Last week I facilitated a five day MBLC mindfulness teacher training retreat, which ended on Sunday. It is an intense, but transformative retreat, which generally has the tutors and the participants feeling challenged at some point.
In teaching mindfulness we are working with people’s minds and these are often vulnerable minds. Therefore, above all, the people we send out to teach must be able to teach safely. I feel that my teachers, have trust in me to ensure that the teachers we train will do no harm. I do not hold this responsibility lightly.
My heart sinks each time I have to have a conversation with a participant who is not, in my opinion, ready to go out and teach. It is not just my opinion, two tutors observe each participant and make a decision jointly.
We make this decision after going through our feedback with the participant, first hearing their feedback for themselves. This gives us a sense of whether they are/were aware of their strengths and weaknesses in their delivery of their teaching session. A self-aware teacher, who is able to reflect in a balanced way on their teaching is one element that keeps people safe.
Where we feel that a participant is not ready to teach yet, we do our best to support them in their continuing training. We try to find opportunities for them to sit in with and support a more experienced MBLC teacher local to them, or suggest further training. We then provide them with a free place on a future MBLC teaching skills retreat once they feel ready.
Sometimes participants don’t want to continue. However, when they do and then come back and resit the MBLC teacher training retreat they invariably say what a valuable experience it has been. They then feel confident and ready to teach back in their communities.
There are a lot of nerves on this retreat and I think part of this is because our mindfulness teaching practice is so personal. Our teaching practice is a manifestation of our personal mindfulness practice. To this extent we can authentically accept and not try to fix ourselves. Also we are mindful of not getting caught up in stories etc., in our personal mindfulness practice. Can we do that for our groups? Therefore, sharing a teaching session with a group of peers while being assessed on this retreat is a tender process. As facilitators we do our best to honour this.
I find the strength to make these difficult decisions and to have the ensuing, often difficult, conversations because of the trust my teachers have placed in me. It helps me to bring my teachers to mind and imagine absorbing their qualities. This supports and sustains me.
I love training teachers. I love the courage and commitment they show to their practice. They inspire me with their aspirations to share the benefits they have experienced from their practice with others. It is a great opportunity to multiply the amount of needless suffering that can be relieved in this world. The world needs more authentic, compassionate and committed mindfulness teachers and our teacher training pathway can generate them.
I also recognise that the challenges of this work give me an opportunity to work my edges and continue my own journey of personal growth. Furthermore I learn more about teaching mindfulness, which develops and refreshes my own teaching practice. This time I have recognised that I have more courage and strength than I imagined!
Have you thought about training to teach mindfulness? If so, find out more information about the Mindfulness Association’s unique teacher training pathway.
The retreat may be intense, but the feedback is remarkable, detailing massive shifts, growth in self-belief transformation and healing. Another group of excellent human beings ready to share the benefits of compassion based mindfulness. A good week’s work!