Last week a group of 26 brave participants attended the first Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in New Mexico. The spectacular mountains of the high desert near Santa Fe was our backdrop for practices of mindfulness, loving-kindness and self-compassion. And we needed them!
“It’s so fucking cold!”
It was cold. In the muddy middle of the program, one teary participant exclaimed during a group discussion, “It’s so fucking cold!”: she was right and she was not alone. Another told me, “There’s too much suffering: I can’t do it all.” We were definitely challenged. We were asking our emotional systems to go to places they hadn’t been before, and we were putting our bodies through levels of discomfort we don’t often feel. And we all survived.
More than surviving, as a group we thrived. We bonded over hot soup. We connected in front of the big open fire. We walked together up the mountain, then ran together back down the mountain as the cold rain turned to snow. Those who could offer a warmer living space to others did so, either by sharing with a loved one or giving up their warmer space completely in the service of kindness, compassion, and a desire to explore the emerging personal resources that become apparent when a body is challenged.
…when we got up to the asphalt, we hugged, cried, and vowed to keep in touch.
Then, as a finale to the week, we got out and pushed and pulled our shuttle bus up the mountain toward the asphalt, through mud and snow. We found short-cuts through the forest when it became apparent that our shuttle couldn’t transport us uphill through the mud, and we lent a hand to each other to climb up toward our connecting bus. We cheered on classmates in private cars, who navigated Mustangs, RAV4s and Carollas alike up the slippery mountain roads. And when we got up to the asphalt, we hugged, cried, and vowed to keep in touch. Our challenges brought us closer together in brotherhood and sisterhood; in mindfulness, compassion and common humanity.
MSC will visit Vallecitos again in 2017, once again toward the end of the retreat season just before the snow season begins. The grounded and talented Megan Leuchars and I will lead another group through 8 sessions of exploring our internal landscape. And we’ll also enjoy exploring the breath-taking beauty of the external landscape. Maybe we’ll finish before the season’s first snow, and maybe we won’t – but we know from experience now that there’s nothing that brings home a sense of common humanity more than a shared challenge.
Update: Good news! The good folks at Vallecitos have emailed me to let me know that there are heaters in all of the accommodations now.
Post Note: Thanks so much to the amazingly patient, kind, responsive and energetic staff at Vallecitos, especially Paige and Chris who not only held our group in a beautifully nurturing environment, but balanced their warmth and kindness with some bad-assed mud-navigating, driving and tow-rope wielding skills.