I was born in Bury, Lancashire, in the north west of England, and grew up in Altrincham, Cheshire, which is on the southern edge of Greater Manchester. I currently live in Brunswick Heads near Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, Australia, with my partner Sera.
I became a Buddhist when I was living in Manchester in my early twenties, and lived at the Manchester Buddhist Centre for several years, before moving to the London area. The years living (and working) in semi-monastic ‘Western Buddhist’ communities gave me a profound spiritual and cultural education that I have drawn on all my life. My writing in this website is, in part, a distillation of the best of what I learned during those years, filtered through, and processed in the course of three decades of life experience and further spiritual study.
Finding myself somewhat culturally adrift after my Buddhist years in my twenties, I was fortunate enough to find and embrace English Quakerism for ten years in my 30s and early 40s, and was a warden at the Quaker Meeting House in Hampstead, North London, for much of that time. Originally a Christian tradition, the English Quakers have been an intensely practical and effective force for good in the world since the mid-17th Century. The inspiration for their relentless campaigns for peace and social justice over three and half centuries, has come from a meditative and mystical approach to worship. The English Quakers still sit in silence and open to the presence of the Divine – and they have no creed or required beliefs. Although I have not maintained my connection with the Quaker tradition since moving to Australia, it is still a source of inspiration, and looking back I recognise with great gratitude that Quaker meetings provided me with a very deep experience of a spiritual community – one whose history continues to fascinate me.
Although I am no longer working in that profession, much of my time in London was spent working as an Occupational Therapist – running therapeutic programs, and doing counselling, coaching and support work in mental health services. I loved that work, and I dearly loved the staff and patients that I worked with in those contexts, and I loved the humanistic psychological framework of that work, but found myself predominantly drawing on spiritual understandings, and on the depth psychology of Carl Jung (whose work I had studied during my Buddhist years) and other psychological approaches that were incongruous with the standard psychiatric understandings of mind and behaviour. I was also especially deeply affected by the work of philosopher and psychotherapist, Eugene Gendlin – whose wonderful ‘Focusing’ practice I studied in depth, and practised regularly for many years.
Gendlin’s ‘Focusing’ is a self-empathy / self-inquiry / psycho-therapeutic innerwork practice, that is very little known. I practiced Focusing in the context of a wonderful circle of fellow student practitioners who became my dearest friends. That experience of practising Focusing on a weekly basis with a close circle of friends, was the strongest experience of spiritual community in my life – even deeper in some ways, than my experience of residential Buddhist communities in my twenties, or any other spiritual community that I have come across since. Although Focusing is usually presented, and understood, in humanistic terms, it is, in my view, a profoundly soulful and spiritual practice, and I came to see it as a practice that is closely aligned with Carl Jung’s archetypal psychology, which I continued to study at the same time. In my experience, the practice of Focusing consistently raises us far above a merely humanistic world-view. Our innerwork processes in that practice group frequently led us not only to psychological healing, but to profound spiritual insights and spiritual comfort.
An important part of my journey in the last two decades, has been a period of seriously debilitating metabolic illness. I now recognise that these patterns of ill health have been with me since my twenties, but have worsened as I got older. This process has forced me into an understanding of health and mental health that is truly holistic. I find myself enormously grateful to several of the doctors in general practice in my local area, who practice various forms of more broad-based functional medicine that incorporates, or works alongside, nutritional, naturopathic, and complementary approaches.
What has lifted my level of well-being most effectively; and what has supported me in living with my limitations most profoundly; and what has prompted me to create this website, has been my return to regular meditation practice in 2016. The approach that I have found is a synthesis of understandings from many sources, and I would dearly like to share it with others.
My approach to meditation is a Buddhist one – it springs primarily from Buddhist sources of inspiration and understanding. Its foundation is in the Buddha’s teachings, and in the Five Wisdoms teachings of Indian Mahayana Buddhism. Like many Western practitioners of Buddhism, I think of myself as a Buddhist universalist however – by which I mean that I do not believe that Buddhism is the only source of valid spiritual truths. There are many other teachers, and several other traditions that have supported my understanding. I was very effected for example, by the work of Eugene Gendlin, which I mentioned above; by the Nonviolent Communication model of Marshall Rosenberg; by the very simple and direct advaita vedanta teachings of ‘Sailor Bob’ Adamson, who was a student of Nisagadatta Maharaj (and also of Dzogchen); by the exercises developed by Douglas Harding (who was a student Zen); and by the work of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff (who have collaborated to create a brilliant and convincing hypotheses to explain the ‘hard problem’ of Consciousness – via the quantum mechanical functioning of the molecular micro-tubules in the nerve-cells of the brain).
I have also greatly valued the non-duality teachings of Candice O’Denver, and the global community that she has created. Although Candice O’Denver personally feels an affinity with the Dzogchen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, and has in recent years been adopted by one of the Tibetan lineages, her approach to spiritual practice strips Dzogchen back to its culture-free essence. While I hesitate to attempt to sum up these profound teachings, this essence might be characterised as an invitation to recognise Consciousness repeatedly, if only for short moments, in the midst of life – and to gratefully acknowledge its beneficial and profoundly supportive qualities. Candice O’Denver’s ‘Balanced View’ network of teachers and students appear to have broken new ground with this approach – and with their innovative use of both telephone conferencing and internet-based video-conferencing technologies, to create a global spiritual study community.
While I have been drawn to Candice O’Denver’s teachings, and to her ultra-simple and ultra-direct approach to mindfulness, my own path, and the path that I find myself advocating in my articles on this website is more culturally Buddhist one – with systematic self-enquiry and meditation practice. My advocacy of a meditative engagement with the complexities of the bodies and chakras is based on my studies and meditative explorations of Tibetan Buddhism in my twenties, but with the addition of very precious and very crucial pieces of additional information from Rahasya (Dr Fritjof Kraft) – a local non-duality teacher in the Byron Bay area – who teaches about the alternating polarity of the subtle bodies and chakras, and about how these alternating polarities are opposite in women and men.
I need also to acknowledge the intimate and kind support that I have experienced from Issac Shapiro, a non-duality teacher in the Byron Bay area. Although I have only attended his satsang meetings very infrequently, they have always profoundly affected me. It is precious to live in a corner of the world where you never know when you might bump into a bodhisattva at the local farmer’s market.
The road of my spiritual life has taken yet another turn in the last few years. When I began writing on this website, I did not think of myself as a Buddhist and I had no Buddhist friends. Because of the eclectic nature of my spiritual journey, I thought of myself only as someone with a great love of the Buddha and of the Buddhist tradition, and as someone whose formative years of spiritual education were in the context of Buddhist community and Buddhist meditation retreats. I was a solitary spiritual practitioner with no affiliations within any particular spiritual community.
In 2020, I noticed a choice taking place in me. I noticed myself longing for community – for Sangha – for a communal context for my life and for my spiritual aspirations. This has led me to reconnect with old friends and associates from my twenties, and I have found myself wholehearted embracing Buddhism again – recovering a connection with the particular cultural inspiration and network of spiritual friendships that set me on the spiritual journey back in my twenties. My love of the Bodhisattva ideal, and my recognition of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (the ‘Three Jewels’ of Buddhist tradition) as the guiding principles of my life, has led me back to the Triratna Buddhist Community, which was founded in the 1967 by an English Buddhist called Sangaharakshita (26 August 1925 – 30 October 2018). I have even reconnected with the Croydon Buddhist Centre (in South London, UK) where I lived and worked in the 1980s when I was in my twenties, and I participate in that centre’s activities via Zoom.
© William Roy Parker 2020