A natural progression for experienced practitioners is to begin using a meditation timer and start doing unguided meditation. With enough practice, you can begin to direct each session yourself and choose what you want to focus on. With enough practice, meditation can be a tool in your backpocket, ready to use at any time when you need it.
How to use a meditation timer
With these specific meditation timers, you’ll hear a Tibetan bowl chime at the start, signalling your practice has started. At the half way of the duration you select, you’ll hear another Tibetan bowl chime. At the end of your practice, you’ll hear 3 Tibetan bowl chimes, letting you know the session has finished.
First, you’ll want to find a comfortable spot. This can be a chair or cushion on the floor.
Next, it’s a good idea to set an intention for the practice. Since you’re meditating without a guide, you’ll need to ensure you’re reminding yourself, before you start, why you’re meditating today.
From there, start the timer, and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Release any tension from your face, shoulders or upper back.
Now, begin to notice each breath as it passes. To make it easier to observe the breath, count each inhalation and exhalation.
As you do this, your mind will likely wander. The important thing is that you notice this without any judgements, and gently return your focus back to the breath.
Once your timer ends, reflect on how your practice was. Did your mind wander for a long period of time without you noticing? Or were you able to notice the mind wander several times and you were able to return your attention to the practice?
You may think at this point that noticing your mind wandering several times is a failure but in actuality, noticing your mind wandering several times means you were able to pay attention to your thoughts without a guide, which means your practice was a success.
However, if you noticed that most of your practice was your mind wandering without you noticing, you may want to return to using guided meditations for mindfulness, developing that skill, and returning to unguided meditations when you’re ready.
Unguided meditation timers
When to start doing unguided meditations?
There’s no one right answer to the question when should one begin meditating with a timer. In fact, many people start with an unguided meditation and learn to meditate on their own.
For most however, once you’re able to internalize a meditation routine that you find has been working really well for you, you can start using a meditation timer and meditating on your own.
There’s also nothing that says you can’t do both and mix up your practice depending on how you feel. Sometimes, you just need that voice in your ear walking you through the practice, as well as reminding you to be mindful.
One of the more useful things about a guided practice is that it can remind you are random intervals to be mindful, which is helpful when your mind has wandered and you’ve forgotten you were even trying to meditate in the first place.
However, if you’re finding that you’re getting better at catching your mind wandering and returning your attention to the practice on your own, that is another sign you’re ready to start meditating without a guide.
Why meditate without a guide?
We already understand the benefits of practicing mindfulness and being able to meditate at any time and in any place is a very useful habit and skill to develop. There are times when you won’t have a phone or app around. There are times when you’re noticing you’re not being mindful. There are times when you might be in the middle of a meeting and need some more clarity, or laying in bed suffering from insomnia, suffering from symptoms of an extreme disorder such as PTSD, and you just need to know how to practice mindfulness there on the spot without any guided assistance.
It’s great to have access to this tool in your back pocket, without relying on guided meditation, which can become a crutch if you’re not careful.