Formative Years – more biography
Today I am meant to be meeting a friend for lunch. Her car has broken down, and I’m sitting at home waiting for her to call and let me know if the RAC are towing her home, or, if we can meet up!
Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about writing about meditation, and was looking through my computer files for an essay that I wrote around the turn of the century. (How strange it sounds to use those words: all my life I applied the phrase to the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, but, here we are, a second successive century turning with a Queen on the throne. There’s something about that that I like).
Anyway… I realised that I had a lot of miscellaneous bits of writing which had not been put into folderss, so, as you do when you’re ‘killing time’ (interesting image really!), I started to look at documents and file them appropriately. And this one popped up. I think that I wrote it about a year ago. I’d given a talk to a group of complementary therapists, who asked a lot of questions, and were very engaging. I found myself talking about my early twenties, and suddenly it hit me just how amazing it was for me to be in such an august situation! I’m not sure that I’m alone in being unimpressed with periods of my life; I just lived what came and got on with it! It’s only on looking back and seeing with new eyes, from a different vantage point on the spiral of life, and, the reflection of others, that I can now see how extraordinary that time was, and, how it was the foundation, or, at least, the outward start of, an extraordinary life of exploration and experience.
So, I wrote down the significant and foundational events in my life’s journey.
I’ve recently come across research on Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) and can’t adequately convey the relief that comes from finding out that about 20% of the population literally have a different nervous system which accounts for their experience of life, which can be very different to that of the other 80%.
As an HSP child, I was very quiet, and always observing, and, acutely sensitive. I was a real outdoors person, raised in rural North Norfolk. I was always on bikes, boats, horses, and, was sporty too. I used to make dens outside and spend most of my time playing very contentedly in streams, water meadows and on the coastal marshes, mostly alone. I learned very early to be content with my own company. Spending so much time outdoors opened perception to the subtle.
My family had pets all my life, and I was given sole responsibility for some of them, which taught me discipline, the subjugation of my wants and maybe needs! I had to get out of bed whether I liked it or not, as the animals needing looking after. And, I started a Saturday and holiday job at the age of 13, so that I could be financially independent. So when people are impressed with a perception of the discipline of my application to practice, trust me, it’s definitely one of nuture – it was drummed into me!
At school I was moderately academic, and enjoyed sport. Being a strong outdoors girl, I was good at gym, athletics and hockey. So physical practice was easy, and, I enjoyed it. I missed physical practice once I’d left full time education, so when I found tai chi about three or four years later, I took to it very happily.
It’s worth saying here that I have always travelled, from a 14 year old going on school exchanges through college, going back and forth to France alone from 18 onwards, travelling throughout my 20’s, culminating with a year travelling solo round the world in 1986.
Anyway, whilst that’s getting ahead, it is setting a context for my exploratory nature.
At around 17 I was introduced to a new group of people and discovered the Tarot and astrology. One of my friends was a very skilled astrologer, and finding out about the aspects of my chart, which explained aspects of my character so succinctly, opening my mind to seeing things much more broadly.
We were all using tarot cards at that time too. The Temperance card always fascinated me – I loved the concept of ’being tempered’ – it really caught my imagination, and it’s a guiding principle that has stayed with me, and inspires me to keep on going, refining, refining, being tempered in the fires of life. It is also one of the key concepts in Pantanjali’s system of yoga, Tapasaya…
As a teenager I experienced a deep bereavement, which threw me into asking ‘What is the point of life”? That question drove me pretty mercilessly for about 30 years. (It doesn’t any more – phew! :)) But without that drive to “know thyself” I would not have been on such a deep quest for ‘Sat’, or ‘Truth’. I wanted to know the meaning of, and what was behind life. And I would not have become the person that I have.
Six weeks after that event, I left home and went to college. After that, I worked around Hertfordshire and eventually moved into London, for the first three post college years, following the family tradition in retail.
It was on changing jobs and working in London, that I discovered the works of Oscar Ichazo. Whilst he and his wife, Sarah Hodge, lived in Maui, her executive P.A. secretarial recruitment consultancy in New Bond St, London, was being managed by a friend of hers. By chance, I became a recruitment consultant for the company, and maybe because I was trained by an exceptionally talented consultant, and, because of a deep quality of perception picked up from spending many formative years in nature, became very successful for the company. I found it easy to hear and see what people wanted and needed, so was successful at matching people together
Meanwhile, Sarah provided us with extraordinary opportunities. We were introduced to the works of her husband, the founder of the Arica Foundation.
I attended several workshops and retreats in Holland, where his work was very popular, exploring the enneagram, a map of human experience. (also associated with Gurdjieff).
Oscar’s method is based on unifying divergent mental states through self observation (that which has been called cultivating the witness state in eastern philosophy). It is an aide to coming from a state of separation brought about by patterning developed through early years into one of essential unity. So, my first introduction to the concept of Yoga, or, non-duality…
Sarah sent a very beautiful lady, Nancy, who radiated a kind of ‘translucency’ of high vibration into the office to teach us Oscars’ system of psychoclaisthenics, an kind of callisthenic yoga. She would come in two or three times a week and we would practice before we started work for some time. What an awesome boss!
Nancy also taught Tai Chi and practiced acupuncture so I readily took up both, and practiced Tai chi on and off for three years. And had the most amazing experiences with acupuncture… Quite unusual…
During that time, I also experienced Rolfing, and had an entire body Rolfing over several months.
Which took me to learning Chua Ka – a form of facial release used by Mongolian warriors before they went into battle – a 24-hour process of freeing adhesions and emotions from the fascia… Another system developed by the prolific Oscar, and taught by Aricans!
Also during that time, I experienced homeopathy, and was surprised that it worked so effectively, as I knew nothing about it.
Interesting times those.
All around me in London were people in personal growth and development movement. We were mostly hanging out with people who were Aricans, the name given to Oscar Ichazos’ followers, or, those who had gone through the EST programme, devised by Werner Gerhard, which is now known as the Landmark Education. The purpose of Est was to Realise the purpose of life as wholeness or Truth as an experience rather than a belief.
So, I was incredibly privileged to be around the cutting edge thinking which was the foundation for the Human Potential movement that is so big in the world today. I was directly experiencing and learning powerful therapies, and, the Chinese system of healing and movement.
And, I was immersed in and absorbing the concepts of non duality from those around me and the work that I was doing with Arica…
At that time of my life I was also reading everything I could about philosophy and psychology, from Eskimo shamanism to the complete works of Carl Jung!
All in an attempt to seek out and understand the meaning of life 🙂
After two years of working for Sarah Hodge, I realized that I could keep on doing what I was doing for the next ten years, and get a bigger desk, bigger office, bigger car, bigger flat, and still not be using all of my potential. And, I’d saved up a lot of money too!
So, I gave work one years notice, to give myself time to get my head around the next phase of my life more than anything!
I spent that year planning a trip of a lifetime. It was my gap year, before gap years were invented!
People kept telling me that I was lucky to be taking a year off to go traveling. I told them that they could do it as well as I could, that it was a matter of choosing the life one wants to lead, and, that I was totally terrified of going into the unknown.
When the day finally came for me to fly to Hawaii, to stay as guest of Sarah and Oscar, I was totally terrified, and spent much of my very long flight crying my eyes out, wondering what on earth I was doing!
Suffice to say, I had the most amazing year of my life, and discovered so much about life, the universe, and myself. And, learned to trust my instincts…
About three months after I returned, in autumn 1987, I had an inspiration to learn shiatsu, funnily enough, during an acupuncture treatment from one of my Tai Chi teachers!
I worked as a shiatsu practitioner between 88 and 93 around having babies (in 91 and 93), and was privileged to study with the best teachers in the world – Kishi, Ohashi, Sasaski and Chris Jarmey, Chris Osborne, Michael Rose, Bill Palmer, Cliff Andrews, assisting the latter for two years as a teacher trainer. It was during this time that I first learned visual diagnosis and became tangibly aware of the movement of energy.
My Tai Chi practice evolved into daily psychocalisthenics (an Arican system of movement which I liken to callisthenic form of the physical practice of yoga), to the Shiatsu makkho stretches, and then ante & postnatal yoga from 91. I maintained a daily practice of the latter until 1996. As soon as my youngest son was old enough to start playgroup, I started weekly yoga classes. I was the teacher’s only student for the first nine months, which was a priceless gift. For another nine months or so, there was just a trainee yoga teacher and myself. I am so grateful to her for the high quality tuition that she gave me so selflessly. Suffice to say, it has been my daily practice and way of life ever since…
In 1998, I started to live on my own with my children. I could no longer travel outwardly like I’d been doing throughout my teens and twenties, with youngsters at home and in the school routine. This was the time to go deep into self-exploration through personal growth and development inquiry, which I’d started in 1990.
I was persuaded to start teaching Yoga in 99, and completed a three-year diploma in 2003. Having always passionate about philosophy, I was most interested in Yoga as a path of self-discovery. In 2001, I identified that I wanted to live life as if I were on retreat all the time and have set it up to do so ever since.
I’ve been chastised for putting this on my website before, but, I’m going to repost it because it was such a life changing event. In 2002 I had the Kundalini rising experience. It was one of lucidity and bliss…. I saw things as if a veil had been lifted. This experience and state of awareness lasted for some time. When it faded, I learned the meaning of Aparigraha, which is, in this sense, when one mourns something past and tries to cling to it! The truth is that it has never gone anywhere of course. It’s now the background ‘field’ for all of my life, as is everything that I’ve lived. I’ve chosen to post it again, because there is a lot of mystery surrounding this type of powerful experience and I want to say ‘It’s OK!’ I feel priveleged to have had the experience. It is the goal of the Eightfold Path of Patanjali, and the methods outlined in the sutras give the practices to reach a state of undifferentiated consciousness. Of course, it’s vital not to get trapped in the more ‘interesting’ effects of the practice, or siddhis. I just feel it’s important to share this experience, to demonstrate the efficacy of the practice of the Eightfold Path, no more than that.
IBack to the time line… n 2003 as soon as I passed my final teaching assessment, I went to an ashram in Rishikesh, India, to find out how yoga was taught there… Six weeks after my return, I met Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten. I worked with them when they were in Europe as much as I could over about three years. They were responsible for my ‘teacher un-training’, which freed up my creativity in my teaching, for which, again, I am profoundly grateful. They were pivotal in my yoga teaching. I carried on working with inspirational teachers as often as possible, for many years.
I’d had such a thorough grounding in both the Chinese and Vedic Elements systems, and, an awakening to them whilst in Rishikesh, (that’s another story!) that in 2006 I started to teach workshops to yoga teachers and students on the Vedic Five Element -Pancha Tattva- system.
In these workshops I seek to facilitate an experience of the constituents of creation as expoused in the Samkhya philosophy, through embodying the qualities of the great Elements.
In 2007 I started a Meditation practice. At this time of my life I went even deeper into practice, spending many hours a day in morning and evening practice. I called it ‘self imposed ashram’!
My studies in, and assisting teaching Anatomy for Yoga teachers in 2008/9 deepened my visual diagnosis skills and I started to be able to read the body and see the source of torsion in peoples musculo skeletal structure, and, give remedial exercises to help with posture and joint, back and muscle pain.
In 2011 I went to Nepal for three weeks, and stayed in the sangha of MahaSambhodi Dharma Sangha. I came back and moved from the house I’d been living in for 23 years to a flat in Norwich. Over the next 7 months, I spent three more months living in the jungle in Nepal, which changed my life completely.
I’d become vegetarian in 2009 and vegan in 2011. By June 2012 I was experimenting with Raw Food, and went 100% in October 12, when I did a Raw Certification course.
I’m now teaching yoga teachers, students, working with remedial clients and am amazed at the way that all the skills that I have been put in the way of combined in a way that I could never have foreseen.
And, I know that the best is yet to come!
If you’ve read this all the way through, well done! You may have gathered that my friend must have got towed home by the RAC, hence giving me the wonderful gift of time to spend on editing this post. A ‘gift of time’ feels so much nicer than ‘killing time’. That concept is so contra Non Violent Communication speak!