My journey towards becoming a Counsellor and meditation teacher started around 12 years ago. I was a teacher in Indonesia and was taking a few weeks holiday in Bali. Up until that moment I had always assumed that my happiness was based on external factors such as money, exciting activities like sky diving, family, romance, career. But here I was in Bali, and I had all of these things; more than enough money, a nice girlfriend, my family was visiting, surrounded by beautiful nature and people, scuba diving on ship wrecks and racing around on motorbikes.........and I was miserable. I remember standing alone in a ruined temple up on a cliff and something intuitive inside told me that it was time to turn inwards. It was a little while longer before I met my first teacher and started this inner journey, but the seed was sown.
My meditation practice began when I was a student in Beijing in 2008. To begin with I just went along to a weekly class but during the summer holidays I spent nearly every day with my teacher, Master Wei. My lessons included many hours on the mat but we also spent a lot of time in nature and in the various hospital wards learning first-hand about what it means to be human and how to apply mindfulness to our daily lives. During the winter of 2008 I had my first taste of intensive retreat under the guidance of Mingyi and Mingji and their teacher Master Jing hui at the Sizusi Monastery in southern China. The Zen practice was disciplined and tough, but it gave me my first taste of how the mind can become still and clear.
After my studies had finished, I left China and went to practice intensive meditation under the guidance of Sayadaw U Vivekannda, a world renowned Vipassana teacher at Panditarama, Lumbini. The Vipassana practice was even tougher than Zen, we woke up at 3.30am and Meditated in silence every day until 9.30pm. All movements were done in slow motion to maintain continuous awareness and no form of entertainment or distraction were permitted. My first stay here was for 5 months, but then I went back on subsequent years, first for another 5 months and then 9 months the year after. During these years, a general stilling of the mind started to occur along with an unfolding of equanimity and insight. I also spent a lot of time studying the practice of compassion and loving kindness with a Burmese Nun, Sayalay Bhaddamanika.
On returning to England and settling back into life in the west, I became interested in how clinical mindfulness was being used and how Counselling could be used alongside meditation. During this time I participated in an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course and marvelled at how the creators of this course had captured the very essence of the meditation practice I had learnt in the east and were using it to help people find ease from ailments such as depression, anxiety and chronic pain. I later trained as a Mindfulness teacher at Bangor University and leading these 8 week courses is now one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work. My life is quite busy these days, I love the work I do, but also enjoy my yearly meditation retreat when I leave worldly issues behind and spend a few months dwelling in the peace and clarity of the mind.
After my second long retreat in Nepal, I was struggling with lots of difficult memories from the past and I read about how Counselling could help. I sought out a skilled therapist and saw her regularly for 2 years. My experiences in therapy alongside the fact that the people coming to me for meditation lessons were holding a great deal of pain which required more skill and understanding than I currently had, led me to train as a Counsellor. I always feel very honoured when doing counselling work, to be allowed into a person’s world and walk alongside them in their pain for as long as they need.