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Updated on:

March 24, 2024

Guided meditation makes use of verbal cues to help us remain focused on the meditation’s intention. Guided meditation can be particularly beneficial for beginners or for anyone learning a meditation style for the first time. ‘Listening’ to a meditation versus ‘doing’ the meditation can also be relaxing. Especially, for those of us who have yet to cultivate the skill of simply being.

Anyone can learn how to lead a guided meditation with compassion and understanding. After all, a meditation guide need not be a guru, but can be any fellow practitioner who has adequate training on how to guide people in a safe and caring manner.

After spending over 2 years living as a Buddhist monk, seeing first-hand the benefits of daily meditation, I was inspired to leave the monastery to share meditation as widely as possible. Although I teach mindfulness and meditation, as just one person, I can only reach so many others. But by teaching people how to lead a guided meditation, so many more are able to benefit from this profound practice.    

Learning how to lead mindfulness meditation begins with deepening your personal practice. As you continue to meditate and share your practice with others, the following tips can help you grow as a meditation guide.

how to lead a guided meditation, How to Lead a Guided Meditation: Tips, FAQs and More

Guiding Meditation vs. Teaching Meditation

Yoga teachers, counselors, therapists, school teachers, parents, and others may be curious about how to lead a guided meditation, but uninterested in becoming a meditation teacher. That is perfectly okay and quite understandable. For example, it might benefit a corporate manager to lead a quick, grounding meditation at the start of a meeting. The skills required to guide meditation are not the same as that which we expect of our mindfulness teachers.

Teaching meditation is an advanced skillset which includes preparing people to practice on their own, to become their own guides. Although this often includes learning how to lead a meditation session, teachers also have an understanding of the history and foundational principles of mindfulness, training on how to ethically and effectively present inner methods of self-discovery, training on how to prevent and overcome adverse experiences, and an extraordinary depth of practice.

A meditation guide is not comprehensively educating others on a complete practice and path. They are simply inviting others to join them in a one-time experience. Of course, the more training a meditation guide has, the more those who meditate with them can benefit from their instruction.  

The Importance of Learning to Lead a Guided Meditation

Anyone can read a guided meditation script. However, if this person has not put true effort into understanding how to lead a meditation, it shows. Guiding meditation asks for more than a simple reading of words on a piece of paper. The best meditation guides are mindful and aware, kind and compassionate. What’s more, they have training in how to hold space and help participants in the practice feel supported and safe.

When meditation is guided by a trained facilitator, the benefits to participants increase. The best meditation guides know this is not a performance in which they are the point of focus. They know when a few words of support are necessary, and when and how to hold space for silence. They understand that the experience of the meditator is their own, and that their selfless guidance supports that unfolding experience. 

how to lead a guided meditation, How to Lead a Guided Meditation: Tips, FAQs and More

10 Steps to Effectively Lead a Guided Meditation

The following 10 steps are not a replacement for formal training on how to lead a meditation class, but can get you started in the right direction. May they help you guide mindfulness practices with more confidence and ease, skill and compassion. 

1. Creating a Safe Space

Turning our gaze inward in meditation is not always a comfortable task. A skilled meditation guide recognizes this and does their best to create a sense of support, in which participants feel safe practicing presence with discomfort, pain and challenge.

Creating a safe space includes embodying mindfulness and awareness as a guide, setting clear expectations, and guiding with inclusive, trauma-sensitive language. Holding a safe space as a meditation guide also entails choosing an appropriate meditation for the audience.

2. Set Reasonable Expectations

As a meditation guide, the best possible outcome is if those who join you in practice feel inspired to come back. After all, the benefits of meditation increase with our consistent participation. One way to help people view their session as successful is to set reasonable expectations before you even begin.

People often feel they have failed at meditation if they felt distracted, or even if they had any thoughts! Others may feel mindfulness meditation is supposed to put us into a state of deep relaxation or calm. This is nice, but presence and not one particular feeling, is the goal. Setting expectations by addressing these and others myths can help keep self-criticism and disappointment at bay. 

3. Be Practiced and Prepared

As a meditation guide, it’s important that the practice you share with others is one you are familiar with. People respond to our energy and presence just as much as they respond to our words. So, the more you embody the words you are sharing, the better they will land.

There’s no need to wait for perfection or all-pervading wisdom before you lead a meditation. But, it’s important to have a relationship to the material that is rooted in repeated practice. Being prepared also entails includes beginning on time, having a plan for the session, and knowing where to refer someone if questions arise that you cannot answer.

4. Establish Intention

Whether or not you are using a meditation script, every meditation has an intention. Getting clear on what this intention is will not only help those you are leading, but will also help you. 

A clear intention sets the boundaries of the practice. If the intention is mindfulness of breath, for example, inviting participants to notice bird sounds, although potentially pleasant, takes the group out of the meditation.

5. Use a Script if Needed

There’s nothing wrong with using a script, a few notes, or a bullet pointed list to help you stay focused as you guide meditation. Many people learning how to lead a guided meditation find just knowing they are there is a helpful confidence booster, even if they never end up looking at them.

6. Use Your Authentic Voice

If you are using a script, you may need to make some edits to say things in your own voice, in a way that feels authentic to you. And with or without a script, just be you! The best meditation guides don’t alter their persona or put on a ‘meditation voice’ when guiding meditations, they are confident in being themselves. This too, is how we share the practice.

7. Balance Cueing with Silence

You may be very skilled at writing beautiful meditations, or you may have a lot to say, but it’s helpful to remember that leading meditation is not about you. Those who best understand how to lead a meditation session know the value of letting the participants have their own experience. This means cueing only when necessary, and otherwise allowing for silence.

8. Monitor Reactivity in Self and Others

As a meditation guide, you’ll need to balance self-awareness with awareness of the room. In your meditators, you may notice sleepiness, restlessness or intense focus. Be mindful of your reactivity to what you might label as boredom, distraction, trying too hard or not hard enough. Allow space for everyone to have their own experience, and understand what you bring to yours, too. 

9. Allow Time for Reflection

Learning how to lead a meditation class may also include training in how to facilitate a post-meditation discussion. Meditation guides who are not trained facilitators may want to simply hold space for practitioners to contemplate their meditation experience. You might also prompt people to journal about any insights or questions that arose.

10. Be Equipped to Share Resources

As a meditation guide, and even as a mindfulness teacher, it’s impossible to control the outcome of any given meditation session. There may be participants who have adverse experiences, or who have questions you simply cannot answer. 

As a meditation guide, it’s good practice to have resources on hand that you can share with others. This may include information on where participants can go to learn more about mindfulness and meditation. It may include a list of recommended meditation teachers, counselors or therapists. For the few participants who may have an adverse experience that extends beyond the meditation session, talking to someone at Cheetah House may be beneficial.

How Can I Learn to Lead Guided Meditations

Learning how to lead guided meditations is more accessible than ever, especially with the wealth of online resources available at Mindfulness Exercises.

In addition, consider joining a guided meditation group as a participant. Learn by watching others, and in the process, deepen your practice and understanding.

Challenges in Leading Guided Meditations

Perhaps the biggest challenge when it comes to leading guided meditations is the inner critic that says we’re not ready. We can overcome this self-doubt with ongoing meditation practice and training in how to guide meditations. We also develop our sense of worthiness by doing worthy things, even before we think we are ready.

The good news is, guiding meditation does not depend on our perfection, righteousness or  enlightenment. Anyone who genuinely wants to help others, anyone for whom meditation has been a help, can invite others to practice alongside them. 

Download a script of your favorite practice, and with honesty and integrity, gather up your closest friends and ask if you can share it with them. You’ll be well on your way to becoming a meditation guide.

About the author 

Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]