Most people who have not learned how to meditate hear the word “meditation” and immediately conjure up the image of a serene person sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor with their eyes closed. This image is a stereotype and just one of hundreds of different techniques that can be employed for meditation.The reality is that anyone can meditate, anywhere, anytime, and in any position. However, in order to reach this point, it is extremely helpful to have a foundation of formal practice. This article is all about how to begin — or re-energize — your path of guided meditation.
When to Practice Guided Meditation?
Commit to sit any time of day when you can take a few moments to yourself. For many of us, choosing a morning meditation that is the first thing we do after waking up is ideal. If it doesn’t happen then, it may never happen for the rest of the day. But if you are absolutely not a morning person and waking up earlier to meditate would be a stressful struggle, it is totally okay to postpone your session to later in the day, perhaps before lunch, at sunset or before bedtime.
Practice Positions for Guided Meditation
Rule number one: stretch! Before commencing your meditation session, take a few moments to stretch your body with some basic yoga poses like downward dog, spinal flexion, spinal twists, standing forward bending and standing back bending, stretching the arms up and to each side, etc.
Then, just sit. Depending on your body type and hip and leg flexibility, you can sit directly on the ground, on a cushion or bolster, or on a chair. The key is to lengthen your spine and sit up tall, yet also to relax your body and not be tense or rigid. Release tension from the shoulders and forehead, jaw and eyes.
Another option is to stand up in mountain pose, with your feet planted on the ground, finding the balance from side to side and front to back. Again, finding the equilibrium between standing up as tall as possible and, at the same time, relaxing the muscles so that you can comfortably continue to stand for several minutes.
How Long to Practice Guided Meditation?
It is better to meditate for two minutes than not at all. It is better to meditate for five minutes than for two minutes. It is better to meditate for twenty minutes than for five minutes.
Yet, for a beginning student, carving out twenty minutes or more of your day may feel too daunting. If that is the case, start with five minutes. Set a timer if needed. Or download a meditation app to help guide you. With perseverance and discipline, you can eventually work up to meditating for half an hour in the morning and perhaps another half an hour at night.
More important than the exact length of your practice is the frequency. To really experience the wonderful benefits of meditation, practice daily. In order to develop and sustain the habit, you should sit in the same place and around the same time each day.
What to Focus On During Guided Meditation
Once you are in position, be still and quiet. Allow your body, mind and heart to fully arrive in the spot in which you are sitting or standing.
Breath awareness is the foundation of all meditation techniques. Come back to the breath, over and over again. Feel the sensation of the inhale entering your body and the exhale leaving it. Concentrate on the whole cycle of one deep breath in and the subsequent breath out. And another, and another, and another.
Observe any physical sensations present in the body at this time. Notice the sensation of the air and clothing touching your skin. Notice where your body or feet are touching the earth.
Listen to the sounds nearby and further away. Hear the soft sound of your own breathing. It can be helpful to play soft, instrumental music to set a calming tone for your meditation. Some people like to burn incense or candles. Use whatever props you want to help support your sense of ease and focus.
Bring your awareness now to the heart. Notice the emotions and feelings present at this time. With compassion, without judgement, just see what is there and allow it to be. Sooner than later, it will pass away and a new feeling will take its place.
Next, notice how the mind wanders, and where. All the time it is moving, all over the place. Everywhere and nowhere. The mind can be compared to a silly monkey, a bumbling puppy, a mirror or ocean waves. The mind tends to want to think of “back then” or “what if….”
It is natural for the mind to drift to thinking of the past and future. Any time but the present. Memories, plans, aspirations, regrets, expectations. Whatever thoughts arise, drop judgments about them. Let them pass by like clouds in the sky.
Cultivate gratitude for the simple fact that you are alive today, now. Whatever comes up, your task is to remain as present as possible and notice your mind without getting involved in any particular train of thought. Of course, you will get involved in trains of thought and that is totally okay and natural. As soon as you notice that you’ve gotten lost in the past or future of the mind’s stories, come back to the present, back to the breath.
Wrapping up your session of Guided Meditation
Let go of your focus on the sounds, heart and mental activities. Take several long, deep breaths and return to the physical sensations in the body and the feeling of yourself touching the ground. As you move through your life and day-to-day interactions and relationships, when anger, fear, envy, hatred or any type of inner insanity arises, come back to the breath. When joy, excitement or overwhelm arises, come back to the breath.
Dedicate your efforts and the benefits of your practice to all beings, including yourself. Press the palms together, feel your connection to the earth, the sky and your heart. Bow forward with gratitude.
Moving slowly, rise up and go on with your day. Carry the benefits with you—the tranquility, kindness and mindfulness. Namaste.