Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation

Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” 
― 
Hermann HesseSiddhartha

It dawned on me recently that I started my teaching career forty years ago.  Yikes!  In the 1970’s, I taught Stress Management and Assertiveness Training for a large county adult education program.  I went from there to a multi-faceted career that included training managers and adjunct teaching in many colleges and universities.  Before retirement, I was a full-time faculty member in the School of Business Administration at Marymount University.  Now, it seems that I’ve come full circle – teaching Mindfulness and Meditation at my local county library. It feels like a good slipper – comfy, warm, and easy to wear.

My class consists of six sessions, each lasting an hour and a half.  I have about twenty participants, mostly retired women, like myself.  I like the term “participant” better than “student” for reasons I’ll explain shortly.   Each session includes a PowerPoint presentation, group discussion, and practice meditation.  The class covers the following topics:

  1. Mindfulness: What is it and why should we live a mindful life; Practice:  Mindful Breathing
  2. Meditation: Traditions and Techniques; Practice:  Body-Scan Meditation
  3. Mindful Eating; Practice: The Raisin Exercise and Loving Kindness Meditation
  4. Mindful Self-Inquiry: The RAIN Formula; Practice:  Mindful Self-Inquiry for Stress and Anxiety
  5. Interpersonal Mindfulness; Practice:  Mindful Listening
  6. Mindful Walking and Exercise; Practice:  Mindful Walking and Observation

My teaching has always been with adult learners and that requires a different role for the teacher.  As I said to the class early on, “I am a facilitator, not a teacher.  I will learn as much from you as you do from me.”  As the class facilitator, I focus on creating an environment in which adults can reflect on and share their experiences.  Because their participation is so important, I continually ask questions such as, “What are examples from your own life?  How does that affect you?  What will you do differently going forward?”  The role of a student is to sit quietly and learn from an expert; the role of a participant is to learn from each other.

Currently, I’m “facilitating” my second class in mindfulness and meditation.  The topic is perfect for me because my own retirement life journey is about becoming more mindful.  The participants look to me not only to impart information but to demonstrate mindfulness by paying attention to what is happening in the classroom in the current moment.  The techniques of mindfulness are also methods for facilitation.  It’s another way for me to practice mindfulness in my own life.

From the beginning, I am honest with the class participants about my level of experience with mindfulness and meditation.  I’ve read tons of articles and books but I’ve only been practicing for a couple of years.  And living mindfully isn’t easy.  When we are talking about mindful eating, I share my dirty laundry, e.g. that I’m addicted to sugar and I’m not a vegetarian.  There are several participants in our class that do a better job of eating mindfully than I do.  That’s fine and I learn from their lessons learned.

Even though I believe that a regular meditation practice can lead to spiritual development, I don’t incorporate spirituality into the classroom discussion.  In fact, I believe Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion.  I fully acknowledge that western meditation practices are rooted in eastern religions, but I encourage the participants to explore how it relates to their current lives and beliefs.  There are many roads to mindfulness and it is great fun to see how each participant develops their own practice.

Learning mindfulness takes practice and it’s sometimes difficult to get away from our western tendency to want quick, easy answers.  I emphasize the importance of committed practice.  As I can readily testify, reading, thinking or talking about mindfulness can’t take the place of meditating on a regular basis.  It will probably take many months before one can expect to see results.  The bottom line is that I’m learning to be humble and enjoy the process – as a facilitator, and fellow learner!

 

Lessons of Another Kind

by Leslie Owen Wilson

 

I came to teach,

To see what I could find

Inside my students’ deeper selves.

 

I came to try and open minds

Before they were seamed shut.

I came to channel passages,

Hoping to connect hearts to heads

And hands.

I came to entreat,

To coax ennobled thoughts,

Ideals, and love of self and others.

I thought that this must come from inside out

Into the essence of their beings,

Into relationships,

As connections to words and deeds,

And pedagogic styles.

I came to probe,

And sometimes poke,

To make them think,

And laugh

At small and narrowed views.

For I wanted them to see,

With their own eyes,

Beyond the limitations of closed perceptions

Into the beauty and the pain of others’ views.

I came to teach,

But learned instead

That they had just as much

To say to me.

Their lessons were often raw,

Sometimes unformed and yet complex.

I came to give and yet was given.

For through their gifts I saw anew

That I must learn to guard against complacency, conclusions,

And the allure of too soon ends.

I came to grow,

Unknowingly

To shed my false, new scholar’s skin

And metamorphose

Into to something new

And strange –

Something far beyond the shadows of my old instructive self.

I came to teach but was changed in other ways,

And now remember that life is still a two way street.

These were lessons

I needed to commit to memory, again.

Perhaps it is enough to say, I came to teach but learned instead.

 

2 thoughts on “Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation

  1. Sounds like an awesome class!

    On Oct 7, 2017 1:46 PM, “Cindy’s Mindful Retirement” wrote:

    > Cindy posted: ” Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation “Wisdom cannot be > imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like > foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not > wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it,” >

    Like

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