There is a growing appreciation of mindfulness in today’s world; whether the business world, the sporting arena or everyday life.
Kihikihi-based meditation and yoga coach Elizabeth Day embraced mindfulness at a young age, her awareness heightened after a childhood spent in Southeast Asia. Some decades later, she remains true to those early influences and now teaches yoga, meditation, mindfulness and offers counselling services.
“I have always been philosophically inclined, seeking to understand this human trip – what brought us here, and what is the best thing to do with our precious life? I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to many cultures and systems of thought and practise,” she says.
“Moreover, I have always been impressed by people who manage to earn their living doing what they most love. Thanks to the generous support of others, I find myself in the same situation: it feels like the best thing to be doing with my life. It makes me want to get up each morning. And while I continue to learn and teach, I continue to be stimulated to grow.”
Remembering where her passion for learning began, Elizabeth casts her mind back to her childhood.
“I recall the fragrances and the lush flowers of the tropics; the slower pace of life and the warmth of the people. My parents took us on cultural tours of palaces and galleries, tiny villages, markets and slum areas, to connect us to the diverse reality of our environment.
“I have visited mosques, synagogues, churches and temples. In particular I recall vividly the trips to buddhist temples where the heady allure of incense, chanting and peacefulness imprinted on my young mind.
“On one such trip, when I was in Singapore around the age of two, I remember being in a buddhist temple and feeling it as a large, cool and peaceful space. I noticed an ancient person sitting cross legged with eyes closed and was curious about what she was doing.
“I walked up and stood right beneath her face and looked intensely up at her. When her eyes opened she beamed a smile, and I felt a flood of radiance from her such as I had never felt before. It piqued my interest for years to come.
“When I was 15 and confused about the world I asked my grandmother: “Gran, what do you think makes a good life?” She responded without missing a beat, and without lecturing me on morals, work, or success. She said simply: “Well, I try to stay in the present moment”.
“Something resonated through my whole body and the hairs standing at the back of my neck realised the importance of this message. That set me on a path to where I am today.”
Elizabeth pursued her thirst for knowledge and understanding and over the years has been an academic (with a PhD on the topic of intersubjectivity and consciousness), a buddhist monk, a counsellor, yoga instructor and meditation instructor.
This diverse list of achievements just hints at the years of study, research and understanding she has committed to.
“After practising meditation for seven years I was motivated to ordain as a monastic (monk) for the purpose of living in a community practising intensive meditation. After a trip to India where I stayed at meditation centres, I spent six years in a community in England practising meditation intensively.
“I saw people in the monastery struggle with trauma memories, mental illnesses and other issues that blocked their steady progress in meditation. I wanted to balance my training in meditation with a training in psychotherapy so that I could offer comprehensive support to those who wished to take up a meditation practice.
“The day to day experience of being human is complex, and a comprehensive practice to ease the mind and body seems to work well for those who seek to enquire into the basis of their experience of life,” she says.
While undergoing her trainings, Elizabeth held leadership positions in the health and higher education sectors, including as academic head of a faculty of counselling and psychotherapy.
She planned one day to slow it all down and return to a contemplative life, offering yoga and meditation classes and therapy.
“This was a rewarding but relentless workload so, when in 2013 a benefactor unexpectedly offered my partner and I an opportunity to establish a studio in New Zealand, we gratefully took up the offer, after almost a decade of concerted work in Melbourne. “
Elizabeth moved to Kihikihi in 2015. She continues to supervise Masters students from the Australian College via online webconferencing; but is delighted to spend her time more contemplatively now, offering classes at her studio, Kihikihi Meditation & Yoga.
Elizabeth also teaches a yin yoga class and mindfulness meditation at Balance Yoga in Cambridge, where she also has a clinical practice offering psychotherapy and mindfulness training on a one-to-one basis.
Find out more about Elizabeth Day, mindfulness and meditation in part two of our Mindfulness and Meditation series next month.
Five things people may be surprised to know about you:
1. I would love to have learned to fly a plane.
2. I agree that Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel prize for literature, as the far-seeing poet of the coolest music generation.
3. I attended 10 schools through my life as a child of parents whose work posted them to a different place almost every two years. I’m still not sure what home really means, on an external level.
4. One of my all time favourite songs is David Bowie’s Sound and Vision, for its innovation, its existential awe, and its hipness.
5. My sister taught me how to speak like Donald Duck as a kid. I never thought it would ever have any worldly relevance beside sheer fun, until I found myself in India surrounded by children who were trying to scam me. When I replied to them in Donald Duck they looked at each other, with stunned disbelief; then broke into peals of laughter. We became buddies and they took me to visit their school, and my travelling companion and I were able to help them out legitimately, rather than be scammed.
BA (Hons) fine arts and literature, from the University of Melbourne, with a thesis on the liberal philosophy of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Othello.
PhD from Monash University, exploring representations of intersubjecitivty and consciousness in avant garde film and literature.
Advanced Certificate in Relational Gestalt Psychotherapy from Gestalt Therapy Australia. This was a 600-hour training conducted over four years comprising academic study, group process, personal psychotherapy, clinical practice and clinical placement.
Yoga Teacher Training from VIYETT, Melbourne. This was a 500-hour training conducted over 12 months comprising the theory and practical elements of hatha yoga and vedantic philosophy; anatomy, ayurveda and principles of ethical living.
Elizabeth has been practising meditation and yoga for about 25 years, and offering counselling and psychotherapy over the past decade.
In 2016 she published a co-edited book on therapy:
Noble, C. & Day, E. (2016) Psychotherapy and counsel
ling: Reflections on practice. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
Elizabeth is currently working on a book of teachings and personal experience by women around the world who teach meditation.