Meet Shane Ledford, CYT, Core Community Teacher for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM) and soon to be graduate of our 200-Hour Mindfulness Teacher Training Certificate Program. He has advanced training in Yin Yoga and he’s has studied walking meditation (“Kinhin”) and Forest Therapy (“Shinrin-Yoku”). You’ll also discover he’s quite the movie buff! Here is what he had to say about his mindfulness journey:
“I believe I have been on a mindfulness journey for most of my life, but was not conscious of it (as I was not aware of the term “mindfulness” until the past 10+ years). And, for the last few years, I have begun to attribute my original spark and lineage into mindfulness back to when I saw the original “Star Wars” in theaters as an 11 year-old in 1977. While I was amazed at the ships, creatures, and overall space story, it was the underlying “spiritual philosophy” that really fascinated me (at that age, I didn’t truly understand it…but knew something was there). I was intrigued by the wise sage Obi-Wan Kenobi and his ability to “sense” things that others could not see/feel, and his willingness to want to teach this meaningful “secret” to his student, Luke. My fascination, of course, would be amplified even greater a few years later with the introduction of Yoda…and for what I now-realize as his mindfulness teachings.
As I got older, I discovered George Lucas was influenced by Japanese cinema great Akira Kurosawa, as well as the teachings of Buddhism, Shinto, and Joseph Campbell. This created an interest for me in Japanese culture and a desire in traveling to Japan as well as reading Joseph Campbell. During my graduate work in English and philosophy, I studied Campbell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alan Watts, and others…and was mesmerized by the transcendentalist writers…specifically Thoreau. (I would also later realize that Thoreau “preached mindfulness,” although it was not called that.) Many years later I had the opportunity to further explore my interest and travel to Japan (and have since been 10 times in 15 years). It was on one of those visits that I attended my first yoga class…which persuaded me to finding yoga here…which eventually caused me into stumbling across Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Wherever You Go There You Are” on a recommendation from another yoga teacher. So…“Star Wars” led me to Japan, and Japan led me to yoga, and yoga led me to understanding mindfulness as Kabat-Zinn’s book helped me finally LABEL and identify what I had been feeling, searching for, and (somewhat) practicing informally for many years. I wanted to learn more.
Unfortunately, there were not a lot of Mindfulness education programs here in the Midwest around 8 years ago when I formally started my yoga/mindfulness exploration, so I basically self-taught myself with numerous books over the years and guidance from my two mentor yoga teachers. A few years ago I was “introduced” virtually to Tracy Ochester via Tim Glover (one of my first yoga teachers) as he knew my passion for teaching and studying mindfulness. I found out that Tracy had formed a mindfulness community, and I wanted to learn more…so that eventually led me to the Mindfulness Teacher Training in 2020.
At that time, I was not sure I wanted to enroll in MBSR/MBCT programs as they seemed a little too “clinical” and “therapist” oriented. MAM’s MTT seemed like the perfect course in that it touched on those programs, but also offered much greater variety such a DEI and Inquiry, as well as foundations and mindful movement. And, the program did not disappoint. Given that, it was the foundations and mindful movement weekends that basically reinforced subjects I was already pretty familiar with (because of my self-study and yoga training). I truly was looking forward to “heavier” subjects that I was not as familiar with. While trauma informed mindfulness was something I wanted to learn more about (and truly did), it was the DEI and Inquiry weekends that really resonated with me the most. I now feel much more complete and confident in my abilities to teach mindfulness; and the training, in general, was life changing in what I learned and the friendships I formed. Now that training is over I am appreciative of all that I learned so that I can “enhance” my classes that I have been teaching at Core Balance Yoga for many years. However, it was being asked to be part of MAM’s core teaching family that I realized this is now “big time,” and I am approaching this new opportunity with curiosity, exploration, and the utmost seriousness.
By incorporating Inquiry into my teaching style, I realize I am now able to help students explore the meditation I offered with a little more understanding of “what happened?” This is challenging for me in that it is new, but I value it immensely in that it is a crucial element in creating a connectivity to the student(s)’s experience (as well as my own). And being taught and aware that “trauma is always in the room” was helpful in that it helps me formulate diﬀerent language and imagery that I have used in the past, as well as creating a safe environment that, hopefully, would not cause any triggering. However, if a student is trigged by something I might have said or the space the meditation was held in (when we get back to being able to use physical locations), I am much better equipped with being able to handle their situation with compassion, empathy, and understanding because of learning about trauma sensitive mindfulness. While I consider myself a pretty open and inclusive person, I learned in the DEI weekend that I need to be even more diligent and aware of things such as language in order that all students feel seen and heard…and not potentially be even more marginalized.
As I move forward along this journey that has gradually been refined more and more over time, I am excited about the possibilities that await me…as well as being excited for what my students will gain from me because of my training. I originally signed up for the MTT program as a way to add some accreditation to my self-taught teaching. However, now that I look back, I realize it was not the certification that was important…it was my own self discovery of how I could become a better teacher. And…I look forward to even learning and exploring more.
I want to continue to oﬀer mindfulness teachings to my core kula (yoga community) that have been with me for several years as they seem to be very appreciative… but now I will be able to oﬀer a ‘new and improved’ me while retaining my original style of teaching. I am also open to teaching to others outside of my ‘bubble’. However, given the current pandemic I am not sure how to proceed, and feel it will be at least a year or so before I can even think about exploring those possibilities. I won’t force anything and just see what happens. As a person who identifies as a male, I think there could be a benefit in me teaching others who also identify themselves as such. I also have an interest in teaching to high-school aged individuals who identify as males… specifically as part of suicide awareness, and have had a few opportunities to do that over the years… and am willing to go further with that.
However, I am most excited about being able to oﬀer my training and teachings to MAM and all of the new students I can hopefully reach, as well as bringing on some of my current kula into the MAM family. I might also oﬀer that I originally went into graduate studies with the intention of teaching and perhaps becoming a professor. That plan was derailed as I entered a lucrative, albeit soul-sucking sales job that I continued for 30 years. In a way, I feel my mindfulness teaching was what I was actually preparing for all that time. I had no idea I would be where I am at today and this newfound future that awaits me when I started my mindfulness journey, but I can now honestly embrace the thought: “Wherever you go there you are.”
Check out our calendar to sign up for one of Shane’s upcoming offerings.