My name is Tanya Meyer and I’m a DELTA-qualified (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults from the University of Cambridge) freelance EFL teacher specialising in the application and integration of mindfulness in daily life as well as in the classroom.
In addition to teaching adults at British Council Mexico and at one of Mexico’s most prestigious think tanks, CIDE (Center for Research and Teaching in Economics), as well as privately to individual and corporate learners, I offer weekly mindfulness practice sessions for teachers, staff, students and the public in general at British Council and have created and guided mindfulness workshops for teachers, educators and parents at schools and libraries in collaboration with Mexico’s Ministry of Education and school directors.
I’ve also participated as a speaker on the topic of Mindful Teaching at international conferences such as BBELT (Best of British English Language Teaching) and IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language).
How I became a mindfulness practitioner
Having already enjoyed the benefits of the practice for a few years in the UK, where I attended a practice centre regularly and went on my first week-long retreat, I eventually concluded that “everything was OK now” and that I didn’t need to continue. Once the practice stopped, the clarity I’d gained from it began to fade (though when this happens you don’t realise it) and before I knew it, I was caught up in a series of events that led to a great deal of conflict, instability and finally, what felt like devastating loss.
Then I was offered a big break, returning to teaching adults after an absence from teaching of a long four years. Although I was qualified, my teaching skills were rusty and I was emotionally drained, weak and vulnerable, with limited ability to draw on any available resources. It didn’t take long for students to start expressing dissatisfaction and I found myself being summoned by management again and again as they tried to understand what the problem was and why my classroom management was so poor. The comments made by students were vague as they admitted I was a good teacher, but they didn’t feel comfortable or happy in the classroom.
My confidence fell to an all-time low. If I was unable to hold a teaching position after everything I’d been able to handle before, then surely – there was no denying it now – it was time to take a long, open look at myself and take responsibility for my own well-being.
At that very moment of understanding a question popped into my head: “What if I sit?”
Barely had I finished formulating it when I knew that sitting was the answer. Giving myself that time, making room in my life to sit for a few minutes and stop to investigate, to calm my body, thoughts and emotions, and to take a curious, engaged, patient and, as much as I was able, non-judgemental look at what was going on within was exactly what I needed to do.
That first sitting was enough to generate a deep but subtle shift in my experience and understanding and it wasn’t long before others, especially those who knew me well, noticed a difference.
Since then, I have become a regular practitioner (mainly within the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, which is open and invites us to listen to and learn from other teachers as well) and would rather go on retreat than on a traditional holiday, including seminars and retreats specifically designed for educators.
Now it’s easier to smile and I don’t react as much. I’m able to focus and concentrate enough to produce creative, fun-filled lessons, while at the same time be fully present in the classroom and truly available to respond skillfully to the students’ needs. And it hasn’t taken long to establish a reliable private client base.
Bringing the practice to work
Within a short time of sitting on my own I understood the practice’s potential as I woke up in the morning feeling light and refreshed, with much more energy and enthusiasm than I’d experienced in years. I also knew that I wanted to find a community with which to practice and share ideas and reflections the way I’d done in Europe some years earlier.
I had the initiative of setting up a weekly mindfulness meditation pracrice session at British Council in 2013, open to colleagues, staff, teachers and anyone interested in finding out more about the workings of our mind through self-examination. The British Council was and continues to be very supportive of this initiative, by helping me spread the word among colleagues, by including the sessions offered in its MyClub activities for students, by creating advertising for the sessions and by sending regular email reminders to all the staff, to name a few.
It is a source of great joy for me to share these workshops and sessions with anyone looking to find out more about mindfulness meditation.