Practitioners of guided meditation believe it helps them develop a deeper sense of awareness, heightened concentration, and a host of individualized benefits.
What is Meditation?
The easiest way to understand meditation is to think of how you are when sitting quietly in contemplation, repose, or restfulness. It's that perfect moment when you don't have 20 different thoughts racing through your head at one time: no to-do lists, no replays of conversations, no jumps to the next minute of your day. It's that rare moment when you look at a leaf on a tree and see only the leaf, and nothing else. You are in the present.
Now imagine 10-to-20 minutes of that one perfect moment.
That's the basis of meditation, and guided meditation expands on that foundation to help individuals magnify their capabilities.
Persons of nearly every culture and faith use some form of meditation. Just as yoga is not a religion, meditation is not a religion, although many faiths incorporate this moment of perfect stillness and awareness to help people explore the depths of their beliefs. Still others use guided meditation to bring the active mind to a standstill, so that it may broaden their overall consciousness.
How Guided Meditation Works
Instead of sitting quietly for a few minutes on their own, perhaps chanting om as a centering point, many opt to use guided meditation techniques.
Guided meditation is reported to:
- Accelerate healing
- Relieve stress
- Encourage positive thought
- Reduce certain behaviors
- Promote better sleep
- Prompt relaxation
- Increase concentration
- Focus on inner peace and faith
- Expand the basal consciousness
The physical aspects of meditation involve sitting in a warm, quiet, and softly lit room. An intense and deliberate focus on breath is of utmost importance, for breathing is the gateway to softening the body and opening the mind. Practitioners use audio and sometimes visual media with direction, or come up with a particular mantra or directive on their own. Many of these personal directives may have to deal with working through a healing process, or include daily affirmations of positive thought and action, or are said aloud just to aid the mind, body, and spirit to align in a calm state.
Guided meditation, while often shared at the end of a yoga class or a special meditation instruction, is still a very personal, very inner movement. There really isn't a wrong way to practice it.
Studies on Guided Meditation
There have been many studies done on the benefits of guided meditation. Physicians have noticed significant changes in the nervous system, for example, or increased productivity of the immune system in patients with AIDS or cancer that practice guided meditation. Persons with alcohol and drug addictions reportedly recover much more quickly and develop the strength to resist their urges with the help of guided meditation.
It stands to reason that finding a way to step out of the chaos of daily life and restore the body and mind would contribute greatly to health.
This article is just a drop in the vast waters of meditation. The following resources should be a better lighthouse to guide your meditative travels.
Dr. Andrew Weil, noted physician and a leader in integrative medicine, has released many books and CDs encouraging people to consider meditation to aid their overall wellness.
Meditation for Optimum Health is a collaboration between Weil and Jon Kabat-Zinn, a respected medical professor, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, and longtime meditation practitioner. The two-disc CD is full of medical research reinforcing the advantages of guided meditation.
Weil has also released the CD Self-Healing with Guided Imagery: How to Use the Power of Your Mind to Heal Your Body.
Kabat-Zinn has also released Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindful Meditation in Everyday Life.
Beginners may enjoy listening to Jack Kornfield's Meditation for Beginners: Six Guided Meditations for Insight, Inner Clarity, and Cultivating a Compassionate Heart.
Meditations for Everyday Mindfulness is a guided meditation CD from power yoga founder Beryl Bender Birch. She currently runs The Hard and The Soft Yoga Institute.