A bit aBOUT ME...
It's been a pretty varied life so far. I studied Philosophy (western) at university; I also began a self-taught home Yoga practice around this time, in 1995. After graduation, I spent a few years living/working abroad (including Vancouver, New Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand & Spain). I toyed with continuing my studies but ultimately, I realised the kind of answers, meaning, poetry and expression I sought would not be found on the academic philosophy path...Instead, during these nomadic years, disillusioned with the western approach to seeking meaning, I developed an interest in Taoist, Zen and Buddhist philosophies (although I didn't start a consistent seated meditation practice until 2015 - needed 20 years of asana practice first!); and when I returned to the UK a few years later, I decided to return to my first love: art. I worked and paid my way through 5 years of formal art study, including another degree course - this time in Fine Art - which brought me to Devon. I continued to explore eastern philosophies privately; and also, after ten years of self-taught Yoga, I realised I needed to start over and find a decent teacher.
In 2005 it was my good fortune to discover Duncan Hulin (founder & director of the Devon School of Yoga). For the next ten years, I attended his weekly classes religiously, and eventually took the DSY's 500hr teaching diploma from 2011-13. From 2012 - 2022 I taught extensively, throughout Devon and also a winter stint in 2016-17 teaching & giving Thai massages at a retreat centre on a little island in southwest Thailand. Although I've stepped away from teaching for the time being, Yoga remains very much a daily personal practice: it's been my anchor for almost thirty years and always will be, I'm sure...
From c.2009-16, I was also a pretty dedicated practitioner of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and sought out American Ashtanga pioneers David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff, Doug Swenson and,in Devon, Andrea Durant. Ashtanga led me to London, Portugal and finally to Maui, Hawaii, where I reached my "peak Ashtanga" and also became disenchanted with much of the culture around it. I realised I'd actually gone as far as I wanted to within this tradition - or indeed any. Time to stop seeking external validation and simply allow my own practice and personal experience to be the guide. My Maui experience was really a kind of liberation in a lot of ways.
Cacao ceremonies are something I first heard about in 2014, during my Thai massage training in the hill tribe village; discussing my interest in experiencing a plant spirit medicine ceremony and also my wariness about subjecting my psyche to anything potentially overwhelming, one of the other students suggested I check out a woman in London who worked with cacao in the style of an Amazonian plant medicine. In 2017, feeling a stronger calling to explore more overtly nature-based spiritual paths, I finally made the trip to London, had a beautiful experience and entered a cacao medicine path. In early 2018 I travelled to the quiet north coast of Ibiza for an immersive and intense cacaoista apprenticeship with Rebekah, facilitator of the ceremony in London. This initiation was profound for me. Afterwards, I continued my own personal studies and daily practices with the medicine, and have been holding regular cacao ceremonies for others since 2018.
Exploring cacao's history, I felt the Mayan and ritual elements had been missing from my first training so I sought out indigenous teachers through the Mayan Wisdom Project from 2021-22 (including their Mayan cacao training); and in 2023 I travelled independently to Guatemala for a personal cacao pilgrimage. Whilst there I was delighted to be able to meet up with K'at and Tzik'in, two of my Mayan teachers, in person and spend a day on their land, deep in conversation. During this trip I was also able to visit a small biodynamic cacao farm in the south of the country - another highlight, not least for the conversation with the farmers who, like my teachers, embody such integrity, courage, wisdom and humility.
Returning to the UK and beginning to digest all I had experienced, and the many conversations I'd had, I had a sense of coming full circle in some ways. K'at and Tzik'in had expressed in the past that they thought it was great foreigners wanted to connect with and share cacao (and I have permission to share their medicine, certain rituals and invocations thanks to the training I undertook) but that we should still also connect with our own spiritual culture and sacred plants too - even combine them: they loved the idea of adding English rose petals to a cup of Mayan cacao.
I have no religion, no single clear heritage or lineage: but I've always felt the beauty of nature, the poetry of the night sky, the sublime peace of the woods to be sacred things. I found Yoga pretty early on in my life, and western and eastern ways of exploring questions that concerned me since I was about 4 years old...I also realised early on that food could be medicine, and as I got older I realised nature and ritual were too. So it is that daily cacao, meditation and Yoga are essential practices for me each morning; and time in nature, when I can. There is both constant flux and clear consistent threads in the way things have unfolded so far...Zen and Taoist perspectives still resonate a great deal and the poetry of nature, solitude, simple rituals and reflection are still guiding stars.