Who Am I NOT to Teach?
Who am I to teach MSC? I’ve no Masters in Mindfulness. I don’t hold a PhD in Self-Compassion. I am not a researcher, a clinician or a psychologist. I am no expert in this field. I cannot quote chapter and verse regarding the research of MSC and I cannot remember all the science behind all the benefits. Sometimes I can barely remember what day it is!
I am like Winnie the Pooh; a bear with a very little brain. I do not pretend to be otherwise. I have been worn out by life’s challenges, broken by external judgements and plagued by a mind that has ridiculed and belittled my dreams, aspirations and attempts to make a difference in the world.
But little by little, the golden glue of MSC has stuck me back together and now celebrates my imperfections.
All the cracks and flaws I once tried to hide, I now appreciate. The terror of exposure that I don’t know everything when I hold a Circles of Practice session; the damaged body that cannot sit like a ‘proper’ teacher and the ironic battle with the subtle aggression of self-improvement: striving not to strive! You’ve gotta laugh!
My mind wanted to keep me safe, keep me small and out of harm’s way. And yet, as MSC began to permeate every aspect of my life and living, the noise inside my head that had always hissed I am nobody and that I am not qualified to speak, began to gently melt.
I have lifelong experience of criticism – internal and external. I wear the scars of self-hatred and self-loathing. I bare wounds of self-doubt and failing confidence. I still often fall into the comparison trap. And I suffer chronic pain that literally brings me to my knees. Curiously though, it is the very things that I believed would make me unready to teach, that are the very features demonstrating how much I have to offer; how valuable MSC is and how valuable my MSC practice is because of these difficulties, challenges and wounds.
In times of physical suffering, I draw upon my compassionate voice to calm the out-of-control feelings; in times of self-doubt, I call upon my soothing touch to ease the tension built up in my body and in times of witnessing or being part of emotional distress, I call upon many tender practices to comfort my sorrow.
I have often embodied Kung Fu Panda’s thoughts and believed I probably sucked more than anybody in the history of MSC Inquiry, in the history of Teacher Training, in the history of sucking. How’s Steve ever gonna turn me into a qualified (Dragon Warrior) MSC Teacher?
Of course what has been delightful to discover is that all this perceived sucking is rich fertiliser for teaching and a divine portal for practice!
When I completed my training and commenced my first 8-week course, I felt excited and profoundly grateful. When I gained my Trained Teacher status, I felt stronger, more confident and still aware of how much more I needed to learn. When I began my certification training, I was hounded by thoughts of “Who do you think you are?” and “You think you’re ready?” And when I gained my Certified Teacher status, I was elated and simultaneously felt the weight of the imposter heavy on my shoulders. However, thanks to my exceptional Mentor, Tina, who guided me through the stormy waters of my insecurities, I uncovered a deepening of my practice and tender blessings in the self-doubt and heightened projected expectations.
I have dived into my teaching with fervour, friendliness and kindness. I have practiced every day – informally or formally, and have given myself what I need, as best I can, in my darkest of hours. I live and breathe MSC. I am the living embodiment of MSC (mindful – as best I can, self-compassionate when things go wrong, and oh, so human!) My internal realm has dramatically and radically changed from the first day I sat with Steve, Michelle, and Vanessa in a convent in London.
I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m not an academic. I am not a Buddhist. But I am kind. I am willing. I am open. I am passionate. I am real. I am a student. I have a beginners mind. I am human. I make mistakes.
I can still be pulled by the desire to make things better for my participants and want to help them out of their dark holes. I can still get caught up with striving. I can still wrestle with the subtle aggression of self-improvement. I can still resist pain, physical and emotional. I can still get sucked into the comparison trap. I can still bounce around the stages of progress and grieve deeply when I smack into disillusionment…
Through it all I move towards kindness. Through it all, I ask myself what’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now? Through it all, I live in integrity, as best I can, in any one moment. Through it all, I embrace my loving connected presence. I offer my loving connected presence with humility and gentleness. This is really all I have – and it is enough.
My being human is pivotal to being an MSC teacher; it is this common humanity that can melt my imposter. Loving Connected Presence is the key.
Yes, I am human. I am a compassionate mess. I am MSC.
In the words of a well-loved heroine: Who am I not to teach MSC?