Last November, part of our team attended Mindful Living Barbados, in beautiful Bridgetown, Barbados, with the intention of learning more about the country, mindfulness, meditation, self-care, the human condition, mindfulness programs that are similar to Operation Prefrontal Cortex in North America and the Caribbean, and more.

We also had the intention of sharing our mission of reducing gun and mass violence in Toronto with Mindful Living Barbados’ guests, I was tasked with documenting our trip, among other assignments, and I am currently in the process of editing some of the videos from our Caribbean adventure.

Mindful Living Barbados is a conference and retreat that was originally created by Toronto’s own Randi-Mae Stanford-Leibold, her company Inspired Journeys, and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., specifically to inspire and engage people to reconnect with their mind, body, and soul.

While staying at the incredible Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, we had the good fortune of engaging in five days of meditation, mindful movement activities such as hatha yoga, education, inspiration, and travel throughout Barbados, and we learned from a variety of inspiring speakers, and about how mindfulness has changed the course of their lives and organizations for the better.

Professionally known as Director X, our co-founder Julien Christian Lutz was one of many speakers at the event, his words and the guided meditation that he facilitated were poignant and well-received, and he was also on a panel alongside Operation Prefrontal Cortex’s co-founder Danell Adams and our organization’s producer Sara Basso.

For the most part, our trip was a much-needed respite from the cold Toronto weather, the atmospheric pressure of our mission, and all of the hard work and concentration that comes with growing Operation Prefrontal Cortex via a relatively small team.

Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Producer: Sara Basso, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles

Moreover, the rise in violence that has been transpiring in Toronto can sometimes be discouraging, so a change of scenery helped our team to refocus on the positive changes that we have been contributing to, in Toronto and globally.

Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel was beautiful, I loved my spacious room, the staff was incredibly hospitable, and the food was great. But, I suspected that the manor was once owned by a colonist, during the transatlantic slave trade, so I felt somewhat conflicted while engaging in activities such as hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation on the manor’s beautiful lawn and swimming in the artificial oasis that was built on the property.

Ahimsa is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence which applies to all living beings, it is a core aspect of many forms of yoga, and clearly the slave trade that is paramount to Bajan history completely deviates from Ahimsa’s meaning.

The implications of the manor’s previous use are more apparent to me this summer than they were last winter, in light of the recent civil rights marches and protests that I have written about at length through the article “Blackness In North America”, following the untimely death of George Floyd and other Black people in The United States and elsewhere.

Barbados is undoubtedly a paradise, with some of the most beautiful scenery that I have observed in my life, and it reminded me of Haiti in many ways, which is where my family comes from.

One of the aspects of Bajan culture that I appreciated the most was the emphasis that Bajans placed on politeness. When I approached one of our drivers while feeling quite groggy one morning, he refused to let me into his vehicle until I said “good morning”. Fair enough, and I would have normally said “good morning” without being prompted to do so, had I not been as burnt out as I was.

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Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles

Ironically, I experienced numerous burnouts during Mindful Living Barbados, and had many lapses in mindfulness, while simultaneously engaging in many habits and lectures that cultivated mindfulness.

There was a point during our trip wherein I stayed up and essentially worked for 24 hours straight. The burnouts that I experienced on our trip were created by overworking and different forms of neuroses that I have struggled with since high school, including but not limited to perfectionism.

The burnouts that I experienced were also due to the importance that I have placed on Op PFC’s mission since I joined our team, the importance that I placed on documenting our trip through photographs and videos as Op PFC’s Art Director, and the fact that I was unsure when we would come back to Bridgetown after our introduction to Mindful Living Barbados — a form of ambiguity that holds especially true as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, I was inspired by the Bajan people and the novelty of our trip.

Mindful Living Barbados reinforced some of the paradigms and habits that I value the most, and one of the most memorable parts of our trip was a visit that I made to Naniki Barbados alongside our producer Sara Basso, which is a hideaway treasure in the heart of Barbados’ Scotland District — an amazing visit that we almost skipped had I not reminded Sara to seize the day, despite our fatigue.

Surrounded by mountains and hills with a commanding view of the Atlantic ocean, this gem of a property has been said to be more reminiscent of St. Vincent and the Grenadines than of Barbados itself, due to the area’s tropical mountainscapes.

The idea of Naniki started with the cultivation of anthuriums cut flowers in 1991, evolved into a restaurant in 2001, and now offers self-contained cottage accommodation.

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Entrepreneur And Tour Guide: Tom Hinds, Naniki Barbados, Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles

Tom Hinds, the founder of Naniki Barbados took Sara and I on an incredible private tour of the rainforest surrounding his property, and we were mesmerized by the tour’s breathtaking views, peaceful surroundings, exotic plants and animals, and the encyclopedic knowledge of Bajan history that Mr. Hinds imparted on us.

Soon after, we practiced hatha yoga overlooking a rainy mountainous range that was mind-blowing, to say the least, and we are grateful to Marita Greenidge for guiding our practice, and for the amazing breakfast that Tom and his staff served us soon after.

Yet another awesome experience that I recall from our trip included a night out to Oistin’s Friday Night Fish Fry, where our group was treated to Bajan hospitality, ate a lot of amazing food, engaged in some night shopping, and danced with many senior citizens that regularly frequent Oistins to dance to classic 60s soul and r&b music.

Some of the valuable lessons that I learned through Mindful Living Barbados were a result of interacting with, and observing the Mindful Living Barbados team, the various speakers at the event, and my colleagues.

Through Director X, I re-learned the importance of trusting fate and the wisdom that stems from the vast infinitude of the universe, I also re-learned that our mission is bigger than any one member of Operation Prefrontal Cortex and that it is possible to conduct a stellar radio interview on zero sleep.

Through our co-founder Danell Adams, I was reminded of the fact that shrewdness, otherwise known as street smarts is just as important as intellect or book smarts.

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Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Co-Founder: Danell Adams, Marketer: Tiffany Hardin, Oistin’s Friday Night Fish Fry, Oistins, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles

Through Sara Basso, I was reminded of the importance of teamwork, the fundamentals of production, and the fact that a producer is not unlike a point guard on a basketball team or a quarterback on a football team.

Through Randi-Mae Stanford-Leibold, I was reminded of the fact that the most transformative movements and organizations have humble beginnings and usually stem from a single individual that has unwavering faith in their vision for a better future.

Monique Billings, who is an American professional basketball player for the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association reminded me to use “get to” instead of “have to” as a technique of expressing gratitude for the incredible, life-altering opportunities that are regularly given to me.

Lauren Ash, who is the founder of Black Girl In Om reminded me of the power of visualization and journaling, Tiffany Hardin reminded me to smile more, and sisters Dr. Ellen Choi and Dr. Mary Choi reminded me that mindfulness, self-care, and health do not have to be complicated.

Unfortunately, and much like Toronto, Barbados is experiencing a rise in violent incidents, the nation was recently shocked by a number of violent acts that involved children, so our visit was timely.

And through Mindful Living Barbados and Julien’s interview with Tracy Fowler of The Beat 104 radio station, Operation Prefrontal Cortex was able to share practical, science-based knowledge on violence reduction through mindfulness and meditation with the people of Barbados (and others).

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Counselor, Mindfulness Teacher, And Consultant: Randi-Mae Stanford-Leibold, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles

We are truly grateful for 2019’s Mindful Living Barbados and the lessons that were learned through the experience, we thank Wendy Vincent for introducing us to all parties involved, and her faith in Operation Prefrontal Cortex’s mission is greatly appreciated.

Also, Barbados Tourism And Marketing Inc. demonstrated the pride that they have for their homeland and the vision that they have for Barbados in 2021 and beyond, Randi-Mae Stanford-Leibold and her company Inspired Journeys created something special that grounded, educated, nourished, and sharpened many incredible North American, and we look forward to continuing our partnerships and conversations with everyone involved.

In the meantime, shooting incidents have increased by 10% in Toronto, in comparison to the number of shooting incidents at this time last year. Last year was the most violent year in Toronto’s history, as far as shooting incidents are concerned.

With 200 shooting incidents occurring in our amazing city by the beginning of this summer, including the shocking, broad daylight, King Street West assassination of Dimarjio Antonio Jenkins, otherwise known as the musician Houdini, we are unfortunately on track to experiencing the most shootings that the streets of Toronto have seen in twelve months.

These statistics are unacceptable, the trauma and loss of human life involved in Toronto’s shooting incidents are incalculable, and we strongly urge you to sign our petition to bring Advance Peace to Toronto, so that Premier Doug Ford, Mayor John Tory, and the City of Toronto can implement a proven solution to the shootings that we are all concerned about. 

Advance Peace is a charitable organization based in Richmond, California, which administers a program with the goal of reducing gun violence in urban neighborhoods, and with their proven track record in the United States, Operation Prefrontal Cortex is convinced that Advance Peace can reduce the rise in gun violence that Toronto is currently experiencing.

Doctor: Ellen Choi, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Co-Founder: Danell Adams, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Producer: Sara Basso, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Radio, Podcast, And Event Hostess: Alicia “Ace” West, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Radio, Podcast, And Event Hostess: Alicia “Ace” West, Co-Founder: Danell Adams, Producer: Sara Basso, Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Counselor, Mindfulness Teacher, And Consultant: Randi-Mae Stanford-Leibold, Professional Basketball Player: Monique Billings, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Marketer: Tiffany Hardin, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Communications And Media Relations Specialist: Wendy Vincent, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Yoga Teacher, Musician, And Actress: Jennifer Hui, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Doctor: Ellen Choi, Doctor: Mary Choi, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Naniki Barbados, Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Producer: Sara Basso, Naniki Barbados, Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Producer: Sara Basso, Naniki Barbados, Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Naniki Barbados, Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Sweetfield Manor Historic Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, Radio Hostess: Tracy Fowler,  The Beat 104.1 FM, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles
Director: Julien Christian Lutz, Professionally Known As Director X, The Beat 104.1 FM, Bridgetown, Barbados, Photographer: Ajani Charles