Meditation is becoming more popular as its benefits become more widely known. Yoga, martial arts, and other body mastery techniques are working their way into the mainstream, so it’s not surprising that meditation has as well.
Yet, there are still several powerful meditation styles that haven’t yet gained as much traction, guided meditation being one of them.
If you have never heard of the term before, guided meditation is simply the art of meditating while making use of some kind of outside guide.
While traditional meditation usually encourages you to shut out all noise and distraction outside of yourself, this style takes a different approach by using such tools as music, candle light, and even other people’s voices, to help you achieve a deeper meditation and even go on inner journeys.
The reason why this kind of meditation can be effective, is because the mind can be very fickle. At times, it may be difficult to reach that “next level” of concentration and depth alone, and so outside help can be used to quiet the mind further, or “guide” it gently in a certain direction, to achieve a particular result. Music, such as rhythmic drumming, has been used since ancient times in meditation practices to shut off the waking mind or “talk” to our subconscious.
Sound isn’t the only way to achieve deep mental states.
Oftentimes meditating on a single candle flame can have powerful subconscious effects. You can “get lost in” the light of the candle, which has the effect of tuning out your waking mind. Scent is also sometimes used in meditative practice, which is better known as aromatherapy.
You should have a basic understanding of how to meditate before taking on any of these advanced techniques. I didn’t engage in any guided meditations until after having performed basic breath-work meditations for over 6 months, to give you an idea of where you should be.
Using Music for Deep Meditation
Traditionally, music has been used for thousands of years to change states of consciousness. It’s been used for everything from sporting events, to weddings, to war. Ancient rites of death and life were both accompanied by music in different cultures. And of course, it’s been used in meditative and reflective spiritual practices since the dawn of recorded history.
This is because sound itself is powerful. The different scales in music correspond to the seven bands of light that create the electromagnetic spectrum, which also correspond to the energy centers in our body, what are often referred to as chakras in yoga. This is because both light and sound are quantifiable as vibration. Though not exactly the same from an atomic point of view, they can be expressed in the same wavelengths and both affect the body in similar ways. The ancients knew of the intimate connection between light and sound, and used this knowledge in their practices.
So what music works best? There’s two avenues to explore in this.
Some experts on meditation can get extremely deep with the subject, utilizing music and sound effects on specific octaves in order to put the mind and body in particular states relating to energy blockages and subconscious hangups, etc. This can get extremely technical, but it is quite effective. One powerful wavelength that people report amazing results from would be the 182 hz meditation. Deep progressive or layered sound at certain wavelengths can quite literally remove blockages in your energy body, resulting in emotional meditation sessions.
If you are curious about meditating with music, I’d advise to start off using meditation with as little spoken word as possible. If you do go for tracks with spoken words, aim for chanting or mantras, tribal music or trance (with repeated lyrics). You don’t want music that will take your focus away from the sound. Music with deep or fun lyrics have their place, but right now you want to be thinking about quieting the mind, not giving it something to latch onto.
As you get more proficient, you can expand your meditation playlist with more energetic vocal tracks. You will want to aim for empowering, uplifting, purpose-driven music that speaks to your subconscious. You can choose to listen to powerful, upbeat music while performing transcendental meditation, but it doesn’t work as well for the guided variant.
Guided Direction Audio Tracks
This takes the advice of not using “spoken word” that I gave in the last section and turns it on its head. One of the oldest forms of true “guided meditation” uses the voice of a guide to give you cues as to when to perform certain actions, and also acts as a focal point for your awareness.
Often accompanied by subtle tools like a triangle or a drum, these guides take control of the meditation experience, allowing you to better relax and not worry so much about what to do, what to think, and if you’re meditating “correctly” or not.
Some people find guided meditation in this fashion extremely liberating, because the pressure is off them. The mind is allowed to relax and “be led” by another, into tranquility. Oftentimes, a guide can induce a deeper mental state in someone better than they can do it themselves, because of all the subconscious limitations we pose on ourselves. The guide can even tell the mind directly to “let go” of its limitations during a meditation session, which can be extremely powerful to hear if you are already in a meditative state.
Another benefit of this style of guided meditation is expertise. A great guide can inform you exactly when to alter your breathing pattern and when to think of certain things. They can make sounds with musical instruments to direct the mind’s attention, or hum a mantra correctly so it’s easier to follow along. In this way can a single guide induce deep meditation and trance-like states in a whole room full of people.
This, too, can be a liberating experience. Knowing you are on even footing with other like-minded people trying to raise their awareness with the help of a guide can sometimes be just the thing that sets your subconscious at ease and allows your mind to still.
Light in the Darkness: Candles as Meditation Tools
Candlelight and flames in general have been used for meditative purposes pretty much since the dawn of recorded history. Trance-like tribal dances and rituals took place around open bonfires, traditions which have been adapted over hundreds of years and are still around today.
The key to deep meditation is often the need for some kind of focal point, something to train the mind on in order to get the rest of it to quiet. This stillness opens up deeper mental states and a great inner peace and insight. Candle flames have proven to be a great method for achieving that stillness.
There is something powerful, indeed hypnotic, about a dancing candle flame in the dark. It is like sugar for the subconscious mind, it just eats it up. I like to refer to candle meditation as a mindfulness hack, because it is just so easy to achieve deep meditation when using a candle. There’s a reason why there are reams of books and articles published about this one singular topic. Candle meditation is an art unto itself.
The important part about this practice is that it is quite simple to perform. All you need is darkness and a candle of your choosing. To better focus the mind it is oftentimes recommended to use the simplest candle you have on hand: no crazy fragrances, no bright colors. Just am unscented white candle will do the trick.
Once you are able to sit comfortably and light the candle, you can simply stare into its depths. You may let your mind wander, but keep your conscious focus at all times on the center of the flame, while breathing deeply and evenly. Let the flickering and dancing of the flame be your guide, nothing else. There are all kinds of elaborate techniques and rituals you can do in candle meditation, but sometimes the simple can be just as effective.
In some meditative rituals, you are encouraged to associate yourself with the flame as well. This can be an extremely powerful practice, as it teaches you how to disassociate yourself from your ego, thereby allowing you to “feel” outside of yourself. Candle meditation can also be a way of releasing emotion. There is something primal about fire that lets us get in touch with the innermost parts of ourselves, and after a while of meditating in this state of mind, your body may want to purge pent up emotional blockages.
Reflective Surfaces For Introspection
Another time-honored tool of guided meditation can be found in reflective surfaces, specifically mirrors and pools of water. These techniques are somewhat more advanced than the previously mentioned points, but are excellent ways of tapping into your subconscious and training the mind.
Mirrors, for instance, can be used train the focus of the mind and transfix it. Reflections fascinate the subconscious, it’s why everyone can’t help but notice when they pass a reflective surface. Observing the Self, especially in the eyes, can be like looking into the soul. You might find it uncomfortable at first but keep in mind, that’s what you want. One of the primary goals of meditation is to reclaim yourself from the prison of your ego. Embarrassment and discomfort in this form directly result from the ego, and should be broken down.
You may also use a mirror to “stare past” yourself. Letting your eyes unfocus sort of sends the message to your subconscious that you are viewing something deeper than your physical body. It’s easy to induce a deep, calm state of mind in this manner.
Note that mirrors and candles can be a powerful meditation when combined into a single practice. A small space full of mirrors and candles (or several candles and one mirror), can create a stimulating aura for your mind to get lost in, creating the perfect opportunity to process your thoughts and emotions.
Another technique is to use water as a reflective surface. For this you need something to hold the water that preferably has a black bottom, like a cast iron pan of some kind. In some traditions, clam shells and hollowed gourds are used. Whatever your item of choice may be, fill it with water and place it at eye height right in front of you.
Water meditation is like candle meditation in that there is something primal, almost ethereal about how it makes us feel. When you stare into the blackness, you may notice the subtle movement of the water, how everything appears solid yet isn’t at the same time.
What you see has fluidity and only mimics the physical. This is not unlike how the subconscious views the physical world, or more correctly, how the physical world is filtered through our subconscious.
Let yourself “fall into” the pool of water. This form of guided meditation has been used in traditional cultures for centuries as a means of communing with the Self. Not only does staring into the water have an extremely calming affect on the conscious mind, this technique has the added bonus of allowing us to explore the deeper parts of our own minds.
Oftentimes, the mind will “reflect” what it is thinking or feeling onto the water, so you begin to see thoughts before you rather than in your head. It is a powerful experience and aids in self-discovery and mental control. Coupled with breathwork, a good water meditation can open the mind and induce a state of ethereal tranquility.
Achieving Deep Mindfulness
One of the main benefits of guided meditation is deep mindfulness, something rarely achieved through ordinary meditation. Many find it easier to allow someone or something to “lead” their subconscious, rather than having to do it themselves. This is one of the reasons why group meditation took off as a movement, it really works.
You’ll also find that once you make progress with guided meditation, you will be able to achieve deeper states of consciousness with ordinary meditation. This is simply because you are no longer afraid to let go and understand how it feels to do so. This is another reason gurus and teachers are traditionally used in meditation, because they are of great usefulness to anyone just starting out.
What is deep mindfulness? The best way I can describe it is a state of high spatial awareness and pervasive peace. A full contentment that doesn’t dull the senses, but heightens them. It is sometimes referred to as true empathy, the ability to wholly and completely associate yourself with others and your surroundings, while maintaining mentally and emotionally detached and in control.
This empathy and awareness is what some refer to when they say things like feeling a person’s “energy” or “aura,” or being able to predict outcomes or anticipate movements. It is a an animalistic connection with everything around you, and it becomes clearer the deeper you progress.
Deep mindfulness is a skill many practitioners of yoga, martial arts, and other arts know well: that undisturbed stillness of the mind, complete control, connection with others while at the same time fully grounded in your own Self. Meditation prepares the mind for this “advanced sensing” in the way physical training prepares the body for advanced physical activity. Guided meditation makes it all the more easier by tapping right into the subconscious, whether you’re using a flame or the words of another.
Always remember, there is no one right way to meditate. All of these techniques are valid and can help you achieve deeper mental states and open you up to heightened awareness. Experiment and find out which way works best for you and practice it with dedication. You will in short time see results.