Guided meditation frustrations

Hello all,

I have had so many false starts with guided meditation because they invariably start with “close your eyes and visualize”. As an aphantasic, I can’t do that so I would get frustrated and quit.

Anybody with a similar experience? 

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Same, it’s nice and all to think of a beach or forest or whatever but they spend too long describing the scenery or asking you to. If I try and think of the details I lose the idea of the beach, maybe I’m just bad at meditation but it’s really frustrating.

I’ve found a few that focus more on breathing and moving or just being aware of different muscles. Those work much better and I have found I can meditate if I walk, no roads to cross or anything, just a long way to walk at a nice, steady pace.

Hi Nicole,

Thanks for the tip. Here’s an article I wrote for on alternatives I’ve found for guided meditation. 

Hello, that was the way I discover I were aphantasic. My partner said me that and I thought “Girl are you really seeing anything? It’s empty right here!”

HAHA Exactly! Empty is a good word for it, for sure.

Your must find your dominate sensory mode first. Eg. for phatasic people it’s usually “visual”, for me it’s “kinesthetic”. Then you can find some media matching your mode to guide your meditation (if lucky).

Or better, you should go the direct path: Focus on the here-now, the present moment. You can find everything’s there, from the normal things like your body, your breath, your heartbeats, your thoughts,… to the miraculous things like unconditional love, everything’s connectedness, etc. 😉

Hi Lê Định. I’m definitely on that path now but it took a while for me to figure out why meditation was frustrating me. It took some perseverance but I finally found my “meditating” niche, as it were.


I have been using Sam Harris’ app Waking up for 10 minute mediations and find it very helpful on many levels. From my conversations with “phantasics” I believe that aphantasics start with an advantage when doing mindfulness meditation with our eyes closed.  We don’t have to fight off all the intrusive imagery that they do and can readily become aware of the present and also can more easily “see” when intrusive thoughts arise – not as much background noise to disguise them.

Aaron S.

Oh yeah, very. Also the moment I realised there was something fundamentally different with how my mind works. Like you I had tried and rage quit many times.

Then I was in a CBT group for anxiety / panic management, and they relied heavily on guided meditations and visualization as tools. No-one else in the group had any problems, and could describe their imagined scenes in varying detail. I just sat there in frustration, looking at the inside of my eye lids. The psychologists that lead the group had no understanding or recognition of anything like that.

Some time later I found there was a word, and explanation, for this. Understanding that I’m actually incapable, and not just not trying hard enough, has helped me somewhat get past the frustration, and find other ways to use visualization based guided meditations; treating it more like narrative voice about a character in a story, and using that as focus instead of the imagery they intended. But I really prefer guided meditations that use exploration of actual current body sensations as focus. Or just simply guided breathing, which happens to be something I can also do on my own, mostly. And the only thing I have left when I catch anxiety about to tip over to panic, and that goes away too.

Also, got diagnosed as ADHD with (not yet further explored) autistic traits, in about the same time frame, so there’s been a lot of reinterpreting a life of “not trying hard enough” as “actually incapable, need to find another way around”. All that work might also have helped reframe guided meditation “failures”, but it all blends together. Oh, side-track.

TL;DR: Yes. 😉


One time, a friend had tried to hypnotize me. He is just an amateur, not a professional. At this period, I didn’t know the “afantasia”. So, I had listened his voice, closed my eyes (or not, I don’t remember), and I tried to visualize. I had believed that I visualized, so it was not important for me do not see, I was believing to live a normal experience.
My friend said me to visualize a forest, a house and other things and after few minutes he said me to tell him the memorie which was present in my mind at this precise moment. So I described a memorie. And he asked me what this memorie symbolised for me, I didn’t know but after another time of reflexion (This memorie is confused sorry, I’m not sure of all steps) I had a memorie in my mind, clearly in my mind with color, with all thing. It was just huge (and very emotional).
So for me, hyponose can to help me to visualize, but I didn’t know if the memorie is a real or not, I’m afraid about this story because the memorie is wasn’t a good memorie… And after this experience I was traumatized for a long time… Maybe I might retry. I’m curious about this, about my memories and my afantasia.

P.S. : Sorry if my english is not very good, I’m french.


Yes, I do have similar experiences. I got frustrated, too, when I should visualise something. I therefore looked for other guided meditations. A guided meditation that works for me really well (and shows beneficial effects), is the Body Scan Exercise by Jon Kabat-Zinn (you find it on youtube). No visualisation is needed.

Until recently I had only had one successful guided meditation. That was in a context where a whole group of women who were cancer survivors worked together at a retreat. Following the death of my husband I recently took part in a spiritual counselling course. In these circumstances I was able to have successful hypnosis and even engaged in a past life regression using tarot. It seems for me it is important to feel a strong sense of solidarity with the group I am in and a deep trust in the empathise skills of the practitioner.

Hi Liana

I just found out a few weeks ago at the age of 48 that I’m an aphant. I lot of the points you use to describe yourself in your article on hypnoponic hallucinations, I would apply to my own life experience. 

So for the image based flashes in a space between wakefulness and sleep, are these in the morning for you?

I also sometimes see fleeting flashes but only as I fall asleep at night.

I always put them down to my brain filing away images. These images are usually when I have been doing something that is unusually visually stimulating like hiking in the mountain or snorkelling.  Another time it happens is when I have spent time doing something unusually visually repetitive. So the most recent time it happened was when I spent the day sorting out boxes and boxes of old lego pieces belonging to my kids who are now too old to play with it. As I was relaxing in bed I could see lego before my eyes. As this never happens at my will or when I am up and about during the day and as it is infrequent at bedtime too, when it does I always turn and share it with my husband. He has never shown much interest in this commentary. It was a week or so later that was listening to Adam Zeman on the radio and I subsequently found out for most people this visualisation is a common experience and one under their control! Not worthy of sharing.  Are these hypnoponic hallucinations?

Thank you for writing your article. It was good to read.

Melanie Brown

I too only see images in dreams, whole video stories.