The Inside Outside Retreat Centre logo, a trail marker blaze within a circle.
Logotype for the Inside Outside Retreat Centre.


March 23, 2023

If you’ve been following us for a while you may have heard us talk about self-care, that it is never selfish, it’s simply looking after the only thing we have to give the world: ourselves.

It follows that if we are wanting to care for the earth, for each other, we’ve gotta care for ourselves. We’re not suggesting that self-care should have priority over everything else we do or that if we look after ourselves everything else will fall into place. And we are definitely not suggesting that self-care is easy, nor do we want to burden anyone with another thing they should do. Heck, we know many people hold the responsibility of ensuring they and their loved ones can survive and taking time away from those responsibilities can induce worry and even some guilt.

Just yesterday I had a long visit with a dear friend and colleague that I hadn’t seen for a couple of months. The last time we’d been together the weight of the responsibilities she was living with was pretty evident. In addition to being pretty much the sole source of income for her family, mothering two young adults who are starting to find their way in the world, and teaching full-time at a demanding school, she was managing and supporting care for her mother in a long-term care home that was some distance away. In addition to the worry about her mother’s deteriorating health, there were constant phone calls from the care home asking for her help managing her mom. And visiting her mom entailed a two-hour bus trip on weekends and holidays. It was a lot.

Sometime after our last visit, she admitted to her family and herself, she was falling apart.

But yesterday, she fairly danced through the front door. The joy was palpable. Somehow she had managed to have her mother transferred to a care home that she can walk to from her own home. It wasn’t simple and her mother was not so sure about it, but she did it. One of the first things my friend said to me was “I feel like I’ve got my life back.”

She arranged the transfer to look after her own needs, however, it turns out that despite her mother’s reluctance, it has meant better care and attention for her mother, too. Having her mom close at hand has meant she can visit her more frequently and that she is not exhausted from bus trips or stressed about the time it’s taken to get there. Her partner and children can visit more frequently too, so her mom is getting more stimulation and companionship, more care from her family than when she was miles away. Her mom barely spoke or moved before the transfer. Now, she’s now speaking and beginning to move again. On a recent visit, her mom was even singing along to a song she recognized.

So, yes, it’s only one story; a pretty amazing one at that. But doesn’t it point out that looking after ourselves doesn’t have to mean that we are taking something away from someone or something else? And when we do care for ourselves, we just may be in better shape to attend to the responsibilities, obligations and pressures that make up our lives.

If we want a sustainable world, we have to figure out ways to sustain ourselves – body, mind and spirit.

Not just for ourselves, but for each other.

Parker Palmer says it well in Let your life speak:

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simple good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”

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We are settlers on Treaty 13 Land, the traditional territories of many Indigenous Nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples from across Turtle Island. We are committed to honouring the history this land bears witness to, responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and walking lightly on the Earth. A portion of proceeds from all our offerings are sent to:  The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and The Nii’kinaaganaa Foundation.

The Inside Outside Retreat Centre, Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), 720 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON, M5S2R4