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Do I need a teacher for practicing mindfulness meditation?

Hi everyone!

I am new to the world of meditation and also to this forum. I really like to learn more about meditation. I've been practicing mindfulness meditation using these tapes online http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 . They've been very helpful guiding me, since I never have really meditate before in my life. They also have helped me feel less stressed.

But today I was telling me sister she should try them out and she said that you can't really meditate unless you have a teacher or go to a class. I learned she was talking about transcendental meditation, but then it sort of made me think if it is necessary a to have a instructor mindfulness meditation. And I started doubting everything (something I usually do when someone disagrees with me.)

Honestly, even though I have notice I feel more peaceful, I feel a little insecure about the practices I am doing because I have a lot of questions regarding this practice. But I also, for some reason, don't feel ready yet to want to start with a teacher. Being around new people or in new situations are stressful for me so I rather do it by myself for a while.

So anyways, do I need a teacher? Is it necessary?

Thanks!

Comments

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    No...

    silverlobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    No, you don't. If you have been comfortable with what you have been doing, have noted progress and enjoy your sessions, then you are doing just fine.
    We all move at our own pace, and follow whatever guidance we can obtain, and if that means watching videos, then do that. It's absolutely fine.

    Of course, it would be great if we could all have a marvellous one-on-one teacher we could call on any time we needed. But it's not always practical, in some cases, affordable or possible, if we can't find a teacher we 'gel' with.

    You're doing fine.

    Be confident in your own abilities and comfort zone. It;'s yours, and nobody has the right - however well-intentioned - to knock you off your cushion.

    BunksLiliWithQuestions
  • Picking a teacher is something that you should not just jump into either, don't settle. If it doesn't feel right then more than likely you should keep looking.

    When you have more questions than answers or really feel the strong desire to reach out to someone who has more experience, that could be a good indicator you might be ready for a teacher. It was for me.

    But don't get discouraged or let that spark fade for lack of a teacher.

    LiliWithQuestions
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Welcome @LiliWithQuestions. Hope you find something useful here.

    It sounds to me as if you are doing extremely well. I think you can carry on as you are and not worry too much about what others may do or say. Just keep on.

    Like any other endeavor, meditation can be as simple or complex as anyone chooses. Yes, in Buddhism, the function of a living, breathing teacher can be suggested. And yes, s/he can offer very good pointers. But it's not as if Buddhism or you will dissolve in a puddle of lifeless woe without such assistance.

    Patience, courage and doubt are your very good allies. Just begin ... and continue. If you need a "teacher," don't worry, s/he will show up. Do what you can to set doubts aside. Do what you can to set certainties aside. Just begin ... and continue ... and, as you have up until now, see what happens.

    Best wishes.

    personlobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @LiliWithQuestions said:
    I really like to learn more about meditation. I've been practicing mindfulness meditation using these tapes online http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 . They've been very helpful guiding me, since I never have really meditate before in my life. They also have helped me feel less stressed.

    Sounds good. If you're now familiar with the UCLA material, you might find it helpful to look at some other approaches, there are lots of meditation talks on YouTube.
    Ajahn Brahm is one of my favourites.

    LiliWithQuestions
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited September 2016

    You don't need a teacher. It can be nice, when they know you they are quite helpful with questions in ways other people cannot be. And if you are interested in a teacher, don't let your anxieties stop you from looking for one if that is your true wish. They are very accommodating most of the time and understand people have lots of questions and doubts. You can often simply make an appointment to visit a center and see how you feel being there. But, if you are not ready, then you are just fine doing it on your own. Don't let the incorrect understanding of others make you feel uneasy. You know what is right for you if you look honestly at it :)

    And if you feel comfortable, you are welcome to ask your questions here. We are blessed to have people from all sorts of traditions with a combined many, many years of experience who might have some ideas.

    LiliWithQuestions
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @LiliWithQuestions said:

    So anyways, do I need a teacher? Is it necessary?

    For some people yes and for others no...It just depends upon a person's ability to take the initiative and be committed ....

    There are untold amounts of books and youtube clips on mindfulness out there, and if you're the kind of person who can remain focused on the task at hand, ie, see it through, without paying much attention to 'monkey mind' then you should be able to teach your 'self'....

    This guided mindfulness practice given by Professor Mark Williams (along with the above link on "monkey mind" by Artie Wu ) are good beginner's tools ...

    May you be mindfully calm and free from stress :)

    LiliWithQuestions
  • A good teacher like a good map may make the journey less fraught with pitfalls. So eventually finding such a teacher can be helpful. Some years ago while in the field we kept missing the way points. Finally an old timer appeared only to tell us that our maps were incorrect. Pointed out the right way which was not on our topos at all.

    LiliWithQuestionspegembara
  • gracklegrackle Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Sorry for the double TRIPLE! post.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    That's ok. I erased the repetitive two... ;)

  • Hi All,

    Thank you so much for all your replies! You all have been very helpful and helped answer my question. I really appreciate it!

    @Shoshin said:
    There are untold amounts of books and youtube clips on mindfulness out there, and if you're the kind of person who can remain focused on the task at hand, ie, see it through, without paying much attention to 'monkey mind' then you should be able to teach your 'self'....

    I actually do have a very chaotic mind, which sort of ...

    @karasti said:
    And if you feel comfortable, you are welcome to ask your questions here. We are blessed to have people from all sorts of traditions with a combined many, many years of experience who might have some ideas.

    ... leads me to the other question I have been having in my mind.

    As I started meditating I realized that my mind wonders a lot (which also frustrated me) and I did a bit of research over the internet and I read that it is completely normal to have thoughts in your head. In fact I should never stop allowing thoughts to enter my mind nor should I ever push them away once they have come into my mind. But what I read next kind of differed from article to article.

    Most of them said that I should return my focus to my breathing (I am assuming in another words it means to just let go of the thought, but I could be wrong), but in another article I read my thoughts are like movie scenes and that they will naturally finish and move on (and from this I assumed that I should let the thought finish itself first then I could go back to my breathing, again I could have interpreted it incorrectly).

    I was hoping someone could explain to me the right way to shift my focus back on the my breathing since I am a bit confused.

  • Some say yes some say no. It is always good to have someone tell you what not to do as you can get the wrong impressions of things. Here is pretty good though for that. It's not vital but a teacher probably will give you much more guidance then you can learn on you're own. Still though, did the Buddha have a teacher? If you really want a teacher or just other people you can meditate with why don't you see if there is a Sangha in the area. Give it a google search you may be surprised at what is actually available.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The right way is the way which feels most comfortable and natural to you.

    There are as many 'ways' to meditate as there are people practising meditation. In other words, even if you were to strictly follow the same set as anyone else, you would still be doing - and 'feeling' - it differently.
    For my part: I see the thought arise. I notice it. I hold it in the state I become aware of it, in.. (in other words, I do not permit it to snowball, and continue its distraction) ... I let it go, and breathe, relax, and re-focus my concentration on whatever leads me in the meditation....My breath, a mantra, a count of the breaths, a focus on a specific bodily sensation, a sound...

    Discover the way that feels most comfortable to you. Experiment. Try different things. Simply because you read something, does not mean you must stay tied to it....

    LiliWithQuestionslobster
  • @federica said:

    Discover the way that feels most comfortable to you. Experiment. Try different things. Simply because you read something, does not mean you must stay tied to it....

    Thank you! I'm gonna try to experiment and see how it goes.

  • @LiliWithQuestions said:
    Thank you! I'm gonna try to experiment and see how it goes.

    Hello B)

    Good plan.

    I rather liked @federica advice. It turns you into a p o t e n t i a l Buddha.

    Gotama (pre Buddha) used the slow social media and Youtube of his era. He had to go study with actual yogis and gurus to learn mindfulness and meditation. Ay caramba!

    Sadly he was advised by the weirdos [such as me] of the time and ended up doing extreme practices. Holding his breath, starving himself silly and hanging out with the FacetoFacebook meditators of the time ...

    Then he met a tree (all in the history) and sat quietly, learning how to be ultra mindful and became so awake he was called awake (Buddha).

    Here is my page on mindfulness ...
    http://opcoa.st/PdCQd

    There is also a Q & A on meditation that might prove useless useful. :)

    LiliWithQuestions
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Yes, everyone finds something that works for them. The key to letting go of a thought is not to grab it. You might have "crap, I forgot to stop at the store" wander through. Let it wander. It'll be on its way soon. The problem is when we grab it and run with it. "Now how am I supposed to start dinner on time? I do everything late. Just like my mother. I wonder why SHE was always forgetting things? I should call her. I wonder what time she is done with work..." and then a single thought becomes a huge long story that has pulled us away from our focus for who knows how long. That is where the problem lies.

    For me, I do a couple of things. When I note a thought, I mark it "thinking" to remind myself not to attach and return to my breathing. Other times if that isn't working, a visualization works better, like picturing the thought floating off in a cloud. Cheesy as it sounds, lol, it works for me.

    The reason you see so much variety in reading articles is because so many different things work for different people. Your brain thinks. That is what it does. We aren't, in meditation, so much trying to stop it as we are trying to slow it and get a better idea of how thoughts come about and where they go and to realize you have a lot of choice in which ones you give a story or a voice to. They aren't all equally important. That was one of the biggest lessons for me in meditation so far. It is like potty training a puppy. Our minds might be crazy at churning out thoughts, but we can train it and ourselves in our response.

    lobsterWalkerLiliWithQuestions
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @LiliWithQuestions said:

    ... leads me to the other question I have been having in my mind.

    As I started meditating I realized that my mind wonders a lot (which also frustrated me) and I did a bit of research over the internet and I read that it is completely normal to have thoughts in your head. In fact I should never stop allowing thoughts to enter my mind nor should I ever push them away once they have come into my mind. But what I read next kind of differed from article to article.

    Most of them said that I should return my focus to my breathing (I am assuming in another words it means to just let go of the thought, but I could be wrong),

    Letting go of the thought, is what is normally taught....more often than not when meditating, thoughts drag ones awareness all over the place ie, anywhere but the here & now ...by bringing the attention back to the breath, that particular thought will dissipate (along with any other thoughts that try to occupy the mind's eye ie, craving 'attention')

    You're not blocking or pushing them away, in a sense you're just cutting their life span...ie, hurrying them along...
    "Move along... Nothing to see here"

    :)

    but in another article I read my thoughts are like movie scenes and that they will naturally finish and move on (and from this I assumed that I should let the thought finish itself first then I could go back to my breathing, again I could have interpreted it incorrectly).

    It's true...all a thought wants is to be acknowledged, so when thoughts arise we are automatically acknowledging them arising, however when we gently bring our attention back to the breath, the thoughts leave of their own accord, ie, willingly ....and the more we practice the easier it becomes....

    I was hoping someone could explain to me the right way to shift my focus back on the my breathing since I am a bit confused.

    These couple of short clips Attention Awareness & Mindfulness And Training the Mind
    provides some good pointers for mindfulness meditation practice....

    lobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • @LiliWithQuestions said:
    Hi everyone!

    Honestly, even though I have notice I feel more peaceful, I feel a little insecure about the practices I am doing because I have a lot of questions regarding this practice. But I also, for some reason, don't feel ready yet to want to start with a teacher. Being around new people or in new situations are stressful for me so I rather do it by myself for a while.

    So anyways, do I need a teacher? Is it necessary?

    Yes you do since you mentioned that you have a lot of questions regarding this practice. A teacher doesn't need to be a guru. Someone who is more experienced and willing to explain is good enough for starters.

    LiliWithQuestions
  • @LiliWithQuestions. In the beginning you are looking to establish an effective/accurate level of concentration. Get used to noting that a constant thought stream is always present. So simply note when you get distracted and return to the breath. Eventually you will establish yourself in concentration. Much more follows. Truly an amazing journey.

    lobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Well, good suggestions are already given. But do you asking a need of an instructor? If you can find a free reliable vippasana center nearby your place then why not to enroll yourself for a 10 day free course.

    lobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • ^^. Yeah that will teach you! :expressionless:

    Good plan. Retreat. Learn. Send us pics.

  • And remember, you are your ultimate teacher, as you are your ultimate student.

    LiliWithQuestionslobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @LiliWithQuestions , if anyone knows, @Jayantha does! If you take anyone's advice, favour his above all. He is the horse whose mouth this is straight from!

    LiliWithQuestions
  • edited September 2016

    Thank you everyone for your advices, I found all of them to be useful and I'm gonna try to incorporate them as I go through this journey. I feel very welcomed to this new meditation world by all of you. I actually have no one around that is remotely interested in this path. But it is very nice to know if I ever need answers I can come here :) .

    Interesting thing I realized while I was meditating last night (sometimes I have realizations when I meditate, some are deeper, some are not) was that maybe I should try to find different point of focus when I meditate and change it up, like a mantra, or sound. Because when I do something repeatedly, my mind becomes so automatic and I don't notice it anymore (like driving).

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes, being Mindful is important; staying 'in the present moment' is a sign of an attentive relaxation, or a relaxed attentiveness.... ;)

  • @LiliWithQuestions said:
    I feel very welcomed to this new meditation world by all of you. I actually have no one around that is remotely interested in this path. But it is very nice to know if I ever need answers I can come here :) .

    Then we have fulfilled the obligations of being 'spiritual fiends friends' that @Jayantha mentions. However ... we expect you to offer the same service B)

    There are people here mentioning no names [well I would be one] who need all the guidance, help and inspirational spiritual befriending going ...

    For example what sort of head gear should I have? :3

    SpinyNorman
  • @lobster said:
    Then we have fulfilled the obligations of being 'spiritual fiends friends' that @Jayantha mentions. However ... we expect you to offer the same service B)

    There are people here mentioning no names [well I would be one] who need all the guidance, help and inspirational spiritual befriending going ...

    I would love to befriend all of you! And I will give as many as advice as I can about the things I am knowledgable about.

    For example what sort of head gear should I have? :3

    That head gear looks perfect lol!!! It definitely keeps the sun out of your face!

    Deformed
  • @LiliWithQuestions said:
    I would love to befriend all of you! And I will give as many as advice as I can about the things I am knowledgable about.

    Phew. Thank the Buddhas! <3 Now maybe there is some hope for me. I hope you won't be asking too many questions as my preferred response is 'ask your mother'. :3

    LiliWithQuestions
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes @lobster; and for some that would be excellent counsel. For others - that's just asking for trouble. What do I want to go poking a sleeping tiger for...?! :lol:

  • ^^.
    Tee Hee.

    Every human being is born with an inner sense of unity. The infant knows itself as one with the mother. It is only after some time elapses that a sense of separation occurs. For a long while, the mother is the mirror of self; it knows no other. Then as we grow we are drawn outward to discover and participate in this miraculous creation of which we are a part.
    Shaikha Camille Helminski
    http://opcoa.st/PdxF6

    ... meanwhile Tara is our Mamma Mia ...

    PS that is a scorpion not a lobster she is holding ... (I was cowering behind the sofa before being devoured) :3 - those Boddhisatvas sure are fierce ...

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @LiliWithQuestions said:....maybe I should try to find different point of focus when I meditate and change it up, like a mantra, or sound. Because when I do something repeatedly, my mind becomes so automatic and I don't notice it anymore (like driving).

    There are various meditation objects you can use, and it is good to experiment and explore. There are also different meditation styles to develop different qualities of mind, for example samatha ( tranquillity ), vipassana ( insight ) and metta ( loving kindness ).

    When developing samatha the goal is to keep your attention on the meditation object. If it becomes "automatic" then you are no longer maintaining proper attention. Vipassana styles vary, but basically there is a widening of attention to take in other bodily and mental sensations.

    lobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • @lobster said:
    I hope you won't be asking too many questions as my preferred response is 'ask your mother'. :3

    I won't be asking too many questions, I promise :) . But I have to agree with @federica for some us that's just asking for trouble.

    @SpinyNorman said:
    There are various meditation objects you can use, and it is good to experiment and explore. There are also different meditation styles to develop different qualities of mind, for example samatha ( tranquillity ), vipassana ( insight ) and metta ( loving kindness ).

    Thank you. I will look into these different styles.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @LiliWithQuestions said:
    That head gear looks perfect lol!!! It definitely keeps the sun out of your face!

    Yes indeed. That guy is a Tendai Buddhist marathon monk ...
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/31/japanese-monks-mount-hiei-1000-marathons-1000-days
    [lobster faints in adulation] ...

    All questions welcome. I particularly like the stupid ones ... makes me feel almost superior, which when you are a lowly cructacean is a rare possibility :)

    LiliWithQuestions
  • @lobster With the little knowledge I have I'm sure every question I ask is kind of stupid.

    Are there any good books out there that is a good tool for beginners. To learn the basics on mindfulness. Or like a video on youtube that anyone would recommend?

  • TravellerTraveller East Midlands UK Veteran
    edited September 2016

    You may find this series of videos by Ajahn Jayasaro of the Thai Forest Tradition useful. I learned to meditate from them.

    The book Mindfulness in Plain English by our resident monk @Jayantha's teacher Bhante Gunaratana useful as well.

    lobsterLiliWithQuestions
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @LiliWithQuestions. Well don't be offended but the 'Meditation for Dummies' is excellent. Mindfulness or awareness training in Buddhism tends to focus on the ability to concentrate, perhaps on the breath ...

    Youtube is an excellent resource. Just search for the aspects that interest you ... just a quick example ...

    Buddha is my mummy!

    LiliWithQuestionsTraveller
  • @Lonely_Traveller @lobster Thank you for your suggestions. I will definitely check the books and the videos out.

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