I have just completed delivering the 6 day Mindfulness Based Living Course teaching skills retreat and seen a new cohort of embodied mindfulness teachers committed to sharing the benefits of compassion based mindfulness with their communities. It was a wonderful week working with my friends and colleagues Choden, Barbara Reid and Alan Hughes – what could be better?
It is a delight and a privilege for me to be able to assist people on their journey to become teachers. When I hear them expressing their aspiration to share what has transformed their lives with other it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. This world, this country needs more compassionate awareness and it is a deep joy for me to be able to contribute to this.
It is an intense roller coaster of a retreat with participants sharing sessions of mindfulness teaching and receiving feedback and being assessed. We emphasise that what we are looking for is embodied authenticity in teaching practice, rather than perfection and this helps with the nerves. There is a lot of anxiety on the retreat, but our group this week was mature and able to hold their anxiety and be more curious than afraid.
I have an especially close connection with the students from the Masters degree who were in my tutor group. This bond is especially close with those in my first year tutor groups. I do my best to support them through their mindfulness and compassion modules and see the challenges they face and the courage they embody. Often I see students starting the MSc with a strong feeling of not being good enough and with a cripplingly cruel inner self critic. As they begin to face this and recognise that the human condition is not one of perfection and that their messy evolved mind is not their fault I see them transform. They begin to recognise, as I do, that being human is a messy business and we can be compassionate rather than critical towards our mess. We become what Rob Nairn calls a ‘compassionate mess’. I see these students become happier, less self critical and develop a fundamental sense of OKness with being who they are. This is a delight to observe.
To see some of these students complete their teacher training pathway this week was a deep joy. Knowing how they have struggled in their practice, I have a deep confidence that they can support others in their own struggle from self-criticism to self-care. I know that this is true for the other participants. This is evident from those who I got to know well in my tutor group this last week and others that I have taught mindfulness or compassion or introductory teaching skills in the past.
My advice to trainee teachers is always to allow themselves to fail epically. It is through our failures, struggles and challenges that we learn what it is to be an authentic and embodies mindfulness teacher. One of our guidelines for teachers in the Mindfulness Association is to model imperfection. Not to sit of the front of the class pretending to be perfect, but to sit alongside the class inhabiting our messy humanness. What a joy!
Have you thought about training to teach mindfulness? If you are a committed practitioner and have experienced a transformation in your own life then you have something authentic to offer others. If you wish to be of benefit to the world why not come and train with us?.
If you are already teaching – keep up the good work!
Heather is leading the first course in our series of Mindfulness training – Level 1 Mindfulness Course – Being Present – 25-27 October 2019. The weekend can be attended as the beginning of a four weekend course, or taken in isolation as a taster or a retreat.
Meet Heather and Graeme in this video and hear about the course.