Five years ago I was feeling pulled in a million different directions-stressed-spread too thin-not enjoying life to the fullest. Trying to find balance between, family, friends, and a stressful job. I was not feeling connected to the most important people in my life. Every weekend I would drive around with a pit in my stomach.
Self-Doubt would set in. Am I a good dad, husband, colleague, friend, etc? It was the constant questions of, Am I ______ enough? I wanted to have more control of my life, feel less stress, deal with the pain I was experiencing, while also wanting to be happy, have more balance in my life, and take better care of myself. I wanted to be more present for the people in my life, instead of getting lost and stuck in my head, focusing my attention on the “what ifs” and “coulda shouldas.” I wanted to let go of the self-criticism and judgment that was filling up my life and taking up a lot of space.
One of my mentors recommended that I take a Mindfulness class. I took my first of many classes and trainings in what is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction through Thomas Jefferson University. It has Changed My Life. I learned to make my care a priority in my life, to be kinder and nicer to myself, to be more patient and understanding, forgiving, and allowing; giving myself the compassion I deserve and need. Taking time to remember and come back to what is most important and matters most.
I began to be more aware and pay attention to what was inside of me and around me. I realized that when it came down to it I didn’t have control of anything. I became more aware of my stress and pain and have learned to work with it in healthier and more accepting ways. I have allowed myself to be a human being, imperfect and flawed. It is something I have to remind myself of again and again, moment to moment. Mindfulness has given me greater connection with myself, the people in my life, and the people that cross my path each and every day.
Mindfulness for me is about connection and it is at the heart of all I do. Two summers ago I realized that I needed to create a place of connection and community in my own backyard.
It was important for me to find a place where I could feel connected and supported. A place where I could be myself, a place where I could be heard, and accepted for who I am. I wanted to form a group of dads. I wanted to create a support group of men to talk about important things, to have deeper connection with one another, where we could show our vulnerability and care for one another. This was about having a group of great friends spending time together.
As I did my research, this idea of friendship and creating a group in this way was so eloquently described by Diane Reibel, Director of the Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Don McCown, the Co-Director of the Center for Contemplative Studies at West Chester University write in their book, Teaching Mindfulness, A Practical Guide for Clinicians and Educators. “So friendship begins with the intention of meeting people ‘where they are,’ of coming to any encounter without an agenda or intention to fix or improve the other, and with a willingness to allow relationships and situations to unfold in a fresh way.”
It has been two years since I created a men’s group focused on Mindfulness, with the intentions of connection, support, and self-care. We have been meeting twice a month during this time. It has made an incredible difference in my life and I would go so far to say, in all the group members lives. I have seen transformation occur in myself and my fellow dads. Together we have created a shared space of our experiences and stories. A place of strength, trust, and compassion, where we feel we are not alone and all in this together.
Lastly, that bring us to here, to the Center for Self-Care. My experience and that of my colleague, Marc Balcer, have become the backbone behind the C4SC.
Together, we have created this space to bring people together with the hope of building connections, growing friendships, and creating community. Please consider joining us for many of our upcoming events. Our first, Mindful Dads Meeting, is on October 11th from 8-10pm at the Woodlynde School in Wayne. To sign up or learn more about C4SC, click the link above or visit www.center4selfcare.com and follow the sign up links on the right hand column. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thecenterforselfcare.