Originally posted on The Mindfulness Network website December 2023.

Mindfulness-based supervision (MBS) is an important aspect of training to be a mindfulness-based teacher, which helps to build the skills required to be a safe and competent teacher. It also supports teaching in professional and ethical ways. The Mindfulness Network (MN) has a partnership with the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation (OMF) to provide MBS for trainees from the various OMF training programmes. In conversation with Claire Kelly and Ruth Baer about how to support trainees in relation to MBS, we thought it would be a good idea to host an event to help illustrate what MBS is.

We wanted to inform and inspire supervisees through sharing experiences and stories about MBS e.g., how it is inquiry and relationally based and offers a supportive and safe space to explore. How it doesn’t need to stop once you have learned the basics of teaching; the supervision space can evolve as your needs shift and change. We were delighted to be joined by Katherine Cheng and Sophie Broye-McInstosh to share their experiences from a supervisee perspective.

In this blog post, I’ve highlighted a few aspects of the discussion, below. If you’d like to watch, the whole event was recorded and is available via the Mindfulness Network Community Friends website

In what ways has supervision supported you as a mindfulness teacher in early days of teaching?

Katherine and Sophie shared their experiences and insights which included this lovely metaphor of MBS being like when you learn to ride a bike, and you are beginning to take the stabilisers off, but still need some support there.

Some of the many ways that MBS can offer support are: boosting confidence, reassurance, reflection space on practice and teaching, reminding, learning about embodying, reflecting on intentions, having the supervisor share insights about teaching and personal practice, being pointed to new resources and working with imposter syndrome.

As MBS is so relational, having a common background/linkage with the supervisor, and feeling connected is important. You learn to trust them and take the difficult aspects of teaching – so you can learn how to navigate the bumpy moments in teaching. MBS helps to support safety for your participants and yourself, you can bring your vulnerability to the space – “I know I’m not proficient yet, but I feel safe with this guiding hand”. 

In what ways has supervision supported you as a mindfulness teacher later in your teaching?

Ruth described that the culture of continuing with supervision was a different one for her. But now she does have regular supervision “I don’t know how I survived without it”. MBS covers a whole array of mindfulness-based work, which includes mindfulness-based teaching, training others, supervising, professional and ethical issues, and personal mindfulness practice. It’s always helpful to have somewhere to take things that you are uncertain about, bounce ideas, reflect, hear another perspective. In a regular space that is formalised.

Claire, speaking as a trainer, shared how there is always something missing from training, you can’t be prepared for everything e.g., inquiry in training is often with peers and can be different in the real world. Supervisees often take inquiry to supervision and reflect on those inquiry moments they weren’t prepared for.

The word supervisor can be a bit misleading, implying they are someone who stands over you and inspects what you are doing. It’s really not like that – they are more like a critical friend who is honest and kind, who sits with you, asking questions, stepping back, helping to tease things apart and keeps you rooted in practice.

What guidance would you give to new supervisees about how to approach/use supervision?

  • To find someone you have a similar background with
  • Read their profile carefully
  • It’s good to feel a connection with your supervisor
  • Be honest with yourself about what you need
  • Think about supervision beforehand and prepare what you want to bring
  • It takes courage to show your supervisor those moments you feel most insecure but that is often where you learn the most
  • Remember your supervisor was a beginner teacher once too – and probably did something at least that awkward if not worse!
  • Your supervisor wants to support you
  • Give yourself time to reflect after supervision to take your learning back to your teaching

 At the event, the panel were invited to offer 2-3 sentences that convey the value of mindfulness-based supervision:

“learning and teaching mindfulness is a lifelong journey. A supervisor is more like a mentor/friend who is kind of walking ahead but also alongside.”

“a helping hand, friendship, a critical friend who can help you discover who you are, helps you gain confidence so you can blossom and flourish.”

“no matter how experienced you are there will always be moments of uncertainty and you need someone to discuss it with”

“never get stale, never stop learning, supervision is the touchstone you keep going back to, no matter how much you have taught”

Many thanks to all the contributors: Claire Kelly, Ruth Baer, Katherine Cheng, Sophie Broye-McInstosh, Alison Evans and the Mindfulness Network Community Friends for offering this event.