Once upon a time I was a Buddhist monk.
It’s true! Through my twenties I lived a strangely alternative life. My dad would have preferred I take the vow of Saint-Francis but damn, it was the sixties. I went to India instead and took vows that made no sense to him. Eight years later I was ready to begin my career as a senior and respected teacher. My new life was all figured out and what do you think? I threw it all up, moved to Canada and started writing.
Why did I do all that to myself? Hard to say. I was dazed and confused. To find out, I wrote my memoir The Novice. The mindfulness I learned from my Tibetan teachers helped me dig through all the pain. Writing helped me let it go.
Every life’s a tragedy, but my Mum taught me to laugh at the stuff life throws at you. One day she called to tell me she’d been diagnosed with something, “but I forget what it’s called…,” she paused, “…oh yes, Alzheimer’s!” She shrieked with laughter. Not funny really, but gutsy.
Caroline and I put our heads together and asked, "What, more than anything else, gets in the way of your mindfulness practice? After all, tons of people try it, love it, think it's a great idea and want to do it regularly—but don't. Motivation is hard when you're on your own.
So what would make continuity easy? What one thing enables you to develop a committed, self-motivating mindfulness practice?
The answer: Support. We created Mindfulness Live to provide a welcoming, enjoyable, experience that grows on you naturally. I commit to showing up three times a week; you show up when you can, or listen afterwards if you can't. Either way, you have regular access to a live, experienced teacher. If you already know mindfulness you'll learn more. If you don’t, no worry. It’s easy.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT HOW I TEACH?
• I’m LIVE—not a set of recordings
• You can actually talk to me
• Classes are structured around themes
• I'm there 3x a week for your convenience
• Cost is less than a coffee a day
• I was 8 years a Buddhist monk…
• …writing & teaching for 40 years
• I bring a historical, scientific & objective approach to Buddhism
• I don't have all the answers—just questions that will change your life
MindfulnessLive is nourishing. Ongoing practice leaves you less reactive, more reflective. Each session includes a story or discourse connecting that week's themes to the everyday struggles of life. We discuss conflict and loss, fear and anxiety as well as curiosity and equanimity, energy and joy. We’re working towards objective, clear thinking, knowing that it’s not a given. We look at the whole person, not just the bits.
What can I add to the millions of words about mindfulness? It started trending at the turn of the millennium and now it’s big business. That’s not a bad thing, but I can’t help feeling that it’s not fully appreciated. Stress reduction is just the tip of the iceberg.
First of all, mindfulness isn’t a ‘method.’ You don’t have to learn it—it’s a mental factor that you’ve already got. What hones it into a powerful tool is training, and how you train is a matter of character. You might say that, you are what you’re mindful of.
I’ve been teaching mindfulness for a long time, and find that most people love it. The trouble is, only a few succeed in building it into their lives. They often blame themselves—but it’s not their fault, and that's not even the point, for the missing ingredient isn’t willpower—it’s support. That consists of, 1) a teacher who inspires, 2) a method that works, and 3) ongoing interactions with people like you.
That’s what we’re building here—not just a selection of recordings but a live half-hour of everyday mindfulness, with continuity from class to class.
Miss one? Listen later. The backbone of your practice is your commitment. Soon, mindful attention will appear even in those perilous real-world situations when you really need to be non-judgmental and non-reactive. Practice regularly and you’ll be ready.
About Your Teacher
I’ve always loved writing. My first story was about my parents’ life in the circus during the Second World War. Dad was a lion-tamer and Mum was an acrobatic dancer. I had great material to work from!
I went to school and kept writing, but it all seemed a bit tame. To gain experience I hitch-hiked to India and became a Buddhist monk, staying with the Tibetans for eight years, learning their language and philosophy, and publishing my memoir in 2009.
As a monk I was trained in mindfulness. It’s at the heart of Buddhism and is an incredibly useful tool. Twice a week, I teach cancer patients, helping them manage their anxiety and live more fully than ever. Mindfulness also helps put me in my clients’ shoes when I'm writing a biography, and bring their story to life.
The most important thing to understand about both mindfulness and a real life story is that you can’t take either for granted. Good storytelling doesn’t simply tell you what happened—it makes you feel like you were there. That takes imagination, creativity and empathy—all direct outcomes of mindfulness.
I teach at the West Island Cancer Wellness Centre in Montreal, and at Cedars CanSupport in Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre. Some of these patients are learning to care for themselves (truly) for the very first time.
When I met my wife Caroline I found out she had multiple sclerosis. She seemed to think that would stop me falling in love with her, but what did she know? Some people say I’ve never been very practical—and I totally see what they mean—but meeting her changed my life. Imagine if I missed that?
I love her passionately and romantically and maritally—but what beats all is our conversation. Every single day there are new insights and new directions—so perhaps the advantages of being practical are relative.
We live in a little house in a small town in Quebec with our cats, Sam and Ziggy. My wife is Caroline Courey, a real life coach and an MS Warrior who stays on her feet with diet and exercise. More about Caroline HERE.