Personal guidance such as mentoring, coaching, counseling or consulting is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful tools for self improvement I know. When I was still living in the monastery, we learned about four ways of progressing on the path. The first one is the slowest one. It's the path of trying to find it all out by yourself, without any help. It's fueled by an intense desire to know the truth or be completely free from suffering. The second path is a bit faster. It differs in as much as there are books, videos or other materials available. Such things may serve as a kind of map, provided they are based on authentic teachings and experience.
Then there's the third path, it's much faster than the first two. It features learning with a qualified, realized teacher that offers general teachings to the public every now and then. Finally, the fastest way to gain insight is to receive private instructions from an experienced teacher. The student would put the instructions into practice immediately. After attaining results, he seeks out his teacher again and requests further guidance. Such a kind of relationship, of course, is quite rare or hard to find these days. However, it is absolutely the best way to thrive. This is not only true for a monastic or spiritual setting, but also for any other situation where we learn something new.
Many people believe that they can learn meditation by simply doing an app, reading a few books, listening to online teachings or doing guided Meditations. However, among seasoned meditators it is a well known fact that such tools may do more harm than good. It is true that such media can inform, inspire, or support you to do some practice. Yet it won't be helpful when you really want to enter the path and take things "to the next level". Books and videos may show you how to climb correctly, yet they can't do what it takes to turn you into an experienced climber. A map may point out the way, but it doesn't show you how to overcome personal obstacles and dangers on your journey.
There are those who dabble in meditation and those who really want to learn it well. While apps and the like are sufficient for the dabblers, they are not for those who truly want to dive deep. If you want to really turn your life around and enjoy the multiple benefits of proper practice you are best served with an experienced guide at your side. This will speed up your progress and guarantee that you make it safely through the maze of countless possibilities and sidetracks. I regularly meet people who tell me that they have been meditating for years. They speak of high-minded philosophical ideals, yet they are often unable to enter the most basic states. This is what may happen when we only learn from apps, books or videos...
...If you want to really turn your life around and enjoy the multiple benefits of proper practice you are best served with an experienced guide at your side. This will speed up your progress and guarantee that you make it safely through the maze of countless possibilities and sidetracks.
You might be wondering how a guide is different from a good instructional video - or even an online course. Remember what I said in the beginning, about the four approaches? It is certainly possible to achieve results without guidance. However, it requires prerequisites. Going this path alone you need intense desire, brutal honesty, great sincerity, commitment to one method and unshakeable stability as well as razor-sharp discernment and discipline. If we are completely honest, most of us don't really have such a mindset. So let's find out how a personal guide can help us get better at whatever we do:
Not only does your guide give you the right tasks, he skillfully gives them to you at the right time. Once he gives you a task, he will make sure that you complete it. Being held accountable helps us to make progress by completing what we might otherwise put off. It's an effective antidote to self-sabotage, laziness and procrastination.
By giving you clear and well-structured advise at the right time, your guide will dispel confusion and doubt. That's the power of clarity that is born from experience. In the process of changing your life, you naturally move toward the unknown. Most of us are masters at fooling ourselves, though. That's just so we may stay 'protected' in our familiar structures. Your coach knows where you make excuses or fabricate stories that keep you stuck in your past and helps you to overcome those difficult roadblocks. This will allow you to stay away from self-sabotage to a large extent.
Being in the presence of someone who receives you without judgement is truly liberating. It helps us to open our heart and release old weights that we have often been carrying around for ages. That in itself can be a highly transformative process. Having someone in your life that you can be completely open with is great for personal and spiritual development. By listening deeply, your guide helps you to approach your light. If you can release the unconscious darkness that holds you back you can move forward with new energy.
Your personal guide on this path will not only tell you what you could do. A video could do that just fine. He also walks together with you as a friend and training partner. Thereby he serves as a living example and shows you that it's possible to achieve what you are trying to reach. Having an example for what you want to reach is highly motivating, especially on an internal path such as this one.
As I mentioned above, it's not sufficient to just have a map as there are unknown variables on the way that can make things difficult or even dangerous. Your guide knows the area of the mind really well and is able to point out the many pitfalls to you. It also needs to be said that we often don't know an obstacle as such. There are really sneaky hindrances on the path - some of which might feel very nice. That's where your guide comes in and helps you to raise the level of awareness.
Often we don't believe in ourselves or a possible success. On this path you sometimes might encounter long periods of spiritual drought. Most practitioners start making mistakes in such times. They might change the technique, or even the entire system and start again somewhere else. Your guide will make sure that you stay on track and keep building energy. Through his skillful advise and patience you will do what's right and come out at the other end successfully. Each time when you make it through a hard time successfully, you become more confident and believe in your own skills more. This is an incredibly important aspect that's often overlooked.
In order to look at our own face we need a mirror. In order to see ourselves from a different perspective, we need other people. Your guide offers you the chance to see yourself from the outside through the lens of someone who has a more advanced perspective on this path. Just like a mirror, this gives you the chance to see what you may need to do - or stop doing. Such kind of feedback is deemed invaluable by all those who earnestly seek to improve their life.