ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MA Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
“I’ve had two goes at the Dharma. In 1976 I spent a year at Tashi Jong, a Tibetan refugee community in the foothills of the Himalayas. My intention was to be close to the eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche, Dongyud Nyima, (with whom I’d previously taken refuge), study thangka painting and start the daunting preliminary practices, the first step on the Vajrayana path. However I didn't know that Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and his band of Italians were going to show up and all my plans were to go out of the window …. Several years later I arrived at Norbu Rinpoche’s home in Italy as his guest and new student. It’s a long story but his invitation to come with him and teach his students drawing really did save my life. When I look back now I wonder why he asked me - what did he see I didn’t? Eventually I became a sort of 'court painter', Norbu Rinpoches's books contained my drawings and community members commission thangkas.
After some years my time with the Dzogchen Community came to an end. Gradually leaving the Dharma behind I returned to the UK to study something different. During the 1980’s my new path took me through psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Jungian Analysis and finally arrived at what I now call a ‘contemplative perspective’ which draws together what for me is the best of the depth psychologies with Buddhist insights and mindfulness skills. However, towards the end of this long period of training Norbu Rinpoche began to appear in my dreams and I was drawn back into his community again. Meeting him I apologised for my years of absence and my using the teaching to gain an identity rather than see through it, he just laughed and said, “Everyone does that”. This was the beginning of my second go at the Dharma.
Since then I have been a Director of Training at the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology in London, a founder of the Forum For Contemplative Studies, a member of the Bath Analytic Network and a founder of The Bath and Bristol Mindfulness Courses. And in 2009 I completed an MA in Buddhist studies - my favourite piece of education so far. I have also edited/written several books including 'Nothing To Lose, Psychotherapy, Buddhism and Living Life’, published by Continuum in 2005, and 'Why Can’t I Meditate? How to get your mindfulness practice on track', published by Piatkus in 2015 and Tarcher in the USA in 2016. Presently, I continue writing and lecturing, provide psychotherapy and supervision and also teach mindfulness and Buddhist studies. Finally, during the last year or so, I have been one of the Dharma teachers at the Sharpham Barn Retreats. And right now I am working on two book commissions for Confer and Mud Pie Books.
After returning to the Dzogchen Community, in 2005 I attended my first retreat with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Having only really studied with Norbu Rinpoche I was anxious at first that his presentation of the Dzogchen teachings would in some way contradict or confuse what I had already learnt but as it turned out the combination was perfectly complimentary. While Norbu Rinpoche had educated me in the breadth and depth of the tradition, giving me a wide understanding, in Tsoknyi Rinpoche I discovered an accomplished meditation instructor - his particular skill being showing us, his students, the nature of mind, how to stabilise our practice and gain confidence in what we had found… I have attended his retreats ever since.
And that brings me to this book. I have had a growing desire to write a slightly different sort of Dharma book. One that continues to faithfully communicate the Dharma but does so with a small amount of reader friendly scholarship included within it. Authors that approach this middle way between tradion and academia are Reggie Ray in his two volumes on Tibetan Buddhism, John Myrdhin Reynolds in
his detailed commentaries on Dzogchen texts and perhaps more extreme than most, Stephen Batchelor in his contextualising of the historical Buddha's life. Reading writers such as these I have been invited to think about the teachings I have followed throughout my life. Through understanding Buddhism more broadly I feel the teachings have become integrated more deeply and that this has cultivated in me a more thoughtful faith and has warmed my heart with appreciation when remembering the past generosity of my teachers. With all this in mind I began to write.