With Kindly Curiosity: Nigel Wellings
Nigel Wellings teaches regularly at The Barn.
He 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.
Here he shares some of his inspiration with us.
How did you come to dharma practice?
Via my neurotic mind. I became fascinated by meditation and Buddhism in my late teens - I actually got thrown out of home at 17 when I went to visit an Ashram in London. By my 20s I had discovered Buddhism - Goenka's vipassana, Kalu Rinpoche, refuge with the last Khamtrul Rinpoche and then India where I studied Thangka painting and preliminary practices. There I met Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Dzogchen and the rest is ... well not doing any of it very well ever since but with undiminished enthusiasm.
Tell us about a book that's inspired you
The Great Perfection by Samten Kamay. This emerged from his Ph.D thesis at SOAS during the 1970s and is the most influential scholarly text on the history of Dzogchen and its emergence as a distinct vehicle. Virtually all scholars since have followed his views. The origin of Dzogchen was my MA dissertation but reading Karmay and those who follow him I was left with a distinct impression of the Emperor's New Clothes - I just don’t believe it - and this has kept me thinking, which I enjoy.
What does your daily practice look like?
Get up, clean teeth, cup of tea, sit. For me the secret is the repetition. Although I have tried to practice more or less most of my adult life, the truth is resting in non-dual awareness probably only lasts moments. For the rest of the time much simpler practices have become a lifeline - mindfulness of my emotions felt within the body being absolutely central. Trying to engage ethically with the world. Not making up stories about everything. Breathe, don’t react. Kindness and more kindness.
Who or what is inspiring you currently?
Old favourites. Pema Chödron for her kindly sanity. Joseph Goldstein - he has in recent years discovered Dzogchen and now builds a bridge between it and his Theravada practice. I find this very inspiring because it parallels my own journey but from the opposite direction and has also deeply informed our teaching of mindfulness over the last 15 years or so. And my present principal teacher, Tsoknyi Rinpoche. He is the perfect teacher for a psychotherapist emphasising as he does the importance of including our bodies and emotions in the practice and not just zooming off into fantasy land. My wife Philippa is pretty inspiring also.