Being for Beginners - insight, space and practical tools for staff

Roddy Bray

Being for Beginners is facilitated by Roddy Bray, a storyteller and anthropologist. For hundreds of people, this course has deepened their sense of wellbeing, giving them vital tools to navigate life with greater confidence and happiness. In this blog, Roddy shares the origins of the programme.

How can we find any lasting sense of wellbeing? A massage, a paper published, a new car, and, yes, a yoga class or meditation may give pleasure or distraction or a sense of virtue, but that is not wellbeing.

Wellbeing remains even when distractions and success are absent.

When the pandemic struck in 2020 the Doctoral Training Centre asked me to work with postgraduate students to develop a series to support their wellbeing. Lockdown gave DTC students the impetus to reflect - they recognised they had been doing a lot, but neglecting their core. They wanted practical workshops with space to explore ideas and practices to develop their own framework for wellbeing.

More specifically, they wanted a better understanding of why we are sometimes troubled by circles of thought and feeling, negative habits, and feelings like anxiety, isolation and emotional fatigue. They were eager to explore skills and tools to help them connect with their experience of life more consciously, cultivate better patterns of thought and behaviour, and nurture their vitality.

‘Being for Beginners’ emerged as a six-workshop series. It explores our ‘inner’ connection with the body, thoughts and emotions, and our ‘outer’ relationship with nature, other people and time. The series shares ideas in a non-prescriptive way, recognising that all of us have self-awareness and existing practices of wellbeing. It draws upon various traditions and disciplines. There are pauses to provide space for personal reflection, deepened using meditation practices, which are also introduced in the workshops.

From 2020, researcher-developers offered the series for research staff in the divisions, and courses were hosted by colleges and societies, as well as weekend retreats in Wytham woods. ‘B4B’ also expanded to other universities including Imperial and Cambridge.

The series has proved very popular, with over 250 people registering for the last series alone. A sample of the feedback and impact data is provided on my website Specifically, over 90% of respondents felt that Being for Beginners gave them useful on-going resources that help with their:

  • work / life balance;
  • sense of self-worth;
  • understanding of others;
  • mental and emotional health; and
  • ability to manage themselves and their reactions

Register for Being for Beginners - March 2023

Being for Beginners is available to staff for free, as part of the Thriving at Oxford programme.

The next course will run in person over two full days on 1 and 8 March 2023. For more information, and to register, visit Wellbeing news and events | Staff Gateway (

Being for Beginners will also run online over 23 May - 8 June 2023 (to include one hour sessions every Tuesday and Thursday). For updates, bookmark our news and events page!

Book your place


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