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I find it difficult to meditate without guidance. I wish to use guided meditations for my practice.

How effective are guided meditation sessions in achieving the benefits of meditation? What is the best way to use guided meditations to maximise their benefits?

  • Hi and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might find useful. – Lanka Aug 12 '15 at 11:21
  • It depends on the topic but guided meditations are great! I love guided meditations and contemplative talks where I can listen in a relaxed but attentive state and really absorb what's being said. For instance, if you are trying to understand impermanence, it is far better to meditate on that word and what it means and what it applies to than to hear someone talk at length and tune out. If it is used for fostering of the brahma-viharas or to learn a technique or idea, it's really a tremendous tool. Meditation is, however, about freshness, so keep that in mind in your applied dimensions. – sova Aug 20 '15 at 17:47
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For the purposes of relaxation, they are very effective. If your goal is simply to de-stress, then by all means use what works. Even the Buddha taught a gradual path and tailored his teaching to the station and goals of his audience. Guided meditation is one shade on a spectrum ranging all the way to enlightenment.

However. While guided meditation is an excellent way of slowing down mental chatter and decompressing, that's about as far as it will take you. If you are really interested in Buddhism and wish to meditate for the purposes of developing insight and penetrating into the four noble truths, you have to go past the relaxed state of mind engendered by guided meditation. You need to develop concentration.

Concentration can only be developed by you. It is a choice that you make every moment - a choice to return to the breath when your mind starts to wander. It's no different than physical exercise. The more often you make the choice to maintain your concentration, the stronger your meditation becomes. It also gets much easier with time. Concentration is also subtle. While you can use props like a candle or another person's voice, objects like the breath, kasinas, the body, etc. require much more focus and delicate handling. Too much effort and they dissolve. If you don't apply enough, they slip away.

I hope this doesn't come across as me saying that there is anything necessarily wrong with meditating simply to calm your mind. Destressing certainly has value. Just be sure to ask yourself what your goals are. Your answer will determine how to make the most of your time on the cushion.

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If it helps you center your mind then it is a good start.

Eventually though after you have become familiar with this state of peace, it can help you to to reach actual states of jhana (not just a general calming of mind) but you must have a meditation object that you can choose to enter and leave at your own decision--not at the will of the guide.

I do binaural beats and I find it very helpful prior to meditation, although some of the beats influence my brainwaves too much. Which is another topic entirely but goes with the principle that I mentioned in the previous paragraph: concentration states are traditionally advised to be achieved with kasinas and breathing.

Also, Right Meditation leading to Right Concentration (the last stage) is cultivated in a quiet isolated environment not one with some guided meditation.

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