Leave your body for a while with +focus mindspace’s therapeutic and inclusive classes.
There’s an ascension involved when it comes to +focus mindspace. Located on the second floor of 49 Ossington Ave., you need to go up a few steps to get to the spacious studio that smells delicately of grapeseed oil. The space is like a breath of fresh air after the narrow climb. There’s also a metaphorical ascension, but that comes a bit later.
The room is aglow in natural light streaming in through the grand windows, it’s soft on the senses. Everyone speaks in a hushed tone. Adorning the walls are the introspective paintings of artist Patrick Skals. The studio showcases the works of a different Toronto-based artist every month. This is part of Heather Cameron’s vision for the spot — she wants it to be a destination for the community, a safe and accessible place that any Torontonian can turn to.
Cameron is an advocate for community-oriented mental health and addiction recovery. She founded +focus mindspace after she discovered the restorative power of meditation during her own recovery from addiction. She felt a certain connection in the recovery circles she was part of. She heard the various stories, the many different and valid places others in the circles were with their recovery. She saw empathic acts take place before — people seeing themselves in others’ stories, stories shared earnestly and safely. Cameron wanted to recreate this experience in her community, because she found it lacking but sorely needed.
“Here in Toronto, we tend to be a little bit more closed, and so just allowing that space for people to open and connect, I think is a human experience we’re all looking for,” she says. Standing in line for the register in a grocery store, two people might never get to know each other, might never get the chance to understand each other’s unique struggles, because we don’t speak openly in public. But with +focus, Cameron wanted a public place where stories could be shared, and people could be seen in their multifaceted authenticity.
+focus mindspace offers something called a “soundbath” class. This is a meditative experience facilitated by Kiko Sounds, along with Talib Hussain, who performs reiki, a kind of energy healing. Sounds, with her even and gentle voice, begins the class telling us of what to expect. Hussain says he will perform a massage and provides us the freedom to opt out of being touched.
We lie down on our mats, with a cushion provided for our heads, a pillow for beneath our knees, and a blanket to keep us warm. We close our eyes, and then the sounds begin: clear sounds, like water or carillon bells so very far away. It’s a pulsating sound — pulsating in the way the rhythm of the heart reminds us of our rootedness in the world. Pulsating in the way that it resounds throughout the body. The sound facilitates meditation in an indescribable way — it carries the mind up and away from material worries. When Hussain performs his touch, the body anticipates it in an instinctive way. Hussain and Sounds have created a consummate class.
If you’ve had trouble trying to meditate in the past, then a soundbath with Kiko Sounds is an absolute must. This is just one of the ways in which +focus mindspace opens itself up to everyone.
Cameron truly wants the place to be accessible. This is reflected in the pricing for each class and for monthly memberships. An individual class that helps the individual to focus and be more resilient is priced at $10. A monthly membership is $60. This affordability was intentional, Cameron says. “This is so important to us: regardless of where you are in life, whether you’re restarting in any way, whether you want to build such an advanced practice and you’re here all the time — that everyone sits together.”
Making the classes and memberships affordable allows everyone to benefit and creates for a more enriching group experience, Cameron says. “No matter where you’re coming from, I think there’s so much learning [when] different ages, and different socio-economic backgrounds come together and see that we’re really all the same, we’re one.”
The aim of +focus mindspace isn’t to create an insular experience, but to create, through art, meditation, and community, a truly human experience. The aim is to open the doors, to welcome all.
Leaving a class, one feels above the day’s mundane tasks for a while. One feels stronger.