There’s no time like the present to lead with mindfulness

On November 21, 2015, I was honoured to present on the value of mindfulness meditation in the workplace at the Toastmasters District 96 Fall Conference.  Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines this practice as “moment-by-moment non-judgemental awareness, cultivated by purposely paying attention in the moment” – and it has transformed the way I perceive group dynamics, attentiveness, and productivity.  Just as with anything in life, only practice turns new perception into sustained behaviour.  Practicing in a supportive group environment accelerates the results and fuels our commitment to ourselves and the people we interact with, which is why it is so powerful in the workplace.  Plus, it’s startling to notice how our brains start to unconsciously (or mindfully?) synch together in a shared experience.  My presentation slides and reference materials are available at the end of this blog.

Two years ago, my friend and colleague Jeremy Plotkin started a mindfulness meditation practice at our workplace, Metro Vancouver.  He was so worried that only a handful of people would show up to an introductory presentation to be delivered by the delightful Patricia Galaczy.  I tried to reassure him that at least our buddies from the yoga class I teach at work would show up, but oh, were we ever surprised!  The Metro Vancouver boardroom fits over 100 people, and every seat was occupied for Patricia’s presentation.  People who attended still chuckle or gag about the mindfulness exercise with the raisin that Patricia lead us through.

Luckily, we never repeated the raisin meditation.  Instead, Jeremy started a weekly sitting or walking meditation practice at lunchtime with the support of our Human Resources’ employee wellness program.  Drawing from his years of experience, he wisely encouraged our group of total beginners and seasoned meditators to start off with a 5-minute meditation and 45 minutes for ice breakers, questions, and discussion.  At the start of each session, experienced meditators in the group shared excerpts from books, magazine articles, and podcasts by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other inspiring sources.  Sometimes, we followed an online guided mindfulness or body scan meditation.  Group members now take turns hosting the weekly sessions.  Over time, our sessions have shifted to about 25-27 minutes of meditation (each additional minute can feel like a lifetime!) and brief reflections on our individual and collective experiences.

My colleagues and I are committed to our mindfulness meditation practice, because we experience the following benefits.  This list wasn’t taken from a research paper, though the similarities with the literature are remarkable.  Check out the resources linked in this blog, try mindfulness meditation and its benefits, and share with your colleagues too!

physical health

mental health


impulse control

life satisfaction


reduced reactivity

improved listening

improved conflict resolution

improved relationships


Let your light and others’ light shine through, moment by moment!

Mindfulness – Toastmasters Nov 2015


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Yoga for Social Connection

Like many residents of the Vancouver region, Esther Bérubé, founder of Singing Heart Yoga, moved here a few years ago. “After holding back tears and snot through a few yoga classes, I finally let go and accepted the sadness of feeling alone. I also discovered ways to create heartfelt connections with people,” says Esther.

Singing Heart Yoga will offer a workshop on “Yoga for Social Connection” on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 8pm at the Open Door Yoga Retreat taking place at the Cheakamus Centre in Brackendale, BC.  Anyone – from students to seniors, flexible or not – is invited to experience the elements of yoga that can build trust and deeper connections between people when there are many demands on our time. This is key to overcoming the isolation and lack of belonging that the Vancouver Foundation’s 2010 Vital Signs report identified as the biggest issues facing residents of the Vancouver region.

The workshop intends to share simple skills from yoga that participants can apply in everyday life to foster fulfilling relationships. For example, through somatic yoga postures and movement, participants will experience the benefits of engaging all five senses, establishing rhythms, and embracing potential embarrassment. “Stage fright is the musician’s fear of embarrassment. Yoga helps me release and transform that fear into an energetic performance that connects me with an audience. Really, we’re all making music together,” says Mars Pitre, who will play well-loved songs and original music during the workshop.

Previous workshops:


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Introduction to Chair Yoga

While volunteering with Yoga Outreach for a few years in mental health and addiction recovery settings, I’ve met several students who would feel more supported and comfortable practicing yoga in a chair.  Getting down and up from the floor is not for everyone!

The “chair yoga training” offered by Sylvia Smallman on April 26, 2014 introduced me to many ways that a yoga practice can be adapted to include a variety of poses seated on a chair or standing beside one for support, depending on the comfort level of the practitioner. Of course, the ability to breathe and connect with ourselves transcends any pose. I appreciated the element of effort balanced with rest and other somatic aspects that we can weave into a chair yoga practice, just like any yoga practice.

I look forward to offering the opportunity to practice yoga to a wider range of people who might not have previously felt that yoga was accessible. Take a deep breath and welcome aboard!


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