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  • Writer's pictureSally

Pilgrimage | Self-Compassion

“To give ourselves compassion, we first have to recognize that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we can’t feel.” — Kristin Neff, Self Compassion

My entry ticket to the Picasso Museum
My entry ticket to the Picasso Museum

We turned a corner in the Picasso Museum and looked at familiar renderings of his drawings from the Cubism period. Nausea started churning in my gut, quickly followed by a confused feeling, then I realized that “the terrors” were taking a hold in me. The terrors is a euphemism for a deep visceral reaction when someone who has been abused sees something in their environment which unconsciously connects them to their past. I felt intense fear but couldn’t look away. I just stared at the images, both disgusted and hypnotized, trying to decipher why these feelings crawled out of my body. I chanted an internal mantra: I am safe; these feelings are just remnants from a distant past, I am safe; these feelings are just remnants from a distant past…

The blocks of layered perspective reminded me of the suspended images I saw during my EMDR sessions with a therapist. Because the sexual abuse began when I was pre-verbal, the scenes of my uncle and I looked like an accordion of film freeze-frames.

Mike poses with the cheerful pointillism painting
Mike poses with the cheerful pointillism painting

I continued walking and turned another corner, when just as quickly, I was delighted by a cheerful pointillism painting, which relaxed my system back into its previous state of content.

Today we disrobe from our narratives and walk out of the compass rose into the first step of our journey: compassion. Compassion begins with self-compassion. Compassion is the simplest and yet often the most difficult practice of the compass work. It’s about un-learning all the negative experiences of our lives and returning to our true, essential nature. In today’s meditation with JC, he summed it up perfectly: “Compassion is about getting to the heart of the matter.” I completed his thought by adding: and listening. Self-compassion ferrets out the truth of wants. It looks for simple contentment. What gives you peace? It was clear that what my body and heart wanted in the museum was a clear message of safety.

Today is All Saint’s Day. In France it’s La Toussaintin French, a day to commemorate those who have passed on before us, especially family members and those heroes and she-roes in the community more recent and celebrated in the church. This evening, our group is traveling to the Taize community, an ecumenical Christian community in the Burgundy area where there is a service of repetitive chanting, songs, prayer and silence. This time of the year is very “liminal” where the veil between the physical and the spiritual is especially thin. I believe this time will help me discern and listen to my heart as I begin this pilgrimage of healing and wholeness.

When I think of those who have passed on, I include the fears and trauma of my very young self. Little Sally continues to join me in my travels, but the little girl that endured the hurt can know now that my uncle never reached the very center of her. My true self was and is as pure as the moment it was conceived into the Light.


Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Ask your heart: What is it that I truly want?


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