Learning meditation is much easier with a good teacher. And face-to-face classes can work better for many than online courses or books, because of the moral support, the interaction between students and the weekly ‘nudge’, to keep your practice fresh.
- But how do you know if a particular meditation class is right for you?
- How do you know whether the teacher will actually be able to help you?
- How can you find out whether their ‘style’ of meditation is what you’re looking for?
Here are 10 questions you should ask, BEFORE going to a meditation class!
There’s a huge difference between ‘deep relaxation’, ‘guided visualisations’, meditation and even ‘blatant brainwashing’.
But, surprisingly, not all meditation teachers know this! Some are formally trained to teach, others aren’t. Both options are ok. But it’s worth making sure you know what you want from your meditation classes – and what you might be getting – before you invest your time, money and emotions in a course.
Quit the class, not your meditation journey!
Warning! The ‘wrong’ meditation class could put you off meditating, for life! If a class doesn’t feel right / work for you, that’s fine. Quit and find another one.
Of course, you’ll want to include the obvious questions like when, where, how much, what kind of meditation (if that’s important to you), what equipment you need, etc. But the following 10 questions will give you a good idea of whether the class is for you.
Read them through and make a note of which resonate for you. They’re the ones to start with.
- What happens during one of your classes?
This is probably more important than ‘what kind of meditation do you teach?’ because, unless you’re already an expert on different kinds of meditation, you can’t do much with that answer! 😉
What you’re looking for here is how they prepare you to meditate and then how the meditation ‘works’.
Do you turn up stressed and tired and go straight into silent sitting, or do you prepare your body and mind first?
Is the meditation itself guided or ‘free form’?
There’s no ‘right or wrong’. What matters is how well the class structure fits with what you are looking for.
- Are your classes affiliated with any particular religious beliefs or practices?
Some meditation teachers require you to adopt particular belief systems – or their work might be firmly grounded in a particular religion.
Again, there’s no right or wrong. But if you have strong views on this, it’s an important question to ask.
And this is the point to probe to beware of potential brain washing! 😉
- What are your qualifications?
Meditation classes are one of the biggies for unqualified teachers, charging you to teach you a new skill.
You wouldn’t consider, for example, a yoga or pilates class from an unqualified teacher.
Some meditation teachers, who aren’t formally trained, can run inspiring classes that really help you create a strong meditation habit.
There can be a huge difference between being a good meditator and being a good meditation teacher.
If this is important to you, ask the question. And feel free, when they respond, to ask what their training involved!
- How do I know whether your classes are safe for me? (Physically and psychologically)
Some kinds of meditation are a really bad idea if you’re suffering from, for example, clinical depression. Other types, however, are clinically proven to help.
Some kinds of sitting meditation are a bad idea if you have back or knee problems. Others aren’t.
Ask the teacher. If they can’t give you a clear answer, and it’s something that concerns you, then steer clear.
- How can you help me with my posture, for my meditations?
For seated meditations, good posture can make all the difference between a great meditation and 30 minutes of physical agony!
A good teacher should be able to tell you how they could help you tweak your posture to make things more comfortable – and physically more healthy for you.
- How much of the meditation will be silent vs guided?
Some meditation types are exclusively silent. Some meditation teachers talk most of the way through. Many are in-between.
Ask the teacher which they use in the classes.
If it’s mainly guided visualisations, then it’s possibly more deep relaxation than meditation. But it might still be what you’re looking for.
If it’s almost completely silent, then you might struggle with this, especially at the beginning, when your ‘monkey mind’ is causing havoc.
- How will you help me develop my skills?
In ANY subject, a good teacher has a plan of how to help the students get from ‘wherever they are now’ to ‘wherever they need to go’. And a meditation teacher is no exception.
If you want to deepen your meditation skills, rather than just go for weekly relaxation, then it’s worth asking how you will be TAUGHT to do this. After all, that’s the point of a TEACHER! 🙂
- How much home practice is expected of me?
How much and how often will you need to meditate at home, to be able to benefit from the classes?
Beware any teacher who says ‘none’. Think about it: EVERY skill you have EVER learned took practice – and most likely more than once a week.
Also beware any teacher who asks you to commit to more than you think you could achieve, e.g. an hour, twice a day. If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. And then you won’t be making progress. You’ll more likely just beat yourself up and feel miserable.
- What support is there between classes?
Sometimes you might find you’re stuck on something from a previous class. Do you have to wait until the next class, to get answers?
Sometimes meditation can ‘stir the pot’ or give us experiences we hadn’t been expecting. How can you check whether things are ‘ok’ or ‘normal’, between classes?
Bear in mind that your meditation teacher isn’t obliged to be a free-of-charge therapist for you. But neither should they leave you unsupported, between sessions.
- How long before I notice I am making progress?
Don’t believe anyone who tells you to expect near-instant results. But also be wary of anyone who tells you it will take months or years.
People who aren’t trained to teach probably won’t be able to answer this question, because it’s not on their radar.
If this question resonates for you, make sure you probe their answer, to find out what ‘progress’ is likely to feel like. Will you only notice it in classes? Or will you notice an impact outside of classes, in the rest of your life?
And, if you’re feeling cheeky, here’s a final question you might like to ask:
- What daily meditation practice do you do?
You might be surprised by their answer…
Many meditation teachers don’t have a regular, daily meditation habit. It’s so easy for it to disappear, when you’re running around teaching. But how can they ask you to do something they’re not managing themselves? And if they do have a daily practice, they’ll be ideally placed to help you learn how to fit your meditation in around day-to-day life.
Remember: whatever the answers, if you’re not sure, it’s ok to ask if you can do a trial class, without committing to the whole course, to see if it’s for you. Depending on the course structure, this may or may not be possible. But it never hurts to ask!
Now we’ve covered the 10 questions, I’m going to let you in to a secret…
I have NEVER been asked ANY of these questions by prospective students. But if they did ask me, here’s what I would reply. 🙂
Do you have any other suggestions for questions it would be a good idea to ask of a potential meditation teacher? I’d love to hear your views, via the comments box!
Note: this is a bonus article from the 28 Day Meditation Challenge online course & paperback / Kindle book. Curious to find out how 10 minutes a day could change your life?