Sometimes I am asked “are your classes accredited?” or “are you qualified to teach mindfulness?” to which I reply – “Most definitely not!”.
Questions like these are good for my mindfulness training because they trigger powerful emotions that I need to be mindful of, and sit with, and process consciously. So they are helpful in some respects, but they have nothing to do with mindfulness.
I see many mindfulness courses claiming MBSR/MBCT/MBLC, Breathworks or some other accreditation and others being taught by ‘qualified professionals’, and without doubt many of these courses are well presented and of great benefit; but seriously though, who are these pretenders who claim the authority to offer a mindfulness accreditation or qualification? The arrogance is astounding. Mindfulness has been practised for at least 2600 years and some say the practice could even pre-date Buddhism and be more than 5000 years old. These accrediting organisations have only be going a few years, and yet they claim authority over a profound lineage going back to prehistory. It’s a joke! They didn’t discover mindfulness, they are just becoming aware of something that was already here. Mindfulness was always here, mindfulness is within all of us, these organisations don’t own it. Who gave them authority to accredit and regulate mindfulness? No-one, they did, unbridled egos standing in judgement. Who accredits awareness? That’s one hell of an ego that stands in judgement of someone’s awareness and claims that they are qualified. How unmindful is that!
Give me a moment, I’m losing my mindfulness, I’m taking three conscious breaths before I move on…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that mindfulness is going mainstream and so many people now have access to this wonderful, liberating and healing practice, and all of these classes play an important part. But as the masters from the more traditional lineages will tell you, mindfulness is ultimately a vehicle for the liberation of human consciousness, yes its great for stress and lots of mental and physical conditions but there is so much more to mindfulness than that. Most of these classes only scratch the surface and many of these ‘qualified’ teachers have a superficial experience of mindfulness and in many cases pass on theories and techniques without ever achieving a deep state of mindfulness themselves. I’m not saying that these courses aren’t valuable, most of them are, and even if you are just going through the motions it will help, and with practice mindfulness can and often does arise; but rest assured, their accreditation is bogus and derived from nothing more than egoic pomposity.
Mindfulness is not a theory, it is not an academic study and it is most certainly not a branch of psychology. Mindfulness is a state of awareness, it is about the quality of your attention, not your ability to do mental gymnastics. Mindfulness is a state of being, not a concept, a theory or even a belief, or anything to do with your ability to pass exams. There is nothing intellectual to learn. When you are acutely mindful, you’ll find your thinking goes quiet, there is no thought, you have transcended the intellect. How can you intellectualise that? Mindfulness is pure awareness unfiltered by intellect.
If you think you understand mindfulness then you have missed the point, when mindfulness happens understanding comes from within not from without. It is not something that can be taught and no external authority can award it to you. The only qualification necessary is this, can you do it? Can you hold a mindful state of awareness, do you live mindfully? Can you quieten your mind and observe your thoughts and emotions without being carried away into unconsciousness and reaction? Can you manage yourself consciously in this moment? A certificate cannot determine this, only the degree of mindfulness that you hold in this moment can do that. If you can hold a high degree of mindfulness, people will feel it, they will sense the quality of your presence and the stillness you give off, they will become mindful in your presence. That is your accreditation, not some fancy diploma framed on the wall.
Accreditation means nothing. The Buddha had no accreditation, the living masters like Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle, the most enlightened teachers in the world, have no accreditation. Indeed no true master has ever needed one, or ever desired it. They don’t need a certificate, they don’t need official approval, they are not troubled by the needs of their egos, their state of being is their accreditation.
Accreditation and qualification are derived from ego, a hierarchy of intellects seeking to control and have power over others. Qualification and authorisation are stepping stones towards choking regulation. An attempt to define, control and restrain mindfulness, to determine its scope and direction and to suffocate innovation, creativity and conscious direction. But most dangerous of all, it demands that you turn away from your mindful knowing and the profound and loving guidance that mindfulness brings and instead defer to the will of external authorities who have appointed themselves as the arbiters of consciousness; and that is the antithesis of mindfulness, a gross perversion.
If mindful awareness is calling you to teach, to heal and to spread wakefulness, then that is your calling, and that calling is your authority, so go do it. Teach mindfulness with your state of being, teach mindfulness by being a living example, trust yourself, trust your own authority. You don’t need external approval, qualifications or accreditation, the rules of regulation will suffocate your practice and offend your mindfulness. Be present, quieten your mind, that is your qualification, and from this place of mindful awareness you can listen within, that is authentic mindfulness and this true inner authority is all the accreditation you need.
I’ve finished my rant now, and I’m conscious of what it’s stirred up in me and unlike the great masters I still have much work to do on myself. Now I’m off to sit with my suffering and meditate on it before I do any more damage – that’s mindfulness you see, unregulated, unscripted and free, and where the real teacher is not some bogus external authority, but is whatever appears in this present moment.
P.S I’m back from my meditation and realised that I wrote this for Barry, Paul and Sophie