This is a great question to ponder, and one I’m sure you’ve asked yourself before considering enrolling in a meditation course, signing up for a live workshop/class, or booking a reservation for a mindfulness retreat.
I can hear myself wondering the same thing before I began my 100 hour meditation teacher training, “Do I really need to go through training for this? Can’t I just share what I’ve learned from my own self-guided practice?”
But then, I’d think about all the meditation books collecting dust on my shelves. I’d remember all the meditation apps I’ve downloaded over the years that have yet to be opened. I’d think about how much I still struggle with sitting (or a more formal meditation practice). I needed structure. Nothing constricting, but enough structure and guidance that I’d have the motivation to crack open more of those books and maybe delete some of those apps.
I also had to ask myself, “How far can I actually go on my own?” Well, turns out not so far.
The biggest challenge I faced when I started meditating was coming to terms with self-acceptance, loving myself as I am, and not expecting myself to be perfect. Sitting down on a meditation cushion, closing my eyes and being alone with my own thoughts for even a few minutes was…honestly, terrifying.
I realized I wasn’t a very nice person, at least not to myself. Being alone without anything to do but weed through my own self-criticizing thoughts, felt unbearable.
I realized that without a teacher to connect with, I would probably never try certain meditations on my own, or even think of going on a meditation retreat by myself.
I also realized that learning meditation on your own is a very lonely process. Sure, a lot of the inner work that needs to be done, is only work that you yourself can do, but that doesn’t mean you have to go at it completely on your own.
Once I began my meditation teacher training I realized how much more there was to learn, how limited most guided meditation apps are. I also learned firsthand the benefits of having a LIVE instructor guide you along the way.
I can’t put into words the sense of support I felt from my teacher trainers and the other trainees I had the opportunity of working with. The ability to check in with real people each month and discuss what was working (and what wasn’t working) within each of our own practices was irreplaceable. Definitely not something I could have ever gotten from a pre-recorded guided meditation.
My instructors understood my challenges, in a kind and non-judgemental way only a meditation instructor can. When my inner battle with self-loathing kept me from practicing all week, they understood. Instead of asking why I wasn’t practicing, they’d ask what I could do to be kind to myself in that moment and they’d share, “It’s okay, I’ve been there too… here’s what helped me learn how to befriend myself…”
Meditation can be a lonely process, but a meditation instructor allows you to feel seen and validated during this process.
The answer I came to for my teacher training program is the same answer I can see my students realizing: Can you practice without an instructor? Yes. Will your practice benefit from the guidance and support of an instructor? YES, most definitely.
What do you think? Are teachers necessary for learning meditation?