Jeff Warren, Chief Exploration Officer
Jeff is a writer and a meditation instructor. His primary subject is the mind, whatever that is. He is a former producer for CBC Radio, and the author of The Head Trip, a travel guide to sleeping, dreaming and waking consciousness that critics enjoyed, although his mother thought it was too long. He writes a column about the shifting experience of consciousness for Psychology Tomorrow and has won awards for his writing about whales and psychedelics, which are never to be mixed, for obvious reasons.
Jeff got serious about meditation in 2004, and has been studying with the Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young since 2008. Jeff’s specialties as a guide – i.e., those things he has the most personal experience with – are obsessive writerly over-thinking, childish anger outbursts, disregulated mood swings, high sensitivity emphatic-overwhelm, and, lest he forget (forgetfulness! that’s another), ADD-style attention-hijacking with a generous helping of squirmy existential restlessness. For all these reasons, his favourite meditative principle / intervention is equanimity. He can talk forever about equanimity, and frequently does, thus strategically introducing the challenge of sleepiness to all those who accidentally listen to him. When his own meditation practice gets challenging, Jeff shifts to top-down nondual techniques. In this way he no longer feels bad for not getting anywhere, since there was never anywhere to get to in the first place.
James Maskalyk, Director of Explosives and Ordinance
James is a meditator, emergency doctor, and author. He is an award-winning teacher at the University of Toronto, and works at an inner-city hospital – St. Michael’s – where he won its “social responsibility” award. He directs a program in Ethiopia training the country’s first emergency physicians, and is a founding editor of the open-access journal Open Medicine.
His favourite Shinzen meditation technique is “noting gone”, something we are all familiar with through his incessant going away and welcome home parties for his trips abroad, where he teaches and practices medicine. His role as CEO is to keep things ordered, and, sometimes, to blow things up. Particularly dance floors. He is also responsible for following leads about treasure: carefully researching the rewards of practice, the ability to know one’s heart, to better live in the space of love and kindness, and also….well, real treasure. Diamonds, doubloons, that kind of thing. Send maps. He is the CEC’s resident disc jockey and can drink a beer faster than anyone we’ve ever seen on account of his very strong social anxiety.
Erin Oke, Director of Programming
Erin spends her days running a youth centre and various support programs for low-income children and youth in downtown Toronto. She also spent many years directing plays, teaching drama, and facilitating “Popular Theatre” projects. She lives in Kensington Market, travels as much as possible, and for some reason enjoys talking to people about their feelings.
Erin started meditating as a teenager, which mostly involved staring at a candle flame while listening to Beatles records. She found her way back to practice a few years ago, aided immeasurably by Jeff and James and the CEC community. She’s been recklessly helpful ever since.
Specialties include sitting with difficult emotions (depression, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, fear…the list goes on), holding space for others to do the same, working through conflicts (internal and external), and channeling her inner rebellious child and sullen teenager to better understand the actual children and youth in her life. Favourite techniques are Loving Kindness (’cause we all could use a little more love in our lives) and Do Nothing (’cause after trying so hard for so long, it’s a relief to just exist for a while).
After spending years as an academic philosopher, Avi Craimer fell in love with meditation as a result of an unexpected spiritual breakthrough in 2009. Avi has been taken apart by the “Dark Night” and then lovingly reassembled. He now has a meditation practice and teaching style that synthesizes the jiu-jitsu like technical precision of Theravada Buddhist meditation, the passionate love-play of devotional mysticism, and the wild soulful depths of shamanic journey work. Avi is enthusiastic about inter-spiritual dialogue, comparative mappings of contemplative paths, and the exploration of non-ordinary states of consciousness. In addition to teaching meditation classes through the CEC, Avi works with clients one-on-one to support them on their spiritual path.
Stephanie DeBou, Director of Strategy
Caitlin Colson, Director of Operations
Jude Star, Director of Communications
Other CEC Teachers
Alex is a creative-writing teacher, journalist and author. She writes on human rights and social justice issues, including the award-winning Up Ghost River and The Environment Equation, a guide to eco-friendly living published in twelve countries. She teaches creative non-fiction at the University of Toronto, and in her spare time volunteers with at risk women at Up With Women, and mentors northern youth at DreamCatcher Mentoring.
Having gotten lost too many times to count in her own mental chatter, she specializes in mindfulness techniques of focus and equanimity so that losing one’s way doesn’t happen as often, and doesn’t feel as bad. She enjoys discovering and sharing poems and books that are road maps to being fully present and alive.
Alex has been meditating since 2011, when Jeff took her hand over a soggy chicken lunch and taught her some techniques to get over heartbreak. It’s helped her cope with flighty lovers ever since.
Christine is a teacher, filmmaker, Core Energetics therapist-in-training, and the author of three acclaimed novels: Last Chance Texaco, The best way you know how and Sweet Jesus. She is also the rebel daughter of an Anglican priest who feels deep sympathy for those who yearn for a spiritual outlook, but aren’t sure where in all the bullshit to find it.
Christine has participated in Indigenous healing ceremonies around North and South America, and enjoys dark adventures into her shadowy self. Her specialty is helping people feel into the things they’d rather deny. As part of her training in Core Energetics, she is learning to hold space for people’s rage and frustration, in order to help release the hold it has on them, so they can melt into the beautiful vulnerability of love. Christine likes to dance and to sing and will harmonize in a deranged and slightly feral way with anyone who invites her to. She is also grateful to her primary teacher Leo, who doubles as her eight-year-old son, and has an amazing aristocratic brainpan.