Meditation is a process that eliminates distracting and stressful thoughts from the mind. It is beneficial for all ages and backgrounds. Meditation teachers lead their classes by example, providing an atmosphere that is conducive to introspection and relaxation. The goal is to help students understand how to still their minds and enter into an awareness of their inner being.
When preparing a course of study for a meditation class, it is important for the teacher to take the age of the students into consideration. Leading children in meditation is different than leading teenagers, adults, or elderly people. The students' reaction to the class activities should guide the structure of the class. In many cases, this means an occasional break, varying techniques, or a change in pace.
Creating a good atmosphere is an important part of teaching meditation. Many meditation businesses are run from home, and it is necessary to have a dedicated space for meditation classes, free of clutter and personal objects, with appropriate lighting control, such as dimmers and block-out curtains. As long as all physical surroundings can be controlled, teaching meditation from home is a cost effective and convenient arrangement.
The advantages of teaching meditation from home may be negligible if the environment is not conducive to meditation, however. Too much ambient noise, active family members and pets, and other factors may make a home environment inappropriate for a meditation class. In this case, it is better to move the class to a different location.
As with any other discipline, a meditation teacher must practice his techniques. When working with a group, it is important for the teacher to be familiar with a variety of meditations methods, since not all methods work for everyone. Each meditation technique is based on two core ideas: stillness of mind and awareness.
One technique uses breathing exercises to release the mind. As the exercises are practiced, the mind lets go of other thoughts and focuses on breathing alone. Eventually, the focus on breathing is also released, resulting in stillness of mind and an awareness of its inner workings. The physical act of breathing also promotes relaxation as oxygen levels are increased in the bloodstream.
Mantras, found in the Indian schools of meditation, are similar to breathing techniques because they also focus the mind on one activity. Repeating the same phrase — whatever it may be — eventually grounds the mind to one idea. Not all phrases work for everyone, so the best phrases use sounds instead of words, or words from a different language. The phrase itself should not be distracting to the students but soothing.
Another method involves visualization. The teacher either guides the students into their own individual images or describes a prepared image. In many cases, it is a beautiful scene from nature or a calm situation full of love and acceptance. In either case, the teacher speaks in a calm, clear voice so that students can hear the instructions without straining.
Typically, individuals use one method of meditation to promote consistency and discipline. Teaching meditation requires multiple methods to accommodate different personal needs and preferences. The goal in teaching meditation is to guide students through several techniques so that they can practice the one that works best for them on their own.
In a group of students, there are usually a variety of meditation practices. Some may meditate regularly for extended periods of time. Some students may have never meditated before. For beginners, it is very difficult to meditate for more than five minutes at a time.
Students will learn best if meditations begin in small increments, using the same meditation technique several times before moving on. This gives them the opportunity to become comfortable with a technique without strain or boredom. Many times students will give immediate feedback, through verbal or non-verbal cues. Using these cues, a teacher can change the pace of the class, increase the length of meditations, or abandon a technique if it is causing tension.