My name is Edward and I am the owner and course director at The Tree. I hope to be able to welcome you here some time and meet you in person. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a bit about my background and how I ended up where I am today.
In 1999 I had no plans whatsoever to be teaching relaxation, mindfulness, and Kriya Yoga let alone owning a retreat centre. I was studying at the University of Nottingham, intent on becoming an architectural designer, as I thought this would give me happiness and fulfilment in life. However, largely due to living a life of excess, I ended up having a breakdown. I was unable to focus or concentrate on my work - I ended up getting very stressed and I had to leave the course.
Over the next 3 months I spiralled down into a depression, consumed with negative thoughts and feelings. At this time I was diagnosed with a condition called bipolar disorder and was told that I would probably need to be on medication for the rest of my life.
In 2000 I hit rock bottom, which was actually a turning point for me. I realised that I did want to live, get better and do something with my life. I didn’t want to be dependent on medication and I was keen to find an alternative. Also, I realised that although people had tried to help me – for which I was very grateful – it was ultimately up to me to change the situation I was in.
A friend recommended mindfulness meditation to me, as he thought it might help with my negative thoughts. And so under the guidance of a mindfulness teacher, I began practising mindful breathing for 10 minutes every day. At first I was sceptical and I must admit I found it difficult, but I realised that this was not going to be a quick fix, so I persevered.
After about six months of practice, I had a revelation: for the first time in my life I realised that it was possible to just take a step back and “witness” my thoughts. It was incredibly liberating to have a glimpse of what it meant to be free from the thinking mind and to begin to recognise the reality of my basic nature. I realised something was happening and I knew then that I wanted to explore these practices further.
A more aware way of life
After a year of engaging with the practice I was gradually able to come off my medication and return to university to complete my degree. Although I still had inner challenges, the tools I had learnt helped me to navigate my way through the highs and lows so that they no longer overwhelmed me. I began reading books about mindfulness and meditation and started going on weekend retreats. This helped me to understand some of the causes of my personal suffering and began to open me up to the possibility of a more aware way of life.
After I finished my degree, and on the suggestion of my meditation teacher, I spent 18 months volunteering at a retreat centre in France, called Dechen Chőling. During my time there I worked as a cook, studied with different teachers and practised meditation every day. I can honestly say that it radically changed my outlook on life. Before coming to France I still thought that lasting happiness and fulfilment could be gained through material things like a successful career, money, a big house, a nice car and so on. My time at the retreat taught me that in order to experience true and lasting happiness and inner peace then we need to look within and recognise and live from our true, basic nature. The doorway to access this was through exploring the reality of our own present experience.
Sowing the seeds of change
Whilst working at the retreat, I’d witnessed hundreds of visitors arriving looking tired and stressed then, after their time with us, they would leave looking relaxed and energised. As a practice community we would also reflect on how to live a life that can be of benefit to others and our planet. It was at this time I had a vision of one day opening a retreat centre based on universal principles, that was open and accessible to all. A place where I could help people to rediscover peace, joy and contentment within themselves and with life and hopefully contribute towards creating a more wise and loving society. So this was when the seed was sown which would one day eventually grow into The Tree.
After leaving France I moved back to Huddersfield, established my own design business and continued developing my interest in the original yoga (not how it is currently portrayed as a in the media as a stretching exercise) and meditation, studying with teachers in India, France, the USA and Canada. I also took a course in permaculture, which is a design method for living sustainably on the planet as this seemed to me an important principle in living a more conscious and aware life.
Guided by the intention of my heart I continued growing and cultivating the seed of The Tree. I had no idea how I was going to set up my own retreat centre, but I lived with a trust and certainty that somehow it was going to happen.
Over the years I explored a number of different yoga & meditation traditions and eventually found that Kriya yoga, (which includes hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation and self enquiry), and the occasional session of Qi Gong, were the practices that I enjoyed, were most effective for myself and also for the friends I was practising with.
Through a daily practice of these methods, and an exploration of the teachings associated with them, I have been able to free myself from my mental health issues. They have calmed a busy, negative mind and have helped me to release old, stuck tension and emotion from my body. They have helped me gain clarity and insight into life and have revealed a lasting inner peace, contentment and happiness within that I now know was in me (or more accurately was me) all along. With this recognition also came the realisation that this is the same for all 7 billion people on our planet too, just for most people, as it was for me, it is temporarily obscured.
Powerful and life changing benefits
These powerful and life changing benefits led me to train as a yoga and meditation teacher, as I wanted to help others to experience these things too. I began teaching weekly classes in Huddersfield and Leeds and I started looking into the idea of holding weekend retreats with my sister Helen (also a yoga teacher). Whilst searching online for possible venues I discovered a place called The Orange Tree, which seemed to me just what I was looking for. The venue was actually for sale, but at the time there was no way I could afford to buy it, so I settled for just running my weekend courses there.
After 18 months, the centre was still on the market and so I decided to look into buying it. With some help from a financial advisor I was able to secure the bank loan I needed and in January 2011 my dream finally came true – I was the new owner of The Orange Tree.
A few years after I took over the ownership, I was offered the chance to buy the Old Chapel next door. With the help of family, friends, volunteers and local tradespeople we worked hard to renovate the chapel. We now have a spacious yoga studio / meeting room and more accommodation which has perfectly completed the centre. In December 2017 The Orange Tree was renamed The Tree, complete with a brand new logo. You can read more about the meaning behind this here.
Over the years I have continued to develop my training in yoga and meditation under the guidance of my Kriya Yoga teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, who brought Kriya yoga to the West. In 2016 I was authorised to share the practices and teachings of Kriya Yoga.
From suffering to healing
My story has been a journey from inner suffering to healing, to coming to know and live as my true basic self and to trust and follow my hearts inspiration. I now live and work full-time at The Tree alongside Claire, my good friend and manager, and a fantastic and supportive team of staff and volunteers. Together we enjoy creating a relaxed and nurturing environment for our guests.
Although I teach on most of the courses that we run, I still am – and always will be – a student. Although there may be marker stones along the way, I see the path of Enlightenment not as a final destination to be reached but more as an ever present journey of learning, growth, refinement, integration, expression and celebration that continues to unfold for the rest of our lives. I liken it to the same way that a tree goes through all the changes of the seasons, yet each year its roots grow a little deeper and its branches reach a little higher.
I hope this has given you an insight into my background, my motivation and my passion for what I do. Opening The Tree has been a dream come true for me and it is an honour and a pleasure to be able to welcome guests like you to come and stay and enjoy some peace and relaxation.
“Our true home is our own being"
Edward with Khenpo Gawang in France 2004
Edward teaching in Huddersfield 2010
View of The Tree from the garden
Inside the Yurt
Edward renovating The Old Chapel
The newly refurbished Chapel studio
Meditating with friends
Edward & his Kriya Yoga teacher, Roy Eugene Davis
Painting the new sign for the road
The new Tree sign