This article was originally published on August 29, 2016, then updated on October 26, 2019.
Why am I teaching mindfulness, self-compassion, shame resilience and trauma-sensitive mindfulness teaching? What brings me through the door to every classroom and dharma hall? What logs me on to every online course? Why do I teach?
Initially, I didn’t plan to teach. A mentor suggested that I teach, planting the seed of possibility in my mind and heart. I liked that someone else believed in me because it helped me to believe in myself; it gave me ideas about how I might express my creativity. I had said to a teacher friend almost ten years earlier that I would like to be a teacher, but I didn’t know what I would teach. She said that I would make a good teacher and that I’d work out what it was I wanted to teach. So after 10 years, I felt ready to follow the potential someone else saw in me that I was starting to see more and more in myself. Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) started to take off in the world and my teaching journey picked up momentum.
“We are born makers. We move what we are learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” ~ Brené Brown
They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. I had been a student of mindfulness my whole adult life, then I became a student of self-compassion and a student of teaching self-compassion and mindfulness. The further I got into practicing and teaching, the more I was exposed to shame and trauma-sensitivity which naturally became topics I added to my repertoire. I taught about these things because I have suffered from a lack of self-compassion and a lot of shame, in addition to the effects of trauma in my personal and professional life. These topics are areas of passion for me. Like the wounded healer, I wanted people to experience the transformative effects of working on self-love, honoring shame processes, and practicing safely with whatever arises in our contemplative experience. I wanted to invite others onto this path that I’m walking because it’s so damn healing.
I really enjoy the learning part of teaching, the research side of things: mastering a topic in theory and practice, growing my knowledge of mindfulness, self-compassion, shame physiology and trauma-sensitivity. There is an endless supply of articles, research, blogs and courses to devour on these topics. Researching as a way to enhance teaching is so satisfying for me. Brené Brown says, “We are born makers. We move what we are learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” I bring in new information by reading and listening; I move it around in my internal landscape to see where it belongs; and then I write or talk about that process and how the pieces fit. It feels good to grow my knowledge, to understand a topic in more detail, to marinate it in my being and see what is created when outside information meets inside insight. I am a perpetual student.
…the sage on stage can fall off and fall short of expectations; the shaman mixing in the midst of humanity is supported as she supports.
The other thing I really enjoy about teaching is the individual connections with people. I get to appreciate, especially in a multi-session program, that I am developing relationships with beautiful, courageous individual beings. I grew up fiercely independent, so my mindset has been that of the hard working lone striver, the individual with a job to do. Now I look at the individual connections in the teaching environment and notice that I’ve begun to unlearn this idea that as the teacher I need to be separate from other people, that I need to hold myself apart as the expert. I’m learning to let go of the notion that I need to be the one with the answers, the one with an isolated job to do. Connecting with other people is joyful, respectful, whole, and real. It’s much more sustainable than being the sage on stage and it is also much easier: the sage on stage can fall off and fall short of their own and other’s expectations; the shaman guide mixing in the midst of humanity is supported as she supports.
My understanding and practice is enriched by sharing my experience and hearing about the experiences of others. I don’t have a monopoly on understanding life experience or how to manage difficult emotions. Connecting in our common humanity is another reason I teach. And as I connect, I lose my sense of a separate self with isolated experiences; I get a sense of the common humanity in our adventures; my mind is no longer a place I am afraid to go into alone because I know I have support and others in my community have been to those same places themselves.
So why do I teach? I teach to learn and I learn to teach; I want to alleviate suffering, both mine and other people’s; I’m seeking my own growth; I love to connect. I want to grow in my ability to love myself. I want to grow in my willingness to appreciate relationships with other people. I want to continue to grow my knowledge, my understanding of mindfulness, self compassion, shame resilience and trauma-sensitivity as concepts and as practices. And I want to learn all of these things through the vehicle of shared adventures. This is why I teach.
If you’re interested in what I teach, check out this list of HeartWorks offerings. I’d love to see you on the path!
- Podcast Episode 9: Favorite Things on my Morning Walk - January 27, 2021
- Podcast Episode 8: Slow News Days and Companioning the Neutral - January 22, 2021
- Podcast Episode 7: Self-Care as the Shit Hits the Fan - January 6, 2021
- Podcast Episode 6: Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Anxiety, Isolation, and Quarantine - January 5, 2021
- Somatic Self-Compassion Week 1 Practice Cycle: What is Somatic Self-Compassion? - January 4, 2021