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 my old friend and colleague, Carol Ranger, M.A., R.D., 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 Cards as 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 and author 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 In 2016 we presented Mindful Self-Compassion at the International Dietetics Conference in Granada, Spain. Since then we have been invited to work with many other organizations and communities including the First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), CVI Multicultural Society, Vancouver Island School Districts, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice.
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.
Taking a deeper dive into the work, I was mentored through a year long teacher certification process through 2018/2019 by esteemed MSC Teacher Trainer, Dawn MacDonald.
Meanwhile in Nanaimo, B.C., I started co-teaching with Dr. Kristy Williams. Kristy’s long time interest in health and whole-person wellness led to a career as a family physIcian. Along the way she developed a meditation/mindfulness practice to support her. When she took the MSC training she found that Mindful Self Compassion added a depth of support to health and healing that she was seeking personally, and for her patients. Kristy completed her MSC teacher designation in 2018, and has been teaching and deepening her practice ever since. Kristy is also trained in Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness and Embodied Practice, and loves to integrate these concepts into the MSC curriculum.
She especially enjoys sharing mindful self-compassion with her colleagues and the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice.
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.
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-gong and did a whole lot of collage processing work thanks to co-facilitator, author and coach Vicki McLeod.
Everything in life has a rhythm. Health needs rhythm. We have developed a rhythm to our annual teaching schedule. Our offerings include 6 week live online MSC trainings, a fall 2 day Core Skills Training Weekend Retreat and a spring 5 Day Residential Intensive. Along the way we spontaneously offer pop-up style self-compassion silent meditation retreats, practice days and other ways of connecting which are advertised in our newsletter and social media.
Personal Practice and Self-Care
As teachers we too struggle in certain areas of our personal self-compassion practice. So we continue to be students. We continue to practice. We continue to practice in community. We felt so privileged to participate in a 2 year intensive training in Socially Engaged Buddhism with Joan Halifax and UPAYA Institute and ZenCentre (2021/22). It informed and deepened our compassion practice.
In 2023 we joined MSC teachers from around the globe in the Mindful Self-Compassion Circle of Deepening Practice for Teachers meeting weekly to explore our practice edges and strengths with the guidance of experienced MSC Teacher Trainers and Teacher Mentors, Tina Gibson and Steve Hickman. Our goal and commitment is to continue to deepen our personal embodiment of the skills that we teach. We also found deep rest and renewal in Mark Sherman’s and Tracy Boyd’s 5 Day Silent Residential Mindfulness and Yoga Retreat at Salt Spring Island Yoga Centre.
The Way it Is
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.