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How to Meditate: Guided Visualizations

“The majority of us will generally find it difficult to embrace and maintain the traditional type of meditation. This is why we love guided visualization meditations so much, because the narrator does most of the work for you. You simply lay or sit there wearing headphones, close your eyes and listen to the instructions. A good recording can be so effective that even the most stressed-out person can often achieve a deep state of relaxation.” ~Siân from The Honest Guys

Did you know that there are ways to meditate that don’t require you to sit still and clear your mind?

A guided visualization is a type of meditation that’s more similar to listening to a story than it is to a traditional mindfulness meditation. Guided visualizations are an easy way to learn how to meditate because our brains are already programmed for storytelling. It doesn’t feel weird to listen to a story in the same way that it feels weird to close your eyes and focus on your breath. During a guided visualization, you listen to a first person narrative and imagine yourself as the main character in the story.

We interviewed the creators of Lift’s Middle Earth Meditation guided visualizations, Siân, Kevin, and Rick of The Honest Guys, to find out why guided visualizations can be such a powerful meditation practice and what unique benefits they offer.

What’s unique about guided visualizations?

Siân: Guided visualizations are intensely focused. When I did it for the first time, it was almost as if I were wearing blinkers. I refused to see anything other than the outcome I wanted [which was the focus of the visualization exercise]. I was extremely driven. And the reason I know guided visualizations work is that everyone — and I mean everyone — told me what I wanted was impossible, that I should just forget about it. But I refused to listen to the voice within me that agreed with them. I shut it out and focused on the goal I wanted to achieve. From the time I began visualizing to the time that the scene I had visualized actually happened was 8 months.

The key word here is definitely building focus. During a guided visualization, you concentrate on what you desire, and you visualize how you want to realize that desire. The more strongly and passionately you can do that, the better the results will be. Athletes are known to use guided visualizations of them winning a race. It’s something we think some people do without realizing it, actually.

Do certain people benefit more so than others from guided visualizations?

As Westerners, our culture simply isn’t geared to the mentality of traditional forms of meditation, which direct you to sit still and clear your mind of thoughts. This is why a TV editor makes sure to change camera angles every few seconds, to help maintain Western viewers’ short attention spans.

We can’t promise that someone will benefit from guided visualizations, we can only say that they worked well for us. We believe the key to whether it works or not is whether the meditation sparks emotion and whether you believe what you ‘see’. If you enters a guided visualization with a negative mind-set, you’ll find it very difficult to imagine yourself (for instance) healthy, happy, and with the life you want.

How do you benefit from visualizing yourself in a situation that you’ll never experience in real life, such as visiting a make-believe land called Middle Earth?

People will always be fascinated by stories, and in a guided meditation set in Middle Earth, they are held in the hands of the narrator while being free to ‘see’ their individual inner visions. We help them find that insight by setting a scene, and adding audio, but in truth the meditators are the ‘film-makers’, not us. This, we think, gives them a real sense of participation and being immersed in another world. As human beings we enjoy this, perhaps because we have been creating, enjoying and inserting ourselves into stories for a very, very long time.

The imagination of the human mind is so powerful, as is our love of stories that goes back to ancient times. Even before the invention of writing, people told one anther tales. They lived in a world where they could not explain such things as storms, earthquakes, rainbows, the sun, or the moon — but they wanted to, so they explained them through through storytelling. They made things up to understand their world. That’s amazing; it shows how fertile the human mind is.

We chose to create guided visualizations in Middle Earth because we believed that by setting meditations there we could take people completely away from this world and their troubles. Siân is also a long-time Tolkien fan. Many people have seen the films. The sets and scenery are wonderful. We thought it would be easy and fun for fans to envision themselves in Middle Earth. Of course it is a niche audience, but those who use the meditations say they really enjoy them, and ask for more.

What advice do you have for someone practicing guided visualizations for the first time?

You can practice guided visualizations at any time, but all three of us tend to use listen to guided visualizations in the evening, This is mainly because, like many, that is when we have most free time. We work in the morning when we feel most creative and fresh. By the time the evening comes around, we are definitely ready to listen to a guided visualization. In contrast, our ‘Power’ meditations are aimed more toward uplifting people, and so they’re probably better to listen to in the morning for a boost.

We’ve found it’s quite effective to do them not long before sleep because they can be imprinted on the mind and we go to sleep thinking about them.

One last question: Can you tell us about your first meditation experience?

Siân: I had listened to my uncle’s experiences of meditation and read about it for many years, but I did not think it would work for me. I found it too hard to be still and many meditations guided me to still my mind or empty it. Any attempts I made to ‘still’ my mind met with failure. I’m a writer and have suffered from anxiety for years; it seemed futile. My mind will start telling stories automatically!

When Kevin and Rick bought their first guided meditations, I decided that I would try them. They told me that listenting to a guided mediation was like listening to a story. I am an avid bookworm who loves stories! But I loved rather reading than audio books, so to spend twenty minutes relaxing while listening to someone telling me a ‘story’ seemed alien. I was skeptical. However, I tried it could not believe how calming it was. I didn’t have to accomplish this seemingly impossible task of stilling my mind–I simply had to listen and imagine to a story.

Listen to Middle Earth Meditations by the Honest Guys team (Siân, Kevin, and Rick) on Lift. 

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