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?