SUMMARY: Dr Guhyasakhi (Bernadette) Carelse is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order. She has been developing Holistic Education since 1999 and from 2014-2017, ran a Community Interest Company in this field. She is a Yoga Teacher, Educational Psychologist (EP), Shiatsu Therapist and Mindfulness Teacher. She has taught mindfulness to adults, including parents and school staff and children and young people. Her approach to holistic wellbeing is based on skills, training and experience in meditation, mindfulness, yoga, bodywork and and educational psychology.
EARLY EXPERIENCES OF YOGA and MEDITATION: In 1981, she started practicing meditation at age 11. In 1984, aged 14, she became training in yoga and developed this into her regular practice by the time she was aged 21, when she graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a BSc in Physics and Computer Science. She began working for an international computer company as a software support engineer.
In 1991, she moved to South African for a few months, where she married and decided to returned to live in England, the land of her birth. In 1992, with her daughter, she returned to visit Zimbabwe and began training in Tai Chi/ Chi Gung and learnt Meditation with Ten Carr. This inspired her to develop a holistic personal practice that included working with Chi/Ki energy as taught by Ten.
BODY and ENERGY WORK: By the end of 1998 she had completed a second degree, a BA in Psychology through the Open University and was trained in a range of holistic therapies – Zen Shiatsu (1998), Reiki, Massage. At this time she discovered the Triratna Buddhist Community. In 1999, she joined Zen School of Shiatsu’s team of teachers (and continued teaching Shiatsu until 2014, when the Shiatsu School closed). She also trained in Aromatherapy (2001), Chi Nei Tsang and Reflexology (2000).
Over the years, she became an experienced bodywork therapist, and had worked in a range of settings, including charities and private practices and with clients with various difficulties, such as mental health, Hiv/AIDS and significant physical/ learning difficulties (autism, cerebral palsy and downs syndrome).
From 1997 to 2007, she also trained in Taoist Esoteric Yoga and Meditation practices under the guidance of Kris Deva North, at the London Healing Tao Centre, and Taoist Master Mantak Chia, during his visits to the UK.
YOGA: In parallel with this, from 1998 to 2001, she trained as a Yoga Teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga.
This experience gave her skills in adapting yoga, breathing practices and meditation for wide range of ages and abilities, from beginner to advanced – it also included training in working with the physical, emotional, mental, energy and ‘bliss’ bodies (or sheaths) or existence. It was through this that she developed an ‘integral yoga’ approach.
This was a foundation in developing skills for teaching meditation and mindfulness – embodied awareness, including of the breath, is a key part of learning yoga, as is meditation. Dr Carelse continues to teach yoga and brings in elements of mindfulness, trauma-informed approaches and body awareness.
SCIENCE TEACHER: In 2002, she moved into mainstream education, gained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) with Brunel University and then worked as a Secondary School Science (Physics) Teacher, in London. During this time, she developed her skills and experience of the education and psychological development of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST: During 2005/2006, she trained as an Educational (and Child) Psychologist (EP) with the University of East London (UEL). This was the last year that Educational Psychologists qualified through a Masters programme and this lead her to doctoral training.
From 2008-2013, she completed a Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology at UEL. This included research on Children’s Experiences of Learning Mindfulness and lead to her expertise in adapting mindfulness for children and young people with SEND and developing the Mindfulness-Based Attention Training (MBAT) intervention
In 2011, she trained with the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MISP) to deliver the “.b” programme for secondary school pupils and presented her research at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) “Mindfulness Now” Conference. She also increased her skills and practice of meditation in the Triratna Buddhist Community.
MINDFULNESS TEACHER: In 2013, she completed the Mindfulness Teacher Training Level 1 Training Course, with Cindy Cooper (Centre of Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) Bangor). She had met Cindy at a Mindfulness Conference in 2011 and this encounter inspired her to train in teaching mindfulness to adults, and to specialise in the wellbeing of school staff, families, children and young people.
During 2014, she started teaching standardised 8-week mindfulness courses as part of Holistic Education CIC. This course was the 8-week ‘hybrid’ course developed by CMRP that included elements of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). It was run for adults in the local community.
She continued presenting her research at conferences: “Engaging with Methodology” Conference, University of Sussex, Mindfulness in Society Conference, Chester, “Implementation Science” conference, Cambridge and the “Mindfulness, Education and Transformation” conference in Australia.
She also ran workshops for educational psychologists and professionals working in schools (in Herefordshire, Hackney, Lewisham, Southwark and Kent). She trained to run Peace in a Frantic World for workplaces, the “Paws .b” course for primary pupils and “.b Foundations” for school staff (also by MiSP) and ran these courses.
During 2015, she specialised in teaching the Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course and completed Teacher Training Level 2 (with CMRP) so that she was able to go on to train as a Supervisor of Mindfulness Teachers (in 2018) in order to better advise and support the school staff bringing mindfulness into their classroom teaching.
She trained to teach mindfulness to children with ADHD and/or ASD and their families using the MyMind programme with Susan Bogels (University of Amsterdam (UVA) minds You research centre). See BBC documentary The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs (Episode 1 of 2). This focused on the implementation of the MyMind programme with parents and their children. Dr Carelse ran the mindfulness training for the parents.
SENIOR EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST (SEP): In 2015, she was promoted to SEP, which included management responsibilities and supervision of other EPs. During this time, she developed the data management systems for the team and this supported the practical aspects that benefitted team wellbeing.
AUTHOR: At this time, she was also commissioned by Scholastics to write a children’s book on using mindfulness to help with sleep: My Mindful Little One: Bedtime
Throughout this time she continued to teach mindfulness under supervision, run a regular yoga class and was undergoing training for ordination as a Buddhist. She also presented her doctoral research at the Mindfulness in Schools Conference (MiSP).
In 2016, she began running MBCT courses in the workplace as part of the organisational strategy to support staff wellbeing The participants included some who were struggling with stress, anxiety and low mood.
In 2017, following a significant bereavement, she refocused on her Ordination Training in Triratna Buddhist Community through engaging in activities at the London Buddhist Centre and the North London Buddhist Centre.
In 2018, she trained in Trauma-sensitive Yoga with David Emerson and began integrating this approach in her educational psychology practice and yoga and mindfulness teaching. She also developed training materials for trauma awareness of school staff and other professionals.
She continued teaching mindfulness courses at her workplace and from September 2019, under supervision and following the Good Practice Guidelines for Mindfulness Teachers. she began teaching MBCT. This was more suitable to the needs of those attending the courses – there was also an increase in interest in trauma informed/ aware approaches.
In 2020, she delivered training on trauma-informed approaches to a team of Educational Psychologists. Then, during the COVID pandemic, she initiated and ran a series of adapted, shorter online mindfulness courses for school staff, social workers and other keyworkers to support their wellbeing under significantly difficult circumstances. She also set up a ‘working group’ to exploring interventions to reduce exclusions and support children and young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs. This included training for school staff in mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Emotional Coaching.
BUDDHIST: In July 2021, Dr Bernadette Carelse was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order and given the name of Guhyasakhi which means “she who has the mystery as a friend”.
Guhyasakhi teaches meditation and Buddhism mainly at the North London Buddhist Centre which is based near Highbury and Islington, London.
For more information, email Holistic Education.