My experience with Guided Meditation
Does anyone else have a similar story?
Today my mother was watching ABC’s Sunday Morning like she always does. This morning it featured a segment on meditations and all the positive ramifications it can have. She has spent the day trying to convince me to start. The problem is… I already had my foray into the great land of meditation.
I will always remember when my senior year high school health class began a session on meditation. They employed a type I had never tried- guided meditation. In the past meditation experiments had led to nothing so much as indifference. This type actually managed to make me really, really angry every time. To explain I shall walk you through a typical guided meditation session in that class (note that I cannot speak for any other type of session and also note that most of my classmates seemed to really enjoy the sessions and would remark on how great they felt afterwards). We used a CD of some sort.
CD: Welcome to this guided meditation. Please find a comfortable position to sit. Let your eyes close and allow your hands to rest peacefully on your lap. Now relax.
Me: okay. *sits down and immediately enters a meditative state*
CD: let yourself breathe deeply. In…. And out… in … and out…
Me: *pulled out of meditation for a minute as I realized that my breathing was not in sinc. Tries to find the CD’s rhythm. Finds it uncomfortably short and fast but sticks to it.*
CD: breathe slowly and deeply and relax. In.. And out..
Me: at this pace??! This is not slow or deep! I’m practically panting with your rhythm! * realizes that i broke meditation again. Decides to stick to the CD’s crazy fast breathing pace anyway. Drifts back into the empty mind meditation of focused breath*
CD: feel yourself start to calm as you breathe. Notice how calming it is to do this. Relax. Let your thoughts slowly drift away.
Me: wait what? I was supposed to be actively thinking until now? And no this fast breathing is not calming. And… great I broke the meditative state again… ugh… *goes back into meditative state*
CD: now listen as I guide you on a journey. Imagine that you are on a beach.
Me: *immediately forms mental vision of a beach.* It is rocky and overcast. The wind is blowing but it isn’t too chilly today. I’m on one of the beaches of the island in the Pacific Northwest where I used to live. I can smell the ocean. It’s low tide, but the water is beginning to come back into shore. I hear the waves. I taste the salt. I have to step carefully to avoid the sharp and slippery rocks as I gaze into the tide pool. Sea anemones have such an interesting feeling. I hear the Bremerton fairy’s horn as it crosses the sound. And there are two starfish I’m this one. It’s a good pool. Tiny crabs are everywhere one just-
CD: now try to imagine the sound of the waves. Listen to them lapping against the sand
Me: why are you telling me this? How could I not here the waves? You told me to go to a beach! Well… if I were deaf I wouldn’t be able to, but then I wouldn’t be listening to your voice telling me to go to a beach either.
CD: now feel the hot sun on your skin. Feel the texture of the warm sand underneath you.
Me: oh. Wrong type of beach then. Okay. *i am now in hawaii. The weather is pleasantly warm. It will likely rain later today, but it seems to do that a lot here. The beach is crowded, but that’s okay. It’s nice to see all the different people. I’m wet from my most recent swim. A sea turtle had surprised me, swimming towards me from behind. I barely was able to avoid touching him. We aren’t supposed to touch the giant turtles, but no one seems to have told them that. He really was huge. And even after he passed me there was so much life to see! Fish of all colors shapes and sizes. I saw a humuhumunukunukuapuaa and an octopus! Honestly, the open ocean both terrifies and fascinates me. I’m out on shore now but I know I can’t stay away for long. Somewhere I hear music playing. Probably a tourist luau, but the food smells good. Maybe I should eat something before going back into the water-
CD: now try to smell the salt on the air,
Me: wait. Wait. You can’t mean that you didn’t expect me to conjure up dents until now, can you? No. No. Surely not. But if not… then why are you bothering to say these things? And with such a space between them? Of course I can smell the salt air, I did that as soon as you said beach! I mean this beach smells different from the last beach, but that was my fault in not realizing what you meant by beach! And… oh wow. You really DO expect me to need prompting to imagine all that makes a beach a beach. I really AM supposed to be that slow in visualization… er that’s not quite the correct word as that implies an emphasis on sight. Oh whatever. I’m going back to my beach now. Go away CD person.
Eventually the tape ended. The room filled with excited voices talking about how nice the session was. This continued every day for a month. When the class moved on, so did I. Throughout college I would occasionally try to pick up meditation again but eventually determined it to be, for me, a waste of time. I’m much happier using that half hour every day to draw, read, watch a tv program or play with my cat. The only thing I came out of the process with was the baffling and surely very wrong conclusion that there are people out there who need to be told to include sounds and feelings and tastes and smells into their imaginings. My blood pressure was, admittedly low at the end of the year and a half I spent meditating daily, but I would soon learn that that was actually a really bad thing, that low blood pressure (and the condition that caused it) was going to cause all sorts of problems in my life and result in having to medically withdraw from college. I didn’t know this yet. All I knew was that meditation was probably perfectly good for many people- just maybe not for me.