Meet Meditation Australia member Dr Elinor van Ommen. Elinor is a Clinical Psychologist known for her holistic approach to psychological wellbeing. Her therapeutic focus is to understand the whole person, not just a collection of symptoms, and to help people identify and transcend unhelpful patterns that keep them feeling ‘stuck’. Elinor has many years experience working in specialist mental health clinics in both Melbourne and Perth, conducting individual and group therapy with inpatient and outpatient groups. She also has experience in educational settings and aged care. Elinor combines the professional expertise of her clinical training with her warmth and compassion to facilitate a safe space for understanding, change and growth.
I have been teaching mindfulness for a long time, and I would struggle to put a date on the beginning because it has informed my way of relating for a long time. Before practicing in psychology I worked in music therapy, often in aged care where residents often spoke of their home as “god’s waiting room”. The very present reality of death made mindfulness a perfect practice – through music, or conversation, learning to bring a present moment focus to the richness of life was profoundly touching for me. As a Psychologist I have been fortunate to engage in a lot of specialist practice where mindfulness is a core component of evidence based therapy in psychiatric hospitals and in private practice. In these settings I have gained a lot of insights around trauma-sensitive practice.
My earliest memory of meditation is around age 4 or 5 having some very moving experiences of life in nature in a very meditative way. I was a quiet child and enjoyed solitude, never feeling alone with a rich inner life and the joy of nature. My first formal practice began in my late 20’s living in San Francisco where I explored various practices and yogic traditions. From that age onward a morning practice of meditation and energetic hygiene became a staple of life.
I have a very pragmatic approach to meditation and whilst formal practice is essential, I also believe in bringing mindfulness to as many moments as possible. Today so far I have had 3 designated sessions: about 40 minutes lying down at home, 30 minutes with a group that I meet with regularly, and then 20 minutes with another a weekly group. Each experience quite unique but in all supporting a mindful way of being and relating.
I generally work without tools, although I have some self-recorded meditations that I sometimes listen to for extra assistance. I often take a walk at lunch time with headphones and a pod-cast or one of my own recordings to re-set my awareness in the middle of a busy day.
Inspiration is everywhere if we stop and notice. It could be a daisy finding a crack in the pavement or an advanced teacher sharing pearls of wisdom. I have been fortunate to meet some amazing teachers and am very grateful to each of you for being there when I most needed a nudge in my growth journey.
The golden key I have learned about teaching/facilitating is that it’s not about me. It’s not about my words or my voice, and it’s not even about trying to engineer an experience for other – it’s about sharing whatever I can that may be helpful, and meeting a person where they are at in their experience. Above all, the guiding principle is about doing no harm.
I love to bring gratitude as much as possible and I find much of that in the simplest of moments. Connecting to nature is always helpful, whether it is bush or beach, there is much in the natural beauty of the planet to make the heart swell with gratitude.
The most recent thing to make me smile was this question, which planted the suggestion I guess, and I was feeling quite willing to smile too, because a gentle smile is a pleasant experience inside and out.