- There are many different forms of love, for example, an intimate partner, child, friend, family, or other humanity. Each form of love has the fundamental elements of Curiosity, Openness, and Acceptance, which equal Love (COAL) (Siegel, 2010)

  • “Loving-kindness means bringing a COAL state of being present, attuning, and resonating with the person” (Siegel, 2010)
  • Being present, attuned, and resonating are skills that need to be deeply understood and need development. Please ask us for the research summaries we have available for each of these skills

- “The following are a few examples of loving-kindness phrases. These phrases can evoke internal states of clarity, compassion, and integration as they facilitate the neural firing of our resonance circuits, which enable us to be attuned to others and ourselves. With practice, these intentionally created states of kindness can become long-term traits of compassion and caring concern” (Siegel, 2010):

  • “May I be happy and live with a joyful heart“
  • “May I be healthy and have a body that gives me energy”
  • “May I live with the ease that comes from well-being” (Siegel, 2010)

- With the practice of loving-kindness meditation, a person’s relationship to his/her negative internal experiences will change. This change is what makes this practice essential to learning self-acceptance and managing self-critical thoughts

  • “By accepting aversive thoughts and feelings, eventually less attention is placed on such aversive emotions (fears, anxiety, and self-doubt) and attention can then be freed up to be placed on the present moment” (Baltzell, 2016)

- “Self-compassion emphasizes soothing and comforting the self when distressing experiences arise, remembering that such experiences are part of being human.” (Neff & Germer, 2013 as cited in Baltzell, 2016)

- “Empathy for others is stimulated when we perform loving-kindness exercises and when we develop attunement internally” (Siegel, 2010)

- “When one’s thinking process is maladaptive, the individual tends to experience either cognitive fusion, when a person reacts as if their thoughts are literally true, or experiential avoidance, when a person attempts to escape or avoid the event” (Hayes, 2004 as cited in Baltzell, 2016).

- The problem is not a person’s thoughts, but how one responds to the problem (Hayes, 2004 as cited in Baltzell, 2016)

- Even though this type of meditation might feel a little strange at first, please remember that within six weeks, new neural pathways will be formed. This type of Brain Training capitalizes on your brain’s neuroplasticity. The new neural pathways eventually enable you to live a more productive life and disentangle your self-critical thoughts that immobilize you

- The research evidence on the use of self-compassion with elite athletes and executives has demonstrated that self-compassion/self-acceptance results in significantly improved performance, more resilience to setbacks, and steeper growth rates. It is an essential feature of Performance and Sports Psychology

Self-Compassion Increases Failure Tolerance –>

 Less Recovery Time after Failures & Enhanced Problem Solving


Failure Tolerance –> Better Mental Health Outcomes and Growth



Brain Training Link

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 with Digital Booklet by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Track 4 = Loving kindness)

*To access this practice, search Jon Kabat-Zinn into the ITunes Stores. Purchase is required. ($19.99) The album is titled “Guided Mindfulness Meditation, Series 1 with Digital Booklet.”

This link can be used on Mac Computers but not in iPhones or iPads.


Baltzell, A. L, (2016).  Mindfulness and performance. Cambridge University Press

Siegel, D. J. (2010). The mindful therapist: A clinician’s guide to mindsight and neural

integration New York: W.W. Norton & Company


Wheel Of Awarenes

- The center hub of the metaphoric wheel represents the “knowing” of being conscious, while the elements on the rim stand for the “known”

- As seen in the diagram, known elements on the external rim include:

  • Our first five sense – what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch
  • What we sense from our inner bodily sensations
  • What we experience with our mental activities – feelings, thoughts, memories
  • Our sense of relational connections with humanity

- The power of practicing the Wheel of Awareness is to integrate consciousness by differentiating hub from rim, and intentionally linking these various elements on the external rim

- This integration of consciousness allows us to free our mind to learn to move recurrent thoughts and moods towards an open space of knowing – the hub

- This practice can liberate the mind from embedded patterns of cognition and emotion and help you emerge with a more open sense of awareness

PDF copy of the Wheel of Awareness diagram and practice tips:


Wheel of Awareness (Introduction):


Wheel of Awareness II (actual mindfulness) (four rim sectors):




Siegel, D. J. (2010). The mindful therapist: A clinician’s guide to mindsight and neural integration. New York: W.W. Norton & Company










Breath Awareness Instructions

In this summary, we include much of the science that is not usually explained in “regular breath awareness”. More importantly, we emphasize subtle methodological changes that make all the difference in terms of the results you can get from meditation. Please make sure that you read this and implement the instructions as it will very likely speed up the results for you. The sections in italics are the “musts” of the technique. 

1. What is Breath Awareness?

Breath awareness is a type of meditation.  During breath awareness, it is important to know that we are not watching our breath, but rather sensing ourselves breathe – without judgment.  The idea is to breathe normally and to observe how it feels. We are turning on our sensory awareness, and turning off our logic, conceptualizations, thinking, etc. (i.e. during breath awareness the goal is to utilize sensations in your body as your primary guide). Breath awareness is about very strong, and single mindedly focusing your attention – you are not relaxing. Instead, breath awareness is about creating the neural pathways in your brain that allow you to be in the present moment. The ultimate goal of breath awareness training is to bring your focus to the “very next”.  To experience the very next sensation during the very next millisecond allows the “very next” to be brought from your future to as close to the now as possible. 

2. Brain Fitness

Breath awareness is thought to be a type of exercise that is toning the muscles of the brain (our neurons). With increased brain fitness comes increased overall health, mental health, and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Breath awareness is the most effective sensory awareness – especially for the formation of neural pathways. Within six weeks of breath awareness training, we can create and strengthen synaptic connections, stimulate new neurons to grow, and enhance the conduction speed of neurons. The end result is that the connected neurons (the new neural pathway that you are building through the practice during the six weeks) build myelin around the axons. Myelin acts as a conductor between neurons and speeds up the processing of information between neurons. After six weeks, the myelin speeds things up and allows the neurons to communicate 3000 times faster than any of your other dominant pathways.

“Myelin can increase conduction speed by 100 times.  And while all neurons need to rest after firing, myelin can reduce that resting time – called a refractory period – by 30 times.  The end result, you can imagine, is that if you and I are neurons in a circuit and we’ve been training well, our communication with each other will be 3000 times faster than an unmyelinated pair of connected neurons. Three thousand times more efficiency in the brain means that our functional connectivity will outshine other neuronal communication.  The brain overall can be considered a competitive real estate market: Action goes to the most active bidder.  In this case, our enhanced communication will dominate over our competitors, and our circuits will become a prominent player in the overall impact of neuronal firing in the brain as a whole” (Siegel, 2010).

“The number of hours of practice is proportional to the amount of myelin wrapping the relevant circuits. Expertise, practice, and myelin go hand in hand.  To become a mindsight maven, to learn to see and shape the flow of energy and information within our subjective lives, we need to train the mind to myelinate the brain in specific areas” (Siegel, 2010).

3. The “Very Next”

The ultimate goal of breath awareness training is to bring your focus to the “very next”.  To experience the very next sensation during the very next millisecond allows the “very next” to be brought from your future to as close to the now as possible. This allows you to experience every tiny nuanced sensation that is happening in the present, rather than anticipating what is to come in the future.  For instance, at the beginning of your training, you may be thinking of your very next as what you will be having for dinner later on. Then, after some practice, your very next will be brought closer to the point where you are thinking of your whole breath, and then eventually brought so close to observe what you are sensing millisecond by millisecond in the present moment.

4. The Key Ingredients:

  1. Everyone struggles with breath awareness at the beginning – that is completely normal.  The mind is constantly wandering and juggling countless thoughts.  It is important to remember it takes time to train your brain to be in the moment.  Practicing once a day for even 5-10 minutes is enough to train breath awareness. Once properly trained, five breaths can bring you back to the moment. Struggling while learning this meditation is not optional – it is neurologically required.
  1. You want to feel your breath millisecond by millisecond.
  1. Every distraction is a welcome opportunity to notice you are distracted and to train your ability to detach from a distraction and refocus. This ability to witness a negative thought, feeling, etc. and then detach from it is extremely effective at bringing mental health. You are directly rewiring your brain to tolerate uncertainty and unfinished business in real life because each and every time you practice, you are accepting a distraction and then moving on calmly. After training for a few weeks, this ability permeates your day-to-day life.
  1. You are rewiring your brain not to get entangled or blinded by a thought, memory or powerful emotion and this as well extends to your day-to-day life within a few weeks.
  1. Finally, you are also rewiring your brain to tolerate failure calmly and with discipline, rather than with harsh self-criticism. Each distraction puts you against a small “failure” and the only way to refocus is to be gentle with yourself (not self critical) and return to your focus. This way of facing failures or frustrations in a gentle non-critical way is a result of the rewiring of your brain that you do with the practice.

Meditation Links:

Breath Awareness Introduction: http://www.wwnorton.com/common/flvplayer/?flvID=/npb/MindfulTherapist/BreathAwareness.mp3

Breath Awareness Practice (Jon Kabat-Zinn): A better option. Please remember that it takes at least 5-7 minutes to generate precursors to dopamine. Dopamine results in more focus and feelings of well-being. So try to continue past the 5-7 minutes, as it usually gets much easier.  NB: If you cannot complete all of this meditation it is not an issue. Do more than 7 min and as much as you would like.

*To access this practice, search Jon Kabat-Zinn into the ITunes Stores. Purchase is required ($19.99). The album is titled “Guided Mindfulness Meditation, Series 1 with Digital Booklet.”












New Therapist Spotlight: Jennifer Newman

We’re excited to introduce our newest team member, Jennifer Newman.

Jennifer is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology. She has received extensive training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and has worked with a wide range of client populations (i.e., adults, adolescents, children, and individuals in conflict with the law) experiencing a number of mental health concerns. Jennifer has experience in providing both individual and group psychotherapy and has a special interest in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, interpersonal difficulties, and emotional dysregulation. She has completed clinical training at Surrey Place Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as well as McMaster Children’s Hospital, and has worked with individuals in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Jennifer’s graduate research examines risk factors and correlates of criminal behaviour among various forensic populations. She currently holds a 3-year Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for her doctoral studies, and has presented her research at both national and international conferences.

Words from Jennifer: “Hello! I’m Jennifer Newman. I’m currently a PhD Candidate in Clinical Psychology. In therapy, I focus on building a warm and positive therapeutic relationship with my clients in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Although I am primarily a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, my approach to therapy is often integrative, drawing on elements of other evidence-based psychotherapies to best meet my clients’ individual needs and goals. Please feel free to schedule an appointment with me if you think we would be a good match!”