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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Finding a Teacher


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A reader asks:

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?

A meditation teacher does three things. The first contribution of a teacher is to be a reminder. As Hazrat Inayat Khan put 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.

One 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.

Copyright 2000 The Institute for Applied Meditation, Inc.


Puran 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 here.




Heart Rhythm Meditation
A brief overview of Heart Rhythm Meditation.




Institute for Applied Meditation, Inc.
A non-profit educational organization founded in 1988 by Susanna and Puran Bair. The site has information on heart rhythm meditation. The method is described in detail here.





By Puran Bair
By becoming mindful of their heartbeats, readers will be able to create a deep state of stillness and alertness, improve physical health, enhance intuition, and concentrate personal power. Bair illustrates the effectiveness of his program with stories of clients he has helped and with ancient teaching stories from the Sufi masters. Heart rhythm meditation is suitable for beginners as well as experienced meditators looking to expand their practice.





This page was published on May 19, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.