My interview with Hannah Spalding made me realise that I am interested in people who do what they love – not just the nine to five thing, but work which they are passionate about. So when my mother in law suggested that I interview a school friend of hers who has set up a holistic, beauty and spiritual training centre, and is hugely enthusiastic about it, I was intrigued.
Elaine Collier, together with her friend and business partner Gill Moss, run the Como Centre, which is based in Oxfordshire. They provide a wide range of accredited training courses, as well as workshops and other events. Their mission statement says:
We work within the mind, body and spirit sector and firmly believe in the following:
- There is more to life than meets the eye
- We all need to become more empowered and do more of what we love
- We need to take more care of our own health and wellbeing
- We need to be happy
The ‘we need to be happy’ bit was exactly what I was interested in! “I think it’s really important to be on your own journey, to come to your own conclusion that you are happy and comfortable with”, Elaine tells me. “Some people tell me that, if I’m going to be a spiritual person, I shouldn’t eat meat, or drink alcohol, or smoke or take drugs. Well, I don’t smoke or take drugs, but I do eat meat and I do have a drink from time to time, and I don’t think those sort of restrictions are helpful. I think it’s more a case of, if you’re taking your spiritual development seriously, you’re going to be careful about how you behave, about how you live your life.”
The range of training courses and workshops offered by Elaine and Gill is comprehensive, and covers most areas of complementary therapy and spiritual development. Topics include mindfulness, massage, healing, beauty therapy, meditation, angel workshops, reflexology, past life regression, sound therapy, tarot and reiki. The Como Centre’s latest initiative is an online programme, Flick Your Switch, which aims to guide participants “towards greater clarity, perspective, peace and happiness in your life.”
The Como Centre’s approach is more than just a training course – participants are part of a community, a family, and Elaine and Gill are there for people throughout the programme and for as long afterwards as they need. Facebook groups are a big part of how the Centre works. “You’re getting what you need to give you confidence and get you energised, and ready to put into practice what you have learned – and you can contact us at any point afterwards if you have a question or a problem. The personal connection is really important to us.”
I asked Elaine how she had come to be involved in this sector, and she recalled how, many years ago in her native St Ives, Cambridgeshire, she and a friend had started attending the spiritualist church “for something to do.” Initially deeply sceptical, what she found there opened her eyes: “there’s more to this life than we think.”
Over time, Elaine and her friend moved into leadership roles at the church, including healing, while she worked as a PA to the director of a research institute. Following the birth of her son, divorce, and redundancy, relocating for work brought Elaine to Oxfordshire. Then, she says, “everything changed.” She met Gill through a google search to find a hopi ear candle therapist to deal with her ongoing blocked ears. She became enthused about reiki, and a friend suggested “you could do that,” so she trained as a reiki healer. At last, says Elaine, she was fulfilling her purpose, “what I’m here to achieve.” The Como Centre was founded 8 years ago, to help other people fulfil their potential. At the end of 2019 Elaine and Gill are moving from their current premises to work out of two new locations in existing complementary practices, as well as increasingly online.
We talked about how the mind/body/spirit sector is becoming more mainstream. Elaine feels that there is a growing interest in how all aspects of life are connected. She also sees people taking more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, rather than turning to medication in the first instance. “It’s not just for hippy types now – it’s becoming the norm. Mindfulness and meditation are being taught in schools now, which is great, and will help to make it the norm.” People are realising that there is more to life, says Elaine, than “being born, going to school, working, having kids, watching TV, and waiting to die!”
How does Elaine feel about her work? “I wish I’d done it years ago – but then again, I wouldn’t have been ready,” she says. When I ask about her working day, she says “We have a ball! There’s no such thing as an average day – most of our sessions run at weekends, but on other days I’ll be replying to emails, creating new material, or going on courses myself to keep my skills up.”
All images are taken from the Como Centre website with permission.