If meditation or concentration practices have transformed your life, it’s natural to want to facilitate a similar experience for others. However, meditation can seem intimidating – not only for those starting on the path but also for new teachers.
In meditation, there’s no need (or place!) for doubt, uncertainty, or discomfort from practitioners or facilitators. The following tips provide support and structure for guiding meditation classes, workshops, or sessions to students from all backgrounds and experience levels – gracefully and effortlessly.
Tips for Teaching Meditation to Beginners
Students who participate in meditation courses or sessions are often those who have no experience with meditation or those who have experimented with heavily guided meditation sessions, online or in person.
Create a Safe Space
Since sitting with ourselves (even in a group of people) can seem uncomfortable on its own, it’s the instructor’s role to help students feel comfortable, physically and mentally. While facilitating sessions, let your students know they are free to experience whatever they encounter and that it’s okay to feel vulnerable. We refer to this environment of acceptance as a “safe space.” Creating a safe space might include introducing yourself, explaining the class or workshop briefly, or reflecting on whatever life experiences have led you to facilitate meditation. A more comprehensive workshop could also involve student participation (such as sharing intentions, experiences, or questions).
Other elements of creating a peaceful environment for meditation include showing up early to prepare your space, ensuring that temperature and lighting are appropriate, centering yourself before the class, and reminding participants to switch off their cell phones.
Particularly with beginners, it’s helpful to provide a short, basic how-to-sit tutorial and allow time for people to experiment with postures and props. A teacher can also offer seat suggestions and adjustments so students begin their practice with stability and confidence.
Explain What Meditation Is (And What It Is Not!)
As a guiding voice, you can make a positive difference in people’s lives by showcasing the benefits of meditation and how it helps reveal inner peace and true joy to anyone who allows time and space for practice.
When teaching about meditation, let your participants know that there is no such thing as a good or bad meditation, that linear “progress” doesn’t exist on the spiritual path, and that each experience we have is the experience we must have. Reinforce that meditation is a unique, internal process for each of us.
Most of what we consider to be meditation is a practice of concentration. There’s nothing wrong with this since any effort towards single-pointed focus gives us a calmer, more focused mind, ultimately allowing for proper meditation. However, explaining to students that meditation is a state of awareness (or combinations of different states of understanding) is helpful and that arriving at this state is the practice – regardless of technique. Many people approach meditation, assuming the goal is to stop their thoughts. As an instructor, you can encourage people to witness rather than control mental activity.
Provide A Straight-Forward Technique
For guided or scripted concentration practices, this is another opportunity to give a brief overview of your chosen technique and how the session will progress.
However, even when guiding primarily silent meditation sessions, it’s important to provide participants with a focal point or “object of meditation” for their practice. For those just getting started in meditation, it’s common for this focal point to be the breath, the third eye space, or the heart center. It might seem helpful to offer new students as many centering techniques as possible. However, our minds tend to wander when we have too many options. Thus, when teaching silent meditation sessions, let your students know that it doesn’t matter which concentration technique they choose as long as they stick to it.
Finally, before any seated group meditation, ensure that everyone in the room has a clear idea of an intention or method for the practice and that they know how long the session will last.
Offer Gentle Guidance (Hold Space)
Begin your sessions with basic cues to help your students feel more grounded, relaxed, and connected to themselves. Examples of cues could include body and breath awareness, gentle warm-ups, mentioning the present moment, a short chant, or setting personal intentions.
When teaching or guiding meditation practices, speak from your own experience in your own “true” voice – without involving your ego (without using “I”). When speaking from a centered, clear, warm, and supportive place, there’s no need to manipulate your voice to be more “meditative.”
Many new teachers are tempted to avoid long gaps of silence with instructions, metaphors, and reminders to be present. Guidance is undoubtedly helpful throughout the first few minutes of a session. However, after some time, these words distract the concentration process. Instead of filling the atmosphere with words, thoughts, and ideas, you can hold space during your session by focusing on presence, stillness, and peace. This allows each person to dive into the depths of their own experience.
As a reminder, when guiding meditation sessions, sit in a stable posture that you can commit to without moving for the duration of the practice. For most of the meditation, it’s natural for the instructor to sit with closed eyes. However, make sure to blink them open occasionally to keep track of time and be aware of your students.
Conclude with Support
Gently end your class or session with presence and awareness as you and your students transition back to life’s activities. Before closing, offer gratitude towards the practice and to everyone present.
In the beginning stages of meditation, practitioners tend to have a lot of questions, mostly beginning with “Is it normal if…” (my legs fall asleep, I see colors, etc.) or “Does it mean something if…” (I had a vision of a tiger, I feel like I’m about to cry, etc.) Remember that a simple word of encouragement about any physical or mental difficulty could be the difference between a student giving up on a practice or persevering through the challenge of calming the mind.
Keys for Facilitating Stillness
Sharing the essence of meditation is a noble service to humanity. It might seem overwhelming to create a guided meditation script or session, but these tips and your peaceful inner environment are the keys. The details will flow naturally if you begin with a solid meditation practice and a pure intention to help others along their path.