Guided meditation is a form of meditation that uses spoken word to guide the practitioner through the practice. It is a great form of meditation for anyone, especially beginners.
In this article, we’ll take a look at:
- What is meditation?
- What is guided meditation?
- The benefits of a meditation practice
- Tips on cultivating a meditation practice
- What is guided meditation? – a practice
What is meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice that has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Its popularity can be credited to more and more people seeking out inexpensive methods to relieve stress and improve health.
In its most simple form, meditation is a way to focus or train the mind. Most of us experience busy and wandering minds and meditation helps us to keep coming back to the present moment. This results in providing us with the tools to deal with stress more effectively and find a calmer state of mind.
Renowned meditation teacher Tara Brach says that “meditation is a training of our attention.”
There are many ways to practice meditation including religious and secular approaches. Mindfulness is a popular approach that encourages the practitioner to pay attention to emotions, thoughts and physical sensations rather than trying to “stop” the movements of the mind.
What is guided meditation?
Guided meditation is an approach to meditation that encourages relaxed concentration. It is led by a teacher, and it can be a live or via a recording.
The guide will usually encourage you to relax different parts of the body to make you as comfortable and as relaxed as possible. You will then be led through visualizations or mental images.
Guided meditation is a great starting place for beginners and those newer to meditation. Using a guide for mediation can help to provide the practitioner with direction. Even having a voice to concentrate on during meditation can help avoid distractions and intrusive thoughts.
Guided meditations can be as short as a few minutes or even hours long.Even though it is now common knowledge that meditation is a helpful and a good tool to deal with the stresses of modern-day life, it can still be difficult and overwhelming.
Guided meditation is an easier entry point than silent meditation for people as it gives a clear framework for where to direct attention. You can think about it as a step-by-step approach to meditation that takes away the worry of “Am I doing it right?”.
Guided meditation generally follows a simple structure that is easy to follow. Some teachers might explain some information about how meditation works and what is to be expected before beginning.
While meditating without guidance can be important too, the guidance of a teacher can be an invaluable tool, especially for beginners.
Meditation is an important facet of many religions. The Bible talks of meditating on the scriptures and Buddhism sees mediation as a way to reach enlightenment or liberation.
Increasingly, meditation has become more secular, and guided meditation is a part of this.
What are the benefits of guided meditation?
There are many benefits to meditation practices including stress reduction. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, the pioneer for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), says that regular meditators have a shift in brain activity that calms and soothes the part of the brain that makes us stressed and want to “do” all the time.
Some of the other benefits of a regular meditation practice include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Tools to deal with addiction
- Improved concentration
What to expect in a guided meditation
All guided meditations are different but when practicing a guided meditation, you’ll likely experience some relaxation techniques to help ground you and settle you as well as:
- Techniques to bring you into the present moment, such as tuning into your breath or your heartbeat, will be used.
- Some guided meditations may work through chakras (energy centers), mantras or even intense visualizations.
- All good, guided mediations will bring you gently back into your day by having you increase your breathing and move your body a little. It’s important not to rush out of any mediation practice.
How to find a guided meditation
While our digital lives can be problematic, its advantages mean that it is pretty easy to find a guided meditation online. There are lots of places that you can look for guided meditations such as Spotify, podcasts, YouTube and apps such as insight timer.
You’ll also find that many yoga studios offer guided meditation classes or even include guided mediation in yoga sessions.
Make time for meditation
With busy lives we are often consumed by our “to do” list and find little time for self-care practice such as yoga and meditation. However, it is important to set aside time for meditation.
Consistency is key and finding a time of day that works for you is important. For many people meditating on waking is a good place to start. Using guided meditation as soon as you wake up is great if you’re not sure when to do it because there are usually fewer distractions before the day starts.
Another time of day to experiment with practicing guided meditation is just before bed. Meditating just before you go to bed can help induce a state of relaxation that will set you up for sleep and like meditating in the morning, there is often less distraction just before bed.
Even just a few minutes of meditation can be a wonderful way to cultivate a meditation practice. Even short sessions can have benefits on your health and mood.
Tips for cultivating a guided meditation practice
- Setting yourself up in a calm and quiet environment is an important aspect of cultivating any meditation practice. If you’re using your device to provide the guided meditation, then make sure that alerts are off so that you won’t be disturbed or distracted.
- Guided meditation can be practiced sitting on the floor, in a chair, or even lying down, provided that you won’t fall asleep.
- The great thing about guided meditation is that you just need to listen, so it may be a good idea to wear headphones and make sure that the volume is correct before you begin.
- It’s natural for the mind to wander, even when being guided. It’s ok to acknowledge the thought. Just keep coming back to the guide.
- Post-meditation is a good time to reflect on obtrusive thoughts.
- Even guided meditation takes practice, and you may find it difficult at first. Be persistent and you will reap the benefits.
- Don’t be in a hurry to rush out of the practice. Give yourself space and time to come back into your day.
- Remember, there is no wrong or right way to meditate.
- Guided meditation is accessible for any level of practitioner.
What to do with a wandering mind
In a meditation practice, it is inevitable for the mind to wander. You may find yourself daydreaming, focusing on persistent sensations or the things happening around you.
“It’s the natural conditioning of the mind to wander”– Tara Brach
It is important to note that a wandering mind in normal and that we should not be judgemental when it does wander. When wandering does happen it is important to acknowledge the thought and then gently move your attention to the guidance of the teacher.
What is important is how we respond to the wandering.
What is guided meditation? – A practice
Below you will find an example of a short body scan guided meditation.
Settle yourself into a comfortable position.
Bring your attention to your feet and all ten toes. Notice the calves and shins. Then the knees and thighs. Bring your attention to the right hip, then the left hip and then both hips at the same time.
Bring your attention to your abdomen and let it soften. Notice any sensations in and around your chest. Not just the front of your chest but the sides and the back of the chest.
Notice the fingers and hands and any sensations that might be present. Notice the forearms and the elbows, the upper arms. Guide your attention to the shoulders.
Feel your way into the neck and throat. Bring your awareness to the jaw, the tongue, the nose, the space around the eyes, the eyes, and the forehead. Feel the whole of the head. Feel the whole of the body.
Now bring your attention to the breath. Just notice the easy rhythm and pace of your breath. There is no need to manipulate the breath in any way. Simply watch the breath.
Watch the sensations of the breath as they filter down into the belly. Watch the sensations of the breath as they move the chest to expand and contract. Watch the sensations of the breath as it moves through the throat. Watch the sensations of the breath as it moves through the nostrils. Notice the temperature and if it is different on the in-breath to the out-breath.
Simply focus your attention on the sensation of breath in the nostrils.
Deepen the breath slightly and bring some gentle movement into the hands and the feet. Take plenty of time to open your eyes and bring yourself back into your day.
After reading “what is guided meditation?” you might be ready to find out more about meditation so why not check out “Samadhi: Understanding the fullness of meditative absorption“.
Or this article on White Tantra: