Elli Weisbaum

Mindfulness for Life

When I decided to pursue a PhD I was told over and over again that it would be overwhelming, isolating and painful. My response? No thanks! First of all, there isn't anything I choose to do in my life that I would describe in those ways. Secondly, the topic of my thesis is mindfulness - so pursuing a PhD on this topic with this framing just didn't make sense to me. But the more I was told this, the more it made me wonder what a mindful PhD might look like. Mindfulness is not only the focus of my research, but an integral part of my life. The practice is woven into the fabric of everything I do. For me, integrating mindfulness into the meta approach of pursuing my PhD seemed not only natural, but also ethical and imperative for my mental health. The aspiration behind this blog is to bring awareness for myself to this journey and to share the experience of attempting to navigate a PhD on mindfulness with mindfulness. This isn't to claim that I will never suffer or experience being overwhelmed, isolated and in pain during this process - but it is to set an intention to meet these feelings with kindness and care and to transform them so that I can also experience joy and happiness as part of this 5 year adventure.

Inaugural Mindfulness Research Symposium at SickKids Hospital

Organizing a day to explore the research, science and practice of mindfulness

 Afternoon panel from left: Sarah Ahola-Kohut, Dzung Vo, Anne Wheeler, Norman Farb, Elli Weisbaum

Afternoon panel from left: Sarah Ahola-Kohut, Dzung Vo, Anne Wheeler, Norman Farb, Elli Weisbaum

A brief entry to share some joy from this past week! Over the last several months I have been part of the organizing team for the Inaugural Mindfulness Research Symposium at SickKids hospital. I was invited a year ago to join the Mindfulness Project Team, which is an interdepartmental effort to bring mindfulness to the hospital. It was started with the support of CEO Mike Apkon and members of the senior administration. For the past five years they have been offering different programs throughout the hospital for patients, families, staff and administrators. I have worked with them over the past few years to give presentations and workshops throughout the hospital. Officially joining the team for their weekly meetings has been an honour.

But back to the symposium! The aspiration was to create a day to showcase mindfulness research and to start building connection and dialogue between researchers in the research tower, and clinicians in the hospital. 

To speak to the different audiences, the organizing team came up with a novel idea to have speaker pairings where the audience would hear about the same topic (for example, mood disorders) from a mindfulness researcher, a basic scientists, a clinician and practitioner. These different perspectives would allow for the audience to hear about the scientific underpinnings, theory and practical knowledge translation.

 
 Dr. Steven Prescott speaking about inference

Dr. Steven Prescott speaking about inference

 Elli Weisbaum discussing the “hand model” of the brain

Elli Weisbaum discussing the “hand model” of the brain

 

The symposium sold out and I am happy to report that it was a successful and nourishing day full of connection and insight. 

A highlight from the day was when Dr. Dzung Vo, from BC Children’s Hospital, did a live demonstration of his program MARS-A (an adaptation of MBCT for adolescents) with a group of teens, who have all gone to the Inward Bound Mindfulness camp for teens. Hearing the teens share about their lived experience of mindfulness was incredibly powerful. 

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Our incredible lineup of speakers included:

Moring session

Dr. Zindel Segal “Mindfulness Therapeutics in the Promotion of Mental Health”

Dr. Steven Prescott “How Expectations Modulate Perception: A Biological Perspective”

Dr. Danielle Ruskin “I Learned to Let Go of My Pain”: Clinical Application of Mindfulness Meditation to Adolescents with Chronic Pain”

Sara Marlowe “Practical Application: Compassion practice”

Afternoon Session

Dr. Norm Farb “How Mindfulness Targets Neural Markers of Depression Vulnerability” 

Dr. Anne Wheeler “Identifying variation in brain circuits with MRI”

Elli Weisbaum “Practical Application: Mindfulness for patients, families & clinicians”

Dr. Dzung Vo “The Mindful Teen: Science & Practice of Mindfulness for Adolescents”

Evening Workshop

Dr. Dzung Vo “MARS-A: A Workshop on Facilitating Mindful Awareness & Resilience for Adolescents”

 The Mindfulness Project Team and speakers at the Inaugural Mindfulness Research Symposium at SickKids Hospital, September 20, 2018. From left: Elli Weisbaum, Ani Jamyang Brock, Norman Farb, Dzung Vo, Sara Ahola-Kohut, Zindel Segal, Scott Prescott, Mary Bell, Chandra Ram, Danielle Ruskin, Fred MacKay

The Mindfulness Project Team and speakers at the Inaugural Mindfulness Research Symposium at SickKids Hospital, September 20, 2018. From left: Elli Weisbaum, Ani Jamyang Brock, Norman Farb, Dzung Vo, Sara Ahola-Kohut, Zindel Segal, Scott Prescott, Mary Bell, Chandra Ram, Danielle Ruskin, Fred MacKay

Elli Weisbaum