If you take a look at my 43 Things profile, you’ll see that one of my goals is to find a spiritual teacher. I think this is a good goal, and have been also told many times how helpful this is to developing one’s Buddhist practice- or any practice for that matter.
However, I have also foreseen how difficult this will be, given my location and current state of flux between grad school and becoming a professional (could that actually be happening?!). I was not really frustrated about this, because it is just part of my present state of being. But I will admit that I have felt a little forlorn.
This is especially true since almost every book that discusses some personal experience with Buddhism refers to some important teacher figure. This constant reminder has, frankly, made me feel a bit lonely. When reading books by Thich Nhat Hahn, Thubten Chodron, and others, I have felt very close to their teachings. For a while, I really wanted someone I could go to directly for advice and encouragement.
Then it hit me. I actually enjoy thinking deeply about things and trying to figure them out for myself. Nobody told me that Buddhism was the best spiritual path for me. I alone made that decision- and have benefited greatly from it.
So to answer my original question, yes, I do believe that at some point, direct spiritual guidance from a trusted teacher is extremely beneficial. This is especially true for developing one’s meditation practice, since only a person who has experienced stages of spiritual growth can truly guide. Just don’t underestimate the importance of your own questions, discoveries and experiences.