Top 5 Mistakes People Make Guiding Meditation
By Mo Edjlali, Mindful Leader Chief Community Organizer
Through our work, I’ve had the privilege to get to know a great many meditation teachers and facilitators. This includes from my own personal practice and mindfulness training, those who have spoken at our events, our adjunct MBSR certified instructors, and the 120+ Workplace Mindfulness Facilitators that we have certified. Of this group of teachers and facilitators, there are those who are world renown with deep practice and experience and some that are just starting out. I’ve experienced the complete range of quality when it comes to guided meditations, from finding myself expertly guided to wanting to make the meditation stop because it was so unpleasant.
Recently, someone asked for some advice on how to make a good guided meditation. For the sake of discussion, I thought I would highlight five common mistakes I’ve noticed with guided meditations.
Not setting up the meditation
The experience for the participant starts with how the meditation is set up. Basics here include describing what the meditation is, how long it will be, what the intention of the practice is, helping folks understand what posture to be in, and including trama informed safety measures. If there is going to be some lecturing or educating, best to do it here and not in the middle of the meditation. Also, it’s important to let people know when the meditation has started and how they will know that it’s ended.
Trying to do too much
You might be thinking, I’ve only got ten minutes, so let me get in as much as possible. Let's do a body scan, a concentration practice, and a lovingkindness meditation because people need the benefits of each. The problem is that often these practices each require a certain amount of time to be done properly and engage the mind in different ways. Unless you are a seasoned expert it’s very difficult to skillfully combine multiple practices into a session and very difficult for short sits.
Lecturing in the middle of the meditation
I see this all the time and am surprised by some of the more well-known teachers who do this. Meditation is a mental training exercise. If you want to offer a lesson do it at the start, after the meditation ends, or just don’t do it at all. Once the guided practice begins, be careful not to engage participants' minds in a way that would be counterproductive to the meditation you are leading them in.
Using a contrived meditation voice
It's important to speak clearly, enunciate, and notice the pace and tone of your voice. Too often I’ve seen people try to imitate their favorite meditation teacher or go over the top trying to be soothing. It’s distracting. Not everyone is going to resonate with your voice, and not everyone will resonate with your contrived voice. I've found the best meditation teachers hone their natural voice and their voice has an authentic quality to it.
Not transitioning at the end of the meditation
As the session comes to an end, it's important to recognize the participant's body and mind will need to adjust. A good transition starts with making it clear to participants that the meditation has ended. Typically, this is followed by allowing time to gently stretch and move the body and allowing a slow and gentle return for the mind. Reflecting on the intention that was stated at the start, acknowledging and being grateful for the effort, and reminding them of the benefit of meditation will help participants transition back as well as help them develop a consistent practice.
What has your experience been? Would you agree these are the top five mistakes? Please share your thoughts. This article is meant to spur conversation and not be definitive.
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