An Interview with OUR FOUNDER
Cornelius is the Founder of Bodhimaya the award-winning mind and body retreat and one of the world's leading mind, meditation and Eastern philosophy experts. Cornelius has studied Eastern approaches to the mind for over 23 years and has a rarely seen grasp of the some of the more complex and misunderstood aspects of Eastern philosophy and meditation.
Cornelius is known for his ability to therapeutically apply Eastern philosophy and teach its wisdom in a simple, grounded and approachable way.
What does 'Bodhimaya' mean?
Bodhimaya comes from two sanskrit words. 'Bodhi' which means awakening and 'Maya' which means illusion. The aim of the Bodhimaya experience is to awaken people to a better way of living and being, and support them on their journey towards optimal health and happiness.
What makes Bodhimaya different?
Bodhimaya offers the highest level of expertise. There are a lot of experts out there, but finding authentic and effective nutrition and meditation is difficult. We deliver the most up-to-date nutritional science together with genuine and authentic Eastern philosophy and meditation.
Secondly, we genuinely care about people. Knowing how closely we work with our guests, people often ask how we keep our boundaries and ensure that we don't get emotionally involved with our work. The answer is that we do get emotionally involved. This is how we are able to deliver such a high standard of care. We are passionate and emotionally invested in our work and in the people that look to us to help them achieve their goals.
How did you get interested in meditation and studying the mind?
When I was fifteen years old I began to suffer with severe depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia. Unfortunately, I was treatment resistant; neither standard therapy nor medication worked, and I tried several forms of both. I also tried complimentary approaches, but nothing resolved my issues.
During this time, I read a book which said that with perseverance and practice meditation could completely free the mind from suffering. From that moment on, I was totally absorbed in Eastern philosophy and meditation; I began meditating and travelling the world looking for various teachers that might be able to help me.
The teachings I initially came across were not complete or authentic; while some helped to a degree, they were not the solution to my problems that I hoped they would be.
After a number of challenging experiences in quick succession, my condition worsened. The stress and suffering I was experiencing was nearly impossible to navigate through. It was during this time that I began to travel back and forth to India, trying to find the source of these ancient Eastern teachings that promised freedom from suffering.
I travelled everywhere looking for people who knew about the mind, meditation, yoga, Taoism and Buddhism. I went to the Himalayas, Kerala, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Varanasi, Rajasthan and too many other places to mention; from busy cities to places with no roads, where you had to walk for hours though mountains to find the person or place you were looking for.
On my journey, I found a handful of teachers that were able to advise me and point me towards an understanding and experiential realisation of authentic meditation and Eastern philosophy.
In 2007, my meditation practice and the wisdom I had developed over the years, brought my persistent depression to an end. I was finally at peace with myself.
I then began to teach others what I had learned.
What is a Mind and Meditation Expert?
A mind and meditation expert is someone who understands how the mind works and can help people develop a wiser and more relaxed approach to life.
An effective mind and meditation expert should be free from beliefs and fixed ideas of how people should live their lives. Instead, they should work with each person as an individual, finding out what they need rather than inflicting them with their own views. They should be able to identify why someone is stressed, suffering or anxious and help them explore their feelings and reactions to life. They should gently, and with the greatest compassion, help them to develop the wisdom needed to overcome their problems, find clarity, find solutions where solutions can be found and make peace with what can't be changed.
The teaching of Eastern philosophy is not a set method or process, it is an art. It takes years of refinement, development and realisation to teach well and affect change in someone.
What qualifications do you have?
I have studied the mind, meditation and Eastern philosophy for over 20 years and have explored the most advanced elements of yoga philosophy and Buddhism. I have travelled back and forth to India for many years, studying with teachers from a variety of disciplines and philosophies; my teachers and influences are regarded as some the world's most respected authorities on meditation, Buddhism and yoga philosophy. I have studied Eastern philosophy at its source, exploring many of the ancient root texts, as well as the development of Eastern philosophical concepts from their beginning through to their use today.
There is no recognised qualification in the therapeutic application of Eastern philosophy, no professional body for meditation and Eastern philosophy and no way of ensuring that people who work in this area have the experience required to teach effectively. You can do a weekend course and set yourself up as a mind and meditation expert, but that certainly does not give you the skill needed to become one; even a three or four year course couldn't guarantee someone would develop the skill needed to teach and apply Eastern philosophy therapeutically.
What you should do with any teacher is ask how long the teacher has studied for, where they have studied, whether they have studied the root texts of their philosophy and who or what their influences are; from this you can get an indication of their level of experience and expertise.
What kind of people come to see you?
Many people come to see me because they are dealing with with anxiety, depression or are experiencing an intense period of stress, however I also see a lot of people who just come to see me for advice and self development.
What kind of advice do people ask for?
People see me for a variety of reasons; they want to speak to me about their personal lives, relationships, their past, how deal with a particular problem or situation, pressure at work, politics at work, self development or just to talk something through.
What I do isn't just for people who are suffering with depression, anxiety or stress, it's for anyone who is interested in their development as a human being or who wants to learn how to respond to life and situations more effectively.
How does what you do differ from counselling and psychotherapy?
I'm not a counsellor or a psychotherapist, these are modern approaches to the mind. There is some crossover with what I do, but the approach I use is based on Eastern philosophy. For millennia people have been observing the mind, human nature and life; I use these well-recorded observations as well as my own insight to help people find a more effective approach to life. I look at the very core dynamics of the mind: the establishment, structure, maintenance and modification of the underlying mechanisms that create our experience: thought, identity and consciousness.
Eastern philosophy is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. I will always refer someone to a psychotherapist, counsellor, psychiatrist or their GP if they are suffering with depression or anxiety.
Why do you think your approach has become so popular with CEOs, lawyers, bankers and politicians?
I have a lot of different clients, but naturally people talk more about the CEOs, bankers, lawyers and politicians that come to see me.
People are surprised that this type of individual would gravitate towards meditation and Eastern philosophy, but increasingly, they are. Meditation and Eastern philosophy are no longer seen as 'out there', their true value is being realised. Our lives have become so stressed and pressured that people are having to look for a solution to alleviate the burnout, exhaustion and emotional impact that modern life inflicts on us. Eastern philosophy and meditation provide a very robust and comprehensive solution to these problems and people are starting to see the incredible effect this way of thinking and being can have on their lives.
There are a few reasons why my approach is particularly popular with bankers, lawyers, business people, politicians and the like.
Firstly, everything I teach is factual, logical and down to earth. There is no belief, religion or superstition. Authentic meditation and Eastern philosophy is based on pure observation of the mind; how the mind works, how we see ourselves, how we see the world around us and how we approach life. Lawyers, bankers, business people and politicians are often very intellectual and logical people, and therefore this approach appeals to them. I am also very direct with people, I tell them exactly what I think. This approach tends to sit very well with people who are themselves very direct and straight forward.
Secondly, what I teach is very effective. Taught correctly, Eastern philosophy has an incredible effect on the mind; it reduces stress, develops wisdom and helps us to feel more at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
Lastly, I know the unique type of stress people in highly demanding roles or in high profile positions experience. I have a lot of experience working with people who have a unique set of circumstances and who have an incredible amount of stress and pressure to manage.
And finally, if there is one thing people can do to reduce stress and find peace of mind, what is it?
Take the time to meditate. For 10 minutes in the morning when you wake up and 10 minutes in evening before you sleep. Just 10 minutes of meditation twice a day can have a huge impact on someone's life, work and relationships.
Try simple breath meditation. Don't try to stop your thoughts when you meditate, just let them come and go. Don't worry about how many times you get distracted from your breath, just return you're attention to the breath whenever you realise that you've become distracted. It's a very simple practice. The philosophy and teaching that is taught alongside the practice is the difficult part, and it is this that you need a competent teacher's help with. While meditation alone does help, its affects do not fully develop, unfold and establish themselves to their full potential without a deep understanding and grasp of the teachings that have been taught alongside it for thousands of years.
Cornelius works with people one-to-one, on retreat and offers classes and talks free of charge in London and Cookham.