Meditation was once thought of as a practice that is generally done by New Age hippies. The Beatles were a big fan of it. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, was their spiritual advisor. Many people used to think that meditation was a fad and that it was “cool” to meditate.
However, in recent years, nobody thinks of meditation as a weird practice limited to hippies, Buddhist monks, or yogis. Many average Joes and Janes meditate to reap the benefits that meditation has to offer. Scientists have examined meditation’s effects on the body and mind and hundreds of studies have proven its benefits on one’s overall health. Technology has made meditation even easier. Nowadays, you can purchase a guided meditation and easily download it to your iPod or any other mp3 player.
What Is Guided Meditation? Guided meditation is simply “meditation with the help of a guide”. It’s one of the easiest ways to enter into a state of deep relaxation and inner stillness, and it’s one of the most powerful ways to eliminate stress and bring about positive personal changes.
Anyone approaching their golden years can tremendously benefit from guided meditation. It can help you deal with the challenges and difficulties that most middle-aged and elderly people face. Not only will meditation improve your health, but it will also enable you to deal with your emotions in the healthiest possible way.
This meditation guide talks about meditation for beginners in general and discusses what meditation is not. However, in the succeeding sections, it zeroes in on guided meditation, the easiest form of meditation. This article will help you understand what guided meditation is and how it differs from meditation and hypnosis.
The benefits of guided meditation are also discussed here. You will also see how it can improve your mental and physical health. This report mentions some studies that have verified the claims made by proponents of meditation on its positive effects on one’s body and mind. It also explains how guided meditation can help you with life’s challenges and how meditation can help you attain specific goals.
This meditation guide will also teach you how to choose the best-guided meditation audio for you. You may hire a meditation guide, but it would be a lot cheaper and more convenient for you to purchase a guided meditation recording. However, you must learn how to choose the right guided meditation recording for yourself so that you will get the most out of the audio and you will not suffer from buyer’s remorse.
This meditation guide will also guide you through some things you need to consider before you start meditating. Making sure that your environment is conducive to meditation is crucial. This report offers some practical advice on things like choosing where and when to meditate.
Meditation is a journey to self-awareness that can change your life for the better. If you have not meditated before, you are going to wish you had started sooner. Meditation may seem to be intimidating to first-timers. However, it does not have to be difficult. Guided meditation will make the experience easier and more worthwhile for you. This report is meant to help you learn more about this wonderful journey.
Learn How To Meditate
Meditation is narrowing your focus and concentrating your attention on an object such as a word or a phrase, an image, or your breathing. Because your nervous system reacts to fewer stimuli when you meditate, your brainwaves slow down. Your mind becomes calm and relaxed and the tension in every area of your body melts away.
There are many meditation techniques which have been practiced throughout the ages. These include repetition of a mantra (a meaningful word or phrase), directing your attention to your bodily sensations, focusing on a geometric shape or an image such as a mandala (a Buddhist or Hindu representation of the universe), visualizing a “spirit guide,” and simply being aware of the present moment.
What Meditation is not
There are many misconceptions about meditation. In the Western world, the word meditation is used in different contexts. To understand the context in which the word is used throughout this article, it helps to understand what meditation is not.
Meditation is not thinking about a particular subject. The word meditate is sometimes used interchangeably with think, contemplate, or reflect as in “You should meditate on what the future holds for you.” Thinking is a purposeful mental process and it usually involves your judgment. For instance, you may think about a problem to arrive at a possible solution. Meditation, on the other hand, is simply directing your focus on something without making any judgment. Thinking can be mentally exhausting, but meditation refreshes the mind.
Meditation is not fantasizing. Although some meditation techniques use visualization, it is different from daydreaming. When you fantasize about something, you temporarily escape from the realities of life by simply entertaining pleasurable thoughts as they come. On the other hand, meditation is a focused mental activity that leads you to a state of “thoughtless awareness” where your mind becomes clear. Meditation may be a temporary respite from the pressures of life, but it equips you and strengthens you as you meet the challenges that life throws at you.
Meditation is not repeating affirmations. Most people swear by the effectiveness of repeating positive affirmations. You may use a positive affirmation as a mantra. However, if you simply repeat an affirmation mechanically for a certain number of times without entering the meditative state, it will not work. If you are in a meditative state, the affirmation will make its way into your subconscious and will leave an indelible imprint in your mind.
Meditation is not praying. Prayer is generally taken to mean a conversation with God or a divine being. When you meditate, you do not converse with God. You simply focus on something. However, you can use the name of the God you worship as a mantra or focus your attention on your representation of God while you meditate.
Best Guided Meditation For You
Guided meditation is a form of meditation where an expert verbally guides you into a deep state of relaxation and serenity.
This may be done with a live person or with a recording. It is usually combined with hypnotic suggestions to achieve a specific goal such as self-confidence, weight loss, overcoming anxiety, getting better sleep, achieving peak performance, and many more.
A guided meditation session usually begins with the meditation guide asking you to either sit comfortably or lie down. You may be led through a series of visualizations that will bring you to a meditative state or you may be made to listen to a series of positive suggestions. Sometimes, your guide may do both. You will feel peaceful and calm, and your mind becomes clearer. Before the meditation session ends, your guide will lead you back to a state of alert wakefulness.
Immediately after the session, when you open your eyes, you should feel refreshed. Your senses may be heightened. Colors may become crisp and vivid. Sounds may be clearer. You will feel a general sense of well-being.
What Makes Guided Meditation Different from Meditation?
Meditation is usually described as the deliberate direction of attention towards a point of focus such as a mantra and/or a mental picture. The meditator gently pushes away any intruding thoughts to attain a state of consciousness where she is aware of what is going on within her thoughts at the present moment.
There are many forms of meditation. Guided meditation is just one of them. You may meditate on your own by repeating and directing your focus on a mantra. However, this type of meditation requires more discipline and practice.
Sometimes, it is difficult to get into a meditative state because you have to keep distractions at bay and to maintain your focus. Some people do get frustrated when they try to meditate. They give up altogether, wondering whether they were doing it right or wrong.
Guided meditation is sometimes called “the lazy man’s meditation” because it takes less effort than when you try to meditate on your own. All you need to do is get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, listen, and let the other person lead you into a meditative state. The voice of your meditation guide helps you to stay focused on the meditation session and is likely to keep you from nodding off and falling asleep.
Is Guided Meditation the Same as Hypnosis?
Strictly speaking, guided meditation is the process of leading someone into a meditative state and nothing more. On the other hand, hypnosis is effecting a behavioral change while a person is in a meditative state. When you are in a meditative state, your subconscious becomes open to positive suggestions.
Some guided meditation recordings and sessions have elements of hypnotic suggestion. You will be guided to an inner journey that will help improve one or two areas of your life. Guided meditation usually has a two-fold benefit. You reap the benefits that meditation generally has to offer while attaining a specific goal.
What Can Guided Meditation Do for You?
As already mentioned, many researchers from various medical fields have found that meditation has a positive effect on a person’s overall health. A number of life-threatening medical conditions have been blamed on stress. Meditation can help you deal with stress in a positive way so that stress does not make you sick.
Meditation also protects you from cognitive decline. Studies show that meditation slows down the aging of the brain and preserves one’s cognitive abilities. The results of the tests conducted by researchers showed that long-term meditators in an old age group performed better in attention and memory tests.
Regular meditation promotes mental health. It can actually protect you against mental illness by making positive changes within the brain itself. Meditation has been found to increase axonal density. The higher the axonal density in your brain is, the stronger your neural connections are. This puts this old saying to rest: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If you have the ability to build strong neural connections in your brain, it means that you are able to learn new skills regardless of your age.
Meditation also enhances the production of myelin, a white substance made of protein and phospholipids that protects nerve cells and is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Research has shown that those who meditated for at least 30 minutes a day for two months had measurable changes in brain density especially in the locations of the brain associated with memory, empathy, stress, and self-awareness.
Studies have also shown that meditation helps improve performance at work and in school. Researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara have found that meditation improves working memory, verbal reasoning, and focus.
Meditation actually enhances the synchronization of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, making you more creative and more analytical at the same time.
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Researchers reports that you can still benefit from meditation even when you are not actively meditating. Meditation changes the amygdala’s response to emotional stimuli, and this effect continues even after meditation.
Facing Life’s Challenges with Guided Meditation
Life is stressful even for young people. However, as women age, they come face-to-face with emotional and health issues. They find themselves losing their self-confidence and self-esteem as their looks change and their physical and mental abilities decline. Hormonal changes intensify the negative feelings that postmenopausal women experience.
Some women cope with stress by overeating, drinking, and smoking. However, these are poor ways to deal with stress. Poorly managed stress and anxiety can lead to a host of physical and mental problems such as depression, difficulties in concentration, sleep disturbances, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, weight gain, headaches, and even cancer.
External events, as well as other people’s words and actions towards you, do not actually make you either happy or miserable. You create your own inner world with how you respond to external events. Guided meditation can help you respond positively to the challenges of life by helping you achieve clarity and by relieving negative emotions. It also helps you to be less emotionally reactive to unpleasant or upsetting experiences.
A study recognized by the American Psychological Association has found that people who have meditated anywhere from one month to 29 years are able to detach themselves from emotionally upsetting pictures and are able to focus better on cognitive tasks better than those who have not meditated at all.
Women who suffer from psychological trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, can benefit greatly from meditation. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) swear by its healing power. Some army veterans take meditation classes where they learn meditation techniques that help them deconstruct thoughts and emotions that trigger negative reactions associated with PTSD.
If you are prone to depression, regular meditation can help you feel centered and balance. Studies reveal that meditation allows you to use a part of your brain that is inactive or underactive when you are depressed. It can also help you overcome self-defeating thoughts and emotions which usually occur when you are depressed.
Guided meditation can also empower you to get rid of your bad habits and to improve yourself. It allows you to see yourself objectively and thus overcome your blind spots. When you see you see yourself as you are, you become aware of your shortcomings and you can then take specific actions to overcome them.
Meditation leads you to a greater acceptance of the way things are so you can better deal with emotionally challenging situations. It can help you to think objectively, detach yourself emotionally from your problems and channel your energies toward solving them. You will be better able to cope with stressful situations and respond positively to challenges and difficulties.
Using Guided Meditation For Relaxation
Stress is associated with a number of serious medical conditions. It weakens the immune system leaving the body defenseless against diseases including cancer. Stress is also linked with heart disease as well as premature cellular and cognitive aging.
However, stress is unavoidable. There is no such thing as a stress-free life no matter how well you plan for life’s eventualities. Some of the most stressful situations in life are unexpected.
The most important benefit of meditation is that it relieves stress and lowers the body’s cortisol level. Cortisol is a hormone released by the body in response to stress. When your cortisol levels are constantly elevated, it can lead to quite a number of disorders including thyroid and metabolic dysfunction, anxiety, depression, a compromised immune system, abnormal glucose levels, hypertension, and many others.
Stress can be managed so that you do not suffer from its harmful effects. Meditation is one of the best ways to manage and minimize the impact of stress in your life. Those who regularly practice meditation claim that it improves mood increases mental alertness, and raises self-awareness.
Regular meditation helps you maintain cardiovascular health. When you are meditating, your heart rate decreases and your blood pressure goes down. Many health practitioners recommend meditation, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, for the prevention of hypertension.
Dr. Dean Ornish, founder, and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute conducted a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Ornish found that it is possible to reverse heart disease without surgery or drugs by simply implementing some lifestyle changes. This includes switching to a low-fat diet, exercising regularly, and meditating daily.
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel found meditation to be useful in treating patients with chronic pain and sleeping problems such as insomnia. It helps the brain to better process pain and emotions by controlling the cortical alpha rhythms. While there are is no scientific evidence that suggests that meditation can cure illnesses, it is useful in preventing diseases and improving the quality of life of those who are already sick.
For instance, researchers have found that breast cancer survivors who practiced meditation have less hot flashes and can sleep better than those who have not. An analysis of 10 studies has found that meditation promotes mental health among cancer patients. People with rheumatoid arthritis found that meditation reduces the psychological distress associated with their condition.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that meditation can minimize your need for health care services. It has also been found that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain, PMS, anxiety, cholesterol, and substance abuse.
According to a study published by Perspectives on Psychological Science, meditation has four components: regulation of attention, body awareness, self-awareness, and regulation of emotion. While meditating, you regulate your attention so you can be aware of your body.
Awareness of your body leads to awareness of your emotions, which makes it easy for you to regulate them. Also, when you are aware of your emotions and the things that you focus on, you attain self-awareness. When you are aware of your physical and emotional needs, you can take steps to improve your physical and mental health.
Choosing The Best Guided Meditation That’s Right for You
With all the high tech gadgets, software, and royalty-free music available today, anybody can record guided meditation audio. There are probably hundreds of free guided meditation recordings that you can download off the Internet.
However, it takes an expert to create good guided meditation audio. Some of the good audios are free, but many of them are available for sale.
Do not buy guided meditation audio without listening to a sample of the recording. A sample should be at least a minute long. Because Amazon and iTunes limit samples to 30-seconds, you should visit the website of the creator where there are no such restrictions. Every creator of guided meditation audio should have a website where longer audio samples are available for download or streaming.
Why is it important to listen to a sample? Not all guided meditation recordings are the same. Some guided meditation recordings may have poor sound quality. You may also find a recording disconcerting instead of relaxing and you may not get the benefit that you want from it. Worse, it may do more harm than good.
Here are some of the things that you must listen to when you play a sample:
Listen to the speaker’s voice. How does it make you feel? Does it feel soothing? Does the speaker drone on in a monotonous voice, making you bored and sleepy? Some creators of guided meditation audios claim that the recording influences your subconscious mind while you are asleep. However, you don’t want to sleep during a guided meditation session. What you want to attain is a state of relaxed wakefulness. You may also want to follow the visualization technique in the recording.
You also want the speaker to talk at the right speed. If the speaker talks too fast, you may have a hard time following his or her instructions. If the speaker talks too slowly, you might find yourself dozing off. You might also want to check the speaker’s tone of voice. You may find a high-pitched voice distracting and unpleasant. A low-pitched voice may sound scary and weird to some. You might also prefer a male speaker over a female one or vice versa. Watch out for accents that may either be distracting or difficult to understand.
Listen to the background music. The music should be calming and relaxing. It should be pleasing not only to the ears but also to the spirit. Avoid weird sounds that are usually produced by synthesizers. There should be no loud, startling sounds. Believe it or not, some guided meditation audios have background music that leaves you frazzled instead of relaxed.
Some guided meditation audios use pleasant nature sounds like the chirping of birds, the gurgling of a brook, or the crashing of sea waves. Some use flute, singing bowl, sitar, and tambourine. Remember, the music should be relaxing and should help you focus.
Listen to the script. First of all, the script should match your specific meditation goal. For instance, it makes no sense to listen to a guided meditation for losing weight if your goal is to overcome anxiety. Also, make sure that the script is written in a language you understand. There are guided meditation scripts written for members of specific organizations or religions with terms that you, as an outsider, may not understand. Also, make sure that the script does not contain anything that runs contrary to your own religious convictions.
Usually, the first part of the script tells you what the guided meditation session is for and should reassure you that you will be safe throughout the entire session. Then, the speaker guides you to a relaxed, peaceful state. You may be led to visualization or the speaker may feed your subconscious with positive suggestions while you are in a relaxed state. In the last part of the guided meditation session, the speaker should bring you back to alert wakefulness and you should feel refreshed and calm.
Best Way To Meditate – Some Basic, Practical Things You Need to Consider
Before you start meditating, you should know that there are a few factors that can greatly affect the quality of your guided meditation session.
First is your physical environment. Is it conducive to meditation? You are going to need a place where you will not be distracted. You may need to turn your phone off or tone down the volume of the ringing tone so that you do not hear it if somebody calls while you are meditating.
If that is not possible, you may need to meditate in an area of your home where you will not hear the phone ring. You can also tell your family and friends to avoid calling you at the specific time of the day when you intend to meditate.
You also need to be in a comfortable place. Is the temperature of the room comfortable enough? Is it well-ventilated? Discomfort can be very distracting so make sure that you are as comfortable as possible.
Next, make sure that you are wearing the right clothes when you meditate. No, this does not mean that you need to go shopping for new clothes and be on the lookout for the latest “meditation fashion.” The right clothes for meditation are those that you are most comfortable wearing. You can even meditate in your pajamas. Just make sure that you are comfortable with the fabric and that it does not make you itch. Your clothes should not be too tight and should allow your skin to breathe.
The best time to meditate is in the morning, right after you wake up. Your mind and body have been refreshed by sleep, and the day’s worries and concerns are still far from your consciousness. Thus, it will be easy for you to stay focused and aware of the present moment. However, if you can’t meditate in the morning, any time of the day will do.
You may find it a bit of a challenge though to meditate at certain times of the day. For instance, you want to meditate at the end of the day, just before you sleep. However, you might often find yourself too tired or too sleepy to meditate. When you meditate in the middle of the day, this is when you are likely to be interrupted or distracted. That said, if you get into the habit of meditating at a certain time of the day, you might be able to come up with good ways to deal with the difficulties that you encounter while meditating.
You also have to consider how often you should meditate and for how long. Meditation is most effective if done frequently and regularly. Fifteen minutes of meditation per day is definitely better than three hours of meditation once a week. If you are going to use guided meditation audio, the length of your guided meditation session must run the entire length of the recording especially if that audio is tailor-fitted for a specific goal or purpose.
You are least likely to get the results that you hope for if you do not finish the entire recording. You either have to look for a shorter recording that will produce the results you want or make the time for regular guided meditation sessions every day. Considering the positive effects of meditation on both the body and the mind, you will find that the time you spend on guided meditations is worth it.
How to Use a Guided Meditation Audio
Listening to guided meditation audio makes meditation a lot easier for you. However, you must do it properly. Here a few pointers that will help you get the most of a guided meditation session:
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to meditate. This could be anywhere as long as you will not be distracted or interrupted.
2. Take some time to settle into that place (at least 5 to 10 minutes) before you meditate, especially if you are tired or just had a rough day.
3. Play the guided meditation audio. If you are going to use an mp3 player or an iPod, make sure that you will be comfortable with the earphones or the headphones you wear. Follow the directions of your guide. Close your eyes and be in a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down, depending on what your guide tells you.
4. As the voice guides you in your inner journey, allow your imagination to enter into the story. Make your visualizations and other imagined sensations as vivid as possible. Be aware of the emotions that you experience during the session. If you get distracted by noise, itch, or intruding thoughts, do not allow yourself to feel angry or annoyed. Simply acknowledge the distraction and gently return to the meditation.
5. At the end of the guided meditation session, do not be in a hurry to open your eyes. Let your body tell you when you are ready. When you open them, do it slowly.
Talking to Your Family About Meditation
While meditation is becoming more and more popular these days, some people find that their loved ones do not support them in their meditation practice. Some are even antagonistic towards it.
A few religious groups still believe in the myth that meditation is evil and that it leaves people vulnerable to the devil’s tactics. Some of your family members might feel that your meditation practice is robbing them of your time and attention.
If you are one of those who have a hard time getting your family to support you, the best that you can do is to educate them about meditation. They might initially be against it, but once they see what medical researchers have to say about meditation, they are likely going to be interested in it. They may even want to try it.
Do not let the people close to you discourage you from meditating. If you persevere, you will soon see positive changes in your life. Your loved ones will see these changes, too. Once they see a happier and healthier you, they will have a hard time arguing against meditation and they may eventually have a change of heart.
If your family, especially your children, feels threatened by meditation because it takes some of your time and it is high in your list of daily priorities, let them know that you are meditating, not only for your own sake but for theirs as well. Explain to them that you need to be healthy and happy so you can better take care of them. You can invite them to try meditation. Again, if they see the positive changes that meditation brings to your life, they might be willing to try it.
If there are people in your life who are stubbornly against meditation, you will have to tell them to respect your decision to make meditation a part of your daily life. You also need to respect their beliefs and attitudes toward meditation. If they are against it, let them be and ask them to let you do as you please.
You may want to meditate on the sly, but this is not a good idea. The worry about getting caught will always stay at the back of your mind. Besides, you may be robbing your loved ones of the opportunity to learn more about meditation and what it can do for their lives if you just keep quiet about it.
Conclusion – How To Start Meditating
Guided meditation can improve almost every aspect of your life. Scientific research has shown that it can make you physically and mentally healthy. It can help you perform well in the workplace.
It can relieve stress and helps you deal with challenges that come with aging. Meditation also helps you see yourself as you really are and overcome your shortcomings and bad habits.
However, to make guided meditation work and to get most out of it, you must first understand what it is. You also need to carefully choose the guided meditation audio before you purchase one. Be sure to listen to a sample and find out if the music, the speaker’s voice, and the guided meditation script are all right for you.
Life is meant to be beautiful. Guided meditation gives you a whole new perspective on life. You are able to see things clearly and objectively without being blinded by your emotions. It also empowers you and helps you to be in charge of your thoughts and feelings so you can re-create your inner world.
Certainly, you want to have less stress, less pain, and more happiness and peace of mind. You may want your life to change for the better. However, keep in mind that all change must start from within. Guided meditation may be just what you need to make life better for yourself.