The People

Resident Facilitators

Michael Schwammbergermichael image

Michael was born in the UK, but grew up on the island of Ibiza,Spain.  In 1995 he managed the Gaia House retreat centre and in June 1996 he visited Plum Village after reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book: “Peace is every step”.  He stayed and became a monk in February 1997, receiving his full ordination in 1998.  He traveled extensively with Thich Nhat Hanh and was also based in the monasteries in the US.  In 2004 he returned to Plum Village, France and became abbot of Son Ha temple in 2005.  In 2011 he was granted a one year sabbatical.  After one year he decided to continue the sabbatical and disrobed in 2012.  He continues to lead retreats in the UK, France, and Spain.

Will Stephens Will on bench

Originating from Gloucestershire, Will graduated from UWE Bristol where he met his wife Rose. Will started his working life as an entrepreneur involved in companies in the realm of internet, software, healthcare, nutrition, agriculture and plant-based pharmaceuticals.  After the birth of his first child, he discovered the practice of mindfulness and since then has aspired towards mindful living, in particular mindful parenting!  During this time, he trained in Core Process Psychotherapy at the Karuna Institute and also worked in mental health services, her majesty’s prisons and for various environmental initiatives including Resurgence magazine.  Before arriving at Binley Farm, Will was European Director for HeartMath, who offer stress-management to individuals, schools, hospitals and companies.

Rose photoRose Stephens

Rose grew up in Berkshire, and lived in various places before settling in Gloucestershire in 2005.  She has been a dedicated full-time mother since 1999 and continues to consider parenting her three children as her principal occupation.   Living in France between 2001- 2005 greatly influenced her, and enhanced her love of leading a simple, slower-paced life, in touch with nature and the changing seasons.  She first came in touch with the practice of mindfulness after visiting Plum Village in 2005.

Since then her passion has grown for a way of life rooted in mindful living, and for personal growth and transformation.  Rose enjoys being a ‘student of life’, embracing all the challenges that it brings, and finds the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh approachable, practical, simple and yet extremely deep.  She has always been an enthusiastic cook, and has enjoyed the challenge of moving to a vegetarian diet, and developing her skills in creating delicious meals from garden produce.

Visiting Facilitators

lorrraineLorraine Sherman

Lorraine is a Senior Accredited Humanistic Therapist (BACP) . She has an MA in Consultative Supervision, PGCE and extensive practice with individuals, couples and young people. She has practiced and taught Mindfulness for over 30 years. She has recently completed a book on counselling children and young people which will be published in November by Sage.


Dene photoDene Donalds

Dene was born in the UK with a West Indian heritage.  As a young adult he earned his living as a military bandsman, then as a registered nurse for people with learning disabilities.  He has worked as a Director and Senior Manager in the Private, Public and Voluntary sectors. He currently lives in Lancashire where he balances the management of two small community interest companies, with facilitating MBSR programmes, and offering mentoring on the art of mindful living.

Dene provides mindfulness training for two Nationally Accredited Physical Intervention Training companies who have introduced mindfulness into their instructor trainer curriculum. He is also introducing Mindfulness with The National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS).

He recently managed and led the NHS North West Mindfully Valuing People Now Project; introducing Mindfulness Based Approaches to people with learning disabilities, staff and families across the North West region. He regularly facilitates peer quality review programmes across the UK and works nationally and in Europe introducing Mindfulness into the workplace.  Dene is currently teaching mindfulness to the workforce of Merseycare; England’s largest Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust; with the aim of developing mindfulness in clinical practice.

miles photoMiles Dunmore

Miles grew up in Suffolk and studied studying English at Sussex University. He has taught in state schools and independent schools in the UK and in the USA.  At the American School in London, where he currently teaches, he introduced the Harkness method where listening and speaking are at the heart of the classroom, and emphasis is put as far as possible on students leading inquiry.

A department head for over twenty years, he has a deep interest in how teachers form their teaching selves, their identities in the classroom and in school, and in how they deal with challenge and stress. In 2012 he was one of the lead planners for the UK Educators Retreat led by Thich Nhat Hanh.  He has also helped facilitate and lead teacher retreats and days of mindfulness in London, Toronto, and Plum Village.

ark redwoodArk Redwood

Ark is head gardener at one of the most sacred places in England, Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury. He has pursued a lifelong study of Zen Buddhism and follows the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Ark regularly attends mindfulness retreats and has written widely on mindfulness, gardening and their synergy. He is author of “The Art of Mindful Gardening ~ Sowing the Seeds of Meditation”

 Lauri Jan 2014 webLauri Bower

Lauri is a Yorkshire lass, originating from Sheffield and now living north of Leeds. After working as a dressmaker and fulltime mother she taught at a Primary school where meditation and the present moment were part of the curriculum. She has over 25 years experience of meditation practice and 12 years of running and organising retreats.  She is currently researching a Ph.D. into the key teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and through this her work has evolved into teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses with York MBSR, in Leeds, Harrogate and Ilkley. She has always pursued creative projects such as sewing, embroidery, calligraphy, jewellery and making books and has recently discovered how the practice of mindfulness informs her poetry writing. She regularly posts poems to her Mindful Living blog (

ClareClare Belbin

Clare studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and completed her postgraduate studies at Edinburgh College of Art, exhibiting regularly since then. She works primarily in watercolour, though she draws extensively in graphite, charcoal and pastel.  She also makes wood engravings. For over twenty years, Clare’s subject matter has been a large walled garden in North Yorkshire. Her work is a daily, animated, study – through darkest winter earth and trees, then shoots and buds, then fresh blossom, seed heads, then laden fruit trees. It is this close, intimate, observation of daily change within the walled garden, which generates the excitement and the inspiration for Clare to search constantly for ever more accurate and fresh observation. She has closely recorded the animation of the garden whilst running a large, and complex household.  She has been fully committed to her practice of mindfulness for over ten years, which enhances and expands her drawing practice.

Mike BellMike Bell

Mike grew up in Hampshire and now lives near Cambridge. He started meditating in 1990 and first met the Plum Village style in 1992. He helped set up the Community of Interbeing as a UK charity and started its newsletter Here&Now. He now runs Mindful Mailing: an email newsletter which  gives basic details of forthcoming events in the UK.  He has always been more interested in bringing the benefits of mindfulness practice to as many people as possible than in building a Buddhist institution.

He has recently trained in the secular  Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and is now more interested in secular approaches to mindfulness and believes that a jargon-free brain-based approach will be accessible to more people than Buddhism. Mike is an educationalist specialising in training teachers in evidence-based teaching methods.  In the Mindfulness and the Brain retreat he will use the same models of the brain which he uses successfully with teachers to explain learning.

Vari 10thMay10Vari McLuskie

Vari was born in Scotland and brought up in England. After studying chemisty at university, Vari hung up her lab coat and joined the IT industry, progressing to Director level in a large multi-national Company and leading many international projects. During this time Vari stumbled upon a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and has been delighted to try to put his teachings into action ever since.

Vari now lives in the beautiful West Midlands and works as a management consultant offering change management and marketing services, primarily to not for profit organisations. In addition, Vari finds much joy in leading mindfulness courses and retreats.

Sr. Jewel head shot P1150890Sister Jewel

Sister Jewel grew up in the US and Kenya, and ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1999. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained her as a ‘Dharma’ teacher in 2007. Before ordaining, she graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology and Social Sciences. She has led mindfulness retreats in the U.S., Europe, Thailand, Brazil, India and Southern Africa.

She spends much of her time sharing mindfulness and compassion, especially with children and young people, and bringing mindfulness to teachers and schools through the Wake Up Schools program (  She is also passionate about exploring the ways art, activism and spiritual practice intersect and sustain each other and leads regular retreats for artists and activists. She is editor of Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh.

S-A portrait sizedSally-Anne Airey

Sally-Anne is an international executive and life coach whose approach draws on her mindfulness practice and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh to help people live happier, more fulfilled lives at work and play. A former Royal Navy Commander, Sally-Anne also lived and worked in Eastern Europe for many years, in education and business.

An intuitive and empathic learning facilitator, Sally-Anne offers individuals and groups simple practices that develop personal wellbeing and more effective behaviours through mind / body balance. At the core of the practice is present moment awareness: of oneself, others and the environment. Her clients experience deeper emotional resilience, more fruitful personal and working relationships, less stress and more joy. Sally-Anne now lives with her family in a large renovated stone farmhouse in the northern French Alps. Her home is also a holiday chalet and a developing meditation / retreat centre.


In her work as a music teacher and workshop leader, Susanne enjoys encouraging creative expression and deep listening in people of all ages and with a variety of backgrounds, ranging from beginners to professionals. In her “Sounds & Silence” retreats Susanne offers mindfulness meditation and intuitive music making as mutually supportive experiences.

She has been teaching music in Scotland and Germany, collaborating with music schools, the NHS, adult education providers and community groups. In 2012 she co-founded the Mindful Artists Network as a resource for artists of all art forms, arts educators and therapists.  As a pianist and composer, Susanne’s work embraces classical, jazz, folk and world music as well as the unknown and a love for experiment.

If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. Eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life……and that is meditation. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Guardian Article 21.01.13