Meet some of the many people who have close ties with Chisholme.


Robin Thomson

Linguist, learner, baker, cyclist

Robin helps to facilitate courses, among many other things.

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.

Nazir vBB.jpg

Nazir van Basten Batenburg
Course Facilitator

Nazir has been involved in Beshara and Chisholme since the 1970’s. Together with his wife Marijke Kretzers, he has been active in establishing Beshara groups and courses in the Netherlands for more than 10 years. Nazir also has a background in Zen meditation.

Nazir has been involved in Beshara and Chisholme since the 1970’s. Together with his wife Marijke Kretzers, he took part in several Beshara courses in the UK. Since then they have both been active in establishing Beshara groups and courses in the Netherlands for more than 10 years.

After some ‘time out’ while he concentrated his energy on raising a family and working as a professional antique dealer, Nazir became interested in Zen which led him to a Zen group in the Netherlands. He was inspired by the directness and practicality of Zen. A way to understand Zen is by being as near as possible to this moment in thinking, feeling and doing. Zen is like a finger pointing to the moon... Forget about the finger.

After a relatively short period, he was trained to teach people Zen meditation and started teaching about five years ago. Currently, he follows an ongoing program of learning, including regular Zen retreats.

Starting last year, he joined his wife Marijke in facilitating (online) ‘Discovering Unity’ courses on behalf of the Chisholme Institute.

In a life of learning I value good questions
and an inquiring open mind
better than the perfect answer


Colin Bingham
Long-term volunteer

Education, counselling, HR, management

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.


Peter Coates
Course facilitator

University lecturer (Philosophy), now retired. 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.

E Deutchman2.jpg

Elly Deutschmann
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 whatever 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 (three times Nobel Peace Prize nomenee) is a long-standing friend of Chisholme and occasionally runs workshops there.

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.

G Flowers web.jpg

Geoff Flowers
Oversees Maintenance

Geoff has worked in maintenance at Chisholme for many years. Although now officially retired, his expertise continue to be invaluable.

Geoff (Jethro) graduated as a civil engineer from Liverpool University and then spent 25 years as a highway contractor in England and the Middle East. He has been the maintenance manager since 2000. Having built a log-framed house in the grounds he intends to live on at Chisholme with his wife, Jili, even after his retirement.

“After working so long for commercial concerns, being here has brought a wonderful difference to my life. There is the peace, the strong sense of real service and I love meeting all the fascinating people who come on courses or come to volunteer. I would not want to leave - but anyway my house is here and my motorbike!”

Sara H sm.jpg

Sara Hirtenstein
Course facilitator

Sara works as course facilitator on online courses.

Sara Hirtenstein BHSc

Sara has been a student of the Beshara School and Chisholme for over forty years. She is a fully qualified mindfulness teacher, with many years experience of mindful awareness, meditation, retreat and contemplative study at Chisholme House. She also continues exploration of unity through the teachings and silent retreats of Adyashanti.

She was introduced to mindfulness at Chisholme House and went on to practice more deeply, taking a 3-year course in mindfulness, compassion and insight at Samye Ling Tibetan Centre. Over the next eight years she has trained with Bangor Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice to facilitate courses. More recently she has trained with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and now facilitates their newest courses “Mindfulness for Life” and “Mindfulness: Taking it Further”.

Sara has had many roles and experience during her life that enriches her present groupwork now: working in different business and charity settings, partner in a family publishing company, and occupational therapist. She lives in the Scottish Borders where she can thoroughly enjoy another great pleasure – walking in wild places and being in nature.


John Hill
Garden and Estate

John has been overseeing the management of the organic vegetable garden and the estate for many years. Now he helps and supports the next generation of gardeners.

John studied geology and social anthropology at Cambridge University and researched in ethnology at Oxford University. This led on naturally to courses at Chisholme. He is currently a garden designer and runs a landscaping business. John was a director of the Chisholme Institute until 2018. He continues to take particular responsibility for the estate and organic kitchen garden.

Marijke web.jpg

Marijke Kretzers
Course Facilitator

Merijke lives in the Netherlands. She visits Chisholme regularly to help facilitate courses or join in as a volunteer.

Marijke was born and raised in the Netherlands. During her time of studying and painting at art school profound questions arose for her 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 online study courses. Marijke has also followed a mindfulness teaching course with IAM (Instituut voor Aandacht en Mindfulness) in Belgium and she is a certified mindfulness trainer.

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. Marijke has worked as part of an international medical company for 10 years. She also became a certified restorer of paintings and now practices restoring art. Marijke is married, a mother of two sons and a grandmother. "Life and its unfolding in many aspects is every day a new beginning; an interesting challenge, invitation and gift of love."

Hakim web.jpg

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.


Julie Bingham

Counsellor and therapist

Julie looks after volunteers and visitors, and helps out in all areas of the school as needed.

Her professional training is in the NHS and Social Work. She has many years experience as a therapist in family-related areas and has worked extensively with children who are affected by trauma and/or have other, often complex needs.

She has spent many years studying and working at Chisholme, has participated in a number of short retreats and courses and completed two six-month intensive study retreats here.


Hayley Forsythe

Hayley is one of the many wonderful cooks who look after the kitchen at Chisholme from time to time.

Hayley was born in Scotland and raised in Ontario, Canada. One of her most rewarding work in recent years was to teach English to newly arrived Syrian refugees. Here at Chisholme she spends much time in the kitchen, cooking delicious dishes and learning new ones. In her spare time she enjoys writing poetry and hiking across the moors.


Hannah Dalgleish
Woodland Retreat Coordinator

Hannah helps to organise the woodland retreats at Chisholme.

Hannah (PhD in Astrophysics) has been visiting Chisholme all her life, volunteering and taking part in many of the different courses. From her home in Liverpool, she helps with running the social media accounts, and has been involved with organising the woodland retreats since 2017.

Hannah is this year taking up a postdoctoral research position in astronomy for development with the University of Oxford, working part-time for this in Namibia. In her spare time she enjoys singing, making pottery and going bouldering.


Peter Harbottle
Part-time Estate Manager

Peter takes care of the estate when he is at Chisholme.


Peter Yiangou
Course Facilitator

Architect (retired), teacher at University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, chair of the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation, long-time student and facilitator for Chisholme House.

I have been involved with Chisholme House and the former Beshara Centres in the Cotswolds since 1972. I participated in nearly all the courses offered since then and have seen at first hand the evolution of the various organisations set up to communicate the deeper understandings of the unity of existence. I have also explored other streams of wisdom and seen how these can complement what I learned at Chisholme House thorough the Beshara courses :

– In 1975 I was centre director at Swyre Farm, the first Beshara retreat centre.
– I was trustee and chairman of the Beshara Trust for some years in the 1980s and 90s
– From 2000 to 2014 I was involved with running annual courses in Indonesia and Australia
– From 2012 I have attended annual silent retreats with Adyashanti
– In 2015 I trained as a mindfulness teacher at the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre
– In 2016 I was invited to join the board of the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation and have held the chair since 2017

During this time I also somehow managed to bring up a family and establish an award-winning architectural practice from which I retired in 2019.

I look forward to working with the staff at Chisholme House to promote the online Discovering Unity programme and explore fresh and relevant ways to discover and communicate this priceless wisdom.