The time had come for me to find my way to Wales. A welcoming retreat centre nestled by a lake and surrounded by majestic mountains awaited me. When I arrived, the tranquil setting heightened by the glorious and continuous sunshine, was beauty beyond the promotional pictures I had seen. I released my responsibilities, left the world behind for a time and began to settle into our Mindfulness and Self Compassion five day silent retreat.
In between the guidance and practice, we had been given the luxury of an extended lunch time, “To care for yourself in whatever way you need.” we were encouraged. And so there I was on the first day, reclining on a bench, gazing at the sky and the beautiful scenery surrounding me. I mused, ‘What a privilege this is.’ And a wave of gratitude swept over me. And then my thinking took a shameful turn. ‘Who does this?!’ I asked myself harshly. ‘Who has the opportunity to pause their lives and pamper themselves in this way?!’ And self critical questions of ‘deserving’ and ‘worthiness’ followed. And then a clear and strong voice emanated from within. ‘You do – and it is essential that you do.’ And as I reflected upon the message, I began to consider the many ways that I interface with people and with the world. I acknowledged my sensitive nature and how much energy it consumes to give of myself as I do within the varying support roles I fulfill, being as fully present and as caring, supportive, compassionate and loving as I possibly can within every exchange.
And so I considered, ‘What better way for me to honour others than to meet them from a place where I am truly fulfilled? What a gift would I be giving to each and every person I meet.’ And in that moment, I had a deep felt understanding of the true meaning of self care and self compassion. To truly honour myself and my wellbeing. To attend to my needs. To rest and sleep, to eat and move well, to centre and ground. Caring for myself as simply as pausing to fill my tea cup and as profoundly as filling my well of being. Allowing me to authentically share myself with those near and dear as well as those whom I pass on the street. And so I embraced the lengthy lunch hours and moved deeper into the retreat and into my practice, knowing that as I honour me, so I honour you.
“The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.”
by Thich Nhat Hahn