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Conference Sketch: Cannexus 2011

by Maija Wiik
“Book your accommodations now and make them for the conference hotel” was the advice from Jaz to a Cannexus novice from Vancouver in August 2010 while discussing details on the phone. “It will be freezing cold in Ottawa and you will not want to be outside much.”
Arriving at the Westin Hotel, next to the winter wonderland of Rideau Canal and kitty-corner to Parliament Hill peeking from behind snow banks, in a salt covered taxi on the eve of the conference, I was grateful for the guidance!
The weather outside was soon forgotten, however, as the conference with its fully packed program started the next day. The Day 1 keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Bright from Australia, impressed with an attention-grabbing multimedia presentation on the importance of being able to deal with sudden change, even chaos. To illustrate his point, he had obviously done a huge amount of background research into an incident involving a Soviet Union diplomat in the beginning of the cold war. Archive photos, animations and graphs supported the fabulous storytelling skills of this unforgettable.
It was difficult to choose between concurrent sessions but I finally committed to Morita therapy with Dr. Charles P. Chen from University of Toronto.  Dr. Chen gave an in-depth presentation on the life and work of this Japanese neuroscientist and psychotherapist whose ideas from 100 years ago still sound fresh.  I wonder if his contemporaries understood and recognized his innovations? Morita concepts include a healthy life lived in harmony with nature (flow), acceptance of “what is” (mindfulness), and emphasizing positive action taking regardless of anxiety. Many career counsellors and therapists today find that terminology familiar.
After being inspired by Dr. Bright and reminded of the deep roots of mindfulness practice by Dr. Chen, I decided that I could benefit from picking up some practical skills knowing that I was scheduled to give a workshop on presentation skills when I returned to work. Wednesday’s session, “Well Said: Presentation Skills For Career professionals” by Gail Hulnick was my choice.  Gail led us through practical and fun exercises that brought new life to public speaking skills. I particularly enjoyed her idea of using sayings as topics for short presentations and subsequently incorporated it into my own workshop with my students.  It was just as much a hit with them as it was in the conference workshop. Thank you, Gail!
The networking opportunities were great and I truly enjoyed exchanging career counselling experiences with my colleagues across the nation. Everything was organized beautifully, the food during the breaks and meal times was great, and the location allowed for a quick visit to the Parliament and a wobbly skate on the Canal.  I am wondering about but one thing … dear folks at CERIC, would you ever consider bringing Cannexus to the West?
Greetings to you all!

Maija Wiik is a counsellor at Vancouver Community College in Vancouver, BC.

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