THOMPSON, Heidi




BOOKS:

Caetani, Sveva, 1917-1994. Recapitulation: A Journey [edited by Heidi Thompson, Angela Gibbs Pert, Dennis Butler; photography & book design, Heidi Thompson]. -- Vernon: Coldstream Books, 1995.

Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness - A Practical Guide for Adults and Children (Coldstream Books, 2012)

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Heidi Thompson first entered the B.C. literary scene as the publisher and co-editor of Recapitulation: A Journey by Svena Caetani. [See Caetani entry]

Here, according to Heidi Thompson's website, is the story behind that book:

After a life of isolation, heartbreaking loneliness and--in later years--physical disability, Sveva gathered all her courage and strength to embark on a mental and spiritual journey which took her to the deepest, most painful and joyous places of her past. There she examined the conditions and people that shaped her life and mind. In the process she gained insight about truth, humanity, love, and herself. These re-lived experiences became the content for her paintings and writings in Recapitulation, modelled loosely on Dante's Divine Comedy. Sveva's "journey" also took her through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, as she understood them.

The series comprises fifty-six large, luminous watercolour paintings. They are breathtaking in beauty, and inspired by a depth of knowledge and intelligence that breathes through every stroke. Detailed in style, they are also detailed in the breadth of the emotions and human condition they examine--from cruelty, betrayal, and senseless violence to passion, beauty, human achievement, and love.

As Sveva was nearing completion of the series, she became increasingly disabled, her hands so crippled with arthritis that holding the brush became almost impossible. In 1989, fourteen years after she began her artistic journey painting the 56 images and writing the accompanying texts for Recapitulation she completed the work. Only five years later the artist died. She had donated all her paintings to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in Edmonton and bequeathed her home, properties and money to the art community of Vernon.

Heidi Thompson met Sveva Caetani in 1984 after returning to Vernon from her European art and photography studies. They became close friends, and Heidi began documenting Sveva's life and art with hopes of publishing a book. In 1993, Sveva asked Heidi if she would create hand-bound editions of the 56 paintings of Recapitulation. As the costs would have been high, Heidi proposed instead, publishing the series into a real book and adding Sveva's writings. In return for the opportunity, Sveva could have as many copies as she needed for her friends. Sveva agreed, and entrusted Heidi with an exclusive interest in her work. All Sveva requested was that Heidi maintain and govern the artistic integrity of her paintings - she abhorred the idea commercializing her work. Heidi agreed and proposed that after costs of production were recouped, she would share royalites with Vernon's art community. With very little money and no funding, Heidi began pre-selling copies of Recapitulation. The community was fully supportive and ordered books. After working on the book for about 6 months, Sveva passed away. Heidi debated whether or not she should continue, but the executors of Sveva's estate encouraged her, and agreed to enter into a more formal contract respecting Sveva's wishes. After two more years of research, editing Sveva's writings and designing the book, Heidi successfully released the full-colour hardcover edition in 1995. Recapitulation-The Journey received numerous prestigious reviews and earned the "VanCity Book of Excellence Award". Not long after the book was published, Heidi started writing two films - a dramatic feature film The Evening Bird - The Sveva Caetani Story, and also a documentary film - The Art and Life of Sveva Caetani. The feature film interested many producers, and in 1999, after attracting funding from a broadcaster, Heidi secured a deal with a producer who optioned her screenplay. Unfortunately, the option ran out, and the film as of yet has not been produced.

In 2000, Caetani's estate was finally dispersed and The Vernon Public Art Gallery inherited Sveva's copyright. Heidi asked if they would be interested in assuming the Publishing Contract and becoming the recipient of royalites. They agreed. For several years, Heidi and the Gallery collaborated on various projects until 2008, when Heidi offered to give the Gallery her publishing rights. During the fourteen years of publishing, Heidi was invited to present lectures and slide presentations on Sveva in Vancouver, Toronto and Rome. Sveva Caetani's book was reviewed in magazines in the USA, England, Denmark, France, and Italy and was accepted into the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Vatican, and Accademia del Lincei in Italy. She believes that she would never have embarked on such a monumental project without Sveva having believed in her. She hopes that others will be inspired by Sveva Caetani's courage to confront their own weaknesses and fears, and strive to express one's highest truth.




According to Heidi Thompson's website in 2012:

HEIDI THOMPSON has practiced breath awareness for more than twenty-five years. After experiencing positive changes in her life, she developed an attention development program for children called Mindmastery. Thompson conducted Mindmastery workshops in B.C. public and private schools with grades K-12 with excellent results. Shortly thereafter, in 1999, Mindmastery was featured on CBC Television and her article “Teaching Children Concentration” was published in Vancouver‘s Common Ground magazine. In response to a flood of inquiries from parents, teachers, and childcare professionals wanting to learn breath awareness and to teach it to children, she has now written Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness offering a comprehensive learning and teaching guide.

Thompson was born in Vernon, a small town in Western Canada. She travelled to Switzerland in the early 1970’s and trained as a photographer at the University of Art & Design in Zurich. She moved to Germany and continued her fine art studies at the Akademie der Bildene Kunste in Nurnberg. Here she studied painting and drawing for one year before relocating to Budapest where she attended the Hungarian Art Academy for a final year of art. While in Europe she met teachers from various meditation traditions and became keenly interested in yoga and philosophy which led her to attending retreats in Germany, France, and Austria. After completing her art training, Thompson returned to Canada and worked as a freelance painter and photographer in Vernon. Over the years she has exhibited her paintings and photographs in numerous exhibitions in Canadian and US galleries and museums. In 1984 she married Edward Thompson, a guitar builder.

In 1983, she attended her first 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat taught by of S.N. Goenka (in the nonsectarian tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin). Vipassana (translated means to “see things as they really are”), was the most serious, rigorous meditation technique that she had yet experienced. Students who attended the course were required to take a vow of silence, abide by a strict code of conduct, eat sparingly, and meditate in one-hour increments starting at four-thirty in the morning until nine in the evening. For the first three days of the retreat, students practiced breath awareness or Anapana (breath awareness) to become calm, alert, and acutely focused. On the fourth day, they were taught Vipassana. This technique required the student to direct the attention within and systematically observe all the sensations in the body. Despite the challenges of sitting for long periods of time, Anapana and Vipassana taught Thompson how to focus the mind and then use this focus to observe reality as it is experienced through body sensations. For the past twenty-five years she continues to practice Anapana and Vipassana and has noticed many positive changes in her spiritual, artistic, and family life.

In 1996, ten years after having first learned about the breath awareness technique, Anapana, Thompson wanted to share this simple, yet effective method with young people. As the technique is universal and not attached to any particular dogma or religion, she felt that it would be ideal for North American schools. With great enthusiasm and aspirations to create a practical, adaptable program, she developed Advanced Attention Development (AAD) or Mindmastery (the name given to the program for children). She presented Mindmastery to several schools in B.C. with very positive response from teachers, principals, and parents.

To the surprise of the general public, teachers and principals were keen to facilitate Mindmastery programs in their classrooms. This openness may have been partly due to the significant increase in Attention Deficit and Hyperactive disorders during the 1990’s, along with escalating behavioral problems among students like bullying, violence, and racism. Children and teenagers of varying abilities, disabilities participated in the workshops. Whether it was a grade one student, a high-potential learner, a learning disabled, a blind or deaf student, a young offender, or a child with severe attention problems, almost every child seemed to benefit from the experience. The classroom teachers recorded the students’ progress, and often noted significant improvements in several areas of the child’s learning and attitude.

Based on the results and observations of the AAD programs, Thompson wrote an article called “Teaching Children Concentration” which was published in the Vancouver magazine, Common Ground in 1999. The readers’ response was overwhelming. She received a flood of written requests from teachers, principals, parents, doctors, psychologists, and child counselors asking for more information. Some were interested in learning the techniques so they could then help their own children or students. Others wanted to have the program brought into their school. At the time, there was little written information to offer. Thompson became determined to develop a program and write a workbook that could easily be used by teachers and parents. Her work and research cumulated into this book.

To become more involved in public education, Thompson returned to university in 2001 and earned her teaching degree. She has since been teaching primary and secondary students part-time. This experience has given her an insider’s perspective on today’s education and school culture. In her writings and articles, Thompson acknowledges the many positive factors of academic learning, along with the difficulties facing educators today. However, she believes that children’s learning and well-being, school atmosphere, and classroom management, could all benefit by the simple addition of attention development and concentration curriculum starting as early as in Kindergarten.

Presently, Heidi Thompson spends her time painting, writing, and giving workshops to help children and adults learn breath awareness. In 2008 she conducted a one-day course which combined breath awareness and painting called: "ART & ATTENTION" at the Grand Forks Art Gallery in BC. If time permits she conducts breath awareness programs free-of-charge to any school that may be interested.

[BCBW 2012]