the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way to begin
from Start Close In by David Whyte
That’s what we did. We started close in with long time friends and colleagues. With our own hearts and minds. With our own personal practice of mindfulness, meditation, healing, and growth. With a sincere desire to be of service and contribute to a more compassionate world.
I invited another old friend and colleague, Carol Ranger, to co-facilitate the training with me and while planning we discovered the research showing the protective and health benefits of self-compassion practice for front-line staff and caregivers. This inspired us to study with Dr. Chris Germer, Dr. Kristen Neff and The Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion and to train as Mindful Self-Compassion teachers.
As we were learning and integrating the skills, we decided to create Self-Compassion Cardsas a tool to support ourselves and others in practicing mindful self-compassion into our everyday life.
Gabriola artist Johanne Galipeau collaborated with us to create Self-Compassion Cards featuring her original artwork on one side and a mindfulness or self-compassion practice on the other. We shared many days of laughter, food and hard work integrating mindful self-compassion into our own lives while co-creating a resource for others and this heartfelt energy can be felt in the cards.
Local poet K. Louise Vincent offered her friendship, editing expertise, unwavering support and a steady hand through the ups and downs of weaving business, friendship, partnerships and dreams.
We began teaching MSC in our own community and were invited into many other communities including bringing MSC to the First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), CVI Multicultural Society, Vancouver Island School Districts and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In 2016 we presented Mindful Self-Compassion at the International Dietetics Conference in Granada, Spain.
In 2018, we joined 50 other participants in Kenya for a 5 Day MSC Intensive with Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Susan Pollack. Dr. Pollack wrote a great article in Psychology Today titled “Compassion Goes Global” about our experience.
Kristy Williams’ long time interest in health and whole-person wellness lead to a career as a family physIcian. Along this journey, she participated in a mindful self compassion course and was immediately impressed how compassion is so integral to health and healing she was seeking personally and for her patients. A meditator since the mid-2000’s, Kristy completed her MSC teacher designation in 2018, and we have enjoyed teaching and deepening our practice together ever since. Kristy is also trained in trauma-sensitive mindfulness and embodied practice and loves to integrate new concepts into the MSC curriculum.
When COVID-19 Social Distancing Guidelines started in March 2020, Kristy and I were inspired to support our community by offering free ongoing Live Online ‘Self-Compassion During Uncertain Times’ meet-ups as a place to slow down, connect and learn new tools. We continue to offer POP-UP Self-Compassion Meditation Gatherings as an opportunity to gather into stillness and connect with ourselves and others.
We switched from in-person trainings to teaching online programs and began offering the new Short Course in Mindful Self-Compassion. The new modified program worked well for our participants, for ourselves as teachers and for our COVID impacted mind, body and spirit.
We continue to practice. To teach. To learn. It nevers stops. In 2018/2019 I was mentored through the certification process by esteemed MSC Teacher Trainer Dawn MacDonald.
In 2021/2022 Kristy Williams and myself participated in a 2 year intensive training in Socially Engaged Buddhism with UPAYA Institute and Zen Centre which had added another layer of depth to our mindfulness practice, our self-care and our teaching. Our teaching is also currently moved and inspired by the work of David Treleaven around Trauma Informed Mindfulness, and Francis Wellers and The Five Gates of Grief.
Accessibility is important to us. We do not want money to be a barrier to anyone interested in learning mindful self-compassion. To that end, we offer sliding scale scholarships for every program we offer and work with non-profit agencies to support their staff in caring for themselves while caring for others.
We work closely supporting others in our community who are incorporating mindfulness and self-compassion into their work. Dominique O’Sullivan is a certified teacher of ‘Making Friends with Yourself’ – mindful self-compassion training for kids and young adults. She offers programs for kids and parents as well as a mindfulness podcast. Check her out at www.zenlibrarian.ca.
Moving through the pandemic, we returned to in-person gatherings in Spring 2022 with our first 5 Day Residential Mindful Self-Compassion Intensive at Bethlehem Centre, Nanaimo, B.C. We meditated, practiced, reflected, shared, laughed, cried, sang, hiked around the lake, walked the labyrinth, practiced chi-chong and did a whole lot of collage processing work thanks to co-facilitator, author and coach Vicki McLeod.
We are looking forward to resuming our live, in-person 8 week programs in the fall of 2022 and offering another 5 Day Residential Intensive next spring.
That’s the story – our story – one layer of our story – so far. Life evolves. People change. Circumstances change. Some ideas grow. Other dreams get left behind. So we follow the thread. The thread of learning to be compassionate with ourselves, each other, our community and the world.
“The Way It Is” by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die;
and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.