Last updated October 10, 2022
“Many people believe that I simply float around all day bringing peace,” says Cornelius O’ Shaughnessy, grinning, “but I’m not an idiot bringing loving kindness to the world. I do understand the problems people are going through and I try to help them understand that there is a way to meet these issues differently.”
Inspired and influenced by Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, Sufism and Mystical Christianity, Cornelius O’Shaughnessy (42) is an experienced meditation, stress management and Eastern philosophy teacher and co-founder of the UK-based Bodhimaya.
This unlikely-looking guru in a hoodie and tracksuit shares a coming together of these philosophies in a warm and direct way, having that rare gift of meeting people where they are at.
Whether it’s a global CEO or an 8-year-old child, O’Shaughnessy can help them realize how the teachings they are hearing about can allow them to live differently and live better.
“I don’t try to fix anything,” he says, “By becoming a mirror to what’s going on around people, they can better see their inner chaos for themselves. And once they observe this and surrender to what is, those unhealthy patterns naturally start to break,” says O’Shaughnessy.
Often our minds are immersed in conditioned responses which cloud our view as we get caught in a cycle of defining ourselves by our emotions, thoughts and personal stories. The path of non-duality allows us to free the mind from these illusions and realise our innate, underlying, immutable and unchanging nature.
And when we do, says O’Shaughnessy, we come to see—with total clarity—that we are not separate, but instead this is all one field of life.
After suffering a severe breakdown when he was 21, Cornelius O’Shaughnessy lived through many years of treatment resistant depression.
In 2007, during one of his many trips to India, he ended up sitting in a rice field at Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai in a state of great physical and emotional suffering and underwent a powerful instantaneous awakening.
“Looking out over the rice fields I grasped that life was doing what life was doing and I was a speck of dust screaming about it. I just let go of the feeling that anything needed to change,” says O’Shaughnessy.
“Before then it was transactional, I was always selfishly asking for what I didn’t have. By accepting my problems as they were I started to show up with less desire and more peace. The irony is that when you stop trying to fix it—it just gets better.”
With our world in deep chaos, O’Shaughnessy’s timely teachings are catching.
“These ever-rolling emergencies in our world are creating divisions in society and divisions in us. Everyone is acting from a state of panic and fear which creates an unsafe space within,” he says.
Cornelius O’Shaughnessy tries to help people rise and respond to this chaos in a wiser, more compassionate way—a path that starts with acceptance.
He believes that suffering incubates transformation in a way that happiness can not and while we do not choose to suffer, when it chooses us, it comes with a secret and hidden wisdom that when met with the right view leads to a powerful transformation of the heart and mind.
Real meditation is the art of doing nothing, just sitting with the mess in your mind without trying to fix it.
“There is nothing wrong with the mess—we are chaotic beings,” says O’Shaughnessy. “It’s the layers of resistance we build up around us that create the mess.”
O’Shaughnessy encourages clients to just sit on a mat for 15 minutes every day. Soon they will recognize that this is the essence of meditation.
“It’s only when we release the resistance that we can find our inner refuge and everything we are seeking will come naturally from this place of stillness and peace.”
While every word spoken is overlaid with deep wisdom, O’Shaughnessy’s style can be confronting and quite intense for some.
Although younger people seem to just get where he is coming from, while many others are on the spiritual path already but looking for more depth and relevance from his teachings.
Cornelius O’Shaughnessy’s vision is for a community hub open to everyone, especially young people—a place where these teachings can be held and preserved in a way that is not dogmatic.
“Don’t always look at the darkness in your experience,” he advises. “Look instead to see what grows from it· just as the lotus rises from the mud. These 5000+ year-old-teachings are not a luxury, they are a birthright and my wish is that this wisdom will teach us to dance in the fire.”
This is our second profile in a series on healers, mentors and life teachers who are making waves in the wellness community.