My family sometimes agree to doing weird psychology exercises to humour me. This question, “who taught you how to love?” is from a series of questions devised by Dianne Aigaki, grant writer and artist, to get at the crux of life passages, family history and folklore. During a family gathering for my parents 50th wedding anniversary,

My Dad answered this question with “my mother”

I have such fond memories of my nana. She was a force of love that was always present to me. I grew up with her close by, on the same farm in Stanthorpe, Qld, Australia, where my father was also raised. So on one level it was not surprising to hear Dad saying this (and he has a way of coming forth in poignant moments). More shocking for me;

My answer to this question wasn’t “my mother”

Now, my mother is a good woman, she cared for me and my brother and my dad in very practical ways. There was always food on the table, the house was clean, our school clothes washed and ironed. Many things were automatically taken care of. Many things that were unseen and unnoticed to my childhood eyes.

I also had to learn gratitude later in life!

We weren’t wealthy, but there was no deprivation in my childhood. However, my mum wasn’t a touchy, nurturing, mumsy type of mum, she didn’t hug us often. It was hard for her to say “I love you”. Now there may be many reasons for this, but it was’t because she didn’t love us. (see Sarah Buckley‘s work on birthing and attachment ideas on this)

I have leaned into my mother’s dependability many times in my life. Her steadiness allowed me to set forth on adventures overseas. I lived and worked in the UK, where I learned to teach yoga. Arrogantly at this time, (1997-2001) I thought Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, was for people who didn’t think enough!!

Some of us are slow learners!! 

Thankfully, my deep interest in the mind-body process guided me to meditation practice. Slowly, though years of practice, it occurs to me that meditation is not just about the body-mind. The heart is involved in this process.

 I was taught how to love by my Buddhist Dharma meditation teachers

First and personally this was Catherine McGee. Many others touched my heart (and sometimes broke it open) by their presence; teaching a retreat I sat or writing a book I read.

I learned how to BE a loving presence

I remember in the cold, English winter of 2004, I sat a personal silent retreat at Gaia House for two months. Sometimes it was hard and hellish, other times blissful. Catherine guided me through these turbulent and then still waters with a weekly interview. Her loving presence started to reflect in me.

I developed the skill of love in my own heart with ancient practices

When I emerged to speak and re-engage the world, I felt like I’d been re-wombed. I had fresh eyes and a somewhat raw and tender heart. I had a fresh perspective on the world. It was actually very beautiful. And of course beauty is in the eye (and heart) of the beholder…

I continue to be taught how to love by my many teachers in Buddhist Dharma and in psychology and yoga and dance, as well as my clients and students, colleagues, sisters in women’s circle, friends and partners. Gratitude is an immense gift to the heart.

Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love ~ Rumi

There are two ways for women mental health professional to join me in evolving heart.


“The Evolved Heart” private mentoring and supervision program. This is a one to one offering from my heart to yours over 3 months.

Click here to learn more about THE EVOLVED HEART


“Embodied Mind Evolved Heart” This is a 12 month Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training journey I’m offering with Zoe Courtney Zohs

Click here to learn more about EMBODIED MIND EVOLVED HEART


With much metta and blessings on your journey,



NeLi Martin and Courtney Zohs (Zoe)