Tag Archives: relax

How To Make Guided Meditation Work for Your Groups

By Julie Lusk

Many group leaders are aware of the benefits of guided meditations but have had little experience in the field. Here are some tips to help you use guided meditations effectively.

Guided meditation group

Working with guided meditations

Everyone is different, so each person will experience guided imagery uniquely. These individual differences should be encouraged. During a guided meditation, some people will imagine vivid scenes, colors, images, or sounds while others will focus on what they are feeling, or experience it as a concept. This is why a combination of sights, sounds, and feelings are often incorporated into meditations. With practice, it is possible to expand your participants’ range of awareness.

By careful selection of images you can help deepen their experience and cultivate their awareness in new areas that can enrich their lives. For instance, a person who is most comfortable in the visual area can be encouraged to stretch his or her awareness and increase his or her sensitivity to feelings and sounds.guided meditation couple

Working with guided imagery is powerful and it is up to you to use it responsibly and ethically. Leaders with little or no training in guided imagery can use these scripts with emotionally healthy people. Be careful, however, when presenting themes and techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Since people respond in a variety of ways to visualization, avoid generalizing about the benefits of any given script.

If your groups are composed of people who are emotionally ill or especially fragile, you should seek out special training or professional guidance before introducing them to visualizations.

Preparing the group or individual

Physical relaxation reduces anxiety, activates the mind-body connection, and enhances the ability to focus on mental images. Some type of physical relaxation sequence should be used prior to every guided meditation. Relaxation woman eyes open blowing out

Breathing properly is essential for complete and total relaxation. Unfortunately, very few people take full breaths, especially when under stress. When a person consciously uses deep breathing correctly, stress is reduced and the mind can remain calm and stable. It is important that people focus on their breathing, with full deep breaths through the nose.

Before beginning any guided meditation, briefly describe the images you will use and ask if they make anyone feel uncomfortable. People who are afraid of water may find images of ocean waves to be frightening rather than calming. Be prepared with an alternate image. Let participants know that if they become uncomfortable, they may, at any time, open their eyes and tune out or change the visualization.

As you read a script, people will follow you for a while and then drift off into their own imaginations. They will usually tune you back in later on. If they know this in advance, they won’t feel as if they are failing by being inattentive. So tell them this is normal and notice when it happens.

Choosing the right atmosphere

Select a room that has comfortable chairs for sitting or a carpeted floor for lying down. Close the door and shut the windows to block out distracting noise. If possible, dim the lights to create a relaxing environment. Low lights enhance the ability to relax by blocking out visual distractions. If the room lights cannot be controlled to your satisfaction, bring along a lamp or night lights. Adjust the thermostat so that the room temperature is warm and comfortable. If the room is too cool, it will be hard to relax and remain focused. Suggest that people wear a sweater or jacket if they think they may get cold.guided meditation stretching out

If distractions occur—a noisy air conditioner, traffic, loud conversations—try raising your voice, using shorter phrases and fewer pauses, or incorporating the sounds into the guided meditation. For example, you might say, “Notice how the humming sounds of the air conditioner relax you more and more.” Or, “If your mind begins to drift, gently bring it back to the sound of my voice.”

Using your voice

Speak in a calm comforting, and steady manner. Let your voice flow. Your voice should be smooth and somewhat monotonous. But don’t whisper. Start with your voice at a volume that can be easily heard. As the guided meditation progresses and as the participants’ awareness increases, you may begin speaking more softly. As a person relaxes, hearing acuity can increase. Bring your voice up when suggesting tension and bring it down when suggesting relaxation. Near the end of the guided meditation, return to using an easily heard volume. This will help participants come back feeling alert and refreshed.

You may tell participants to use a hand signal if they cannot hear you. Advise people with hearing impairments to sit close to you or you can move closer to them.

If you are having difficulty reading the meditation scripts effectively, there are many pre-recorded scripts available. Click here to see Whole Person’s cd’s.  The Daydreams, Wilderness Daydreams and Mini-Meditations are particularly useful.

Pacing yourself

Read the guided meditations slowly, but not so slowly that you lose people. Begin at a conversational pace and slow down as the relaxation progresses. It’s easy to go too fast, so take your time. Don’t rush.

The ellipses (…) used in my books indicate a brief pause. Many other authors use this technique. Spaces between paragraphs suggest often suggest a longer pause.

Be sure to understand the format used by the author. For example, in 30 Scripts the reader’s notes and script divisions are printed in italics and should not be read out loud.

Give participants time to follow your instructions. If you suggest that they wiggle their toes, watch them do so, then wait for them to stop wiggling their toes before going on. When participants are relaxed and engaged in the imagery process, they have tapped into their subconscious (slow, rich, imagery) mind – and they shouldn’t be hurried.

When you’re leading the meditation, stay in your conscious (alert and efficient) mind. Pay careful attention to all participants. You may have to repeat an instruction if you see that people are not following you.

To help you with your volume and tone, pace and timing, listen to a recording of yourself leading guided meditations.Guided meditation listen to yourself

As you reach the end of a meditation, always help participants make the transition back to the present. Tell them to visualize their surroundings, to stretch, and to breathe deeply. Repeat these instructions until everyone is alert.

Using music

Using music to enhance relaxation is not a new idea. History is full of examples of medicine men and women, philosophers, priests, scientists, and musicians who used music to heal. In fact, music seems to be an avenue of communication for some people where no other avenues appear to exist.

Guided Meditation Julie Lusk playing recorder

Julie Lusk playing the recorder to a Guided Meditation Group – Photo used with permission of Julie Lusk

Your music should be cued up and ready to go at the right volume before you start your meditation. Nothing ruins the atmosphere more quickly than the leader having to fool around trying to get the music going.

Click here for Julie Lusk’s bio.

Click here to go to Julie’s website.

Click here for see all of Whole Person Associates’ guided meditation resources. 

 

 

Make Contact With Nature Part of Your Wellness Plan

Photo by M. Arloski (all rights reserved)

Here in Colorado we have one of the ultimate places for outdoor activity and opportunity. Yet, it is easy for many of us to stay so busy that we rarely take advantage of the healthful benefits of contact with the natural world.

We experientially know that our stress levels go down when we spend more time in nature. We feel rejuvenated and refreshed after we take a walk through a park or out along a bike path. We feel more grounded and relaxed after a weekend camping and hiking. Now we know from scientific research that our intuition is right.

Dr. Eeva Karjalainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute summarized such research, stating that just being out in forests and other natural, green settings “can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system…Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.” There has even been research showing that exercising outdoors results in greater physiological benefits than exercising indoors.
In one study over 600 people were asked why they visited the National Forests in the U.S. 92% said they did so to “relax and gain peace of mind”. Perhaps our best “wellness centers” are in the outdoors.

The Environmental Dimension of Wellness has many faces to it that we are much more aware of today. We realize that our behavior affects the world around us in many ways. Our choice to purchase whole and natural foods sends a message all the way to the farmers who decide what to plant and how to care for it. Our choice of vehicles either minimizes our impact on the earth or contributes to it’s ecological misery. However the effect that contact with the natural world can have upon us is huge in it’s potential to help us to heal our frazzled nerves and our troubled soul. Our connectedness to the world around us is often overlooked as a way of healing, yet, when we reach back to that older way of being it seems to always give us just what we need.

Photo by M. Arloski (all rights reserved)

On Memorial Day I got out on a hike after far too long away from the foothills and mountains. After hiking past white violets and columbine in bloom I found the remains of an off-trail campsite and took a mid-day break for lunch and contemplation. The quiet was what I found myself cherishing. No city noise, only bird song and wind in the pines and aspen. I opened my copy of Sigurd Olson’s Reflections From The North Country and immediately found these lines. “When man feels tension as though he were being pulled out of his ancient mold, it is his divorcement from silence that is often responsible, silence built into the fabric of this mind. He may not know what is wrong, but he has only to find it again to restore his equilibrium.”

“Mountains give you strength, but water speaks to your soul.” Sigurd Olson. Photo by M. Arloski (all rights reserved)

Being healthy and well seems always about restoring balance in our lives on all levels. Until we slow down and reconnect with nature we may not, as Olson reminds us, even realize how out of balance our lives may have become.

There are thirteen weekends in June, July and August. Getting outdoors can be as easy as a spontaneous walk in a park, but consciously setting aside time to get out hiking, camping, etc., like so many wellness activities, is about planning and putting it on the calendar. We know that Labor Day Weekend will be here before we know it.

-From Real Balance Wellness, re-blogged with permission by Michael Arloski.

It’s Summer Bucket List Time

That’s right, it’s already August and fall is racing towards us.  Now’s the time to get serious about how you’re going to spend the precious summertime and get busy with both the inner and outer work of growing and developing in your truth.  Live.  Love.  Laugh.

Here is reflection from Joan Borysenko from her Pocketful of Miracles book.

“August is the month during which nature celebrates her maturity.  The hatchlings in the nest have found the wings to fly and the boughs of the old apple tree are heavy with fruit.  The Godseed within our hearts is also ripening so that we become more flexible, more tolerant of the shades of gray that characterize life on planet earth.

Every interaction becomes an opportunity to encourage, to be kind as we acknowledge the Godseed within all.  As the pumpkins ripen on the vine, mellowing in the shortening days and colder nights, the vine itself begins the dying time.  It’s purpose is complete.

August  reminds us of the impermanence of all things.  All that seems so dependable will someday pass away.  In that poignant knowledge we mature  into a deeper appreciation of all we have, of all we love.

Listen to the voices of the Ancient Ones that call from the roots of the oaks and willows:

Nature is setting seed,
storing the energy of the light
for future generations.
Likewise, our souls are coming to spiritual maturity –
a flexible, gracious attitude that finds intense joy
in the very impermanence of life.”

I challenge you now.  Take time to consider what’s important to you now.  Yes, everything from spending more time swimming, visiting friends and family, and eating summer’s fresh produce to the deeper things, like helping others, being kind, and doing some soul-searching.

August 1 is the anniversary of my Mother’s passing.  Every day, I miss her loving smiles and cheerful encouragement.  She taught me to live life to the fullest and to enjoy family and  friends.  Yes, life is impermanent, so let’s remember what’s important in our own precious life and treasured relationships.

Please share your comments about your bucket list – from the insane to the simple to the spectacular.

Julie LuskJulie Lusk, M.Ed., RYT, has dedicated her efforts to helping others attain stress relief, wellness and holistic health through yoga, meditation and guided imagery.