ToDo hosts international conference

MONKTON — Eastern philosophy and spiritual healing may be foreign concepts to most, but they have been the central practice for many years at the ToDo Institute in Monkton.
The center for natural alternatives for mental wellness will mark is 20th anniversary by hosting an international conference on Aug. 3-5 in Burlington. The conference, titled “Thirty Thousand Days: The Time of Your Life,” attempts to bridge the gap between eastern psychology and release individuals from the demands of modern Western culture, said organizer and Program Director Linda Anderson Krech.
“Japanese psychology helps to take the flashlight of attention and shine it on the world to bring it into focus,” Krech said. “It activates the senses and is very empowering.”
The slate of speakers includes six authors, who will discuss their applications of Japanese psychology in the Vermont community. Workshops will also be provided to help participants learn how to apply teachings into a daily practice.
Krech said presenters at the conference will provide thought-provoking ideas, inspiration and perspective on how to make the most of each life and how to cope with challenges. The Japanese psychology presented will focus on meaning and purpose, rather than symptom reduction.
The ToDo Institute is a nonprofit organization that serves as a meeting point between the East and the West. Founded by Krech and her husband, Gregg Krech, in 1992. Linda Anderson Krech pointed out that ToDo is the only institute of its kind in the country; it acts as a counseling center as well as the national training center for Eastern psychology training in the United States.
Counselors at ToDo focus on using two Japanese techniques of therapy, Morita and Naikan. Although not traditionally practiced in combination in Japan, ToDo has found that the two styles help to combine active counseling with inward reflection. Grounded in passion and wisdom, the basics of Buddhism, the center provides a place to reflect in a connected supportive community, Krech explained.
She said she believes his kind of alternative therapy helps people channel their attention and teaches them to coexist with their feelings. Before founding ToDo, Krech worked as a social worker in New York and the Counseling Service of Addison County in Middlebury. She is now focusing on writing a book on how Eastern-style therapy practices can be applied to children and families.
Krech was drawn to this kind of therapy after reading about the topic many years ago. She started putting the teachings into her daily practices.
“I felt that this practice helped me live better and noticed that feelings should run their course,” Krech said. “All the bells rang for me, and I wanted to teach people what I had learned.”
Krech treats all kinds of mental illness using these therapy techniques, with the most common being anxiety and depression. ToDo offers individual and phone counseling, hosts onsite retreats that vary in length, and provides six distance learning programs, which run for 30 minutes a day for one month centered around a specific theme.
While Krech acknowledges the benefits of both Western and Eastern-style therapies, and she notes where differences lie.
“Much counseling reinforces a ‘feeling-centered’approach to life, one in which feelings take on a supreme importance in one’s life and often occupy the driver’s seat,” Krech said. “We work with more of a ‘purpose-centered’approach to life, which allows feelings to rise and fall as they will inevitably do, without derailing us from our goals and dreams.”
In a culture that is fast-paced and requires multi-tasking, Krech said the technique she teaches helps individuals to slow down and experience the world. One small example of this would be taking the time to eat food and experience the act of eating, rather than texting or watching television at the same time.
While these therapies are hard in practice, conferences like “Thirty Thousand Days: The Time of Your Life” attempt to inspire participants. Both founders will be speaking at the event in edition to Zoe Weil, author of “Above All Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times,” and Rich Blonna, author of “Coping with Stress in a Challenging World.”
Additionally, Krech will stress the importance of recognizing pain or discomfort as part of the human experience instead of labeling it as a symptom. Krech and the ToDo Institute’s mission is to provide a kind of guidance that will integrate into daily life.
“As a culture, we’ve lost much of our ability to coexist with feelings,” Krech said. “There’s an underlying assumption that if we’re not feeling good all the time, something’s wrong that needs to be addressed and treated. But it’s unrealistic to expect a steady diet of happiness. It’s for those with serious challenges as well as those who simply want to be more grateful each day.”
For more information about ToDo institute and the upcoming 20th anniversary conference, visit their website at www.todoinstitute.org.

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