Co-hosts

Alison Taylor

alison-and-andyFor over 20 years, my husband Andy was the centre of my world – the sun around which I orbited.  I was 48 when he died suddenly and unexpectedly at home – and my world imploded.

We met in Scotland, but were to spend most of our married life overseas.  We lived for many years in Zimbabwe, Andy’s beautiful homeland. When his work took him to Afghanistan, Nigeria and Libya, I followed wherever I could and we worked our daughter’s schooling around local schools and latterly boarding.  So when Andy died, I found myself feeling not just without a reason to live, but also with no particular reason for exactly where to live.  Luckily, we had kept a base in my home town in Scotland, so it is here that I am making my efforts to build a different life.

It’s been just over three years now. I slowly found healthier ways to heal – I remind myself to meditate, to get out and walk, to contact friends. I’m enjoying cooking again, particularly for other people (cooking for one can be so hard – and I do love my food!).  I trained to be a volunteer counsellor, which I am finding not only immensely rewarding, but a therapeutic journey in itself. I have many good happy days and, still, some frankly awful ones.  I can laugh again, but often still feel terrified.  Generally I can now be more grateful than sad – grief is the price we pay for love.

Time has been a great healer, but I have found the most comfort in the company of those who have been through a similar experience – Ute and I found an immediate and empathetic bond when we met on a meditation retreat.  There is an ease – and relief – in spending time with fellow travellers on this difficult journey.  It helps to know that although I still feel loneliness, still miss Andy daily, I am not alone.

Beside having amazing cooking skills Alison is also a qualified counsellor.

{by the way….Alison is the creator of the term “soul spa”…it took us a long time to find the right name for what we offer…..soul spa is just perfect!}

Dr Avinash BansodeDr.Avinash

M.B.B.S (India), PG Certificate in Mindfulness Based Approaches (Bangor, UK)

Avinash will co-host the Soul Spas that have a particular focus on mindfulness and include teachings and dedicated exercises. He has a background and training in General Medicine and Buddhist Psychology. Originally from India, he is based in Edinburgh, offering mindfulness courses throughout Scotland. Avinash has been practising mindfulness since 1992. Over the years he has resided and taught at various meditation retreats both in India and UK, to deepen his practice and understanding of mindfulness and Buddhist psychology.

Avinash has been engaged in training and teaching secular mindfulness through ‘Mindfullybeing’, which he founded in 2010. He is Honorary Mindfulness Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh and Visiting Mindfulness Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, teaching staff and students. In his Integrative Approach to Wellbeing he brings together eastern meditative/contemplative and western/evidence based approaches.

He is developing a new programme called ‘KAMAL TRAINING’ (Kind and Mindful Approach to Living) which draws kindness explicitly and uniquely into mindfulness. His interest and passion is to cultivate and promote a more holistic, integrative (mind-body-heart) approach towards health.

Avinash has delivered mindfulness training to thousands of people across the public, corporate and third sectors, including Scottish Mental Health, NHS Scotland, University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, Skyscanner, Standard Life, RBS, Edinburgh Council , Barnardo’s, Y-People and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

I’ve rarely met a person who radiates calm and kindness as Avinash does. He hasn’t just trained in mindfulness but he LIVES mindfulness. {Ute}

Chef Lesley Gillespie

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Lesley will join us at some of the soul spas to spoil us with her cookery skills. She grew up in a family heavily immersed in the fishing industry and in an environment where food was fresh, seasonal and locally produced (often from the garden) and above all, home cooked.

Lesley is a professional chef who has a wide experience of teaching cookery skills to both young and old. Her award winning sustainable menu was showcased for the summer season at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and gave Lesley the opportunity to work in Scottish Chef of the Year Neil Forbes’ Cafe St Honore.  It was here that Lesley was introduced to Slow Food and has now become the first Slow Food Chef Alliance member for the North East Scotland. A scholarship award allowed Lesley to experience Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage and the Shoreditch Trust’s Waterhouse Restaurant.
As an award winning student Lesley was asked to remain and teach at college as a Chef Lecturer.  She is involved in many community food based initiatives and has carried out research projects for the QMU Scottish Centre for Food Innovation following her Masters Degree in Gastronomy. As a freelance chef, Lesley can be regularly seen at Aberdeenshire Farmers’ Markets showcasing and promoting local market produce. 
I believe that the philosophy of eating fresh local seasonal ingredients is of immeasurable benefit to the body and soul.  I feel privileged to be cooking dishes using the natural larder that will be available to us on Arran and Mull for the guests of the soul spa breaks.
So….only the best for our Soul Spa guests 🙂