Shamash Alidina is one of the UK’s most well-known mindfulness teachers.
For him, mindfulness is a passion that has become a calling. Sharing this passion with others so they can feel more peaceful and joyful makes him a very happy man. But how did he get here?
Shamash was born and raised in North London to Indian parents.
“As a kid I was really into science. I loved making robots and fiddling with chemistry sets. It was no surprise that I went to university to study chemical engineering – to the delight of my parents. It was almost as if my life was already mapped out for me."
Searching for meaning
One evening in his first year of university, Shamash found himself talking to a friend who was into spirituality.
“We were out looking at the stars and my friend started talking about how much order there was in the universe. Something in me clicked - I suddenly knew there was more to life than just randomness and science.”
After that, his well-mapped out career path began to unravel.
“In the summer I got a job placement, helping to make an oil rig. It didn’t sit well with me at all. Apart from the painfully destructive environmental side, the job was also really dull, with everyone sat in the same desks and no sense of joy.”
The wrong path
It’s safe to say Shamash didn’t exactly give the job his all.
“At the end of the month when I was expecting to get paid, it turned out I actually owed them money due to the three-hour lunch breaks I’d been taking every day. I knew I was following the wrong path, but didn’t have a clue what I should be doing instead.”
Scientist by day, philosopher by night
Back at university for another term, Shamash saw a poster on the underground advertising the School of Practical Philosophy with the Socrates quote: ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’.
“I signed up for an evening course and the very first session was a life-changing moment for me. Finally I felt that people were talking about all the stuff I’d been thinking about.”
Shamash threw himself into mindfulness and meditation with a passion. He even started running his own workshops at the philosophy school, all while (half-heartedly) working on his degree during the day.
A crazy change of career?
It was then Shamash decided to become a teacher.
“There was a careers’ fair at my university and they asked who wanted to be a teacher. I was the only one who put my hand up out of a massive cohort of 100 people, as everyone was going into banking or engineering.”
To friends and family, it seemed like a crazy move. But to Shamash it made perfect sense.
“I only wanted to be a teacher so I could work in this particular school - the secondary school connected to the School of Philosophy. Called the St James School, the children do mindfulness meditation every day and have a philosophy class once a week. Luckily, after a stressful year teacher training, they offered me a job.”
Shamash loved teaching at the school, but still felt he hadn't really found his true calling.
"It really was the perfect job as it combined all of my passions. I taught the children science, and as a form teacher I also ran their daily meditation and weekly philosophy classes. But what I really enjoyed was coaching to the students one-to one, as I could see what a difference it made. to them."
In fact, he enjoyed life coaching so much, Shamash set up his own life coaching group for adults, which was part of a wider organisation called ‘Life Clubs’. And it was here something interesting happened.
“While I was at another Life Club group, we did a little visualisation. You had to imagine yourself going up into space and landing in your ideal life. I did the exercise and in my dream life, people were coming to my home and I was teaching them mindfulness. Before that, I’d never realised how important mindfulness was to me. This was what I should be doing.”
Amazingly within six months, that visualisation had come true when Shamash started the London Mindfulness and Meditation meet-up group from his own home.
Mindfulness For Dummies
“Flicking through my brother's CBT For Dummies book one day, we saw there wasn’t a Mindfulness For Dummies on their list. So I dashed off an email to the publishers asking why, never really expecting a reply. Before I knew it they’d asked me to write it for them.”
With a background in science and teaching rather than writing, being an author for the first time was scary.
"I started to wonder whether I'd bitten off more than I can chew. I was having negative thoughts such as ‘maybe I’m not good enough’. Luckily, my mindfulness training stepped in. I took a step back, noticed my thoughts and stopped judging myself. Eventually the writing flowed out of me.”
Making mindfulness a full time job
When Mindfulness for Dummies was released, Shamash had been a secondary school teacher for ten years.
“I didn’t have a clue if the book would be a success or not, but I knew I had to quit and be a mindfulness teacher full-time. It felt like it would be too painful not to do what I really wanted.”
Luckily for him, Mindfulness for Dummies did very well. More books followed, people from all over the world started asking him to train them in how to teach mindfulness, and his great passion finally became his job.
“I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else now. Once you discover this incredible way of transforming your own inner state of mind, you just want to share it with others so that they can do it, too."
Forget Mindfulness. We need Kindfulness.
After a period of intense work, Shamash found that mindfulness alone didn't recharge him. He came across a teaching by Buddhist teacher Ajahn Brahm, and the concept of Kindfulness was born. Kindfulness is now his biggest passion.
"If mindfulness is practiced without lots of kindness, it's missing something vital. If you're just more aware of your stress, or anxiety or depression, that alone won't help. You need to be kind to your emotions. You need to forgiving of your mistakes. Mindfulness tells you want's going on. Kindfulness heals."