Helen is a ranger in Peak District National Park. She loves the Park and enjoys guiding groups who come to visit. All sorts of people come including school groups from Manchester and Sheffield, families out for a climb and a picnic and more serious hikers and cyclists. But even if people come to the Peak District and surrounded by its beauty, are the minds of the kids on their phones while the adults are thinking about their work or their money troubles? Having taken a mindfulness course, it occurred to Helen that she could lead short mindfulness practices for visitors. That would help them leave behind their city lives and feel their bodies. Then they would really be present in the Peaks. 

I’ve led around 130 mindfulness courses in all sorts of settings and over the years I’ve had many students like Helen who are interested in sharing their practice with others. There are people who work therapeutically with clients, like counsellors and social workers: they want to work more mindfully themselves and introduce their clients to the practice. There are people who want to lead mindfulness in wellbeing sessions in their workplaces. And there are people who want to share mindfulness in a community group or friends or members of their family. 

But the idea of leading a mindfulness practice can be daunting. So how can you learn to do it? You can train to be a mindfulness teacher and learn to lead eight-week courses. But what if you interest is in guiding practices rather than leading whole courses? At the other end of the spectrum, you can play a recording, but that feels unsatisfactory as well. 

The Mindfulness Champions Training

That’s why I developed the Mindfulness Champions Training (MCT). I could see that many people would be able to share practices with just a little help. One issue was confidence – getting over the idea ‘I’m not good enough to lead this’. Another was competence: what do you do and how do you do it?

The MCT is a ten hour training usually offered over four sessions, sometimes with an extra induction session. There’s lots of time to lead practices in pairs plus input around how a mindfulness practice works and the kind of leading that lets it be effective. Participants practice leading meditations between sessions with buddies from the course or other willing victims like partners or family members, and eventually clients and colleagues. There’s also time to look at how you can start using mindfulness at work or in your chosen setting, and the challenges you might need to overcome. 

I developed the course over a few years through my own company (Mindfulness in Action), and the MCT launched as an online Breathworks offering in Autumn 2020. The open courses have been very popular and we’re running virtually a course a month. Breathworks trainers have also run Champions Trainings for staff at a prison, an FE college, a police force and NHS Trust.

 You don’t have to be perfect to lead a mindfulness practice

When you take an eight week mindfulness course it’s natural to be in awe of the teacher. I remember imagining that they knew what was going on in my mind, and if my thoughts wandered, they were there to tell me off. That makes the idea of leading a practice yourself very daunting – that’s the confidence issue.

The truth is that as a teacher I may pick up some things about the people in a group from what they say and how they come across, but no psychic powers are involved. I just know from experience that if I connect with the practice I can invite others to join me in that mindful space. I’m confident that, if I engage them in the right sort of way, they will connect with the practice and feel its benefits. 

So the first thing I say on an MCT is that you don’t have to be perfect to lead a mindfulness practice. You just have to be yourself. If you’re in touch with your own practice and connected to the person you’re leading, the rest will follow. There are some things to learn about language and structure – the competence aspect – and we cover that on the course as well. 

Pretty much everyone who comes on the course is able to lead effective practices by the end. 

Open Courses

Since we launched the MCT I’ve been leading the open courses and working with people from all walks of life. I love seeing people progress from being tentative and unconfident to leading a partner with sensitivity and depth.

Karthik and Lisa were working on the covid frontline when they came on the course, then going straight out to share what they were learning with exhausted NHS staff. Caroline works as a counsellor with clients who have experienced trauma, so we talked carefully about the safeguards that are needed in using mindfulness with people in this group. Angela is introducing restorative justice approaches in the housing association she manages and wants  her team to help them bring clarity and sensitivity to the work. She think mindfulness can help.

An important part of the courses is that participants support each other. Some of those connection continue the the course finishes, and we hope to offer further support as the goes by. 

Bringing Mindful to Your Organisation

Some organisations have run the MCT following a six- or eight-week Mindfulness for Stress course as a way to ensure that what’s established on that course isn’t lost and that it spreads through the organisation. That’s the role of Mindfulness Champions who have learned to lead practices and keep mindfulness alive. 

I worked with a social services team in South Wales who have integrated mindfulness into their work with problem families and use it in their team meetings. Working with Derbyshire Police, we trained fifteen Champions who will be leading regular sessions for staff across the force, including front line police officers whose work can be very stressful. 

As every organisation is different, we like to work with each one to offer the MCT in a way that meets their needs.

The Giving Sharing Principle

I believe that if you love something, you should share it with others. I learned this from my mother, who calls it ‘the Giving Sharing Principle’. If we keep giving to others, we’ll open ourselves to the cycle of giving and receiving. 

If you experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, you know that it can help when you’re struggling and open up fresh possibilities for you. So when people you’re connected to are suffering or stuck, it’s natural to want to share your mindfulness practice with them. Even a simple five-minute practice can help someone move from feeling stressed to feeling calm – or perhaps just a bit calmer. It’s rewarding to see that change and empowering for the person you’re leading to see what’s possible. 

That’s also why I enjoy leading the trainings. I love working with people who care about others and understand that mindfulness can extend that care and deepen it. As a mindfulness teacher, I am privileged to be able to introduce others to mindfulness. When I lead the Champions Training I am inspired by knowing that the practice will spread further, benefiting many more people. 

Let’s face it: the world needs as much mindfulness as it can get.

Vishvapani Blomfield

Find out more about the Mindfulness Champions Training and sign up here