Nilima Raichoudhury grew up in the beautiful South Wales Valleys. It was in Abergavenny Young Peoples Theatre she discovered her love of theatre as a powerful educational storytelling medium. It led her to London to study Community Theatre Arts at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama.
She graduated as the 1st student in her year to get a full professional equity card to work with Nottingham Young Peoples Theatre and subsequently spent the next 10 successful years touring and collaborating with schools, colleges, theatres, community centres all over the UK with educational theatre projects, providing a range of curriculum and community needs.
Scriptwriting, performing, directing with follow-up workshops became her speciality.
Projects included working with East London migrant children who had English as a second language, working with various ethnic groups in Glasgow, a long stint in Nottingham and York dealing with young people’s needs, scriptwriting and performing various pieces on disability, gang culture, mental health etc, finally settling back in London to work with the Half Moon Theatre in Stepney Green.
In a dramatic career change after a life threatening illness, she became a Taoist practitioner and in a period of deep meditation, retreat and study over a number of years, she became adept in Taoist healing arts, achieving a full and complete recovery in her health.
In this period of dedicated retreat and ‘temple life’ she met and studied with many Taoist masters. Her root teachers in the different disciplines were Mantak Chia who taught her the secret of Inner Alchemy (Nei Gong), Prof Wang Tin Jun, a rare realised Daoshi (enlightened adept) who was to have a huge and lasting influence in her life. He taught her the secrets of Qi Gong and Shi Jing, a meditation master and lineage holder of the sitting meditation tradition. Nilima also became a scholar of some of the ancient Taoist texts.
Nilima runs her Taoist school the Lotus Tree in West London where she lives and works as a practitioner, healing and training a whole new generation of patients, students, and practitioners.
She is also dedicated to her community life and when the horror and tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire happened in June 2017, the last year has seen her support her beloved community in their collective recovery. This includes campaigns to ensure the safety of all such buildings in the UK still in danger.
Nilima is currently writing a book with her long-term student Tarik on the accessibility of Taoist Practices for the 21st century.
I discovered that the extraordinary inner and outer healing quest I embarked on to make sense of my experiences; lay in healing, rebuilding what had been separated, fragmented in my life from a young age, undermining the earth and roots of an ordinary peaceful life.
“Isolated through opposition, One sees one’s companions as a pig covered with dirt, As a wagon full of devils. First one draws a bow against him, Then one lays the bow aside. He is not a robber, he will woo at the right time. As one goes, rain falls, then good fortune comes.” (Kuei.Opposition.Hexagram 38. I Ching).
Well what on earth does that mean? For me, a lifetime of resisting myself, my nature, life, employing struggle, striving, shaping, contriving to “get by” till I simply couldn’t any more. Illness and exhaustion and the subsequent path to recovery, slowly brought me back to realising a path, (not goal) orientated process was the only way. I had given myself no other option really.
Two important books came my way, The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying and the The I Ching (Yi Jing) and amazingly enough; a Taoist neighbour who had taught himself many of Mantak Chia’s Universal Tao system of simple Nei Gong (inner work meditations) and exercises. He proved to be a natural and talented teacher, friend and mentor for the next few years we spent together in practice, in our small, vibrant, creative, semi squatting housing community in West London. “One meets his lord in a narrow street” (Kuei Hexagram 38 .I Ching ).
We discount help in daily life, often because it is so ordinary, simply given, it slips our attention whilst looking for the “brilliant” solution. Circumstances such as mine at the time, bring us back to the necessary simplicity and gratitude that comes from the smallest kindnesses and I had a whole community behind me. Luck ? Maybe not…
In practice, I immediately felt a connection to Mantak Chia’s Nei Gong inner meditations. By accessing the energy pathways, my body, health and spirit experienced a direct and unequivocal benefit from the very first meditations and proved extremely beneficial during the hospital process.In hindsight I can say it was crucial to the quality of the full physical and holistic recovery I made.
Later, I formalised my training with the Universal Tao System of Mantak Chia and his instructors and was indeed taught and guided through my teacher training programme by Master Mantak Chia. This was the start of my teaching life.
In a 6 year period of intense self exploration, study retreat, solo cultivation, I cultivated from predominantly Taoist/Buddhist meditations and training and was lucky enough to hear the Dalai Lama a few times and occasionally study with Sogyal Rinpoche (lineage holder Buddhist Dzogchen tradition and current author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) as well as the myriad of dedicated cultivators, friends, teachers and mentors in the Sangha and Taoist community. I thank you all.
Meeting your Root Influence
Prof Wang Tin Jun
Around 2000, I finally met my root sifu, the man who was to have the most profound impact on my practice and life. Prof Wang Tin Jun of the Lung Men school. A Dao Shi ,(adept) master qigong practitioner (Xing Shen Zhuang) and meditator, he took everything I has picked up and slowly gave coherence to my long term cultivation, what it really is.
I love him for doing the hard, unpopular work with a student to develop a true practice; helping the student clear their ground, putting up with the ego tantrums as consciousness slowly emerges, laying the foundations of soft discipline, a motiveless commitment, the difference between true and deluded enthusiasm, the principles and master key approach to life through the experience of practice. I could go on and on, suffice to say his way has become an integral part of me, his legacy, my students’ legacy.
Prof Wang passed away unexpectedly Dec 18th 2009. My journey in consciousness with him continues and he continues to be a much loved presence in the Lotus Tree.
“If one does not count on the harvest while ploughing, nor on the use of the ground while clearing it, it furthers one to undertake something” ” we should do every task for its own sake as time and place demands and not with an eye to the result. Then each task turns out well and anything we undertake succeeds” Wu Wang, Innocent (The Unexpected)
All this has to this point, shaped me to essentially become an autonomous and independent practitioner rather than a follower of any one lineage. My experiences influence my teaching approach, from the recovery of health through Taoist principles to a path of self exploration and expression.
It is important to me that the way is accessible, ordinary and realisable at any stage and that all students are credited with having their own unique understanding of themselves. I prefer practice to be an intimate personal experience developed by the student themselves with my job as a facilitator in the principles of the material .
Of course the integrity of the proper material can only be discovered through opening long term practice as a real and self tested reality. I honestly believe that the journey to discover this “proper material” through pitfalls and all, is an important process in honing one’s discriminatory senses to what’s useful and what isn’t. The I Ching text proves invaluable in this process.
“Pay heed to the providing of nourishment, and to what a man seeks, To fill his own mouth with.” (I.Corners of the Mouth/Providing Nourishment. Hexagram 27, I Ching).
This is my way but not the only way . The Lotus Tree root that links and coalesces all parts of the curriculum, text meditation and life practice study is the perseverance to study thoroughly and patiently; enjoying long term cultivation. There is “no getting there”or “achieving that” but a continuous expressive process. My students’ experiences confirm that progress (Ta Yu. Possession in Great Measure. Hexagram 14. I Ching ) kind of creeps up on you unnoticed!
Lotus Tree Students
Long term Lotus Tree students are indeed a joyful and sometimes anarchic bunch who are as much a practice family and friends these days as anything else! They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and own wisdom to the school and are invaluable to the heart and ground, the continuing existence of The Lotus Tree. Indeed often they have been my teachers and my pillars of wisdom. They take great joy in returning my words and practice back to me when I really need it and don’t want it!
My love to you.
Continued Cultivation and Practice
These days my personal practice is a process of cultivating, distilling all and sitting with a deeper flow. I am lucky to have found a wonderful, relaxed, Taoist Meditation Dao Shi (as much a friend as teacher) to guides me through the practice of Clear and Tranquil sitting meditation and Tao Te Ching Study and I’ve gained some kung fu training along the way.
“The town may be changed, But the Well cannot be changed. It neither decreases nor increases. They come and go and draw from the well.” (The Well. Hexagram 48. I-Ching).