Night Flower in The Wind

Ken participated in Mindful Art Workshop – Autumn 2014. He was referred to the group by his Community Facilitator – Greg Vayenas.

During this session he came into the group and said to me “I don’t want to do art today, can I just meditate?” as he was feeling particularly negative about his abilities.

I said to him “you don’t have to do something you don’t want to do” and that we always start the group with meditation. Let’s see how you feel after the meditation and “you should give yourself a chance and see what happens.” We proceeded with our meditation and discussion.

The group discussion was on black and white thoughts. Discussion was based around the concept that white thoughts are positive and allow for a more realistic perspective that promotes positive actions, while black thoughts can be negative and can impede an accurate perspective of situations lead to more negative actions.

During the art activity Ken decided to try to carve. He was careful when printing his flower onto the dark paper to avoid finger prints and created his finest print to date. Ken also wrote a poem during this group called – Night Flower in the Wind. This experience was surprising for Ken as he started out being negative and with encouragement he was able to transform a negative mind into a creative mind. If you know Ken then you may be surprised to see his art and poetry as you would not normally associate Ken with art and poetry.

I absolutely love this print and his poem. Every time I read the words, I smile. The image and words really captured the black and white theme and the contrast between delicate beauty and harshness of this world.

Actions of change” shows us that things are not permanent, including our negative thoughts and feelings. Just like anything else negative thoughts come and go and if we watch them long enough, they simply dissolve back into our mind. When we create the space to watch our thoughts, we are also creating a space for more virtuous thoughts to arise and beauty to emerge. At the end of the group Ken said:


“I’m thankful to my creator for life and health and everyone’s creator, and I’m thankful for the food that we received in the mentor’s luncheon downstairs earlier, and the service of the staff. I thank Greg for driving me here because it wasn’t that much effort to come, just got a ride from Greg because he met me this morning and he spoke to me. I’m thankful for the encouragement for doing some art because I was kind of negative about doing art at first but then with encouragement I was persuaded to do some art and for all the viewpoints of people, listening to them.”

Ken’s quote in included in the audio file below. This unedited version gives you a glimpse into the group. At the end of the group we complete a gratitude exercise where all members are invited to speak and share their experiences. It is a wonderful way for everyone to reflect on the themes of the group and share a something meaningful with each other. This is a great exercise to practice speaking from the heart and also listening with an open mind.

Night flower in the wind by Ken
Night flower in the wind by Ken

It is amazing how much we can grow with the right amount of support, encouragement and care. Just like flowers, we need the right conditions (soil, water, sunshine – a wish, effort, encouragement) to develop good qualities and shine. When someone else can see the good qualities inside you and help to water and nourish these qualities – it is amazing what can be achieved.

Print and poetry were created by Ken. Photograph by Joshua Armstrong, rehabilitation student. Graphic design and layout by Amee Le & Joshua Armstrong.

Brain Injury Awareness Month!

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month and to kick off the month the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) is launching a campaign asking if you are aware?


The impact of a brain injury can be devastating not only to the survivors themselves, but to their family members, caregivers, friends and their community. It can affect every aspect of their life, often resulting in loss of livelihood, isolation, and physical, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Your brain is who you are, it’s your humanity. Just as no two people are alike, no two acquired brain injuries are alike. Survivors will experience the effects of acquired brain injuries in many different ways.


After a brain injury a person may experience many of the following changes:

  • difficulties remembering new events, appointments, daily tasks
  • changes to his or her personality
  • frustration over things that used to be easily accomplished which are all of a sudden difficult tasks
  • increase in impulsive behaviours

These changes and many more can be very confusing. There is also a tremendous loss of aspects of their pre-injury life and routine – things that are no longer possible for a person to continue to do. Although on the surface, a person may look exactly the same, his or her brain has changed and this can be frustrating for brain injury survivors to convey to people.

Many people with a brain injury experience seizure activities. We talked about this in our group and most participants are able to manage the frequency of seizures with medication. When a person has a seizure, they are unsafe to drive and for a person who is used to hopping in the car daily and enjoys the experience of driving – this loss of independence is massive.

FOND MEMORIES – A Series by Inder


I am very fond of driving. It gives me freedom, independence and excitement. I am very comfortable in the car. I’ve always wanted to buy a particular car.


Last year, I finally bought the car – a Red Convertible.


Exactly two days later, my Neurologist advised me that I shouldn’t be driving so I respected what the Doctor said and I stopped driving.


I went through the Drive Again program – and passed. Then the winter came and I decided to park the car in the garage. Then spring came and I took the car out and drove for about a week or so.


Then I had a seizure and the Doctor told me I shouldn’t be driving and I got a letter from the Ministry advising me to stop driving.


Within a week, the car went back in the garage and I felt devastated.


Then I made a decision. I felt that there was no point in keeping the car sitting in the garage, so I told my friend to help me sell my car. So he took the car two days ago.


So, there’s a saying back home – if you want to do something good tomorrow, do it today. If you want to do something good today, do it now. Whatever happens, happens for the good. In spite of going through a tough last 3-4 years, medically, I met a number of very nice people who are very kind to me that I may not have met otherwise. — Inder

Inder shared his story with our group and the impact of this loss was palpable to everyone in the room. When Inder and I sat down to write this story, he look distant at times, worried, concerned, and at a loss yet the story that was very clear and visible in his mind. At the end of the story, when he sold his car, I had asked him “Is this the end of the story?” After sitting back and reflecting, he was able say “Whatever happens, happens for the good” and he had a big smile on his face as he thought about the people whom he has met due to his brain injury and although the journey is tough and arduous at times, and life gives and takes, survival is victory and reminds us that we are strong and life is a gift.









A series by Neil.

All photographs were taken by Fiona. The narrative was written by Neil with the help of Carrie M. who recommended Neil for the group and provides weekly encouragement and support, to help Neil through his week.

Life by Neil

This print shows the connection between family and life. The four corners represent each member of my family (me, mom, dad and brother) and shows how we are all connected to each other.

Life by Neil

 I called this print life because you cannot isolate yourself from anything. Living with an injury, you must live as normal a life as possible You have to stay connected to all things and fit in with the group.

Life 4

Life means love. Loving everything that is possible and not being scared of trying things and fitting in. Caring for the place you are living in.

LIfe by Neil

 We are all connected to each other within nature and our environment.   If you are connected with your family, you can understand their moods and what is needed to help them with their day and showing that you love them.

Life 2

This print came to mind because of the relationship with my brother and how my parents have to interfere as opposed to us all being happy together as a family. This interrelationship within my family impacts my life. When my family is connected and happy, I am happy. –Neil






Storms, Strength & Wisdom

New year and we have a new group! This is our second week and the theme of the class is: storms, strength and wisdom. In Toronto, we have had a series of ice storms that have caused electrical blackouts and icy conditions. Many living in the city, especially those with a disability have had to live through days without electricity. This means limited access or no access to elevators, hot water, assistive devices that depends on electricity. So our theme for the week starts with the storm – both the ice storm and personal, emotional, traumatic storms of our lives. I read the following message of resilience to our group:

“The earth has a heartbeat. In between each beat is silence. That silence is when the life force gathers strength for the next beat. You must learn to do the same. Use the silence to gather yourself. Life can give you strength. Life gives and life takes. As it is teaching you even now. Life takes our time and everyday is one day closer to the end of our journey on this. It takes our efforts our sweat, our best intentions, our noble ideas, our dreams and sacrifices. And often demands more. Then it gives us obstacles, surprises, disappointment, indifference, confusion, doubt and heartache. Yet life does give us much more than the obvious. If we can look back on the difficulties we have know, whether old or new, then we have moved past them at least in time. That we are looking back on a tough experience from the perspective of the present moment means we have survived it. The experience may have taken a toll, as difficulties do. But whatever our losses have been, we have survived. Survival is victory, because we know or we are reminded that is it possible. Survival is victory because life has given us something along with the difficulty.”

“The experience the difficulty has taught us or reminded us that we can be strong.” by Joseph Marshall III – Keep Going from Soundstrue

I would also like to add, that through hard times, we also gain wisdom that comes from the enduring the difficulties. This can open our hearts further so we surface with more love and compassion for others who have also endured this journey. I am proud to share art work from this theme.

Remember - Forward by Micky
Remember – Forward by Micky
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
Storm by Roxanne
Storm by Roxanne
Break Time by Stella
Break Time by Stella
Walking on the Earth by James
Walking on the Earth by James
Rebirth by Robert
Rebirth by Robert
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
The Five Directions by Amee Le
The Five Directions by Amee Le

Kihelakayo – Keep Going

The theme for this week’s Mindful Art Workshop is Kihelakayo – Keep Going

“A young man asked his Lakota grandfather what the answer was to life’s difficulties. Kihelakayo said the old man – we must keep going.”  Joseph M Marshall III

Keep Going by Amanda Muise
Keep Going by Amanda Muise
“I am thankful for a safe place to express.”
Leaves by Orlando “I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Leaves by Orlando
“I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Mauley by WSM “I am thankful for being alive.”
Mauley by WSM
“I am thankful for being alive.”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne “I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance, I am dancing even with a cane!”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne
“I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance. I am dancing even with a cane!”
Five Keys by Chris “I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Five Keys by Chris
“I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Acorns by Mickey “I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Acorns by Mickey
“I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Blanca by Orlando
Blanca by Orlando