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Mindful Leadership Training Program

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

Registration is now closed


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 mindful and compassionate leadership skills and practices to embody our care for ourselves and others, with a mindset of service to community and the world.

A core, distinct pedagogical approach of this program is participating in and co-learning with a supportive community of like-minded peers both in the large group and small monthly pod meetings. Through lectures, group discussion, guided meditations, readings, reflections, experiential exercises, and personal meditation practice, 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
  • Cultivating well-being: self-care, rest, and resilience
  • Self-awareness and self-management: emotional intelligence and working with difficult emotions
  • Transforming professional and personal relationships through embodied, skillful communication
  • Courageous conversations
  • Empowering and inspiring people and teams
  • Coaching and mentoring: compassionate accountability
  • Fostering and co-creating belonging


Monthly large group sessions - online (recorded)
Monthly small team - online and in-person options
Daily and monthly home practices and readings
Monthly written reflections
Optional monthly community Tea and Q&A - online (recorded)


Program runs August 27 – December 18, 2021

Large Group Sessions (recorded) | 9:30 am – 4:30 pm US Pacific Time.

  • Fri-Sat, August 27-28; Opening Weekend
  • Fri, September 17
  • Fri, October 15
  • Fri, November 12
  • Fri-Sat, December 17-18; Closing Weekend

Tea and Q&A Sessions (optional, recorded)

  • Tues, September 7 | 5:00pm – 6:00pm US Pacific Time
  • Thurs, September 30  | 10:00am – 11:00am US Pacific Time
  • Wed, October 27 | 12:00pm – 1:00pm US Pacific Time
  • Wed, December 1 | 10:00am – 11:00am US Pacific Time


  • Must attend at least 5 of 7 large group sessions (all will be recorded)
  • Meditation: 20-30 min/day recommended
  • Reading/Journaling: 4-8 hr/month
  • Small team 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


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.


  • $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.


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.


"This training was a profound opportunity for me to really see myself better in my role as a non-profit leader, and I anticipate it having a long-term positive impact on my ability to create positive change in the world."
Michael Green, CEO of The Center for Environmental Health (Oakland, CA)

"This training allowed me to sit more deeply with other non-profit leaders around the challenges of our organizations. The leader suggestions for metta meditation guided me in a practice that created an opening. This opening allowed me to see creative possibility in our organization where there was once a wall of impossibility."
Sam Kanenwisher, Child Education Center Board President (Berkeley, CA)

"Provided valuable enrichment in leadership and management development and techniques, mindfulness practice and professional attentiveness and presence, and by fostering connections with a community of talented, engaging, and committed peers."  

"This was incredibly valuable. Now more than ever this is needed. The intentional grounding vis a vis the demanding work that we do, mindfulness has so much to offer staff and clientele." 

"Just an amazing opportunity to more fully integrate your spiritual practice with work. It has been an amazing group of humans to connect with!"


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

Registration is now closed
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