Mastering Guided Meditation

how to get better at guided meditation

Guided meditation is a great way to get started with meditation, as it takes away the mental legwork that can overwhelm beginners. In a guided meditation, an expert leads you through the process, helping you to relax and focus without worrying about your technique or form.

Guided meditation can be found in many forms, from podcasts to in-studio classes, and it's easy to access on-demand via apps, online music services, mindfulness websites and YouTube.

If you're new to guided meditation, it's a good idea to start with a short session—they can be as little as five minutes long—and build up from there. You'll also want to ensure you're in a quiet, comfortable space, free from distractions.

During the meditation, a guide will lead you through a series of breathing exercises or mantras, and perhaps some specific mental imagery. Your mind will likely wander, but that's natural, and you can simply acknowledge the thought and then return your focus to your breath.

Guided meditation is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the practice, and with regular sessions, you'll soon start to feel the benefits.

Characteristics Values
Time First thing in the morning or last thing in the evening are viable times to engage in a guided meditation.
Duration 5-30 minutes, with 10 minutes being great for beginners.
Posture Sit or lie down somewhere comfortable.
Eyes Closed.
Breathing Natural.
Focus Breath.
Noise Noisy distractions are expected.
Clothing Loose and comfortable.
Guidance Guided meditation is led by a teacher.
Goal To relax the body and mind.

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Focus on breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are an important aspect of meditation. Breath work and meditation are connected, as meditation requires breath work, but breathing techniques can also be practised on their own to cultivate mindfulness.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing may trigger relaxation responses in the body. This type of breathing can be performed sitting up or lying on your back.

  • Place your hands on your belly, just below the navel.
  • As you breathe in, let your belly soften and expand.
  • When you breathe out, let your belly sink towards your spine.

Box breathing

Box breathing involves breath retention. You inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and exhale through your mouth for a count of four.

Alternate-nostril breathing

This is a gentle exercise that involves breathing through one nostril at a time, while manually closing the other.

  • Sit comfortably and rest your right hand on your knee.
  • Use your left thumb to gently close your left nostril.
  • Inhale slowly through the right nostril.
  • Close the right nostril with your right ring finger and release the left nostril.
  • Exhale through the left nostril.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, then close it with your left thumb.
  • Release the right nostril and exhale.

Ujjayi pranayama

Ujjayi pranayama is another yoga breathing technique. It generates a "haaa" sound on the exhale.

  • Inhale through your nose.
  • As you exhale, contract your throat and make a gentle "haaaa" sound.

Buteyko breathing technique

This technique is a good option for those who experience asthma or panic attacks. It focuses on creating "air hunger" to normalise breathing.

  • Breathe exclusively through your nose.
  • Elongate your spine and sit upright.
  • After a calm exhale, hold your breath and gently plug your nose.
  • When you feel the need to breathe, gently release your nose and take a slow, easy breath in.

Basic mindful breathing

This is a simple method of focusing your attention on your breath.

  • Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
  • Close your eyes, if you prefer.
  • Observe each breath without trying to adjust it.
  • Notice where you feel your breath in your body.
  • When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

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Find a quiet space

Finding a quiet space is an important step in preparing for a guided meditation session. Here are some tips to create a peaceful and comfortable environment:

Choose a Quiet Location

Firstly, try to find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. This could be a quiet room in your home, a peaceful spot in nature, or even a dedicated meditation studio or class if you prefer guided meditation in a group setting. If you're at home, you might want to put a "do not disturb" sign on the door to avoid interruptions.

Set Up the Room

Make sure the room is comfortable and free from distractions. You can dim the lights or turn them off completely. If you're guiding a group meditation, ensure everyone has the necessary materials, such as cushions or mats to sit or lie down on. You can also provide eye covers to help participants focus inward.

Minimize Interruptions

Ask participants to turn off their phones or put them on airplane mode. If you're at home, you might also want to turn off notifications or put your devices on silent mode to avoid distractions.

Create a Relaxing Atmosphere

You can play gentle, ambient music in the background to fill any silent gaps and help set a calming mood. Nature sounds or instrumental music without lyrics are good choices. You can also use noise-cancelling headphones or white noise machines to block out any external noises that might be distracting.

Get Comfortable

Wear comfortable clothing and sit or lie down in a position that feels natural and relaxed for you. There is no one-size-fits-all meditation posture, but generally, it's good to have a straight back, relaxed neck and shoulders, and a slightly tucked chin. You can sit on a chair, couch, cushion, or propped up on pillows—whatever feels right for you.

Remember, the goal is to create an environment that feels safe, peaceful, and comfortable so you can fully focus on your guided meditation practice.

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Make time for it

Making time for guided meditation is crucial. It's easy to fall into the trap of doing it "later", but "later" often never comes. If you want to make guided meditation a regular part of your routine, set aside time to meditate.

The best time to meditate is whenever you can. Morning is often a good time, as it's typically the part of the day with the least distractions. By doing it first thing, you ensure that it actually happens. Plus, meditating in the morning can be a motivating and productive way to start the day. It can put you on track to be fully aware, awake, calm, and confident. Many people also find it grounding to have a morning ritual.

However, meditating in the morning may not work for everyone. If that's the case, don't worry—the best time to meditate is whenever you can prioritise it. You could try meditating during a break or after lunch. The key is to commit to a certain time of day and stick to it.

Making your practice part of your daily routine will help it become a habit. One way to do this is to always aim to meditate at the "same time, same place", when you know distractions will be minimal. Another strategy is to relate it to an existing daily routine, such as brushing your teeth. For example, "I will meditate for five minutes as soon as I've finished brushing my teeth."

Remember, not every day will be the same, so be prepared to be flexible and move your meditation if needed. If you do miss a session, don't beat yourself up. Just focus on getting back on track the next day.

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Prepare the room

Preparing the room is an important step in creating a comfortable and relaxed environment for guided meditation. Here are some detailed instructions to help you prepare the room:

Seating or Lying Down:

Decide whether your audience will be seated or lying down during the meditation. Either position is acceptable, but if possible, it is recommended to have them lie down. Ensure that you have the necessary materials, such as cushions, pillows, or mats, to accommodate their chosen position.

Visual and Audio Comfort:

Consider using eye covers or dimming the lights to help participants maintain their inward focus and minimise distractions. You can also play gentle meditation music in the background to fill the space between your instructions. Ensure that the music is ambient and featureless, without lyrics, to create a soothing atmosphere.

Device Connections:

If you are using audio or video recordings during the guided meditation, test the speakers or headphones beforehand to ensure they are functioning properly and are compatible with your device. This will help create a seamless and immersive experience for your participants.

Phone Interruptions:

Ask everyone to turn their phones off or switch them to airplane mode. This will prevent interruptions and ensure that your participants can fully focus on the meditation without distractions.

Door and Visitor Management:

Place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door to avoid unexpected visitors during the session. This will help create a sense of privacy and minimise interruptions.

Temperature and Comfort:

Ensure that the room temperature is comfortable for everyone. Ask your participants if they are physically comfortable and allow them to adjust their clothing, posture, or position to enhance their relaxation.

Script Preparation:

Before the session, prepare a script or outline of what you plan to say and do during the meditation. Rehearse your instructions and timing to build your confidence and ensure a smooth flow. This will help you guide your participants effectively and create a calming atmosphere.

By following these steps, you will create a peaceful and welcoming environment for your guided meditation session, allowing your participants to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

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Use guided imagery

Guided imagery is a powerful tool for relaxation and stress relief. It involves creating a vivid mental image of a calming scene, such as floating in the waters of a remote tropical island or sitting by a fire in a snow cabin. The key is to find an environment that you find relaxing. This technique can be easily practised by anyone and can help you manage stress and reduce tension in your body.

Get into a Relaxed Position

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. If lying down makes you sleepy, sit cross-legged or recline in a comfortable chair. Ensure your physical comfort so that it doesn't distract you.

Breathe from Your Belly

Use diaphragmatic deep breathing. Close your eyes and focus on "breathing in peace and breathing out stress". Let your belly expand and contract with each breath. If your shoulders are rising and falling, it means you are likely holding tension in your body.

Vividly Imagine Your Scene

Begin to envision yourself in the most relaxing environment you can imagine. You can also recall a happy memory or a scene from a book. The key is to create a vivid image that involves all your senses.

Immerse Yourself in Sensory Details

As you imagine your scene, engage all your senses. What does it look like? What scents are there? Can you hear the roar of a fire or the splash of a waterfall? Try to make your vision so real that you can almost taste it.

Stay in this imaginary scene for as long as you like. When you are ready to return to reality, slowly count back from ten or twenty. Tell yourself that by the time you reach 'one', you will feel serene and alert.

Tips for Practising Guided Imagery

  • Use ambient sounds that complement your imagery to enhance the experience and block out real-life sounds.
  • Set an alarm to help you relax and let go without worrying about losing track of time.
  • As you get more practised, you can go deeper and quicker into your imagery.
  • You can also communicate with your subconscious mind with the help of a self-recorded tape or a therapist.

Guided imagery is a convenient and simple technique that can help you manage stress effectively. With practice, it can become a powerful tool for accessing your inner wisdom and enhancing your overall well-being.

Frequently asked questions

Guiding meditation is facilitating the meditation experience for your audience. It is an interactive experience where your audience follows your guidance and meditates in response to your words. Teaching meditation involves demonstrating proper posture, breathing techniques and sometimes discussing the history, culture and religions associated with meditation and mindfulness.

The best time to meditate is whenever you can. It doesn't matter when or where you meditate, so choose whatever time works best. Many people find that first thing in the morning or last thing at night are viable times to engage in guided meditation as these tend to be the quietest times of the day.

People often spend between 5 and 30 minutes on meditation. Even shorter sessions can provide benefits. Start with a shorter session to get the hang of the process and slowly increase your time.

Begin with a topic and discussion to capture the focus and attention of your audience. A brief discussion around a quote or story helps to grab the attention of your audience and bridges the gap between their previous activity and the coming meditation experience.

It's natural for your mind to wander during meditation, even when you have a guide. When this happens, acknowledge the thought and then return your focus to your breath as soon as possible.

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