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Online Retreat
Mindfulness, self-compassion and the healing embrace of God
Self-compassion and opening to the healing embrace of God

Begin this session with the following guided quietening exercise:

At the end of the talk, listen to this song by David Kauffman, called "You cannot go below my resting arms":



Self-compassion with your emotions

  • Bring back to your memory a difficult emotion. It could be something you began working with yesterday.

  • Locate where in your body you are feeling the emotion, and bring a kind curiosity to this feeling, to where you experience the sensations of it in your body.

  • Bring a compassionate, gentle holding awareness to this feeling, cradling it and soothing it, while not trying to push it away or resist it in any way.

  • Hold that part of yourself in an attitude of kind understanding, not trying to reprimand or even fix it, just gentle recognition and acceptance, let this harsh grating or small reacting part of yourself find a soft landing in you.

  • And now try to move your awareness outward a bit, to the space in you that is the soft landing, the tender holding space.

  • This may take some practice, but as you sense into this holding space, this is an opening into experiencing the everlasting arms – this is all being held in the tender embrace of God. As we bring this gentle receptivity, we resonate with God’s compassion for us, and it becomes patterned into us as bodily knowing.

  • Feel experientially that you are held in the Everlasting Arms. These arms have never not been there. Part of you knows this – this very still quiet part that you access when you let go and allow yourself and life to be accepted, held and received, just as it is.


The burning bush

  • If you are able to, walk around your garden while, or look out of your window to find a bush that seems to be standing out for you, or calling out to you.

  • Stand or sit near the bush, or watch it from wherever you are, and gaze at it for a while.

  • You could even ask the bush what it wants to say to you, and have a dialogue with it (if this doesn’t feel too strange).

  • Now read this passage slowly:

Exodus 3:1-5

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.” 

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

  • If you are able, take off your shoes, or bow in the direction of the bush to acknowledge that the place where you are standing is holy ground.

  • Now turn your attention to some difficult emotional pattern that you often experience. Try to bring a memory to mind that allows the emotion to surface.

  • Let go of the story-line, and feel the emotion in your body. Allow it to be there, imagining making room for it inside of yourself.

  • Picture the burning or difficult sensation of this emotion as a burning bush. In your imagination, take off your shoes, or bow to this emotion, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

  • Allow yourself to flow into a time of free response to God, praying in whatever way gives expression to what you are experiencing, or just stay quiet in reverence for this holy place where you are standing.


Never not held

Courage, then! Pay attention to what you pray to.

Bow down, and every once in a while, give up.

We are held by stronger things, I promise.

We are held – if you are willing to turn backward

toward your own soul,

and take one surrendered breath and one intentional step,

you will find, without a doubt, that Someone is there for you,

something untouchable is always there,

never not holding you.                

                      - Brooke McNamara     



Leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,

as if, far off in the heavens, gardens were wilting.

And as they fall, their gestures say “it’s over”.

In the night the heavy Earth is falling

from out of all stars into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand here is falling.

Just look: it is in all of us.

Yet there is One who holds this falling

with hands of infinite tenderness.

                   - Rainer Maria Rilke


Hands of Your heart

How I long to be held in the great hands of Your heart.

Oh, let them take me now.

Into Your hands I place these fragments, my life,

And You, God, spend them however you want.

​                - Rainer Maria Rilke

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