Mindful Leadership Training Program

August – December, 2021
with Nikki Mirghafori, PhD and Marc Lesser, MBA



This certificate training program is open to and designed for leaders and aspiring leaders in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. We will cultivate the mindful and compassionate leadership skills of focus, clarity, emotional regulation, well-being, self-awareness, caring for self and others, with a mindset of service to community and the world.

Through mindfulness curriculum, meditation instruction, group discussions, and practice opportunities, we will cultivate skills and behaviors that can be applied directly to our personal and professional lives. By developing and incorporating these intentional practices, we will strengthen professional relationships and workplace environments, expanding impact beyond our own learning for the broader benefit of our work and organization(s).

This program includes training in three realms: personal, relational, and organizational. Some included themes are:

  • Mindful, compassionate, values-aligned leadership
  • Courageous conversations
  • Building and empowering effective partnerships and teams
  • Personal ecology: self-care, well being, resilience
  • Self-awareness and self-management: emotional intelligence and working with difficult emotions
  • Coaching and mentoring: compassionate accountability
  • Fostering belonging

Program Includes

Monthly large group sessions
Monthly pod sessions
Daily and monthly home practices and readings
Monthly written reflections
Optional monthly Tea and Q&A


Program runs August 27 – December 18, 2021. Specific training dates below. All meeting times are: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. US Pacific Time.

  • Fri-Sat, Aug 27-28; Opening Weekend
  • Fri, Sept 17
  • Fri, Oct 15
  • Fri, Nov 12
  • Fri-Sat, Dec 17-18; Closing Weekend

Participation Commitment

  • Must attend at least 5 of 7 days
  • Meditation: 20-30 min/day recommended
  • Reading/Journaling: 4-8 hr/month
  • Pod meetings: 1 hr/month
  • Tea and Q&A: 1 hr/month (highly recommended but not required, and will be recorded)
  • Attend ONE program orientation (highly recommended, especially if you have not used LearnDash before)
    • Wednesday, August 18; 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. US Pacific Time
    • Friday, August 20; 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. US Pacific Time
    • Wednesday, August 25; 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. US Pacific Time

Financial Information

Sliding Scale: $5000 – $750. Please consider paying at the highest rate that you can afford: your generosity supports Spirit Rock, staff, and your fellow practitioners. Any amount offered above the Base rate of $2500 is a tax deductible donation to Spirit Rock, and your generosity will enable and support the participation of others.

  • Benefactor – $5000
  • Sustainer – $3000
  • Base – $2500

The following rates are available for those needing financial support.

  • Supported – $2000
  • Mudita/Karuna Scholarship – $1650*
  • BIPOC Scholarship – $750*

*Both the Mudita/Karuna Scholarship and BIPOC Scholarship rates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Both are limited and reserved for those truly experiencing financial hardship.

Cancellation Policy for this Dharma Training Program

  • $100 cancellation fee** – On or before August 23, by 5:00 p.m. US Pacific Time (**fees reduced for scholarship participants)
  • $500 cancellation fee** – August 24 until Sept 20
  • No refunds – Sept 21 and beyond


Please email us.

Teaching Team

Nikki Mirghafori, Ph.D., is a Buddhist teacher and Artificial Intelligence scientist. She is a lineage holder in the Theravada tradition, empowered by the living Burmese meditation master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, with whom she practiced the jhanas and detailed analytical (Abhidhamma-style) vipassana. She also received empowerment from the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Insight Meditation Society, Insight Meditation Center, and is a Stanford-trained compassion cultivation instructor.

She serves on the Teachers Council and Board of Directors at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA, and also a Teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Nikki is Iranian-American, has taught contemplative practices internationally, and aspires to serve as a doula for wisdom and compassion.

Additionally, Nikki has been a researcher and inventor in AI, holding multiple patents and co-author of 40+ scientific research articles. She has directed international research programs as the Principal Investigator, mentored post-docs and PhD students, taught graduate courses at UC Berkeley, and been a scientific advisor to Silicon Valley technology startups. She is interested in the ethics of AI, among others.

Marc Lesser, MBA, is a speaker, facilitator, workshop leader, and executive coach. He is the author of 4 books, including Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen, and CEO of ZBA Associates, an executive development and leadership consulting company. 

Marc helped develop the world-renowned Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program within Google – a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training for leaders which teaches the art of integrating mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and business savvy for creating great corporate cultures and a better world. He founded and was CEO of 3 companies, and has an MBA degree from New York University. Marc was a resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years, and director of Tassajara, Zen Mountain Center, the first Zen monastery in the western world.


Join us in cultivating mindful, compassionate, value-aligned leadership to empower and engage others in effective action to broaden our impact. 

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