My path first crossed with Joanne Reid Rodrigues some 25 or so years ago when I attended a few of her fabulous Slimming Together classes. In my early twenties and just beginning my natural health and wholeness quest, Joanne asked me to talk about the therapies I was qualified inat one of her sessions – being young and inexperienced, I froze and my delivery on that day was not my finest hour – but oddly – as often happens in life, that moment made me certain I wanted to be oh so much better at public speaking and all these years later my role as a natural health and wholeness speaker, writer and practitioner, propelled me across Joanne’s path once more…interview by Juanita Shield-Laignel MFHT
Wonderfully, Joanne has gone on since our encounter of years ago, to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and also runs various enlightening workshops with titles such as ‘Authentic Confidence’ and ‘The Healing Power of Forgiveness and Mindfulness for Stress-Less Living’…right up my street! On attending the latter and experiencing a major breakthrough in forgiving areas of my past…I was really keen to find out more about Joanne’s Spiritual journey in this life! Joanne was more than happy to share…
“All of life is a spiritual journey. I believe we are spiritual beings inhabiting physical bodies. But the body is not who or what we are – it’s the vehicle for our growth and awakening. Just as an astronaut needs a space suit to survive that particular atmosphere, spirits need a physical body to have a human life on Earth.
I view Earth as a school for the soul. I believe we’re here to learn through experiences, and to evolve and develop soul qualities, such as strength, love, and wisdom. Everything we experience here – the difficult times, the challenges, the mistakes we make, are all our own personal life lessons. Having a physical human life is a tremendous privilege, but it’s not easy. This is a hard school. But that’s how I see life. I believe we all choose to incarnate here – we are not forced to come. And it takes great courage to make this human pilgrimage.
I asked Joanne is she was religious or followed a particular faith?
“No, I’m not religious, but I have great faith. The great masters were not religious either – they were originals – though religious movements have been developed and built around their names. I find tremendous beauty and wisdom in the teachings of Jesus, and I hold him in my prayers always. I believe that Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Yogananda, and Mother Meera understand and love one another. Students of the masters tend to argue – the masters themselves never would. They would simply embrace one another. I think if you’re kind and living respectfully and consciously, then you’re a good Christian and a good Buddhist and a good Hindu. For isn’t loving one another and being kind the message they’ve all taught?”
Did your Scottish upbringing affect your faith?
“I was born and raised in Glasgow – the east end. It was a fabulous place to grow up. I was excited and inspired by the city and I had some remarkable school teachers and friends. Looking back, it was destiny that brought me to Jersey – my sister had already moved here and established herself and I missed her. My frequent visits during school holidays back in the 1970s were always enjoyable, and by the time I left school, I’d already made up my mind that I wanted to live near my sister. And by that time, Jersey was already in my blood. It was the natural right move.
We were so blessed to have lovely parents who loved one another very much – this created a healthy atmosphere. My parents were not religious – my mother was raised in the Catholic tradition and my dad was raised in the Protestant tradition. When they fell in love and married, the Catholic Church that my mother had attended was very against it, and they made their feelings clear. My parents were young when they married, but they were both sickened by the arguments over religion, and the certain hypocrisy they’d each witnessed. They decided to have nothing to do with religion and protect their children from it. They believed the most important things to give children were their love and their time. My sister and I were lucky to have such hardworking parents, who always put family first. And they had a great sense of humour, and they loved music. So, laughter and music have always been a part of my life – I find it easy to laugh at myself, which helps me not take myself too seriously. And music is nourishment for my mind and soul.
My freedom to experience life and come to my own conclusions about spirituality and God was a tremendous gift. I had always known I was part of something much greater. And at just five years old, I’d had an experience that left me in no doubt whatsoever that people don’t die – they just leave their body and live in another place. Call it another dimension, another realm, whatever. To me, it’s just like living in another country. I knew that at five. So that understanding was in me right from the earliest time.
Around the time I turned thirty, my mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Back then, Alzheimer’s wasn’t the household name it is today. Many doctors didn’t know what it was. My darling mum passed away when she was just sixty-one. Those years between my mum being diagnosed and her passing over, were the most painful years of my life. But it was in the deepest pain that I started questioning life’s meaning, and searching for answers. I remember one day, while sobbing, I looked out of the window and up to the sky. I wasn’t just asking God for answers – I was demanding them. I remember saying: I need to know what’s going on. Why do we struggle, why is my mother ill when she’s worked so hard and my parents deserve to have some rewards in life now? I need answers and I need them explained to me in a human way that I can understand.
I’ve come to understand the wisdom in the proverb: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Very soon after my rant at the window, Dan Millman of the Way of the Peaceful Warrior came into my life. I read Dan’s book and felt an inexplicably deep connection to the teachings, and to Dan himself. I went out to San Francisco and did a residential training with Dan. It was based on martial arts – the art of Kali – knife fighting. This was my big introduction into mindfulness. I had been drawn to martial arts philosophy as young as thirteen or fourteen – I’d even attended judo in Glasgow regularly for a couple of years. Rediscovering my love of the philosophy when I met Dan, helped me cope through my mum’s illness. In fact, I returned to the US to do further trainings – I fell in love with California, and I made many new friends there.
When my mum passed away, I was thirty-five. Though devasted, I was a very different person for the experience and the changes life had forced upon me. And for the teachings and practice of mindfulness. I had also discovered the teachings of Mother Meera, and my husband, my sister, and I travelled to her home in Germany to receive her Darshan, a silent hands-on blessing. I was definitely on the life transformation path during my thirties – making the journey from my head to my heart.
I continued going out to California on a regular basis, staying longer and longer each time. In 2001, my husband and I had six months out there, and then, in 2004, we got our visa to live and work there. It was in Los Angeles that I fulfilled many career goals including teaching at the Agape International Spiritual Centre – Agape became my second home. I loved my time in Los Angeles – I got to meet many of the authors whose work I admired, including Gary Zukav, who is a gifted spiritual teacher, and of course, Michael Beckwith, the founder of Agape.
In Los Angeles, I spent a great deal of time at Lake Shrine, home of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship. These were life-enriching times. In LA, I started writing my books, and I got my books published.
How has your faith helped you, if at all, during Coronavirus lock down?
“When ‘death’ comes, it’s only the body that dies. We do not. We leave the body, but death is a living death in that we are still very much alive after leaving the body. This will happen to every one of us. I am at peace with it. Certainly, the grief of a loved one’s passing, is deeply painful and devastating. But for the one who makes the transition, death is an entrance, not an exit. I am not afraid of it. It’s wise not to seek death or try to avoid it. Make peace with the fact that it will happen and let it happen when nature decrees it so. The lock down continues to bring certain challenges, but fear of catching the virus or dying hasn’t touched my mind at all. Accepting what we cannot change reduces stress and brings more peace. I’ve simply tried to be as productive during lock down as I could possibly be, while also enjoying time with my husband and relaxing.”
What does the future hold for you?
Joanne laughs, “If lock down has taught us anything it’s that sometimes our plans are scuppered by bigger plans, whether government’s plans or God’s plans. But that aside, I will continue in my work as a writer, therapist, and continue teaching my Slimming Together courses and my Authentic Confidence courses. These successful programmes are brilliant platforms for bringing me into contact with people and assisting their healing, which is my true passion. I’ve been writing lots of new material for Authentic Confidence, and now that I’m mastering Zoom, can even reach out to new clients farther afield. Every day I count my blessings. I thank God for my life and my family. I have peace of mind, good physical health, and a wonderful, loving husband. What more could I possibly wish for?
Joanne Reid Rodrigues is the author of Life Transformation Diet, Slim, Happy & Free; and the creator of the Authentic Confidence programme. She is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Slimming Together. She is one of the UK’s foremost therapists and a frequent guest on broadcast media. www.JoanneRR.com