Creativity and Mindfulness

The intrepid Ramsey Margolis, founder of the One Mindful Breath secular Buddhist group in Wellington, New Zealand, as well as a new secular Buddhist publishing house, the Tuwhiri Project, has an exciting new project, Creative Dharma, a monthly newsletter looking at how we might use creativity in meditation practice, and bring meditative sensibility into our artistic practice. The newsletter is on Substack– you can sign up for it here: This theme reflects an emerging focus in Stephen Batchelor’s work (see:

For myself, I find the heart of practice involves coming alive to the richly creative interdependent processes from which we arise. I often reflect on the deep connection between creativity and mindfulness practice in my role as the Mindfulness and Wellness Clinical Educator with the Health Arts and Humanities (HAH) Program ( in the University of Toronto, led by my old friend, Dr Allan Peterkin. Allan has a gift for cooking up interesting, worthwhile projects. This academic year I am involved in facilitating two HAH projects. The first involves a course/group for a dozen U of T medical residents and fellows using Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy (EFMT) as well as Touching the Earth (TtE) processes for cultivating self-care and therapeutic presence.

Continue reading “Creativity and Mindfulness”

The Wonder of Ordinary Becoming

View from my kitchen window in downtown Toronto

A new dawn, a new fresh day, the sun rising again in our hearts. Our ordinary being in the world is this rich fresh creative occurring into all that is being implied in us and our world (Gendlin, 2018, A Process Model). Good morning beautiful world, thank you for this our new becoming!

Did you know similar themes can be found in the roots of the Christian “Our Father,” the “Lord’s Prayer”? The American scholar and Sufi teacher living in Fife, Scotland, Neil Douglas-Klotz (1990), writes that the first line of this prayer in the King James Bible, “Our father which art in heaven,” is, in the Aramaic Jesus spoke, “Abwoon d’bashmaya.” In the esoteric understanding of the ancient native Middle East, Douglas-Klotz explains, “a” is totality, “bw” birthing, “oo” subtle energy, and “n” manifestation. “Abwoon” is also a play on the word “abba” or “Daddy,” but this daddy is this tender total interpenetrating sacred creativity birthing us and the world in each moment. “Shm” is “shem,” the signature presence by which we recognize a being or process. “Aya” refers to “in every point of time and space.”

Every line and word in such a passage has multiple meanings. This morning, it expresses for me the wonder of contemplating the sense of how interdependent arising creates us and the world afresh in every moment, radiating and smiling through our hearts and throughout the world. In our Touching the Earth session last Sunday morning, someone quoted Rumi, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”

Continue reading “The Wonder of Ordinary Becoming”

Free Intro to Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy – for Therapists

Format: ONLINE live group webinar
Leader: Bill Gayner
Date: Monday, October 26, 2020
Time: 1pm – 2:30pm (EST)

Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy Groups (EFMT)
Centre for Psychology and Emotional Health

Here is a video of the workshop:

This is an opportunity for therapists to experience and learn about EFMT through this free psychoeducational and experiential introductory workshop. EFMT is a style of mindfulness meditation that integrates loving-kindness, while cultivating gentle curiosity and self-compassion to help people process their issues and core concerns.

In EFMT, the group leader introduces and models for participants how we can create a safe space for inner work by cultivating self-compassionate awareness. Emotional processing is facilitated by orienting people to attend to their bodies to: become aware of, allow, experience, accept, and transform their emotional experience, both in meditation, and afterwards in further exploration with the therapist. Emotional processing is a combination of attending inwardly to and reflecting on one’s bodily-felt experience and emotions, to address and resolve inner conflicts and core issues, and better navigate life situations. After meditation, participants journal what they recall happened in meditation in order to better acknowledge and deepen their emotional experience. In addition, participants take turns describing their meditation experience, with the therapist listening to their whole meditation narrative and then responding to whatever seems most alive and poignant in the moment, and empathically exploring this with them.

EFMT Therapist Introduction Workshop
This therapist introduction will include a 30-minute introduction to EFMT, 15 minutes of silent meditation, 5-10 minutes of journaling the meditation experience, and optional participant sharing of experiences.

Update on Touching the Earth

I introduced our fledgling Touching the Earth (TtE) approach to readers on the Secular Buddhist Network (SBN) website about six months ago, after our first TtE daylong in November. SBN is a hub for all the various kinds of secular Buddhism worldwide. TtE has deep roots in secular Buddhism.

In this new article for SBN, Update on Touching the Earth, I describe how our TtE group has grown slowly and steadily from nine to twenty one members, successfully transitioned with COVID to an online format, and the enthusiasm with which participants are responding to it. Touching the Earth is a non-teacher-centric, self-help application of Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy, a community for cultivating mindfulness mindfulness as an embodied social practice.

Social Work Me Podcast Interview

I am grateful to Matt Barnes for interviewing me on the Social Work Me Podcast in a wide-ranging discussion on the development of Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy, including its Emotion-Focused Therapy orientation and aspects of its Mindfulness-Based and Buddhist roots. As we talked, the time flew by, and we realized we could have kept talking for hours.

What’s Your Rat Park?

The team that helps me plan and host our annual Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy Summer Retreat at the beautiful Ecology Retreat Centre north of Toronto (sadly cancelled this year because of the pandemic) has an inside joke about how the process of getting together to meditate, share, and organize and facilitate these retreats is our Rat Park. This is a reference to ground-breaking research conducted by Canadian psychologist Dr. Bruce Alexander. A new documentary on this research and its implications, Rat Park, was released last year.

Continue reading “What’s Your Rat Park?”

Childhood Magic

Carl Jung recommended, if at all possible, to return to the religion of one’s childhood. For many of us, this is a bit of a stretch, but what was more sacred than sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap sharing Dr. Seuss with us? Here it is brought alive by Wes Tank rapping Fox in Sox…

From the Garden to the Garden

Spring at last! I live in a condo and do not have a garden to stroll in right outside my door, but looking out my windows this morning, I can see Allan Gardens just south of us here in downtown Toronto, its trees beginning to bud. I walked through this park just the other day, socially distancing with an old friend. Entering that park was a balm.

Think of all the gardens, parks and wilderness, you and I, dear reader, have walked in with friends and family, how these experiences change us! 

This morning, I am reminded of words from Rumi, “we come from the garden to the garden.” I used to assume this referred to Rumi’s beliefs about where we came from before we were born and where we go when we die, but also something to do with where consciousness emerges from and returns to, in the moment. This morning I associate these words with integrating the easy aliveness to the world we knew once upon a time when we were young into our adult life, how that changes everything, brings us alive to how experiencing emerges out of our deep participation in the world and returns to it. Coming alive to the felt sense of how the world embraces us and co-constructs us, a thousand kisses deep.

Despair = Suffering – Meaning

A wonderful video interview of Viktor Frankl describing how surviving difficult situations depends on our ability to recognize our freedom to find meaning even in the midst of despair. He says that Despair = Suffering – Meaning.

Emotion-Focused Therapy agrees with this: we are at heart meaning-making creatures and adds that it is by learning how to navigate, make sense of and reflect on emotions that tells us what is most important to us and motivates us to act.

Brief Guided Calming Meditation

A friend asked if I had any recordings of my guided meditation, and I didn’t, but it inspired me to Google how to make a video and post it, and here it is on first take: a brief guided meditation for grounding and calming. This is the meditation I provide when clients are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. 

Continue reading “Brief Guided Calming Meditation”