Mindfulness Teacher Training Curriculum

Area of Study #1 – Origin and Definitions of Mindfulness

Content Unit 1: Mindfulness, Awareness & Attention

Middlesex School RetreatOverview
Origins of Mindfulness looks at the tradition of mindfulness from its spiritual and historical beginnings through its contemporary development as a secular practice. The focus of this unit is to develop a clear understanding of the culture from which mindfulness emerged alongside an understanding of how adaptable mindfulness is to the world we live. To do this we will explore mindfulness as a skill or capacity that requires no specific alliance to a time or place in history, and which can therefore be applied directly to our personal, relational, and social needs today. An underlying premise to this view is that mindfulness has always been well suited for its present day secular application; while the term mindfulness can be traced back nearly 2600 years ago to India and remains a core element of Buddhist practice, the essence of mindfulness cannot be said to be Buddhist, but rather is a basic human trait that can be cultivated and strengthened by anyone who has a desire to do so. This view allows us to explore the essential quality of mindfulness and related skill sets as they pertain to a wide range of contemplative traditions and the current secular movement that uses mindfulness as a central practice in building a more wise, kind, and just world.

Area of Study #2 – Mindfulness of Self

Content Unit 2: Mindful Body

Northeast New Year’s Teen Retreat: Dec. 28, 2015 - Jan. 2, 2016 Photo by Willie Davis for iBmeOverview
The Mindful Body unit will explore anchoring mindful awareness and attention in our bodies, how to cultivate a kind relationship with our bodies and how to teach somatic awareness skills to adolescents. Specifically, we’ll explore the role of somatic awareness in deepening mindfulness and insight in formal meditation periods and in integrating mindfulness into our everyday lives. We’ll focus on the role and benefits of relaxation in cultivating mindfulness and managing stress. This unit will also explore bringing mindfulness to everyday activities to care for our bodies such as mindful eating, cultivating a caring and compassionate relationship with our bodies, and mindful movement through yoga and other physical modalities.

Content Unit 3: Adolescent Development

In this unit, relevant research related to the psychological development of adolescents will be explored. The unit will focus on ways to directly utilize this material in working with young people. Given this understanding of adolescent development we will begin to explore adaptations of mindfulness practices, activities and techniques that are particularly relevant for this unique life stage. This unit will also introduce iBme’s approach and ethos of teaching mindfulness to adolescents and the components of the iBme’s retreat model which includes attention training, compassion practice, empathy development, mindful communication, authentic engagement, mindful movement and creative expression.

Content Unit 4: Stress, Trauma & Heart Practices

In this unit we will explore the science of stress systems in the body and brain and the benefits of using mindfulness to work with stress. We will also explore identifying and working with emotions in our bodies and specific mindfulness practices for working with strong emotions. We will study basic trauma theory and adaptations and approaches for working with potentially high trauma populations. We’ll also explore the important skills for working with stress and trauma; “heartfulness” practices including compassion, lovingkindness, joy and equanimity practices.

Content Unit 5: Intersectionality & Conditioning

“Intersectionality” speaks to the reality that we are influenced by any number of identities, all of which are informed further still by our social and political locations. We are not just white or black or gay or transgendered. We are an expression of a community of identities and influences that may not be apparent to those around us—or even to us. Authenticity as a meditation teacher requires a kind of radical presence. “Radical” speaks to a sense of remembering and returning to a simple and basic way of being in the world, one that reduces the violence to oneself and others; it honors one’s own passions and aspirations and relates to the world from a place of equanimity. When we choose this way of being in the world, we feel at home in our own body, with no desire to leave it; because we feel at home in the body, we feel at home in the world. That is radical presence. And at its heart is an awareness of one’s own intersectionality. Radical presence helps to bring into focus how power operates in our relationships in ways that often necessary and sometimes violent for others. In this unit, we will explore the intersection of intersectionality and power to cultivate teaching roles that are in balance and sensitive to those we are teaching.

Area of Study #3 – Mindfulness in Relationship

Content Unit 6: Ethics, Mentoring & Leadership

In this unit we will explore different leadership styles and the ethical responsibilities implicit in positions of leadership. Our exploration of ethics will include defining what is right and appropriate for our own process and how to engage authentically with clear boundaries. How we hold space, and invite trust into that space and how we turn on our multi-level radar to be prepared to address challenges and needs as they arise, will all be addressed in this unit.

iBme approaches mentoring as a leadership role, in which we lead from behind. By providing steady support and love, and navigating healthy boundaries, we create an opportunity for youth to explore their own values and decision making process. Being a leader in this context, means checking our own agendas and biases, and being willing to allow the young people we work with to live their own lives. We will explore mentorship primarily as a way to create authentic relationships with youth in order to support them in developing their own self-awareness and greater self-empowerment.

Content Unit 7: Mindful Communication

Mindful Communication explores the role of mindfulness in becoming more skilful and compassionate in relationship. Considering relational mindfulness an extension of meditation practice, this unit emphasizes that communication – both speaking and listening – form the basis of our interpersonal relationships, and are therefore a critical element of the teacher-student, and mentor-mentee bond. The focus of the Mindfulness Teacher Training program is to enhance the skills required to cultivate and maintain a safe and supportive environment that fosters collaboration, exploration, self-awareness.

Content Unit 8: Social Justice, Diversity & Social Power

When we talk about social justice, we are attempting to highlight the many ways that our communities suffer from inequality. Justice here refers to the act of looking at specific forms of injustice or imbalance. This is also concerned with power and the ethics of power itself. In this unit, we will be focusing on the relationship of teachers and justice or rather the role of anyone with authority in a teaching space and how that authority may or may not play into the microcosm of the teaching space and how that relates to the wider issues of justice outside of the space. This unit will also examine the ethics of power and boundaries and may also serve as an introduction to vital ideas and studies of identity-based liberatory critical lenses such as queer theory, feminism, womanism, marxism, etc.

Area of Study #4 – Mindfulness in the World

Content Unit 9: Nature Awareness

The basis of this unit will be to recognize and address our cultural disconnection from nature. Our habits of disconnection have allowed us to continually contribute to the degradation of the environment and ultimately to our own health. As humans, we are intrinsically belonging to the earth’s ecology. We are also in a unique position to use our practice of mindfulness to not only think about change but viscerally understand our connection and our need for action.

The second aspect of this unit will focus on practice and integration in the wilderness. Sitting, walking, and lying on the earth supports a naturally arising sense of connection, calm, and space. Going outside can be a daily practice itself; many people do not recognize they are deficient of this essential connection to nature.

Content Unit 10: Creative Expression in the World

A core element of iBme retreats is exploring mindfulness through creative expression. A vital aspect of mindfulness for adolescents is learning to connect with their unique self expression. At the same time creative activities can allow young people to connect with the core qualities of mindfulness – presence, non-judgement, playful curiosity, present moment awareness and focus. During this unit we will explore personally the link between mindfulness and creative expression in various forms as well as specific practices and activities to share with adolescents.

Content Unit 11: Livelihood

This unit explores the practical, personal, social and institutional elements of translating one’s own practice and learning into effective mindfulness programs. In this unit we will review different mindfulness models, such as day programs, workshops, retreats, and school-based programs. We will explore, in-depth, important criteria for curriculum development, along with practical considerations pertaining to marketing, remuneration, contracts, feedback and evaluations.