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Mindful Leadership Training Program

Compassion, Empowerment, and Impact

August – December, 2023
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 nonprofit 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 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. Developing and incorporating these intentional practices, we will strengthen professional relationships and workplace environments, expanding our impact beyond our own learning for the broader benefit of our work and organization(s). 

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
  • Coaching and mentoring: compassionate accountability
  • Courageous conversations
  • Empowering and inspiring people and teams
  • Fostering and co-creating belonging

This program includes training in three realms: personal, relational, and organizational:


  • Alignment with core values
  • Personal ecology: well being, self-care, resilience
  • Emotional intelligence: self-awareness and self-management—working with difficult emotions, anger, disappointment, etc.
  • Motivation: envisioning your goals and values, and working with success and failure

Relational (including to oneself):

  • Empathy and Compassion: self-compassion, compassion for others, working with people with whom we have difficulty from a stance of common humanity
  • Communication skills and courageous/difficult conversations
  • Building effective partnerships, developing and working with high-performing teams
  • Coaching and Mentoring: guiding personal and professional development, compassionate accountability


  • Understanding and cultivating power, equity, and inclusion
  • Visionary and compassionate leadership: creating great cultures, healing broken cultures
  • Working with change: creative gaps, navigating change


Monthly large group sessions - online (recorded)
Monthly team sessions
Daily and monthly home practices and readings
Monthly written reflections
Monthly Q&As - online (recorded)


Large Group Sessions (recorded) | All 9:30am – 4:30pm (note: all times listed in US Pacific Time / UTC –8)

  • Fri-Sat, August 25-26 (2 days); Opening weekend
  • Fri, September 22
  • Fri, October 20
  • Fri, November 17
  • Fri-Sat, December 8-9 (2 days); Closing weekend

Q&A Sessions

  • Wednesday, September 6 | 10:00 –11:00am
  • Tuesday, October 3 | 12:00 – 1:00pm
  • Thursday, November 2 | 5:30 – 6:30pm
  • Wednesday, November 29 | 4:00 – 5:00pm


  • Must attend at least 5 of 7 full large group sessions live (and access recordings of any missed live)
  • Meditation: 20-30 min/day recommended
  • Reading, journaling, and written reflections: 4-8 hr/month
  • Team meetings: 1 hr/month
  • Q&A Sessions: 1 hr/month
  • Attend ONE program orientation (highly recommended, especially if you have not used LearnDash before)
    • Friday, August 18; 12:00 – 1:00pm
    • Tuesday, August 22; 5:30 – 6:30pm


Sliding Scale: $2500 – $5000. Please consider paying at the highest rate that you can afford: your generosity supports the teachers for this program as well as 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. The Supported Rate is unlimited and available to anyone in need. 

  • Supported – $2100
  • Mudita/Karuna Scholarship – $1750*
  • BIPOC Scholarship – $790*

*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.

Participation in MLT requires a financial commitment. ALL participants have the option of paying in full or a 30% deposit at the time of registration. Those paying a deposit can set up installments. All program fees must be paid in full two weeks prior to the start. Payment plans are available for all levels of the sliding scale. Please note: If you register less than 2 weeks prior, a payment plan is not available.


$100 fee: On or before August 23, by 5:00 p.m. US Pacific Time
$500 fee: August 24 - September 22
No refunds – On or after September 23 (applies to all participants)
*Fees reduced by half for scholarship participants.


Please email us.


Nikki Mirghafori

Nikki Mirghafori, PhD, 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.

At Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Nikki serves as a Stewarding Teacher as well as on the Board of Directors. She also teaches at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Nikki’s teaching style combines clarity and warmth, and she delights in exploring deep Dharma topics with practitioners as well as mindfulness in daily life. Mindfulness of death is one of the areas of her interest and expertise.

Additionally, Nikki has been a researcher and inventor in AI, holds multiple patents and author of 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.

As an Iranian-American, Nikki has taught contemplative practices internationally and aspires to serve as a champion for wisdom and compassion in our world, and ethical AI in our zeitgeist.

Useful Links

Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is a CEO, executive coach, and Zen teacher. He founded and was CEO of 3 companies, and has an MBA degree from New York University. Finding Clarity: How Compassionate Accountability Builds Vibrant Relationships, Thriving Workplaces, and Meaningful Lives, is his fifth book. His other books include Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen and Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less.

Marc helped develop the world-renowned Search Inside Yourself program within Google – a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training for leaders that spread through Silicon Valley and then globally. He was the founding CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. He is CEO of ZBA Associates, an executive development and leadership consulting company that supports Genentech, Google, Beneficial State Bank, and other leading companies.

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. He leads an online Zen group, Mill Valley Zen International.

Useful Links


"This training was a profound opportunity for me to really see myself better in my role as a leader, and I anticipate it having a long-term positive impact on my ability to create positive change in the world."

"This training allowed me to sit more deeply with other 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."

"As someone with limited meditation experience, I was a bit nervous about signing up for the program.  I'm very glad I did. I learned a lot that helped make me a more effective leader and team member, and more grounded when facing the flurry of demands and ‘emergencies’ that we face as leaders.”


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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