Meditation is fast becoming an on-trend activity. Long time meditators, and some with relatively little experience, are seizing the opportunity to turn their meditating experience into possible teaching careers. Some have what it takes to be quite successful, while others will fall far short of the mark. If you’re considering teaching and want to know how you stack up, or just want to see what to expect from an instructor, this article was written for you.
How do you know if you are ready to teach meditation?
The fact is that anyone can show a friend a few meditation techniques they’ve learned in a class. But before you begin teaching others, understand that there is a monumental difference between a meditation expert well versed in how the mind behaves during meditation and the principals of meditation, and someone willing to experiment with the mental well being of others.
Meditation isn’t a casual activity. Some very complex things are happening in the mind and for many students meditation is comparable to working through issues with a psychologist. With that said, a meditation instructor must possess the equivalent knowledge of having completed a Master’s Degree to safely lead others in understanding how their minds work.
To be blunt, this is a problem of the 3 categories of knowledge;
- Things that are known to someone,
- Things someone doesn’t know, but are aware of, and
- Things someone doesn’t even know that they don’t know.
This third category is a blind spot for less knowledgeable teachers who may not grasp the depth of the subject or the pitfalls of something as basic as knowing how to handle asthmatics who can have an asthma attack when trying to pay attention to their breathing, PTSD sufferers who could experience flashbacks as the mind calms down, or when someone has a frighteningly intense meditation experience.
With that said, A good meditation instructor is…
- Knowledgeable of how the meditation techinques they present work on a mental level, and how the principals of meditation apply.
- Up Front – There should be no doubts about the instructor’s training and experience. Just because someone isn’t an expert shouldn’t stop them from sharing their knowledge, but there should be no confusion about what the instructor knows, will teach, and their overall experience level. This way the student can make an informed choice.
- Relevant – There will be underlying mental baggage. A technique that may successfully help a stressed-out office worker can trigger trust and anger issues in a PTSD student. Being able to spot a problem, and adopt a more suitable technique is essential.
- Flexible – Every student is different and will progress at a different rate. Student growth should be a priority and the only way to do that is to adapt to meet their needs. You can read more about this in the article The Same Meditation Every Day?
- Choosy – Instructors need to accept that they can’t be all things to everyone. There will be differing ideals, beliefs and even some personality conflicts preventing a strong student/instructor relationship. For instance, I was an ordained Thai Forest Tradition Monk but I don’t teach Buddhism. I teach meditation without mysticism or religious embellishments. By saying so, I will attract students who like my teaching style. But I also know there are some people who will want to learn with other teachers.
No one should consider this an exhaustive list of what makes a good teacher good, but it should help clear up some questions about who is and is not ready to teach meditation on a commercial scale. There is a reason meditation is gaining in popularity, but the practice will only grow if students have great experiences. It’s up to us, the teachers, to make sure everyone has a positive experience, reaches the goals they’ve set for themselves and keep building teaching skills along the way.