Guided imagery is a great pleasure, especially when it is done right. But things can turn sour if we don’t pick the right recording for our needs and our tastes. A very tricky business unless we know how to decrease the misses and increase the odds of getting the right recording. Here is a list of things to look for you when you go shopping.
What Do You Want To Do?
Every recording has an objective. It can be basic relaxation or something as complex as mind/body medicine, past life regression or other deeper challenges. The basic element across all recordings is verbal guidance used to get your unconscious and regular consciousness to follow instructions.
It is best to start off with a basic relaxation recording rather than jumping into deep waters first time out. You will need to know how to calm down and go inside before you can do the other more complex work. Starting off with a good relaxation recording will ease you into the whole guided imagery process.
Once you have relaxation within your grasp, track down specialized recordings if you have a special goal in mind. Look at the big bookstore and music websites but also cast your net wider by plugging your wants into a search engine. There are many great recordings out there that don’t appear at the major sites because some guided imagery artists only sell from their own websites.
Script Style – Highly Guided or Open-Ended
Each guided imagery artist has many choices to make in terms of scripting a recording. Some scripts focus on providing very precise suggestions as to what images the artist wants you to bring to mind and carefully lays out what you are to do with them once they appear. Other scripting will be more loose, such as: “See yourself in a meadow. Look around and note what you see.” This is very open-ended. Open-ended scripting assumes that the listener has had some experience with guided imagery and holds a skill/comfort level that lets them fill in the details of the inner work as they wish. Newcomers, on the other hand, are generally more comfortable with detailed imagery targets and suggestions. Determine which type of script is best for you and your goals and try your best to find a match out there in the CD and mp3 world by sampling recordings where you can (i.e. iTunes or Amazon).
Scripting can differ in terms of what images a guided imagery artist uses. Some recordings keep things simple, such as “relax near a stream” or “open your heart and let go.” Other scripts will adopt imagery and terminology from some tradition such as the Tarot, yoga, Buddhism, or Kabbalah. This can be a very powerful experience if you are well versed in what each symbol means and have personally connected with the tradition from which it is taken. But if you don’t know what the artist is talking about or is trying to get to, you probably will have a frustrating experience. For instance, if you don’t know what chakras of yoga are or have never picked up the Tarot, scripting using these symbols will be lost on you. Read each recording description well to determine what symbolic language the artist might be working with. Consider if their symbols will work with your interests and goals.
Voice, Use of Voice, and Music
The wrong voice is a killer. Everything else can be just right but without the proper guiding vocals the recording is junk. The only way to avoid making a bad purchase is work hard to find samples of the recording by taping into the samples at iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby. How does the voice sound? Is it such that you can let go and ignore it? Trust it? Prefer a man’s voice? A woman’s voice?
How the speaker uses their voice is also important. Some artists speak almost in a plain, simple, conversational way. Others use their voice almost like a musical instrument, adapting their voice to convey the sort of actions they want you to do. Examples: pitching their voice up when they want you to ascend a staircase or dropping the volume of their voice when they want your body to feel heavy. What do you prefer, plain and simple or with a little or lot of drama?
Lastly, consider a recording’s background music. Most recordings come with some sort of musical background (some also use sound effects) so listen to see if the music choice works for you by finding and listening to samples.
Too Fast or Just Right?
Closely related to voice, is timing. An extremely common mistake made by new guided imagery artists is moving too darn fast. Instructions come flying at the listener one after another with no time to get what the artist is asking or time to settle into an experience. Guided imagery takes time. The best guided imagery artists are those who have been led by many other artists and have developed a real feel of “inner world speed” versus our day-to-day outer world speed. The two speeds are very different. Again, track down some samples and get a sense if the imagery artist takes time to let you, the listener, work with what comes up.
You may prefer a compilation of short experiences or a longer break. Consider how you want to use the recording: quick 10 minute dips into imagination or do you really want to unplug and go for a guided journey? Consider getting both types, one for quick but regular imagination work and one for when you have plenty of time to go in deep. Read recording descriptions for this information on length.
Evidence-Based or Adopted by Institutions
Unfortunately no one has put guided imagery recordings side-by-side and tested their effectiveness. Studies have been done over the years to see if guided imagery works in medicine and if guided imagery is superior to listening to music alone or with just resting. Yes, guided imagery has performed well in the studies and there are many indications that guided imagery works better than resting or music without guidance.
A handful of recordings have been used at least once or maybe a few times in multiple medical research studies. In a later post, I will offer a listing of where to find these particular recordings and reference the studies in which they were used with the findings noted.
Some institutions such as major hospitals and clinics have produced audio and video recordings that they pass onto their patients. The Mayo Clinic produced two CDs a few years back that were excellent but they are out-of-print now. Several universities have recordings available online covering a wide range of relaxation and imagery topics for students, staff, and patients. Those recordings are waiting online for anyone to download free. If you prefer to pick recordings based upon this criteria, use a search engine. Include the search terms: hospital, clinic, and university along with terms that describe the sort of recording you are hunting for. In a later post, I will provide a list of recordings available from the hospitals/clinics and educational institutions with links on how to obtain them.
Special Background Beats, Whisperings, and Subliminal Suggestions
In addition to the spoken word and music, some recordings include special background beats, whispers, or subliminal suggestions. The thinking is that these methods will take a person deeper, faster, and more productively than a recording without these enhancements. There is some evidence that enhanced backgrounds can be helpful but further research is required to determine if they are always helpful and by how much. It doesn’t hurt to try these sort of recordings but plain recordings with the right words, right music, and right goals will do just fine. Again, I promise to write a post later on these sorts of recordings.
Good luck shopping.