By Terence Stone
And the answer is…
This is a question that has popped up more than a few times in the last few months as I’ve scoured the web for other sites like mine, participated in forums, and responded to general inquiries sent to me via Urban Spiritual. From what I can tell, it spurns a lot of debate in the virtual world. My opinion? Yes, no, and it depends.
Meditation is such an individual practice that it’s impossible to say for sure. Every answer is someone’s opinion based on his or her own personal experience. My answer will be no different. However, it is my intention not to simply answer the question, but to examine it in terms of the individual journey.
Every person comes to meditation for a different reason. Maybe he lost a loved one and was looking for a way to cope. Maybe she studied eastern religion as an elective in college. Maybe you had a friend who got you into it. Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs at different times.
Just as you wouldn’t ask anyone else, “Do you think I need to go to the bathroom right now?” – so it is with meditation. So rather than ask everyone and your mother if you should get a meditation teacher, ask yourself. Ultimately, you are the only one who will know if it’s right for you or not at any given moment.
How I did it
Take my experience, for example. I started meditating very sporadically when I was in college. It was a very specific practice that I learned on my own from reading one book. Then, I dropped it for a long time. I came back to meditation about a year and half ago, after reading many books. There was one in particular that gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to do it on my own: Mindfulness in Plain English.
After I’d been consistent for about six months, I started reading passages from The Pali Canon, The Tao Te Ching, The Bible, and Rumi’s Complete Works as part of my daily practice. While I found incredible depth in all of those books, and realized that their messages all heavily overlapped, I found myself drawn to the words of the Buddha.
Then, I started reading up on the specifics of Buddhist meditation. As I delved into the Buddhist perspective on spirituality, I found that one of the things the Buddha emphasized most was Sangha, or community, as you’ll recall from the last post. Subsequently, I researched and tried out a few meditation centers in the city until I found one that really stuck.
I started attending with the sole desire to be with others from time to time while I meditated. In doing so, I found myself in the presence of a number of extremely knowledgeable individuals who had a way of illuminating the teachings in such a way that I could not have on my own. And thus, I acquired a few meditation teachers.
So what’s the answer already?!
My feeling is that at some point in a committed meditator’s life, they will desire some sort of guidance whether it is an informal gathering with others, or teacher-led sittings. This could be at the beginning of one’s journey or late in the game, and this desire will probably naturally arise. Again, it depends on the person.
My advice, especially if you’re new to meditation and very enthusiastic, is to read a lot. There are great resources online (take a look at this how to meditate article), and many wonderful, in-depth books (take a look at the Book Store for a few). Get educated. The more you know, and the more specific you can get, the more you’ll get a feel as to what’s right for you.
Wishing you unshakeable liberation of mind and heart.
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.