciation of the potential that mindfulness can offer to children (people) of any age in any setting
  • A better understanding of how mindfulness supports focus, awareness, community, self-regulation and overall well-being
  • A feeling of inspiration to be able to share mindfulness with others regardless of barriers that they may face (the journey starts with one)

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Walk with me in my world of Everyday Haiku. Experience relief
from daily stress and find out how haiku can help you slow down, be more present and give you more peaceful and joy-filled moments. I will share
how I have become more present, more mindful and less stressed from
learning, writing and creating through the healing benefits of haiku poetry. Haiku is a beautiful form of poetry that can help you to be mindful and connect with nature that is healing and nurturing. In this introductory workshop participants will learn about haiku and how they can use it as a creative tool to be more mindful in their everyday lives. They will gain awareness and presence through self-discovery by following the philosophy that haiku is based on which is being in the moment.

Participants will come away with:

  • A sense of self expression
  • Gained awareness of the senses that connects them to nature
  • Peace and an open heart

Location: Convocation Hall

Location: Faculty of Medicine Commons

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

For the 2020 instalment of my annual review of the mindfulness world, I want to discuss the viability of secular mindfulness altogether. For the practices of mindfulness, awareness, kindness, and compassion to have the most beneficial effect for the largest number of people, they must be available to people outside the confines of religion and spirituality. This is not an either/or proposition. Mindfulness and related practices will always have an important home within religious and spiritual wisdom traditions, but can they also have a robust life in many other domains—such as the mental health system, first responder organizations, health care, education, political life? They already do, but there are obstacles to their continued spread, including—among other issues—few places to do non-religious-oriented retreats, questions about how to go deeper with contemplative practices outside a religious framework, a limited number of effective secular training centres and standards-setting groups, and a widely held view that secular mindfulness is superficial and lacks ethical grounding. What is the way forward?

Participants will come away with:

  • An update on activities/trends in the mindfulness world
  • A provocation to consider key issues of bringing mindfulness to the largest number of people possible
  • An opportunity to get questions answered and add ideas and opinions to an ongoing conversation hosted by Mindful (and by Mindful Society)

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

The codes of ethics of numerous professions explicitly require their members to uphold specific values like integrity, respect and in some cases even impartiality. It is safe to say that most professionals, having been trained for several years in their respective fields, understand from a theoretical perspective why these values are important to their profession and therefore make these values their own.
However, there is a difference between values, which are mental/emotional in nature (i.e. wanting to be respectful, impartial) and personal qualities, which are behavioral in nature (i.e. being respectful, impartial). Most of us can recall a moment in our lives, whether professionally or personally, where we failed to live up to our values through our actions while still holding this value as important in our mind and heart. So what are the obstacles that are preventing us from embodying our values and acting in a way that is congruent with our intentions? How can mindfulness help overcome these obstacles and live a more ethical professional and personal life?
In this presentation, we will explore these questions through the case study of a 45-hour masters’ degree course that has been developed for professionals in alternative dispute resolution at the University of Sherbrooke which uses mindfulness as the primary tool for professional development and truly brings back to the forefront one of the three pillars of a genuine mindfulness practice which is often overlooked in western mindfulness: the art of living an ethical life.

Participants will come away with:

  • An understanding of the necessity of developing personal qualities in order to be able to act ethically in a professional context
  • The main psychological obstacles preventing us from embodying our values
  • How mindfulness can help overcome these obstacles and embody our values

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

For parents, educators and helping professionals:
Learn about how to offer Mindful Parenting programs that support parents of kids with exceptionalities. What is accessible mindfulness and how do we offer it for parents? With fewer resources being accessible for stressed parents and kids, the need is high for all support networks surrounding our next generation to have approaches that actually work.
Research shows that parents of kids with anxiety, learning disabilities, on the autistic spectrum, and other exceptionalities have higher levels of stress. Requiring mindfulness modalities that are accessible, parents of exceptional kids report they don’t benefit from cookie cutter mindfulness approaches. Creating and researching new modalities that work for parents and their kids is exactly what we are doing.
This hour long workshop will feature the voices of parents experiencing challenges advocating for their kids in the education system, as well as present unique mindfulness modalities created to address the unique needs.
We will explore new and creative approaches that create change for kids and their parents and provide resources for parents to use at home and educators to use in educational and community settings.

Participants will come away with:

  • A tool kit of innovative activities and approaches for parents of exceptional kids
  • An understanding of the newest research on Mindful Parenting for kids with exceptionalities
  • Having experienced new hands on practices for Mindful Parents

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

It may seem on the surface that there is nothing in common between suicide and an illness like dementia. Dig deeper and you discover stories of loss. Though we are conditioned to seek rational explanations for the losses in our lives we often end up on a profound emotional journey exploring questions of meaning, relationships and identity. It becomes an emotional, cognitive and narrative process of meaning making, relationship deconstruction and identity re-construction.

So we seek answers. It’s arguable that our wrestling with questions around loss are the most challenging, most persistent dilemma we face in our lives. As a culture we more likely avoid those questions because of the profound emotional toll. Instead, we should explore loss, meaning, relationships and identity as they will tell us a lot more about our inner being.

Losses, sudden or chronic, traumatic or enduring are both characterized by questions of meaning, relationships, identity, storytelling and profound emotion. Grief for a survivor of suicide has a sudden onset, whereas grief for a caregiver supporting a person living with dementia is ongoing. Yet, they can both cause a person to reflect on their identities in relation to another person, who may not be around to answer those critical questions.

How do you reconcile with grief when it may come at some personal cost or even fault? Let us throw in the mix, the role of intergenerational genetic trauma – a person who has been a caregiver to a family member with dementia, and now lives at significant risk of developing that condition in their 40s – 50s. How do you live your life with a ticking time bomb over your head?

Participants will come away with:

  • Differentiating grief and trauma from suicide loss and dementia from other types of losses
  • Meaning making in the process of coping
  • The role of mindfulness and self-compassion
  • Specific tools for coping
  • Recommendations for programs and research

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Previous mindful eating scales have several shortcomings that limit the valid assessment of mindful eating. Notably, these scales tend to overemphasize the attentional components of mindful eating while disregarding the attitudinal features of the construct.

The present research describes the development and evaluation of a comprehensive scale that assesses several domains of eating-specific mindfulness (Studies 1 and 2), as well as provide data on its reliability and validity (Study 3). The final 30-item scale (FFaMES) consists of four domains: Non-Judgmental Observation, Non-Reactance to Internal and External Experience, Introspective Awareness of Thoughts and Mood, and External Awareness of External Triggers to Eat.

Findings demonstrate that scores on FFaMES are uniquely associated with body weight and obesity-related eating behaviors. Lower scores are associated with higher levels of emotional eating, external eating, and restrained eating, as well as, BMI. These results suggest the potential benefits of mindful eating for effective weight management. Specifically, our scale highlights the importance of non-judgmental observation and non-reactance in the development of healthy eating behaviors.

FFaMES is a promising mindful eating measure with good psychometric properties. Our findings support its use by clinicians and researchers to address problematic eating behaviors. Specifically, FFaMES may assist in (1) clarifying which mindfulness skills are most important for the effectiveness of mindful eating programs; (2) assist in examining the potential differences between obese, overweight and normal weight individuals with regards to mindful eating; (3) facilitate the development and refinement of mindful eating-based training programs for clinical and non-clinical populations, and (4) provide mindful eating educators with an effective tool to assess the varying strengths and weaknesses of their clients.

Participants will come away with:

  • A psychometrically strong questionnaire can help to clarify which mindful eating skills are most important for successful weight management and healthy eating
  • Clarifying these skills can help to improve mindful eating programs in the future
  • Past questionnaires emphasize the attentional components of the construct; however, our scale suggests otherwise. It seems that cultivating a non-judgmental and non-reactive stance to eating-related experiences is vital for weight management

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

What colour is your dragon is a Brazil-UK collaboration that supports family (and other) systems to develop compassion and emotional intelligence. Using a theoretical framework based on the neuroscience of the brain's three motivational systems (threat, drive and soothing), young people and families are taught to ask "what colour is my dragon?" and learn how to regulate their motivational states. Through the use of storytelling and puppets, young people and families learn about how to honour and take care of their three dragons and love them all. The work blends a number of theoretical models including that of Paul Gilbert, Wendy Hasenkamp's triple network model of of a mindful moment (attention, default mode and salience networks) and Tamara Russell's Body In Mind Training ("Mindfulness in Motion") with creative and enacted learning methodologies. It also draws on the inter-relational and pan therapeutic Family Domains model. As such, its a playful, simple and profound intervention that is based on solid theoretical psychological and neuroscientific models. This work was developed in a Brazil-UK collaboration so it brings a unique take on the design and delivery, taking into account contextual factors including poverty, low education level and high physical and physiological threat as the norm. Under these conditions of complexity, simplicity in delivery is essential. "What colour is your dragon?" is therefore a "bottom up" design of a mindfulness intervention. It supports systems change to a world where feeding your green dragon (developing self care, compassion and kindness) is for everyone and in fact works best when we can work together to manage our blue dragon (don't work too hard), embrace our red dragon (it's ok to have "negative" emotions and feed the green as much as possible (self care and kindness). It is a program that gives both permission and language to support emotional intelligence no matter the context.

Participants will come away with:

  • How to innovate in the mindfulness space using theoretical psychological and neuroscientific models as a starting point (#protocolfree)
  • The benefits (and challenges) of working cross culturally to develop mindfulness interventions
  • How to develop systems based mindfulness approach (mindfulness is a team sport!)

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Gaia recognizes the benefits and efficacy of allying art and coaching to enrich and profoundly transform the culture of organizations. Many studies demonstrate the relevance and effectiveness of right brain approaches like practicing art in the workplace. Arts-based learning is already used in many sectors in business from law firms, Fortune 500 companies, to local councils and community-based organizations.
Go Creative ! Corporate Coaching modules are well tested, unique, hands-on art workshops that help organizations foster creativity, work more efficiently and grow to be healthy and successful.
Creative Heart is a hands-on sensitivity training to practice empathy, respect, healthy communication and to cultivate awareness of our human diversity.

Workshop objectives:
Create a gentle openness and build trust between colleagues
Learn and practice conscious communication skills
Address unspoken bias, blind spots and stereotyping
Understanding and accepting of differences

Gaia has been engaged in a regular mindfulness practice for the past 19 years. Attention to the breath, connection to the present moment, awareness of feelings, inclusion of emotional intelligence and conscious communication tools are all used as a foundation for her workshops.

Participants will come away with:

  • Opening to change and embracing diversity
  • Softening, learning and growing
  • Truly hearing and receiving each other

Location: Faculty of Medicine Commons

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

No student can be ready and open to learning when they are struggling with stress, anxiety and worry. Mindfulness techniques and practices can help educators create classrooms that are focused, calm and engaged. Practicing mindfulness in the classroom can help students become aware of the internal feelings of stress, as they are arising, and how they are being expressed in their thoughts, emotions and in their bodies.

Imagine if mindfulness was not an add-on. We have assembled a toolkit of practical and accessible resources that can be used to embed mindfulness into an existing school curriculum (K-8). This workshop will explore the toolkit and introduce hands-on, arts-based approaches that encourage resilience for both students and educators. Our approach celebrates imagination and play and offers fun and creative ways for kids to reduce worry, deepen self-awareness and develop self-regulation.

Join us for an experiential workshop where we will dig into our mindful toolbox and explore together how these props, resources and activities can be incorporated into a classroom environment.

Participants will come away with:

  • A practical set of tools and techniques that can be used to bring mindfulness into the classroom
  • A vetted list of evidence-based research on using mindfulness with children and teens
  • An understanding of how art-based approaches can be used to explore mindfulness in an accessible and socially relevant manner

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

The opioid crisis has claimed many lives and continues to affect communities across North America. In Southern Alberta, the problem is particularly pronounced as it sees the highest rate of fentanyl deaths at 20.7 per 100,000 population, compared to the provincial average of 12.5 per 100,000 population. Mental health counsellors are at the front lines of helping people who are dealing with the crisis. This is a demanding role and can lead to feelings of apathy, reduced compassion for self and clients, and burnout. Mindfulness is well established as a way to assist health care clients but less is known about its use with certain health professionals, specifically for increasing pro-social qualities of compassion and empathy in relation to clients. This case study presentation will outline a unique study in Southern Alberta that explores how mindfulness training might influence compassion and empathy for mental health professionals working with those most vulnerable on the front lines. The case study will outline the importance of these qualities for client care as well as for a healthier society. The implications for other health care professionals such as nurses, doctors, and paramedics will also be discussed.

Participants will come away with:

  • Comprehend the unique demands on health care professionals responding to the opioid crisis
  • Learn about the connections between compassion and client care for those in disadvantaged positions
  • Discuss how mindfulness training can assist mental health professionals as well as other members of society in enhancing compassion

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Understanding complexity with complexity: complex systems are most simply understood by inviting the most complex system we have at our fingertips - our own bodies - to explore them. This participatory and active workshop invites participants to experience their body as a ‘holder of knowledge’, bringing attention to psychical techniques that help to unlock insight into the patterns, and systems that impact our cultures and, ultimately, our lives.

Participants will come away with:

  • Experience the body as an information source into our minds, our actions, and our beliefs
  • Access and experience ‘body knowledge'
  • Experience the power of the collective and collaborative insight
  • Feel yourself as part of a co-creative system
  • Feel what is emerging - sensing the possibility

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

This workshop is designed to give participants a clear overview of basic teachings of Buddhist meditation - which includes Mindfulness and six other factors - and to show them how to apply those teachings to their own love relationships and those of clients they may work with.

Purpose - To teach meditative techniques and show how mindfulness can be applied to our erotic life. Topics include -
* The Seven Factors of Enlightened Sex - Mindfulness, Curiosity, Enthusiasm, Bliss, Tranquility, Concentration, & Equanimity how to help clients (and ourselves) cultivate the mental/emotional states that lead to bliss and a sense of merging with our partner
* Mindfulness solutions for Sexual Desire Disconnect - how to slow your mind, access mental desire through mindful fantasy, stimulate physical arousal through mindful touch, and utilize these solo sexual practices to recreate sexual passion in a long-term relationship
* How to practice conscious orgasm, how to ride the sexual response cycle and practice non orgasmic, Tantric sexuality with extended orgasm and full-body orgasm
* Review of research on the impact of Mindfulness on Sexual Desire, arousal, satisfaction – and the application of Mindfulness to sexual pain disorder
* How Tantric Meditation creates multiple, extended, and full body orgasms

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to * discriminate between physical arousal and mental desire - the two keys to the erotic engine * apply mindfulness practices to help turn themselves on, and to recreate sexual attraction in a long-term relationship * employ the model of the seven factors of enlightened sex to sex therapy *utilize Tantric sexuality techniques that increase curiosity, concentration, and sexual bliss.

Participants will come away with:

  • There are seven factors of meditation, and Mindfulness is just one of them. This session will teach participants to practice the factors of curiosity, effort, pleasure, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity - which will deepen and enhance their own meditation practice
  • Participants will learn about the research that shows how mindfulness practice enhances many aspects of sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction
  • They will learn powerful techniques to enhance their own romantic life

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

In today’s busy, on-demand world, with our lives filled with screens and our brains having to process more stimuli than any other point in time— learning to take a “mind break” is important for reducing stress and learning to be in the present moment. This is especially important within the family context, where levels of stress for parents and children is on the rise. Supporting parents to cope and manage their stress can help them better meet their child’s emotional, psychological and behavioural needs and in turn, parents can then support their child’s development of social, emotional and self-regulation skills.

This workshop will be centered around a mindful model of parenting that provides a framework for parents to respond to stressful situations in a way that builds resilience within the family. This model integrates many of the concepts and skills taught in the Making Mindfulness Matter (M3) program. Through this model, participants will be provided the understanding of how stress affects the brain and behaviour, and how to create a mindful gap between our thoughts and feelings and our behaviour, so that we can make the choice to respond, rather than react.
Participants will engage in multiple interactive skills aimed at teaching mindful parenting and then learn how to use these skills with their child, enabling parents and children to have a common language and skill set to use to boost their resilience as a family.

Participants will come away with:

  • Will understand how the parent brain and the child brain works under stress and how mindfulness practice can help us respond rather than react to stressful situations
  • Will learn a mindful model of parenting that can help build resilience and self-regulation within the parent, child, and family
  • Will practice various concrete mindfulness skills, social-emotional and positive psychology techniques to use with parents/guardians and children

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

A back-to-basics workshop, looking in-depth at various aspects of the MBSR curriculum, examining the language we use when instructing, the pacing we use when introducing new practice, the "homework" we suggest each class, the group dynamics at play that we must attend to, to name a few. How can we refine and enliven our teaching to help participants feel more able to make mindfulness a dynamic and essential part of each day? The workshop will be informal and full of suggestions. It will provide an opportunity for sharing questions, wonderings, and ideas.

Participants will come away with:

  • More understanding of the group dynamics that develop over the 8 weeks
  • Creative ideas to enliven our delivery of key concepts
  • Ways to help participants make the curriculum theirs, going forward

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

In a busy, cut-throat, goal-oriented society, is there room for being kind to ourselves? Does being kind to yourself make you lazy, unmotivated and lacking the ferocity necessary to 'make it in life'? Is self-compassion just a pity party for oneself?

All of these questions will be addressed in this experiential and hands-on workshop, as participants explore self-compassion through the lens of a "skeptic". Kristin Neff's three-pronged model of Self Compassion will be presented, along with several exercises that have a mindfulness focus. Recent literature on Self-Compassion will be showcased, including evidence supporting self-compassion's role in psychopathology (e.g. anxiety, depression), overall well-being, and motivation. Participants will be also be invited to share their triumphs, tribulations, and doubts with regards to self-compassion in small groups, and collaborate and share ways to incorporate kindness into our daily lives.

Participants will come away with:

  • Understanding recent evidence on self-compassion and its role in well-being and psychopathology (e.g. anxiety, depression)
  • Exploring doubts and skepticism towards self-compassion, and what one can do to address these doubts
  • Learning tangible, practical and highly applicable exercises to practice self-compassion in everyday life

Location: Faculty of Medicine Classrooms

Location: Convocation Hall

Location: Convocation Hall
A full-day immersive experience with guided practices and hands-on participation to integrate our knowledge and put it into action.
A full-day workshop with guided practices for work and life held on the beautiful University of Toronto campus

Certificate of Attendance / CE Credits

Healthy snacks / refreshments

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