Jo Shanahan – Retreats and Compassion Events Coordinator

I grew up in London, my father a London cabbie and my mother delivering the records for juke boxes to pubs. My siblings and I loved playing the Top 40 vinyls each week! The music theme continued when I chose my university as it was the hometown of my favourite band at the time – not a selection criterion I’d necessarily advocate! Studying social sciences and French, it was during this time that I also read Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’ which opened my eyes to the journey of self-discovery.

After university I worked successfully in recruitment but began to feel the pull to travel further afield. I trained to teach English and subsequently held teaching posts in Poland, Portugal, Thailand and Australia. At this point, the appeal of the ocean drew me out of the classroom; I completed my Divemaster training and worked on liveaboard dive boats in the Coral Sea and on the Barrier Reef.

Eventually I chose to return to the UK, via India and Nepal. Climbing the Himalayas whilst pregnant I vowed that next time they could carry me! Back home, I worked for two local authorities in London before the classroom and the sea beckoned once again, this time the Sussex coast. I taught in schools in Sussex for twelve years and it was during this time that my interest in mindfulness really developed. I had a sense of increasing difficulties being faced, not just by colleagues, but also by children, some at a very young age, and their parents and guardians. I trained to teach the Mindfulness in Schools Project’s three curricula and went on to deliver mindfulness to children and adolescents in primary and secondary schools, to school staff, parents, adoptive parents and special guardians.

I undertook further training with Bangor University’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) where I had the immense privilege of Cindy Cooper being my teacher. An incredible role model, her courage in meeting life’s challenges with equanimity inspired and strengthened my commitment to my own practice as well as supporting me to deliver the MBSR curriculum and mindfulness in corporate settings. Mindfulness and compassion subsequently held me through turbulent times, equipping me to both savour the joys and meet the challenges of life. It was Cindy who told me about the work of the Mindfulness Network, then in its infancy; little did I know that I would someday be fortunate enough to work with them!

I can be contacted via email at