I was born in Cardiff 1948. Left school at 16 and started work as a Clerical Officer in the City Hall where I stayed for 5 years. At school I was good at sports, especially rugby and athletics, and continued to play for Llandaff North RFC till I was 21. Indeed, in my final youth year I made the final Welsh trials for the under 18 side. I was beaten to the outside half spot by none other than the illustrious Phil Bennett!
At 21 I left these shores with a friend to ‘travel the world’. We were away for 6 months and had only managed to travel around Scandinavia. We had run out of money, sometimes sleeping rough and finding it extremely cold – it was February!
At the beginning of the trip we had both decided to embrace all experiences that came our way. This was the late 60s and inevitably cannabis and the drug scene were soon upon us. The ‘hippy’ or ‘drop out’ life became my way for several years, and mostly it was a very friendly and enjoyable experience. However, slippery slopes usually slide downwards and, as stronger, more intense experiences were looked for, harsher and more destructive drugs were sought. The continued usage over the years had a profoundly negative effect on my health, both physical and psychological. Physically, my lungs were damaged, but more importantly my mental state deteriorated in three ways – lack of motivation, paranoia and memory loss.
So, it was in the mid 70s I was looking for a way out. At that time the flow of spiritual teachers and traditions to the West was becoming more evident. A friend of mine had just returned from an encounter with Divine Light and had decided to leave our little community to focus on his spiritual journey. I decided to go to Golders Green and attend the Course. It turned out, for me, to be a disaster. The Course was fine, but I had only been there less than 1 day and was picked out to take ‘the knowledge’- basically, a simple physical manoeuvre to create pressure in the head combined with a mantra. It was of course, far too much, to soon. One day living in a house full of hippies, next day dedicated to the spiritual life and the service of mankind! I tried hard to maintain the practice, given the circumstances, and maybe it would have worked if there had been one vital ingredient – backup. There was none. Unfortunately, hope turned towards depression and after a few months another demon began to raise its head – alcohol.
This phase lasted for about a year. My mental state deteriorated and although outwardly holding it together I was on the verge of a complete personality collapse. As often is the case one probably must reach the bottom of a pit before realising that its time to start climbing out: that point had certainly arrived
At this time, I was given a leaflet regarding a local group concerned with Transcendental Meditation (TM). Unlike Divine Light, at least it was local; I also noticed that a pre-requisite for attending the Course was a 30 day ban on all drugs and non essential medication. It was just the stimulus I needed.
The practice was simple – twice daily 20-minute mental repetition of a mantra, but unlike traditional meditation this could be performed anywhere: it did not require a formal seat. It could be done on a bus, in a car, lying in bed. After 1 year I had given up drugs completely, was motivated and was full of beans. Yet something was still missing!
That something, that very big something was discovered the first time I attended a Yoga class. It was, and please excuse the cliché; like coming home. Everything seemed, well, obvious, logical – karma, Patanjali, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, the Upanishads… I really did feel as if somewhere deep down I just ‘knew it’.
Of course, primarily, it was the impact of Asana and Relaxation that began to fill the gap. Being a very physical sort of person, it seemed entirely logical to involve rather than dismiss the body in one’s practice.
The first year of Yoga classes was with a lady in Cardiff, whose name unfortunately I cannot remember, but who was just perfect for me at that time. She introduced some philosophy and her teaching was meditatively based. I read and practiced a lot in that first year and kept the TM going. A strange paradox unfolded at this time; the year that my Yoga practice was beginning to blossom was also the year I passed the HGV Class 1 driving test and became a long- distance driver for National Carriers! I also became a vegan!
Life on the road was good for me. A lot of time to think, reflect, read and practice. Not to mention all the ‘interesting’, sometimes heated discussions I had with other lorry drivers who usually looked upon me as somewhat of an oddball! My nickname was ‘the 20- minute man’. I derived this because wherever and whenever I finished driving for the day it was always a shower, followed by a minimum of 1 hour’s practice and this practice usually followed the same routine; 20 minutes Yoga, 20 minutes Breathing, 20 minutes Meditation!
And at last, the word Breathing has been mentioned. The day my life changed forever was my first encounter with Philip Jones. After the first year of classes my teacher recommended that I go along to Philip’s classes. I had moved to Roath at this time and Philip’s long- standing Wednesday and Thursday night classes were literally just around the corner. Of course, much could be said about Philip, suffice it to say for now that his lovely energy could sometimes make the hair on the back of your neck prickle and that he was always a joy to be with.
My life changed in many ways, but perhaps significantly in two particulars; firstly, in my first Yoga class I felt that I had come home, now I felt that I was on a journey. I almost felt my feet step onto a path that I would be walking for the rest of my life. Secondly, I fell completely and utterly ‘in love’ with Pranayama.
And there the story ends and begins.
I spent a lot of time with Philip over the next three years, went to India to study with Dr. Swami Gitananda (it was this Swami’s teachings that formed the basis of much of Philip’s teachings on Pranayama), went to University (aged 35!) to study Eastern Religions and in 1985 founded Yoga Quests which has been the work around which my life has revolved ever since.
And so, after 30 years living ‘up North’ I had returned home to Cardiff and was living in a flat in Roath – YES – just around the corner….
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