About the Mindfulness-Based Teacher Project (MBTP)

The idea for this project began with the word harvest. In the autumn of my life, I began to feel a gentle but persistent calling to harvest the fruits of 35 years teaching mindfulness-based approaches and share them with colleagues.

I regard teaching as a calling, and the desire for connection. The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber said, “All true living is meeting.” Each time we come together to learn or study, we have the opportunity to connect and be in community.

Even a moment of true connection can be a turning point. I’ve been fortunate as a teacher to have had many such moments, and my life has been immeasurably enriched by them. In these years, I’ve experienced, as no doubt have you, a vast range of emotions from joy to sorrow, from inspiration to bottomless dark nights. And through it all, the practice of mindfulness and the capacity to connect with the most intimate parts of myself and the lives of others who have so generously shared themselves with me has provided a shower of blessings.

In these podcasts, I tell stories and then reflect on how they connect with an aspect of teaching. Some stories are from my own life; some have been told to me by the hundreds of teachers with whom I’ve had the joy to spend time, and some I’ve read in the lives and works of others.

I decided on the podcast format, because, in the tradition of storytelling, I wanted it to be a “live” event and to draw on the power of story. Storytellers who have influenced me include Rachel Naomi Remen, Jack Kornfield, numerous children’s book authors, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Anthony de Mello, and the Zen Ancestors whose teaching stories have been at the center of my own meditation practice.

As a small child, I was most influenced by The Little Engine That Could. I memorized that precious gem of a book and recited it over and over. To this day, there are two things I can recite easily from memory: the opening lines of The Little Engine and The Canterbury Tales in Middle English. The message of The Little Engine – Never give up! – set the tenor for my life. The Canterbury Tales, a medieval story of finding community along a journey, influenced me without my knowing it at the time, to study pilgrimage as the subject of my doctoral dissertation.

We might never know the power of a particular story, and yet storytelling is central to the human condition. Dr. Remen writes:

There’s a powerful saying that we tell each other stories — sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live. They tell us about who we are, what is possible for us, what we might call upon. They also remind us we’re not alone with whatever faces us and that there are resources, both within us, and in the larger world, and in the unseen world, that may be cooperating with us in our struggle to find a way to deal with challenges. – Podcast episode “Listening Generously,” from On Being with Krista Tippett, Nov. 27, 2008.

All of the podcasts in the MBTP series were delivered extemporaneously. I was usually alone and began by sitting quietly for a few minutes, letting a theme or a story take shape. Sometimes I’d have a few notes or a quote ready, and then when it felt right, I began speaking. Without intending to do so, I felt myself talking to a group of individuals, to you in fact, and the words flowed.

Rather than editing these talks to become seamless or flawless, I let each podcast take on its own flavor. I did edit out the “umms” and “ands,” but little else. When I paused waiting for words to come, I left these moments of silence in the podcast. I also left in the occasional clumsy phrase in the hope that these “imperfections” will help connect us as fellow travelers. It is with a sense of delight and a bit of shyness that I offer these podcasts. May they support you in your work and life.