How to lead a guided meditation
Knowing how to lead a guided meditation is becoming a necessary skill set for coaches, therapists, teachers, thought leaders & others in the personal development industry. Though a growing number of people are seeking training to learn how to guide someone through a meditation, unfortunately, information on this subject is rarely clear or concise.
So, before we cover the specifics, let’s clear up some common misconceptions about what guided meditation is…
The Difference Between Guiding Meditations & Teaching Meditation
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that guided meditation differs from teaching meditation.
Teaching meditation involves teaching people how to meditate. This often involves demonstrating proper posture, breathing techniques and sometimes discussing the history, culture & religions people typically associate with meditation & mindfulness.
Guiding a meditation is quite different. Rather than being a meditation teacher, someone who leads a guided meditation is more rightly named a meditation facilitator.
This is because you are facilitating the meditation experience for your audience. Guided meditation is an interactive experience where your audience follows your guidance, either in person or via audio/video, and meditates in response to your words.
The role of a meditation facilitator is to lead their participants through an inner experience to a specific objective. That objective could be as simple as relaxing their body & mind or as complex as a journey that includes guided imagery & thought-provoking questions throughout the meditation experience.
How to Guide Someone Through a Meditation in 7-Steps
To truly master the ability to facilitate a great meditation experience, you will need formal training. That being said, these 7-steps should give you an idea of how to lead a true guided meditation with a specific goal or outcome in mind.
Targeted guided meditations are far more insight provoking & adaptable to any application than simple mindfulness meditations. So, for the rest of this article, we will discuss this more interesting & effective approach to meditation facilitation.
STEP 1: Begin with a Topic & Discussion
Beginning a guided meditation with a brief discussion is important for two key reasons:
- Capturing the focus & attention of your audience
- Setting the participants up for an insightful experience
People live highly stimulated & distracted lives today. A brief discussion around a quote or story helps to grab the attention of those you are about to facilitate a guided meditation for and bridges the gap between their previous activity & the coming meditation experience.
Additionally, introducing a quote, discussing it & asking the audience questions around it, shifts their brain into the introspective gear they need to produce insights during your guided meditation.
STEP 2: Get Everyone Comfortable & Prepare the Room
Having a comfortable audience is essential while leading a guided meditation. It’s the meditation facilitator’s job to ensure each participant is properly set up and the space is protected from unexpected interruptions.
Here are some examples of things you’ll want to consider while preparing your participants & the room for a guided meditation:
- Will they be seated or lying down? (Either is ok, but try having them lie down if possible)
- Consider bringing eye covers to help people maintain their inward focus
- Play gentle meditation music if possible to fill the space between your words
- Make sure everyone’s phones are off or on airplane mode to avoid interruptions
- Lock or place a sign on the door to avoid any unexpected visitors during your meditation
Once you’ve decided on all these things and set the room up accordingly, have everyone take their seats or lie down, turn the lights down or off, and move on to the next step.
STEP 3: Start the Meditation with a Progressive Relaxation
Once everyone is comfortable, your music is playing and you are in a comfortable position to begin, you are ready to start the meditation.
The beginning is important because this is where your participants will shift into a meditative state.
In order to achieve this goal, you’ll want to make sure you do these 3 things:
#1: Lead them through several cycles of slow, focused breathing
Your guidance is very important here for setting the correct pace of breathing that will result in the meditative state your audience desires. In the beginning, it’s up to you to guide them on the correct rhythm of inhalation & exhalation. A good rule to avoid rushing through this critical aspect is to count SILENTLY to yourself: 4 seconds on the inhalation, 2 seconds at the top of the breath, 4 seconds on the exhalation, and 2 seconds at the bottom of the breath.
#2: Have them release tension in the body
Starting at the head, you will want to guide your audience down their body & suggest that they release tension at various holding areas. To keep things simple, it’s not necessary to go down past the hips if you are new at facilitating. For starters, you can have them relax the area around their eyes, release their jaw & drop their shoulders.
#3: Take your time
This is the most important part of the meditation, so allow at least 6 to 10 minutes for this step. Don’t rush the pace of their breathing & engage in the meditation as you guide your audience. This will help you stay in rhythm with your participants’ cycles of breath.
STEP 4: Engage the Imagination
At this point, your audience’s mind & body are relaxed and ready to use their imagination. This is the place where you truly become an imaginative tour guide and may direct the experience towards a specific goal or outcome.
The purpose of this step is to help your participants explore their thoughts & feelings or prompt them to utilize this fertile state of mind to contemplate & self-reflect.
Choose one of the following strategies or combine them to create an insightful experience:
- Use Guided Imagery: Guided imagery is a fantastic way to engage the imagination during a meditation. However, it does take some experience, training & confidence to get right. However, you can start small by describing a place that you have been to in nature. Use details & incorporate the senses, as if you were telling a children’s story. Then, you’ll want to guide them to a place in the imagery where they stop moving & relax (in their visualization) to transition to the next step of a guided meditation.
- Ask thought-provoking questions: Thought-provoking questions are simple, yet potent, at facilitating deeply meaningful guided meditation experiences. It can be beneficial to tie your question to the quote or discussion you engaged in during Step 1. Questions should be chosen carefully & aligned with the audience, application & reason for which you decided to guide the meditation initially. Always phrase the questions in the first person. Eg. What am I tolerating?, What am I outgrowing? Or Where do I feel the most joy in my life?
For those looking for a challenge, following up guided imagery with a thought-provoking question that you have aligned with the topic of discussion at the beginning of the meditation is a recipe for truly transformative guided meditation experiences.
STEP 5: Allow Time for Silent Reflection
The biggest mistake meditation facilitators make is talking too much.
The most valuable part of a guided meditation is not when you are talking; it’s when you are silent. Allowing for a time of inner listening is vital to leading a great meditation.
After you have completed step 4, let your audience know that your voice will be silent for a time, and give them as much time as you can allow to listen from within. Prompt them for an insight provoking moment of reflection by asking your group to listen for any bits of guidance or direction they might receive during this time.
STEP 6: Slowly, Bring People Back to Your Voice
After a sufficient amount of silent time has passed, gently reintroduce your voice by saying something like, “And slowly, coming back to the sound of my voice.”
Then, have your participants begin to wiggle their toes and bring their attention back into their bodies.
Before moving on to the final step, make sure to ask your participants to take something with them from the experience. This can be a realization or a simple recognition of a feeling. Prompting a takeaway in this manner is important to help your audience remember the experience as they go forward and bring something of value with them.
STEP 7: Bring Your Audience to Waking Consciousness
Finally, ask your participants to open their eyes. You may end this part in any way that you see fit for the given situation. However, I suggest that you end by suggesting a conscious action to acknowledge the experience & solidify any insights into their memory.
If possible, have them write for a few minutes in a journal, about anything. If that’s not possible, simply asking everyone to stay off their phones for at least 10 minutes will suffice.
How Can You Learn to Lead Guided Meditations?
If you want to learn how to guide someone through a meditation, there are two ways. You can read books on guided & therapeutic imagery, download scripts online and learn through the experience of trial & error. Or, you can become a professionally trained guided meditation facilitator.
If you decide to go the second route, it’s important to consider what we discussed at the beginning of this article. Many meditation teacher trainings do not teach you how to lead a guided meditation. Rather, they teach you how to teach others how to meditate.
To become a guided meditation facilitator, you’ll want a training that is specifically focused on the subject and is designed to help professionals implement guided meditation into their work.
Here at The Guided Meditation Framework™, we teach coaches, therapists, practitioners, yoga teachers & other personal development industry professionals how to lead outcome-oriented guided meditations. Our approach covers how to implement this tool in both 1-on-1 sessions, and how to integrate it into group events, retreats & workshops.
If you want to learn more about our approach, feel free to check out our curriculum & browse our website for more information.