Saturday, March 17, 2012

5 Tips For Wannabe Mindfulness Teachers

From being a student, and also a teacher of mindfulness, I have learned a few things that I would like to pass along to 'wannabe' teachers:

1. Have integrity as a teacher
Learn from a reputable teacher. Sit every day for 30 minutes at least, and go on a long silent retreat at least once a year. Do not follow someone else's script. Instead let the words flow from your in-the-moment experience and your own practice. If not able, better have your 'student' listen to a recording of a more experienced teacher.

2. Do not add to the moment
Mindfulness practice is simply about being aware of what is. It is not about visualizing what is not there, or forcing your breath into a different rhythm. Those techniques belong to other types of meditation practices with a different goal.

3. Stay away from 'I' and 'You'
Instead go for 'we' statements, or even better, action oriented instructions without personal pronouns, e.g. "body sitting still, being breathed", or, "turning our attention to the experience of hearing sounds", etc. This way, the possibility of experiencing not self gets introduced.

4. Leave the space open for the wide range of possible experiences
Do not impose your idea of what the now ought to be. During body scan, make room for possibility not just of sensations but also of no sensations. During mindfulness of emotions, give examples of many emotions, and also possibility of not knowing. Also, do not tell people that they should not think - such a common misconception, that get unfortunately passed on by so many untrained 'teachers'!

5. Talk, but not too much
Guiding means you need to use verbal guidance throughout the meditation to hold students' experience. It does not mean placating the whole time with non stop talking. You want to give students a chance to take in your instructions, and then experience for themselves. 

With deep gratitude to those teachers from which I learned much about the art of teaching mindfulness: Gil Fronsdal, Bob Stahl, Jon Kabat-Zinn


  1. Some of my favorite moments in the recorded dharma talks I listen to are the wide, expansive pauses that get dropped in here and there. Not enough of them.

    As for the "we" thing, I agree it can make sense in a teaching context, though someone speaking for me by making assessments of a condition they have personally experienced and using "we" instead of "I" can be a little presumptive. When it's most inappropriate is when used casually in blogs. I try and keep my blog in the first person - I can't speak for you.

  2. Thank you Matt, for adding your perspective. I agree with you about the need for a parsimonious use of the 'we'. I makes sense for generic instructions such as 'let us sit now' . . . It does not work, when instructing folks to feel a certain feeling such as 'joy' for instance, as I have been subjected to in some past workshops . . . When guiding loving kindness practice, I always make sure to leave the door open for other states, and to clarify what loving kindness is, an all embracing practice, not one that excludes possibility of any kind of emotions.

  3. Hi Marguerite

    I was wondering for someone who was interested in starting a mindfulness based training practise, is there qualifications or courses out there that can give you a basis in teaching?

    What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start teaching?



  4. Closest is MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) teacher training. You can go to the U of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness website for specifics.

    And of course, most important is your own mindfulness practice. Practicing daily, joining a sangha, having a skillful teacher, going on silent weeklong retreats. Mindfulness has to be a part of you!

  5. Love watching your story emerge, Marguerite! We need more people-who are willing to brave the dusty world- like you.



  6. Sharing practice is such a privilege, and also an opportunity to hear from others like you, also sharing their practice! Power of sangha, now in cyberspace . . .