What brings a clinical psychologist, a celebrant, a yoga teacher and a social worker together on a tropical island? They’ve all come to Bali to learn how to share meditation with their clients.
I’ve been running a 7 day Meditation Facilitator Certificate program in tranquil north Bali. After an early morning practice session, one of the participants tells me that several of her clients have been told by their doctor to learn meditation. “But they don't know where to start," she explained. "That’s why I’ve come here; so that I can teach them myself.”
As the benefits of meditation receive more and more media coverage, health practitioners are starting to recommend meditation to their clients – usually mindfulness meditation because it’s most often in the news.
But there’s a shortage of trained meditation teachers and many people don’t feel comfortable with online learning. Another participant on the Bali training works for a community services organization that recently delivered an online mindfulness program to staff. However, they found that technical difficulties and the inability to ask real-time questions prevented many people from experiencing the full benefits of the practice.There’s also the risk that mindfulness meditation might not be suitable for everybody. A January 2016 article in The Guardian newspaper highlighted examples where students had experienced panic attacks and even long term psychological harm after practicing mindfulness meditation.
While mindfulness meditation has been touted in the media as a short cut to happiness, students experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health issues (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) are unlikely to benefit from long sessions of silent introspection. When it comes to meditation, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and an experienced teacher will adapt the different styles of meditation to meet the needs of individual students.
From walking meditation to reciting mantras or focusing on the breath, it’s not just the meditation technique that needs to be adapted for different students. Preparation is crucial. While a seasoned meditator might be able to sit down and concentrate without too many distractions, most of us need to prepare ourselves to sit quietly. If you’ve ever sat down to meditate and wondered why your mind was buzzing with uncontrollable thoughts, you’d probably benefit from some simple preparation.
I teach meditation as part of the tradition of classical hatha yoga, an approach that offers movement, breathing techniques and relaxation exercises as effective preparation for meditation. It’s a lot easier to sit quietly when you’ve spent some time slowing down the monkey mind with soothing yoga practices.
It’s important to stay adaptable when learning or teaching meditation. I’ve met too many people who say “My mind’s too busy for meditation” or “I tried meditation but I was no good at it.” Meditation is a powerful and accessible practice that has the potential to benefit everyone. The evidence for meditation as an antidote to stress is strong and, as the evidence mounts for links between the stress-response (‘fight or flight’) and serious health conditions including cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases, the reasons for starting a regular practice are compelling.
Making meditation accessible to everybody means modifying traditional practices and preparation techniques to meet the needs and circumstances of different students. From primary school children to recovering addicts; from corporate warriors to war veterans. There’s no single solution or system that works for everybody, but with skillful adaptation, most of us can experience the life-enhancing power of meditation.
Ready to learn more? Deepen your own practice and learn to share meditation with others with the Adore Yoga Meditation Facilitator Certificate. Download your free prospectus here:
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.