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Mindful meditation gives Vancouverites the room to breathe

Vancouver trending: From school kids to corporate executives, mindfulness offers an antidote to today’s fast-paced, tech-satiated world

A man takes part in a mindful meditation session.

Courtesy Lululemon

A man takes part in a mindful meditation session.

Inside a tucked-away Gastown studio, white walls are patterned with sunlight, the sweet-sharp scent of eucalyptus drifts through the room, and a profound sense of calm is settling in. Eyes closed, a group of practitioners forms a circle. Their breath is measured and slow.

This is mindful meditation, and from school kids to corporate executives, it's a practice that's catching on in Vancouver. Mindfulness, a connection to and awareness of the present moment, offers an antidote to today's fast-paced, tech-satiated world, a chance to appreciate being alive.

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Anita Cheung, Moment Meditation's effervescent co-founder and brand experience director, came to meditation through her own mental health struggle in her early 20's. A counsellor taught her the practice of mindfulness to help her cope with stress and depression. "I learned to get to know myself by sitting with myself," she said.

For the past few years, recognizing the benefits of mindfulness in her own life and wanting to spread awareness, she has introduced pop-up meditation studios as a "passion project."  Situated in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery just before Christmas last year, she generated a lot of interest with a mobile studio housed in an airstream trailer.

It also netted the attention of Hiroko Demichelis and Evian McMillan, both avid mindfulness practitioners with their own areas of expertise, and soon, Moment was born. They offer classes tailored to reduce stress, improve focus, and boost mood for individuals, companies, and classrooms. They also have the technology to measure MQ, or Mindfulness Quotient, quantifying meditation's ability to lower stress by testing muscle tension and electrical activity in the brain.

With its openness to small businesses, entrepreneurs and forward thinking,

Vancouver's health-conscious population makes it poised to be at the Canadian centre of the mindfulness movement.

In Vancouver public schools, MindUP, a curriculum used to teach  mindfulness to pre-elementary to Grade 8 students, has been widely lauded for its positive results in teaching kids ways to cope with stress from an early age

Mindfulness Friends is a group of people practising mindfulness in Metro Vancouver, including mindful nature walks, online and group meditation.

Shambhala has been introducing Vancouverites to mindfulness-awareness for over 30 years, offering a  by-donation weekly open house as well as various classes, meditation practices, and training. Mindful Living offers individual counselling, mindfulness group programs, and workplace programs.

As for Moment Meditation, its founders have far-reaching dreams. They hope to have studios in 40 locations by 2020, and are currently working with an American architect to create a design-forward mobile studio.  Cheung noted "the idea has evolved but the purpose is the same." She pointed out that people are afraid to try mediation because they think they're doing it wrong. But modern forms of mindfulness aim to take meditation to the masses, making it accessible to all.

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