How to Find a Meditation Teacher

Category: Buddhist Path | How to Meditate

Finding a meditation teacher is finding the Buddha within

The Role of the Meditation Teacher (And the Impact on Our Practice)

When we’re brand new to meditation, it helps to have a guide. A meditation teacher can provide us with the foundation we need to get started with our practice. But even after learning how to meditate, we can only go so far on our own. To walk the entirety of the path, we need a teacher to lead the way. Registering for free meditation lessons online is just the beginning.

A meditation teacher guides us in our practice, training us in ethics, meditation and wisdom. The teacher may also be a spiritual friend, serving as a living, breathing example of what’s possible when we walk a spiritual path. The teacher is also a mirror, echoing back to us our own state of mind, and ultimately, reflecting our true nature.

But in our current, untrained state of mind, how do we choose a meditation teacher? To find a meditation instructor, it helps to apply the principles of mindfulness and awareness as best as we can. The process necessitates becoming aware of ourselves and our motivations, the teacher and their potential motivations, and the relationship between the two.

Choosing A Meditation Teacher

Whether we’re looking for online meditation classes for beginners, buddhist meditation classes, or any free meditation courses, we’ll reap the greatest benefit if we take great care in selecting our instructor.

The best online mindfulness course will not only teach you how to meditate, but will guide you through a complete mindfulness journey. Thus, we want to find a teacher and a program that can accompany us well down the road, and not just as we take our first steps.

Choosing a meditation teacher is a process that involves understanding where we are, and where we want to go. The process begins by being open, staying curious, and asking the right questions.

6 Questions To Ask A Meditation Teacher

Contemplating the following questions can help shine light on whether or not a teacher is right for you. As you read through them, remain aware of changing sensation in the body. The body often has wisdom to share which the mind hasn’t yet fully cognized.

  • Does this person have the knowledge I need?

It’s not easy to discern whether a meditation teacher has the knowledge you seek. Especially, if you’re unsure what you’re looking for. Evidence that a teacher has received sufficient training is not only found on their resume, but felt and seen by the usefulness of the information they’ve already shared with you and their willingness to answer questions.

  • Are they part of an authentic lineage?

For those seeking a Buddhist meditation teacher, it can be helpful to learn about the different types of Buddhist meditation. Ask your teacher who their teacher was and where they got their training. If you plan to formally take refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, you might ask if this person can offer vows or initiations.

  • Do other teachers recognize them?

The best meditation instructors are generally part of a community of others who share mutual respect and recognition. Your teacher does not have to be internationally well-known, but it is a good sign if they are part of a greater mindfulness and meditation community, and seem known and well-liked by their peers.

  • Are they inspiring?

The most inspiring teachers are those who practice what they preach. A teacher should not only understand virtue conceptually, but should embody qualities such as patience and generosity. Note how you feel in your teacher’s presence and observe their interactions with others too.

  • Are they compassionate?

Classically, the process of vetting a teacher would include assessing their bodhicitta. Put simply, does the teacher demonstrate compassion and kindness toward others? Regardless of the lineage or meditation style you’re interested in, the primary teaching of any authentic path is love.

  • What are their other students like?

What someone teaches is evidenced not only by their words, but by the behavior of their students. While individuals behave differently based on personality, groups generally take on the characteristics of their leader. Note how you feel in the presence of your teacher’s other students.

Finding a Meditation Teacher

Once you’ve found a meditation teacher, your agency and your practice remains your own. Continually evaluate the relationship you have with your teacher, what attracts you to them, and what might be a potential red flag.

When we don’t yet feel whole, we may be attracted to those who embody the qualities we wish we had. But in our untrained state, we are confused about what we think we need. For example, we may be attracted to a teacher’s popularity, good looks, charm or financial success, mistakenly thinking this is where happiness comes from. If we’re learning an authentic practice, we may notice things anew as we learn, grow and heal.

Trusting in a teacher should never take the place of trusting in ourselves. Throughout the teacher and student relationship, we too have a responsibility to maintain boundaries and speak up when we experience or witness harmful behavior. Although the teacher is an essential companion on our journey, the real guide is within.

About the Author: Sara-Mai Conway

Sara-Mai Conway writes articles about Buddhist meditation based on her practice and experience
Sara-Mai Conway is a writer, yoga and meditation instructor living and working in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Her writing and teachings are informed by her personal practice and Buddhist studies. When not at her desk, she can be found teaching donation-based community classes in her tiny, off-grid hometown on the Pacific Coast. Learn more about Sara-Mai Conway here.

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