I was born in Nottingham but raised just south of Bristol. I was a quiet, somewhat shy child, who enjoyed life with my family and close-knit group of friends. I liked to do well, worked hard and had a sensitivity. As a teenager, like many, I wanted to move out of the ‘boring’ town we lived in, and see and experience a wider world, different people and more adventure.
I left school after ‘O-levels’ (showing my age here), and embarked on a hotel and catering course at Tech. I began to see this was not a happy long-term choice for me and applied for occupational therapy (OT) training – by this point it was clear that I wanted to work with people and had a passionate interest in mental health. I enjoyed all the mental health aspects of my three-year OT training, and got through the other subjects, albeit half-heartedly. My eye was on getting out to work in the field.
Many years followed of interesting work in acute psychiatry, and community mental health before arriving as psychological therapist in a primary care team. Alongside this, I lived in a few different parts of the UK, until landing in North Devon. Here I married and have two, now adult children. I had never imagined living anywhere other than a city but thought I’d give it a go. It is a beautiful part of the world to live in, with endless natural beauty and space, with the downside of being a bit cut off and not so diverse.
Back in 2004, I heard about this new therapy called mindfulness – I expressed an interest to my manager. Little did I know that a short while later, the University of Exeter, would be scouring the south west for mindfulness teachers for a research trial – there were not many teachers then. I got asked to ‘audition’ – so began my first course, with the ‘green book’ clutched firmly in my hand and video recorder playing – ready to send off to supervisor and assessors. To my shock, I was asked to be a therapist on the trial. I was excited and immediately knew that although this was going to be a steep learning curve, not necessarily ideal with two young children, but I was drawn to mindfulness in a way I couldn’t articulate but felt it.
The learning curve began and has continued, with some plateaus where it almost gets comfortable and familiar, and then the next mindfulness adventure begins. What a joy it has been for me to be involved in this work in this way. My practice has had great importance over the years – initially staying close to the practices within MBCT, and then branching out more, mainly focussing on the practices and teachings within the western insight tradition. I have always loved movement – yoga, Qigong, walking and swimming amongst some. In recent years my practice has had been around different sorts of compassion and friendliness practice from both contemporary and traditional frameworks. With now adult children, it is easier to go on retreat and I have some long retreats planned. I have also embarked on teacher training with the Bodhi college.
So back to my working life, after the research trial, I became increasingly connected to the University of Exeter, eventually leading the MSc programme and the NHS funded MBCT service. There were things that did not fit within the frame of the University set up, so Willem Kuyken and I, quite naively thought we would set up a community interest company to house supervision and a few training events. This was the birth of what is now The Mindfulness Network charity. It has grown and evolved over the years, and I have grown and evolved and adapted as it has done so. It has been quite a journey of change and often saying ‘yes’ when I’m not sure but will give it a go.
I left Exeter in 2017 and joined the training team with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP), to pursue my interest in mindfulness-based supervision. Supervision of mindfulness teachers has been a passion for me for some years now. I decided to focus on this as a subject for my MSc in MBCT, and then went on to study for a doctorate in clinical research, with supervision as the topic for my major research. I worked closely with a dear colleague, Cindy Cooper (who died in 2017), who was just as passionate as me about supervision. The MN, the team of supervisors, my supervisees, and the supervision training that I facilitate through CMRP, all continue to fuel and feed my enthusiasm.
I would say that I have been lucky so far in my life to be blessed with heaps of energy – waning a little as I get older! I love my work and practice, my family are hugely important to me, and the old OT in me still loves to live a full and active life – walking, tennis, kayaking, gardening, cooking, travelling in our van, various crafts, reading, film … No wonder I never feel I have enough time!
I can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.