Recess: An Open Discussion

There are pivotal moments in our lives that force us to rewire. They are events that short-circuit the mechanics of our daily routines and make us re-assess the way we live, igniting a fire that we didn’t know we had or needed. And as we learned from ancient civilizations class or from the evacuation drills in school, fire can mean both the beginning of a new world and the destruction of all that we have carefully built.

On Oct.20th our team hosted a discussion panel of four guest speakers who shared with an audience the negative events in their lives that forced them to deconstruct and rebuild. The panel took place in the new Lululemon Athletica community space and was the very first instalment of our Recess series, an ongoing programme of discussions and workshops that focus on mental health, learning new skills and creating safe, curious spaces. Despite it being a rainy Toronto evening, the turnout was incredible.

For one of the speakers, the pivotal moment was a near-death experience. For another, a family tragedy. For a third it was a moment of pure existential panic, an epiphany of paralyzing fear while stuck in a crowded subway train — what some would call a severe anxiety attack. Every guest’s experience was unique but all served as catalysts for much-needed change. Through the adversity came newfound skills that allowed them to take a break from daily stress and embrace a platform that led to connection and self-care, whether it was through photography, yoga, or starting a charity dedicated to human rights.

We were impressed by our speakers’ vulnerability but even more so by the reactions of the audience. Anxiety is so rarely spoken about yet we could see its prevalence in our community from the nods of affirmation; people could relate. One audience member even shared her own personal battle with anxiety. And as the discussion moved forward into tips for finding new passions, stillness, and mindful existence, the words of our panelist’s mental health specialist Kaajal resounded more than ever: there is no ‘cure’ for mental health issues, it’s a process.

The Recess series is a means to capture that process.

Written by: Tanya Mok — Sandbox

Photography by: Celeste Cole, Shanik Tanna, SoTeeOh — Sandbox


Gilad Cohen — Founder & Executive Director @ JAYU

Kaajal Balkaran — Second year doctoral student in Social Work

Olivia Fernandez — Manager, Community Engagement & Social Marketing at WWF-Canada

Sanjeev Kugan — Digital Content Developer | Photographer (@sksquared)

Moderated By: Tanya Mok — Journalist / Content Direction at Sandbox

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