Research Data and a Dying Man’s Words…

I was invited to attend a research seminar a few days ago looking at mindfulness and ageing. There was some terrific data revealed and lots of nuggets of great advice and insight – more about that in future posts. But I was moved by the words of one older gentleman there. I’ll call him Brian (not his real name). He came in after the seminar had started, walking with some difficulty, not looking that well and he took his time to find a seat.

Later it became clear why Brian was there; he had attended a mindfulness based cognitive therapy programme run by one of the speakers and wanted to share how the course had impacted him. He haltingly but movingly described how the course had helped with his depression, low mood and had eased his long standing mental health issues. He had rediscovered his creativity and started writing poetry again.

Brian knew that I was interested in compassion from what had been said earlier so my ears pricked up when in the middle of describing what he’d got out of the programme he looked at me and said “loving kindness and compassion were the most important part of the course”  [if I hadn’t been constrained by social and academic niceties you would have seen me punching that air at that moment going ‘Yess’…].

From an authentic deep place he said “being kind to ourselves offers us freedom and a way forward…”. [by this time I had tears in my eyes, here was someone who believed what I did].

I went up to him at the end of the seminar to thank him for his thoughtful and inspiring words. He told me how much the course had meant to him. He said that he knew he hadn’t got very long to live but that mindfulness and compassion were helping him to truly live in the amount of time he did have. I thanked him again and he went to walk away – then he slowly turned back to me, and with deep conviction said:

“the most important thing is to learn to love yourself. You have to start with yourself before you can love anybody else”.

I nodded in agreement, too choked to open my mouth and acknowledge what he had said. He was speaking my truth and to hear someone else verbalise it as I begin my research in the compassion field felt like a precious gift.

It seems to me that Brian spoke such simple words of beautiful insight, clearly founded on a profound understanding of what really matters in life. Sometimes research data, NICE guidelines and protocols fail to capture the beauty of an individual’s lived experience and the lessons they have learned.

Please let me know what you think about Brian’s words by sharing a Comment below. Do you agree with him? Have you ever been moved unexpectedly by the comments of strangers?

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13 Responses to Research Data and a Dying Man’s Words…

  1. Anne Kennedy says:

    Kate – initially words failed me as I was trying to fight back the tears. To hear/read those words -‘To love oneself’ – ‘To be kind to oneself’ OH!
    What a truly amazing and inspirational man. Thank you Brian and Thank you Kate for sharing what I imagine will be a very precious memory.

    • Kate says:

      Thank you for your moving response – so glad that it touched you. It seems to me so important to keep on reminding ourselves of Brian’s and other’s wisdom when we face our own inner gremlins.

  2. Joanne Howe says:

    Hi Kate,

    Great to receive your email and to hear your story – very powerful!

    If I may share with you the part that resonated with me the most, was when Brian said “ being kind to ourselves offers us freedom and a way forward…”. The aspect of ‘freedom’ is very compelling for me and one which keeps me coming back to mindfulness and reminds me to be kind to myself.

    Thank you once again – I feel extremely privileged to be part of your on-line community.


  3. Kate says:

    Amazing. So powerful. Thanks Kate.

  4. Joanna says:

    Thankyou Kate. I really enjoyed reading this and understanding that this man was experiencing himself genuinely and honestly through mindfulness compassion. So moving that words often don’t do justice. It is so liberating to give peace to our restless minds, just to say, it’s okay to just BE 🙂 Thankyou for your inspiration also x

  5. Gill says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thank you so much for that, it brought tears to my eyes too. The comment “being kind to ourselves offers us freedom and a way forward…” really struck home after my supervisor had said to me yesterday ” The most important resource you have is yourself. You must do what is right to look after that”. Isn’t it astounding that important messages have a way of coming to us in different ways at a time when we need to hear them? Brian certainly seems to have heard what he needs, at what is a challenging time for many people, and I applaud his courage and wisdom.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Gill, sometimes we seem to need to hear the same message several times before it sinks in! And your supervisor sounds very wise. I’m really glad that Brian’s words have had an impact with people-he moved me so much but I wasn’t sure what others would think so it’s really heartening to know that you and others have felt the simplicity and power of his message.

  6. Joanne says:

    Hi Kate,
    Brian’s story is indeed moving and I really hope he fully benefits from his understandings and yes I totally agree with his wise words.
    Thank you for sharing the story.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Joanne I’m so glad that you found Brian’s words resonated with you and I’m also encouraged that it was the right thing to do to share this part of his story. He certainly seemed to have benefitted hugely from his learnings – that was what he told me and the rest of the audience. I guess always opportunities for growth at any stage in life

  7. Lisa Kendall says:

    Kate – thank you so very much for this post. It seems that Compassion (to others and for ourself) is the key to real peace and joy. I’m eager to share your words with others, and blessed to be a part of your on-line community.

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