1. Be comfortable. Being relaxed is a very important part of the process. Let your whole body sink downwards, imagining it being attracted by the force of gravity. If you lie down, let your spine sink towards the surface you are on, especially at the waist level. When lying on a flat surface, it usually helps to raise your knees, with your feet about shoulder width apart and the toes pointing inward just a little to keep your knees from falling outward.
2. Relax the muscles of your face, shoulders, and upper back. Don’t be concerned about what you look like! Just keep thinking about what relaxed feels like, visualizing serene images and environments, emptying the mind of judgment, criticism, comparison, evaluation, etc.
3. Breathe from your diaphragm, so that your lower belly rises as you breathe in and sinks back as you exhale. Imagine a balloon inflating and deflating your belly. Don’t hold your belly in, military-style—let it “hang out.” Abdominal breathing in this way produces a more deeply relaxed state.
4. Soft lights or darkness is best. Try to listen to the deep relaxation and guided imagery in a room that has soft, gentle lighting—a shaded lamp is better than a ceiling light and both are better than a fluorescent lamp. If you fall asleep too easily, then don’t make it so comfortable. The more anxious and tense you are, the more relaxing and quiet your surroundings need to be.
5. Isolate yourself. Arrange your listening sessions so that you won’t be interrupted by the telephone, family, or visitors.
6. Listen in a quiet place. If there are disturbing sounds, it is often better to “white them out” with a steady background noise, as from a fan or an air conditioner. Best of all, use stereo headphones to listen to the programs; those that cup the ears are the best.
7. Keeping your eyes closed can help you concentrate. You may want to keep them open at first, to make sure you “keep on track,” but eventually you’ll probably want to close them.
That said, about 10% of people consistently find they can always relax better with eyes open. Feel free to try this. Generally it is best to keep your eyes focused on a single point. It is best if you sit facing a wall, or lie down facing a bland ceiling. Alternatively you might use a thumbtack or sacred symbol as your point of focus. The goal here is to eliminate distracting items in your visual field and achieve a focused state of awareness. Such states potentiate the guided imagery that follows.
8. Deep relaxation may surprise you. You may become more relaxed than you are used to, and even feel that you’re a little bit out of control, but you’re not. The truth is that when you are in a safe environment, there is no need to control anything. This is the essence of relaxation.
If you are one of those “control freaks,” at the moment you have the thought, “Can I take control of my body?” simply clench a fist, open your eyes, or say something out loud. Having proven to yourself that you are still in charge, continue to prove it by taking a deep breath in, letting it out, closing your eyes, and relaxing even more deeply!
9. Learn to ignore distractions. Don’t worry if you find you sometimes have a stream of thoughts going through your mind while you’re listening to the imagery. That is quite common.
Actually, thoughts just like these are always going through your mind and distracting you from focusing on your true goals. It’s just that usually you are unaware of them. Now you have an opportunity to bring your mind under your control. By practicing the skills of thought- stopping and emptying your mind of these unnecessary thoughts, you are taking charge of your cognitive mind.
Don’t get tense or wrestle with the thoughts. What you resist tends to persist! Usually the guided imagery will give you some tools for clearing your mind, erasing these thoughts from your mental blackboard, or simply ignoring them.
Another way to free yourself is to passively watch the thoughts come and go, without paying them any particular attention. The trick is to avoid engaging with them.
For instance, imagine you are sitting at the edge of a small stream watching leaves on its surface floating by. You could reach out and touch them. But you also have the possibility of choosing not to engage and to simply watch them as they go by. You can do the same thing with your thoughts. If you refuse to engage, the thoughts will gradually fade away.
Don’t get upset if you find your mind following a train of thought. Just let the thought go, refocus again on your focal point, take a deep breath and breathe that thought out, and listen to what you are hearing in the guided imagery.
10. Don’t tell yourself that you are doing this wrong. There is no one “right way” to do it. Exactly what you are doing is right for you at the time. Like all skills, this one takes learning and practice. You will become more proficient with time.
You are learning an important new set of skills. It is best to approach this as an adventure of self-discovery. As you learn how your subconscious mind works and how to make friends with it you will gain more and more power to make the changes you want to make in yourself and your world.
11. Go with the flow. You may have some novel sensations, perhaps a feeling of light floating or of tingling in your hands. Don’t worry about such mild and unusual experiences. Enjoy them, and recognize that they reflect the positive inner changes that you are undergoing.
Don’t forget why you are doing this!
It is for your well being,
for your growth,
and your complete enjoyment of life.
Our good wishes are with you!