The role of Supervision in teaching mindfulness

This post was first published on the Mindfulness Network blog’


Supervision and  ongoing engagement with a personal mindfulness practice are named as two key elements of good practice, in the paper “What defines mindfulness-based programs? The warp and the weft.” Supervision is also named as part on going good practice in mindfulness teacher guidelines e.g., Good Practice Guidelines set out by the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA)

In this blog I wish to unpack why mindfulness-based supervision (MBS) is a core component of good practice – in what ways does it support teaching mindfulness? I will draw upon my experience, as a supervisee, supervisor, MBS trainer and my research “Supervisors’ and Supervisees’ Perspectives of Mindfulness-Based Supervision: A Grounded Theory Study”.

As a teacher begins to put what they have been learning through personal mindfulness practice and training into teaching – MBS is the space with the help of another to explore teaching and continue to build competence and confidence.

… somebody who’s giving you pointers to really look to see what it means actually on the ground as you’re investigating.”

MBS is often a 1:1 relationship allowing for an in-depth inquiry into man different aspects of teaching. Supervisees can begin to apply what has been learned in their practice and training. They can get up close to their experience of teaching.

The training is vastly important. But in terms of perspective, the training is broad, and the focus of the supervision is narrow but in a good sense, the spotlight rather than the floodlight.”

There are many different aspects of teaching that are supported through MBS. Usually, the place that supervisees need to begin is learning the What of teaching – all the nuts and bolts, such as what to do when guiding a practice, what to do when facilitating an exercise, what timings to use, what fits where and many more questions as they begin to get a feel for the shape of the mindfulness-based program.

Another core dimension of learning is the How – How to be in relationship with participants, how to embody the attitudinal foundations, how to stay steady in the midst of …This way of being as a teacher is often a shift from how we have been in other roles in our life. It takes time to discover. The way that the supervisor embodies these dimensions and  creates an atmosphere of patience and non-striving can allow the unfolding discovery of the How. Mindfulness practice within MBS and personal practice supports this shift to being.

Although mindfulness courses are taught with a strong lean towards the experiential, teachers still need to learn more about the Why of being a Mindfulness Teacher – why am I teaching in this way – coming to know the intentions of the different aspects of the curriculum, knowing the links the theoretical underpinnings, why teach in this way – knowing the pedagogy of mindfulness-based teaching.

Research participants perceived MBS to be a helpful part of learning and development as a mindfulness-based teacher, and they gave examples of how it helped with reassurance, checking, suggestions, resources, knowing the programme and discussing difficult moments. It supported a growing confidence and finding their own authentic ways of teaching, to support all those who come to mindfulness-based courses. The process of an embodied relational inquiry was named as a pivotal process of MBS.

“… the embodied dialogue, the inquiry process, that experience of someone holding the space and facilitating a process of noticing direct experience, inquiring into what’s happening, what’s unfolding … what it feels like to trust in that process unfolding.”

At the Mindfulness Network we have a range of supervisors who can support you with your mindfulness teaching whatever stage of training or post training you are at. You can search for available supervisors by the mindfulness-based programme you are teaching, the population you teach or language spoken – Choose a supervisor.

Over many years year we have developed and facilitated mindfulness-based supervision training, in association with Bangor University. This training, which introduces a mindfulness-based supervision framework,  is held over online 3 days through the Mindfulness Network.

“I would highly recommend supervision training via the mindfulness network. Very full in content but held spaciously.  The connections between theory and practice were excellent, including the generation of much of the content from the participants/trainees. This made the training feel alive.”  – recent supervision training participant