On Being a Teacher
Currently there is no "accreditation" body to oversee the many teacher-training programs in America and around the world. Anyone can claim to be a teacher. Anyone can claim to be a teacher of teachers! So first, buyer beware!
My own training is primarily academic - where, as an aside, we're often not actually taught how to teach. We watch, study, and emulate. I have a Ph.D. in Buddhist ethics from the University of London and have taught in numerous colleges and universities since 2006.
I am also Certified Meditation Teacher; my certification comes from Aura Wellness Center, which focuses on yoga teacher training as its primary area of expertise. That particular area is regulated by the Yoga Alliance. Aura Wellness is also registered with the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ rating. Many Meditation Teacher training classes are popping up around the country, some under established forms of regulation, some not.
To this point, a question came up on facebook about the importance of teachers having training, to which Mushim Patricia Ikeda provided the following comment:
Many years ago, Nelson Foster, the primary Dharma heir of Robert Aitken, Roshi, wrote an article for Buddhist Peace Fellowship's journal, "Turning Wheel Magazine," about this issue. He said that, traditionally, Zen teachers became recognized as teachers in two ways: (a) the person trained under a teacher who had been given Dharma transmission, got all of their proper papers and certifications and robes and bowls and their teacher's stamp of approval: or (b) the person didn't go through an official training program, but their practice matured in such a way that people became attracted to them and said, "Would you please teach us?" and the teacher said OK and did a good job teaching people and wasn't harmful. Jack Kornfield, one of the founders of Spirit Rock, has said these 2 ways are true in his experience and that he has observed that there is approximately the same failure and success rate in both groups, so that one group is not superior to the other group. Basically, it boils down to that the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Fully certified teachers through various lineages have gone astray, created much harm and anguish. Teachers who came in through the second door of being asked to teach by people who felt they had something to offer have succeeded sometimes in establishing themselves as responsible, wise spiritual guides for the students.
About Sila Mindfulness:
Sila Mindfulness (formerly Mindful Montana) is an outgrowth of the practices and studies of Justin Whitaker and the needs of the community and state for a place for quietude and mental cultivation.
Sila (or sīla to be exact) is the Pāli term for ethics or moral conduct. In Buddhism it is what lies at the very foundation of a mindful life, wisdom, heaven, and ultimately awakening itself.
Vision: A welcoming space for mindfulness. Accessible to the modern student, and tailored to the needs of every individual. Bringing lasting peace and harmony for individuals and our communities.
Mission: Guided by the three pillars of mindfulness practice, scientific insights, and Buddhist philosophical and ethical inquiry, Sila Mindfulness will offer courses, workshops, and presentations to inspire, educate, and guide participants in the direction of greater wisdom and compassion. We do so by combining 2500 years of Buddhist thought, the latest developments from Western innovators, and our own real-life experience.
Grounded in the Buddhist tradition, Sila Mindfulness embraces wisdom across traditions and cultures, striving always for practicality, accuracy, and respect for others. We are conscious of our White Privilege in borrowing from Asian traditions as well as our footprint on Native American lands. As such, we aim to raise awareness in ourselves and in others about topics such as privilege and cultural appropriation.
Our philosophy is grounded foremost in an ethics of loving-kindness and justice. Loving-kindness can begin on the meditation cushion but it must move into life to have deep and lasting effects. Justice is the virtue of lawfulness and fairness; it requires living with both recognition of one's privilege(s) and seeking harmony in society. Our hope is to contribute to thriving communities through our work with diverse individuals.
Born in Montana, Sila Mindfulness is expanding its geographical reach globally with writing, courses, workshops and more. Check the schedule, blog, and other pages for regular updates.
About our teacher, Dr. Justin Whitaker:
I am an almost-life-long Montanan; a baptized Catholic; an ardent agnostic; practicing Buddhist things; a lover of Wisdom. I find solitude to be as essential as air, though I am at times gregarious, and very often joyful, alone and with others. I laugh at my own jokes almost as much as my father, love learning, and love those who truly love… anything. I have certainty in little, and little time for those who are certain of much, though admire those whose certainty leads to service of humankind.
I hold a BA in Philosophy (with Honors) from the University of Montana, an MA in Buddhist Studies (with Distinction) from the University of Bristol, and a Ph.D. in History/Religious Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London.
I have practiced Buddhist meditation formally since 2000 and studied the philosophy, history, and practices of Buddhism for over 15 years. I began teaching meditation in 2003 with a campus sangha (community) and have continued off and on throughout the years. In 2016 I completed a Certified Meditation Teacher training and began offering classes in Helena, Montana at Hot Yoga Helena (owned by my friend, Nicky Twitchell). In the summer of 2016 I began collaborating with Marisa Diaz-Waian and Merlin CCC. I have also taught courses in religious studies and philosophy in colleges and universities since 2006 in the US, England, India, and China.
My most recent academic posts were teaching Ethics in the Philosophy Department at Carroll College, Helena, MT in the fall of 2016 and as a core instructor for the Woodenfish Buddhism in China program in the summer of 2017.
P E O P L E
Justin Whitaker, Ph.D., Founder/Teacher
Megan Black, Organizational and Marketing Guru