I started meditating around 20 years ago when I was a teenager, but I didn’t really commit to a regular practice until 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.
Note: intensive = 10-12 hours of formal meditation per day, semi-intensive = 5-7 hours