Guided meditation is a mental exercise with a more tangible goal than many of the more Eastern meditation disciplines. One meditates to achieve or attain something - relief from stress, or healing from an emotional wound, for example.
While zen and mindfulness meditation can be a solitary pursuit, guided meditation is characterized by needing a guide. Many yoga studios, new age stores and other alternative lifestyle purveyors may offer guided meditation one night a week. Or you might find someone to partner with you, and the two of you take turns being the 'guide'. The guide of the meditation is not taking part in the meditation, although some people find guiding a group through a healing meditation is as uplifting as meditating itself.
Most people come to guided meditation through tapes and CDs, and they are a good, as well as inexpensive, introduction to the art. The recording will feature soft music and/or nature sounds, and a gentle voice will instruct you in sitting, getting comfortable, and then beginning the thought process that is a guided meditation.
The guide may suggest you imagine you are walking by a river, beside a sunny meadow. Step by step, the narrative will have you focus on the goal - by tensing and relaxing various muscle groups in the case of a stress-relieving meditation, for example. Or perhaps walking under a variety of different waterfalls and feeling your troubles wash away, as a healing exercise.
If you are interested in trying guided meditation, do a web-search to locate titles of CDs with goals appropriate to you. Your local library may have CDs to loan out, or your local used bookstore. Don't be discouraged if you don't like the first CD you try; you may find the music or the narrator's voice annoying, or the guided imagery too boring or not relevant to your life. If so, let that one go - you may have to try several CDs before you find the one that resonates with your own needs.
- Once you have found one or more CDs that appeal to you, set aside a time where you can be assured you will not be interrupted. If you have small children, this may have to be after they are asleep.
- Turn off the phone if necessary, and dim any lights. Some people prefer to meditate by candlelight, and it does provide a conducive ambiance. It isn't necessary to sit cross-legged in lotus position on the floor, but if you can do so comfortably, by all means do.
- Wear loose clothing, and sit in a comfortable position, whether on a chair or the floor. Lying down isn't recommended - it's too easy to fall asleep.
- Start the recording after you have gotten yourself situated, and let the guide take you away.
- Allow a few minutes after the end of the meditation to gently return to yourself and your surroundings - jumping up to deal with the dirty dishes right after you have achieved a stress-free state kind of ruins the whole exercise.
- Try to meditate two-three times a week for maximum results.