JAYA RUDGARD – co-founder, now guest teacher 

Mindfulness has been part of my life since I first discovered it as a teenager in the 1980s. From 1996-2005 I lived as a Theravadan Buddhist nun in the Forest Sangha in the UK with Ajahn Sumedho as my teacher. In this tradition mindfulness in all aspects of daily life is the cornerstone of practice, so I learned first hand why the Buddha described it as the “direct path” out of suffering. This is because it takes us beyond any religion or dogma to learn from our direct experience and begin to see clearly for ourselves what leads to suffering and what leads to freedom.

My passion is sharing this inquiry and path of practice with others whatever their religious beliefs or none. This is why I like to teach both inside and outside the context of traditional Buddhism. I am constantly learning with and from my students about how mindfulness and contemplative wisdom can be integrated into and inform our ordinary daily lives in a way that supports our own deeper wellbeing and that of those around us.

After leaving monastic life I qualified as an integrative psychotherapist and counsellor and as a yoga teacher, and also managed a busy health food store. I trained to teach Mindfulness with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor and began teaching with Zoe in 2010. More recently I have trained in teaching Mindful Self-Compassion and have found this an immensely helpful approach, which now informs all my work and personal practice.

The way I teach reflects my natural tendency to question everything and my deep faith in human potential. Students have described my teaching as empathic, knowledgeable, humorous and down to earth – and self-compassionate when I mess up. My own aspiration is never to stop learning.

In 2016 I will graduate from Spirit Rock and the Insight Meditation Society’s four-year dharma teacher training led by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. I teach insight meditation retreats at Spirit Rock and IMS in the USA and Gaia House in the UK, and elsewhere, and I run a weekly meditation group in Oxford.