If you like the idea of using meditation to improve your mental health, but you aren’t sure how to get started, guided meditation may be right for you. Guided meditation is also helpful for experienced meditators who want a unique experience, or those who want to incorporate more imagery or new techniques into their regimen
But first, what exactly is guided meditation, and what are the benefits you can gain from the practice?
Let’s start with an explanation of guided meditation. What is this process, and how is it different than traditional meditation?
Guided meditation is a system of meditation wherein one or more people follow meditation practices based on the guidance of an experienced practitioner. This experienced practitioner, serving as a teacher or a guru, may use a combination of different communication techniques, including written text, verbal readings, audio recordings, video recordings, music, or other audiovisual media.
Using these forms of communication, a guided meditation session leads people through a series of meditative exercises, which may include things like:
Relaxation. Almost every form of guided meditation starts with some instruction for relaxation. For example, users may be guided on how to sit and/or get comfortable, and may be walked through the process of loosening the tension in their muscles.
Breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are a common staple of guided meditation. Users are instructed how to breathe deeply, or are coached through specific types of exercises. Often, users are coached to pay attention to their breath, or can use audio and visual cues to keep their breathing appropriately timed.
Guided imagery. Many forms of guided meditation use guided imagery or other visualizations. The instructor may encourage practitioners to think of specific types of images, or visualize something abstract, as a way to cultivate attention and focus.
Introspection/self-reflection. Introspective guided meditation sessions encourage practitioners to reflect on their own lives, including their thoughts, emotional states, and habits. This is especially important for styles of meditation based on insight.
This is a technique that can be used with the help of a live teacher, or with the help of a guided meditation app like Aura. Get started with Aura today, and get started with a guided meditation session in the comfort of your own home!
Guided meditation is just one form of meditation. Meditation itself has a diverse array of benefits, including:
Stress reduction. Meditation has the power to reduce your stress, both in the short-term and in the long-term. People who meditate report lower levels of stress, and are better able to handle the naturally stressful events of life.
Anxiety reduction. Similarly, meditation has the power to reduce your anxiety. It may not cure you of an anxiety disorder, but it can help you manage your anxious thoughts and feelings, and make you feel at peace.
Better focus and attention. If you practice meditation regularly, you’ll have greater control of your mental faculties. Regular meditators report feeling higher levels of focus and attention. They feel more alert throughout the day, and find it easier to pay attention to important matters.
Emotional intelligence and awareness. One interesting benefit of meditation is its ability to connect you with your own thoughts and feelings. You’ll find it much easier to be aware of your subjective reactions, and you’ll notice even small changes in your emotional state. Accordingly, you’ll develop a much higher level of emotional intelligence.
Behavioral control. With the help of meditation, many people have found success controlling their behaviors. For example, regular meditation has been shown to help people overcome addiction. It’s also useful for reducing the urge to follow bad habits, and help you instate new good habits. There are many reasons for this, including better self-discipline, higher self-awareness, and less susceptibility to emotional reactions.
Better sleep. Many people use meditation as a tool to help them get to sleep. With meditation, you can end your restless thoughts, reduce stress, and physically relax. If practiced regularly, meditation can also become a valuable part of your nighttime routine, and ultimately make it easier for you to fall asleep.
Pain reduction. With meditation, some users find they’re able to reduce the amount of pain and discomfort they feel. This is especially useful if you suffer from chronic pain or other physical afflictions.
Lower blood pressure. Consistent meditation can also help you reduce your blood pressure, lowering your susceptibility to a host of cardiovascular health issues.
Almost any meditative practice can help you achieve the above benefits, so what is it that makes guided meditation even better?
Structure and focused sessions. With a guided meditation program, you’re going to have structure—and focused sessions—automatically. One of the biggest problems faced by beginners is the difficulty completing a single focused session for the allotted time. For example, let’s say you set a timer to meditate for 15 minutes, but after 10 minutes, you keep thinking about how much time is left, and you keep checking your timer. This defeats the purpose of meditating. With guided meditation, your teacher or guide will be in charge; they’ll have a guided experience prepared, and you’ll merely be along for the ride. Additionally, they’ll have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish during this session, and they’ll help you understand that motivation. You won’t have to come up with your own strategies or your own plans, so you’ll be much more likely to complete your sessions.
Accountability and consistency. Guided meditation, especially in app form, is great for improving your accountability and consistency as well. For example, in an app, you might be able to download a new guided meditation session every day; this incentivizes you to log in and try it. Your app might also prompt you with automated reminders, helping you stay committed to your goals. If you’re practicing guided meditation in person, you’ll also have the accountability associated with a group. You’ll get to know your guide and your fellow meditators, and through conversation and exchange, you’ll be much more motivated to attend your sessions.
Beginner friendliness. When compared to unguided meditation, guided meditation is much more friendly to beginners. It doesn’t matter how much experience you’ve had, what types of meditation you’ve tried, or how much skill or attention you can muster. Because a guide is in control of your sessions, you don’t have to think too much about the specifics. Additionally, your guide will often be the most experienced person in the room—so they’ll be able to educate you on the basics of meditation, and support you if you’re struggling with something. Of course, guided meditation isn’t just for beginners; many experienced meditators still turn to guided meditation because they like the experience of meditating under the direction of someone else.
Teacher experience. Most of the time, your guided meditation session will be led by someone with lots of experience. We mentioned that this is a valuable learning opportunity, but this experience will also lend itself to better sessions. Experienced teachers have had time to discover techniques that generally work and generally don’t work, and they’ll have the knowledge and creativity necessary to come up with truly unique sessions.
Options and flexibility. Speaking of unique sessions, there is an abundance of guided meditation groups, apps, and sessions to choose from. No matter what your background is, how much meditation experience you have, what your personal preferences are, or where you’re going to be meditating, there is a guided meditation option for you. If you find you no longer like the app you’re using, you can try a different one. If you’re tired of hearing the same person’s voice, you can switch to someone else.
Training and personal experience. You can think of guided meditation as a set of training wheels for your own meditation experience (though it’s perfectly effective as a practice in its own right). The more time you spend in guided meditation sessions, the more you’ll develop your own skills as a meditator. You’ll become more familiar with meditation techniques, and you’ll get more ideas for how to plan and execute your own sessions. In time, you’ll be much more capable of meditating on your own.
Togetherness and community. Depending on the situation, guided meditation may also provide you with the benefits of togetherness, and bring you a sense of community. In a guided session with other people, you’ll all be having a similar mental experience; you’ll be following the same techniques and forming the same mental images. In person, this can feel like a highly rewarding group experience. If you’re using an app, you may have the option to chat with other users or engage with them on a community forum. Either way, you’ll feel like you’re a part of something bigger, which can be rewarding in its own distinctive way.
Are you interested in exploring guided meditation on your own, and experiencing the benefits in your own life? Get started with Aura, #1 Meditation and Sleep app for iOS or for Android today, and get started with your first session. Even short sessions of 15 minutes or less can improve your feelings of wellness, so give it a try today!