Course Leaders

We would like to introduce our Course Leaders for the Be Calm Be Happy, Mindfulness for Neurodiversity and Looking Deeply courses. Our Course Leaders are first and foremost practitioners committed to the Plum Village tradition. They all have a variety of experiences and found Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings through different means. Having a deep understanding through their own personal practice of the benefits of these teachings, the Course Leaders have trained to deliver the course through in-house training and practice. The list is in no particular order and gives a brief insight into their own experiences and practice.

Vari McLuskie

Vari was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1995 into the Order of Interbeing and as a lay Dharma teacher in 2012 and given the True name True Action of Loving Kindness. Vari arrived home on her first Plum Village mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in 1990. Life became brighter, calmer, more enjoyable and understandable.

She began to recognise how, supported by a mindfulness practice community, she could cultivate peace, love, and understanding in herself every day. It was clear that developing these qualities in herself also truly benefitted others. She put mindfulness practice and sangha at the centre of her life. Bit by bit; building her practice, accepting her shortcomings, encouraging herself through the difficulties – perceived and otherwise. Through difficult times in her life, she has practised seeing that there cannot be happiness without suffering (“no mud, no lotus”)– through the premature death of a beloved friend, the sudden deaths of her parents, the challenges of parenthood, and work and health challenges.

Vari has been an ordained Dharma teacher since 2012 and combines this responsibility with work as a Strategic Consultant. She has shared mindfulness in corporate settings, with female offenders and victims of sexual abuse as well as through Plum Village UK retreats and the Be Calm, Be Happy courses which she co-developed. Vari is based in the Midlands having lived many years in London.

Lauri Bower

Lauri has been practising meditation for over 30 years and met Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings in 2006, from which point she committed to putting mindfulness practice at the centre of her life

From 2008-12 she researched a PhD on Thich Nhat Hanh and his teachings of Mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism. With her PhD complete Lauri began teaching mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses and is delighted to bring this experience to courses devoted to the Plum Village mindfulness tradition. Mindfulness has become a crucial aspect of Lauri’s life and she has experienced first-hand the transformational aspects of peacefulness, calm and clarity that this practice generates. She has many years’ experience of running and organising retreats.

She teaches the Be Calm Be Happy and Looking Deeply courses, and Mindful Writing Workshops. She is firmly committed to the Plum Village approach to mindfulness and received the transmission of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings at Plum Village in 2014 to become an Order member. Her True name is True Mountain of Non-Fear.

Lauri also has a creative practice as a paper collage artist and finds the combination of mindfulness and creativity fit together extremely well. Her creative work (poetry, handmade books and cards and original artwork) can be viewed from her website. Lauri lives in Yorkshire and practises with the York Sangha.

Katie Sheen

Katie first discovered mindfulness in 2001 and practiced in various Buddhist traditions before discovering the Plum Village ‘Heart of Manchester’ Sangha in 2013.

Having worked in brain tumour charities for 20 years in both patient support and research management roles, alongside studying for a PGCE and MA Education that enabled her to teach nutrition at Universities and Colleges, her own cancer treatment in 2015 highlighted with even greater clarity the practicality, healing nature and joyful simplicity of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Grateful for having her mindfulness practice as the anchor that she needed in order to process the physical and emotional trauma of her experience, she now teaches mindfulness full-time.

Katie received the 5 Mindfulness Trainings in 2016 and was given the Dharma name Dharma Light of The Heart.

Ian Sneath

Ian has recently returned from living in Plum Village for two years, this experience allowed him to immerse himself in Thay’s deep-wisdom mindfulness teachings

Ian discovered Thay 12 years ago after studying various mindfulness teachers. In 2014 he attended the 21-day retreat, “What happens when we are alive, what happens when we die?” led by Thay. This was a deeply powerful, healing, and transformative teaching that made Ian stop, look deeply, and realise that he had been on the wrong entrepreneurial path for most of his life. Mindfulness has given Ian so much benefit, helping every aspect of his life (ethics, health, relationships, compassion, insight, concentration, livelihood, peace, kindness, openness, etc) and his volition is now to dedicate his life to continuing to deepen his practice, to lead a happy and joyful life and to help bring Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings to others.


Sylvia Clare and David Hughes

Sylvia and David between them have accrued over 78 yrs of personal mindfulness practice.They have both explored many forms of mindfulness and have been teaching it to groups and individuals for over twenty five years, either as a team or individually.

David remains an independent Buddhist but Sylvia has found the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh worked best of all for her needs. Sylvia is also  a writer and author of many books on personal, emotional, and spiritual development, sometimes co-authored with David. Sylvia’s dharma name is Peaceful Garden of the Heart, which entirely suits her personality. David has not followed this path but recognises the profound wisdom in Thay’s teaching. Sylvia has lived a life of coping with ADHD and PTSD both personally and with her sons. David has lived a life of coping with Sylvia and her sons. Mindfulness is the basis for our entire relationship as a couple and has enabled us to cope with many moments of deep grief and adversity as well as great joy. Between us we have a rich resource of tips and support options for people with PTSD and neurodiversity issues and how mindfulness can support living well with them, both emotionally and managing symptoms. We are both very committed to supporting this community of mindful practitioners. Titles specifically related to these courses are:

  1. the book most closely associated to the course, Living With and Loving ADHD and Neurodiversity: Clare, Sylvia, Hughes, David: 9798700623629: Books
  2. a personal memoir of growing up with ADHD and PTSD and how she healed through it, including the role Plum Village played  No Visible Injuries: Clare, Sylvia: 9798628385388: Books
  3. and a dictionary approach memoir to learning to manage emotions, much of it using mindful insights Travelling the Alphabet Emotionally: A journey through life’s ups and downs: Clare, Sylvia: 9781731266743: Books

Clare Belbin-Carlile

Clare first encountered Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings through his books and subsequently retreats from 1998.She became increasingly committed to her daily practice with the support of the Sanghas in York and Kirkbymoorside, and it is now a central part of her life.

The Plum Village tradition has enabled Clare to work with the demands of a complex life managing a large shared household to benefit the needs of adults with special needs, alongside bringing up her own four children. She provided guidance and teaching for young interns over many years. Clare’s mindfulness practice is deeply rooted in her daily practice which includes drawing and painting in the Helmsley Walled Garden. Clare studied Fine Art at Newcastle and completed her postgraduate degree at Edinburgh. Clare’s practice transforms and enlivens everything she does.


Letizia Nodari

Letizia has been practising mindfulness meditation in the Interbeing tradition since 2002.

She has attended retreats regularly in order to deepen her understanding of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and increase her ability to incorporate them in her daily life. Having experienced the benefits of regular mindfulness practice for herself, she has developed a will to share it with others: she has been facilitating mindfulness meditation groups in this tradition for eight years.

Letizia received the Five Mindfulness Trainings in 2005 and her Dharma name is ‘Source of openness of heart”. Thanks to modern technology, she  is currently practising with both a UK based sangha (York) and the Italian national online sangha.

She is one of the interpreters who help with the translation into Italian of the Dharma talks offered by the monastic community in Plum Village France.


Shaun Donaghy

Shaun hosts the podcast ‘Mindfulness for Beginners’ and has also facilitated mindfulness groups within workplace organisations.

 He enjoys speaking about mindfulness at seminars and events, and he is also a passionate writer.  Shaun received the Five Mindfulness Trainings with the name ‘Calm Approach of the Heart’.

Jan Cook

Jan attended a Mindfulness-based stress reduction course about 9 years ago, when she was looking to find some peace and calmness in herself. Following the course she went to various mindfulness groups to try to sustain the mindfulness practice.

One of the groups she stumbled across was the Oxford Sangha which follows the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition; she soon realised she had found her practice “home”. Since then she has attended many retreats and has followed the teachings to help her live a calmer and happier life. She is grateful for the continuing support from being a part of, and helping to run, the local group.