Meet Jeanie Bunker, CMT-200, a graduate of the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM) 2022 Mindfulness Teacher Training Certification Program (MTT). According to Jeanie, her mindfulness training and practice have been transformational. So much so that in the future, she would like to share these gifts with daycare teachers as well as non-profit and health services organizations. Jeanie’s passion is to pass on her love of mindfulness to the next generation and to be of service to her community. Here is a little bit about her journey:
“My life long journey to mindfulness started many years ago when I was a young working mother. I needed something to help me stay calm and parent my 2 children, ages 4 and 6, in a loving, purposeful, and balanced way. I first attended a workshop of an Introduction to Meditation at Spirit Rock in California. I learned about their family program and was able to attend their annual summer family weekend for several years. I not only gained skills and learned about meditation and mindfulness, but I was also able to see it in action as the Spirit Rock staff interacted with the children in such a calm and grounded way. And, how the older children who had learned some of the knowledge and skills interacted in their families and the larger community. Over the next 25 years, I attended workshops and once the kids were grown, I attended a week long silent retreat.
I moved to Kansas when my 1st granddaughter was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, I came for 6 months and ended up moving permanently. When I searched for a local community here in Kansas, I was delighted to discover MAM. I attended a few evening classes, weekend workshops and the fall retreat. In looking for additional classes, I saw the call for the 2022 MTT and I had the prerequisites, so I applied and was accepted.
The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum of Its Parts
Passing on the skills, techniques, experiences and role modeling of mindfulness to the next generation is the reason I chose to do the MAM MTT. I believed that the transition from student to teacher and developing the level of knowledge, techniques and skills required to become a mindfulness teacher, would give me what I need to effectively pass them on. I have benefited immensely from studying the scientific findings, learning a broad variety of mindful practices and understanding the essence of mindfulness; awakening to the present moment without judgement. What I did not realize when I started was the extent of the personal transformation that would occur as the result of the program. I now see that this was a life-changing experience. And what I have learned and experienced is a gift I will be able to effectively pass on to my children, their families and grandchildren, and our community.
At a high level, my training experience was above and beyond expectations. I expected to gain knowledge of mindfulness and teaching skills and techniques. What I did not expect was a significant personal transformational experience. I have changed from being a passive participant to an active and engaged student and then emerging as a teacher with the future potential to become a mindfulness community leader. I have gone from having a private mindful practice to help myself live with more ease to truly mindfully living and relating to others and can now see myself in the future as a teacher and co-creator / builder of a mindful community.
My transformational experience was the result of the well designed and delivered year-long course. The curious, safe and open environment created by the core teachers, combined with the core themes, various teaching techniques and curated materials, created an immersive and safe environment for exploration and transformation to occur.
The Program Components and Their Impact
Safe, Open and Supportive Environment: The core team and specialty teachers created a safe, open, and encouraging environment for our transformation from practitioner to student to teacher.
Didactic Material for Asynchronous Learning: The amazingly well curated learning materials, including books, articles and video, were enriching. The breadth and depth of this material was remarkable and provided me with a rich resource to draw upon in the coming years.
Core Curriculum Themes: The training in trauma sensitivity, diversity and inclusion, embodiment, mindful movement and compassionate communication was very impactful.
- Trauma-Informed: The trauma-informed, and trauma sensitive material was eye opening because as a trauma survivor, I had relegated my healing just to therapy. I had not realized how activated my nervous system could get. The videos we watched in the asynchronous work and the classroom program opened the door exploring different postures, anchors and practice techniques brining in a more trauma-informed approach. This led me to experiment with anchors and postures. I discovered that lying down, listening to sounds and body sensations can be a more effective for me than sitting and breathing, in terms of mindfulness awareness and grounding. This taught me to always invite my class participant to explore and use what works best in the hopes that they too may discover more effective anchor options.
- Diversity and Inclusion: I have learned about the importance of cultivating a sense of belonging and understanding. The MAM organization is a superb example of what an inclusive environment looks like that welcomes all people regardless of race, nationality, age, physical or mental ability, gender identity, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic circumstance. I see not just the wish to include but the realization of the value of inclusivity and diversity. Through this program, Dr. Sydney Spears’ video and her fall 2022 retreat, I expanded my understand and ability to listen more deeply and become aware of the suffering caused by social and structural injustices. And I realize the need, as a teacher, to develop an ability to attune to the needs of the individuals I teach.
- Embodiment: The weekend on embodiment brought an entirely new perspective to mindfulness as I had only learned and experienced mindfulness from a mental and intellectual point of view. After this weekend, I worked on noticing in my class observations if I could tell if the teacher was embodied and I experienced the difference. The next step was to learn how to do it myself as a teacher. Easier said than done. It was a challenge for me to get out of my head and into my embodied experience. However, I am making noticeable progress.
- Mindful Movement: Throughout the program and the special deep dive onto mindful movement, I was shown the importance of mindful movement. Again, this was a path from the “mind only” to a “mind and body” practice. Mindful movement became an avenue to embodiment. Teaching mindful movement helped me develop techniques that built my ability to teach in an embodied way. And now I can see how bringing a mindful movement aspect to my practice brings the mind and body into harmony and this can noticeably regulate the nervous system.
- Communicating with Compassion: The notion that all activity and communication are driven by a need was a fascinating concept to realize and to experience. The section on compassionate communication led us through a paradigm shift that allowed us to see a clear path to communication based on seeing our own and the other persons needs and then responding more compassionately with more understanding and a new perspective. This technique has been useful in my personal and professional life.
Observations: The observations assignment inspired me to find a wide variety of practice leaders and teachers to observe and this further enriched my practice experience and deepened my knowledge. Really looking at what works well and what is possibly missing taught me a lot about what I wanted to include. And seeing the incredible variety of effective styles opened my eyes to start developing my own unique style.
Teaching Assignments: The practice teaching in class, the co-teaching and solo teaching out in the community is when the student to teacher transformation occurred. There were significant class teaching opportunities allowing us to really build our skills and confidence as well as explore new ideas, techniques and different ways of being. And the sandwich feedback and nurturing community allowed for rapid iterative learning and experimentation which led to each of us developing our own unique style and voice.
Cohort: There was magic in seeing the transformation in my fellow teaching cohort. I learned a lot from my cohort members, from their unique practice topics and techniques, and their honest and supportive sandwich feedback.
Community: And lastly, the existence of a wise and compassionate MAM mindfulness community for us to co-teach and practice supported us, and will continue to as we move out into the community
For me, the transformation was gradual and iterative. Initially, I transformed from fairly passive participant to curious observer. The next transformation was from observer to active student as the program became proactive and interactive. The final transition was from student to teacher trainee. And next, I will go out into the community and find opportunities to teach, serve the community and continue to build my teaching experience, knowledge, techniques, skills, and strive to expand our mindfulness community.
When we began to practice teaching, another aspect of the transformation began. That was around the notion of letting go and trusting emergence. My first few attempts at co-teaching were fully written out scripts that I rehearsed several times and despite all of my preparation all of my insecurities came to the fore.
During our class teaching practice sessions I led my first mindful movement session, and something really shifted. I realized I have more ease with leading movement than just concepts and could feel myself let go and join the practice in an embodied way. Once embodied, I was able to let myself go with the flow of the moments and express what I was experiencing in the present moment instead of just reading the instructions.
The significant shift to truly experience emergence came when I did my one-hour co-teaching session at the Friday LGBTQIA+ practice meeting. During the class, I was really in my head. I was reading most of the content and was struggling to connect and embody the material. An after-session coaching session with the teacher trainer was very clear, insightful and useful. I made notes from the coaching to use when I created and taught my next class.
I did my retreat co-teaching assignment during the 1/2 day Air Element Retreat. The experience of the air element was when I got a glimmer of what embodiment feels like and that was when I experienced my first true emergence. During the practice part of the program, I was able to describe and feel finding air element in my experience of being present. I could experience air element both inside and outside. I remember truly feeling embodied and experiencing air element. When we built hand-made kites, I was feeling quite in tune with the activity. The participants were enjoying building their kites and helping each other.
The co-teacher and I tried to bring a sense of playfulness and creativity to the activity. However, once they began trying to fly the kites, some of the attendees started to shut down a little and an unspoken comparison began to show up. One person started to run to see if they could get their kite to fly. I realized at that moment that playing was the most beneficial things for us all to do. I encourage participants to have fun and run down the hill. This was my first experience of true emergence. This shift lightened the mood, and more people tried it. And we noticed that when running with a kite behind us, it might fly or not, but it didn’t matter because we couldn’t see it anyway. The energy shifted to just enjoying being together outside on such a lovely day and the focus on kite flying performance dissipated.
The mindful movement and nonviolent communication weekends were a fascinating blend of body and mind. I observed and practiced and could see and experience how being in the body aided in being able to make more conscious choices about how to relate to each other in communication. My movement teaching practice, which I recorded as I was traveling, was a wonderful experience as I chose to create a practice for children. This allowed me to become more playfully engaged and to bring a playful aspect into my future practice teaching adults.
My final co-teaching experience was the first time I had written and practiced a script and the abandoned it. At the beginning when everyone shared their benefits from their mindfulness practice, I was so inspired to share the material and explore what we could do with it. The rest of the session went well, and I learned a lot about the power of community and letting things flow. I committed to only having notes and not a fully written script the next time as I can now see how letting go of the script will make room for more to emerge from the community.
My capstone independent teaching was the experience of pulling it all together. I combined mindful movement, playfulness and the compelling theme of compassionate action which was meaningful to me. I felt confident and did less following my written script. I was consciously working on embodiment, connecting with the participants and engaging with their questions and shares. By the end I felt like I really could be an effective teacher.
Now I am ready to jump into the community with my newly learned knowledge and skills. An important thing I have learned from this program is that transformation is not about doing something for a long time; it is more about creating the conditions for transformation to arise / occur. I hope, through more teaching experience and ongoing learning from other teachers, to be able to create transformational experiences for the community I serve.
I believe that I now have the minimum foundational knowledge, techniques and skills to be able to effectively pass on a love of mindfulness to the next generation and to be of service to my community as an emerging mindfulness teacher. As a lifelong learner, I am excited about the opportunity to continue my ongoing journey of building my knowledge, techniques, skills and experience.”