Mindful teaching

I’m part way through teaching a short course on mindfulness to a small group of students. It’s my first time teaching a sustained course over two months and my first time teaching mindfulness. I was not at all sure it would work, that I could do it, or what the students would bring to it and take from it. Ah, so many uncertainties — and I did it anyway. Well, I’m still doing it, we have a couple of sessions left. So I’m still uncertain of how it will all turn out, what feedback they might give me or what they are saying about it elsewhere, feeling about it, acting differently as a result of it….

We talked about trust this week. One of them brought it up as a difficulty in sustaining her practice: that she doubted her practice, she doubted herself. A topic close to my heart. Another has been talking every week about how her practice isn’t enough. She always feel frustrated. She never ‘gets there’. In their journalling exercise she said ‘shallow’ came up over and over. Another topic close to my heart.

I did my best in the short time available to give them space to express these things. Meditation, even more than yoga, is a solitary practice. That can be a blessing, it can be a curse. Either way I think articulating one’s experiences is a very necessary part of growth and learning. I was so humbled that these students shared so deeply, especially in on online format — at once remote and bizarrely intimate, I find. I tried to offer some guidance, how they might begin to shape their unique practice as a container for exploration and experience, how they might tenderly and gently tread towards these deeper issues. They are revealed by the practice, then we must choose whether to remain open (mindful!) or whether to turn away again and pretend we haven’t seen.

Of course I don’t have answers. I still have all this stuff going on within my own practice. But it’s more a companion than a tyrant now. Maybe that is why I felt able to sit in the teacher’s seat with these students and know I have something to offer, that I can be steady when they are not. Whenever I have a good and meaningful connection with my students, whenever I feel the trust inside me about what I’m offering, the quality and relevance of my own practice, all the efforts I make — I am filled with respect and love for my own teacher. I don’t think I’m as easy for him to teach as my own students are for me! But I am always beyond grateful for what he offers me: that he can be steady when I am not.

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