The Ultimate Get Sober Checklist
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Meditation has finally become a part of the mainstream after many years buried in the counter-culture: Headspace generated $36.7 million dollars of revenue in 2017; Google and Apple have adopted meditation programs for their employees to increase productivity; and 4 out of 10 adults in the USA say they meditate weekly. It is taught in schools, businesses, and many other industries while meditation apps are booming all over the world.
Meditation reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving wellbeing, productivity and creativity. It has so many more benefits and is becoming a commonplace theme in popular culture.
But how do you go about learning meditation?
Well, you can read books, follow blogs, or take online courses. This is the first step for many people. You can listen to guided meditations or dowload apps. Many people are learning this way today but it has its limitations. You can also take classes or join a Meetup group, which is much more effective in terms of building your practice.
But there’s one method that stands above the rest: getting support from a meditation teacher. But how do you go about finding a good meditation teacher?
There are many people out there who claim to be meditation teachers, but are not actually qualified. It is possible to find a great teacher without certification, but to increase your chance of success, I recommend checking that they are certified.
Meditating for a long time doesn’t qualify you as a teacher. Learning to teach is very different from learning how to practice meditation.
You wouldn’t assume that you were a university lecturer just because you’d read a thousand books. We need to learn how to teach what we have learnt, which is quite a different skill.
It’s really important that you enjoy the company of your meditation teacher and that you establish a strong rapport. If you don’t feel a connection with them, it might be best to keep looking.
Start by checking out their website to get a feel for them. If they offer a free chat or trial, talk with them to see if you connect.
See whether they have any videos or guided meditations, so you can decide if their style suits you. You can also check if they have any testimonials or reviews for their services. Can you speak to any past students to see what they have to say?
Take a lesson with them and see how it goes first before committing to anything ongoing or long-term.
Some argue that you should find a teacher who is open to different styles of meditation. To be honest, I couldn’t disagree more with this point.
It can get incredibly confusing for students to get different practices from different paths. Students need a set of techniques and a path to follow, so that you can go deeply into those teachings. You can always change to a different path if it doesn’t work out, but don’t go with a teacher who teaches a bit of everything.
When we dilute the teachings that great masters have given us, we find ourselves walking a wishy-washy path that does not take us deep into meditation, but along the edge of many different traditions.
Good meditation teachers are joyful, peaceful, and uplifting. After speaking to them, you should feel energized and encouraged. They should also make you feel confident about developing your practice.
If you find that someone is negative, bleak, or cynical, hang up the phone. I have met teachers who think that the world is a miserable place and they meditate to be free from it.
The spiritual path is a path of joy; it should be fun and enjoyable.
That is not to say that good teachers are unaware of the problems in the world. But they are joyful in spite of the difficulties, in the same way that a child is full of joy for no apparent reason. Your teacher should help you see the magic and beauty of life instead of the suffering.
A meditation teacher should meditate every day – ideally, for at least an hour.
My teachers sit for about three hours a day, but they have dedicated their lives to teaching meditation.
As a beginner, you may only meditate for 10 minutes a day, but advanced practitioners will meditate considerably more than that.
If a teacher has a weak or inconsistent practice, they may not have the right energy to teach well.
You can ask them what their own practice is like to get an idea. And follow your instinct as well. Do they seem like they meditate every day? Is the energy of kindness, calmness, and joy in their words and actions?
If someone offers meditation for free, you might find you don’t get much value out of it.
Even if the teacher is excellent, if you don’t pay them in some way, you will probably not get much out of the classes. Paying helps us to commit mentally to our practice.
A businessman once held a huge conference. He charged thousands of dollars for the tickets, but he also let in a few people for free as an experiment. What did he find out?
The people he let in for free did not complete the assignments, and did not experience the same transformation that others experienced. Almost everyone else saw excellent results a few months later.
Why? Because when we don’t pay for things, we don’t value them as much. An energy exchange is essential if we want to experience growth.
In the past, disciples would not always pay their teacher, but would help out in the ashram or monastery. So even if you simply serve in some way, that is fine, but you should exchange something.
Meditation teachers are usually part of a spiritual tradition. It might be Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, or Shamanism, among many others. Hinduism has many branches such as Advaita Vedanta, Kriya Yoga, Tantra, and Ashtanga Yoga. Buddhism branches off into Zen, Theravada, Vipassana, Mahayana, among others.
Reading a few books and visiting some ashrams does not make someone a meditation teacher. They should be connected to a spiritual lineage through their teachers.
A secular (non-spiritual) teacher may be of benefit if you are an atheist or have no interest in spirituality, but ultimately, the true benefits of meditation come from connecting with spirit, so secular teachers can only get you so far.
If you want to understand yourself and experience deeper states of consciousness and true healing, a meditation teacher from a renowned lineage will be a better fit.
Some spiritual teachers talk in an abstract way and are hard to understand.
As a meditation student, confusion is the last thing you need. Your teacher should speak in clear and simple terms. If you don’t understand what they are saying because it is too abstract and esoteric, look elsewhere.
Some people would disagree and argue that spiritual concepts are very complex and need to be explained.
Well, if you’re ready for this, then great. You may want to consider Advaita Vedanta, the path of wisdom. But I would say this path is for the most advanced yogis among us, the ones who are a couple of steps from liberation.
For most people, the practice is the most important aspect: the theory will follow. By then, it won’t feel confusing because our practice will have given us the intuition and growing wisdom to understand things on a deeper level.
Find someone who makes it feel clear and simple.
You will find many teachers out there who say you can find inner peace with only knowledge and theory. Just learn the right concepts and you will become enlightened. This is a dangerous idea.
Be sure that your teacher encourages you to practice daily. It is your dedicated practice that will transform your life. Through that practice, you will gain the wisdom to understand more difficult ideas – not the other way around.
They should also encourage you to increase the amount of time you spend practicing. Start with a small amount of time to form the habit and then build from there.
Your teacher should help you to consistently build your meditation practice, improving and refining. If you find that you have plateaued, you may need to move on to another meditation teacher.
Some people will offer enlightenment in 6 weeks or promise you some “secret” tip that will blast you into nirvana.
Good teachers make sure that you understand that meditation is a lifelong journey; it requires practice, patience, and discipline.
Don’t choose someone who is offering false promises or quick fix meditation practices. If you want change, you need to commit to working on yourself each day as you move forward on the path.
You can find meditation teachers online, in your local area, or you can even take a spiritual journey to find one.
Try out various classes and meet ups. They will help you learn and you might even find a meditation teacher through them.
I do offer meditation classes, but the reality is that some of you reading this will connect with me, and others of you won’t. Make sure you choose the right teacher for you following the guidelines above.
If you feel I could help, let me know via the link below and we can have a free 10-minute consultation. We can discuss any questions you have and I’ll make some recommendations. I can also recommend other avenues for exploring the path of meditation.
Otherwise, when you’re ready, try to find a teacher you resonate with and get in touch with them so they can guide you.
Whatever you do, don’t try to do it alone. I did that for four years and there is no reason why you should waste so much time.