What to look for in a Mindfulness Teacher
Depth, Training, and Experience
Mindfulness is a practice that can offer profound insights as well as challenges. In our world of commerce and influencers, there can be a tendency for mindfulness to be presented superficially, with a focus on feeling better, being more productive, or getting healthier. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting any of that. It may be what gets you in the door to practice, and may even be some of the effect of your practice, among many others.
But! There is more to it than this. Your mindfulness practice is so much more important than feeling better, being more productive, and getting healthier. Your practice of mindfulness can be there for you when feeling better, being productive, or getting healthier might not be possible. Your teacher should be able to communicate beyond the superficial. Look for a teacher who sees mindfulness as more than just a palliative, efficiency, or fitness tool.
It should be easy to find out about a meditation teacher’s learning pathway(s). It is also helpful to discern whether a teacher is currently mentored or is accountable to their relationships with colleagues, membership groups, and / or other teachers.
A certification should let you know what the training pathway was for a particular teacher. It does not guarantee that there will be a good fit, or that you should abandon your own judgment about what is best for you. Here is a beautiful essay by Thanissaro Bikkhu on using your judgment when seeking a teacher. https://tricycle.org/magazine/power-judgment/
You should feel free to ask anyone teaching mindfulness what their training is, and how they meet any of the following criteria.
This is an extract of the main points from a statement by the UK Mindfulness Trainers’ Network. The Mindfulness Center at Brown University has recently come out with their own list of Good Practice Guidelines, very similar to this one.
A mindfulness teacher would normally have the following:
- A professional qualification in clinical practice, education or social context or equivalent life experience recognised by the community in which the teaching will take place.
- Prior knowledge and experience of the populations that the mindfulness-based approach will be delivered to, including experience of teaching, therapeutic or other care provision with groups and individuals.
- A professional mental health training that includes the use of evidenced based therapeutic approaches (if delivering MBCT).
- Familiarity through personal participation with the mindfulness-based course curriculum that they will be learning to teach, with particular in-depth personal experience of the three core practices of mindfulness-based programmes – body scan, sitting meditation and mindful movement (plus any other core practice that is a necessary part of the programme being taught e.g. specific other practices taught in theBreathworks programme).
- Completion of an in-depth, rigorous mindfulness-based teacher training programme or supervised pathway over a minimum duration of 12 months.
- Ongoing adherence to the appropriate ethical framework of their background and within which they are working.
- Engagement in a regular supervision process with an experienced mindfulness-based teacher(s) which includes:
○ Opportunity to reflect on/inquire into personal process in relation to personal mindfulness practice and mindfulness-based teaching practice;
○ Receiving periodic feedback on teaching from an experienced mindfulness-based teacher through video recordings, supervisor sitting in on teaching sessions or co-teaching and building in feedback sessions.
○ Participation in residential teacher-led mindfulness meditation retreats.
- Ongoing commitment to a personal mindfulness practice through daily formal and informal practice and attendance on retreat.
- Ongoing contacts with mindfulness-based colleagues, built and maintained as a means to share experiences and learn collaboratively.