Is a teacher necessary in learning meditation? What
does a teacher do, anyway? If the teacher does some
intervention, isn't there a danger of developing a
dependency? And if the teacher doesn't perform an
intervention, couldn't I learn meditation on my own?
meditation teacher does three things. The first contribution
of a teacher is to be a reminder. As Hazrat Inayat Khan
it, "My presence stimulates in your heart that feeling
which must always be kept alive." In a world that is
so strongly outer-oriented, it is inspiring to know
someone for whom their inner condition is their priority.
As everyone else is busy living, he or she is concerned
about living from the heart. Teachers make mistakes,
but still their aspirations, and perhaps some parts
of their lives, are exemplary. They are our models.
Second, the teacher knows a method of meditation that
they can impart to others. In learning meditation, there
is some technique to be learned. Some methods, like
Heart Rhythm Meditation, are complex and have steps
and stages to go through. Questions arise when you attempt
meditation, which I believe is the most difficult and
most worthwhile thing that one can learn to do. We get
blocked and stuck at crucial points, which are fortunately
well-known to a teacher. It's so difficult that meditation
can't actually be taught, it must be caught.
We catch it from our teachers and, to some degree, other
students. Meditation, like swiming, is difficult to
learn without a teacher, and books don't help much.
The third contribution of a meditation teacher is to
"Open the Window." Beyond the example in life, beyond
the teaching of a technique, there is an intervention
that the teacher performs that makes it possible for
a student to go beyond their usual, solitary experience.
The teacher activates the connection, which always existed,
between the student and The One and Only Being. What
the student experiences is then a result of their own,
direct, internal connection.
Some teachers claim they have a much more powerful
influence: that all the student's experiences in meditation
are channeled through themselves. This is not my experience,
and as a concept it offends my sense of unity. I find
that every person is a complete microcosm -- the whole
in each part -- so there is no need for the teacher
to serve as a channel.
teacher describes the contribution of a teacher to a
student even more modestly than I have. He tells a parable
of a bird that one day flew into a temple and couldn't
get out. The bird flew from window to window, battering
himself, in a vain effort to escape. Then, exhausted,
the bird rested on the windowsill of the only open window
without realizing it was different from the others.
A teacher, who had been watching the bird's frantic
efforts, immediately clapped his hands. The startled
bird jumped through the window and was free.
Every student of meditation has their own story about
an experience they had in a group of meditators that
they had not had alone up to that time. But whatever
you experience with a teacher will eventually be reproduced
in solitude. You have no more dependency upon a meditation
instructor than you have upon a swimming instructor.
Once you've got it, you can do it on your own. But to
go farther, you may need another boost from a teacher.
We all need reminders as we try to integrate our meditation
experience into our lives, and those reminders needs
to be close and frequent. I propose we use the beat
of our hearts as our reminder. When you get used to
feeling your heartbeat in meditation, a deep conditioning
is developed that will result in spontaneous occurrences
of conscious heartbeats during the day. Every time you
have one of these moments of conscious heartbeats, it
will remind you of your heart, the real teacher, beating
within your chest.
2000 The Institute for Applied Meditation, Inc.
is an American, Sufi, spiritual leader, and author who
has taught meditation to tens of thousands of people in
the United States and Europe over twenty years. For a
longer biography, click