In traditional meditation practices, new students had mentors. The role of the mentor is to support, encourage and guide the newer students as they begin their meditation journey.
In the same way that you would not expect to learn to play the jazz trombone without a musician to provide feedback and guidance, you’ll benefit greatly by having a mentor to guide you as you develop a lasting meditation practice.
A mentor is beneficial when you find it difficult to create space in certain situations or when you become discouraged with struggles and uncertainty. I’ve had the privilege of very wise mentors in my life. They continue to be great sources of support and encouragement to me. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Some act as professional coaches, some help out of the desire to simply help, and others are unexpected.
How do you find a mentor that can help you? This is a very personal decision and process. A mentor must be someone you trust and whose advice you’re willing to at least consider, no matter how unusual it may sound when first hearing it.
What else should be on your list when selecting a mentor? The answer is pretty straightforward; the requirements should match who you are and who you want to be. A mentor should be someone who you can look up to in your training. You should also be comfortable sharing your experiences, feelings and even fears with them.
There may be other criteria you’ll want to add. One of mine is that my mentor must have a great sense of humor. That might sound odd, but it’s very fitting for my personality. I have a second reason for requiring a sense of humor though. I’ve listened to many speakers over the years. And the ones that really spoke to me — that truly felt pure and authentic — all had a sense of humor. And the reverse was also true; those that seemed less authentic or just phony had no sense of humor about them.
Once you have a list, you need to find a mentor. As one of my mentors once said to me, “this is an opportunity for you to learn patience.” An excellent lesson in its own right! To start your search, I recommend branching out. Try new classes, new teachers, new studios (yoga, meditation, tai chi, etc.)
Step outside your comfort zone; it is your greatest chance for growth. When you meet someone who is compelling and feels like a fit, go back a few more times. Then talk to them. Ask questions. Do you continue to find their answers and ideas compelling? Is what they say matching what they do? Do they have something to contribute to your growth? If yes, then start building a relationship with them that will be mutually beneficial.
Homework time… Put together your list. Take your time and really dig in to see if what you wrote down is what you are truly after or if it’s what you think you should be looking for. Then branch out and see what you find. One last tip – if you’re patient and remain present and open to what is and not focused on what should be, you’ll be more likely to find what you need.
One last note; as you grow, the type of mentor you need may change. Don’t be afraid to be grateful for the guidance you have received while also being open to someone who may be your guide for the next part of your journey