I came to the MBSR class hoping it could help me with the panic attacks I have had for the last 5 years. Marian was a wonderful teacher. She incorporated a wonderful sense of humour, grace, and knowledge that made me look forward to each evening.
I also really enjoyed the group. It is a unique situation to have a group of strangers be able to work that respectfully and openly. I do think this was largely in response to the tone set by the teacher.
I got so much out of the class! I feel in control now. When I have felt the beginnings of an anxiety attack I have been able to stop the catastrophizing (awfulizing) and be more in the present. I am enjoying the practice of meditation, although have not made this a daily practice as of yet. I was afraid that I would be dependent on medications to ease my panic, but now I feel I have the tools to be in charge myself. I don’t know if I’ll go off meds yet, but at least I feel this is an option now.”
– Bonny G., elementary school teacher
“Marian, I would like to thank you again for the experience of the seminar. It really has helped from day one to the last session.
I came to the course through my Workplace Intervention Counsellor. I had to resolve problems of conflict with [one of my superiors] at work but had not found success, leading to a nervous breakdown to put it briefly. The first session was so enlightening for me that I knew that this was something I really needed for myself.
[Through taking the course], I found I have a voice and opinions that matter. I learned to see who I once was, and found that I can be a father, husband and person at the same time. The mindfulness gave me something that has always eluded me: focus. I am not saying that I am terrific at this point, but the mindfulness has given me back some control of the steering wheel and I no longer make constant left turns in my life.
I feel more at peace with myself. I haven’t had that in years. I don’t fly off at the handle at every little thing anymore (sure I still get pissed off, but less so now). Again many thanks to you Marian.”
– John K., Media Graphics Designer
“I participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction course, taught by Marian Smith and Brett Peterson, in the fall of 2006. As a registered clinical counsellor who also teaches meditation, this gave me an opportunity to learn from other instructors while also deepen in my own practice of mindfulness in daily life.
I greatly appreciate and respect how Marian and Brett teach this unique approach to being in the world and “welcoming” life stressors. I found the class time to be both rich and rewarding. The course concepts were delivered from a place of great wisdom, clarity, and humour. Their style of instruction created a class atmosphere of respect and compassion where group members felt safe in expressing the challenges they face in their personal lives.
I left each class feeling renewed and inspired, and heard many other similar positive thoughts from fellow group participants.
I highly recommend Marian and Brett as therapists and educators, and I continue to seek their counsel and courses.”
– Denise Coles, MA, RCC
“I’m a television producer/writer/director, right now juggling three projects, one to air October 27th, another a ten part series airing January on CBC; and I need to start filming a documentary in November. Needless to say, I feel my gut roiling on occasion, but nowhere near as much as I did before I took Marian & Brett’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program a year ago. It changed my life. The skills learned over that 8 weeks have transformed me.
Mostly at 3am, when my eyes fly open and I begin to make a massive mental “to do” list. Before mindfulness training, my mind would finish the list, then I’d begin feeling anxious about how I’d get it all done, then I’d beat myself up because I knew I would drop at least one ball, which would lead to remembering all the other balls I’d dropped in my life, which would result in considerable self-castigation on my part. From there, I’d spin out to how I’d likely wreck at least one of the professional relationships involved in the “to do” list by not delivering on time, and before you know it, NEVER HAVE WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!! An hour later, I’d be wide-awake.
Since mindfulness training, I begin to simply breathe. Then, if thoughts like this do arise, I recognize them for what they are, simply: thoughts. No more powerful than I make them. Learning to disconnect from [my] downward spiral of negative thinking is wonderful – and as the MasterCard ad says – priceless. Without ever looking at the clock, I find myself asleep shortly there after. Mindfulness training has had an even deeper impact in my personal life where that downward spiral of thinking can be even more harmful. I wished I’d learned this skill 20 years ago.”
– Name withheld, Television Producer/Writer/Director
In the fall of 2005, I met Marian and Brett after responding to a flyer for a stress reduction course. During the first few weeks of the course I felt unnerved, as I’d thought we would be learning various tips and strategies for lessening stress and could take home a kind of laundry list of techniques for use during stressful times. Instead, Marian and Brett were describing an altogether different approach, using terms like “radical acceptance” and “mindful awareness,” paradoxical terms that were suggestive more of being (oneself, in the moment) rather than doing (something, or even anything), of a gentle reorientation toward the inevitability of stress rather than a more muscular effort of trying to sweep stress out of one’s life.
Over time, I grew to love this approach and took another class with Marian and Brett and then another. I found my willingness to be mindful quite helpful in my relationships with others and particularly in my parenting of three small children. I was also dealing with a deep-seated anxiety around my own and my loved ones’ health and well-being as a consequence of painful, unresolved events from my past. Though I’d dealt with these events before with another therapist, somehow this time the meditation practice helped me see more deeply into them. When the pain of these issues and the anxiety they generated began to feel too burdensome to handle alone, I sought Marian’s counsel through individual therapy.
During our sessions, which lasted over a period of five months, Marian used a combination of cognitive-behavioural and psychotherapeutic approaches. She also explicitly addressed some of my pain through methods developed to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder. Throughout our sessions she used the wisdom of the mindful approach, which helped me integrate my experiences from the past and feel greater self-acceptance in the present.
Though confronting these issues at times felt very heavy for me, our work was never anything less than a joy. Marian is an astute, intelligent listener who can distill and re-present the essence of an issue with clarity and insight. She offers observations gently and often with great humour. I found our sessions to be intensely invigourating and at the same time deeply calming. Marian really helped me see that to struggle against the anxiety is to compound and magnify it, whereas to accept and even to welcome it is to lessen its hold on my life. Like the teachings on stress in the first mindfulness workshops, this philosophy of mental health offers a real paradox, but I’m thrilled to say it’s one I can happily live with!
– Jane O., writer & mother
Testimonials from A Year to Live Program
“It was a good way to take care of unfinished business that I had been trying to ignore for a long time. It helped me to put some difficult things from my past into perspective. I feel lighter now and know that I am more present in my relationships.”
“My mother passed away partway through this course and so I was unable to finish it. But the work that we did in the classes really helped me to handle her death in a way that I feel good about. In reviewing the positive memories surrounding her, I found so much to be grateful for that I had forgotten. Of course, there was difficult stuff too (!) but the exercises really helped me to be much more compassionate with her– and with myself. Thank you.”
“This is really important work that you both do and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this course. It was so interesting to listen to the evening talks, I feel like the material is going to continue to reverberate for awhileâ€¦ I had some very deep experiences with the guided meditation where I felt a powerful sense of peace… And for someone with my level of anxiety that is no small thing! I just wish the course could have gone on longer.”
“[The course] was very helpful in demystifying death. It brought it down a notch. [I learned to] turn and face fear and breathe with it, and found it’s not quite so scary… It’s easy to think there’s all the time in the world. There isn’t. Get with it! I loved this part!
[I also realized] how glad I am of everything I have in my life, everything that’s come before, everything that’s made me who I am, and all that I have to be thankful for right now: all of this was brought home by the eulogy-writing exercise at the end of the class. This was a beautiful piece of the experience and one that I’m very grateful for. [A Year to Live] is a real winner in my book!”