How to Use Guided Meditations
... And What Are Guided Meditations, Anyway?
Guided meditation can be used to promote better sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and even to relieve chronic pain.
You can find Guided Meditations on YouTube, on numerous apps and websites, and right here at Spirituality and Health. They are usually audio recordings made by an experienced teacher. You can close your eyes and allow the instructions to guide you through a meditation practice. There are many different types of guided meditations, from specific, formal meditations in styles like Yoga Nidra and Zen Buddhism to casual meditations for better sleep.
Who Are Guided Meditations For?
Guided audio meditations are fantastic for beginners, finding a style and a teacher you like can be difficult at first. They are also very useful for those of us that have a hard time sitting in pure silence for any length of time. The guided meditation keeps your attention on what you are doing, and it keeps time for you so you don’t need to count the seconds. They can be especially useful during periods of stress, chronic pain flare-ups, or when there’s something on your mind you’re struggling to stop thinking about.
When Should You Use Guided Meditations?
- Before sleep. The most popular way to use guided meditations is to help you sleep. They can be excellent at distracting from the ruminations in your mind that might keep you awake. They might help you sleep more deeply and well.
- When you wake up. When you are focused on a particular goal and need help setting intentions or implementing a regular meditation practice, first thing in the morning is an excellent time to get some help meditating.
- At the end of the workday. Especially with so many of us working from home, it can be hard to know when the workday is over and when the evening begins. Guided meditations can help us wind down from the day, release stresses, and enjoy our time off more mindfully.
- When you’re feeling stressed or emotional. Guided meditations can act like an emotional SOS. They can help us calm down and get grounded when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
Styles of Guided Meditation
There are many types of guided meditations out there. Sleep meditations alone come in a vast range of styles. Some sleep meditations help you focus on the breath. Others may do a gentle body scan, focusing on relaxing one part of the body at a time. Others work with a specific technique like squeezing and releasing certain muscle groups to help them relax. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a specific yogic style of meditation that is often adapted for sleep meditations, though the traditional practice is actually meant to be done while awake. You can also find fantasy sleep meditations that take you through some sort of scenario like walking along a beach or in a forest to distract your mind and guide you into dreams. Still others will offer hypnosis or help you learn to lucid dream.
Teachers may also offer guided meditations for specific practices, like Zen meditation or MBSR. You can find meditations for specific conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, or depression. There are meditations for pregnant people or people in an emotional state such as grief or loneliness. Some guided meditations can actually be forms of energy healing, rituals, or spells.
How Do You Pick a Guided Meditation?
First, consider how you’re going to use it. Is it easier to play from an app on your phone or from another device? Can you play directly from the device or will you use, for example, noise-canceling headphones? If you’re going to listen to sleep meditations, you may like to consider how you’ll listen, especially if you share a bed and your bed partner is not interested in listening to the same meditations. Earbuds are not the safest to listen to while you are going to sleep. Headphones may be better because they can simply slip off when you nod off and rollover.
Second, consider your intentions, your specific life situation, and your preferences—and you may need to try a few before you find the one you like. Here are some elements to consider:
- Music. Some meditations have gentle music in the background, while others work with silence. See which works better for you.
- Voice. You have to resonate with the voice you’re listening to. Do you prefer a male or female teacher? Do you find accents distracting or do you like them?
- Teacher. Some teachers are more practical/rational while others have a more spiritual or religious vibe. If you already know and like a teacher who does guided meditations, it’s best to start there. Otherwise, read a few teacher bios and see if you get a sense of whether or not their interests and values mesh well with yours.
- Style. Some types of languaging or imagery might turn you off—for example, some body scans get very anatomical, talking about organs, ligaments, and bones. Some meditations have a religious aspect to them. If you like that, that’s fine, but if you don’t, it might distract you from what you’re trying to focus on.
So take some time to consider how you would like to practice your guided meditations, and try a few out to see what platform, styles, and teachers work best for you. You might just start a daily meditation practice this way!