Ethics, Standards and Criteria for Teachers of MBI’s

Teaching Mindfulness Based programs and interventions in South African society offers the opportunity of being part of a uniquely diverse conversation, filled with inherent opportunities and challenges. In order to do so with integrity, the guidelines and criteria, as set out below, are an expression of our intention to align ourselves with the essential attitudes and training standards as supported by the international community of MBI teachers and trainers, while paying particular attention to our local context.

As mindfulness-based approaches move increasingly into the mainstream of society, the requirements for well-trained teachers have become an issue of central importance. Already this popularisation is creating misunderstandings about what mindfulness is and is not. The danger of diluting the practice, or of teaching simply from a conceptual rather than experiential framework, runs the risk of disconnecting us from the essence of mindfulness and the ethical ground from which it arises. We also wish to emphasise the centrality, in our view, of cultivating mindfulness in the service of wisdom, insight and compassion for self and others.

Fundamental to training teachers in applications of mindfulness in diverse settings, is the commitment to one’s own practice, growth and healing. This ensures that the teaching of others arises from and through one’s own authentic experience, anchored firmly within the heart-body-mind space of daily practice. Further, it maintains the tradition of learning directly from more experienced teachers and in communities of practice.

Foundational Values

  • Cultivation and embodiment of the mindful attitudes of non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, letting go.
  • Cultivation and embodiment of an openhearted presence grounded in the teachings of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
  • Authenticity; being the person whose story you have lived and are living.
  • A strong ethical foundation with a commitment to non-harming.
  • A commitment to support and care for the participant/s.

Personal Practice

  • Commitment to formal daily mindfulness practice. In addition, an ongoing practice of a formal body-based practice such as hatha yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Kung.
  • Commitment to ongoing teacher development.
  • Commitment to peer and/or individual supervision/mentoring.
  • Ongoing practice of self-reflective enquiry.
  • Openness to receive feedback from participants, peers and supervisors, and a willingness to reflect and make necessary adjustments.
  • Commitment to ongoing personal development, which may include psychotherapy, counselling or coaching.
  • Attending silent retreats and/or other retreats that support the teachers’ specific area of MBI engagement at minimum every 3 years (Silent retreats strongly encouraged).
  • Commitment to ongoing learning and awareness of research trends and publications.
  • Commitment to integrate mindfulness into daily living.

Training

  • Registration with particular professional body within the teacher’s scope of practice as required.
  • In addition, appropriate experience in the area in which the mindfulness intervention is being taught e.g. Teachers in mindfulness and education, dieticians in mindful eating programmes, midwives and doctors in mindful birthing programmes, psychologists in MBCT.
  • Completion of the Certificate Training Programme in Mindfulness Based Interventions, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Stellenbosch University or equivalent as determined through individual submission of training portfolio.
  • Regular supervision and/or mentoring.

Skills

These will be covered as part of the Certificate Programme at Stellenbosch University and can also be used as guidelines for the supervising/ mentoring process, and for ongoing learning.

  • Facilitation of group process / dynamics, including being able to contain and understand challenging emotions.
  • Understanding and knowledge of the underpinnings of Mindfulness including:
  1. An understanding of the Triangle of Awareness; mindfulness of bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts.
  2. An appreciation of the roots of suffering, pain and trauma of life, together with the cultivation of turning towards and caring for that which is difficult.
  3. An understanding of the process of experiential learning.
  4. An understanding of basic stress physiology as it impacts the specific mindfulness based intervention which may include a basic understanding of the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) vs the parasympathetic (attend and befriend) nervous systems, the maladaptive neurohormonal (HPA axis) stress response and its effects on health, as well as other growing areas of neurophysiological research showing the impact of mindfulness on the body and well-being.
  5. Awareness of cultural and contextual sensitivity.
  6. Competence in use of inquiry and dialogue within MBI group context.
  7. Competence in use of languaging and communication as specific to MBI teaching context.
  8. Knowledge of and ongoing attention to practice of the MBI teaching of kindness and compassion.
  9. Knowledge of and appreciation of the seven attitudes of mindfulness and how they are woven through the teaching and life of participants.