While we can’t replace the expertise of mindfulness teachers, we can all find respectful ways to share our practice with those around us.
There comes an important moment in your mindfulness journey when you’re called to share your practice with others. You might be asked to share a mindfulness exercise in a meeting, asked by your partner to help soothe a mid-meltdown child, asked by a grieving friend how you managed through loss in your own life. It’s a small yet monumental call to take something deeply personal and offer it back to the world. And you don’t have to be a mindfulness teacher to meet the moment.
In 2016, I started a weekly mindfulness group at work with two colleagues. We pitched the idea, secured a nominal budget, and brought in a certified teacher from a local meditation center to introduce us to meditation. We sat in a conference room, partially cross-legged in restrictive business casual, and felt genuine joy when close to 20 of our coworkers practiced within the walls of our corporate office without a trace of insincerity.
We also soon realized that we didn’t have an endless budget to bring in teachers every week. We could run these sessions a few times a year but had to fill the weeks between with our own content. As the yoga teacher of the group, I was asked to share a mindfulness exercise in the next meeting. And my immediate reaction was, “Am I really qualified to do this?”
I wasn’t a certified mindfulness or meditation teacher. I admired and respected my own teachers who studied, practiced, embodied, and taught mindfulness over many decades. Teachers play an essential role in preserving and deepening collective wisdom. We’re guided by their expertise and the sage advice they can offer after a lifetime of trying, erring, and persevering.
I didn’t have deep expertise. Mostly, I had “trying and erring.” And that made me very similar to my conference room peers. I couldn’t teach mindfulness, but I could share my own experience–just a few years down the road of perseverance.
Teaching is like gifting someone your secret recipe. It’s taking all your effort and experience, translating it for others to understand, and handing it down to a ready recipient. Teachers give us recipes for wisdom that last a lifetime.
Sharing is like offering someone the salad bowl at the dinner table. You’re taking the ingredients of the practice that resonate with you, arranging them best you can, and passing it to someone else in case they’d like to try it, too. Sharing is saying “I’m right here next to you, trying the same things you are.” It comes from a place of relatability. Sharing takes a big, insightful idea and breaks it down into understandable, immediately applicable bites. It’s not a substitute for a teacher’s expertise, it’s an offering to share your own experience.
The Benefits of Sharing Your Mindfulness Practice
What you share will hopefully benefit someone else, but it will certainly serve you. Sharing mindfulness has several benefits for the sharer:
- Deepened understanding: We learn a subject more intimately when we put it into our own words and explain it to someone else.
- Accountability: When we’re the ones talking about mindfulness and people start to look to us for everyday examples, were more likely to stick to our practice and create more everyday examples.
- Integration: As we try to describe how mindfulness can help others, we will see more opportunities to apply mindfulness in our own lives.
- Flexibility: When sharing with others, we immediately see how their needs, experiences, and interpretations differ from ours. It helps us loosen our ideas of how mindfulness has to work, and focus on how it could work.
The call isn’t to replace the expertise of teachers with amateurs, it’s to bring a thoughtful relatability to the micro-moments when we share our practice.
How to Start Sharing Your Mindfulness Practice
Here’s a soft list of questions to explore and things to consider from the team of mindfulness-sharers at my organization. These prompts can help you choose what stories, benefits, and tips you can begin to share from your practice.
- How has meditation changed your behavior or reactions? How would your partner or someone close to you describe its impact on you? Look for objective, tangible stories of how it helps.
- When are you motivated to practice? When do you lose motivation, and how do you overcome it? Connect with your own reason to continue practicing.
- When has life gotten in the way of your practice, and what did you do with that challenge? Share the silly, real stories–like the challenges of meditating in a home with toddlers
- What do you know about meditation from experience, and what do you know because someone taught you? Acknowledge honestly where you are and articulate the limits of what you know.
- How talking about how meditation has “made you a better person” may make someone feel. Meditation isn’t rooted in our inadequacy–it offers us the space to make decisions in alignment with our values.
- The outcome of sharing mindfulness with someone because you think they need it. No one likes to be told they need to calm down.
- How you’re using the phrase “I’ve been there too”–you may be trying to come off as relatable, but it diminishes the uniqueness of their experience.
- Whether you’re glorifying or overprescribing mindfulness as a cure-all or replacement for other supportive practices or a solution to a problem.
We don’t all have to be mindfulness teachers, and we don’t have to water down the wisdom of true teachers by committing to share more than we’re ready to offer. But we still have something to offer when we share our honest experience with others in a way that says, “we’re figuring this out together.”
CEO Andrew Swinand shares how working mindfully became the norm at Leo Burnett Group, and the simple practices that have helped to unlock new levels of creativity and innovation across his teams.