Teaching Mindfulness Meditation
Gaining experience with mindfulness meditation sets you up to teach
authentically within your comfort zone. There’s a huge difference
between teaching something “I think ought to be useful” and something “I
know, from my own experience, is useful.” You don’t need to have
significant expertise—rather, you just need to practice yourself so you have an experiential foundation on which to base your teaching.
The learning sequence for mindfulness is essentially the same one you
already use when you teach students other skills, from math to music,
or language arts to athletics. Information and instruction come first
followed by lots of practice. Over time, the brain becomes familiar with
generating mindfulness. With repetition, these skills become more
automatic and require less effort.
In the beginning, a few minutes to practice mindfulness can feel like
an eternity, so using short sessions is appropriate. Then, as you
become more accustomed to the techniques, you might choose to practice
longer. It’s good to go at your own speed and see what happens. And just
five minutes practice regularly is more useful in the long-run than
longer sessions done more sporadically. All you need to do to get
started is “Take 5.”
- Begin by taking five minutes to sit still, by yourself, in a quiet,
comfortable, and private place. Turn off the ringers of your phones,
turn off the TV or radio, and put aside your “todo” list. If you’re
concerned about how long you’re going to practice, set a timer that has
an audible bell or flashing light.
- It’s best to sit in a stable position, with your spine as straight as
possible, either on a chair without leaning against the back, or
cross-legged on a comfortable cushion set on the floor. Place both your
hands in your lap or palm-down on your thighs. The idea is to get
comfortable without getting caught up in trying to find a position of
perfect comfort. And, of course, don’t sit in a way that causes you
serious pain—or lulls you to sleep.
- Once you’re settled, allow your gaze to soften and gently go out of
focus as you keep your eyes slightly open. Look forward and downward at a
45°angle so that your eyelids relax and lower a little. Try to breathe
through your nose, and let your lips, mouth, and jaw relax. Now that
you’re in position, you can begin the basic breathing practice outlined
in the following progression.