Meditation Teacher, First Steps
Meditation can be a wonderful thing to practice in your life, both on your own and with other people (in meditation groups). In fact, for some people, it’s actually helpful to practice meditation with other people because it allows them to be more aware and more uninhibited.
Of course, this largely depends on the individual, but this brings us to another interesting concept, which is taught meditation, or guided meditation.
This involves a teacher and usually a group of students who are guided by their teacher towards a place of stillness and grounding.
Ever wondered how you become a meditation teacher? If there is perhaps a special school for that?
Well, wonder no more, for in this article, we set out to answer just that and provide you with some tips and ideas for becoming a meditation teacher.
Note: Many people prefer taking either an online or an in-person course to become meditation teachers because such courses provide a certain level of accreditation. However, since there is no official school for teaching meditation, we’ve put together this easy guide to help you take your first steps towards becoming a meditation teacher.
Create a safe and comfortable atmosphere
This means making sure the room or the space in which the meditation is to take place should be as free of distractions as possible. It stands to reason that this means no TVs, phones, game consoles or anything like that.
For some, bright colors can be productive and actually encourage meditation, but the truth is, the large majority of people find them distracting. So you want to decorate your meditation space in easy pastels that won’t be too “in your face” and won’t distract your students.
Adding plants or pillows to your meditation space can be a wonderful idea. Plants provide us with oxygen, which in turn makes us feel more relieved and happy. Besides, seeing that characteristic nature green takes us back to our roots somehow and makes us feel at home.
The pillows compound the feeling of safety that you want your students to experience.
We wouldn’t recommend putting up any images or posters on the walls, especially not ones with any writing as that again can prove quite distracting.
You’re free to decorate your meditation room any way you want. In fact, it can be a great idea to add a touch of your own personality to it and not keep it too bland. You want to connect with these people, after all, and the best way to do that is to offer a little piece of yourself.
Once you’ve set up the meditation space, you’re free to begin leading meditation practices. All anyone will need will be a comfortable pillow or yoga mat, comfortable clothes as well as some water handy.
Tip: Emphasize to your students the need for loose, comfortable clothing. Since meditation isn’t actual physical exercise, it doesn’t require you to show up in sweats or anything. But a tight-fitting pant leg can really distract the student from your meditation.
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Easing your way into meditation
Remember, in order to lead a successful meditation practice, you’ll first need to get to that place of mindfulness and inner stillness yourself. The best teacher meditates along with his students and guides them through the perspective of his own present experiences.
So calm yourself together with your students. Encourage them to sit down comfortably. Don’t impose a strict, straight back rule or anything like that, even though that’s how they do it in movies.
Everybody is a little different and so every body is a little different as well. While for some, it might be comfortable to sit with their back straight, for others, this can prove quite challenging and the extra effort will take away from their meditation. We know it’s healthy to sit up straight, but right now, that is not our main purpose.
It’s important to lead by example, rather than words. If you sit up straight and maintain a good posture yourself, your students are likely to imitate you without being overly stressed about keeping their backs straight. Gently discourage people slumping over too badly.
Tuck your chin in slightly and keep your hands folded comfortably in your lap or lying on your thighs. The most important thing here is to be comfortable.
Alternatively, you can meditate lying down, as many find an added sense of comfort in this position. However, bear in mind that for some, this can be quite challenging, because it makes them feel very exposed and thus unsafe, so do all you can to ensure these people know they are safe with you. If this means remaining sitting, so that you’re somewhat above the rest of the class, then do so.
To close or not close the eyes…
That’s pretty much the first thing anyone thinks about when thinking of meditation. Close your eyes and try to relax and all that. But in truth, many people find it quite difficult to relax with their eyes closed, especially when there are other people (strangers, usually) sitting so close to them.
This is particularly true for people with a low self-esteem or those who tend to be on edge. Some people can’t escape the feeling that while they’re keeping their eyes closed, other people are looking at them, maybe judging them.
In other words, don’t force your students to keep their eyes closed. Encourage them to try it out, but if it doesn’t work, let them know it’s okay to meditate with your eyes open as well. After a while, if they feel comfortable, they will try closing their eyes by their own accord.
Besides, letting your students know the choice is theirs helps them feel more in control. The more in control they feel, the easier it will be for them to relax and let themselves get lost in the meditation practice.
Suggest rather than order
We get it, since you’re the teacher, you know best. And you’re doing what you’re doing because you want these people to feel comfortable and lead healthy and satisfying meditation practices. But be careful with your language. Too often when we’re guiding others or teaching them anything, we tend to become authoritative and rather commanding.
As you can imagine, this only takes away from the meditation experience. Again, it’s important that your students feel safe in this space, not rushed, not like they have to do this. Just that they can do it if they want to.
So stay away from commanding phrases like “close your eyes now”. Suggest it to them rather and watch how they open up to you.
Tone of voice is another huge aspect of teaching meditation. You might say “close your eyes” and have it sound like a demand or an order, or you might say “close your eyes” and have it sound like an encouragement or suggestion. You want to keep your voice low, soft, and reassuring.
Speaking of your voice, don’t try to sound like a meditation teacher. You know the one, that smooth, eerily calm voice you imagine a meditation teacher should have. While that might seem good because it encourages the students to be calm, it’s actually counterproductive.
See, you don’t have to sound as cheery or as loud as you normally would, but try to maintain as much of your normal speaking voice as possible. Because making a special voice makes it seem like an unusual moment and distracts your students from their meditation.
Remember that your meditation practice is different from everyone else’s
It can be tempting when teaching meditation to emphasize certain things, in order to make them sound more real. For example, you might want to describe experiences or certain aspects of the meditation practice. You’ll want to sneak in adjectives in order to get people more grounded and actually paying attention to your voice.
“Feel your thighs” might sound a little banal for you, so you’ll be tempted to replace it with “feel the warmth of your thighs” or “feel that nice tingling in your thighs”. Both of these sound more personal and more real, making the student actually pay attention to that tingling sensation or warmth.
However, maybe they don’t feel it. I mean, just because you are experiencing this warmth or tingling doesn’t mean everyone else is and by emphasizing these things, you’re disrupting their concentration. Making them wonder why they don’t feel that, are they doing something wrong – all sorts of thoughts that do not belong in a meditation.
By this we’re not saying avoid adjectives and descriptive sentences altogether, just to limit them to a healthy amount. If everything (the breath, the thighs, the air, the neck) needs to have an adjective, it might become annoying at some point. Imagine you’re a writer editing your manuscript – you want to cut out all the stuff that takes away from the main point, and in your case, that is leading a successful, relaxing and inclusive meditation practice.
In fact, it might be beneficial to underline these differences every once in a while. Remind your students that not everyone will feel the same things at the same time. Not everyone will reach that place of stillness as easily or become calm quite so quickly, so remind them that people are different and that it’s okay if they’re not there yet.
Cueing from the middle
When you’re guiding a practice, you’ll want to lead your students as much as you can, to instruct them on how to meditate successfully. Once again, that might not be the best idea. You don’t want to give the impression that you and you alone know just how to meditate well.
On the contrary, you want them to feel at home wherever they are right now. So try to refrain from being pedantic and from guiding too much, because you can only guide at the pace of your own practice and not everyone will have the same pace.
This is where cues come in. A cue is more of a suggestion than actual leading. It’s encouraging your students to be aware of what they feel without suggesting what they might be feeling.
“Where are you now?”
“Watch where your mind goes.”
“Welcome the place where you are now, regardless of where that is.”
Such cues can be beneficial because they’re not specific, they’re not telling the student where they are. Cueing from the middle refers to guiding your students from the experience of your own meditation practice. As a teacher, you want to notice where you are, and then ask your students where they are.
Make sure you don’t forget your own practice and allow moments for yourself to breathe and become grounded. If you talk non-stop throughout, your students will have a harder time finding stillness. As for you, it’ll be downright impossible, so remember to breathe and feel the moment you are in before you offer your next cue.
Address the individual
Lastly, remember you’re talking to one person, even if you’re in a group of five, ten, even thirty people. A meditation class is not like other learning mediums, it’s not a place where the class acts or feels like a group. On the contrary, it’s a place where individuals are encouraged to act and feel only for themselves.
So when talking, you want to make sure you’re addressing ‘you’ rather than ‘we’. Singular, not plural, always. The plural will make them feel part of a group, and while that can be beneficial, it can also coerce them to follow along with the group and abandon the way their own body moves and feels.
Remember that this is just a guide meant to help you find your first steps along the way to becoming a meditation teacher. There are classes, as we mentioned, both in real life and online, and they can be useful. Or they can not. In truth, the best way to learn how to be a meditation teacher is by being one and leading as many practices as possible.
How to Lead a Meditation Practice, Part Three
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