I reckon one function of a teacher these days is to help you move through the inevitable dips that arise in any practice.
And to help you re-orient, either subtly or drastically, when it’s time for that.
One example is body-centered meditation. Some very sensitive people will experience an increase in anxiety when doing something like a body scan (wherein you’re going head to toe with your awareness, feeling different areas of your body).
^ One line of logic would say “stay with it! that’s your stuff arising and it needs to be met.”
^ Another might say “nah … let’s find an easier, kinder path for this unfolding than something that fans the flames of an anxiety that’s already been so difficult for you in this life.”
Another example is a yoga asana practice in which the practitioner experiences pain in certain poses.
^ “Keep moving through, in this way.”
^ “Nope, those poses are not for you right now.”
Which is right?
Of course it’s not an easy, one-size-fits-all answer.
My quick gut-heart reaction to this answer is that either could be, and a lot of the question of how to move through this dilemma wisely rests in the teacher.
Or, equally true, a lot rests on the practitioner’s orientation towards the particular teaching. And the teacher can help illuminate what this orientation is. No matter how smart, we are all fish in our own waters.
If you’re interested in this topic I highly recommend a recent episode of the podcast Bliss and Grit called “Turn Towards or Turn Away?” (and the couple of episodes preceding this one), which inspired this post.