Guided Meditation or Not – An Article by Benjamin Dean
There is a wide range of us out there meditating, from beginners to those who have been meditating for years. Meditation is essentially about getting in touch with one’s inner, deeper and most natural self. Which approach to meditation is most likely to help us along this path?
Is it guided meditation or not? Let me clarify what I mean when I refer to the most natural self. The most natural self would have a conscious awareness that is free. Free from an accumulation of facts, mental frameworks and what we so often call “knowledge” that has a tendency to bog awareness down. To drop all this would allow us to recover our original sense of wonder.
I believe that wonder is the whole point. The level of life appreciation and gratitude that comes with wonder is unsurpassed. After all, we cannot approach each moment anew unless we clear the mind of all assumption and presumption. The folks who have been meditating for years might just have well started meditating today.
Guided Meditation or Not
The difference between guided meditation or not (i.e. unguided meditation) is pretty obvious. In the case of guided meditation one allows oneself to be guided by an outside source via media (a recorded voice). In the case of unguided meditation there is no real directive. One simply meditates freely. We should also consider music a form of guidance. Music is powerful and can draw us in to its mood. Though there is practically no agenda, there is still a regulated scope, range and directive.
Music is wonderful. Guided meditation may well be good for starters as it has a shape that can be followed. There is a strong sense of accomplishment with guided meditation as there is an obvious path and end-point. There is no confusion about the goal. We complete the meditation and feel the results. The unknown plays very little part in guided meditation. The benefits are clear. We feel relaxed and more deeply grounded. It is rejuvenating and restores health. Still, what if we want more? What if we feel there is much more to recover?
Guided Meditation or Not – Mother Nature
I use the term “unguided” meditation to distinguish it from “guided” meditation. However, in truth, unguided meditation has its own form of guidance. Unguided meditation is not as easily done, for one. We have to strip away all motive in order to engage fully in unguided meditation. It is guided, but not by ourselves. Unguided meditation is guided by the unknown and its expression as organic and raw nature. There is a special purity to it.
Human beings will never manage to artificially emulate nature. It is impossible. Nature is far too complex and integrated. The wisdom of nature cannot be duplicated. It is itself only. Our bodies are a beautiful example of its incredible wisdom in biological expression. Our very lives as individual creatures is due to Mother Nature. Meditating freely allows nature to do its best work. This is true regardless of whether it is healing or simply moving us along our path.
Guided Meditation or Not – Watching
In unguided meditation we simply sit. I say sit but we just as readily walk (or do anything for that matter). The point is that there is no point. There is plenty of paradox present in unguided meditation. It is not a simple task to let go of motive. After all we are sitting (or doing whatever) in meditation for the purpose of meditating. The whole thing begins with purpose, so how are we to let go of motive? The unknown will take the place of motive if we accept it.
Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for. It is much easier to fall asleep while doing unguided meditation. There is no shame in this but know that it is not the same as meditation. Zoning out and losing track of yourself is the same— not a big deal but not to be confused with meditation. Meditation is about remaining alert and aware.
Guided Meditation or Not – Staying Alert
Guided meditation can be likened to watching television. The distraction is likely to be far more positive that television programming but it is still a program and one loses contact with self. When I use the term “self” here I speak of a self that is far deeper than the ego. I speak of pure awareness. The term “self” can be confusing for it is readily used to refer to both the individual and the deeper self.
To continue with unguided meditation sit still and do nothing. In zen practice this is called Zazen which is just sitting. The mind will engage and you will start thinking. One of your first series of thoughts will likely be about how ridiculous it is to be sitting still doing nothing. As you let go of these doubts and commit once again to meditating the thoughts will change. Try to acknowledge the thoughts. Allow yourself to be aware of the thoughts.
Guided Meditation or Not – Paradox
This is an important step as it differentiates you from your thoughts. There is the thinker and the thought. Focus on the thinker. Stripped of thought this thinker is your deeper self— pure awareness. As you might have suspected it is this stripping oneself of thoughts that is the most formidable obstacle. This is the goal and yet it can only be achieved by not trying to achieve it. Phew!
Spend a few focused thoughts choosing to think about not doing anything. Entertain the absurdity of letting go of motive. See clearly that trying to let go of motive is a motive itself. Just spend some time looking at all this. As you may have guessed we have not yet got to the unguided part of the unguided meditation. We must persevere— without persevering of course.
Guided Meditation or Not – Beyond Thought
As you sit still looking deeply at the problem and the absurdity of it all— a feeling of clarity will emerge. What occurs is a synthesis of the two opposites. Motive and lack of motive come together as one. They are both the same problem— thought. This will get you in touch with feelings. Motive and will have a feeling associated with them— a tension.
Guided meditation can certainly relax you but without you fully knowing about it. In the case of unguided meditation you are absolutely aware and alert AND relaxed all at the same time. We are inching our way towards bliss here. There is tremendous joy in this awareness. There is a great wonder and simplicity present in this. It feels incredible and that is why they call it bliss.
Guided Meditation or Not – Joy
Just a glimpse of this is all you need. Stick with it until you get this first real tangible glimpse of bliss. The thoughts are relentless until you look closely at them and differentiate yourself from them. The boredom can be unbearable until you look at it squarely in the face and realize it is fear— not boredom. Your ego is arguing its value and pointing out how much you need it. Don’t listen to it.
If you are patient it will become more about feelings and sensations than thoughts. When this happens you are making real progress. Your time meditating is spent working out old emotional aches and pains that have no name— though they will often be accompanied by images of the past. This is good. Keep working. You will feel lighter and more alive every time you meditate and let go of more ghosts.
These are ghosts of thought and ghosts of identity and ego. Keep moving through them. This all happens naturally. You are in unguided meditation territory now. Nature is healing you. Your very own nature is expelling toxins and grief. Nature is restoring joy and wonder where it belongs. You are a vibrant and alive being that can see possibility in everything. Life equals joy. They are the same thing.