Merel Martens is yoga and meditation teacher from Holland. With her partner Paul Verkuijlen, she recently founded the Institute for Meditation and they run meditation teacher trainings annually in Koh Phangan, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia. Here she gives us her thoughts on meditation, meditation teacher training and how to choose a meditation teacher training course that’s right for you…
The Growing Popularity of Meditation Training
In today’s world, meditation is becoming more and more popular. Now that yoga has claimed its deserved place in the public domain, meditation is similarly growing in demand. That is not surprising. Many people experience increasing stress in their lives; both in their career and personal lives. Combining long working weeks with a busy family and social life is challenging.
It becomes even more challenging if you feel like you are not doing what you really want. Having a job just to pay the bills is for many people is not fulfilling. In the meantime, of course, social media plays its part, as you are being bombarded daily, if not hourly, by pictures and stories of friends – or friends of friends – displaying how happy they are (seemingly…)
Feelings like: ‘There should be more to life than this’, ‘What am I doing this for’, is what drives many people to look for some type of relaxation and contemplation. Meditation combines these two beautifully. The benefits of a daily meditation practice are becoming more widely discussed in mainstream media.
Why become a Meditation Teacher?
It is the most beautiful thing to be able to create a space where people can find some reclusion from their daily life. I have been teaching yoga and meditation for over 8 years now and I find it very rewarding to see people’s body and mind relax and consequently find some clarity.
The beautiful thing about teaching meditation is that you have complete freedom in what you offer. You can only lead authentically if you fully support what you are sharing. Whether you resonate more with silent sitting, contemplation or an active moving meditation: everything is possible.
Meditation itself spurs creativity and allows you to follow your intuition. You do not need to strictly follow any tradition if you don’t feel like that works for you or your group. Meditation itself makes you more aware of the subtleties of life and makes that you can move more confidently and freely with whatever is happening in the present moment.
Meditation Teacher Training
If you are passionate about meditation and feel like you want to share meditation with others you can choose to participate in a meditation teacher training. Unlike yoga teacher trainings, meditation teacher trainings are not so widespread yet.
Still, if you surf the web you will find that you have several options. I have trained over 300 people to teach meditation (and yoga) and often people ask what they should look for when selecting a teacher training. Here are few things that you can keep in mind.
Online meditation teacher training or on location?
The first thing you will find out is that some meditation teacher trainings are being offered online, while others take place on location.
Some are spread out over a number of weekends, others are offered in tropical locations like this one in Thailand in a more retreat-like style.
Price wise, the online trainings can actually be as expensive as on location, so that doesn’t seem to be the deciding factor.
The advantage of online of course is that you can take the course at your own pace. More work? You simply skip a class. However, this can, of course, lead to procrastination. So know yourself.
What many students that take a training on location report is the fact that they have a break from home. It is easier to reflect on your life and relax from your daily activities being physically away from home.
You are emerged in the subject matter for a whole week or more and have personal contact with your teachers. You become friends with your teacher, rather than a ‘teacher’ that you meet virtually.
Another factor that you might want to consider is that in an on-location training you will be part of a group and make friends that you can share your thoughts, feelings and emotions with.
One type of meditation practice or a variety?
Many teacher trainings will train you in one specific style of meditation, as the teacher comes from a certain lineage, for example, Tibetan Buddhism, Mindfulness, Yoga, Advaita-Vedanta.
You will want to check out thoroughly what the background of the facilitator/teacher is to understand on which principles they base their education.
What you will often encounter is that teachers transmit an idea of how we should live in their meditations. For example, we should be compassionate, we should be mindful, we should live in the present moment, we should be loving and kind, etc.
While these are, of course, very beautiful feelings to have – we are human beings after all and forcing ourselves to be compassionate, mindful, live in the moment, loving kind, brings yet another aim into our lives, which can accompany stress in your life – even very subtly.
On the other hand, meditation can make you more aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions and bring a sense of being okay with whatever you are feeling, whether that be stress, anger or loneliness. Of course, emotions can change from anger to compassion, however, the active pursuit of changing thoughts is a misinterpretation of meditation.
There are a few trainings that offer a more holistic approach to meditation that engage in a lively discussion of what meditation is and how that can relate to our lives. Often these trainings encourage their students to go on an explorative journey and gain clarity about what they personally want to share in meditation rather than simply learning a number of meditation techniques that they can pass on.
When looking for a meditation teacher training, make sure that you inquire which type of meditations are being offered. Only one type or a variety? Even if you are a big fan of one specific type, trying out different meditations can be surprisingly refreshing.
Teacher training or retreat?
Many on-location meditation teacher trainings are offered which look a lot like a retreat. That means that the meditation practice itself is an important element of the training.
What makes it different from a classic retreat is that you will learn more about the philosophical background of the meditations and additionally practice yourself with teaching.
I have, however, encountered a few teacher trainings that do not incorporate teaching practice. In my eyes this aspect is indispensable. By designing your own meditation and practising with sharing this with a group you will irreversibly explore for yourself what meditation is and what is important to you.
Words used in a meditation can have a lot of impact and understanding yourself why you say what you say is most important. Practising in a safe space is a great and rare opportunity. You will gain confidence and get valuable feedback.
In my trainings, I see an enormous difference between the first and already second time of practising! I would, therefore, recommend searching for a training in which practice with teaching (and even an ‘exam’) is incorporated.
Meditation Teacher Training Locations
When searching for meditation teacher trainings, you will see the same places crop up again and again, in particular, and for obvious reasons, destinations in Asia and Southeast Asia. Here are a few of the most popular locations for meditation training and meditation retreats across the region:
Koh Phangan, Thailand – This beautiful, magical island off the coast of Thailand is famous for the Full Moon Party, but also the wonderful spiritual scene that has developed over the past 15 years. I have chosen this peaceful paradise as the place for my own meditation teacher training at the beginning of 2020. See more details here.
Bali, Indonesia – The unique Hindu island of Bali in Indonesia has also developed a reputation for yoga, meditation and spiritual teachings, in particular, the central village of Ubud, which is surrounded by rice fields and beautiful countryside.
Rishikesh, India – Deemed to be the ‘Yoga capital of the world’, Rishikesh is a spiritual city in the foothills of the Himalaya. There’s an annual yoga festival here, many ashrams and spiritual teachings. People interested in yoga and meditation flock here in the thousands.
Goa, India – The bohemian hub of Arambol in North Goa is the place that you are most likely to find a meditation teacher training course. (I ran a yoga school here giving 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher trainings, with a strong focus on meditation throughout.)
If you are interested in meditation teacher training, check out Merel’s latest course in Koh Phangan!