Who is Martin Stepek?
Martin Stepek has had an unusual and largely enjoyable life.
In 1980 he obtained a law degree, travelled the world almost continuously from October 1983 until June 1987, working on farms, in the desert, and in various building sites and factories.
In 1987 he settled down, got married, got a mortgage, and a job in the family business, founded by his parents, J. Stepek Ltd. There he eventually became a director and co-owner, facilitating one of Scotland’s most iconic and well-remembered advertising campaigns for Glens, Hutchison, Robertson and Stepek on television and radio through the 1990s.
When the business folded in 2002 he took his time to try to find what he most wanted to do with his life. Aged just over forty he felt that up till then he more or less fell into work rather than plan his life.
He decided he would attempt to work in five distinct areas – what is now called a varied portfolio career. These were the arts (poetry and art); helping family businesses understand and deal with the emotional entanglements that come with owning and running a business with family members; green politics; mental wellbeing and a deeper philosophy of life; and helping ethical businesses.
Over time these efforts led to some things growing and others falling away.
He has had published four volumes of poetry, with his own Zen-influenced art featuring on two of these.
He set up the Scottish Family Business Association as a charity, something he has recently stepped back from.
He was National Convenor of Council for the Scottish Green Party in 2003-2004 and headed the party's operations from 2008-2010.
Most significantly he qualified as a teacher of Buddhism - philosophy, psychology and ethics - with the Tibetan Buddhist group, the NKT in 2004, then moved from this into the then little-known field of mindfulness, preferring its secular, scientific emphasis while still respecting the original Buddhist roots.
His interest in helping ethical business led him to become one of the founding tutors at the Social Enterprise Academy in 2004. However work demands from other areas of interest slowly squeezed out his time in that endeavour. During this spell as a social activist he became a director of Employee-Ownership Scotland, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum and other nationalsocial enterprises.
A new interest slowly grew, his Polish heritage. His grandfather died at 49, separated from his family by war, while his mother died of starvation as a result of an epic struggle to find freedom after 19 months in a Soviet labour camp with her three children, including Martin's father, Jan. This odyssey and its antecedents captivated Martin for almost two decades, which resulted in him producing one volume of poetry, two short films, several articles, and an early life biography of his father, currently with his publisher.
PRESENT AND FUTURE
Writing in October 2019 Martin stated that at that point in his life he felt he had done most of what he wanted to do in these fields apart from mindfulness teaching and writing.
So he has stepped back considerably from poetry and art, as he has done so from family business work. He is no longer active in politics, and has done most of what he wanted to do with regard to his heritage.
In these fields over the last two decades Martin has been presented with several awards. He has been named UK Family Business Advisor, and awarded the prestigious honour, the Gold Cross of Merit by the Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Two of his books have been finalists in the UK People's Book Prize, and he has spoken at the Edinburgh Fringe, the University of Warsaw, the Polish-British Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw, and at the Royal Institution in London.
Now he is more focussed than ever before, and seeks to increasingly deliver mindfulness for the benefit of all.
Mindfulness is a way of being. A philosophy. A way of understanding the mind, therefore a psychology. It is also a set of practices to help us gain control over our reactions, our genetic tendencies, our many innate flaws and frustrations.
Mindfulness helps us perceive our life as simpler, quieter, calmer. We think more clearly and do more of what truly matters in our life. In essence it frees us from our past conditioning and enables us to rethink and remake our lives in the way that we want.
Martin intends to continue practicing mindfulness for the rest of his life, increasingly simplifying his daily life, giving him more time for the essentials of family and health. He wants to continue to teach it to as many people as possible because he knows from what people have told him that it transforms their lives for the better.
So now Martin has chosen a single profound focus in his work, matched with a simple, healthy life at home.
APPENDIX: Martin's Mindfulness Background in More Detail
Martin Stepek is one of Scotland's foremost teachers in Mindfulness, a published author of three books in the field and the Sunday Herald's Columnist on Mindfulness.
Martin began practicing the simple, scientifically proven techniques of Mindfulness nearly 20 years ago and found that they gave him great benefits. To nurture and cultivate his skills, he began attending a weekend residential programme every month for the next five years, investigating the nature of the mind and how to nurture and cultivate it in great depth.
During this period Martin participated in three events led by the legendary Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh in Edinburgh, Scotland, and also attended lectures in Glasgow by the pioneering mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn at the university of Glasgow.
In the Spring of 2004 the head of the order asked Martin if he would be interested in becoming a teacher of Buddhism and its practices. In order to become a teacher in this tradition Martin had to leave his home for a month. He spent fourteen days in a row practising mindfulness and other meditative techniques all day long except when sleeping and taking toilet and meal breaks. At the end of this period he immediately went to a retreat centre in a remote forest area where he spent the next two weeks in solitary silence. He was not allowed any books, pen, paper, music or any form of communication. At the end of this month-long experience, in April 2004 he qualified as a teacher of mindfulness.
Martin's wide-ranging studies include East Asian Poetry, and the neuroscience of happiness and peace of mind. He serves on the Choose Life group, the pan-Lanarkshire suicide prevention body run by NHS Lanarkshire.
Martin is co-founder of Ten for Zen (www.tenforzen.co.uk), a website which aims to bring Mindfulness into the lives of individuals across the UK and beyond.
Outwith his commercial work, Martin strives to bring Mindfulness to as many groups, as he can, and has given his time to speak in schools, prisons, universities, and community groups over the years.