What is Meant by Guided Meditation, and More Q&A
The following questions were asked by a reporter for an article that she is writing regarding meditation and creating an at-home retreat. I really enjoyed corresponding with her and I thought that the Q&A would be helpful to anyone interested in guided meditation and visualization. I hope you enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
1) What is meant by guided meditation? The practice of meditation requires a place to focus one’s attention. The breath, a candle, a mantra or even looking at a blank wall is what is often used as the focus for one’s attention. In guided meditation, the instructors voice and use of guided imagery act as the focal point for the student. The sound of the instructor’s voice, the instruction given, and the guided imagery act to bring the student’s attention away from stressful thoughts and feelings, and into a very pleasant stress-free state.
2) How does meditation work to minimize stress? Stress arises from our erroneous perceptions about reality and from focusing continuously on the past and/or future. For example, each day that you leave for work you encounter traffic on the 405 freeway. As you drive towards the freeway you may begin to feel a sense of anxiety or dread because you are anticipating (future) the traffic. As you sit on the freeway, you begin thinking to yourself, “This is ridiculous. Why are there so many people in California? This shouldn’t be happing to me. I better not be late,” and so on. You may think that it is the traffic that is creating stress, when in reality it is your thoughts about the traffic that is creating your stress. Of course the argument can be made that if there wasn’t any traffic, you wouldn’t be feeling stressed. But the truth is, is that there is traffic in the moment that you are on the freeway. Meditation teaches us not only to be present to whatever is happening “now,” it also helps us to clear the lens of our perception so that we can see reality accurately. We become the watcher of our thoughts which empowers us with choice…either we can continue to complain about the traffic until we feel so badly that we make ourselves sick, or we can choose to just see reality as it is, “I am sitting in the car, there are other cars around me, my hands are on the wheel, my breath is deep, the sky is blue.” When you place your attention on what is actually happening now, the incessant chatter in the mind about what should or shouldn’t be happening stops and you begin to feel better. Without the practice of meditation, it would be difficult to have the presence of mind to watch your thoughts in this way.
All humans have what’s called in the east “monkey brain,” meaning our minds jump around continuously like a monkey. I have found that for the beginning student guided meditation is a wonderful tool that trains our ability to stabilize our minds. It also gets fast results. For the continuing student, guided meditation is fun and is a wonderful tool for self-healing. It’s important to note that when the mind begins to worry, for example, about the past or future the body does not know that the event isn’t happening now. That is, as you are anticipating and thinking about the potential traffic on the freeway, your body begins to react as if you are on the freeway now. Your heart begins to beat faster, your stomach begins to churn, your adrenal glands begin to release adrenaline, your thyroid begins to react etc… In the case of guided meditation, we use this principle to train the mind to create a sense of ease in the body. For example, if I am imagining that I am on the beach with my feet in the water and the sky is blue, my body does not know that I am not at the beach. In other words, my body will react to whatever stimulus my mind feeds it. Amazing!
3) What other benefits does meditation have? (ie, health, weight loss, etc.) How so? Deep breathing can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and help you to lose weight by oxygenating the blood and regulating the metabolism. It can help to improve brain function because deep breathing also oxygenates the brain. Deep breathing through the nose can also reduce the frequency of colds and flu because the air is warmed and filtered through the cilia in the nose, (Mother Daughter Wisdom, by Christine Northrup M.D.) There is evidence that a consistent meditation and mindfulness practice can re-wire the brain. For more information see: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02791/self-healing Also a consistent practice is wonderful for a better night’s sleep, again because you are learning to reduce the brain chatter (which is what keeps most American’s up at night). For more information please read my article “How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep,” at http://www.myspiritualsolutions.com/blog/ Also, guided meditation and visualization can help the body to feel very relaxed, so relaxed that it will stimulate the body’s natural healing response.
4) How does meditation make people who practice it happier? Simply, a positive outlook on life and a relaxed body and mind are two key ingredients for a happy healthy life. Meditation and Mindfulness practice helps to create both conditions.
5) How can someone who lacks mediation experience try out a meditation practice during a one-week at-home retreat? I always encourage my students to create a sacred space at home. A sacred space is a small area made especially for their practice or study/reading. In this space there may be a special cushion or chair, a shawl or blanket to wrap themselves in and maybe a table where they place a candle and maybe some incense. If they haven’t meditated before they can purchase a guided meditation CD (I have one for sale at the gift shop on the first floor of the BCHD building) to guide them into a space of calm and relaxation.
Would you please walk me through a simple meditation how-to? Meditation can be frustrating without the guidance of an instructor, so I like to give my students a very simple exercise when they are just beginning: Before beginning a formal meditation practice, try this: Turn on some pleasant music, dim the lights and lie on the floor and place your hands on your stomach.Inhale slowly through the nose allowing the belly to rise on the inhale and hold the breath briefly.Next, exhale slowly through the nose, and hold the exhale briefly-that’s one round.Do 5 to 10 rounds, focusing your attention on the feeling of the breath and the rise and fall of your hands on your stomach.
I hope you find this information useful.