Mindfulness Challenge 2017 - Mindfulness Challenge 2017

We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life... but we can change the way we experience it.
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Oct 14th, 2017

Why Meditate?

 It’s hard to answer the question, “why meditate” in a way that relates to everyone.

Sometimes, analogies can be helpful. Of course an analogy can only go so far until it starts to break down, so please take it with a grain of salt.

Here goes:

Imagine you are inside of a really dirty, dusty house. It’s pitch black inside, even though the house has windows.

You want to clean this house. But where do you start?

You start with the windows, because you can’t see anything otherwise (let’s pretend that this imaginary house has no lights).

The windows have a very thick layer of grime, so you use a coarse brush to clean them.

It doesn’t take very long for light to stream in. Now you can see the atrocious mess inside the house.

All of the furniture is out of order, upside down, in the wrong spots, and of course covered with dirt and dust.

The windows are still very dirty. But they’re just windows.

Now that you see the mess, you can’t bear to leave it alone.

You decide to put the windows on hold while you work on the rest of the house.

So you get to it. Arranging everything, and wiping all the dust down.

This is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. Much longer than it took to do that initial clean of the windows.

But now you notice that the house has gotten dimmer. You look over and realize that the windows have gotten dirty again.

All that cleaning kicked up a bunch of dust, which settled on the windows.

So you get back to working on the windows. This time around, you can use a finer brush; you’ve already cleaned the worst grime off.

And now you’re really able to devote a lot of time to cleaning the windows.

As you do so, the room gets brighter. You’re able to see a lot more detail that you haven’t seen before.

You see just how many things there are in this house. It’s actually quite cluttered.

You notice there’s extra furniture that you don’t need hiding in corners.

Knick knacks and various unnecessary decorations now look garish under the bright light that the windows are letting in.

So you get rid of the stuff. You give away the useful things, the rest you throw away.

Once you’ve done that, the house feels spacious and comfortable.

Now it’s a house that you actually enjoy being in. It’s a house that you can invite people into. After all, there’s more room now.

So you’ve invited people to stay with you in this house. And many people like to visit. You have a lot to keep you busy.

And there’s a lot to keep you distracted. It’s easy to forget about the windows.

But you keep cleaning the windows. After all, it started with the windows.

You know that if the windows get too dirty again, everything else will fall into disrepair.

But how clean do you really get them?

Do you clean them just enough to get the light through? So you can go back to enjoying your lovely, popular house?

Or maybe you want to get them really clean.

At this point you have to be deliberate and careful. It's easy to wipe a spot down, only to leave a streak behind.

You have to use the right tool for the job. Even the finest brush won’t do at this stage. You’re polishing the windows with a fine, delicate cloth.

But why bother getting them so clean?

Because you want to see clearly not just inside the house, but outside of it as well.

Once you get the windows this clean, you can finally see outside.

What do you see?

You’ve probably figured out the analogy by now, but in case you haven’t:
  • The house is your life
  • The windows are your mind
  • Cleaning the windows is your meditation practice

Oct 10th, 2017

Hi all,

Last year, I participated in a meditate-a-thon to raise funds for an outreach program run by the Centre for Mindfulness Studies. Thanks in no small part to your generosity, I was able to raise $1,962 through my fundraising page. The total raised at last year’s event came to a whopping $104,296!

Here are three ways in which the money is being used since then:

1. 750 marginalized people
per year having access to weekly mindfulness sessions as part of our Mindful Peer Leadership program, in which clients of five social service agencies are being trained to facilitate mindfulness sessions for their peers.

2. Hundreds of homeless people
having access to a weekly 1.5 hour mindfulness group at Beth Shalom’s Out of the Cold program this past winter.

3. 80 low-income people
being provided bursaries to the centre’s mindfulness-based therapy programs.

I was fortunate to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family this past weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for your friendship. I’m thankful that you have the time and patience to read this post. And finally, I am thankful for any amount that you can donate.

I have signed up for the meditate-a-thon again this year. However, I won’t get a chance to spam you as much as I did last year -- it’s happening this weekend!

So please donate as soon as you have a moment (click the "Donate" button on the top right of this page). If you scroll down, you’ll find all of my updates from last year, and some of my personal story about how I got into mindfulness and meditation.

Finally, here’s the TED talk I promised. Even if you’re somewhat of a skeptic, I hope that you’ll get something positive out of it. Or at least enjoy it. ;-)

Thanks very much and have a wonderful week!


Last Year's Posts

Oct 29th, 2016

Dear friends,

The support for this cause from many of you has been outstanding. Nonetheless, I feel like a final follow-up is in order, as I think that some of you still want to donate. :-) The meditate-a-thon is tomorrow, so today is the last day to donate before the actual event.

I can't express enough thanks to all of the donors. I wanted to share some of their messages (with their permission):

"Paul - saw your email about the Mindfulness Challenge. I came to Mindfulness as a way to reshape my OCD and returned to it in June of this year to help with severe anxiety. This cause is near and dear to me and I would be more than happy to donate to this event."

"Paul: the impacts of mental health issues on my family have been devastating. I respect your efforts to make alternative solutions accessible."

"This is cool man. I don't know where my OCD would be without treatment, of which mindfulness was a big part. Thanks for doing this."

"Hi Paul, it has been a while, but I’m really glad that you reached out. I think Mindfulness is such an important part of life, and I’m proud of you for sharing such a personal story. I have actively managed my mental health my entire adult life, and I see it as a positive aspect of my life. I look forward to donating - thanks for sharing."

"Happy to help. I am a strong believer in supporting mental health issues... and am happy to support your fund raising efforts :-) All the best Paul!"

These messages come from people from all walks of life. Regardless of gender, age, or background, mindfulness offers real promise to many.

The messages have also made me appreciate that many people struggle with mental health in secret, which makes it extra challenging due to the lack of support.

You donation not only makes a meaningful impact to making support more accessible, it also helps raise awareness and helps dispel the stigma of mental health issues.

You can either donate via the website (click the "Donate button at the top of the page), or you can donate in person. If you prefer the latter, reach out to me directly and I can pick up your donation in person (or we can arrange another way to transfer the funds). I'm not going to let technology be the reason you don't donate! ;-)

I hope everyone has an awesome Halloween weekend!


Oct 25th, 2016

Hi all,

Some of you had questions about the fundraiser that I’m participating in (helping underprivileged in the community suffering from mental health issues).

Thank you for emailing me your questions! I’m following up with answers to all of them (even the less serious ones). So here goes…

1: “Have you been hacked?”

No. The more astute of you have noticed that the “from” email of my email message is not my actual email address (psobocinski@gmail.com). This is so that I could use the fundraising platform’s email system to email everyone (which is a bit easier than using Gmail).

2: “Have you joined a cult?”

Haha, no. Well, I don’t think so. Maybe the right question is, would I even know if I did? ;-)

3: “Why did you email me?”

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve been been in touch with some of the people I emailed. In fact, you may be one of these people. I’ve sadly fallen out of touch with many people who’ve influenced my life in important and significant ways. I’m sorry about this; there’s really no excuse for this happening.

Despite this, I pushed myself to email as many people as possible. Even if it may seem odd to some that I’m sharing such a personal story with them. I did this because I sincerely feel that it’s for an important cause. It’s more important than the temporary awkwardness of sharing something personal with someone that you haven’t been in touch with for a while.

4: “Does this go to a good cause? Do they really help under privileged people?”

The organization behind this fundraiser (The Centre for Mindfulness Studies) is a registered charity, with a highly-qualified faculty of physicians, social workers and psychotherapists.

All funds will go to The Centre for Mindfulness Studies and will be used for its Community Program, which trains social service agency frontline workers to deliver mindfulness programs to their clients and provides bursaries for The Centre’s own therapeutic programs.

I have personally met a number of people involved with the organization on various levels (both as staff and as volunteers), and can personally vouch for them.

5: “You’ve already hit your fundraising goal. Are you going to raise it?”

Yes! I’ve increased the goal to $2,250. I am deeply grateful to all of the generous donors for their support. If I achieve the new goal, it means enough funding for 30 disadvantaged people to be provided with an 8-week mindfulness program.

That’s it for the questions so far. If you have any more, please ask away!

Lastly, if you haven't donated yet but are interested, there are only four more days until the event. So please donate soon. :-)


Oct 19th, 2016

Dear friends,

I wanted to share with you my personal story about why I have decided to take part in this fundraiser.

I only started meditating a year and a half ago, and it has already had a big impact on my life. Outwardly, nothing in my life has changed much. Inwardly, however, I have been able to fundamentally redefine my "relationship" with my thoughts.

I used to believe that I could not control my emotions. That I could not do anything to prevent my mind wandering when in an important meeting or when being part of a precious moment. That I could not be comfortable connecting with people emotionally unless I knew them well.

I have found (as many others have) that the antidote to these afflictions is the simple practice of “living in the moment”, or “being present”. It’s a simple practice, but not an easy one. A regular mindfulness and meditation practice enables us to be more present in our daily lives.

While mindfulness can help everyone live a happier and more fulfilling life, I also sincerely believe that it has the potential to help many people who struggle emotionally and mentally. This fundraiser in particular makes this practice accessible to people in need who suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation, addiction and other mental health issues.

It only costs $75 to deliver an 8-week mindfulness program to a disadvantaged individual. How much can you donate?

Everyone deserves to be safe, happy, healthy, and to live free from hardship. Whatever amount you donate will be graciously accepted.


PS: To learn more about the program and how it’s helped people, watch this video.


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