Meditation is the practice of being present and mindful for a limited period of time and is linked to numerous benefits for physical and mental health. Meditation reduces stress, improves sleep, increases focus, raises mood and can even improve relationships. Through the calmness encouraged by meditation, people can discover clarity, contentment and compassion. Research on meditation is ongoing, but the benefits of meditation are well-established.
Guided meditation is a type of meditation led by a teacher, which can be in person or via audio or video. When starting out, an expert guide can help make the difference between developing a habit that will stick and discarding a practice which has proven benefits.
In traditional meditation, students are taught the approach, the practice, and the integration of meditation. First, they are taught how to view their mind and how best to approach the different exercises they will be doing. Next, they are taught those exercises and trained in becoming more proficient at them. Finally, they learn how to bring the peace developed during meditation into everyday life.
A guided meditation is similar. In guided meditation, a narrator or a teacher explains how the mind is likely to behave during meditation. They may also explain meditation techniques. Then the teacher may explain how these techniques can be brought into daily life.
Unguided meditation, or silent meditation, allows the student to choose for themselves the variables of their meditative practice: duration, space, and degree of silence. Typically, unguided meditation is done without any external tools. Basic tips include finding a quiet space, a comfortable place to sit, and a posture that is suitable for your body before beginning to breathe deeply.
Choosing between guided and unguided meditation is a subjective choice. There is no research that says guided over unguided meditation is necessarily the way to go, or vice-versa. Some students of meditation begin with guided meditation and then swap over to unguided as their skills and understanding progress, while others switch easily between guided and unguided meditation based on their preference that day.
Guided meditation can be experienced through digital apps such as Headspace or through local meditation groups led by an experienced practitioner. Guided meditation can provide encouragement, support, and a sense of companionship on what can otherwise be a solitary exercise.