Insight Meditation Houston

Overview of “Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program” by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach – 9/24/2018


  • My background.
  • MMTCP details
  • Transitioning to teaching.
  • Specific Dharma teachings applied to becoming a teacher.

Why I wanted to teach

  • Both parents had high anxiety.
    • Father Electro shock therapy.
    • Mother had dementia.
  • When I retired I wanted to help the elderly cope with stresses of aging.

Background before MMTCP.

  • Tibetan Buddhist background
    • Dawn Mountain, Khetsun Sanghpo Rinpoche
    • Dharmata Foundation – Anam Thubten
    • Houston Dharmata Sangha since 1990
      • Peer led group – listen to dharma talks
      • Everyone learned from everyone else.
    • Started teaching after taking Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction – Teacher Training.
      • Tibetan Buddhism is less accessible than MBSR or Insight Meditation.
      • I took around 2004.
      • Ten-day teacher training
      • MBSR is a rigid Eight week – 2.5-hour classes
      • Certification was prohibitively Expensive.
      • Lacked didactic content.  – Class outline provide had one or two of the 8 days with an agenda.   Classes mostly – “where do you feel it in your body.”
      • Expected to follow rigid program that I didn’t think would work in the environments that I am teaching.
    • First 8 week program at a nursing home did not go well. Nursing environment, length of the course.
    • Taught at Nursing home, West U Senior Center, HAPS.
      • Started in 2005
      • Developed my own content.
      • Taught a one 4 hour class and students suggested that we form a group.
      • Kept changing and improving based on questions and feedback.

Mindfulness Teacher Certification Program – MMTCP

Pre-requisite – “Power of Awareness”1

  • I started the program in May of 2017. The course ends in May of 2019
  • This is the level of the content that you should be able to teach.
  • The course is available through Sounds True and is taught several times a year.
  • It is a pre-requisite to MMTCP.
  • Structure
    • For beginners.
    • 6 weeks
    • Online
    • Several Mentored sessions – Mentors were excellent.
    • com

MMTCP is a certification Program

  • Note “Certification” not teaching. The program certifies that you can teach.
  • Your teaching is evaluated in two ways:
    • Mentoring program
    • Practicum

Mentoring Groups

  • Twice a month peer meeting.
    • Once with and once without mentor.
    • You will see others give talks and learn from their different approaches.
    • You will be peer reviewed over and over again. This is an effective way to help you grow.


  • Develop your own 6-hour program and teach it twice.
    • I did 4 classes of 1.5 hours each at the Jung Center and West U seniors center.
  • Forces you to
    • Get out in front of an audience.
    • Plan a curriculum and get approves.
    • Review recordings of your class.
  • Balanced – Challenging yet doable.
    • Challenging enough that if you can succeed at the program you feel ready to teach.
    • Easy enough that you can get it done and you do have help from your mentor and peers.
    • Don’t be afraid. This is not a program to try to flunk you out, but to help you improve.
    • You will be better at teaching when you finish the program.
    • A 30 minute audio tape is reviewed by your peers in the mentoring group.


  • Helped us overcome the fear. Most people felt insecure about beginning to teach mindfulness.
    • Am I good enough to teach.
    • Do I know enough to become a teacher?
    • Will I have the Charisma and Humor and wisdom required to attract students.
    • The impostor syndrome. Everyone thinks that the other is better than them.

Handling Questions

  • Jack and Tara are outstanding in handling challenging questions. I always tried to figure out how they would answer and they always had a better response.
  • There was also in the program helpful suggestions and guidelines for answering questions.
    • “Why did you ask that question”
    • Let the student know that the question is welcomed and appreciated.
    • If there is suffering in the question, acknowledge the suffering and be empathetic.
    • Try not to take it personally and to get defensive.
    • If you don’t know, be honest.
  • We had to answer difficult questions in our mentor group sessions.
    • Example: I love meditation and it is really helpful to me.   Unfortunately, my spouse isn’t interested and I can’t get her to start.   What should I do.
    • Set an example for her and behave like a Buddha and it might inspire them.
  • Each topic that was covered in “Power of Awareness” was reviewed during the MMTCP program with special instructions to teachers about teaching the topics.

Monthly Webinar – One hour with Q&A

  • Breadth and depth of the Dharma. More detailed than “Power of Awareness”
  • Excellent set of programs that introduced me to new teachers and approaches to mindfulness and the latest in psychological developments.
  • Examples
    • Tara Brach – Loving Kindness
    • Kristen Neff – Self-Compassion.
    • Rick Hanson – Positive psychology – Savoring Gratitude.
    • Justin Brewer – Breaking addictions
    • Christian Wolf – Dealing with pain.
    • Tara Brach – Inquiry – RAIN
    • Jack Kornfield – 5 hindrances
    • Tara Brach – Intentionality
    • Trudy Goodman – Impact of technology

Recommended Readings

  • Jack Kornfield:
    • The Wise Heart – Buddhist Psychology
      • Covered it with the Sangha book club and excellent combination of western psychology, ancient wisdom and techniques.
      • Making Buddhism accessible to our culture.
    • A Path with Heart
    • A Lamp in the Darkness
    • The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace
    • No Time Like the Present
  • Tara Brach:
    • Radical Acceptance
    • True Refuge
  • Sharon Salzberg
    • Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn
    • Full Catastrophe Living
  • Pema Chödrön
    • When Things Fall Apart
  • Christiane Wolf.
    • Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness, Chapters 1, 3 & 4
  • Rick Hanson:
    • Mind Changing Brain Changing Mind: The Dharma and Neuroscience

Well Planned

  • The logistics of the program were extremely well thought out:
    • Mentoring groups gave us a chance to coach each other.
    • Having a mentor was quality control and provided excellent dharma advice.
    • Having 3 retreats helped us get to know our mentoring group better and connect with others.
    • The practicum gave us a chance to practice.
    • Pre-requisite – “Power of Awareness” helped us understand the content before we had to learn to teach that content.

Impact of program on me

  • Have a much broader understanding
  • Have Wide variety of resources
    • Talks, books, class notes, webinars
    • Guided meditations – learned a lot from my peers
  • More confidence.
  • Particularly sensitive to questions.
    • Just see myself as a catalyst or conduit of others people wisdom.
  • On me
    • Humbling – The more I know the more I don’t know.
    • Completely change my level of understanding and helped me in my personal practice.
  • When I knew I would have to teach the material, I studied it with much more diligence.

Transitioning to Teaching – Book Club / Peer led groups

  • If you want to
    • Help spread the dharma.
    • Practice teaching.
    • Learn from others.
  • Teamwork – study
    • 100 people take a test. They randomly break down the class into 20 groups of 5 people.  The lowest score of any of the groups was higher than the highest score of any individual.
    • Lesson: If you decide to teach expect and enjoy that you will learn from your students and don’t feel like a failure that you don’t know more than everyone else.
  • Peer groups can rotate the teaching responsibility.
  • Peer groups are powerful ways of learning a topic.
  • Should be first step to teaching. You are teaching others with much less pressure.
  • If you are interested in teaching but don’t have the time or money join IMH Book Club or Travis’s study group.
  • Best way to be a good teacher is to be an excellent student.
    • Be prepared for each meeting. Read the readings.   Outline them.  Learn a summary view of the material that you could use later.   Keep your notes for future teachings.

Attitude / The dharma applies to teaching also.

  • Lao-Tzu
    • A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
    • A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
  • Teaching is a long journey – so is becoming a practitioner
  • Tara and Jack talked about their insecurities when they first started teaching.
    • Some people didn’t like their talks.
    • Small audiences.
    • Didn’t have the right answer for every question
  • Intentionality
    • Conscious and unconscious dimension to everything we do.
    • Teaching
      • Conscious motivation should be to help others.
      • Unconscious there are other things. Might be a desire (desire is what leads to suffering)
        • To be heard, respected, special and admired
        • Danger – It can turn into an eqo trip.
        • Fear of public speaking.
        • When people walk out of the room, when there is a small audience you will feel bad.
          • Every failure is an opportunity to learn.
          • Sometimes the people leaving have nothing to do with you.
          • Don’t take it personally.
        • You are not evil, you are human if you have these desires.
      • Constructive Attitude – intentionality
        • If you can just help one person than the effort is worth it.
        • Personal growth. Becoming the best practitioner, you can become is a foundation for teaching.  You help yourself by sincerely trying to help others.
        • Be really active in all of your dharma training.
          • Take notes, review them.
          • Listen as though you knew you would have to teach it tomorrow.
        • You are sharing ancient wisdom techniques. They work and have worked but they are not for everyone and don’t take it personally if people aren’t interested.
        • The program was designed to help everyone become better teachers. It is a two year opportunity for growth.  (Don’t look at it as a two year test).  If you were a perfect teacher you wouldn’t be in the program.)
          • Mentor and peer reviews help you grow.
        • Embody the dharma
          • Daily meditation practice.
          • Really open your heart to everyone.
          • Daily review do metta for all of my students
          • Humility – When you don’t know an answer be honest about it. Accepting your limitation will help others accept theirs.
        • Changed my perspective as a student.
          • Out of fear of failure I strived for a deeper understanding of the material.
          • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Someone may ask that question of you.
          • Taking notes.
          • Making sure that I understood.
          • Review what you heard with the aspiration that you will remember.
          • Tip – Next time you take a class test yourself to see if you learned it well enough to teach.
            • Make an outline.
            • Summarize it.
          • RAIN- Evolving – Depth
            • Allow
            • Investigate
              • Where do you feel it in the body?
              • What is it really about? What really underlies the emotion?
            • Nurture
              • Non-identify
              • Nurture
            • A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. – Lao-Tzu


Power of Awareness class

  • Class 1 Establishing a practice
  • Class 2 Awakening the Body
  • Class 3 Mindfulness and Emotions
  • Class 4 Freedom with thoughts
  • Class 5 R.A.I.N
  • Class 6 Trauma and Healing
  • Class 7 Loving your life
  • Class 8 Loving Others
  • Class 9 Realizing who we are
  • Class 10 Mindful Relationships
  • Class 11 Daily Life
  • Class 12 Caring for the world