When were you first exposed to dharma?

i was first exposed to buddhism as a teenager and though this is definitely not for me – all that focus on suffering ! growing up in a catholic family suited my devotional /wild girl nature quite well. it was great having a channel for offering flowers, saying prayers for others (in latin and in english), offering up both happy and sad things to jesus, serving others and not just the self. there were also some role models of women going against the materialist culture and facing obstacles because of that. what wasn’t so great was as a maturing teenager not being met intellectually when i asked questions about the religion. unfortunately, the answer was always ‘ it is a matter of having faith’. this was not enough for me, so i started to look elsewhere especially yoga and meditation. at age 20 after a little study of buddhism, and more questions answering my own instead of pap answers, i had the wish to have a buddhist meditation teacher. this took 20 years to manifest ! in the meantime i explored the eight limbs of yoga deeply and while appreciating many aspects of it i still felt dissatisfied intellectually, emotionally and socially. when i came across buddhism again in my early thirties i felt it was intellectually stimulating and the practices was deeply satisfying.

How has the path manifest in your daily experience?

in my early 30’s a flatmate took me out to the buddhist temple to receive teachings and empowerment on green tara from h.e. sakya jetsun kusho -la. her teachings, though through a translator, really resonated with me and at that time i also decided to commit to buddhism as a path and see how it went for me, so i took refuge at the end of that weekend. soon i had committed the tara practice to memory and could do it while out walking or driving as well as sitting on my meditation cushion. now thirty years later it is still a foundation practice for me and i also dance and teach the tara practices in a meditation style. these forms of mindfulness all support my aspiration for all beings to be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.



I love seeing the teachers getting older and older,
but there’s still a huge amount of light in their eyes
and they are not fearful of death.

What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)

vajrayana morning practice with contemplation, meditation, visualisation, mantra recitation seated in front of my home shrine. at the end of the day, a shorter vajrayana evening practice too , sitting up in bed. wearing a wrist mala reminds me to see all as the buddha, all sounds as mantra, all thoughts as emptiness – like a clear sky. when walking or moving between one activity and the next i often will recite mantra internally, or some prayers – eg shantideva’s enlightenment thought.

Which sangha do you normally attend ?

phuntsok choeling, napier nz. pretty much as soon as i met my buddhist meditation teacher i became involved in the small local sangha, meeting weekly for samatha meditation then adding in chenrezig/ avalokitesvara practice of compassion. over the years being part of the committee to develop our centre as a place for sangha and newcomers to practice and learn together has given me a way to contribute to the wider community. our teacher and spiritual director lives in australia so it is up to us to keep the shrine, texts and practices alive, polished, meaningful, and available to others.

What is your primarily profession?

registered naturopath and medical herbalist. using the power of herbs to resolve rather than suppress illnesses, freeing the body/mind with yoga, meditation and other exercises. encouraging patients to develop a compassionate view towards themselves.

Do you think your personality or background influence the lineage/practices that resonate with you?

vajrayana is for people with a passionate, inquiring, courageous nature and requires an understanding of renunciation and a functioning awareness of others – we are all in this together – and our minds can be free and happy no matter the circumstance !

On tantric practice

You know, all those things are really enabling the senses to encourage you into practice rather than deny the senses and sit on your cushion aside, come come to this sensual, sincerely delightful place.


Clare, a woman with a deep connection to spiritual imagery, reflects on her affinity for Buddhist symbols and mantras. The allure of a green Tara picture captivates her, prompting a desire to replicate it. The discovery of the Tara mantra in Tibetan script adds a magnetic quality to these images, fostering a connection she attributes to a previous spiritual bond.

Recalling a similar connection in her youth, Clare reminisces about finding a book on yoga, sparking a commitment to the practice. Despite being a lazy teenager, she recognizes a pattern of previous connections guiding her towards spiritual exploration. This pattern continues as she leaves Auckland, seeking a Buddhist image to accompany her. A hand-drawn green Tara becomes her chosen companion, emphasizing her curiosity and resonance with spiritual symbols.

Further experiences unfold, like stumbling upon an orange image with a sword and later realizing its significance in the Sakya lineage. Guided gently by her inner compass, Clare encounters Lama Chetak, who imparts teachings on speech empowerment, aligning with her heart’s wish for guidance in navigating life while maintaining liberation.

Her journey involves diverse spiritual pursuits, from yoga and meditation to an ashram experience. A dream about searching for a blue pepper leads to a profound realization about the heart’s color in Tibetan Buddhism, reinforcing Clare’s trust in her guided path. She reflects on her dreams as a form of self-guidance, understanding that her inner guru directs her towards resonance and connection.

As Clare seeks a teacher for Buddhist meditation, she grapples with the challenge of balancing service and liberation. Trusting her inner guidance, she remains diligent in her practice, understanding that, as the yogis say, everything falls into place when one commits to their spiritual path.


Clare, drawn to Tibetan Buddhism, appreciates its unique emphasis on engaging the body in spiritual practices. Reflecting on the Tara Puja, she describes the beautiful and dynamic atmosphere it creates, akin to a dance. The rituals involve making offerings, not out of necessity for the Buddhas, but as a means for practitioners to cultivate generosity and respect.

For Clare, Tibetan Buddhism caters to passionate individuals who wish to remain fully engaged with the world. The teachings emphasize being calm and awake during meditation rather than sedated, allowing practitioners to navigate life’s storms with centered awareness. The complex rituals and visualizations in Buddhism serve as a vehicle for reaching enlightenment by embracing and understanding the impermanence of the body, passions, and mentality.

She finds solace in teachings about impermanence, devotion, and refuge, recognizing them as sources of support that counteract her potential neurotic tendencies. The Chenrezig practice, with its lyrical English chants, adds a layer of beauty to the experience, fostering a sense of joy and aliveness. Clare is particularly attracted to the aesthetic elements of Tibetan Buddhism—the vibrant colors, shiny statues, and harmonizing of movements—which, instead of denying the senses, encourages a sensual and delightful approach to practice. The beauty of the rituals and surroundings becomes a compelling factor that enhances Clare’s spiritual journey, providing a profound connection beyond the confines of a traditional meditative cushion.


Clare reflects on a pivotal point in her spiritual journey, which occurred when her child was born. Holding her newborn in her arms and practicing Tara meditation during late-night breastfeeding sessions, Clare grappled with the challenges of parenthood and sought guidance on how to protect her child from life’s pains.

In those moments, Tara’s wisdom resonated with Clare, reassuring her that there is no absolute protection. Instead, she was encouraged to face life fearlessly, learning and growing through the experiences. Looking back, Clare simplifies her approach to parenting by dealing with what is in front of her, emphasizing kindness, gentleness, and positivity in raising her child. Choosing the path of nonviolence, she avoided being a harsh authority figure, opting instead to encourage, excite, and praise her child.

Grateful for the Dharma’s influence on her parenting philosophy, Clare recognizes the importance of allowing her son to be himself rather than molding him to fit her expectations. Her son, now 24, appreciates the supportive and positive environment in which he was raised.

Despite the challenges of parenthood, Clare continues her daily practice of meditation, acknowledging that the Dharma serves not to replace engagement with the world but to guide her in skillful and mindful interaction with it. The practice provides her with an understanding that everything is impermanent and subject to change, helping her navigate life’s difficulties with an overarching perspective.

Function of the Sangha

Clare describes the two facets of the center: its openness to the public and its role as a gathering space for practitioners. The center, located in the middle of town, welcomes anyone, providing a dedicated space for meditation practices. The interface side invites curious passersby to join meditation sessions, attend courses, and explore the library.

Regular meditation courses, spanning eight weeks, aim to guide participants toward a consistent meditation practice. Clare emphasizes the ease with which people can engage, gradually deepening their involvement. The center serves as a repository for statues, images, and a place for the community to come together for shared practices, like Wednesday night’s Tara practice.

The community extends beyond regular practitioners, reaching a rehabilitation center where mindfulness training is conducted. Participants from the center join weekly meditations, fostering a supportive environment for individuals seeking quiet reflection and meditation in the community.

The center also hosts more profound practices such as White Tara or non-drug practices, followed by social interactions like coffee outings or discussions. Clare highlights the importance of this sense of community, where individuals can openly discuss their spiritual lives without judgment. The shared experiences, chats, and occasional meals create a supportive environment for those dedicated to their spiritual journey, emphasizing the value of commitment and daily practice in maintaining an open heart and perceptive mind amidst the demands of a regular job.

Fruit of Practice

Clare, reflecting on her life, expresses a sense of light-heartedness and a broader understanding of the preciousness of human life compared to her younger years. She emphasizes the importance of facing facts, analyzing experiences, and maintaining aspirations while reviewing and understanding one’s life.

Having witnessed aging teachers who radiate wisdom and lack fear of death, Clare acknowledges her decreased fear and confusion compared to her twenties and thirties. She distinguishes between two types of happiness: hedonism, derived from pleasure pursuits, and eudaimonia, sustained through meaningful actions. Clare draws parallels between parenting and the pursuit of meaningful happiness, emphasizing the importance of wisdom in cultivating lasting contentment.

In her evolved perspective, Clare recognizes the significance of karma and atonement, learning to heal from past actions and create positive changes. She values the dharma for teaching her that mistakes can be acknowledged, rectified, and used as opportunities for personal growth.

With a greater understanding of karma and a more positive outlook, Clare feels happier and has given herself permission to be as big and joyful as she wants, irrespective of others’ opinions. She encourages a positive, creative, and generous approach to life, embracing happiness as an ongoing process of learning, growing, and giving.


Clare reflects on her younger years when she was driven by a warrior spirit to create change, standing against adversity with strength. However, she recognizes that this mindset often led to a division between “me and other.” The Dharma, she explains, has taught her the importance of understanding that everyone is part of the same dance and that respect for others is crucial.

She emphasizes the concept of skillful means in Buddhism, highlighting the need for compassion and wisdom in how one expresses and acts upon it. Clare believes in the importance of not reinforcing negativity within oneself by criticizing others. Instead, she advocates for noticing positive aspects in others, much like guiding a child to improve.

Clare acknowledges the complexity of engaging with people on different sides of an issue and emphasizes the importance of skillful means. She encourages reflection on one’s own freedom and the gentle sharing of that freedom with others, rather than imposing it. Clare shares a meditation practice given to her by an older woman, emphasizing the value of being gentle with oneself and finding grounding practices, especially in the midst of engagement or activism. Ultimately, Clare advises being detached from outcomes and focusing on doing what is helpful in the present moment.

Tara Dance

Clare shares her deep connection with Tara Dancing, a practice that became significant to her early on. After years of engaging with the Tara Puja on her meditation cushion, Clare discovered Tara Dance through a chance encounter in Nelson. In Tara Dance, participants are encouraged to see the person in front of them as Tara or even as a Buddha, actively changing their perception during the practice. This dynamic approach involves using the entire body, not just the mind, making the practice more profound and powerful.

During Tara Dance, participants visualize themselves in a beautiful realm, exaggerating the beauty beyond material aspects. Clare emphasizes the effectiveness of this practice, noting the engagement of the whole body in actions of blessing and concentration. The walking pace of the dance creates a calming and stress-free environment, contributing to the overall power and beauty of the practice.

For Clare, each session begins with the practice of taking refuge and generating bodhichitta, enhancing the overall benefit and significance of the practice. She values the mindful approach over a rushed one, emphasizing the importance of making each part of the dance meaningful, from the beginning to the end. Ultimately, Clare finds joy in the practice, appreciating the balance it brings to her overall spiritual journey.


Happily, Clare reflects on her fortunate relationship with her teacher, who resides on the other side of the Tasman Sea, allowing for meaningful interactions without the intrusion of daily life. She appreciates the Tibetan saying that it’s beneficial to have a teacher at a distance, fostering contact in significant contexts such as teachings, retreats, or questions. Clare vividly recalls her initial impression of her teacher, Lama Tsultrim Allione, noting his humble yet animated demeanor, combining seriousness with humor to convey messages effectively.

Within a year of meeting Lama Tsultrim Allione, Clare witnessed the profound guru-student relationship between him and his own teacher, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche. The mutual love and need between them inspired Clare, observing the transmission of teachings and the warm exchange of wisdom. She shares her experience of seeing Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, the heart son, and his teacher together, exemplifying the essence of passing on teachings with love and rejoicing in their hearts.

Clare also recounts encountering other inspiring teachers, such as Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, and reading biographies of influential figures like Chagdud Rinpoche. She finds inspiration in their clarity, strength, and commitment, appreciating their humility and recognizing the preciousness of those who have received training since childhood. Clare values the simplicity and power of these teachers, emphasizing their genuine interest in understanding others rather than seeking attention for themselves. Ultimately, she expresses gratitude for the opportunity to meet such wonderful teachers who guide and inspire her on her spiritual journey.


Clare reflects on her experience at the ashram, appreciating the welcoming community and engaging yoga practices that resonate with her background in dance, gymnastics, and athleticism. Despite enjoying the physical aspects of yoga, she acknowledges a lack of intellectual stimulation during her early years without a teacher.

Having practiced yoga independently for 15 years, Clare longed for a deeper understanding and inspiration. She notes the absence of a sense of “other” in her previous experiences, prompting her curiosity about dedicating practices for the benefit of others. This realization becomes a pivotal point leading her towards Buddhism. The concept of interconnectedness and the idea that one’s actions affect others resonates with her, providing a sense of purpose beyond self-improvement.

While she finds inspiration in the lives of certain individuals, such as Christian Materia and her yoga teacher, Clare expresses that Buddhism uniquely captures her interest by emphasizing the idea that spiritual growth is not solely for personal gain but to positively impact the world. She contrasts this with practices that might lead to self-obsession and neurosis.

Clare recognizes the calming effects of yoga on her busy mind and acknowledges its contribution to physical health. However, she articulates that Buddhism has played a distinct role in challenging her mind, expanding her consciousness, and prompting a continuous quest for understanding. She values the practice of developing both the body and the mind, envisioning a journey that extends beyond physical well-being and into the realm of self-awareness and mindfulness.


After her mother’s passing in an old people’s home, Clare, from a Catholic background, invited a spiritual teacher to lead a practice. During the session held in the presence of her mother’s body, the teacher encouraged Clare to focus on the positive aspects of her mother’s life, viewing them as a cushion carrying her forward into the next phase. He advised Clare to release any negative thoughts or actions, whether from her or her mother’s side, fostering a cushion of positivity to accompany her mother on her journey. Clare found the teacher’s words to be a comforting and beautiful perspective on her mother’s transition.

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