Current staff


Colin Bingham


Colin jointly takes care of Chisholme with Robin Thomson.

Colin originally graduated in the Social Sciences, went on to train as a Further Education teacher and in recent years undertook a degree in Integrative Counselling, a Post Graduate Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness Practitioner courses.

He spent much of his adult life in youth work then in the special education sector. Within this period Colin attended two six month intensive retreat courses at Chisholme. Before joining the Caretaking Team at Chisholme, Colin worked in drug and alcohol treatment for fifteen years. He is married to Julie, who also works full-time at Chisholme.


Robin Thomson

Linguist, learner, baker, cyclist

Robin jointly takes care of Chisholme with Colin Bingham.

Robin has been a student at Chisholme for a number of years and has undertaken various retreats there. He enjoys learning new languages and encountering people from other countries, and translates from German and Russian. Additionally Robin is a keen cyclist, walker and runner and enjoys travel, particularly in Central Asia. He also likes to bake bread at Chisholme and enjoys classical music, especially choral singing.

Visiting Speakers and Course Facilitators

The school benefits hugely from visiting speakers and course facilitators – all of whom contribute to the vibrancy and depth of the education offered – be it a fresh translation of a core text, a seminar exploring ethical food production or a workshop in greenwwod chair-making.

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Avi Abadi
Course facilitator

Avi has been a student of Ibn ‘Arabi’s works for many years.


Janet Bowers
Course Facilitator

Janet Bowers has lived and worked in London as a Core Process Psychotherapist in private practice for 13 years. Core process is a mindfulness based model with Buddhist principles.

Janet has been a student of the Beshara School for more than 40 years. She is particularly interested in the potential for transformation in correlating the profound truths studied at the school, in her work, in ourselves and in our lives.


John Brass
Course facilitator

John Brass is a conservator in gilding and carving.

John Brass is the author of Fish See Water: A Treatise on Gilding.
He studied Fine Art at Canterbury College of Art and then taught painting. In his early twenties he came upon Beshara where he began studying the works of Ibn 'Arabi.
He attended both the preliminary and the advanced six-month Residential Retreat Courses at the Beshara School of Intensive Esoteric Education, under the direction of Bulent Rauf, and then joined the staff as a course supervisor. John works as a conservator in gilding and carving for the colleges of Oxford University.

Read his personal tribute to Bulent Rauf, founder of the school at Chisholme, here.

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John Brix
Visiting chef

John cooks for everyone at Chisholme most weekends with locally sourced fish on Saturdays and a traditional Sunday roast.

John has loved cooking from an early age, inspired first by his mother and later by Bulent Rauf. He has worked professionally for many years and although now retired, brings his experience and love of the art of cooking to Chisholme most weekends. Two of his signature Saturday fish dishes can be found on the blog here and again here. His traditional Sunday roasts use local organic chicken and lamb from Mary Howlett and, from time to time, local pheasant and venison. John's roast potatoes simply must be tasted!

Note: Chisholme is not vegetarian but meat is prepared with the deepest respect for its benefit and origin. Meanwhile vegetarian dishes comprise the majority of the food served during the week and are always available as an option, even on Sundays.

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Jane Clark
Course facilitator

Jane has been engaged with the study of the mystical traditions, and in particular the great Islamic writer, Ibn ‘Arabi, for more than 40 years.

Originally trained in science, Jane studied at the Beshara School and University of Oxford. She is a Senior Research Fellow of the Muhiyddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, and over the years has given many lectures and seminars on Ibn ‘Arabi’s ideas both within the UK and internationally, as well as running courses on Islamic mysticism for the University of Oxford, the Temenos Academy and the Beshara Trust. She is currently working with Stephen Hirtenstein and Cecilia Twinch on a new translation of Ibn ‘Arabi’s ‘The Ringstones of Wisdom’, and editing a collection of articles by the extraordinary monk-poet Dom Sylvester Houédard. She is also the editor of Beshara Magazine, which aims to express the ideas found in the great mystical traditions in a contemporary context.


Peter Coates
Course facilitator

Peter is the author of Ibn 'Arabi and Modern Thought: The History of Taking Metaphysics Seriously.

Peter graduated from the University of Lancaster and researched at Keble College, University of Oxford. He was Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Dept of Psychology, at The University of Lincoln. Peter has been connected with the dissemination of Ibn 'Arabi's universal perspective for many years. He has given talks on Ibn 'Arabi and Plato, Ibn 'Arabi and Kierkegaard, and Ibn 'Arabi and William James. He has also written on Ibn 'Arabi and the Ecological Crisis. He served as a Director of the Chisholme Institute for many years and helped supervise the six-month winter retreats at Chisholme. He has travelled, by invitation, to Australia, America, Morocco and a number of UK destinations giving talks and facilitating courses.


Michael Cohen
Course facilitator

Michael Cohen has an abiding interest in the relationship between science and spirituality.

Michael studied Mathematics at various Universities and currently teaches Mathematics in London. He was a student on two intensive Beshara courses at Chisholme and Sherborne. He is a Trustee of the Beshara Trust and has helped to run courses and seminars under the aegis of the Trust in London and elsewhere covering various spiritual traditions, especially the work of Ibn Arabi and his school.

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Jonathan Davey
Course Facilitator

A former teacher and occupational health & safety advisor who now offers Mindful Self Compassion sessions in a hospice and yoga centre.

Jonathan studied Human Resource Management at Cardiff University and Safety and Environmental Management at Nottingham Trent University. He has worked as a teacher of English in the Sudan, as a social worker, teacher, owner/manager of a wholesale bakery, College business development manager and latterly as a consultant in safety management systems.

He has spent long periods on intensive retreat courses at Chisholme and helped facilitate a number of courses there.

Jonathan completed a Mindfulness teaching course at Samye Ling run by the Mindfulness Association, a one year Mindfulness Association practitioners course and a Macmillan Mindfulness Compassion facilitators course.

He and his wife Carol now facilitate drop in Mindfulness sessions in Buxton, at Blythe House Hospice, Chapel-en-le-Frith, and at Macclesfield Yoga centre.

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Elly Deutschman
Course facilitator

"Since my earliest childhood I loved to draw; it is my life-long passion."

I was introduced to Beshara and the idea of the oneness of being in 1979. This struck a cord, and my husband and I participated in two six-month retreats at Chisholme. The courses were profound and deeply transformative. Many things changed for me then. One such change was that I no longer wanted to draw what I saw with my physical eyes, nor wanted to draw from my imagination. It became crystal clear that what I really want is to concentrate and listen to the interior, and bring out what wants to be expressed from there. Learning how to do this needed years of practice. It became possible to share this learning, and develop it further, when I was invited to run courses in intuitive drawing at a Center in Maastricht, my home town in Holland. I love working as part of a group; the collective intention brings about a concentration which is so much deeper than what is possible to achieve on my own.


Scilla Elworthy
Visiting Speaker

Scilla Elworthy Ph D has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Scilla Elworthy Ph D has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Oxford Research Group which she founded in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers and their critics. She founded Peace Direct in 2003 to fund, promote and learn from local peace-builders in conflict areas, and was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’. She co-founded Rising Women Rising World in 2014, and teaches self knowledge to young social entrepreneurs.

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Sara Hirtenstein
Course facilitator

Sara was introduced to Mindfulness at Chisholme House, where it lit such a passion in her heart that over the next eight years she set out on a path of deeper study and practice: first with the Mindfulness Association and then to train extensively in teaching Mindfulness.

Sara Hirtenstein BHSc.

Sara was introduced to Mindfulness at Chisholme House, where it lit such a passion in her heart that over the next eight years she set out on a path of deeper study and practice: first with the Mindfulness Association and then to train extensively in teaching Mindfulness.

Sara has had many years experience of mindful awareness, meditation, retreat and contemplative study.

"Mindfulness has brought me much joy, nourishment and greater understanding as well as the skills and insight for navigating the ups and downs of life. The learning goes on..."

Living now in the Scottish Borders gives Sara ample opportunity for another great pleasure – walking in wild places, being in nature and exploring wildlife.

Sara has had many roles and experience during her life that enrich and enhance her present work now: working in different business and charity settings, partner in a family publishing company, copy editor, course facilitation, occupational therapist and mother of four sons.

Brief Resume of Mindfulness Training

• Introduction to Mindfulness, Chisholme Institute

• 3-year Mindfulness, Compassion and Insight Training, Mindfulness Association

• Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher training retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn (pioneer of contemporary mindfulness)

• MBSR and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy teacher training with Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (ongoing)

• Mindfulness in Schools Project training to teach 8-week course for teachers

• Oxford Mindfulness Centre training to teach new Mindfulness for Life (MBCT for Life) course for Myriad Project

• Listed member of the UK Network for Mindfulness Teachers and follows the UK Good Practice Guidelines.

Some Experience

• Facilitation of introductory workshops, 8-week courses, deepening sessions in the Borders and beyond for 5 years

• Recent completion of 8-week Mindfulness for Life course for secondary school teachers (who then learn to teach the children), for Oxford University Centre for Mindfulness 7-year Myriad research project evaluating the effectiveness of mindfulness on resilience in adolescence


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Marijke Kretzers
Director, On-line Courses

Merijke supervises our worldwide on-line courses.

Marijke was born and raised in the Netherlands. During her time of studying and painting at art school profound questions arose about the meaning and purpose of life. In the search for self knowledge she came into contact with the Beshara School in the United Kingdom in 1975. Since then Marijke has been involved with various courses and retreats at the Chisholme Institute in Scotland, where she helped design and develop the online study courses. Marijke has also followed a mindfulness teaching course with IAM (Instituut voor Aandacht en Mindfulness) in Belgium.

Integrating the spiritual way into daily life in the Netherlands, Marijke has facilitated evening courses in study and meditation as well as 8-week mindfulness courses in Maastricht, NL. She restores paintings and is married, a mother of two sons and a grandmother.

"Life and it’s unfolding in many aspects is every day a new beginning; an interesting challenge, invitation and gift of love."

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Prof. Alan Williams
Visiting speaker

Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at The University of Manchester

  • MA in Oriental Studies (Persian and Arabic) (Oxford),
  • PhD in Iranian Studies (SOAS, London)
  • Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion
  • Head of Religions and Theology in the School of Arts Histories and Cultures 2008-2011
  • Joined the University of Manchester in 1985

Prof Williams is the editor of Rumi: Spiritual Verses (Penguin Classics 2006) and the author of The Vision of Rumi: Revealing the Masnavi, Persia's Great Masterpiece (IB Tauris). He presented the Beshara Lecture 2016 at St Ethelburga’s Centre, London and again at Chisholme.

In June 2016 Alan led a one-week seminar at Chisholme, Rumi: The Text as Teacher with the musicologist Rokus de Groot. Read more here.

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Peter Young
School Principal 1984–2015 and visiting speaker

Peter was the Principal at Chisholme from 1984 to 2015 and he continues to lecture and supervise courses at Chisholme and worldwide.

Peter (Hakim) studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge, and Ottoman Turkish at Oxford. For a time, he worked as a psychiatric nurse and later ran his own building company. In the mid-seventies he came to the Beshara School at Chisholme as a student, undertaking two intensive retreat courses under the supervision of the late Bulent Rauf.

He was principal of the school from 1984–2015, devoting his life to serving the school and its students. Recently he led the development of new study and retreat courses in both self-enquiry and self-knowledge (Discovering Unity), and he continues to lecture and supervise courses at Chisholme and worldwide. He is married and has four children and several grandchildren and now lives in Edinburgh.