Dori Howard is a brave space holder for transformation. She is a mother, dog lover, nurse, coach, yoga instructor, healer and retreat host. Whether in a coaching relationship or on retreat at her tranquil oceanfront property, a vacation guest or a family or friend gathering, Dori creates space for healing, learning, nourishing, nurturing, recharging, and restoring for people to flourish. With over 30 years of healthcare experience, combined with her own healing journey, she has designed a West Coast meets zen peaceful space at her home on Salt Spring Island, BC where she hosts intimate retreats integrating her ‘Four Shades of Resilience’ framework to hold space for people as they journey inward to claim their truest self.
Dear young Dori. As you enter adulthood, here is my advice to you: it is noble, good and right that you care for and help others. This is your gift. It may come at a cost though and heed these words of advice. You must also care deeply for yourself. You must integrate practices into your day that nourish and nurture you in body, mind, heart and soul…every day. It is this balance of caring for self and others that will help you flourish in life, keep you on your destined path and fulfill your purpose in life.
I was drawn to healthcare early in my life. As a mail clerk at the hospital, I often lingered through the children’s ward so I could get a glimpse of the nurses caring for and playing with the children. This warmth and vision-guided me to a degree in nursing and gravitate towards pediatric oncology. Caring for patients and families in the most critical and vulnerable time in their lives cultivated a deep sense of compassion, urgency and empathic ways of being – not only for patients and families but also for colleagues. I assumed leadership roles in learning and organizational development creating leadership programs that integrated coaching, emotional intelligence and self-care to help healthcare professionals cultivate resilience and authentic excellence.
A day in the life of a cancer patient is no picnic. My main mantra in life arose from caring for children and families with cancer: “How can I make their bad day better.” I held space for sorrow, pain, suffering, joy, laughter and play all in a day’s work. The privilege of caring for patients would also lead me to my greatest learning in my life: balance caring for others AND caring for myself. My acts of selfless service led me to practice “idiot compassion”: compassion without self-compassion. I found myself staying in a toxic marriage, working tirelessly in an unhealthy work environment and succumbing to a chronic illness.
My other mantra is ‘it’s all about the learning’. My passion for learning illuminated the path of my life. Learning is not just the definitive sense of formal education, but the deeper, broader understanding of human relationships that shape all aspects of our lives –our work, our families, and our communities. Healing, growth, connection and joy evolve from deep learning. I believe that to imagine, define, manifest and sustain ‘success’ in our professional and personal lives, we must be willing to examine ourselves with honesty, curiosity and compassion. We must also be willing to embrace the ‘sometimes-unsettling-but-ultimately-rewarding’ journey towards transformation, joy and peace within.
My deep dive into my own journey of loss, sorrow, betrayal, illness and pain brought me full circle to a life of healthy living in body, mind, heart and soul. I designed my own resiliency care plan that included practices in “Four Shades of Resilience”: nutritional harmony, mindset elevation, heart & soul alignment and synergy with nature including a morning yoga practice, meditation and hike with my dogs as mainstay practices that nourish me and fuel my joy bucket so that I can be in service to others.
My healthcare career has also come full circle. My late brother was instrumental in this phase of my life encouraging me to transform the property into a retreat centre. I was at a loss for what to do. “You’ll figure it out. You have skills…you’re a nurse, a coach, you, facilitate and all that stuff.” My brother passed away just 4 months later. His last words to me were “Dori, live your vision, build your retreat centre” So, I transformed my Salt Spring Island property into a West Coast meets zen-inspired oasis where I hold space for sorrow, pain, joy and play. This is enso-a Japanese symbol for enlightenment. It is here where people relax, recharge, learn, heal, grow and restore. Enso is the path inward to a truer you.