About downwarddogdvm

Just a small animal vet trying to live her yoga.

Great Ideas 2017, wellness and yoga

It’s already been two weeks since I was in Collingwood, Ontario for the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association’s Great Ideas 2017 conference!  Just sitting down to write about it now…


Being able to take some time away from work was a luxury.  It was hard to let go initially, as I had a few patients and their families who needed some follow-up via email.  However, I was mindful that I had to take care of myself too, in order to take care of them.  I tried to hold onto that idea as I stayed at the stunning Blue Mountain Resort.


The cool part is that the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) encouraged relaxation with learning, by including wellness in the program schedule.  A full day lecture series by Beverly Beuermann-King focused on recognizing stress and tools for building resiliency.  A fun run through the Blue Mountain paths on Thursday, with Darren Osborne.  The next day was scheduled for a morning yoga class on the terrace, amongst the fresh air and sunshine.


Although it rained and had to be held indoors on the mezzaine/foyer, I was glad to teach the yoga class for the second year in a row.  I centered the cues on body awareness, to bring more mindfulness overall.  Connecting mind to body is hard to do when your brain wants to keep the hamster wheel spinning.  Beautiful surroundings were the inspiration for being present, as we moved through the class.

Yoga is part of the toolkit for skillful living.  Sharing a practice with my veterinary colleagues created comraderie and was a fantastic way to start the day.

Mental Health and Wellness in the Veterinary Profession

When someone asks me, “What do you do?” and I tell them I’m a small animal veterinarian, their eyes brighten.  Then they proceed to tell me their favourite story about their pet.  I’m grateful that the public perception of veterinarians is so positive.

But underneath that happy veneer, many of my colleagues are suffering, often in silence.   I know because I’ve had my share of it.  This was confirmed when I attended the 2017 AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and the 2015 Veterinary Wellness and Social Work Summit, read about it in an article by Dr. Debbie Stoewen, saw it posted in social media on Facebook sites like “Not One More Vet”, and discussed it at Mindfulness Meditation Retreats led by VIN’s Dr. Michele Gaspar.

Today is Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day, where the aim is to use social media and texting to increase the awareness of mental health & wellness.  A big part of it is decreasing the stigma of even mentioning it’s happening.  It’s a difficult subject but bringing it out in the open makes it easier to seek support when needed.

Although talk and awareness is good, I’m glad to be a part of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association 2017 Annual Conference, where the program includes wellness events.  It will be our second year, sponsored by Merial.  There’s yoga every morning with Denise Gilbert-Jeanes, RVT, RYT.  I’ll be leading Midday Mindfulness Meditation (breath-focused sitting, 15 minutes, in a chair) and evening Restorative yoga.  Staying well mentally requires to tools to do so and I hope that the veterinarians attending the conference take the chance to learn about this, just like they’re learning how to become better at their medical and business skills.

The Ontario Veterinary College is also helping the students address wellness by creating a one week elective course, which will include a yoga session.  Kudos to Dr. Colleen Best and her colleagues for developing this program and inviting me to teach yoga.  As someone who spends a lot of time with the thoughts in her head, getting in touch with my body has been a work-in-progress.  I’m a little better at it than I was in vet school but it requires regular attention to body sensations and breath, at work and at home.  My body is usually aware of my reactions to situations, before I can even think it!

So help me out today and share this post on Facebook, Twitter or by texting, using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.  It makes a difference!

You are more tender than you know

I dreamt of meeting Jack Kornfield, in an alternate reality.  However, in the world of my dream, Jack was not Jack as he had come to be known.  He was still kind and gentle.  His mannerisms were the same.  But somehow, he didn’t have any idea he was a senior Buddhist meditation teacher.  Despite my insistence at who he was, he pleaded ignorance.  Instead, he repeated he was a merchant (I don’t even know what he was selling in my dream!).  I reminded this other Jack that he had met the Dalai Lama and many important spiritual leaders.  “Other Jack” shook his head and simply said no, that was not who he was.  I eventually left him, feeling disappointed I hadn”t found the person who had led me through a masterful week of mediation and storytelling.

I was drawn to a retreat at Kripalu in April 2016, led by Jack Kornfield and two of his senior teachers.  I’d read some of his books but hadn’t studied his work intensely. I knew enough to be curious about what else he might teach.

What I learned resonated with me so much I am still processing it, 6 months later.  I was especially drawn to the meditations called Big Sky Bell Meditation, Luminous Being, compassion and another one on lovingkindness.   I haven’t written about it until now because I feel limited in my ability to express what I am trying to integrate and internalize. The teachings have deeper meaning as I go through my everyday (small animal clinical practice, my mother-in-law’s death from cancer, my Mom’s recovery from acute kidney failure, building a house with my husband).  I find myself living Jack’s wisdom, as I go through each of these experiences.

I think my dream was telling me how time spent with Jack could only happen once.  Even if I went to see him speak again, it would not be the same.  He would not be the same.  Despite my insistence at who I thought he should be, Jack would have changed into someone else, in another time.  In actuality, it would be me that had changed, as well as my perception of him.

At the end of the week long retreat, Jack told us, “You are more tender than you know.  Give yourself time to reintegrate.”  Although an eager student for all his teachings so far, I dismissed this advice at first.

“I’m what?  No, not me!”, I thought.

I quickly realized the retreat had left me quite open-hearted and vulnerable.  The people who sat silently beside me in meditation were now my friends and I would miss them!  Swami Kripaku’s meditation garden felt exceptionally quiet and sacred as I walked about.  When I touched the oldest tree on the grounds of Kripalu, tears filled my eyes as I felt the sense of time and how long the Camperdown Elm had stood watch over her spot.  I was bewildered at this change but I didn’t fight it.  Gradually I let myself return to reality, forever touched by this experience.  Which is why it can never be repeated again.  Jack was who he was at that moment in time.  I was there to learn what he had to say then and only then.

Last Yin class for Summer 2016

   
 
Last Yin class with me this summer!

Mon 22 Aug, 7-8 pm, $15 drop in fee with partial proceeds to Pajama Angels/Yoga4Hope.  At PJ HQ on 452 Charles St, Windsor.

This is what it’s been all about…making time for you and supporting a good cause.  Yoga4Hope event runs all day on 27 Aug 2016.  Details and tickets at www.yoga4hope.ca.

Get your Yin in!

 
(My copy of Bernie Clark’s Yin Yoga book is digital, or that would have been in this photo too!)

Get your Yin in, before it’s too late!

What’s the Summer of Yin 2016 schedule, you say?

Last three classes run from 7-8 pm on Aug 8th/15th/22nd, at Pajama Angels HQ on 452 Charles St., Windsor. Drop-in $15 fee/class, with partial proceeds to Yoga4Hope.

Thanks to those who have joined me in the mat.  Love spending Monday’s with you!

 

Last Yin yoga class for the month is on Mon July 18th.

  
Heads up!

Join me for Yin yoga at the spacious Pajama Angels HQ @ 452 Charles St., Windsor.  On Mon July 18th, 7-8 pm, free parking, $15 drop-in fee with partial proceeds to PJ Angels/Yoga4Hope.

(This will be the last class for July, as I’m away on July 25 for another camping trip. Sneaking it in while summer is still here!)

If you can’t attend, hope to see you on August 8th, 15th or 22nd.

downwarddogdvm@gmail.com

downwarddogdvm.com

No Yin scheduled on 04 July 2016.

 Taking a pause in Butterfly pose, during a hike at Pukaskwa National Park. A week up North without Wifi or cell service.  My iPhone addiction needs a break.  Add in some afternoon naps and I’m really on vacation.

  

No Yin scheduled at PJHQ for tonite. Hope to see you on Mon July 11th at 7 pm. Check flyer for details or email me at downwarddogdvm@gmail.com for more info.

  

I was happily surprised to see that the photos taken during the guided hike last year, to White River Suspension Bridge, were used for posters this year!