Manager: Tasha Bassingthwaighte
Tasha was interested in spiritual practice from a young age and did her first Buddhist meditation retreat at the age of 18. She lived in Nepal, spending time with Tibetan Buddhists, and later moved to a dharma centre in France, deepening her experience and practice of Buddhism.
She has lived in various intentional communities in Canada, the USA, and the UK, and has worked in the realm of social services and social justice for the past decade, including community-building while working with refugees, immigrants, and women in poverty.
Tasha's inspired in her role by how The Barn works its magic on people. "In one of the early retreats I witnessed at The Barn, on the second day, a retreatant said that it was the most important thing they'd ever done in his life. He repeated it on the last day. The Barn touches people like that, myself included."
She lives in Totnes with her partner and her children.
Residential Co-ordinator: Will Evans
Will has stayed on retreat in Sharpham House and Woodland and The Barn. He also participated in a mindfulness teacher training course at Sharpham House with one of our partner organisations.
As a subscriber to our mailing list, he saw when The Barn advertised for Volunteer Coordinators and got in touch, keen to switch away from his work as a freelance web developer in Bristol to try something new. He arrived in July.
"I moved down two weeks after getting that email, put my stuff in storage and arrived!" he said.
Will has been meditating since he was a teenager, then on and off during his 20s, but in the last 8 years he's had a daily practice. Over the last 4 years, he's been on many retreats, exploring a variety of different meditation traditions without embedding himself in a particular approach. He has held space on an online retreat during lockdown and is looking forward to assisting on The Barn's in-person retreats.
"The team at The Barn are super-supportive," he said. "I feel quite relaxed about it, even though I know it's going to be a lot of work with the Covid restrictions. But I really hope people will be able to get a lot out of the retreats at this time."
Will's happy to be near the River Dart and on the Estate. "I've been swimming in the river two or three times a week since I got here and going on lots of walks. It's just incredibly peaceful here," he said.
Residential Co-ordinator: Abbie Swift
Abbie Swift joins us from just along the A38 in Exeter. She too experienced Sharpham first as a retreatant, taking part in a Mindfulness for Beginners retreat in Sharpham House several years ago, at The Barn and also on the first ever Retreat at Home from The Barn.
Her practice helped sustain her in her work in mental health in the NHS. She said: "I found it incredibly useful and after Covid arrived it just made me think that I needed some time away...to find a balance between giving to others and myself - which I've been struggling with for a few years."
Abbie is taking a sabbatical from her post to give service at The Barn - although she is interested professionally in how mindfulness can be applied to the people she works with.
"I'm sort of looking forward to the challenge of working with Covid restrictions," she said. "and I've got a lot of ideas about how we have to do things differently, but how we can do that creatively - with the outdoor spaces for example."
Residential Co-ordinator: Nadia
Nadia first came to The Barn on retreat - her first ever retreat, and now she's a Volunteer Coordinator with us.
Since her first retreat, she's been on many more, joined several sitting groups and completed a Mindfulness Practitioner Training Programme which focused on ways of bringing mindfulness to people experiencing trauma and more complex mental health issues.
Nadia lived in Milton Keynes then London, and worked in festival and event production. "That was detrimental to my mental health," she said. "It was fun when I was younger, but not a very healthy lifestyle."
"Mindfulness played an important part in helping me overcome an eating disorder, and after getting better, I wanted to use my experience to help others," she said.
She then spent several years working for the mental health charity Mind and found that she really enjoyed working face to face, holding space for people.
She's now swapped a hectic, city-based lifestyle for one surrounded by nature, living in community on The Sharpham Estate.
Since joining The Barn, she's been facilitating our virtual Retreats at Home and weekly meditations, and will be supporting when in-person retreats begin again.
Gardener: Luci Edwards
Luci looks after the Barn gardens, overseeing food production and guiding the Volunteer Coordinators and retreatants in growing delicious, organic produce that goes to feed the people who stay at The Barn, The Kuti and The Cabin.
Teacher: Jenny Wilks
Jenny has practised in various Buddhist traditions since 1988, focusing in recent years on Insight Meditation (vipassana). She also has an MA in Indian religions and has studied Pali, the language of the ancient Buddhist texts. She has assisted on Dharma gatherings in France and India, and has taught at the Barn since 2004 and at Gaia House since 2008. Jenny is a clinical psychologist and has trained in mindfulness-based therapies which she has taught to staff and patients in healthcare settings. She currently works as an Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapist based at Exeter University.
Teacher: Ken Streat
Ken travelled to India in 1976 and spent the next seven years travelling, meditating, and meeting with spiritual teachers. His background in Vipassana was with SN Goenka and other teachers in the U Ba Khin tradition in both India and Burma. Along with the Buddha he has been inspired by the more contemporary voices of J Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi. Ken came to Devon to be a manager at Gaia House in 1985. He has lived locally since then and was a Gaia House trustee until 2005. Ken is married with two grown-up children. He works on the Sharpham Estate as a furniture-maker.
Teacher: Ramiro Ortega
Ramiro is a mindfulness teacher and a retreat leader, and also a philosophical counsellor in training. He started practising in Spain in 2005 in the Soto Zen tradition, moving later to the UK to finish his studies in philosophy, where he came into contact with other different schools of meditation practice.
Finally Ramiro made his home in the UK and after spending two years living in Gaia House, a Buddhist meditation retreat centre in the Insight Meditation tradition in Devon, he trained to teach mindfulness with the University of Bangor and with the University of Exeter. He is also participating in the teacher training programme with the Bodhi College.
Teacher: Gavin Milne
Gavin has been practising Insight Meditation since 2004, including extended periods of retreat in Asia and the USA. He is currently training to be a Dharma Teacher under the guidance of Yanai Postelnik, and is particularly interested in exploring practice wherever we find ourselves - everything from family life to responding to the wider issues of our era.
Teacher: Professor Katherine Weare
Katherine is Emeritus Professor at the University of Exeter and Southampton. Her background is education, developing approaches to promoting wellbeing and preventing mental health problems for school staff and pupils, including work on CBT/ social and emotional learning in schools.
She became committed to mindfulness when she found it a personal lifesaver during a health crisis and trained to be a mindfulness teacher through the Mindfulness Based Approaches Diploma at the University of Exeter. Since then she has kept in touch with the roots of mindfulness, teaching 8-week courses, receives regular supervision and attends regular silent insight meditation retreats to support her daily practice and is following the advanced Committed Practitioner Programme at the Bodhi College.
She has become internationally-known for her research and development work on mindfulness and compassion for children/young people and those who care for them. Recently she has advised the All Party Parliamentary Group on mindfulness and wellbeing which produced The Mindful Nation policy document recommending the widespread development of evidence-based mindfulness across the UK, and spoke in Parliament on mindfulness in schools.
She contributed to The Mindfulness Summit online as “40 of the world’s leading experts on meditation and mindfulness” . She advises various mindfulness projects such as the Mindfulness in Schools Project, the Plum Village mindfulness community and has published a book with Thich Nhat Hanh on education. She is a member and regular speaker for the Faculty of Mind and Life Europe.
Teacher: Laura Bridgman (Kovida)
Kovida ordained as a Siladhara (a 10 Precept Nun) with Ajahn Sumedho in the Thai Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah in 1995, and she was resident at Amaravati and Chithurst Buddhist monasteries for 18 years until she moved out of the monastic setting to live independently as a nun from 2010 until 2015. She has spent extended periods of time with the Burmese Vipassana teacher Sayadaw U Tejaniya.
In 2015, Laura left the monastic tradition in order to pursue the Diamond Heart (Ridhwan) Training, which incorporates Buddhist and Sufi principles and practices.
Teacher: Shahin Popple
Shahin is a Senior Counsellor in the NHS where she also teaches Mindfulness.
She works with people with mental health issues and runs a mindfulness group. She has been a Counsellor for 17 years and, prior to this, worked in education as a teacher and trainer for many years.
Teacher: Ethan Pollock
Ethan has been supporting retreats and mindfulness groups for over a decade. He spent five years training at Plum Village with the internationally recognised Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and currently offers retreats and classes on mindfulness and buddhism at meditation centers and local groups around the UK. His teaching helps people touch more calm and ease in their everyday lives by bringing awareness and appreciation to simple daily activities, retreatants especially love his guided meditations!
Teacher: Lucy Chan
Lucy is a teacher of mindfulness, compassion, and Buddhist meditation who leads retreats and courses worldwide. She also offers the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) programme having trained directly under the internationally renowned pioneers of this field; Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.
As a practising doctor in the NHS for over a decade, she understands the importance of integrating mindfulness practices as a way to keep balance in everyday life.
Her passions include helping people engage with self-compassion practices as a way to build inner resilience, and supporting the caregivers of society.
Teacher: Nigel Wellings
Nigel Wellings is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and author who works within a broadly contemplative perspective. He has been a Director of Training at the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology, a founding member of the Forum for Contemplative Studies and is a teacher on the Bath and Bristol mindfulnesscourses. Publications include Nothing To Lose, Psychotherapy, Buddhism and Living Life, With Buddha In Mind. Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy in Practice in 'Crossroads in Psychoanalysis, Buddhism and Mindfulness' and Why Can’t I Meditate? How to get your mindfulness practice on track. He lives in Bath and Devon.
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