I started meditating in the early 1980s in the Hindu tradition, with a particular interest in Karma Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita. That emphasis on non-attachment to the fruits of one’s effort has been fundamental to my practice ever since.
In the mid-1980s, I began a Zen practice, which was also the start of my interest in Buddhism. This lapsed for about a decade, but starting in 2001, I began a daily practice, based around Insight Meditation (Vipassana). Since then, I have attended many retreats – from daylongs at London Insight to longer residential retreats at Gaia House and the Insight Meditation Society. My teachers have included Christina Feldman, John Peacock, Akincano Marc Weber, Jaya Rudgard, Rob Burbea, Jake Dartington and Stephen Batchelor. I have also been strongly influenced by the teachings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya and his Western disciple, Steve Armstrong.
Largely as a result of my practice of Insight Meditation, as well as a Qigong teaching course I was taking, I began to take an interest in (secular) Mindfulness around 2003, and I did my first mindfulness course in 2006. Soon afterwards, I trained as a teacher, and I have been teaching mindfulness since 2008. I also supervise other mindfulness teachers and offer Personal Practice Mentoring to graduates of mindfulness courses and to mindfulness teachers.
In addition to my interest in and practice of Mindfulness and Buddhism, I have also been active in organisational work. I am a member of two working groups in the Mindfulness Network. I was a Board member of the Buddhist Insight Network, and am currently a Trustee of Bodhi College. For many years I was an organiser of London Insight Meditation and was their Sitting Groups Coordinator. I founded the Insightful Ageing Group in 2011.
I have a daily sitting practice, oriented around tranquillity meditation (Samatha) and various mindfulness practices in the Buddhist tradition.
However, most of my practice is mindfulness of everyday experience. This is an awareness of moment-to-moment experience and of my mental states. Much of this revolves around awareness of my own reactivity – what we would call Dukkha or Suffering in the Buddhist tradition. I also have a practice –both in sitting and in daily life – of cultivation of skilful qualities, and these include kindness (Metta), generosity (Dana) and compassion. The last includes some practices from Mindful Self-Compassion, a course that I found extremely helpful.
Influences on practice
The main influences on my practice have been a combination of the wisdom of secular mindfulness and Insight Meditation. These two are highly complementary, and there are insights in both that can be hugely helpful in one’s personal practice, as well as in teaching mindfulness. In particular, the insights into reactivity/suffering, and how we can cultivate wholesome or skilful states of mind – which are available in both traditions – enlighten both my own life and how I teach mindfulness, as well as how I offer Supervision and Personal Practice Mentoring.
Another strong influence on my practice – and the insights which arise from it – are the Buddhist concepts of the Three Characteristics (Marks) of Existence. These are an expression of the existential reality that we all encounter, in life and in the difficulties of living, and in dealing with our own mortality. While this is a part of Buddhist tradition, these insights also underlie many insights that students can obtain in secular mindfulness. Relevant Experience for Personal Practice Mentoring
I have been teaching mindfulness for nearly ten years, and most of these have been with participants with life-limiting conditions, and for medical professionals. I am also a Supervisor of mindfulness teachers and am an Associate of the Mindfulness Network.
My supervision work includes discussion and inquiry into the personal mindfulness practice of supervisees, in accordance with the Mindfulness Network’s Good Practice Guidelines for Supervision.
For many years I have been leading a monthly group for mindfulness course graduates, at a London cancer centre. While this is not individual mentoring, much of it involves inquiry into their personal mindfulness practice, how this relates to their everyday lives, and how it can best be supported.
I have also been training for two years in the Community Dharma Leadership Programme sponsored by Gaia House, the UK’s main Insight Meditation Centre. This has involved training in group facilitation, in teaching meditation practices, and in teaching aspects of Buddhism, all under the mentorship of an experienced Buddhist teacher (in my case, also a mindfulness teacher).
I will be offering teaching as a result of this programme, and my first course, called Insight Meditation in Daily Life, focuses on how meditation and a core understanding of the principles of Insight Meditation can be of value in everyday life, helping us to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. I am aiming this course at graduates of mindfulness courses and others with existing experience of meditation.
Areas for Personal Practice Mentoring which I can offer
· Formal and informal mindfulness practices
· Loving Kindness and other Befriending practices
· Mindfulness in everyday life
· Development of qualities of embodiment as a mindfulness teacher
· Mentoring of personal practice which also includes some types of Buddhist practice – Insight Meditation (Vipassana) and practices from the Theravadan tradition.