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.
Early in 2014, Life Coach, friend, and colleague Zoey Ryan, asked me to facilitate a workshop for frontline staff who were experiencing burnout and vicarious trauma from their work with women and children who were experiencing partner abuse.
I invited another 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 caregivers. This inspired us to study with Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Kristen Neff and The Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion and to train as Mindful Self-Compassion teachers.
Longtime friend and local artist Johanne Galipeau helped co-create Self-Compassion Cards as a way to support ourselves and others in practicing and integrating mindful self-compassion skills into our everyday life. Each card features a different piece of Johanne’s original artwork as well as a mindful self-compassion practice.
We began teaching MSC in our community and beyond and have continued to teach hundreds of participants through in-person workshops, retreats and online programs.We have been very pleased to bring the programs to worksites and organizations in our community including First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), CVI Multicultural Society and Nanaimo/Victoria School Districts. 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.
After participating in one of our earlier MSC workshops, Dr. Kristy Williams was inspired to take the teacher training, and is now co-teaching MSC programs with me in Nanaimo. She integrates the practices into her work with patients in her client, at the hospital and on the street. Kristy’s passion for ‘trauma-informed’ mindfulness has added a deeper level of awareness and emotional safety for our participants.
In 2019, I was mentored through the MSC certification process by esteemed Mindfulness and Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher/Trainer, Dawn MacDonald. It is such a privilege to teach Mindful Self-Compassion and to be a part of an international group of certified MSC teachers who offer free online guided meditations for people who interested in deepening their practice in community.
When COVID-19 Social Distancing Guidelines started in March 2020, we 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.
Kristy and I switched to teaching online programs and began offering the new Short Course in Mindful Self-Compassion. The new modified program works so well for our participants, for ourselves as teachers and for our COVID impacted mind, body and spirit.
Accessibility is important to us. 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 continue to practice. We continue to teach. We continue to learn. Kristy Williams and myself are currently enrolled in a year long training in Socially Engaged Buddhism with UPAYA Institute and Zen Centre in New Mexico which we are finding is adding another layer of depth to our practice, our self-care and teaching.
So that’s the story so far. Life happens. People change. Circumstances change. Some ideas grow. Other dreams get left behind. But we are still holding onto the thread of Compassion. For ourselves. For each other. For our community.
“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.