This week, Choden and I are at the Oblate retreat centre in Crewe for a strategy meeting of the UK Network of Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations. The meeting is for representatives of the teacher training organisations that are members of the UK Network, including Bangor and Oxford University, Breathworks, NHS and the MA. Also, we were joined today by Jamie Bristow of the Mindfulness Initiative and Sharon Hadley who works with the Network in the setting up and management of the UK Listing of Mindfulness teachers.
Normally, the Network members meet once a year, but this is an additional meeting to move the UK Network forward from the collaboration of volunteers it has been up until now…to something different – let’s see what unfolds!
Before the meeting, data was gathered about the member organisations from the mindfulness teaching community (over 400 respondents) and from key stakeholders in the Mindfulness field. We also had a presentation about promoting ethnic diversity and inclusion, so that this could be integrated into the work of the UK Network in a comprehensive and meaningful way.
Based on this data, we have been working through a process of generating a vision for the UK Network and of surfacing the contradictions, the things that might block us from achieving our vision.
The visioning stage was inspiring, as the potential for the work of the UK is nationally transformative. The un-surfacing of the contradictions was more challenging and was about facing the unresolved difficulties in a collaboration of potentially competing organisations with diverse power and influence. The wisdom and mindfulness based care within the room has been beautiful to behold and I look forward to experiencing the strategies for developing the Network that emerge as we complete the process tomorrow.
The power of Mindfulness practice to enable us to face and feel difficulty in collaboration (or individually) never ceases to amaze me.
Although the process was difficult, there was a real sense of relief and joy in the room on unearthing and sharing some of the unspoken and unresolved issues. Unearthing is a good word as we all brought an item to the meeting that we would take to an archaeological dig, as a metaphor for the process of unearthing our vision and obstacles and examining and interpreting them with care. I brought my imagination (because I forgot to bring a brush) to help imagine what might develop from the artefacts we unearthed. Others brought brushes of varying hardness/softness, a hat, hot and cold drinks (depending on whether it was a hot or cold dig environment), pens, pencils and an egg.
The next convenor of the UK Network, Singhashri from Breathworks has been doing an awesome job facilitating the process.
It has been a long day, but I am very happy to have participated. As past convenor, I have given a lot of time to the work of the UK Network, as I believe passionately in its work.
The Good Practice Guidelines (GPGs) we have developed together have raised the standards for Mindfulness teacher training and ongoing professional development. Our work in the U.K. is looked to internationally and so standards are being raised around the world. It has helped us within the MA to develop a teacher training pathway that results in highly effective and embodied teachers who are able to teach from their own experience of practice, with kindness and curiosity. Having the UK GPGs and the UK teacher listing has enabled us to ask trainee teachers to undergo a thorough training and to meet ongoing supervision and retreat requirements, that support safe and effective Mindfulness teaching, so that the benefit is spread.
We discussed today how one of the main threats within the Mindfulness field is a proliferation of Mindfulness apps and teachers who have not invested in adequate training, who can then dilute the effectiveness with which Mindfulness can be taught, potentially give it a bad name and undercutting those who have invested in a thorough teacher training. So, we in the UK Network need to communicate the importance of high quality, face to face Mindfulness teaching, to enable the benefits of Mindfulness to be shared effectively. We can all be advocates for this!
So now I am going to sleep, with a head full of vision and contradictions. I hope I sleep and that my dreams are not too weird.