Gwennie Fraser – Mentor

Gwennie Fraser


I have twenty-five years of meditation experience. I received instruction in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition following a visit to Ladakh in northern India where I witnessed the resilience and peaceful outlook of traditional Buddhist communities. Time spent amongst Ladakhi people, in the depths of winter, had a profound influence on me. It opened up many questions about what supports a balanced, meaningful life and a peaceful mind. With a background in medical anthropology, I have always been interested in the vital connection between body, mind and heart and the implications for well-being. My PhD thesis explored the ritual healing practices of indigenous people in the Bolivian Andes.

When I started to develop a personal meditation practice, I found it gave me space in my life and in my mind. This was especially so during a stressful period in my life caring for aging parents with complex health needs. The experience, insights and understanding began to weave together all my life interests, experience and values. The benefits of personal practice is what later inspired me to train in teaching Mindfulness-Based Approaches at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, at Bangor University, in 2004.

I have been teaching 8 week MBSR courses, follow up courses, leading practice workshops, support meetings and sessions, residential and online retreats in Newcastle upon Tyne and Northumberland since 2007. I am a mindfulness supervisor with The Mindfulness Network and I have been teaching 8 week MBSR Distance Leaning courses, one to one, through CMRP, and now through The Mindfulness Network, since 2010.

I really enjoy working one to one. Supporting practice beyond the 8 week course, as part of a valuable ongoing journey of exploration, is something I am strongly committed to, especially in these demanding times. The path of practice is a uniquely individual and dynamic process, constantly unfolding. I feel it is a privilege to support this process in mentoring, and to share practice with others.

Personal practice

I have a daily formal sitting practice, morning and evening, which I also vary to include core practices from my training in MBSR/MBCT. I enjoy planning days of self-guided retreat at home, especially in winter, and I was inspired to discover this could be possible. I also undertake regular retreats in the Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist tradition with Mingyur Yongey Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, secular retreats through The Mindfulness Network, and online courses and retreats through Tergar Learning Community and Tricycle, to support and explore my practice going forward.

Teachings I have absorbed from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as well as secular compassion practices from the Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living programme, have given me a greater appreciation of kindness in daily life, and to discover what this really means. I greatly value mindfulness for bringing practice right into the ordinary and everyday, for helping me to see the whole of life as practice, and for working with life’s inevitable ups and downs. There is something inspiring but humbling about the simple truth that life is only ever lived in the present moment. I walk daily, and I am currently enjoying exploring the gentle movements of qigong.

Influences on practice

I had a strong instinct from the outset of training as a mindfulness teacher, that my teaching would only develop through deepening the roots of my own practice and being enlivened and engaged by further retreat and teachings. A deep wish to explore practice more completely is fundamental to my life and all I bring to my work with others. A curious and questioning mind has been with me from a young age. My first experiences of meditation took place in my childhood, sitting in trees and quietly observing. My practice brings me the sense of being on a journey that is always freshly unfolding, with each precious new day, opening me to new perspectives and possibilities, and learning amidst challenges.

My practice has been especially influenced over the years by guidance from His Holiness 17th Karmapa, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche in the Karma Kagyu tradition, and also a wealth of Buddhist teachers including Pema Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, whose teachings I return to again and again. My children, now adult, have brought me the greatest learning experiences for my practice. My practice is also inspired by poetry, keeping bees, gardening, an enjoyment of artistic creativity and writing, which has recently become an important part of my daily life.

I love spending time outside in wild places and the natural world. Living deep in Northumberland National Park, nature is a constant teacher. I find the subtle daily changes of weather, seasons and details of the landscape around me helps my mind to be more natural, settled, open and responsive, and to keep to a grounded perspective, balance and appreciation of life.