Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Apparently someone bound and gagged the poet and stuffed him in the closet as I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him in a week. In lieu of a poem, I’ve decided to write about a recent adventure (names have been omitted to protect privacy), so here goes…

A couple of weekends ago, I was on retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Aspects of Love.” There was a nice crowd of folks – maybe 35 or so total. We began the retreat on Friday night by sitting in a very large circle on the floor and introducing ourselves. I knew about 30 folks from prior retreats, so I was feeling pretty comfortable. We were also asked to explain what came to our mind first when someone spoke the word “love.” Now, this is the part of the talking circle I hate the most. You have to figure out what you’re going to say when it’s your turn, while listening to folks’ answers, all the while hoping they aren’t going to “steal” your answer and you’ll have to come up with a new one in even less time than it took you to come up with the one that someone “stole.”

I finally settled on an answer. I wasn’t happy with it, but it was the truth. While everyone else in the circle was talking about love being portrayed by little bluebirds singing as they circled their heads with pretty ribbons, I sat on the floor with my sore butt worried that I would soon be labeled the dark lord of the retreat since my word was “pain.”

The man sitting to my right is one of my best friends. He has seen a LOT of pain in his life yet he manages to be the warmest and most compassionate person I’ve ever known. He is my friend, and yet I couldn’t bear to hear what he had to say. All I know is that when he was done, I didn’t hear the word “pain” which made my word of choice “golden.”

My turn: I can’t look anyone in the eye. I hear a voice speaking, and despite my being a bit hard of hearing, I can tell that the voice is coming from my mouth. The words sound a lot like those of the adults in those Charlie Brown TV specials – “wahwah wah wah wahwahwah…” The noise ends and I look to my left. The man who is sitting there is now speaking. I guess I did okay as folks aren’t running screaming from the room for fear that I’ll soon be asking them to drink some grape Kool-Aid.

Fast forward to Saturday morning: One of the staff members for this retreat is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I know her. She is very sweet, very smart and very easy to talk to. Part of me wants to have a conversation with her about my choice of the word “pain” to describe love, but part of me doesn’t want to go any deeper, and so I sit, and my butt gets sore again.

Before the LCSW begins her presentation on self-compassion, we are asked to complete a self-evaluation quiz. Some of the questions seem repetitive. The second time around, I have to stop and think more deeply about my answers. Then I begin thinking more deeply about the other questions. Before I know it, I am deep in the throes of understanding that my “pain” need not be assuaged by other people, but that I have the tools to repair my “pain” through self-compassion.

The LCSW begins her discussion of self-compassion as an “Aspect of Love.” I’m sure she is wondering what is going on with me as I am sitting on the floor nodding my head at every word she says as if I was one of those bobble-head dolls. It may only be Saturday morning, but I have already gleaned my take-away from this retreat.

However, contrary to my smug conclusion, I would soon learn that only half a lesson had been learned. It would still take a heroic effort on my part to make this lesson a part of my life – a part of who I am, from this point forward.

The balance of the retreat was filled with a wide variety of creative and beneficial experiential exercises that allowed me to incorporate my recent lesson learned. But, it was an off-the-cuff cutting remark directed at me by one of the other retreatants that gave me my first true test. No purpose would be served by detailing the event, but suffice it to say that self-compassion became an “Aspect of Love” lesson put to good use and well-learned.

And so it is 2 weeks post-retreat. I’m still me, but I’m a calmer me. (My personal acquaintances should stop laughing here.) Because of this retreat and because of my willingness to listen to words about self-compassion, I’ve come to realize that while I cannot prevent it, I possess the power to heal my “pain.”


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Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a beautiful sharing of your story. It is poetic in its own right. Thank you for putting this on your blog.

11:28 PM  
Blogger John said...

A beautiful blessing, information to insight to Knowledge. Thanks for sharing the practical application of the teachings.

John J

10:35 AM  

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