After 300 hours of training packed into 28 days, I finally received my meditation teacher training certificate from Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School in Rishikesh, India. I really didn’t comprehend the extent of this learning journey until the certificate was placed in my hands!
Why I decided to do this Meditation Teacher Training Course (MTTC)?
While exploring ideas for how to spend my 6 months of freedom, I hit a roadblock… I could feel there was something knocking at my door, but I couldn’t find the door knob to open up!
Eventually, during a breathwork meditation at Hyperslow Studio, I heard the loud knock, and this time the door opened: Meditation teacher training.
From that moment, the decision was made. I am going to do a meditation teacher training. This is a great example for why I continue down the meditation path. Through meditation, I can connect with the intelligence that’s beyond the mind that’s always thinking; it helps me connect wit my intuition (my “gut feeling”), which often provides answers to my questions.
As you may (or may not) know, I embarked on a self-development & meditation journey over 4 years ago, with little guidance (Read my full story here!). I’ve been searching for a way to deepen my practice with a little more structure than my random spurts of curiosity and self-study.
To quel the worries of family: Don’t be alarmed! Meditation is purely secular, non-denominational, and absent of any religious affiliations. So, please put away your perceptions of mysticality surrounding meditation; it’s a secular philosophy of the mind.
The purpose of meditation is simply: to slow down your brain waves and get beyond the analytical thinking mind. The benefits have been repeatedly supported through research in neuroscience.
Additionally, since 2016, I’ve led a few spontaneous meditation sessions for small groups. Each time I felt a deep-rooted connection to the experience, and I always wondered whether I would enjoy teaching meditation. With 6 months of freedom, I figured that if I’m every going to explore the meditation-teaching waters, I might as well do it now.
How I chose the Shree Mahesh Meditation School?
Over the last few years, yoga teacher training courses (“YTTC”) have become ubiquitous around the world. You can find a YTTC on almost every mountain-top, riverbank, jungle, and oceanfront in Asia. Meditation teacher trainings (“MTTC”), on the other hand, appear to be severely limited. I did a search for MTTCs anywhere are the globe, and the search results were rather uninspiring. Most of the schools I came across had little substance, and minimal reviews from past students, if any.
I compiled a list of 15 MTTC schools to research further. At least 11 of these MTTCs are located in India, and most are extensions of schools that offer YTTCs and involve a notable amount of yoga asanas (positions).
Decision criteria to narrow down my MTTCs list, in order of importance:
I chose Rishikesh, India. As the birthplace of meditation, India appeared to have the appropriate energy for studying meditation. As I’ve traveled extensively in India 2 years ago, I was already familiar with the palpable spiritual energy in the country (you can check out my adventures in India here! LINK). Additionally, I wanted to be in a city can offer the full spiritual experience: With the holy Ganga river running directly through it, Rishikesh (the “City of Saints”) was my city of choice. Rishikesh is a spiritual center with Hindu aartis (“ceremonies”) occurring on extremely loud speakers, each morning and evening every 500 meters along the river.
I thoroughly searched for any reviews I could find through google, Facebook, Yoga Alliance, etc. Any school that has below 4 out of 5 stars was removed from my list. By reading reviews, I could get a feeling for the accommodations/ facilities, the food, the teachers, and the school overall. Additionally, if people left helpful reviews on the school’s facebook page, I sent these persons a private message through Facebook to ask of any further questions I had about the program. Regarding food and accommodations, I had very low expectations for any MTTC in Asia, particularly if located in India. As a backpacker and vagabonder, I have low standards when it comes to accommodations and facilities. However, in hindsight, I would have given more weight to this criteria (I’ll explain more below)!
3) Duration (# of hours)
Preferably 300 hours (or 28 days) course. I was looking for an intensive course to deepen my meditation practice, so I was looking for a 300 hours MTTC. However, I considered 150 hours and 200 hours courses I felt they had high reviews and good teachers.
4) Teachers/ instructors
I researched the teachers facilitating the MTTCs, in order to understand:
- Which school of teaching they came from (i.e., Buddhist, Vedic, etc.),
- Where they gained their meditation experiences (i.e., studying in University, through direct experience, with a guru, living in an ashram, etc.), and
- How many years of experience they have with meditation and spirituality (i.e., did they begin their spiritual journey as a child, the number of years they’ve been teaching meditation, whether they’ve taught in other schools in India/ internationally.)
Particularly for the MTTCs that are extensions of Yoga schools, it was extremely difficult to find which teachers would be facilitating the MTTC (i.e., if they are not the same as the teachers for the Yoga courses).
Regarding the MTTC’s school of teaching, initially, I wanted to learn at an MTTC that pulls from the teachings of various approaches to mediation, but is rooted in the ancient teachings of Buddhism. However, since I chose India as my location, I primarily found schools in the Vedic tradition.. so Vedic it is!
The MTTCs appeared to cover very similar meditation techniques in the curriculums. However, I wanted to use this program as an opportunity to find my voice in teaching, and see how comfortable I felt facilitating meditation sessions. So, I was searching for a MTTC that dedicated at least 2 weeks for students to practice teaching.
From my perspective, most MTTCs in Asia were reasonably priced, ranging from US$1,200 – US$1,700 for a 27 day course. Therefore, price wasn’t a primary factor.
Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School MTTC in Rishikesh, India
Here’s how my MTTC choice fit into my decision criteria:
This MTTC had a significant amount of reviews on their Facebook page, YouTube channel, and their website. The school’s presence on Facebook and YouTube surpassed the other schools by miles. Particularly, the YouTube testimonials and virtual video tours helped get a good feel for the overall program, the teachers, and the accommodations.
300 hours, 28 days.
4) Teachers/ instructors
The Director of Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School, Ram Gupta, began his meditation journey at a young age, and attended a yoga school renowned since the 1920’s, Kaivalyadhama. He also taught workshops and courses at schools throughout India, Germany, and China.
The MTTC had the typical course curriculum, and provided 2 weeks for students to practice teaching classes.
Should you take the Shree Mahesh Heritage MTTC?
It depends on what you’re looking for…
If you’re seeking to to explore a variety of techniques of meditation:
If you’re seeking to deepen your meditation practice:
Potentially, yes. However, an intensive meditation retreat may be better for you.
If you’re seeking yoga training:
Absolutely not. There’s essentially no yoga asanas (positions) taught in this program. They only facilitate basic physical exercises to get the students moving their booties every few hours. The focus of this course is meditation!
If you’re not interested in becoming a meditation teacher:
Yes, there’s still much to gain from the program!
Since you’re going through 25 different techniques, you only practice each meditation technique 2-3 times in the class setting. Therefore, your knowledge of meditation techniques will be extensive, but you’re not deepening your practice in just a few meditation techniques.
That being said, the objective of all the meditation techniques is to guide you to the same place of inner silence and bliss. So, you’re deepening your meditation practice simply by meditating a few hours per day during the MTTC.
By the end of the MTTC, you’ve explored a variety of techniques. It’s then up to you to choose which techniques you connected with and would like to explore further and integrate into your personal practice.
A Look into Shree Mahesh Heritage MTTC
The Daily Schedule
|6:30am – 7:15am||Morning cleansing (neti pot with saline water, washing eyeballs with alma powder, oiling nose with almond oil, and sneezing by sticking tissue paper up your nose)|
|7:15am – 8:45am||Meditation class|
|8:45am – 9:30am||Breakfast|
|9:30am – 12:30pm||Philosophy and meditation class|
|1:00pm – 2:45pm||Free time (much needed!!)|
|2:45pm – 4:15pm||Self study/ Self practice|
|4:15pm – 7:00pm||Chanting and meditation|
|7:00pm – 7:45pm||Dinner|
|7:45pm – 10:00pm||Free time|
As you can see, these were intensely packed days and allowed for little free time.
BEWARE: When you choose an MTTC in India, you get the Eastern teaching style
As this MTTC is India, the courses are taught by Indian instructors using the Eastern teaching style. Allow me to elaborate:
- The curriculum only includes 1.15 hours of theory class per day. Your learning comes through personal experience from the meditations taught in the practical classes. Therefore, the teachers provide minimal background and explanation about the meditation techniques before you do them. You’re expected to perform the techniques and experience them for yourself first… then, maybe, you’ll receive an explanation in the theory class (if you remember to ask about it!). As a Westerner, I’m used to received the low-down on everything I do before I do it, so this was a great learning experience, which required a great deal of patience.
- Coming from the West, I wanted to understand the scientific reasons behind the meditation techniques we were taught. However, that doesn’t happen… Meditation techniques from Eastern traditions are based on the “experiences” of gurus and enlightened persons and gurus (i.e., not based on scientific evidence), whose experiential knowledge has been passed down for generations. This took some getting used to!
- The Eastern method of facilitating meditations is more direct, “bare bones”, and straight forward. This is in contrast to the Western way of guiding practitioners into their meditation experiences, utilizing gratitude and imagery to help them connect with themselves.
Review of the Physical side
Unfortunately, the accommodations were severely below average, and this is coming from a minimalist who doesn’t need luxury. Although I had a large room with a balcony, there was mold covering the walls of my room and bathroom. The moldy smell was so strong, I had to keep my balcony door open all day to air it out. Additionally, since there was construction on the rooftop, the meditation hall was in the cold basement, featuring a green “carpet” that is aged, damp, and severely dusty.
UPDATE: I have been informed that Shree Mahesh MTTC has moved to a new location! If you’re interested in attending the MTTC, I recommend checking-in with the school to learn more about their new location and its facilities. Their updated website should feature some insightful images as well.
Regarding nourishment, I personally would have preferred to have fully Aryuvedic meals, as I can be a bit of a health-freak. However, despite Shree Mahesh Heritage being a meditation school teaching the principles of yoga, it does not advertise to provide an Aryuvedic diet in any way. Rather, Ram explained that the school attempts to accommodate its Western students in the food options by not preparing a strictly Indian cuisine for each meal.
I personally enjoyed the Indian food prepared! However, many of my coursemates expressed that there was minimal variety of curries and, at times, unhealthy meals of fried bread or white bread sandwiches.
On the upside, Ram and the kitchen staff are flexible and open to hearing any feedback. As long as you make your concerns known (i.e., more variety of vegetables, no fried bread, etc.), they will be happy to make the requested adjustments.
My Personal Experience at the MTTC
The month was filled with self-discoveries, emotional twists & turns, and laughing fits with my group of coursemates. This program wasn’t limited to the 25 meditation techniques we learned in the classroom; rather, it was a continuous learning experience of 24 hours/ day….
From confronting my physical ailments to leading our group chanting, and from pouring my heart out to my coursemates to giving my shoulder for friends to cry on.
I couldn’t have asked for a better group of diverse souls (from 9 countries!) to share this experience with. I departed from Rishikesh with tears on my face as I received goodbye hugs from this new family away from home.
I felt as though it was all a dream… being surrounded by an unconditionally supportive group of souls, who seamlessly lived together, worked together, and connected together… I learned as much from my coursemates as I did from our teachers.
At this meditation program, I no longer felt like an outsider. It’s an environment where I feel comfortable to be myself with no hesitancies, no second thoughts on whether my choices & actions are socially acceptable (as long as I’m not harming anyone!). I can listen to my heart and do what feels right to me. I feel freer, wiser, and more in tune with the ‘flow’, simply by being this unconventional me. People wanted to be friends with me for who I am, and the energy I share. The coursemates I was surrounded by allowed this to happen, and I thank them endlessly for making this possible. I’ll continue to seek a way to create such an environment for myself when I return home.
My Personal Takeaways
Following the program, I had an inner confirmation that meditation will continue to be a center-focus of my personal practice in life. Additionally, I left the program with an understanding of the meditation techniques that I most deeply connect with:
- Vipassana meditation, a classic Buddhist style of meditation, which I had been initially introduced to at my first 10-day silent meditation retreat in 2015.
2 days of the program were designated for a Vipassana meditation ‘retreat’. Vipassana retreat is a silent meditation ‘retreat’, where you refrain from all forms of communication (i.e., even eye contact), avoid contact with the external world (i.e., you can’t leave the building, can’t use your phone, etc.), and refrain from using any writing, reading, or listening materials (I.e., no journaling, no reading, no music, no laptop, no WiFi, etc.). Essentially, you have nothing to do for 2 days, other than the Vipassana meditation for 8 hours per day (and maybe a nap). The idea is that by minimizing our external distractions and stimuli, we are forced to move our attention inwards, and we create space for things to surface (i.e., emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc.) that would otherwise remain covered by daily life and its distractions.
I’ve completed the 10-day silent Vipassana retreats twice already, so I knew what to expect (more on this in a future post!). It was a challenging 14 hours of arduous meditation per day for the 2 days, yet I emerged with wonderous learnings and realizations. Now that it’s over, I can say “thank you, Vipassana.” There’s no way in hell you’d hear me say that during the 2 days retreat!
- Active meditations that involving free-form movement/ dance. For example, Osho meditations (I share all the details about the infamous Osho in a previous post!) and ecstatic dance. I felt a natural connection to the meditations centered around free-form movement & dance.
It’s simply allowing our bodies to move freely to music; allowing ourselves to move in whatever way we feel. There’s no thinking involved, no planned dance moves, no expected sequences, and no goals. It’s about feeling the music in our individual bodies, and allowing the body to be moved naturally by the music. As Osho says, “Be the dance, not the dancer!”
By becoming absorbed in the music in this way, the thinking mind quietens & calms. This creates the space for us to move our attention inwards and connect more deeply with our authentic selves (i.e., without our masks on!).
In allowing our bodies to move freely, we’re de-conditioning ourselves from all the programming that’ve been ingrained in us since childhood (i.e., how we should look, what kind of job we should have, how much money we should make, etc.); all the programming imposed on us by our parents, by our teachers, and by the communities we were raised in.
Free-form movement connects us to our inner child… the fun, creative, silly child that still lives somewhere within us, waiting to come out and play again. And it’s absolutely magical!
- Chanting and kirtans (to my surprise!). A kirtan is group chanting/ singing of short prayers accompanied by instruments. The vibrations from chanting mantras (short prayers) in Sanskrit language were healing. After 15 minutes chanting, all worries and anxieties just dropped away.
In the next post, I’ll share the fun activities I stumbled upon in Rishikesh in all our rare free time (featuring village celebrations 🥳 )