How to Teach Mindfulness
If you want to learn how to teach mindfulness, it’s best to first become a practitioner yourself. You will not only learn what mindfulness feels like and how it affects you, you will develop empathy for those you teach. Mindfulness is pure experience, and putting an academic label on it before you understand its subtleties can make you come off as inauthentic.
The first thing you’ll want to do when teaching mindfulness is to assume that your students know nothing about it. Begin with a clean slate. Sure, there has been a decade of mindfulness hype pushed to every corner of the collective consciousness, but don’t assume that your students know what it really is or how to use it. Most likely, they have come to you because they are wanting or some part of their experience or education is lacking.
The second thing that you’ll want to do is learn about learning styles. Most people are visual learners, many are auditory, and some are kinesthetic. You will want to tailor your lessons with visuals and a strong explanation in order to hit both visual and auditory complexes in your students. This will teach them the theory behind mindfulness, which you can read about here, and will create that bridge of understanding when you get into the actual practice.
Third, you’ll want to choose some techniques that are simple to teach. Watching your breath is as simple as it gets, but can get boring pretty quickly for new students. Jon Kabat Zin teaches the staring at the raisin example, and other teachers have students focus on objects or body parts. The latter can be best because your students body parts are always with them and they can always use those areas of focus for practicing mindfulness anytime, anyplace.
Fourth, you’ll want to move slowly. Have your students focus while you time them, and see how long they can hold their attention on the object that they are focusing on. This will prepare them to feel mindful as they become aware of life in the present moment. Keeping focus is crucial for experiencing life as it is. Our minds distract us constantly, and focus helps us hone in on our feelings.
Fifth, have your students keep a journal. They should dedicate short daily bursts to practicing mindfulness. Have them practice and write down what distracted them, and for how long, and how many times they needed to return to their focus during practice. They don’t need to share this with you or anyone, and can keep it private, but it will help them to see what is distracting them from the present moment and begin to mitigate those issues. Once they understand what blocks them from experiencing the present moment, they will have a much easier time returning to focus.