More about the facilitators

Melissa Billington

I was young at a time, and in a place, where it was still relatively safe to roam the woods alone, to cycle or run for miles and miles, and to swim naked in mountain streams with my hippie family. I was a tomboy who beat the boys in foot races very early on and battled the neighborhood boys in woodland war games, as well as getting them to dress up in gowns and wigs, with oranges for breasts. By the time we got a TV I had read every female-protagonist book and comic book I could get my hands on, so I progressed to devouring The Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, The Dukes of Hazard and any other shows that featured smart, capable, strong women. My favorite book from childhood was a collation of fairy tales featuring females–Clever Gretchen & Other Forgotten Folktales–by an author who taught at the school I would later graduate from. By the time I got to Cornell I had dabbled, and excelled, in as many activities and athletics as I had breath and energy for, and I had a collection of capes that I wore around campus. My childhood was odd compared to most I knew. We were Nichiren Buddhist for a time which meant we chanted and prayed daily, as well as being vegetarian at a time when almost no one was. My parents had protested the Vietnam War, to the extent that I was conceived in a conscientious objector’s community in Canada because my father went AWOL from the US military. We also had a family pride in our early US history ancestry that makes me a 13th lineal descendant of Pocahontas as well as old-school Virginia blood. Aside from the exposure to controversial political and dietary views in my youth, I was exposed to other aspects of society’s fringes, with close family members who struggled with mental instability and drug addictions. I was stroppy and headstrong from the start, and particularly protective of the innocent and unprotected–women, children, animals. After a brief career in design/construction/acting in NYC, I left for foreign lands and have been blessed to not only have an ivy-league education, but also a hard-won world education. Coming to know myself and my origins in relation to the differences I encountered living and traveling in cultures like India, the Caribbean, South Africa, Ireland, mainland Europe, Iceland, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand and Australia has been a blessing.

My mind is naturally wide-ranging, with an ability to perceive patterns over very diverse terrains, as well as across time and space. My work has primarily been in the arts–both expressive and healing–so I have been well trained for living at the edges of the known world. After exploring my ancestry and the origins of the US in a solo show in 2014, I went on sabbatical from the yoga teaching I had been doing for more than a decade. I handed over my Wellington, New Zealand studio, sold or gave away many of my belongings , and set out for what I thought would be a year of inquiry into my place in a yoga world that had progressed into an industry. I was given my first Ojibway prayer song that year and it was for water. For the next 4 years I wandered the world, on a walkabout for meaning in a sea of dissolution, yet increasingly focused on water everywhere I went. I learned much, and perhaps mostly I learned how much I have yet to learn, especially in terms of the settler-colonialist ocean of privilege most of us swim in. With eyes opening, my grief was so great it was all I could do to keep singing the songs I had been honored to receive from my elders. To balance the grief, I began studying stand-up comedy.

The Amazon Academy is where my instincts and keen interests currently lead me, as a means of taking the unity consciousness off the yoga mat and out into relationship with the wider community, especially the innocent and unprotected–the women, children, animals, water and trees. If you’re curious, you’re welcome to join me in these adventures. I can’t say where they will lead you, for only you can discover that for yourself…

Miriam Lancewood

Miriam Lancewood was born in a small village in Holland. After completing her studies as a Physical Education Teacher she traveled the world – and in India she met her now husband Peter. She was 22 and he was 52 when they met. Together they hiked through the Himalayas, journeyed for years through South East Asia, including Papua New Guinea, and eventually they ended up in New Zealand. Miriam worked as a teacher in Marlborough when they decided to give up all their earthly belongings and move into the Southern Alps with a tent, and bow and arrow.

Their first winter was a steep learning curve; Miriam grew up as a vegetarian and yet she had to make her first kill to survive and beat the icy cold conditions. They lived for 7 years in a tent in the wilderness of New Zealand, walked around like nomads, cooked on a fire, and in their last year they completed the Te Araroa Trail.

Miriam wrote a book–“Woman in the Wilderness”–about their adventures, philosophy, insights and anecdotes of people they met. Their life is about embracing insecurity and stepping into the unknown.

Miriam wanted to be part of the Amazon Academy, to encourage other women to find inner fire, inner light, inner power and independence, as well as always remaining gentle to the earth and all the men and children.

Miriam will be facilitating in a number of Seasons, starting in March with dates TBC’d.

Sonia Waters

Sonia Wildself Ceremony

Creator of Wildself, mother of two, lover of one, wild woman adventurer. From corporate success highs and deep dark holes, to life in the mountains and flowing rivers. I now offer myself to you as guide in your journey to your Wildself.

I started life in the tussock covered mountains of Lake Tekapo. As a family we moved, we lived like gypsies around the North Island in a gold miners’ hut without power, across a flood-prone creek without a bridge, in caravans and houses. Childhood dreams and bare-footed freedom. Then somehow, along with the rest of the world, I was caught in the inherent turbulence of adulthood. When a relationship ended in tears, I moved south, back to the high country; my turangawaewae. I am asked often “why did you move?” “for my love affair with tussock and rock”.

On your Wildself journey, you will dance, meditate, and shamanicly move through the wilderness, becoming friends with the unknown. Hike, walk, play, ride through nature with mindfulness, wildness and connectedness that lets you simply BE nature. Invite the elements in. The journey is physical and metaphysical, hard and soft, light and dark, and filled with the superpowers of your pure essence.

Sonia will be facilitating in our Brightest Spring Season (Oct, date TBC’d), the relational realm of coming home to your own sweetness, but with an inquiry into the dynamic between ‘the hunter & the hunted’.

Lindsay Alderton

A shy, approval-seeking kid, Lindsay  grew up in 70’s Belfast amidst the backdrop of the troubles. She spent most of her young adulthood looking for something or someone to save her. Jobs that were safe, secure but ultimately unchallenging (and at times with pretty dodgy ethics) were combined with a stream of reckless love affairs. A pervasive sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction ran throughout.

Despite being a committed Buddhist practitioner for over two decades, practising meditation in the Tibetan traditions and later with Theravadan and Insight teachers, it wasn’t until a mental health crisis in 2013 that Lindsay started attending to the raw material of what it might mean to be fully alive. This made her question the norms and impacts of the dominant culture, a culture of vapid individualism based on a system of worth based on productivity, a system of growth which debases our precious bodies, communities and planet. Lindsay quit the shitty corporate job and leapt into full-time activism. Within the space of a year she helped bring 20,000 people out onto the streets of London for climate action and went on to join 6000 others to shut down Europe’s largest coal mine. She also joined the Ecodharma Collective in Catalonia and launched the Ulex Project in 2016, a pan-European training centre with a focus on social movement building and tools for a culture of sustainable activism. She remains in a constant state of re-education about the constructs and systems which shape oppression, inner and outer, and is humbled by the dedication and perseverance of activists throwing themselves so whole-heartedly into dismantling systems of harm.

As well as continuing to broaden in the practice of meditation, Lindsay is primarily interested now in what is  beyond the institution of secular Buddhism, including Rob Burbea’s ‘Soul-Making Dharma’ and also studies with the Orphan Wisdom School around grief, dying and ancestry. This has opened up to particularly rewarding and challenging terrains since Lindsay began her own journey with breast cancer this year.In her training with the Presencing Institute in embodied movement practices Lindsay is passionate about the importance of a spiritual practice grounded in the lived experience of the body. She is committed to combining this with collective social action to birth more life-affirming cultures into being.

Lindsay will be facilitating in our First Spring Season (Sept, date TBC’d) with its energies of earth-centred security & embodiment, as well as learning to individuate & heal from ancestral lines.

Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie is an artist, author, filmmaker, theatre director/producer, healer and teacher of inspirational creativity. Seeking answers compelled by an extremely traumatic childhood she travelled the world learning and working with wisdom teachers from Native American, Tibetan, Russian, European, Balinese, Chinese, Ghanese, Peruvian and Mexican traditions and trained in many modalities including Reiki, Rebirthing, Magnified Healing, Cranio-Sacral therapy, Energy Healing, Psychology, Inner Mystery Schools and Trance Dance.

In her 40’s, despite everything and with a family and exciting career, the crows came home to roost and a deep cathartic initiation began. A series of experiences were triggered, which are recounted in her memoir of this time, God’s Theory of Creativity–An Odyssey, and can be described as a radical awakening with divine intervention. She received a modality with which to truly heal herself called first Source Alignment and now Creative Alchemy. The same ‘Heart’ that gifted the system has also brought Stephanie and this offering and service to four countries, US, NZ, UK and Aus and to many individuals, retreats and groups from all walks of life ~ from suicidal patients and traumatised children to wisdom walkers and ascending mystics, people in the arts and environment, corporate and science, young entrepreneurs, teachers and students and anyone seeking the healing of emotion, the activating of vision and complete connection to their true Self. Her book, Creative Alchemy, will be published in 2019.

Creative Alchemy has three distinct parts. The healing of suppressed emotion and the release of power. The transformation of imagination to activated Living Vision. The anchored connection to our inner Infinite Self, our limitless source of love, abundance, wisdom and power. There is also a fourth part for those who wish to go deeper and are prepared to make a complete commitment to their sovereignty and service.

Stephanie will be facilitating in the transition between Autumn and First Winter (May, dates TBC’d) which is exactly the place for “The transformation of imagination to activated Living Vision.”

Rebecca Bee Gunson

Re-Wilding the voice is about coming back to a natural state of expressive play with the body. Accessing deep, primal tones and feeling freedom as the body opens to it’s ecstatic essence. Re-Wilding the voice is an important part of Amazon training. Through sound and movement we move through blockages stored in the body from lifetimes of trying to keep small and suppress our natural way of expressing. Opening the voice changes how we communicate our truth and allows us to connect with the roots of mother Earth as we sing from our hearts.

Rebecca has been working with vocal opening, womb toning and accessing orgasmic sound for many years now. She feels very connected to medicine songs and chanting that changes the vibration of the body to deep states of presence and gratitude. Her main practise has been connecting with her own sound as she enjoys playing in Nature and feeling the wild freedom and liberation of feeling sound move through the body.

Rebecca will be facilitating in our Autumn Season (April/May date TBC’d) with its focus on sounding our truth by opening into space in the Vishuddha energy centre of purification.

Lucinda Staniland

Lucinda is passionate about living in connection with plants, animals and all of nature. She is an enthusiastic wild food forager and long distance walker, and in 2016 she walked the length of New Zealand’s South Island on the Te Araroa trail.

She is also the Editor of The Yoga Lunchbox, New Zealand’s most popular yoga website, and has a long term commitment to embodiment and movement practices.

Lucinda works behind the scenes on the Amazon Academy, assisting Melissa with all kinds of Amazon-related jobs.