Our Ottawa has been transformed by COVID-19. A great turbulence has shaken us all and numerous aftershocks may follow. Many are experiencing personal and professional hardships. Tesia Bryski, a local healer who helps residents of the 613 find a sense of grounding and thoughtful action through mindfulness, has some pro tips to help you find tranquility. This is her story.
A caring guide
Tesia holds a Master’s in Education in Counselling Psychology. She is a registered psychotherapist and registered yoga teacher who teaches mindfulness courses and practices psychotherapy at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic and the Ottawa South Resiliency Clinic. Tesia also volunteers with the Ontario COVID-19 Mental Health Network and shares her knowledge through her blog and free meditation recordings. She wants to give you the tools to shine.
Externalities can truly affect how we feel and what we think. Mindfulness, or being present in a non-judgemental way and aware of our body, emotions, thoughts, and surroundings, draws extensively from Buddhism, and is an excellent way to respond to life’s ebbs and flows. Tesia explains that “mindfulness is not about clearing the mind, it’s about responding to what is present: pleasant or unpleasant (or neutral!), and learning to cultivate a healthy response, as opposed to a mindless reaction.”
Mindfulness may help manage anxiety and stress because it changes the way we relate to those feelings. Tesia says it intervenes as a “lens through which we can develop insight into the root causes of suffering in our lives. Mindfulness does not change our life, it changes the way in which we relate to life.”
She says the main intention is to “become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and by extension, a practice in living a more skillful life wherein our values are aligned with our actions.” Indeed, the idea is to develop the “habit of noticing” to insert helpful techniques in response to pain. When you notice your mind wander into the dark, you can catch it and guide it back to the light.
We all have dark moments. We all need healthy coping strategies ready at hand. “Drinking, using drugs, binge eating, shopping—they inevitably cause more harm. And yet they are so difficult to let go of. We ought to understand the root cause of one’s suffering and implement a skilful way to cope. Typically, behind an unhelpful behaviour is a strong, scary emotion,” says Tesia.
How do you know something you’re doing isn’t good for you? Tesia says if a behaviour, relationship, or situation feels overwhelming or out of control and is permeating other areas of your life, it might be harmful. A healthy toolkit is an invaluable resource. If you’re experiencing negative thoughts, challenge them, then reframe into balanced or realistic ones. If you’re spinning in circles, develop a plan for change, and help yourself implement it. Be aware of your emotions, take care of yourself, and set boundaries. Easy in theory, yet all so difficult in practice! The guidance of a therapist is helpful and may be needed in some cases.
The process of validating and grounding
Validation is identifying your emotional experience and allowing it to exist. Tesia says emotions are “a sign that we are human, that we are alive” and are tools we can use to our benefit. For example, she says “unpleasant emotions teach us a boundary has been crossed or a value has been compromised… kind of like a compass pointing us to where we need to take action in our lives. The downside is they are usually extremely intense, which is why immediate grounding and self-soothing is needed.”
Grounding de-escalates our nervous system, calms our mind, and gives us a sense of control. Some of Tesia’s favourite grounding techniques: “Pushing your feet into the floor, taking deep, long breaths, and describing your environment out loud to yourself: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.” Self-soothing has a similar effect and involves doing something pleasant, such as a nature walk, a bath, listening to your favourite playlist, or talking to a dear friend. Keeping all of the above in mind will definitely help with the intensity of some of our lived experiences.
Social justice for Ottawa
“Social justice is acknowledging that even though we are all sentient beings, we are not all equal,” says Tesia. With that in mind, she wants to humanize meditation and mindfulness and ensure they’re accessible to all so that no group or community is left out. She believes the services she provides should not be available only to the privileged because, “when we practice as a community, we connect, and healing flourishes.” Changing the channel is key. “It is liberation,” Tesia says. “In a way, it’s the life force that brings us closer together. It’s a grounding force that calls us to connect with this deep sense of collective suffering and allows us to move into skilful action. A collective awakening. A healing. To me, community is love–our forgotten nature.”
“I acknowledge that being a white, cis woman I wield an immense amount of privilege. Privilege to use my platform to work towards dismantling socio-economic inequities, and mindfulness has ultimately taught me to do so with compassion.”
Why meditation is so important to me
In Tesia’s words: “I’ve been meditating for about ten years. It helped me heal old emotional wounds and get closer to myself. I became my own best friend. I connected with myself and my community on a deeper level–a level of understanding that dips below knowing. A level of healing that dips below simply ‘feeling better.’ It healed the way I related to pain and the way I chose to take action in spite of pain. It brought me so much closer to my body and to its truth.”
Through mindfulness, healthy coping strategies, validation, and grounding, we can learn to soothe our minds and create real impactful change within that will radiate from us. Tesia is equipped to guide you to a brighter you. She’s friendly, not at all intimidating, and never judgmental. Reach out to Tesia. She’d love to hear from you.
Tesia Bryski is a Registered Psychotherapist, and teacher (and forever student) of mindfulness and meditation in Ottawa, located on unceded Algonquin and Anishinabek territory. Her therapeutic lens is holistic, somatic-based and trauma-informed, and when not practicing therapy, she can be found feeding her spirit with nature, a good podcast, and locally-made baked goods. Visit her website, shinemindful.com or her Instagram to take a peek at the work she does!