The necessity of a Meditation Teacher
It is a fact that meditation and mystic teachings have never been a natural part of our modern culture, our upbringing and our conditioning in the West.
The words such as guru or master have different connotations attached to them. Unfortunately, many gurus and masters themselves played a role in feeding a negative image by abusing their charismatic powers over their followers, which, in some cases, led to shocking revelations and scandals. In most people’s opinion, the words guru or master describes someone who has absolute control over another.
Once yoga found acceptance and became the latest fashion in the lives of celebrities – soon to be followed by the average person - it was only a question of time before yoga turned into a profitable global business.
Today, most people have a very positive attitude towards yoga; they enjoy attending classes and can experience the benefits of practicing yoga on a personal level. However, in this new world of yoga practice, there is little understanding that yoga was in actual fact originally developed to channel our body’s energies and our minds towards meditation. Few regular yoga classes include refined meditation techniques, largely because most yoga teacher training courses typically only touch on meditation at a very superficial level. Therefore, most yoga teachers have not received any real training in the application and teaching methods of meditation themselves.
From birth we are surrounded by a variety of teachers. The first teachers are our parents who teach us how to speak, eat and behave. They teach us certain boundaries, social ethics and the way we should interact with others. At school we are taught by a succession of teachers across a variety of subjects. Later, we are strongly influenced by what we are taught from our professors, our managers and senior colleagues.
In our private lives we might take lessons in dance, pilates, yoga and sports. Everything we learn, we usually learn from someone who is highly accomplished and trained in the particular subject to which we are attracted and who want to further their mastery and become even more familiar with their field of expertise.
When it comes to meditation, the need for a teacher depends entirely on our personal objective. If our objective is to learn and practice deep relaxation, than a book or listening to a CD will probably do the job. The moment our objective is to work with more refined and advanced breathing and meditation techniques, a book or CD might only take us to a certain level of understanding. Our self-practice might give rise to certain questions, which may not be addressed by what we find, described in a book.
We will definitely require a teacher if our objective includes self-study, work on consciousness, the cosmological side of meditation or the whole field of the psychological teaching.
The first reason is that certain things can only be transmitted by word of mouth. As an example, a golf teacher can only impart his most secret skills or tips once he has seen your golf swing and observed the habits you have acquired through your golf practice.
The second reason is that it requires a lot of effort and practice to establish a neutral or objective state of mind. We are usually too close to ourselves, or we are standing in our own way, to be able to relate things to a greater perspective
Additionally, without the support and facilitation of a teacher, the attraction and gravitational pull of our meditation practice in itself, might not be strong enough to sustain the initial interest and fascination of our mind over a longer period of time. Soon the mind will become distracted by other more powerful attractions and temptations in life, the mind will then happily allow us to sacrifice the idea of meditation in order to replace it with something more satisfying. That’s part of the nature of our mind.
The third reason is, that simply being in the presence of an accomplished person who is settled and completely at ease in what he or she is teaching - whether its sports, carpentry or yoga - can have a powerful influence on how we absorb and practically apply what we are being taught. To these teachers, no question seems unanswerable due to their profound experience and knowledge in their chosen field, which has been accumulated through years of hard work and effort. They know how to speak to many different kinds of people, whilst at the same time, always finding a way to make things work for each individual. They have witnessed the difficulties people are struggling with in certain areas many times before and it does not take long for them to come up with a solution or a different approach, which usually solves the problem.
How does the work of a meditation teacher take place?
This depends on one’s own objective and individual needs as well as whether one decides to attend a meditation class or chooses to be taught on a one-to- one basis. Most people choose to learn meditation as an alternative method to stress management, to help balance their stress levels during the day. All modern stress management methods are based on ideas of ancient meditation and psychology. Furthermore scientific research supports the fact that specific meditation techniques can have a powerful impact on our stress levels and adrenal glands.
Others want to meditate in order to come to terms with upsetting experiences from their past, dealing with conflict or grief. Many people choose to learn meditation to help balance their mood swings, control their emotions or simply because they want a break from the busy chatter in their head.
An accomplished meditation teacher is trained to be able to address and work with an individual’s needs and requirements. They are also able to do this in a neutral, patient and non-invasive way; without any trace of judgment, prejudice or personal opinion. A teacher will be un-fazed by the unknown and their overarching incentive and objective is to facilitate change in a safe and transformative way. Yet they can only instruct and guide a person up to the level of experience or state of being, they themselves have established within through their very own conscious effort, as well as help from others.
So in the beginning there may be no need to start with a teacher. But when one reaches a point where one wants to deepen ones meditation practice, a series of lessons or classes with a teacher are highly recommended. If one wants to explore, study and practice what the whole field of meditation has to offer, then working with a teacher becomes necessary and unavoidable.
Alexander Filmer-Lorch 2014