I’ve never been much good at doing anything on a regular basis and have finally, blessed be, come to accept that that’s how I am. Every now and again my life falls apart and then – somehow – comes back together again. Usually for the better, to my constant surprise. The same goes for my meditation practice. Even when I don’t do it much – in a formal sense – it’s incredibly important to me. Learning to meditate saved my life and continues to enrich it. So, I’m an imperfect practitioner and perhaps you will be too – but give it a go. You won’t even find out if you don’t. And there is so much to be gained by that.
The events offered on this page are a modest contribution to helping create a meditative culture in our society – something I feel passionate about. Meditation has been a normal part of most cultures on earth and just about everybody can learn to do it. The crazy paced life most people live in the modern world is not what humans are wired up for and easily causes a lot of damage, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Although I teach meditation as part of some of my other events (notably the death workshops) which take place all over the UK and beyond, I’m now focusing my meditation teaching on where I live, in north Wales, with one day Learn to Meditate workshops and eight week mindfulness courses. After that, you’re welcome to join Touchstone if you’d like to continue to meditate with other people on a regular basis.
For some people, it’s important to know where a meditation teacher is coming from and what their training and experience is, so here’s a short whizz through my meditation story. I once gave a talk on a retreat called ‘a history of my meditation practice’ (I like life-story work) but it lasted forty minutes, so I won’t put you through that. Always happy to tell you more though, if you want to know.
I learnt to meditate in 1987 at the London Buddhist Centre with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now called Triratna Buddhist Community). Going on intensive meditation retreats was a central part of my practice and training over the years, by choice. After about ten years I began doing progressively longer solitary retreats, at first to see if I could hold my practice together without teaching input and an ‘imposed’ programme – then it got more interesting than that.
A sixteen week solitary in a little hut in the New Zealand bush in 2002 significantly changed my practice as I naturally moved into more ‘formless’ meditation. Solitary retreats became less important to me, perhaps because of that shift in my practice, and perhaps also because I changed my lifestyle on return to the UK. In 2004 I moved to live by the sea and mountains in Snowdonia. I then began to lead retreats, mostly on death, and meditation. The first four years I lived here I also studied and attended several retreats with Lama Shenpen Hookham, whose hermitage is nearby and from whom I learnt much about formless practice.
“Over the last few years I have been on retreats led by Jan/Siddhisambhava and I always leave those events inspired by her lightness and her depth. She combines a good level of creative input marshalled with a strong protective vision of giving people plenty of time to reflect on their own experience. Siddhisambhava plans with an eye for detail, which then allows for a lot of spontaneity on the actual day. After a recent event I particularly appreciated feeling a lot of joy and confidence in my life – drawn from the affirmation I received and witnessing that in others.
I have also been impressed with the retreats she’s led on Death and Dying. These are strong themes and require careful leading. Siddhisambhava was able to hold a broad range of experience within the group situation and I know that many of the retreatants – some with no previous retreat experience – felt able to open out in a way that they had not done before.”
Saddhanandi, Chair, Taraloka Buddhist retreat centre for women.