Meditation is a practice that will vary from person to person. There are multiple different types of meditation that we can choose from, like mindfulness, transcendental, metta etc.

However there is another aspect of our meditation practice that we can choose between; the use of guided or unguided meditation.

Both guided and unguided meditation offer us a wide range of benefits on our ability to deal with stress, peace of mind, emotional stability, awareness, and gratitude.

Meditation practitioners report less stress, anxiety, pain, and better sleep, mental agility, and attention. These things are so noticeable that modern neuroscience has taken interest and meditation is now a subject of neurological research.

One of the best things about your meditation practice is that it only requires you. You don’t have to buy into any ideology, you don’t need to follow a doctrine or religion. You just need your own mind and a few minutes. It’s perfectly designed as a standalone tool for well being.

To help make that decision it’s worth understanding the benefits of guided and unguided meditation so that we can choose the right fit for us.


Ultimately, guided meditation is simply the practice of meditation in which you’re instructed by a teacher of the course of the meditation. This can either be audio or video, however these days audio is far more popular.


Unguided meditation is also known as silent meditation. This practice has the practitioner sit by themselves (sometimes among others), and focus their attention by themselves.

Here is it up to the individual to define their practice, duration and focus. For this reason it is best suited to intermediate meditators and above. However, there will be people (like myself) who will prefer to learn this way.


Guided meditations are often excellent for beginners, because they bring us back to the practice when our mind starts to wonder. In this sense, meditation is similar to many other skills; it is better to start with guidance if you’re open to it.

Instructors can also be useful for seasoned meditators, because these guides can both refresh our understanding of the practice, and share new perspectives on meditations we have been doing for years.

Whatever your experience with meditation, mixing some guided meditation into your practice can provide a lot of added benefits.

In summary:

  • Great for beginners while we learn

  • Help explain meditation techniques

  • Bring us back when our minds begin to wonder

  • Refresh our practice and shed new light and perspectives on our experience


Unguided meditation allows the practitioner complete control and customisation of their practice. This will suit people who know specifically what they want when they sit down, and they have some idea of what techniques they can use to get there.

Another benefit of unguided meditation is that it has the flexibility to fit around your schedule. You only have 5 minutes today? No problem. You have to squeeze a session into your train commute? That’s fine.

In summary:

  • Great for people who want to customise their practice

  • Good to test your focus by yourself without a guide

  • Flexible to work around your time and availability


During a guided meditation the instructor can cover all manner of topics. Meditations are normally divided into different areas:

  • Type – Mindfulness, Metta, transcendental, body scan etc

  • Instruction – Level of instruction will vary, sometimes the teacher will simply act to draw your attention back every few minutes, sometimes they will explain the practice deeply and guide your awareness through various ideas.


The meditation you choose will depend on your experience, personal style, and your circumstances.

If you are brand new to meditation you may not know how to meditate alone, where this is the case, it’s probably best to begin with guided meditation until you get the feel for it, and learn some basic practices that you can do alone at a later date.

On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with meditation, and you prefer the flexibility of creating your own practice, unguided meditation is probably a better call.

Regardless of which practice you choose, I’d recommend a mix of the two. For beginners unguided allows you to practice meditation alone and push your boundary of your meditation. For veterans, guided can shed more light on a practice you’ve enjoyed for years.


The default state is to be thinking all the time. Anticipating the future, worrying about the past, projecting ourselves into the future, concerning ourselves with imagined events and actions.

In all of this noise, it is very hard to notice what it’s like to let go of the endless chatter that arises in the mind. We’re thinking all the time, and there is no space for anything else.

Whether you choose to practice guided meditation or unguided, the practice provide a space in which to break the cycle of thought, and allows you to pay attention to your sensations of the body, sounds around you, and thoughts in your head.

When you notice these things arising in consciousness if crates a gap in the constant noise of thought and feeling most of us experience as we walk through life.

This mindful space allows us to find more space, and then more. Over time we develop the ability to be far more aware than we would otherwise be. This awareness disconnects ourselves to the chatter, we are able to see the sources of noise as objects arising in consciousness.

The benefit of this is that we discover that there is no need to get pulled along by these things. We don’t have to respond to them. We can simply notice thoughts arise, anger, jealousy, and fear arise. Then we simply observe them passing, without judgement.

All of this means that we protect ourselves against stress, we inoculate ourselves against being carried away by our emotions, fears and anxieties.

Whether you choose guided meditation or not, you can learn to enjoy this superpower.


  1. Waking Up (4.7/5 on Play Store)

    Cost – $14.99/month (or free if you are unable to afford it and message the company)

    Waking Up is the meditation app from Sam Harris. In it, he provides:

    • Guided meditations on mindfulness, metta, walking etc

    • Lessons about meaning, gratitude, free will, the self and much more

    • Conversations with other meditators (podcast-like content)

    • Q&A audio for common questions

    The price is a bit steep, however this is the app I’ve stayed with from all the other apps I’ve used. It’s also the highest rated on Google’s app store.

  2. Calm (4.3/5 on Play Store)

    Cost – $59.99/year

    Calm is an excellent app with a wide range of features. There are:

    • Daily calm sessions for meditation

    • Music designed to help you relax and sleep

    • 10 minute guided meditations

    • Mood tracking

    • Even stories narrated by celebrities like Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey.

    For all of the content it provides, this app is great value.

  3. Headspace (3.5/5 on Play Store)

    Cost – $12.00/month

    Headspace is an excellent app for beginners to learn the practice. The app is available on android and IOS, and the free version includes 10 sessions to help beginners get started on their journey.

    The full subscription is a little steep, but for $12.00 you have access to guided meditations that target anything from loss, anxiety, confidence, sleep, and your kids.

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