VIN Mindfulness Meditation Retreat 2017

“You can only do what time and resources allow.” M. Gaspar

“You are not having a bad life. You are just having a bad day.” M. Beard

Happily overtired because I opted to skip sleep to stay up late and chat. Few things will tempt me to delay my regular bedtime hour. But I had only four days and I wanted to make every moment count.

Dr. Michele Gaspar (DVM, LPC) organized our annual Mindfulness Meditation Retreat at Techny Towers, in the Chicago area. Through the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a virtual community of veterinarians had connected on-line. It was at the Retreat where we got to see each other in person, perhaps for the first time. Another first, thanks to the support of VIN, was the approval of RACE credits, making this program recognized as information worthy of being included as an option for veterinary continuing education.

From tentative newcomers to returning regulars, our group of 23 veterinarians developed the camraderie and openness required for deep conversation. Dr. David Thoele, MD introduced us to a quick and simple writing exercise (3 Minute Mental Makeover) that could help us process our work. Ann Raney, LCSW explained how being available to our animal patients & their owners allowed us to be present and to consider our work as sacred rather than purely technical.

We also had opportunities for meditation (sitting and walking), yoga to enhance our mind-body awareness, watercolor painting as way to play and process our thoughts, & a book swap with a mindfulness theme. Gelato with a movie (“American Beauty”) got us all thinking about reality vs appearances.

I’d prepared some yoga classes to teach but knew it would change from what I had planned. We needed to be together for me to get a sense of the group energy. I knew I wanted to introduce my colleagues to the possibilities that yoga could offer for developing their mindfulness practice. It ended up being a potpourri of yoga! The first class showed how a chair and props could help people settle into their bodies as they experimented with mindful movement. The second class was a hatha yoga flow, based on one from the Palouse Mindfulness on-Line course, so people could use it to continue their practice at home. We did restorative yoga, for one evening practice and on the last morning, to help the body rest and relax. We did simple yoga breathing practices, to help focus and calm.

I was so grateful to be part of this group of dedicated veterinarians. We knew that, in order to care for our animal patients and families, we needed to find tools to take care of ourselves. We came back to this theme many times, in different ways, and provided ideas, compassion and support for each other. Within a few days, we developed a mutual trust that allowed us to “hold the space” and permit ourselves to be vulnerable with others.

I hope this retreat continues to lead the trend towards wellness in veterinary medicine. Our profession needs to be nurtured carefully, as many of us have been struggling alone and silently for too long. By bringing together colleagues in a safe and guided environment, we can develop the skills to practice mindfully.

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.

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