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 moved to the London area in my 20s, and lived in urban Buddhist communities for most of my twenties. The years in these semi-monastic Buddhist communities gave me a profound spiritual and cultural education that I have drawn on all my life. The book that I am now working on (A Mandala of Love: Consciousness, Ethics and Society) 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, I was fortunate enough to find and embrace English Quakerism for ten years in my 30s and early 40s, and was a warden of 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. They 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 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 increasingly found myself predominantly drawing on spiritual understandings, and on the depth psychology of Carl Jung and other psychological approaches that were incongruous with the standard psychiatric understandings of mind and behaviour. I was especially 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, much deeper I would say, than my experience of residential Buddhist communities in my 20s, 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 practice that is closely aligned with Carl Jung’s archetypal psychology, which I was studying 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 deep spiritual insights, and profound spiritual comfort.
An important part of my journey, 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, 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 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, via the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series of articles.
I hesitate to even try to list the other teachers and traditions that have supported the understanding that I now have, but in the last ten years I have been very effected by the very simple and direct advaita vedanta teachings (pointings) of ‘Sailor Bob’ Adamson (who was a student of Nisagadatta Maharaj); by the exercises developed by Douglas Harding (who was a student Zen); and recently 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).
In recent years I have also greatly valued the work 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, in her teaching work she generally presents an approach to spiritual practice that is stripped 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 actually drawn very heavily on Candice O’Denver’s teachings, and on to her ultra-simple and ultra-direct approach, the more complex approach that I have been presenting in my articles on this website, with its advocacy of detailed self-enquiry and meditation practices, will appear to bears very little resemblance to what she offers. My advocacy of a meditative engagement with the necessary (in my experience) complexities of the bodies and chakras is based on my studies and meditative explorations of Tibetan Buddhism in my twenties, but with a very precious and very crucial piece of additional information from Rahasya (Dr Fritjof Kraft) – a local non-duality teacher in the Byron 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 in the context of satsang meetings with Issac Shapiro – also in the Byron Bay area. 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.
© William Roy Parker