Millions of people around the world have been powerfully touched by mindfulness practice. Therefore, it is not surprising that more and more people are feeling a desire to teach mindfulness to others. As a new or aspiring mindfulness teacher, where does one begin?
In this beginner’s guide on how to teach mindfulness, we will explore:
“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
- Mark Van Doren -
What is a Mindfulness Teacher?
If your personal mindfulness practice is strong, you probably have a good sense of what it means to be a mindfulness teacher. You have probably encountered a variety mindfulness teachers through your own studies and practice and therefore have an experiential sense of what this work entails.
With that said, there can certainly be points of confusion. For instance, how does a mindfulness teacher differentiate from a meditation teacher? Or, is teaching mindfulness similar to therapy or coaching? As a new mindfulness teacher, it is important to get clear about what exactly you offer and where the limit of your capabilities extends to.
To define it simply, a mindfulness teacher is someone who shares mindfulness practices with others typically by way of a variety of teaching styles, such as didactic teaching, experiential practice, and inquiry. Though many people have slightly varying understandings of what mindfulness is, a common definition defines mindfulness as “non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness.” This is what mindfulness teachers support their students in developing.
To provide clarity around some of the common misconceptions of mindfulness teaching, consider the following:
It is also important to note that mindfulness teachers don’t look, think, and speak in the same way. As a new or aspiring mindfulness teacher, we often think that we must be just like our own teachers in order to be a ‘good’ teacher. However, authenticity in our teachings is more important than mimicking what we ‘think’ we should be like as a mindfulness teacher. So it is also important that when you ponder this question – What is a mindfulness teacher? – to ask yourself what it means to you.
“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
- Albert Einstein -
How to Become a Mindfulness Teacher
Most people begin their mindfulness teaching journey by developing and strengthening their own practice. In fact, this is the best place to start. We cannot authentically or deeply offer mindfulness to others if we have not gone through it ourselves. Our own practice serves as a necessary foundation for our teachings.
Additionally, while it is not required in most places to be certified to teach mindfulness (at the time of writing), many people train to teach mindfulness. Mindfulness teacher training is important because it helps us not only to further strengthen our personal practice, but it also supports us in learning what it means to be a teacher.
How do we work with students who have trauma? How do we support students who are resistant or who may have difficult questions? What do we do when strong emotions arise in a student? How much silence should I hold during guided meditations? These are just some of the questions that can be answered when we train to teach mindfulness.
Since there is no single route for becoming a mindfulness teacher, how you become a mindfulness teacher is up to you. With that said, it is important to make sure that you have all the preparation you need before working with others. Mindfulness can stir up difficult emotions and challenging questions, so it is important to know how to embody the teacher role and to navigate these potential challenges when they arise.
Learn more about how to certify to teach mindfulness.
7 Tips for New Mindfulness Teachers
In addition to all of the considerations offered above, read through the 7 following tips for new mindfulness teachers. These tips cover everything from self-compassion to personal biases to insurance and can support you as you get started with mindfulness teaching.
Be yourself – and go easy on yourself.
First and foremost, make a commitment to show up as your authentic self. It’s important not to over or undersell yourself – just be you. Additionally, it’s helpful to go easy on yourself. When we begin teaching mindfulness, we often worry about saying the wrong thing or about what other people are thinking. Notice if self-judgment arises and tend to it with self-compassion.
Turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
No matter how much teaching experience we have behind us, things don’t always go as planned. If you say something that wasn’t quite accurate or realize you weren’t as prepared for something as you could have been, take this is an opportunity to learn. What will you do differently next time? Mistakes do not make us ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’; they make us human.
Be aware of your own assumptions and biases.
Your own past experience shapes your mindfulness practice. Because of this, we can sometimes assume that everyone experiences mindfulness the way we do – which is far from the case. Be mindful that everyone is coming to the table with their own story, beliefs, and experience. Be humble, sensitive to trauma, and always willing to learn. Maintain a curious, beginner’s mind when working with others.
Seek feedback from your students.
As a new teacher, it is incredibly valuable to seek feedback from your students. You can do this by sending out a post-practice survey by email or by providing forms that students can fill out by hand. Note that some of the feedback you receive will be based on personal bias or preference, but a lot of it will be helpful for showing you where you have room to grow and for reaffirming your strengths.
Not all mindfulness teachers have insurance, but it is important to consider this as an option. Generally speaking, most people will benefit greatly from learning mindfulness, but there is always a chance a claim against you or your business could arise. Therefore, insurance may be something you decide to have behind you.
Know that it’s okay to not know something or to not have a clear answer.
Furthermore, just because you teach mindfulness does not mean you have all the answers. If a student asks a question to which you do not have a clear, insightful answer, remember that it’s okay to say that you’re not sure. With compassion and curiosity, you can comfortably sit with your student in this space of not knowing.
Continue strengthening your own practice.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your personal journey does not end the day you become a mindfulness teacher. We are all continually learning and evolving and your personal mindfulness practice will support you in this. Stay close to your practice, using it as fuel for your teachings.
Read more about how to teach mindfulness with less fear, doubt, and uncertainty.
6 Mindfulness Exercises for Mindfulness Teachers
While many mindfulness exercises are geared towards personal practice, there are also exercises and teachings designed specifically to support mindfulness teachers. Consider the following practices and teachings to strengthen your ability to share mindfulness with courage, confidence, wisdom, and compassion.
If you are experiencing fear or doubt about your capacity to teach mindfulness, use this worksheet to gain insight around these thoughts and feelings. Is there a deeper longing to hone your skills before teaching? Are there certain ideals you hold that inhibit you from stepping forward? Get curious about what is moving through you.
This worksheet offers a simple three-step model that you can use to structure whatever type of mindfulness teaching you wish to share. It can help you to clarify what it is you wish to teach and how you can support this teaching with storytelling and practical take-home tools.
If you are struggling with your inner critic or with difficult emotions related to your role as a mindfulness teacher, take a pause to practice self-compassion. This meditation led by Chris Germer can help you cultivate the same compassion that you would teach to your students.
Another resource you can check out as a new mindfulness teacher is Sean Fargo’s talk on teaching mindfulness with integrity. He sheds light on how we can get out of our head and move into the heart in order to connect with our students and create meaningful impact.
Furthermore, as we venture into our new role as a mindfulness teacher, it is helpful to check in with our strengths and with the areas in which we have room to grow. This worksheet highlights some of the qualities required to teach mindfulness and invites us to consider how well we embody each one at the present time.
Lastly, it’s important as a new teacher to consider what it means to teach with credibility. How can we teach with legitimacy? How can we foster a sense of trust? This talk by Sean Fargo offers tips on how to increase credibility and notes the importance of becoming certified.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself as an Aspiring Mindfulness Teacher
So, if you’ve decided that teaching mindfulness is something your heart longs to do, spend some time in reflection pondering where you will go from here. Use the following prompts to facilitate the awakening of this dream.
Who do I want to serve?
Consider the community you want to share mindfulness with. What are their challenges? What are their needs?
What qualifies me to teach this community?
Consider both professional experience and personal life experience. What makes you a match for those you wish to serve?
What stands between me and my dream of becoming a mindfulness teacher?
Consider any internal barriers (such as limiting beliefs) along with practical steps that need to be taken, such as completing a teacher training course.
What is something I can do today that will support my vision of becoming a mindfulness teacher?
Note that this could be anything from diving into personal practice to looking up a training course to asking a friend if they would like to be a practice student for you. Commit to this one action that will support you in stepping into this new role.