Mindfulness is a Birthright

Mindfulness is a birthright Inuit hunter mindfully crouches over a breathing hole, courtesy of National Geographic

"Our community really needs this; will you please come?" This enthusiastic request came from an attendee after I had spoken at a conference in New York. Facing substantial challenges such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and teen suicides, the Inuit in Nunavik (located in the far north of Quebec, Canada, and only accessible by plane) were seeking tools and support. Last year, Christine Nakoolak, local Inuit community member and parent, and Salimah Gillani, long-time Kuujjuaq resident, invited me to bring trauma-informed Dynamic Mindfulness to their children and youth, as well as the adults around them.

Kuujjuaq, capital of Nunavik-- NE Quebec Kuujjuaq, capital of Nunavik-- NE Quebec

As I lived among them, I asked myself, "Who am I to teach them mindfulness?" The environment was harsh and frigid, and yet, without the clutter of endless distractions, was constantly offering up the gift of mindfulness. As I studied how the Inuit had lived there for thousands of years, I learned that an Inuit hunter would crouch motionless over a breathing hole for hours, waiting for a seal to come up for air. The difference between attention and inattention was the difference between food and starvation - a matter of life and death. Mindfulness wasn't a learned luxury, it was their birthright.

The response to our training was overwhelmingly positive. Our Dynamic Mindfulness program has taken a foothold among local educators, health professionals and more. With modest funding secured for the pilot regional program from multiple public agencies (e.g. health, education, violence prevention), I was invited back again this January, to conduct a series of trainings for people from across the entire region. I also had the opportunity to work directly with hundreds of children and youth in K-12 schools. Our training materials have been translated into Inuktitut and French, which supports local efforts to rediscover the practice of mindfulness.

Dynamic Mindfulness Training in Kuujjuaq Dynamic Mindfulness Training in Kuujjuaq

The organizers are hoping to bring us back to conduct trainings in the communities along Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, as well as Nunavut, a territory further north than Nunavik. Niroga is honored to help bring healing into a community that needs it the most.

Reflections from Nunavik training in 2016

In January of 2016, Niroga’s Executive Director, Bidyut Bose, PhD traveled to Nunavik, Canada and trained more than 20 individuals including senior management, front line community care staff, and education staff from the local health clinics, the regional health board, school board, and regional government. Here’s what they had to say:

"This training was exactly what I needed. I first came to help others but I realize that I, myself, needed this."

"It was concrete, and I am feeling good and hopeful about my practice. This training will surely have a huge impact on my life and I will be able to help others, help my students, and all those around me."

"The most beneficial aspect of this training is that I can (and will) incorporate it into my daily life. The centering and ability to focus that it provides is outstanding. I look forward to eventually passing it on to others and sharing these skills."

"This has already transformed my life. I have suffered for decades and the older I get the less hope I had of ever being happy, healthy, well and having good relations with those close to me. I now have hope and even better than that, proof that I can enjoy my life."