About Paramananda

Paramananda (Dr John Wilson)
I was born in North West London in 1955, the youngest of four children, my father was a skilled car worker, my mother  a factory worker.  It was a loving if somewhat chaotic family with no particular religious beliefs.  I first became interested in meditation when I was seventeen and took up the practice of Transcendental Meditation which had been made popular by the Beatles.  I took to the practice, a basic concentration technique using a mantra, but not to the organisation behind it.  After a few years my interest waned and it was not until some ten years later that I once again took up meditation, this time within the Buddhist tradition.  In the mean time I had taken up Tai Chi, a practice which I have kept up.  My second attempt at meditation proved more enduring and within a few years I found myself quitting my work as a mental health social worker and selling my home in order to become more fully involved in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.  In 1985, in the contexts of a three month retreat I was Ordained into the Western Buddhist Order (now known as the Triranta Buddhist Order) by its founder Urgyen Sangharakshita.  Since then I have been teaching meditation to others.  I took to teaching meditation like a duck to water and continue to love doing it, although looking back to those days I feel somewhat embarrassed to think I thought I knew what I was doing.  I guess youthful enthusiasm and good guides can go some way.
I feel that my understanding of meditation was, at least this second time around, very influenced by my practice of Tai  Chi, which I studied quite seriously under Master Lam for three years.  This along with my experience as a mental health worker and my practice as a massage teacher  inclined me strongly towards a body based understanding of meditation.  These influences meant that my approach to sitting meditation was ‘energetic’ and body based from the beginning.
After a few years teaching meditation I became the Chairman of the West London Buddhist Centre, which was, although small, a very lively and creative place.  After four years of working at the West London Centre, myself and a close friend, Paramabodhi, moved to San Francisco to work with a small group of interested people.  I spent the next eight years living in America becoming the first chairman of the San Francisco Buddhist Centre, which we helped set up in the Mission district of that city,
During my time in San Francisco I became involved with the Zen Hospice project and was a volunteer at their ‘guest house’ a small hospice set up to help those dying of AIDS.  I also wrote a book on Meditation “Change Your Mind’ which is still a popular introduction to the basics of Buddhist meditation.  My time in San Francisco was a rich experience and brought me into contact with many other Buddhist traditions.  Never the less after eight years, after having successfully handed over my responsibilities to an all American team I felt I wanted to return to england and live a rather different life. I had spent the last fifteen years of my life running Buddhist centres, which although included a lot of teaching also brought with it many other responsibilities.
Returning to England I decided to concentrate on teaching meditation and living a rather simpler life.  So the last nine years have been largely taken up with leading retreats and teaching classes, back at my old, much loved West London Centre.  I also became a father and have a loverly eight year old son, Harvey. I managed to complete a PhD around the area of meditation and wisdom in relation to the western tradition of inquiry, and write a couple of other small books, the last one being, ‘The Body’  in a series of books about the art of meditation.
These days I teach courses and days at the WLBC and lead retreats in England, Europe and America.  I feel that the main influence, outside of the Buddhist tradition, on my approach to meditation teaching and my understanding of meditation, has been modern poetry.  I find in poetry a depth of understanding of the human condition which often reflects and illuminates what I feel and am trying to convey as a teacher.  There are some wonderful meditation teachers out there that have a profound technical knowledge of  meditation, I am not one of them.  I feel I operate much more from a poetic sensibility, an approach that can be frustrating for those of a more ‘rational’ bent.
I make no claims to any particular spiritual attainments, all I can say is that I have sat still a lot with my own experience and tried to cultivate a kind interest in what it might mean to be a human being in a difficult, wonderful and challenging world.  I also make no exotic claims for the practice of meditation, 'sitting still' is no substitute for trying to live a compassionate and worthwhile life, but it is within my experience that meditation can be a helpful and meaningful activity which supports our attempts to be fully human.  For me, and I know many others, meditation is an essential way of contacting and sustaining a sense of meaning.  I will end this section with three short quotes;

‘My religion is kindness’ - the Dalai Lama.

‘Free yourself from mental slavery, none but yourself can free your mind’ - Bob Marley.

‘always keep a diamond in your mind’ - Tom Waits.