On Meditation Teacher Training :: Sonali Nigam

It's hard to believe our second meditation teacher training has come to an end! We're beyond proud of all the students who took this journey. We'll be sharing interviews with some of the recent graduates, to celebrate. 

Read below for a beautiful essay by Sonali Nigam. 

Sonali has an interdisciplinary background in the technology, policy and business of healthcare. She has always been obsessively curious about the intersection of wellness and technology and geeks out on reading research articles on this topic. Sonali lives in New York City with her husband and their cat Naomi. You can find her on instagram @sonalaholic  

One of my earliest memories is of 7-year-old me sitting cross-legged on the cool floor of my aunt's meditation room, chanting mantras with my eyes closed. At the time I didn’t necessarily understand what meditation was supposed to be but it felt like a happy space, so the practice stayed with me. 
 
Fast forward twenty-five years later, I found myself wishing for more of that space and (some sanity) in New York City. The meditation apps and weekend retreats were helpful but I wanted more. I was constantly reading the scientific research about how great meditation was for my brain. But I couldn't quite figure out how to integrate it into my life in a consistent way. 
 
That's where The Path came in. I had heard about a meditation community through word of mouth and signed up to attend an event with a friend. I instantly loved the accessible nature of the Weekly Sit. It was held in a friendly and secular community, with wise teachers and a beautiful setting. To me, it was the perfect way to get away from the stresses of the city and incorporate a few moments of contemplation. 
 
So a few months later when I received an email about their upcoming Teacher Training program I felt goosebumps. The time felt right to take a deeper dive and immerse in a meditation practice. I wasn't 100% certain that I would want to teach afterward, but I knew that the training would support my desire to create a daily practice and also provide me tools for contemplation and self-reflection. 
 
The training was a three-month long commitment: four weekend retreats in addition to weekly Monday night classes. On my way to the first class, I witnessed two women on the subway trying to pull each other's hair out. 

Ah, the joys of living in New York City... I walked into class that night eager to find some quiet and compassion.
 
Happily, I found the teacher training to be that and much more. Each week, we learned core meditation concepts and discussed how they were applicable to modern life. The teachers Dr. Loizzo, Geri Loizzo, and Marlie Mcgovern were knowledgeable and approachable. In particular, Dr. Loizzo would break down the science into more palatable pieces which meant that everyone could follow along easily. The class discussions were friendly yet wide-ranging. We discussed everything from Buddha's life, to how to teach non-meditators, to the neuroplasticity of the brain!
 
Our homework was to meditate each day in order to practice what we learned that week. Of course, it was not always easy to find the time. There were many tempting distractions to deal with every single day, but I stuck with it and slowly began to feel the changes. If I didn't meditate one day, I felt like I was missing something. Over time I became creative with the practice. I tried meditating in the park during lunch my breaks, while sitting on a plane, and walking meditations whenever it was possible.  
 
Every few weeks we would be asked to lead a group of our peers in teaching a meditation and provide each other constructive feedback. Initially a nerve-racking experience, this quickly became one of my favorite aspects of the course. 
 
The training went by so quickly that before I knew it the twelve weeks were over. I look back now and am amazed at how many unanticipated changes took place in that brief period of time. Before the training, I didn't think that I could teach at all, much less teach meditation, but the positive experience of teaching my peers combined with my teachers’ support gave me the confidence to believe that I could. 

The bigger change was even more unexpected. As an introvert, I had always struggled with faking extroversion in order to fit in. The mindfulness training helped me to become aware of this struggle between my authentic self and the image I wanted to project to others. And the loving kindness practice we learned continues to help me be more accepting of myself the way I am.
 
I remember Dr. Loizzo saying during our last class, "The world will be a better place if there were more people meditating and teaching others how to meditate." I couldn't agree more. For me, the teacher training was a critical step on my path towards mindfulness and compassion. As I continue my practice and begin to teach, I firmly believe that the tools I have been given will continue to support me and the communities that I live and work in.