~ Written by Sophia Messari, who recently passed the highest level of mindfulness teacher accreditation offered as part of our Teacher Training Pathway (TTP), certified by Bangor University ~
Becoming a Competency-assessed Mindfulness teacher was not an easy journey. As my base is North Eastern Greece, just managing the practicalities of getting myself to the training events in rural Wales or England was often a formidable task. I remember coming back from a retreat centre once and realizing that within that one day of return I had used every means of public transport apart from a boat!
And yet every step of that journey was invaluable, an exciting process of learning and development, the professional and the personal growth inextricably intertwined, as of course it is the case with Mindfulness. I think the best way to express the challenges and gifts of this journey is through the words of one of my favourite poems of Cavafy, a Greek poet of the late 19th-early 20th century, called ‘Ithaca’:
“As you set out for Ithaca,
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon, you won’t encounter them,
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings, when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
May you stop at Phoenician trading stations,
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn again from those who know”.
As the poet predicts, in some of the retreats I did encounter “Laistrygonians and Cyclops and wild Poseidon”. My soul set them up in front of me in the quiet of the retreat and the intensity of the meditative practices and the teaching sessions. And at times they were really unsettling… But even in the midst of this I valued the wisdom of the encounter, I could sense my need for it. And there was also such pleasure and joy, as I was coming in new “harbors”, as I was receiving the gifts of learning in this journey both by our wise, kind teachers and from each other, the fellow companions in the groups.
One of the most precious gifts of this journey was actually this sense of community that slowly emerged, as I was progressing step after step through the TTP, from one retreat to the next. Often there were familiar faces that I would meet in the different retreats. I remember the warm smile forming in our faces as we would recognize each other in our wanderings in the retreat centre or as we looked around at the start of the first group meeting. But over and above this, it was the process itself that created this sense of community. The clear reliable structuring of the teaching and learning, the kind curiosity in whatever emerged and the allowing, the accepting of it, the wisdom of Mindfulness as passed down through the medium of the teachers and supported by the physical environment and staff of the retreat centres. All this created a stable, supporting sense of belonging, a sense of safety in the confidence that we are part of a bigger community. Even as I have reached this point in my journey, this Ithaca, I still feel the glow of warmth of this community, with me when I teach, when I practice, when I guide, when I read. And it never stops amazing me how far across countries and continents this warmth can reach…
Sophia Messari is now a Competency-Assessed Teacher certified by Bangor University and continues to teach and practice in Greece.
To find out more about the Teacher Training Pathway, please visit the Training section of our website.