The Fastest Way to Experience the Benefits of Meditation
5 Reasons Working with a Coach Makes All The Difference
Most people who start meditating fail to receive professional instruction and support they need to truly experience the results they’re after.
It looks easier than it is. After all, you just sit down and close your eyes, right?
Actually, no. Meditation isn’t simply the passive pursuit it appears to be.
It’s very much active - and if you’re just passively listening to random YouTube meditations and Joe Dispenza talks, you’re not getting any real experience with developing the practical skills that can and will change your life.
Reading books and trying to teach yourself is a pain in the neck.
Especially if you’re coming to meditation out of desperation and need immediate relief.
There’s too much information out there - and what many people don’t realize is that meditation is as wide an umbrella term as “Sports”.
Volleyball and golf are both sports, but they’re vastly different in terms of how they’re played. In the same way, there are a wide variety of meditation techniques and styles. There’s Vedic meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, Transcendental Meditation, Zen Meditation, Tantric Meditation - the list is exhaustive.
Even within each school of meditation there are many different practices and techniques —there’s so much to know and explore.
Whether you're interested in meditation to relieve anxiety, depression, stress or improve sleep, diving into the abyss of endless information about meditation is decidedly not the way to go.
There’s absolutely too much! It’s been around for millenia.
You’ll be overwhelmed and confused and that won’t be of benefit to you - or the others around you.
Having a guide will eliminate the uncertainty and overwhelm that you most certainly don’t have time for, and keep you on the path towards the treasure you seek.
I should know — I failed three times before finally having success the fourth time around.
I tried learning from a book, listening to recordings without any context, and downloading robotic apps. Even taking a yoga teacher training was unsuccessful in providing the space and understanding necessary to experience the healing benefits of meditation.
After much trial and error, I have successfully maintained my meditation practice for over a decade and the benefits I continue to experience surprise and inspire me daily.
Finding a Meditation Coach is what made all the difference for me.
Once I let go of trying to learn how to meditate all by myself and sought personalized instruction, everything changed.
Suddenly the process felt less lonely. I had a wise and supportive human to bounce ideas off and encourage me when I got lost, confused, skeptical, or down on myself.
The real aha-moment was when I voiced to my coach my disappointment with myself and my recently completed meditation, and she told me,
“It’s ok to fall asleep.”
“It’s ok to be tired.”
“I can tell you have a loud inner critic. That’s something we’ll focus on taming in our meditations together. ”
Her gentle reassurance gave me the confidence to continue exploring meditation.
Were it not for her pointing out how my inner critic was getting in the way, I don’t know that I would’ve trusted myself, or given myself the grace and space to be able to really learn and integrate the meditations in my life.
Her steady actions got me the results I was after and so much more.
My experience working with a meditation coach showed me how much impact a coach can truly have, and this understanding deepened from my own experiences becoming a coach myself. Below is an outline of five reasons to work one-on-one with a meditation coach.
1. A Meditation Coach Offers Options that Work for the Way You’re Wired
A good meditation coach will start by getting to know you, and what’s going on in your life. That way, they can offer the techniques, support and language particular to your specific purpose for meditating. They will also take into consideration your goals and lifestyle to curate a program for you that meets you exactly where you’re at.
Whenever meeting with a new client, I always make sure to take into account their:
Curiosities and interests.
Meditation coaching is specified and targeted to what you want and need from the practice.
You’re not wasting your time learning extraneous information and irrelevant meditative practices.
You learn what you need and keep it moving.
Anxiety? Let’s center meditations that calm the nervous system.
Highly Distractible? Let’s learn how to focus, direct, and remove attention intentionally.
Trouble sleeping? Let’s slow down the mind.
Improve athletic/work performance? Let’s learn how to let go and get into flow.
When you work with a meditation coach, you’re co-creating a custom practice that meets your unique needs, lifestyle and goals.
I worked with a client a few years ago, Garrett, who was a Physical Therapy Doctoral Candidate. He struggled with terrible test anxiety.
In an accelerated program, he was tested frequently. Yet despite his intelligence, he found himself bombing his exams week after week.
One day, at his wit’s end, he came to the university counseling center for help and was referred to me by a Psychologist.
I asked him a battery of questions, including how he was tested and what his particular brand of anxiety looked like.
In so doing, I found out many tiny but important details to provide him the best care and service.
One such fact was that he was often tested in a standing posture while observed by peers and professors assessing his knowledge and skill.
Because of that, I:
Had him stand in our sessions and direct his attention to the feeling of his feet on the floor, (a grounding technique and form of meditation). I’d then guide them in deep belly breathing while in a standing and active posture.
Taught him the brain science behind why the brain can let us down in high stakes situations, and what to do about it.
Armed with this new understanding, he could see the physiological reason why the simple act of deep belly breathing could make a huge difference in his performance.
He was motivated to practice this type of meditation not only because of how much better he felt, but by how fascinating the science was.
Knowing he was a really smart guy, this was by design.
As his coach, I made sure to make the training program compelling in the ways that would resonate with him so that he’d stick with meditation and see the results he was after on test days.
As our session progressed he started doing much better on his exams and referring all his peers to Mindfulness + Meditation.
Here’s an excerpt from an email he sent me:
I just wanted to let you know our sessions have been enormously helpful in my life, and I have found all the videos and resources you’ve sent to be helpful as well.
Dr. Garcia gave you a strong endorsement in class yesterday, as did I, so you can expect more PT students to come see you in the near future!
2. A Meditation Coach Can Help You Identify and Overcome Challenges
Other people can see things that we cannot see. We all have blinds pots.
Because of the depth of their experience and ability to focus on your individual needs, a meditation coach can make the process more efficient for you.
As with learning any new skill, training under the guidance of someone who is experienced will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that you might otherwise encounter.
They can identify patterns and behaviors that are holding your back and can steer you towards healthier attitudes and actions.
Most people today try meditation out in a very impersonal way, with an app or a recording. These one size fits all approaches don’t get to the heart of the matter.
They tend to leave you feeling like you need to try harder, unsure if it actually worked, and questioning if you did it right.
Personalized coaching vs. an app or a course built for anyone is like the difference between the fit of a tailored suit/dress and grabbing something off the rack.
One of them feels a whole lot better, has you more confident and gets you the results you’re after without any fuss.
An obstacle that every new meditator inevitably faces is the perception that they had a “bad” meditation. I hear it all the time as a coach and I know it was true for me as well in the beginning.
One day, I was trying to focus on my breathing, but all my mind kept doing was showing me visuals of rainbows and unicorns and giving me really exciting new ideas.
Minute after minute, breath by breath, the thoughts and images racing through my brain were infinitely more compelling than focusing on my breath…so I didn’t!
Instead I enjoyed the endless parade of skittles and mythical creatures dancing through my mind.
Finally, the bell rang and the meditation was over. Shocked, I felt like I had just come out of a trance.
As I reflected quietly on what happened in that meditation, I started to feel like I had done a bad job. That I didn’t have discipline. That my mind was too wild to tame.
I started to feel hopeless. I shamefully let my coach know how my meditation had gone. I told her in every way possible how terrible it was.
Seeing my despair, she pointed out that there’s no such thing as a “bad” meditation.
In each practice we’re learning more and more about how our minds behave. We’re building greater self-awareness. We’re learning how to be in a wiser relationship to thinking and emotions. To wake up to patterns and habits that we didn’t know were there—and that causes us a lot of suffering. It’s not about staying 100% focused on the breath 100% of the time. That’s not the goal, and it's not even possible.
She pointed out that the biggest obstacle to my practice wasn’t my “not focusing” but my perception that there are bad meditations.
In fact, she said: “Many times the meditations that are most beneficial and educational are the ones we perceive as terrible. Those are the meditations where we learn the most about ourselves”
After taking her coaching to heart, I realized that the wild unicorn meditation did teach me a lot.
It made me realize how strongly too much caffeine could influence the way my mind works!
I mean, it’s not everyday I have vivid technicolor images prancing around in between thoughts.
I recognized I had enjoyed way too much coffee that day, and that’s why my mind was 10x more active than usual. I also became aware of constant nagging thoughts. Thoughts of wanting and expecting things to be perfect — and how quickly I could jump to judge others or myself when things aren’t as I imagine they should be.
With this heightened self- awareness, I had reason to make better decisions.
I chose to cut back my caffeine intake and use the question “Isn’t this interesting?” to let curiosity replace judgment and nagging thoughts, in meditation and in life.
Indeed, there’s no such thing as a perfect meditation or meditating perfectly.
Without a coach to point out paradoxes and nuance, many people give up on what might’ve been the key to turning their life around.
3. A Meditation Coach Provides Support and Fosters a Safe Space to Indulge Your Curiosity
By working with someone dedicated to your success, you’ll be able to share your regular practice experiences and get immediate feedback that will keep you steadily growing and deepening your practice.
Any burning questions can be quelled, giving you a much needed foundation of knowledge and an understanding for building a practice.
You have the ability to ask nuanced and specific questions that might be too personal for a class setting. You’re comfortable and at ease — an optimal setting for beginning your meditation practice.
In addition to addressing your own questions, your meditation coach will engage you in inquiry - a process similar to the Socratic Method of questioning. This time-honored practice will allow you to delve deeper into your own innate understanding — which is where all the wisdom really lies.
Questions that invite you to explore your own inner landscape are what give you access to the bounty of self-healing, emotional intelligence, and your true self.
At residential meditation retreats in the Insight/Vipassana tradition, part of the experience is the opportunity to have an interview, or private conversation, with one of the Meditation teachers during the course of your stay.
This is often a highlight of many a practitioner’s experience, because it’s where you get to receive specific guidance around exactly what you’re going through, what your specific struggles are, and what questions are coming up for you within your meditation experience.
I know I would always relish that one-on-one time and ask my deepest, burning questions.
I’d feverishly take notes on their teachings, and the wisdom that would emerge within myself when they would ask me questions allowed me to emerge so inspired and invigorated.
These interviews really propelled me forward in my meditation practice - both during the retreat and in life.
Meditation coaching is the magic of the retreat interview, but every week, and on-demand.
Most coaches are open to frequent email communication, so you are able to feel seen and understood throughout your journey.
As a curious person, you can really dissect and unpack your meditation practice each time. Divulging the intimate content of your meditation experience helps your coach to assist you in navigating your heart and mind in wiser ways for the next one.
In a group or class setting, putting it all out there can be very uncomfortable or embarrassing.
With a coach, you can ask lots of questions and be in a state of receptiveness without fear of judgment as you cultivate inner peace.
You can really feed your curiosity and enthusiasm, which is essential for staying motivated and consistent in any endeavor.
4. A Meditation Coach Will Help You Identify and Track Your Progress, Push You Out of Your Comfort Zone, and Hold You Accountable
Consistency and accountability are a huge challenge for first time meditators.
One of the most common reasons people don’t stick to a meditation practice, or any new habit for that matter, is a lack of accountability.
The constant sense that you have so much to get done makes you feel like you don’t have time to sit around and meditate.
A coach will help you prioritize and make time for yourself. They’ll check-in frequently and encourage you in ways that most resonate with you.
These personalizations could include anything from text-reminders to meditations created with you and your specific situation in mind. Maybe you need a highly disciplined approach — or perhaps you respond better to gentle loving nudges.
You can set this up to really work for you when you have one person who is dedicated to seeing you succeed with the practice.
Not only will a coach hold you accountable, but so will the investment of time and money that you are making in yourself.
If you tend to do better as a result of an investment in something, working with a coach is an avenue to create increased discipline and motivation.
Perhaps you want your coach to include spiritual elements or questions for deep reflection that can be asked while you’re in a deep, meditative state. These are the kinds of specifications that can only be made when you have your own personal coach.
Your coach will help you keep your chin up. They’ll point out the improvements that you may not have noticed. They’ll ask questions that illuminate all the ways in which the practice is helping you grow. They’ll also challenge you to try new practices — often the ones you avoid or don’t like are the ones that could teach you the most.
A good meditation coach will help you practice better, more effectively, and more often so that you can quickly progress towards your goals.
5. Just Like a Fitness Instructor, a Meditation Coach Can Show You Ways to Improve Your Technique
And just like working out, you can reach plateaus where meditations become stagnant.
Having a coach provide new avenues, options, subtle insights and adjustments keeps your practice fresh and reliable.
You’ll go deeper and faster than you would alone.
Don’t waste any more time wondering whether you’re doing it right.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Don’t waste time trying to figure it all out on your own — that’s a recipe for slow gains and disappointment.
In fact, self-instructing or self-guiding your own meditations, especially at the beginning, can interfere with settling inward beyond the thinking mind.
It’s hard to let go while striving to be both teacher and student.
Without concrete and personalized guidance, you are merely drifting along, without a plan to follow.
Without a treasure map, the jewels of practice become a mere fantasy.
A Consummate Professional
In high school I needed a math tutor.
Every Tuesday she’d come over and help me complete my homework and prepare for exams. Her patience, attention to detail, and sweet way of breaking down complicated ideas really boosted my confidence and grades.
My Math teacher, tending to a class of about 25, could never have explained things in the way that she did. Also, Khan Academy and YouTube didn’t exist back then, so I wasn’t going to learn it on my own.
My tutor really took the time to personalize our sessions — taking into account all of my doubts, curiosities, questions and specific challenges.
Because of her kindness and expertise, I overcame my biggest teenage challenge.
When it came time to say goodbye to her, I remember tearing up and smothering her with the most awkward and enthusiastic hug.
I was so deeply grateful.
As a teen, there were many blessings in my life that I took for granted, but she was not one of them.
I teared up in that hug thinking about how grateful I was because I realized I never would’ve figured Math out on my own, and that she was the only reason I was able to overcome my challenges and pass my courses.
Working with a Meditation coach was a similar experience for me.
You’re not in a class full of a bunch of people.
You’re not ignored.
Your needs are met.
Your specific challenges are addressed.
You feel comfort, ease, and confidence on your path.
You don’t second-guess, because it’s all curated just for you.
We all understand the privilege of studying with a consummate teacher, whether learning violin, calculus or the culinary arts.
Meditation is a similarly refined skill with instructional do’s and don’ts that affect the outcome.
If you’re just following an app or doing things willy-nilly, you’re likely not going to get the results you’re looking for.
It will also take longer when you’re trying to piece it all together that way!
If you’re seeking real benefit, and not just a Band-Aid for your issues - you need a real live teacher.
Having experienced both sides of the meditation coaching experience, I know there are three main factors that make you most likely to succeed in developing and maintaining the meditation practice you’re looking for.
If you possess any one of these three, it only gets better from here:
You’re in serious emotional or physical pain; you’re really suffering
You’re super outrageously curious
You want to be at the top of your game: athletically, professionally, artistically
When I came to meditation, I exhibited all three.
And it is my belief that if you’re reading this, you already possess at least two out of three.
If you’ve gotten this far in this post, you’re definitely curious.
And curiosity is the number one attitude you need to begin a meditation practice.
You’re already equipped.
You have everything you need to get started.
You just need the nourishment and support of a guide by your side.
Author - Linnie Vassallo
Linnie is a meditation coach. She was among the very first coaches brought on by Calm Scholar, and has recently taken a step back from private coaching to focus on sharing her experience through writing and mixed media. You can learn more about Linnie in our podcast episode here.
Calm Scholar makes finding a meditation coach easy. We offer a diverse team of guides and will help you find the guide right for you. All of our sessions are virtual and one-on-one with the guide of your choice.
Your personal guide will take the time to get to know you and why you are looking to meditate in the first place. Whether it is unaddressed trauma, grief, or a sense of disconnection that is causing you to look towards meditation, your guide will use meditation and mindfulness to bring healing and acceptance to the areas you need it most.