No more than a seed chooses to germinate have I chosen a path to teach. No more than the seed knows what it will become do I know how my teaching will manifest.
That said, regarding intentions and objectives, this journey necessarily sparks images of eventual outcomes, which tend to encompass teaching in multiple venues in multiple ways:
Individuals, small groups, seminars, programs
Homes, churches, centers, institutions
Free, dana, fees or salary
Or any mix thereof.
Why and Wherefore?
From a deeply personal perspective, the driving impetus is to be of value and service to my fellows, particularly those who are in recovery from things I’ve experienced, such as alcoholism and PTSD, including, but not limited to, friends and family of those in recovery. However, I’ll gladly teach anyone who is ready to receive the training.
At a more pragmatic level, my retirement savings were wiped out in my recent divorce. I’ve never had a “golf course” mentality towards retirement anyway. I’ve always imagined I would keep working to some degree, by shifting my income to something less capitalistic, and more altruistic. Ever since I graduated college, I’ve thought I would retire as a teacher. To that end, it seems MBSR could be an age-proof solution on which I might build an independent career in practically any locale I choose.
What (I think) I need today…
I’m hoping to come out of this course with a set of both intangible and tangible tools.
I believe I need a solid, but not rigid, foundation on which to start building an MBSR teaching practice that may branch out into other sub-specialties, such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). I want to come away with more than a syllabus, but a personal philosophy (in line with the existing program and protocols) for dealing with the unexpected.
My frame of reference is my experience as a sponsor in A.A. I’ve sponsored quite a number of people in the last 17 years or so, and I’ve developed a personal approach that is faithful to the principles of A.A. I’ve become acutely aware that I’m not equipped to handle everything that arises in that role. For instance, I often encourage my sponsees to be engaged in some form of psychotherapy as we approach the Fourth Step, the dreaded “searching and fearless moral inventory”, which can be a minefield for trauma triggers!
Therefore, I have my own protocol for handling events that are beyond me as a sponsor. (First, stop the step work until such time as I think they’re ready to continue; second, to return to the fundamental guidance of “don’t drink today”; and third, refer them to their therapist or other qualified help, if they’re open to it).
I’m hoping to come out of this training with something of a similar framework (the intangible), as well as the nuts and bolts of conducting a seminar (the tangible). I also want some sense of next steps in the process of building a teaching practice (perhaps even more tangible).
NOTE: I understand that the roles of sponsor and mindfulness teacher are completely different in nature. While both might arise from the same impetus, they have decidedly different goals, boundaries and parameters.
To That End…
- I need to give myself completely to this coursework to the highest degree possible
- I need to complete the coursework successfully
- I need to remain open, humble and teachable
- Of course, I must become familiar with the Curriculum and the Teaching Guide
- Creating a business/marketing plan of sorts would be helpful
- A contact list of supportive people in the endeavor
- I need to prepare to take next steps as they become apparent
what I have to bring to bear
- My education and theater training
- For reasons that might not seem readily apparent, earning a drama degree as an actor from Carnegie Mellon University in 1982 is serving as a firm foundation for this work. It was my introduction to self-awareness. It’s where I first started doing body scans, yoga, mindful movement and other awareness/stress relief techniques. It’s where I was first presented with the idea of becoming “present in the moment”, although I wouldn’t understand what that meant until much later. It was also where I first built business skills that would help me launch various careers and ventures such as this one. We learned budgeting, scheduling, management and marketing, all without know that’s what we were learning.
- My business and marketing background
- Currently I’m a freelance marketing and management consultant helping to launch startups, while also working in digital media as a copywriter.
- My recovery
- Sobriety is where my spiritual path formally began. It’s where I’ve learned so many of the interpersonal skills that I think are necessary in this type of teaching, such as listening, setting boundaries, maintaining boundaries and acceptance of outcomes.
- My PTSD recovery taught me so much about the human mind at a visceral level. I am not, nor do I aspire to be, a mental health professional, but the people who treated me taught me so much about the healing power of empathy, trust, and compassion. While I believe MBSR teachers are not therapists, nor should they engage in therapy, there is, nonetheless, something of a therapeutic alliance between teacher and student encompassing the same level of empathy, trust and compassion.
- My lifestyle and schedule
- I’ve built an independent career and lifestyle in which I’m able to govern my own time.
- To accommodate the class, I’m leveraging my son’s school schedule as well as respite care that I receive from Medicaid.
- Financial resources
- I have the financial resources to pursue this path, and to take the time to let it develop.
- Mindfulness teacher training
- I’ve completed a year-long course of study with Matt Flickstein in Mindfulness Teacher Training called Teaching as Practice.
- My daily meditation practice
- I meditate between 20 minutes and one hour a day.
- I usually attend at least one retreat per year lasting from 3 to 7 days
- I also give myself at least one self-guided retreat weekend at home per year.