On Guided Meditation

Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

You are one of those who are blessed and you will heal

I often hear of people going through troubled emotional and withdrawn phases. I will not use therapeutic labels for such phases and note that perhaps some of my readers are going through a difficult phase at any given time and will write about what might be helpful to some.

What has helped me is a practice called guided mediation, a practice which is often couched in the language of eastern religions such as Buddhism. One often hears mention of ideas such as mindfulness from the Buddhist tradition in this context. However this practice is perhaps less about religion then many proponents claim, and has been investigated as a scientific method divorced from all religion. Scientifically it has been studied as “neuroplasticity” – our ability to rewire our brains to change our thoughts, emotions, moods and behaviors to more positive ones. This is the premise of Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT), which, attempts to cure persistent troubled emotional states by consciously working on changing how one thinks and feels, often using CBT affirmations together with guided meditation and other tools. In many cases this has helped people cure and withdraw from drug therapy. Note that any such drug withdrawals needs to be slow and well managed and perhaps, for some, a complete withdrawal from drugs is not necessary or appropriate. Drug therapy can be useful in getting one to an initial state where practices such as guided meditation can be initiated – quite often, in a state of distress unmitigated by drugs, one does not have the minimal motivation or energy to start such a practice.

Though guided meditation has scientific underpinnings, I would not strip off the spiritual or self-actualizing element. One could use personal core beliefs more consistent with one’s social, cultural, spiritual or secular background instead of the Buddhist trappings that guided mediation typically comes with. I will discuss how you can do that later. I describe one of the exercises below which works for me, and which is a bit of a composite based on what I was taught by a marketing professor at Virginia Tech as well as through readings in psychology, guided meditation and self-hypnosis.

I start by sitting in a dark quiet room, typically before I sleep. I close my eyes and think of the various issues and concerns which trouble me and see if I have any ways that I can change myself to be a better person, for myself and for others. These are things, which, later during my session, I will call on a greater consciousness to help me change. After collecting my thoughts in this manner for 5 or 10 minutes I start meditating. Breathing exercises help get me to a receptive state by making me more relaxed. I take slow deep breaths, hold for a while and release my breath slowly while imagining that I am releasing all my stress, worries and troubles with it. Then I typically go through an exercise like the one below.

I imagine I am hiking up to the top of volcano to see a volcanic lake. I have to circle around to get to the top of the volcano. As I climb up to the top I come across a stream. I remove my shoes and my socks and wade through the water. The water is ankle deep, and I feel the water flow through my toes. I see all my stress, anxiety, tension and negativity leave my body through my toes and dissolve into the stream. I cross the stream, wear my shoes and continue on a trail winding up to the top of the volcano. I absorb the sights and sounds on this scenic trail to the top while relaxing myself with my breathing exercise. Closer to the top I circle around and come across the same stream again. There are boulders across the stream. I sit on one of these boulders. I reach down and dip my hands into the water. I feel a strong sense of calm and feel all my tightness, worry and agitation leave my body through the tips of my fingers and flow away with the stream. I continue walking for a short while till I reach the ridge of the volcano. I see a lake surrounded by a beach with golden pebbles. There is a boat waiting for me. I get into the boat which has a smooth leather seat which relaxes my back. As I row to the center of the lake I feel all the unease and strain in me go through the leather, through the lake and burn up in the core of the earth. The center of the lake is covered in fog. I glide through the fog in my boat. The fog clears and I see an island in the middle of the lake. There is another golden pebble beach. I tie my boat and disembark. There is a path leading to the center of the island through the woods. I come across another stream. I bend down and wash my face and I feel the tension in my forehead, cheeks and eye brows leave me. I continue on towards the center of the island. I see a Hindu temple. I walk into the temple. In the center of the temple there is a corridor surrounding a square pool. There are 10 steps leading to the center of the pool from all four sides. I tell myself that, as I reach the center of the pool and get to the 10th step, I will be receptive to change through my mind, brain, sub-conscious and any consciousness that pervades this universe.

When I take my 10th step I am in a trance like receptive state. As I dip my head into the waters I realize that these are the holy curative waters of the river Ganges. I sometimes see Ganapati the Hindu God of new beginnings or Goddess Saraswati the Goddess of wisdom or some other God or Goddess of the Hindu pantheon suitable for my issues and concerns. If I am in a more secular frame of mind I see the Ashoka Pillar – Ashoka was an Indian Emperor who renounced violence and adopted Buddhism after a brutal war and then spread his Dharma or code of ethics by installing iron pillars with his code of ethics throughout his kingdom. As I take a dip in the holy waters I recall all the changes that I would like to see in myself and call on my mind, brain, sub-conscious and the energy or consciousness that surrounds me now, to assist me. I meditate on this for a while. Then I go up the 10 steps and out of the pool, retrace my steps, return to my usual conscious state, and open my eyes. I am done.

Notice that I have adapted the guided meditation technique to my sometimes polytheistic Hindu beliefs and my sometimes secular beliefs, and away from the usual Buddhist beliefs associated with this technique. You could, instead of the volcano, if you are Moslem, think of climbing the mountain Mohammad climbed to receive the revelation in the Koran. Instead of the temple it could be a Masjid and instead of a pool it could be the voice of the angel Gabriel, reciting the Surahs to the Prophet, reverberating through space and time. If you are Christian, perhaps it is the healing waters of the Lourdes and perhaps it is echoes of Christ’s Sermon at the Mount that you hear. You are one of those who are blessed and you will heal.