Let me start by saying that I do genuinely believe that apps are great. Apps like Headspace and Insight Timer allow many people to maintain their mindfulness practice at home and give you access to great quality guided meditations that were never so easily accessible previously. Having said that, there are many points when the guidance of a teacher is incredibly worthwhile; particularly when you are first starting out or looking to deepen your existing practice. Both the presence and the skill of a mindfulness teacher can really improve your experience with mindfulness. Here are my thoughts on why.
1. Subtle adjustments make a big difference
Have you ever had that experience in a yoga class where the teacher makes a tiny adjustment to your posture, but all of a sudden you think “ah, that’s what it’s supposed to be like”? It’s the same with mindfulness. A good teacher will be able to help you refine posture, technique and perspective to both improve your practice and accommodate any personal issues such as anxiety or pain. Mindfulness is not simply being present in the moment. True mindful awareness is infused with many subtle qualities such as kindness, trust and equanimity. Weaving these into your technique, and over time, your outlook, will help you to reap the most rewards.
2. You will be held accountable
A good mindfulness teacher will never judge you for the amount of time you do or don’t spend meditating. Normally they will encourage you to approach your home practice with compassion and curiosity. Discussing your home practice and any difficulties you face with your teacher will allow you to understand why you might find it difficult to commit to a regular practice and suggest ways in which you can change your approach to make it easier. Very few people have the perfect home practice. Releasing yourself from this expectation and working with a supportive teacher can get you somewhat closer however.
3. Human connection helps you learn better
Humans are social creatures and our communication is heavily influenced by body language and facial expression. Being face to face with a mindfulness teacher will allow you to learn much more deeply and to fully understand the content you are being given. You also have the opportunity to ask questions if you don’t fully understand what is being discussed. Mindfulness is full of subtleties and sometimes difficult concepts. Why does embracing difficult experiences make them easier for example? Learning face to face is a much more dynamic and immersive experience that will hold your attention and allow you to take these learnings to heart. Embedding them more deeply in your thinking and considerations.