the accidental psychologist

I accidentally became a psychologist. I was busy trying to figure out the answers to life, the universe and everything as a young person. Studying psychology seemed a good route to pursue this quest.

Then, in my first job in the profession (1989), I ended up face to face with real people; real struggles, real suffering. It was quite a shock. My learning took a new twist as I realised my job was actually to facilitate change in others. I learned more techniques to help my clients make changes so their lives could be less struggle; less suffering. However, I was often bamboozled. The light bulb has got to want to change! What do you do if it doesn’t????

Change appeared like it was an inside job.

Now I was suffering because change wasn’t happening in my clients in the direction or speed that I wanted it to. I was busy trying to fix people, not realising this way of looking at them might be the problem itself.

Also this “fixing the broken” attitude had me personally alarmed. When my own life looked a bit messy, I thought I’d better not let anyone know this!!! I thought needed to have it all together, or at least look like I did. And I didn’t!! On so many levels… body, heart, mind…

NeLi Martin - Photograph by

NeLi Martin – Photograph by

In my confused and close to burnt out state, I started to learn Yoga (1992) and later Buddhist meditation (2000) for myself. Many years on the path, including learning to teach in both of these traditions, restored me (and allowed me to continue to pursue my quest for answers to life, the universe and everything, which I now know is 42 ;-)

People are not a maths problem to solve, but a sunset to behold
– Kelly Wilson, founder of ACT

Looking for answers keeps us from seeing that life is a paradox; a mystery unfolding.

I returned to psychology because mindfulness had entered the field with sound evidence. Yoga studies are also finding good results. I love it when contemporary science catches up with ancient traditions.

I began to have faith in the profession of psychology again.

Others were realising our interactions ARE the context for change for our clients. Our presence seems to matter. The quality of our presence matters greatly. In so many ways we need to be the change we want to see; to restore ourselves to wholeness so we can presence others to know this too.

How do we do restore ourselves and others to wholeness?

I know the evolution of my own body, heart and mind depended on engaging deeply in the practices of yoga and meditation. So deeply I was teaching these disciplines.

This work enlivens my heart.

From my study and direct practice experience, I know we all have great potential for living free and vital lives.

Our values and our pain are poured from the same vessel.

Deep connection to our struggles and pain with authentic acceptance and compassion allows a transformation that opens us to this deep joy, happiness, gratitude and vitality – guided by our values; what we care about deeply.

Whole, we are then available to life and others.

Yoga Inspirations

I remember my first yoga class in London in 1992. I left the studio to drive away and had to adjust the rear view mirror; noticing my spine significantly taller and feeling stronger and lighter. This romance and fascination with yoga has never really ended. As a young psychologist and therapist, burdened through the system by responsibility for my clients; and on my way to burn out, Yoga had a hugely positive impact on my own physical and mental health from the beginning. At some point I realised yoga was helping me more than any supervision or therapy training. I wanted to find a way to offer this to others.

I have been teaching yoga since 1998. I completed my teacher training with the British Wheel of Yoga in England and Wales. Initially influenced by Alexander technique and Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bihar and Viniyoga traditions, my integrated approach to teaching yoga was inspired for ten years by the work of the late Vanda Scaravelli. This work is strong and gentle. My main teacher was Bill Wood. I also attended workshops with Diane Long. See my blog post on being inspired by Scaravelli. Since 2011, I have worked with Julie Smerdon and other teachers from the Anusara tradition; finding delight in the precise alignment and joyful approach.

These days the dawn sun as well as friends and yoga teacher colleagues on the sunshine coast help keep my practice sane.

NeLi Martin - Photograph by
NeLi Martin - Photograph by

Dharma Dance = A fusion of Yoga and Dance

As part of my fascination with embodied movement and life, I’ve been practicing conscious dance since 2000. I’ve danced predominantly 5 Rhythms with a number of teachers in UK since 2000, and in Australia regularly since 2007 with Deva Nandan and Honor Morningstar. I’ve attended 5 Rhythms workshops with Adam Barley and Andrea Juhan as well as Shiva Shakti classes and workshops with Holly Wodetzki. I’ve trained with Shiva Rae to teach Yoga Trance Dance. I’ve learned contact improvisation dance from Sarah Beckmann, Robert Krzisnik, Vangelis Legakis. I’m currently at my edge learning with my local group of dedicated improv dancers on the Sunshine Coast led by Joerg Hassmann and supported by Alexander Kohl, Miho Nida, Jaimie Lee and others.

Every month I facilitate Dharma Dance on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, 6.30 – 8.30pm at Tinbeerwah Hall, Noosa. All the other Wednesdays I am lucky enough to be facilitated by my dear and wonderful Conscious Dance Noosa collective colleagues; Katja Hoffman, Angela Kapudija and Rochelle Adam. Find our events on FB

Meditation Inspirations

My interest in sitting meditation came initially from yoga, but has been more influenced by the Buddhist traditions. My main influences have been western insight teachers and a secular approach to Buddhist Dharma Practice. I have been a Dharma practitioner since 2000. Mindfulness is the core practice of Vipassana or Insight tradition. Metta, Loving Kindness is also a key supportive practice.

I lived in the UK for 13 years. I sat many long and short retreats at Gaia House in Devon UK. I was a manager at this retreat centre over a couple of years. This centre is affiliated with Spirit Rock in California and IMS in Massachusetts, USA.

Most of the founding teachers at Gaia House and the sister centres were influenced by Theravada traditions, particularly the Thai Forest Tradition. However, Stephen and Martine Bachelor (now based in France) were more influenced by Korean Zen (and Stephen also by Tibetan). Up to 2015 I’ve cumulatively sat more than 1 year in silent meditation.

NeLi Martin

I began teaching meditation in 2005, mentored by Catherine McGee, who teaches at Gaia House and other places in the UK, NZ and Israel. I also have guidance to teach from Stephen Batchelor’s Secular Buddhist perspective.

I also spent 6 months as Roshi Joan Halifax’s assistant at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is a Maezumi Roshi, White Plum Sangha – a synthesis of both Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions. Roshi Joan Halifax has been a regular contributor to the Mind and Life Institute in USA .

I initially sat with a Tibetan Rigpa group and attended retreats with FWBO – Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, but I know less about them and don’t currently practice in these traditions.

In Australia, I have sat with a variety of teachers. I have sat and taught with Geoff Simpson and attended the Dharma Facilitators Program lead by Radha Nicholson and have sat retreats with Jess HuonPatrick Kearney and assisted in organising Stephen and Martine Batchelor’s visits to Australia in 2012 and 2014. I have attended a number of Dharma Yatras led by Victor von der Heyde and Ronny Hickel and assisted teaching yoga on Summit to Sea Yatra.

If you have read this far, I’m humbled. I come from a long line of students who have learned, practiced and embodied teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions and Psychology. I am indebted to these teachers mentioned above and many more (including my mother, father and family, my students, friends and clients) for my paths of learning. Many thanks to all for your patience with me.

Psychology Influences

When I was 2 years old I started to ask “why?” My mother says I never stopped with that question. I guess it drove her to distraction. It drove me to a life fuelled by curiosity and exploration into life’s mysteries.


The curiosity got me to the University of Queensland where I discovered the discipline of Psychology encouraged my questioning into everything. I first registered as a Psychologist in Qld in 1991 and have worked in child protection, juvenile justice, domestic violence and organisational settings in Queensland and in the UK.

Since 2007 I have studied, practiced and taught Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I have also studied and practiced Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) since 2011. Both of these evidence based approaches in psychology are part of the 3rd wave Mindfulness based Cognitive Behaviour Therapies.

See the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, Functional Analytic Psychotherapy and Act Mindfully for more information on these approaches.

Psychology Inspiration / Training

I have trained with:

and many others at ACT and FAP conferences and workshops in Parma Italy, Washington DC USA and around Australia.

I have also led a number of one and two day workshops on ACT for the public, and have been training other professionals since 2010. It’s a great joy to offer one to one and team  supervision to other psychologists and mental health workers. I have had the opportunity to lead the ACT discussion group in Brisbane and the Buddhism and Psychology Interest Group in Queensland and Nationally in Australia. I have run a number of 6,10 & 12 week ACT courses for professionals and others since 2011.

Since 2008, I have worked in private practice with people individually, in couples and groups on a range of issues including depression, anxiety / panic attacks, stress, anger and rage, relationships, addiction, schizophrenia, eating disorders, grief and loss, chronic pain, self esteem and confidence, performance enhancement, work stress, leadership, motivation, emotional intelligence, performance pressure. I am currently mentored by Mavis Tsai.

I am often inspired by the courage and persistence of people I work with.

The serenity creed sums this work up nicely.

Grant me the serenity to Accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.

This work is about the development of that wisdom.

“There is a saying in the Tibetan scriptures: “Knowledge must be burned, hammered, and beaten like pure gold. Then one can wear it as an ornament.” So when you receive spiritual instruction from the hands of another, you do not take it uncritically, but you burn it, you hammer it, you beat it, until the bright, dignified color of gold appears. Then you craft it into an ornament, whatever design you like, and you put it on.” Chögyam Trungpa

Professional Bio

  • Psychologist (Fully Registered in Australia with AHPRA, Member of APS)

  • Yoga and Meditation Teacher (Senior Teacher with Yoga Australia)

  • Insight Meditation Teacher (Member of Insight Teachers, Australia)

Formal Qualifications

  • 2014-2015: Cert. III Psychosomatic Therapy, Psychosomatic Therapy College, Qld, Australia

  • 2009: TAA40104 Certificate IV Training and Assessment, Chris Morton Powerful Seminars, Qld, Australia

  • 2008: Leadership & Knowledge Management, Post Grad Cert Ed (not complete), QUT, Australia

  • 1997 – 2000: Diploma in Yoga Teaching, British Wheel of Yoga, Arfyya Yoga, Herefordshire UK

  • 1988: Post Graduate Honours in Psychology (Arts Faculty) 2A, University of Queensland, Australia. Major areas: Organisational Psychology and Interpersonal Communication

  • 1984 – 1986: Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland, (double major in Psychology)

I am deeply interested in how the science of Yoga and Mindfulness can be applied in the Western world. I continue to endeavour to integrate these practices into my life and the life of those I come in contact with.

I train and supervise psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers and other mental health workers to approach their therapy from a secular Buddhist and Yoga framework, to use Mindfulness and body based Yoga techniques.

I have taught for Sophia College on the Graduate Diploma of Buddhist Psychotherapy.

I run retreats for psychologists and other mental health practitioners wanting to deepen their personal practice of yoga and meditation and Buddhist teachings in order to better facilitate their clients.

I’m honoured you are considering joining me on the path.


Photos of me beside the sea rocks courtesy of Narelle and Glen McKerrihan at