Updated: Oct 8, 2018
My mother recognised the benefit exercise had in me to improve my focus and overall well-being at quite a young age and so she encouraged me to get as much of it as I could. As a result I became accustomed to exercising regularly as a child – and I loved it, I was always trying to do more. When I was six, I was attending back to back martial arts classes joining in with the older boys’ class after my age group had finished. After the classes finished my mother would sit and wait for me to finish my extra push ups and sit ups, allowing me to expend all my excess energy before taking me home. I was finally allowed to join my high school gym at age fifteen, and here I got a taste for proper resistance training. Which quickly became my favourite kind of exercise. I loved it. Exercise was my medicine and therapy throughout my education years.
I wound up at the last semester of my first tertiary degree about to enter the real world with a qualification in making money, basically, while harboring a secret wish to give up business management and become a personal trainer.
In this final semester I was fortunate enough to meet Ross McDonald, a business ethics professor at the University of Auckland, who introduced me to a spiritual path, which completely changed my mind set. His belief was that a business should not measure its success by monetary profit, but rather by how much positive change it affects in the world. A business should make the world better in some way, this should be its purpose. A business only needs to be profitable in so far as this enables it to keep on serving the world and in improving its ability to do so. Ross incorporated varying altruistic belief systems into business models to achieve this. Here I learnt about Buddhism, amongst other religious and secular doctrines. In this class a business became a tool for giving to the world, a mechanism of generosity. I liked this, it resonated with me.
Upon graduating I decided (quite originally) to travel for six months instead of plunging into the corporate world, to find my path. In some of this time, I stayed at a Buddhist centre In Leicester, England, where I volunteered my work for board and food. Here I learnt more about Buddhist philosophy and began a daily meditation practice.
During my time here, someone wise once asked me what I would do if I could do anything, if money wasn’t a consideration. I replied that I had always dreamt of being a personal trainer, but didn’t think that it was enough to help the world. But this wise person said to me that I should indeed become a personal trainer, that the world needed people who did what they loved doing, and that I would end up giving more in this way. The possibility of fulfilling my biggest dream then became real.
Upon returning to New Zealand I enrolled in a Personal Training qualifying course. Within two weeks of graduating I was working as a personal trainer, the job of my dreams, and loving it. I loved my job and that made me good at it. After my first six months in the industry I was awarded ‘Personal Trainer of the Year’ for the franchise in the city I worked in. Two years later I had expanded my business and was employing trainers to work for me.
I tie my daily meditation practice into my work by meditating on love for everyone I train each day. In this way I connect more genuinely with each client’s wishes, and sincerely want each of them to succeed, more so than I would otherwise. At the same time improving my concentration and spiritual understanding. I still do this meditation today, with everyone I train and everyone I interact with – it is a recipe for happiness.
Seeing its fruits, meditation practice became more and more important to me. I recognised that it made me better at my work, and better as a person in general. Happier in myself and kinder to others, less self-concerned. I wanted more of this. This wish to deepen my experience in meditation grew stronger. I began doing week-long silent meditation retreats at the start of each year when the gym was at its quietest. Here I would meditate four times each day with no verbal or written communication with anyone, and needed to be creative to keep my daily physical exercise up when the retreat location was far away from any gym. I did one-legged squats while holding a big rock to my chest, crunches with said rock on my chest, hill sprinting up a mountain with my full back pack, body weight exercises. These endeavors were made much easier when I purchased a suspension training system, and some resistance bands to bring with me into each retreat – You can easily get an effective full body strength workout with this light, portable equipment. This gave me some good experience in designing home-based and travel workouts, or for anyone wanting to train without the use of a gym.
In silent retreat it is easier to develop concentration and you can make long lasting changes in yourself at deeper levels of mind. While meditating at least once daily in my ordinary life I managed to engage in a silent retreat of between seven and eleven days once each year, for four years. After completing my third silent retreat I knew that I had to take it further. I needed to engage in long silent retreat, where I could focus whole-heartedly on developing concentration and deepening my meditative experience without any distractions.
For this to be a qualified retreat, I needed to be in strict silent retreat conditions on my own for six months. No verbal communication with anyone, no wifi access, no mobile phone, no written letters, no contact with the outside world whatsoever. Just me and my own mind. This was a big call. It meant giving up my career as it was, saying good bye to my family and all my clients, and leaving my current life not knowing how it might be when I came back. We all need to make sacrifices to reach our goals. I set off for my fourth yearly silent retreat having booked accommodation for long retreat to begin later in that year.
I booked my retreat in Tharpaland International Retreat Centre, Berlin, a world-renowned retreat centre that specialises in silent retreats.
Before beginning my long retreat I was able to engage in a seven week retreat followed by a three and a half week retreat in Tharpaland, with a two week break in between, as preparation for my long retreat. My meditation teacher at the time called this ‘warming up’, appealing to the fitness instructor in me. I then spent two months volunteering at the retreat centre as a charity worker, readying myself for the long block.
I began my retreat at the start of winter in November 2017. I had my own apartment inside the famed ‘Solitary Retreat House’ living amongst seven other retreaters, with whom I never interacted during my retreat. Here I was brought two cooked vegetarian meals every day which were left, quietly, outside my room at specific meal times. I could write paper notes to the retreat assistant to request breakfast cereals and fruit as needed. If necessary I could also write notes to the retreat leader/senior Kadampa meditation teacher on site to ask questions regarding my meditation practice. All communication was kept minimal and only by notes delivered with my meals. Aside from that I was left largely on my own to engage in my meditation practice of 8-10 hours every day. In between meditation sessions I studied the Sutras and Tantras of Buddhadharma, and went for walks through the surrounding forest. I was able to bring in my suspension training system and resistance bands which I hung up over a tree outside and used to keep my body physically strong and fit.
Once I completed my retreat I had a very strong wish to give back to the world. I had gained so much and wanted to share that with everyone in any way I could. So I set up shop to help people in the way I best can. As an online personal coach and mentor. Here I help people get fit, strong and healthy, happy in their own body and most importantly in developing and keeping strong the well developed inner mind-set that characterises every truly happy person: contentment from within.