Last Updated: November 8th, 2018

It’s easy to lose touch with ourselves. Our busy routines often leave us no time to think, let alone meditate to relieve daily stressors. So how can you tend to your emotional well-being while keeping a steady pace? Guided meditation.

Guided meditation is a contemplative practice involving instruction or suggestion from an external source, which allows your attention to be redirected from trivial daily tasks to your physical, emotional and psychological being. Sensation-focused guided meditation suggests you bring awareness to certain parts of your body to recognize where tension from stress occurs, allowing you to actively relax those parts of your body. Guided meditation focused on sensations of the body can help with muscle and joint tension as well as more severe issues like chronic pain. Imagery-based guided meditation brings about emotional and psychological wellness by imagining scenes of nature where you feel most comfortable. Because you’re using your imagination actively, it’s easier to direct your awareness away from outside stressors.

The first time I experienced guided meditation was in a psychology class, led by a professor of counselling. First, we went through a sensation-focused guided meditation called a “Full Body Sweep.” We started by directing awareness to the tips of our toes. We then brought our awareness up through our bodies to the crown of our heads. Any tension that’s felt through this process can be actively eliminated by relaxing those parts. The meditation lasted for about ten minutes, but can be extended for longer. After our bodies were at ease, we began the imagery-based meditation. With our eyes closed, the professor began suggesting images to the class. This is an excerpt of what I experienced through imagery-based guided meditation.

“Imagine you are standing in the middle of a field in mid-Spring. The warm sun is beating down on your face and the breeze is fresh and cool. You begin walking toward the end of the field, where you find that the ground you stand on drops off into a cliff. You notice a large stone staircase to your left that descends down into a valley below. You begin carefully walking the stairs, paying attention to the sensation of your feet in your shoes coming into contact with the stone. About halfway down the staircase, you look out to the valley. It is the most brilliant shade of green you’ve ever seen, and its beauty nearly overwhelms you. Once you reach the open valley, you observe the setting. In the distance, you notice a small door hidden in the rock of the cliff. You stride over to the door, and it opens easily, leading you into a dark tunnel. After passing through part of the damp tunnel, you see a beam of light inviting you to the exit. This tunnel has led you to the most amazing room you have ever seen. It contains anything you may want and can fulfill all of your desires.”

The professor then led us back through all the settings until we returned to the field where we started. This is my favourite style of guided meditation because it’s a refreshing and relaxing experience that’s almost dreamlike. The instructions leave room for creativity, such as the room, while also keeping the journey structured. This meditation may take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on how intricate the imagery becomes.

Most commonly, guided meditation exists in a meditation class, where an instructor leads the class through various exercises. But for those with more chaotic lifestyles, another option is available. Guided meditation can be practiced using CDs or MP3s, which makes relaxation accessible at any time or place, so even with a busy schedule you can practice guided meditation to bring inner peace to your hectic life.

image: Doug Wheller (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)