Mindfulness Accreditation or Suffocation

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.

Adrian @conscious2

P.S I’m back from my meditation and realised that I wrote this for Barry, Paul and Sophie

Posted in Awareness, Blog and tagged , , , .


  1. Absolutely! Thank you for posting this. Self made gurus with lanyards that announce their legitimacy to practice compassion.

  2. I too truly believe that a mindfulness teacher must always teach from their own practice whether it is in a Buddhist context or a secular context. As we know folks are now learning mindfulness to move towards health and well-being in a secular way. The MBSR course was created somewhere around 35 years ago and it has taken me around 5 years to really embody the many meanings and and I am still learning. I do have a Masters in Teaching Mindfulness from Bangor Uni and I know that this is an academic title and that my mindfulness teaching comes from my heart and my own practice and that is how I was trained. I have learned a lot in the academic process as well like: how to hold a group, how to teach and support vulnerable individuals, health and safety, etc. I didn’t learn any of this within my Buddhist Sangha where I started practicing around 20 years ago. It’s ok to support not having training when you are teaching meditation in a Buddhist Sangha (you still need some care here) to small groups of people but I think you need to open to the wider implications when teaching secular mindfulness to the general public and specifically to vulnerable individuals. I am not the mindfulness police, but I am supporting people who are policing this as some of us who are doing this the right way and have trained for the right reasons need some help if we are going to survive in this “mindfulness jungle”.

  3. Hi Shelly thank you for taking the time to share your valuable knowledge.with us, we really appreciate your contribution to the Portal.

    It would appear that we are in agreement on many things and in particular that real mindfulness teaching comes from the heart rather than the text book. When people ask me what should I read about mindfulness? My common reply is, “if you really want to understand mindfulness do twice as much meditation as reading”. The reading only points towards something that you realize through meditation.

    I am also a great fan of Jon Kabat -Zinn and although at the Now Project we prefer a more direct way of working, the MSBR course is without doubt incredibly valuable and offers an easily digested route into mindfulness. Nothing has done more to make mindfulness available to the many than the MSBR course, and that is wonderful

    I question, however, whether there really is such a thing a secular mindfulness. Even if your practice is purely mechanical and about nothing more than relief from some or other neurosis, something interesting happens. As the mind slows and we connect with the miracle of now, a new dimension to ourselves and to the nature of reality comes into focus. A depth that no academic can understand because quite simply the human mind is not that smart and the intelligence of the universe is far beyond it’s limited grasp. Although Kabat – Zinn doesn’t really talk much about this, when you hear him speak, you feel his mindful radiance and he clearly points to this possibility without specifically referring to it. It’s only fair to understand than Kabat – Zinn is a pioneer, for much of his career academia was hostile to his realizations, he challenged the established paradigm and ignored the considered opinion of academics. His great talent is to make the miraculous, scientific and rational so that academics can have something to grasp and this is how he came to be “welcomed into the group” and his ideas were allowed to spread.

    I have nothing against academic learning and I still use many things that i learned in my social work training many years ago. I’ve abandoned lot’s too; simply because as my mindfulness has deepened I find that a lot of it conflicts with what my mindfulness show’s me is true.

    I’ve also found that sometimes an academic paradigm can also be an obstacle to the truth and as a social worker I confess that i missed many things that were right in front of my nose because my mindset would not allow me to see. This is particularly common when someone’s egoic identity, sense of worth and status is maintained through that paradigm. To acknowledge the existence of something outside of the paradigm would mean a destruction of self. Which is great from a mindfulness point of view, but at this stage of humanities awakening, is simply impossible for most people to do. Which is why to me academics are the last people I’d want “policing” mindfulness.

    Who would police the police? Who would police the police who police the police? Very soon you have a top down egoic structure that inevitably breeds status, and therefore ego, and becomes the poison of mindfulness.

    I’m not suggesting that one should embark on teaching without training and our teachers generally have between 8 and 15 years training under their belts. Yes they’ve read books, some of them have read dozens if books on mindfulness, but all mindfulness books say pretty much the same thing and ultimately their mindfulness training was done here and now in all the up’s and down of real life. Not from s book and no certificate in sight..

    I do share your concerns that when working with vulnerable people mindfulness teachers must be competent in working with trauma and frequently after the initial honeymoon it is common for repressed emotions to surface. This represent a wonderful shift in the practice and offers the potential for healing and transformation if handled mindfully, but. I do wonder though, whether the MSBR equips teachers to deal with this. Ultimately it is only the depth of the teachers mindfulness and their ability and skill in holding their own pain in mindful acceptance and loving kindness that allows them to show others the way through.


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