15 Insights From Teaching Meditation For 10 Years

15 Insights From Teaching Meditation For 10 Years

If you would’ve asked me during my childhood in Alabama what I wanted to be when I grew up, becoming a meditation teacher wouldn’t have been one of my answers. Even as an adult, I didn’t know I wanted to teach meditation — that is, until I met my meditation teacher when I was 29 years old.

I was between careers, and got invited to a meditation talk. I went along reluctantly, and as soon as the meditation teacher came out and started talking, I thought to myself, “Now that’s what I’m meant to do.” Funny how life works. A few years later, I went to India with my meditation teacher and about a dozen of his other proteges, and over three months he trained us in the ancient ways of becoming a meditation teacher.

I started teaching meditation from my one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood in 2007. Since then, I’ve taught nearly 2,000 people personally to meditate — in living rooms, yoga studios, wellness centers, nightclubs (that happened once in Miami), hotels, parks, you name it. I’ve taught people from all walks of life. Here are some of the more remarkable things I’ve learned from teaching meditation:

1. Outside appearances are often misleading.

People who appear to have it all battle with depression, anxiety, sadness, as much as anyone else. As far as I have seen, there is no correlation between material wealth and inner peace.

2. The hardest people to teach are …

People who think they already understand how to meditate. But for x,y, or z reasons, they aren’t doing it.

3. The easiest people to teach are children.

They don’t come into the room with any preconceived notions about their abilities, unlike almost all adults.

4. Everyone’s mind is busy.

Busy minds are like opinions. Everyone has one. Meditation is not about trying to tame your busy mind. Instead, it’s a practice of acceptance of your busy mind.

5. Everyone stalls the first time out the gate.

The very first time anyone tries to drive a manual-shift car, the experience is always the same: Stalling. Jolting. Stalling. Jolting. Stalling. Jolting. The same is true with meditation: Too much effort. Fall asleep. Too much effort. Fall asleep. Too much effort. Fall asleep.

6. There is nothing arbitrary about meditating.

Everything — from the way you sit, to the time of day you sit, to the length of time you sit — can make a difference in your experience.

7. Meditation is a practice-oriented practice. 

I can talk to my meditators about meditation until I’m blue in the face, but eventually they’ll have to practice over and over to become good at it.

8. There is no substitute. 

Meditation serves a very specific function of releasing stress at the deepest levels in the nervous system. There is no amount of money, surgery, pill, therapy or hypnosis that can do for your body what daily meditation can do.

9. The effects can be surprising.

I’ve heard incredible first-hand accounts of chain-smokers quitting cigarettes, insomniacs sleeping like babies and coffee-drinkers going cold turkey, all within a few days of starting meditation. So, you never know how it’s going to positively affect you…

10. Meditating is probably not going to turn you into a saint.

You will not become Gandhi or Mother Teresa from meditating. Not even from 10 years of meditation. But you will become a significantly better version of yourself.

11. The hardest part about meditating is not the meditation.

It’s actually finding the time to meditate that’s tough.

12. Meditation is less like a root canal and more like a toothbrush.

In other words, it’s a preventative measure. With meditation, too many people wait until they need a root canal to start brushing their teeth.

13. It works! 

I’ve seen so many people with no history of meditation become happier, healthier, less reactive, and more aware, in a relatively short amount of time.

14. It takes about five years.

While there will be some short-term benefits, stabilizing the effects of meditation happens slowly, over about five years of daily practice. When people balk at having to wait five years for the effects of meditation to cement, I remind them that five years is going to pass by anyway, so you may as well be meditating in that time.

15. Everyone comes back to it.

About a third of the people who I teach fall off at some point within their first year. This was my experience too, back when I first learned with my teacher. But everyone always returns to it, because there is no substitute for how meditation makes you feel inside.

 Light Watkins is a Santa Monica-based meditation practitioner of 15 years, a meditation teacher of 8 years, an author of The Inner Gym: A 30-Day Workout For Strengthening Happiness, and a TEDx Speaker.