Guided imagery

The third technique highlighted in this article is guided imagery, a specific form of meditation. So, in order to explain the former, I’ll first expound on the latter.


Meditation is the practice of concentration. It is an ancient technique that was associated with spirituality and religion, but in the modern context, does not have to be either spiritual or religious. But, why concentrate? Why focus on just one thing, concrete or abstract? It appears that by focusing intensely on one idea, the clutter of the mind stills. In stillness, there is clarity, and through the clarity, one can find relaxation.


There are two broad categories of meditation: concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation. Concentrative meditation is meditating on the breath, on an image, or on a sound. Indeed, if you’ve been following only with this series, you’ve already done concentrative meditation when we discussed breathing. The point of focus is slightly more concrete than that of mindfulness meditation. In mindfulness meditation, one experiences the environment without attachment, judgment, or application of conscious thought. It is the experience of one’s surroundings as a witness, rather than as a participant. For now, we will focus on concentrative meditation and explore mindfulness in a later post.


In order to start meditation, it is helpful to follow these steps:


  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Maintain a comfortable but proper posture. This is especially important when using meditation to reduce pain. However, it is not recommended to lie down, as sleep comes quite easily in this position during meditation. If you have trouble finding a posture that you can maintain for ten minutes, ask me at your next appointment.
  3. Choose something to focus on. Be creative.
  4. Be passive. Perhaps this is the most counterintuitive step. How can one possibly be passive when concentrating fiercely? What this means is to not judge yourself harshly when you find that focusing on one thing is difficult. Your thoughts will certainly drift. Rather than feeling frustrated, recognize that you’ve thought of something else, and think, “Oh. That’s interesting,” and then return to your subject of focus.


I think guided imagery is a fantastic introduction to meditation. Rather than self-driven meditation, guided imagery involves someone telling you what to visualize. You create the images in your mind, based on what you hear. You can attend an in-person class or listen to a recording. Here is an example.


How did that go? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share other resources. I’ve found that because guided imagery involves listening to someone’s voice, people may prefer certain inflections over others. Listen to recordings that work best for you.

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