Highlighting Our Graduates – Donna Lo Bartolo Shiel
Please welcome this months ACMM graduate Donna Lo Bartolo Shiel. She is a meditation & mindfulness teacher in Melbourne CBD and also provides Tarot readings. Donna shares her journey into meditation with us, and how it has inspired her to create her beautiful business, Black Conch. Read on to learn more about her journey!
Hi Donna! Please tell us a little bit about yourself
I reside in the Melbourne CBD with my husband and thirteen-year-old Jack Russell, Bonnie, whom we adopted several years ago. The hustle and bustle of city life is exciting and convenient. However, my heart lies with the ocean, salty air, and big horizons. I am passionate about the conservation and protection of the planet – the sea, the land, the living and the non-living. My dream is to purchase some land and rehabilitate it with my husband. I would then like to open a meditation retreat centre there, so people can come and connect with themselves, each other, and Mother Earth.
I also work a 9-5 job, I’m an open water swimmer, and I love spending time in the kitchen, cooking delicious vegan meals for family and friends.
What attracted you to become a meditation teacher and study with ACMM?
It was during a meditation several years ago, that I first felt a calling to become a meditation teacher. Up until then, meditation had been a part of my life for several years. It was a tool in my toolbelt in troubling times. However, at some point, this shifted, and became a non-negotiable part of my life. And then came the call to become a teacher! After doing a fair bit of research online, I landed on ACMM. I felt it had the right balance of theoretical learning, practical application and one-on-one coaching. I found the elective offering extensive, to the point I had trouble deciding which to select. The course also offered the flexibility which I was after. Finally, I like that the course was recognised by Meditation Australia, the industry body for meditation teachers as this was important to me.
How has meditation impacted you on a personal level – what are the benefits you have seen?
On a personal level, some of the greatest insights at some of my darkest times, have come when sitting in meditation. I have found that when I take the sit to sit with myself, in silence and stillness, the answers I seek are there, and they arise in me. I feel this for everyone too, and am a firm believer that we all have inside us the answers we seek. Other benefits I have experienced are an increased ability to shift my mood from resentment to acceptance and from anxiety to wonder. I suffer from anxiety, and meditation plays a key role in my management of this condition.
What does your personal meditation practice look like? What styles or types of meditation do you enjoy?
My personal meditation practice is a minimum of 20 minutes each day. I do this first thing in the morning. Pre-dawn is my favourite part of the day, while the city still sleeps, and the sun is just cracking the horizon. Day to day, I practice mindful awareness, insight meditation and I work with Tarot, and this is the focus of my teaching as well. On occasion, I integrate shamanic practices, walking, creativity and dance, and recently I have trained as a Cacao Facilitator, so this is also becoming part of my practice.
Tell us more about your business and how meditation & mindfulness is a part of this.
In 2019, I started a business, Black Conch. The inspiration behind the name ‘Black Conch’ comes from a conch shell mum used to have on her dresser. She used to let me press it up to my ear and listen to the ocean in it. At some stage, I realised that what I was hearing in there was in fact not the ocean, but an echo of myself. And from here I started to realise the importance of stopping to listen to myself more. Exploring my shadows more (that’s the ‘Black’ part), and seeing that in these places are where the greatest growth can occur.
At Black Conch, I teach Meditation and Mindfulness to people who are looking to be gently guided to connect with themselves so that they can lead transformation in their own lives. Whether that be big external changes, finding purpose and meaning, shifting stuck emotions, management of pain, anxiety and overwhelm, or finding some rest from an otherwise chaotic world.
I also practice the art of Tarot Reading. This is something I have been working with since my teens. The guidance the cards offer is gifted to me intuitively and as it comes through, I offer this to my clients to take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. In my experience, Tarot can provide a perspective that may otherwise be hidden, guidance when feeling trapped, direction when in doubt, and is good for those wishing to explore things in a little more depth.
Who are the main clients that come to your sessions?
My client base is mostly women between 30 and 60 years old. As I mostly teach online, they come from all around – Melbourne, regional Victoria, interstate and I even have a client who dials in from London! I want to work with anyone who is wanting to tune in to themselves so that they can live more present, connected and intentional lives. Beyond this, I completed the elective, ‘Meditation to assist with pain, grief and dying’, with Felicity and it really struck a chord with me. So in the future, I feel I will gravitate towards working with people at such times in their lives.
Do you have any upcoming events or workshops, over the next few months?
Yes! I teach every Tuesday night on Zoom, the class is called ‘Tuesday Night Meditation Group’, and it goes for 45 minutes. There’s a different theme each week which I announce on my Instagram ( @blackconch) the day prior. It’s an open group, $8 per session, all levels, all welcome. Bookings can be made via my website: https://blackconch.com.au/sit-with-me. I also read Tarot, bookings for which can also be made on my website.
In addition, I teach locally on Wednesday nights at Melbourne City Baths, details are on my website. And I have a range of pre-recorded meditations on my Insight Timer page: https://insighttimer.com/blackconch.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a meditation teacher?
Sit with yourself, in stillness and silence, and ask yourself if this is what you want. If yes, do your research. Explore what is important to you, what style of meditation you wish to teach, talk to other teachers, attend classes, use apps, and start practising regularly. And, of course, I would recommend checking out ACMM!
What have you enjoyed about studying with ACMM?
Literally everything. My coach, Tim, was incredible – thoughtful, intelligent, empathic, experienced, and a great mentor throughout my studies. I loved the electives and the variety, and I am considering opting to do some more in the coming year. I liked the breadth of learning, from science to styles, history to modern practice. Practically, I was very appreciative of the flexibility the course afforded when I had to stop for a few months due to other commitments, and then the ease with which I could pick back up again when I was ready. And now having graduated, I enjoy the connection with other teachers via the Facebook group. This is a great support to both offer and receive assistance and perspectives from others.
We love to showcase the amazing stories of our graduates. Every one of them is unique and special. It brings us so much joy to see the different ways they are taking meditation and mindfulness out into the world. Here are some other graduates we have spoken to recently: Meet Jacqui, Meet Jen, Meet Grace.