As a meditation teacher, I get asked all the time by people learning to meditate whether it’s okay to be guided in meditation and if being guided is just as effective as unguided meditations. Just to clarify, I believe the common term “unguided” is misleading as guiding is always going on, it’s just whether it is coming from within or without. So I prefer to use the term “self-guided” as opposed to “unguided”.
The reason so many people ask the question in the first place is that new meditators, especially, find it really challenging to meditate without being externally guided.
Their minds are usually filled with all sorts of thoughts and doubts about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and that there are a whole lot of other things that they “should” be doing other than practicing meditation.
I teach people meditation techniques that are meant to be self-guided, meaning that no external equipment, voices, apps etc. are required to meditate. In the process of teaching the techniques, I do, however, guide people through the process so they know what to do, how to do it and what to expect. In this context, new meditators are being guided along until they are ready to remove the training wheels and guide themselves in meditation.
I think the use of guided meditations for the purposes of training, so that people can learn to guide themselves is a very valuable tool. I also believe, at some point, people need to experience self-guiding so that they can experience the full benefits of meditation. We, as a society, so often turn to external sources of distractions that prevent us from becoming intimate with our own source of wisdom and our own voice.
There’s no doubt that variety is the spice of life and that mixing it up keeps things fresh and stimulating.
That’s why I love to play with different meditation techniques and practices. The foundation of my meditation practice is self-guided, but I enjoy exploring opportunities for quality guided experiences. One of my favorite meditation apps is the Insight Timer. It is a free app that you can use to time your practices, meditate with your friends and listen to an unlimited selection of meditations. For people that like variety, it’s great.
Having experienced both guided and self-guided practices, I definitely feel a difference between the two. I feel calmer, more peaceful and like my stress level is lower following self-guided practices. I also realize that different people have different experiences.
Do you prefer guided or self-guided meditations?