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Mindful : December 2018
the IMTA of ignoring the efforts of many other groups around the world, already well underway, to establish standards for mindfulness teachers. They also faulted the association for preemptively declaring itself to be an international association even when almost all of its members were US- based mindfulness practitioners. The worries go deeper. In an effort to regu- late mindfulness teacher training, some critics have said, the movement is in danger of ignor- ing the essential quality of a good teacher— wisdom—in favor of a set number of prerequi- sites and course hours. In an article in The Huff- ington Post not directly addressing the IMTA but rather the larger issues facing the mindful- ness community, Ron Purser, a Zen teacher and professor of business at San Francisco State University, wrote: “This amounts to the profes- sionalization of the role of the mindfulness teacher in conjunction with the student-as - consumer... Students are no longer learners seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but have taken on the identity of the customer. Similarly, the professionalization of the role of mindfulness teachers has colonized not only the teacher–student relationship, but it introduces market logic with its demands for competition, sav v y marketing, and entrepreneurialism.” The intensity of the criticisms took the found- ers of the IMTA by surprise. “It was a shock at first,” Winston says. “ We saw this as an altruis- tic effort, something that would help everyone in the field and everyone interested in learning to practice mindfulness.” But perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surpris- ing. In many ways, the uproar has exposed rifts in the mindfulness community that have been around for years—among them, the challenge inherent in creating a formal teacher training program for a practice that proponents agree is available to anyone. Of course, any field growing as rapidly as mindfulness is today will experi- ence growing pains. Still, many leaders see this as a pivotal moment. How the debate over inter- national standards and formal credentialing for mindfulness teachers plays out, they say, will shape the future of mindfulness as a practice and a profession. Mindfulness comes of age Almost everyone agrees that there’s a need for formal and widely accepted standards for teachers. “At the moment, the field is very much in flux, which is indicative of the nascent stage we’re in,” says Lynn Koerbel, director of mindfulness-based stress reduction teacher education and curriculum development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. “The field of mindfulness has broadened and deepened, and the question is, now what?” Rebecca Crane, who directs the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at the School of Psychology at Bangor University in Wales, agrees. “The field is moving along quite swiftly now,” she wrote in an email. “There is a strong recognition that in order to protect the integrity of this work, there needs to be trans- parent systems for the general public to dis- criminate between those who have undertaken in-depth training and those who have not.” The same goes for educational institutions, medical centers, corporations, and other estab- lishments that want to launch in-house mind- fulness programs. “The problem at the moment is that it’s less and less clear who the qualified teachers are,” says Phillips, who is serving as the IMTA’s executive director. “Institutions should be able to feel confident that they are hiring the best mindfulness teachers, and that’s very dif- ficult today.” With an internationally accepted standard for credentialing mindfulness teachers in place, experts say, there’s better likelihood that health insurers will be persuaded to provide coverage With an accepted standard for credentialing teachers, there’s a better likelihood health insurers will be persuaded to provide coverage for mindfulness services. 64 mindful December 2018 meditation