Inner transformation is not the privy of yogis in himalayas or the monks at a remote monastery in South east Asia. For the millions of us who are caught up in daily life responsibilities, finding the means to free ourselves from stress, trauma, boredom, inherent in modern day lives can seem like an unrealizable goal.
But thanks to neuroscience studies, we are now able to make progress and extrapolate those inner conditions that bring outer change in our lives. With the help of Science, we are able to confirm that there are specific practices for specific individuals which when applied within our daily life can potentially be as effective as spending hours in isolated contemplation.
Combining with these research findings is the ancient approach prevalent in all contemplative traditions of being on a path or having a clear road map. However, under the onslaught of our worldly responsibilities, this map will look different to different individuals besides being unclear where we stand on such roadmaps. This is where individual guidance of a teacher can be so much helpful.
I have been privileged to work directly with a few teachers from different spiritual traditions, but mostly Buddhist, Yogic and Advaita traditions. I found that when I practiced under specific individual guidance, my progress was far better than merely reading a book, or seeing a teacher once in a blu-moon, or even worse, to just listen to their talks on Youtube. When we do not have a qualified teacher to guide us, one who knows our personal mental procilivities and the necessary anti-dote for it, then the compelling pull of the world will unconsciously make Facebook and Twitter our Guru!
Like a bee, we shall restlessly wander about seeking words of comfort and passing inspiration. We all need a teacher to guide us toward personal transformation and moreover a teacher who will give us specific practices. Because a true teacher is one who guides us to our inner teacher, and unravels our own potential for self-development and inner transformation. And as science shows that that changes in our brain comes about by taking up practices and committing to it.
The problem with most us is that we tend to focus too much on the personality of the teacher or rely too much on them doing everything for us rather than on what we need to do to work on ourselves. Thereby I personally prefer to use the word COACH with my students (and occasionally the term Guide when I lead retreats) rather than the word teacher.
A coach is one who is able to understand your specific needs and give you specific instructions and practices. He or she is approachable and not someone whom you put on a raised and lofty chair. Their overall approach is dynamic and not based on mass transmission of a mantra, a technique or a belief system.
He or she is familiar with the road map to inner transformation and is committed to such a path for their own life as well. Yet they are practical and clear about their expectations of their time and service.
There is no vague expectations that you have to turn over yourself, your wealth, your time and resources, etc. at their beck and call. Nor do you do abandon your reason and intelligence in order to give them your complete allegiance and undying loyalty for life. Nevertheless you do need to commit to following their instructions just as how you would follow the instructions of your swimming instructor in order to avoid drowning.
Once you begin the training, there is a need to suspend part of your skeptical mind for the period of training. You commit to doing your best to dialogue and work with the coach as you would with a counselor. However, unlike a therapist, a coach will push you at times more than you think you are capable of, so that you can make personal breakthroughs. He or she will demand that you do not always just use conceptual thinking alone to question and doubt everything but that you also engage your non-conceptual mind of knowing and being.
This is where you have the option to strike a balance. If you do not see progress, if you are not free from your compelling emotional afflictions, if you are not becoming more mindful and aware of your own habits, moods, and hidden fears, then you both agree that you need to move on. Not all of us are destined to be Milarepas or Yogananda. The Coach and you can always congratulate yourselves for having made an effort. Furthermore, you can be grateful for the role of the coach to have helped you discover your own needs better. In fact that sense of gratitude will be the force that opens up doors for your personal unfoldment.
Originally published at medium.com