Vernon-based artist Heidi Thompson speaks at TEDx Kelowna recently.

Vernon-based artist Heidi Thompson speaks at TEDx Kelowna recently.

Thompson speaks at TEDx Kelowna

Heidi Thompson shares her knowledge of breath awareness

Local artist, author and Toastmaster Heidi Thompson was one of nine speakers chosen to present their “unconventional solutions” at TEDxKelowna June 20.

The event showcased both local and North American speakers who presented topics ranging from urban reforestation, removing labels in society, building schools and changing lives in Africa to a centering healing breath awareness exercise. TEDxKelowna was an inspirational day for the 100 community members in attendance.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x equals an independently organized TED event.

Thompson’s talk, “Breath Awareness: An Unconventional Solution to Healing Society,” focused on society’s growing attention problem in both children and adults. She explained how weak attentions may be the root cause of stress, anxiety, ADHD, depression, and addictions. Her solution was to stop using drugs, and start adding attention developing curriculum in schools.

“If we start in kindergarten by the time children graduate they would possess strong attention skills along with more self-awareness and self-control,” said Thompson. “Most important, they would have acquired a life-long tool for reducing stress, healing ADHD, and preventing depression.

“There are many ways to train the brain and increase attention, but one of the most effective is an ancient technique called breath awareness, which requires one to pay attention to the touch of breath for a period of time without reacting or allowing the mind to be distracted.”

Thompson has practised breath awareness for more than 30 years after learning it at a Vipassana meditation course. In the 1990s, she pioneered an attention developing program for children. She became one of the first to teach breath awareness in B.C. public schools and wrote Calm Focus Joy, a book which teaches breath awareness to adults and children.

Thompson joined Vernon’s Hi-Noon Toastmasters Club last year to improve her public speaking skills. She believes that without the valuable experience gained at Toastmasters, she would never have been prepared to speak at TEDx.

Last year, TEDxKelowna sold out in less than two days, this year it sold out in just over two hours. Thompson said there is a huge demand for engaging and inspirational events such as TEDxKelowna.

With the main TED conference moving to Vancouver in 2014 from its traditional conference location in Los Angeles, there is a great opportunity to showcase Kelowna and the Okanagan. This year the event was held at the Botegga Farmhouse Inn in Kelowna.

The organizers are already working on plans for their 2014 event, which will feature triple the size allowance for attendees and will showcase both local and international perspectives.

To listen to TEDxKelowna talks visit www.tedxkelowna.com. For more information on Thompson’s work, see www.calmfocusjoy.com