No one can teach you to meditate!

September 8, 2009

Learning meditation is like learning ride a bicycle. Someone can demonstrate how to ride, tell you where to put your feet and hands and so on, but ultimately you have to get the hang of it yourself. A meditation teacher can give you a few pointers about how to start, how to focus your attention, how to handle thoughts and so on; but like bike riding, you ultimately discover how to meditate yourself.

Of course, there are many different kinds of meditation, and this might not be true for all of them. But this is true for meditation styles that induce a deeply relaxed, meditative state. It’s a natural state. It happens spontaneously at times. Perhaps you will initially follow some instructions, but then a time comes when you close your eyes and there you are. With repetition it can become automatic. A skillful “teacher” can only guide you to your own discovery.

Actually, I think it could be said that no one can teach you anything. When I was teaching in the healing arts, I was always amazed at how people heard and learned things that I never remembered saying or teaching. People learned what they were ready to learn, and I just provided a catalyst for that learning. If you are using our guided meditations or have taken our Online Course, it is because you were ready to discover something in your own awareness and these tools provided a catalyst.

A teacher is sometimes someone who passes on facts or know how. It might be tempting in that case to feel the teacher is actually teaching you, but you have to be able to absorb the information you are being given and access it when needed. You have your own understanding of the “facts”. You have to apply what you’ve learned in your own way. Two people using exactly the same recipe produce different results. It may seem like a paradox, but ultimately I’d say someone can learn, but no one can teach.

What do you think? Do you feel someone taught you to meditate (or play music, draw, cook or…)? Do you feel you learned it totally on your own? Or has your experience been something in between?


4 Responses to “No one can teach you to meditate!”

  1. Marilyn Holt on September 11th, 2009 1:48 pm

    I was trained in massage therapy, and my experience is the same as yours in meditation. I was taught technique for a few years. I had to learn the flow myself. I had to learn what the smallest of sensations meant under my hands. I had to learn on my own how to truly listen.

    I did have a few teachers along that way whose work was so powerful that I learned something more meaningful than technique: I learned how to be present. That has to be part of everything I do if I really want to experience anything fully. Meditating, massaging, listening, washing dishes… presence must be a part of living.

  2. JBBC on September 12th, 2009 3:56 am

    Very interesting questions here Mary. I have just responded on my own blog to comments you left there and wrote about my own experiences with a meditation class facilitated at a cancer support center which I attended.

    While I certainly agree with you that learning meditation is like learning to ride a bike, requiring plenty of practice on your own, I also believe that the role of a good teacher is a very important one. My meditation teacher, also called Mary, was a wonderful facilitator and brought something very special to our meditation group. I am still getting the hang of meditating, despite doing it for the past 5 years, and I personally find a good meditation teacher a vital component in my practise. I am no longer part of a meditation group, but I loved the energy created by the group when I was.

    Now that I meditate on my own, I turn to your podcasts for support. I am very grateful for the gift you give us all in making these available. May you continue to be blessed and be a blessing in the work that you do.

  3. Mary on September 12th, 2009 10:57 am

    Marilyn — Thank you for this inspiring comment. Being present is the foundation to it all, isn’t it, and only we can bring that presence.

    JBBC -Thank you for your words of blessing. I do agree that a good teacher is invaluable and I have had some wonderful teachers in my life. At the same time, we have to do the learning and the best teacher in the world can’t make us learn. I like exploring things from all angles and asking questions. Interesting to explore this teaching-learning relationship!

  4. Leon on October 21st, 2009 4:36 pm

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for writing on this particular topic because many people do not understand that meditation is personal. Only by listening to one’s inner voice, one can meditate successfully. The step by step instruction that some gurus give are there just to guide us, not make us do this and that in the correct order or else it is not going to work.

    Anyway, it is good to see someone is knowledgeable about meditating.

    Thank you,


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