~ Written By Rosemary Harris, who recently qualified as a Practicing Teacher of MBSR and remains on the Teacher Training Pathway (TTP) to complete the Trained Teacher certification in association with Bangor University ~
In March 2020, as the global pandemic was being born, I was visiting my native Australia to scatter my mother’s ashes with my brothers before returning to the UK, my home for over 20 years. As our plans dissolved hourly, I had to decide whether to return early or face the prospect of lockdown in Australia. “This might last for six months!” I said to a friend. “I need to go home.” I arrived home in the UK two days before the first lockdown.
Only I didn’t have a home to return to. Less than three months previously, my ex and I had finally managed to sell our flat, more than two years after our marriage collapsed. There wasn’t much left from the sale, and with Covid, my employment as a creative freelancer disappeared like the final vibrations of a large bell clearly struck. On the dazzling spring morning that I arrived back, I had no home, no job, no partner, and no idea what was to come next.
The key thing that had kept me going through the implosion of my known life in the few years prior to this was my deepening immersion in meditation and mindfulness. It offered a radical transformation of my experience of myself and of the world. On that visit to Sydney, I had conceived a plan to return to Edinburgh and train to teach mindfulness. It was a tendril of hope for the future, a tiny shoot emerging on a vast plain of not-knowing.
After completing the necessary course prerequisites, I signed up for the online Teacher Training Pathway. Through the long lockdowns alone in my tiny rented flat overlooking the canal, on dark winter mornings, through days – sometimes weeks – of seeing nobody in the flesh, I met and learned and practiced with strangers; in Turkey and Iceland, in Japan and Czech Republic, in Portugal and France and Slovenia. Sometimes with people in Edinburgh, who may as well have been in Japan or Iceland for all that the proximity meant.
As we met in each other’s homes online, something unique blossomed. Great distance was bridged by real intimacy, as we saw living rooms and pets and children, people’s lives on the screen. My bedroom was the only space big enough for me to do movement practice, and so the world was in there with me. The training pathway was also a bridge across chasms of despair that regularly threatened to swallow me down into them.
As now, with the heart-breaking advent of more war, the pandemic reminded us starkly that what feels like solid ground is in reality an airport travellator, a moving walkway, giving us the illusion of standing still until the point where we must step off or fall.
For that time, the pathway became a home, and any new home requires some investment. I’m aware that there’s another piece to be written, on mindfulness of money – a key thread that runs silently through the core of the training. When we step into the next phase, trying to find where our teaching is wanted, who can benefit, and who can pay for it, there seems uncertain support for what that means, and how to do it, and who it includes or leaves out. What alternative models might we create, not based on mindfulness-as-product? This question feels urgent in the current cost of living crisis.
Still, as I found on bitter January mornings when I climbed out of bed and logged onto Zoom, I feel that perhaps the practice truly can hold it all. I continue to choose to put that to the test, with my fear, loneliness, resistance, delight and relief. I don’t want to think what that time would have been without the compassion and acceptance embodied by the teachers, by the others taking part, and yes, by me too at times. It held us, just where we were, wherever we were.
When I stepped onto the Teacher Training Pathway, I couldn’t afford a new flat, so instead I invested in laying down some new foundations, because I could. I continue to learn that there is no boundary between ‘training’, ‘teaching’ and ‘practice’. It’s all the path. It’s all what I’m choosing as home.
© Rosemary Harris 2022 http://www.mindfulknowhow.com/
To find out more about the Teacher Training Pathway, delivered in collaboration with Bangor University, visit the Mindfulness Network Training website.
Read other trainee experiences of the TTP via the blog, here.