'Available now, in the comfort of your own home! The anti-stress miracle! In only five minutes a day! Be happier! Improve your relationships!' It sounds too good to be true, and the exclamation marks are mine, but believe it or not Ani Kelsang Chodak is offering all this, and more. Worked half to death? Feel like a nervous-breakdown candidate? Chodak, a Buddhist nun, has the answer: meditation. Feeling in need of some instant karma myself, I attended the first of six informal classes Chodak ('Ani' means simply 'nun') held at City Hall, covering the joy of meditation to facing life's certainties, such as death. Blundering in late and inadvertently slamming the lecture-theatre door, I put my foot through a few incipient states of heightened awareness. Chodak drifted serenely on, intoning: 'The mind, like the wind it blows. What makes us unhappy is our busy mind. Meditation helps us focus on one object ... concentrate on your breathing.' It was no glib sales patter; no seasoned voice-over expert, Chodak endearingly tripped over several phrases. 'It's addictive,' she went on. 'People who have a peaceful state of mind want more. They're positive. People like being around them ...' Her soporific tone made me uncoil, although not as far as the woman who nodded off and stayed asleep for the subsequent discussion on the power of the mind. The 'spell' was never as strong after the inevitable bleeping of an electronic watch, so Chodak wound down the mass mind-training - a first for many in the 21-strong 'congregation' - and spoke about her teaching. 'I'm simply here to help people learn to meditate. We all want to be happy, and if we're happy, lots of people benefit. Meditation is for everyone. It's difficult, if you've been busy at work or you're thinking of Oliver's Delicatessen across the road,' she said (at which point I felt the force of some supernatural spotlight, my stomach having indeed been rumbling while my mind was being liberated), but if you can find five minutes a day to clear a space in your head, you'll become calmer, more peaceful.' We met again next day to discuss further what Hong Kong seemed to need most: this shockproof composure apparently available to all. 'The message is you don't have to be special to meditate. You don't have to be a monk or nun, which I've heard a lot here. Anybody can train to do it,' promised Chodak. Her spiritual quest had brought her to Yung Shue Wan, Lamma, where she was sent six months ago when her teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, based in England, spotted a gap in the market. Chodak had been studying at a large Buddhist centre near York when she received her 'posting'. 'The most important thing for Buddhists is to rely on what our teacher says; we believe our teacher is a buddha - an enlightened being. So when my teacher asked whether I'd like to come here, who was I to say, 'Er, terribly sorry, but I don't really wanna go to Hong Kong!' ' she said with a characteristic, jolly guffaw. She lives in a neat, somewhat sparse, flat whose focal point is a small shrine decorated with photographs of Gyatso and images of deities perched on turquoise lotus leaves. Her books include Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully, and Buddhism For Sheep - a joke gift. 'I'm happy even if I have nothing; when you die you're going to have nowt anyway,' she confirmed happily in broad, native Manchester tones. Reaction to her has been mixed. 'It disturbs some people to see a Western nun. I was shouted at in town once - when I told someone what it sounded like they said it was something rude. But when I went to buy a needle and thread in a Filipino shop, this lady just took $1,000 out of her purse and said, 'Do you need this?' I thanked her; I couldn't refuse her gift. Hong Kong is a huge contrast.' But rather than come here, Chodak had planned to return to Australia, which largely made her. 'From the early '70s I worked for many years as a community nurse in an Aboriginal village outside Perth. There was a lot of hurt, a lot of pain - a lot of drinking,' she said sadly. 'I never knew what to expect. I tried to make them responsible; I told them, 'It's your health, not mine. They're your children, not mine.' They just wanted a Band Aid, someone to fix them up. I wanted to empower them. 'But I met amazing people doing amazing things: people supporting families in very difficult circumstances. There are people in Hong Kong doing the same, but we don't meet them. There's a lot of Buddhism here too, but it's external. You don't have to go to a temple and prostrate yourself to meditate - Buddhism isn't about that, it's about working with your mind. I don't stand in Central and do the clanging-bowl thing either.' Her career change was fortuitous. 'I saw an ad in the paper: 'Introduction to Meditation - $20'. It involved a book called A Course In Miracles, but there was no turning water into wine [wild laughter]. It was about changing your attitudes. I wasn't interested in religion, I just wanted to meditate; I knew I had to do something to cope with daily life,' she admitted. 'For years I meditated when I could, then suddenly realised I wanted to be a nun before I died. So I thought, I'd better do it now [guffaw]. I was ordained five years ago, at 49, in England. I asked my son, who was 21 then, if he had any objections. If he had I wouldn't have done it.' Had she been married in Australia? 'Sort of. I don't know where he is - haven't seen him for a long time. That's old stuff. Anyway, some friends were supportive, others said, 'Do you know what you're doing, Tina?' as I was called then. I don't look like a Tina Brown, do I? One started to call me Chod!' Were things radically different? 'Noor! How could I be different? I'm not holy! I didn't wear funny clothes all the time, although I did shave my head. Somebody asked if I had cancer.' Inevitably, things did change. 'I enjoyed work,' she said, 'but I wanted to do something even more productive in the latter part of my life. This was a new phase which had to benefit others. How was I going to use it?' I couldn't help picturing Chodak as a roistering, back-slapping landlady banishing the world's woes. Having found her raison d'etre, in a way that's what she's doing now. In July she will return briefly to England to sit exams in Buddhist scripture ('difficult for someone middle-aged who doesn't have a good memory'), but will continue dispensing wisdom until then. 'If I teach meditation to one person or many, it doesn't matter - the effect rubs off and people want to know the secret. And you feel great about yourself. So the biggest impact you can have is by keeping a happy mind. You're trying to identify what's in here,' she said, hand on heart. 'Meditation gives you better relationships, but you don't have to believe what I say, you don't even have to be a Buddhist - I'm not here to convert you - just try it. Look at Bosnia ... angry people who acted out what was in their heads. We have the destructive potential for that ... or we can learn to be happy and less materialistic. 'We can go to a huge shopping mall and get anything we want. But how long does it make you happy? How long does a new outfit last?' Ani Chodak can be contacted on 2549-3267.