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Guided Meditation

What is guided meditation?

All meditation should be guided, but you are your own best guide. By “guided meditation” what is most often meant is meditation according to instructions from someone else, perhaps a live teacher or a recorded voice. Many people are introduced to meditation through guided meditation of one form or another. At its best it can be an astounding gift; at its worst it can be mind-numbing or even brainwashing. In general, externally guided meditation must give way to self-directed autonomous.

Benefits of Guided Meditation

The assistance of an outside guide during the internal process of meditation may be necessary for a time during periods of intense distraction, such as or loud environments, insomnia, or obsessive thinking. Wherever attention or concentration is challenged, as it is for those just beginning meditation, explicit instructions can be helpful.

Quiet is best for meditation, but meditation through noise is a challenge some may find attractive. Here meditation to strongly voiced internal instructions may give you a foothold. When one is deprived of sleep due to worried late night ruminations, guided meditation may be very suitable, since it will draw attention away from the thoughts that keep you awake. Counting sheep in order to fall asleep is a form of self-guided meditation. In general, guided meditation can counteract unwanted thought processes; indeed, any kind of meditation can do so, but external guidance can do much to overcome the pull of protracted unbidden thoughts.

Instructions for Guided Meditation

We offer instructions for meditation elsewhere on our website (click here or there), but we offer no explicit instructions for guided meditation, only some cautionary advice and evaluative criteria to bring to bear on your search.

Guided meditation is only as good as the instructions involved. What is your guided meditation guiding you to do?  Is it detailed?  Is it specific?  Informed, specific and applicable the instructions are better than vague generalities and innocuous platitudes. And what are the goals of this instruction?  Is it mere relaxation or is it some form of spiritual development?  If it is spiritual development, is it skill-based (development of concentration, increase of sensitivity, etc.) or it is fantasy-based (imagination of pleasant or divine imagery, repetition of pious thoughts or names)?  It is all very well to intone pleasant chants or imagine tropical paradises, but it is better to work toward useful abilitities like increased mental stamina, sensitivity and composure.

Dangers of Guided Meditation

Guided meditation may be very applicable where lower-level goals, such as relaxation, stress-reduction, or concentration skill are the aim. It gets murkier where the content of thought is being manipulated. Contemplation of positive or hopeful thoughts has its place, but meditation is not fundamentally directed thought: meditation is not philosophy. Therefore one should beware of guided meditation recordings or practices that implant certain notions. This sort of guided meditation is comparable to hypnosis, since it encourages one to surrender more completely, rather than to instigate an alert, receptive, calmly vigilant mind. If the instructional goal is a sense of membership and belonging, guided meditation may be broaching on cultish induction or even brainwashing.

Meditation Music as Guided Meditation

Some people are helped by listening to special music designed for meditation. What can be more relaxing, upliftng and emotionally significant than beautiful music. No harm can come from listening quietly to peaceful music. But in light of the previous point about the nature and goals of meditation instruction, it should be borne in mind that not every pleasant, attentive and relaxing state of mind is a form of meditation.

The Voice of the Teacher

Sometimes teachers will speak into the quiet of mediation. By the definition give above (click here), this also counts as a form of guided meditation. Depending on the teacher and perhaps the moment, it can be extremely profound and powerful. If rote instructions that drone on and on are the worst kind of guided meditation, the insightful, timely word of a teacher, spoken into the silence and stillness of meditation, vies to be the best guided meditation has to offer.