It all started with a miracle
I first encountered meditation and mindfulness through Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness. At the time, I was struggling with finding work-life balance as a public high school teacher. I rarely had much time for myself – just a few hours on Sunday afternoons. If I was lucky.
My work days would start at dawn. I’d wake up, work on lesson plans, and then go to school. At around 6pm, I would go home with mixed feelings about my worth as a teacher. I’d write more lesson plans, eat dinner in 5-10 minutes, work some more, and then go to bed. Weekends were much the same. Sometimes I’d go to the gym for an hour. On top of lesson preparation and marking, I was reading and sending countless emails, preparing for meetings and weathering the criticism of administrators, parents, and students. Life felt overwhelming, exhausting, and emotionally painful.
I was willing to try almost anything to survive – even ‘hippy stuff’ like meditating. My early attempts at meditation saved me from certain burnout and depression. They led to a glimpse of a peace that escapism or alcohol couldn’t provide. Deep, calm peace.
My life changed drastically
Having discovered an alternative to the whirlwind of self-criticism, anger, fear, stress, and shame inside, I began to put more effort into meditating. I incorporated what seemed useful for me and didn’t worry about the rest.
Soon, it became a foundation for my everyday life. Over the next few years, I deepened my practice on meditation retreats at Samye Ling temple in Scotland and Plum Village in France. This intensive practice on growing inner calm and peace led to deep shifts in my perspectives on happiness and what it means to live well. I also became a Buddhist and chose to practice the 5 Mindfulness Trainings (guidelines for freedom from suffering) for the rest of my life.
These shifts spread into my language teaching career. To my surprise, I was able to remain calmer in the face of conflict. I was able to be more accepting towards the mistakes and imperfections in myself and others. I could take a minute to mindfully walk down the hall of my school and really relax into it, momentarily free from pressure and stress.
Meditation saved my career and my sanity.
There is no doubt about that. I was able to get back in touch with my love for teaching and am much calmer and focused when encountering conflict. Daily life is very different now.
I became a student again
I then crossed paths with Zenways and the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition. Their focus on health and wellbeing as well as deeper insights into life impressed me. I took the leap and trained as a mindfulness and meditation teacher under the guidance of Julian ‘Daizan’ Skinner Roshi, the first Englishman to become a Rinzai Zen master in Japan. I also became one of Daizan’s Zen students.
Since 2014, I have regularly attended retreats in Europe and Asia to practice living peacefully, discovering my true self, and facing death to develop fearlessness. I continue to work closely with Zen Master Daizan as well.
My aim is to guide others in living healthier, happier, peaceful lives. We can all do it. It just takes some practice.