When I practiced Medicine, I considered myself a holistic doctor since I saw so many patients with a whole list'o problems! Now, I consider myself a Wholistic practitioner since teaching mindfulness is not about fixing or curing, but about becoming WHOLE - the true meaning of healing.
At some of my lectures and classes when introducing myself, I will end by saying, “it’s funny - I used to be the busy doctor, on-call all the time, working 50 hrs per week, receiving phone calls day and night. Now as a mindfulness teacher what do I do? I do nothing and teach others to do nothing! And it is so much more rewarding.” People usually laugh, thinking I’m mostly joking. Which I am…but only in part, because it really is true, I really feel like that. What is so rewarding teaching mindfulness that is different from practicing Medicine, is watching others discover for themselves a power within that they were not aware – an inner wisdom - that fosters their body’s own healing. This is partly due to the fact that mindfulness is not so much taught as it is brought forth - a bringing forth of something that is innate, something we already have within us...allowing us to tap into our Wholeness, with Wholeness as the true meaning of healing!
Interestingly, I am seeing more & more requests from healthcare providers to learn mindfulness. I feel honored to teach doctors, nurses, med students, therapists, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and others. Surprisingly, I am encouraged to share my story. Additionally, it’s wonderful and affirming that mindfulness is becoming a welcomed countermeasure for many of our society's ills and maladies, including those of our ailing healthcare system. I am hoping that mindfulness will help transform the entire field of Medicine as it transforms those that practice it -- whether teacher or student, doctor or patient, or anything else!
when the student is ready the teacher will appear
Speaking of teaching mindfulness, we are blessed that our South Florida Mindfulness Community has many well trained, qualified/certified and embodied teachers and teachers in training. Since the population of South Florida is growing, we need lots more teachers that are authentic, well trained and well-intended.
What are some of the traits of authentic and well-trained teachers? Here are some questions to ask yourself and the person you might want to take a class from (this is not meant to be a complete or authoritative list):
• How did they become a mindfulness teacher? Do they have verifiable training?
• Are they part of an established community?
• Do they have certification from a group whose standards you can see?
• What practices do they teach and practice themselves, and do those line up with your interests?
• Are they easy to reach and communicate with?
• Do they engage with the world in a mindful way? Do they walk the talk?
Having said that, when I first considered teaching long before any certification process was established, I was at a retreat with Jon Kabat Zinn and Saki Santorelli, where Saki began, “to teach mindfulness you need an open mind and a big heart.” He also emphasized the need for a daily practice, formally as well as informally. Regular practice is critical for the moment-to-moment responsiveness to the internal and external experiences and situations that arise at any moment in any class. Also, it is one’s ongoing practice that reflects one’s authority, authenticity, and friendliness as a teacher - which is worth more than knowledge or research. And to that I add, teachers should stay connected with their teacher (if they have one), other teachers or a community of mindfulness practitioners. This is necessary not only to discuss teaching issues, problems, and questions but also their practice. And, their behaviors and attitudes. Developing good ethical and moral conduct is crucially required for teachers. As are honesty and humility - some of us feel the first and last job of anyone who teaches mindfulness should be to make her or himself redundant.
Still, to teach mindfulness, as with other professions, it is important to get formal training through a legitimate entity. Some of the training and certifying institutions include UMass CFM, Brown U, UCSD, UCLA, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies (Toronto), the Engaged Mindfulness Institute, Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, and Sounds True’s The Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program with Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach. There are others with specific teacher training (eg, Mindful Schools), but I am mostly referring to those that train to teach community mindfulness-based programs, such as MBSR, MSC, MBCT.
At the same time, these training programs, while of high quality and integrity, are time and energy-consuming and expensive, making them impractical, if not impossible, for many. On the other hand, these programs may not be necessary if one is not sure exactly where and to whom they will be teaching. Therefore, when asked by those wanting to start teaching what-how they should do, I suggest that they first participate in an MBSR, MSC or similar course. Thereafter, commit to a personal practice while reflecting on their intentions and motivation to teach. And, as stated, stay close to other teachers and practitioners.
when the teacher is ready the students will appear
Fortunately, we now have local mindfulness teacher training courses that are cost-effective and require no long-distance travel. If you are interested in formal certification, Valerie York-Zimmerman offers the MBSR Practicum Leading to Teacher Certification in collaboration with UCSD in South Miami (next class Winter 2020). But if you are not sure of what/where/to whom you will be teaching or if you want to deepen your knowledge and practice, something that is more feasible is the upcoming Innergy Meditation Teacher Training - a 50-Hour introductory meditation teacher training program with online and in-studio sessions. Space is available, and I am grateful to be one of the teachers teaching this course that was developed and will be led by some of South Florida's top teachers and experts in the mindfulness field. This training is open to everyone considering teaching and anyone with a passion for meditation. It is ideal for Yoga Teachers, Coaches, Therapists/Social Workers, Corporate Leaders. Details for this teacher training, which starts Oct 17th, can be found FLYER HERE & LINK HERE.
And if you cannot afford (timewise or money) to be in a formal training program, please reach out and stay close to those of us with experience, interest &/or certification.
when the student and teacher are ready, the teacher and student disappear
Teaching mindfulness has been a wild ride for me, surprising, joyful, jarring, but always gratifying thanks to all of you. It’s also quite different than practicing Medicine. As a doctor, I was the so-called authority telling you, the patient, what to do, based on science, clinical research, and experience. And while I am not trying to minimize the benefits and necessity for medical expertise, there was a sense that this was the best, sometimes only way, to help you. But in a mindfulness class, you are the "Dr." and teacher, just as much as I am, and I am the patient and student, just as much as you are - that is, we are all teaching and learning from each other. So here again a reminder to stay connected, with/in community to ‘do’ mindfulness together. And to continue your practice, remembering that there may be plenty of good excuses not to practice, but there are usually no good reasons! As you wait for a better time, the right setting or to be more ready, you will be 'practicing' waiting, deferring, avoiding, and eventually these become habits and self-fulfilling. As the infamous TV Dr. House points out, “It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only NOW. And you may as well do it NOW. Generally speaking, NOW is as good a time as any.”
“Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, ‘I am all of the above.” Parker Palmer
“Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten.” “Rachel Naomi Remen