I have been the driving force behind the development of Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre. After attending my first retreat decades ago I began to dream of a space in the woods to share the experience with others. I’m a rather stubborn individual and was very determined to make this dream a reality despite the incredible number of roadblocks along the way. I have committed to myself to embodying mindfulness and emotional intelligence in all that I do. I love sharing what I’ve learned and after 25 years of mindfulness training I still believe I’m scratching the surface and have much to learn. As I say in all my workshops “We’re never done”.
I worked as a Chartered Accountant in Toronto in what I think of as my `other life’. I became vegetarian at age 25, started meditating and studying holistic health and nutrition for fun, and left the corporate world at age 30, in what I now call my ‘early mid-life crisis’. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wasn’t meant to sit in an office. I traveled, backpack style, for a couple years before returning to school. Completing an M.A. Ed. through Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, that resulted in being a psychotherapist. I bring an eclectic mix of training in many different models of therapy which results in therapy being tailored to one’s needs. I am also a certified yoga teacher. I teach yoga as a form of meditation and incorporate mindfulness into daily activities. I do stop and smell the roses in the garden, pause to hear the beating of wings and pour love into cooking, cleaning and teaching. I continue to study, believing that one’s education never really ends. My favourite teacher right now is my son Ben who at a very young age intuitively named some of the gardens “The gods garden” which had a Buddha statue in it (as opposed to the medicine wheel garden which he calls “The earth’s garden” which is apparently “more important because we have to take care of the earth now”). I love the work I do and feel blessed to have such incredible teachers constantly coming here to share my vision.
I also feel blessed to call Sugar Ridge home. It truly is paradise. I live here with my husband Kurt, son Ben, 3 dogs and 2 cats. I wake to the sound of birds at dawn, appreciate the view which changes every moment. The joy of my life is to play with Ben and go on ‘expeditions’ of the property. The property is so big we haven’t even seen it all yet. When Ben was much younger we found where the fairies live and of course our secret land of Rabbit and Toad. I am passionate about the organic gardens of Sugar Ridge and love to get dirty. I feel more at home in the forest than in the house and I’m not scared of the dark. Midnight walks with coyotes howling is heaven to me.
The first time I walked through the cedar forest here, I felt like I was home.
I knew this was the place I’d been dreaming of.
My path to Sugar Ridge really started in 1998 when I was working as a stressed-out professional engineer in Toronto. In order to find a way to learn to relax, I searched my midtown neighbourhood for tai chi and yoga classes. One yoga teacher I found, Marie Paulyn, lived and was running her classes only a block away from where I was living. This was too easy… I thought I would give it a try. After my first class with her, I walked out with a stupid grin on my face, from that very universal, post-yoga feeling of being both incredibly relaxed and energized at the same time. I was hooked! I took classes with Marie for about a year, when she approached me and said I would be a good candidate for her teacher training program.
By the end of the teacher training program I realized that I really liked working with people. My job as an engineering manager was sort of a “people person” job, but it was far too corporate and “bottom line” focused for my liking. With this mind set change, I became intrigued by Marie’s other career as a psychotherapist. I looked into psychotherapy training (initially as “leadership training”, as I told my company) and began that new path. I fell backwards into a Masters degree in Educational Psychology and fell in love with my wife Liz (who was a fellow student in the Masters program).
After Liz and I got married (a few months after we met), we packed up and moved to Midland, where her family was from and where she was living part-time already. I quit my engineering job and have worked teaching yoga or in the mental health sector since.
Liz’s dream of owning a retreat centre lead us on a multiyear search for the “perfect” property. We passed over the current Sugar Ridge property several times over the years, thinking it was too expensive. One day we thought we would give it a look and we were sold. The land was just perfect for our vision. We purchased the property and moved to the country just outside of Midland. The Sugar Ridge dream was just beginning and our work hasn’t stopped since…
In addition to our work at Sugar Ridge, Liz and I also maintain private psychotherapy and coaching practices, Masala Integrative Lifecare. To broaden my interest in working with men, I also host the website and blog The Men’s Group.