Guided introductions to your inner world

I use an app called Insight Timer to listen to guided meditations, including many versions of Internal Family Systems practice. If you’re ready to get to know your inner system a bit, here are some guided meditations you can use to get started, all by yourself, for free.

Guided introductions to your inner world
An iPad shows a meditation app. Over the smiling face of Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, it shows "Internal Family Systems Meditation," with a timer for the meditation. An orange cat is looking closely at the iPad, with her paw delicately on it. Photo: Ash Chudgar

For many years, almost every day, I’ve used an app called Insight Timer to listen to guided meditations from wise teachers around the world, including many versions of Internal Family Systems practice. If you’re ready to get to know your inner system a bit, here are some guided meditations you can use to get started — no previous knowledge required, all by yourself, for free.

Gentle guidance from the founder of IFS

To my ears, family therapist Richard C. Schwartz, the psychologist who created the IFS model, has an extraordinarily healing voice and compassionate presence. (One of my young parts calls him “Papa Dick.”) When you listen to his recordings on Insight Timer, you get to explore your internal system with guidance from one of the wisest guides there is.

  • A first step into your inner world. This is the meditation to start with if you’ve never explored your internal community before. This is the gentlest, kindest and most welcoming introduction I can imagine. 11 minutes long, music at both ends
  • Quality time with a single part of yourself. Here, Schwartz gently invites you to spend time with just one part of who you are — just one. This is the meditation I use most often myself. 9 minutes long, music at both ends

Meeting your parts for the first time

In the decades since IFS began, wise teachers of many varieties have adopted the model to their own ways of teaching — so today, teachers with all kinds of different perspectives and identities can help you take your first steps into your inner world. Here are some of the introductory guided meditations I love most myself.

  • “Receiving our Internal Family,” by Rainier Wells. This is an abundantly spacious first exploration of your inner landscape, guided by an autistic, nonbinary mental health counselor with amazing fashion. I find their voice and presence deeply healing. 15 minutes, soft music throughout
  • Getting to Know the Parts Inside,” by Tim Fortescue. In a soothing baritone voice, a new IFS practitioner leads you through a simple and intuitive first encounter with your internal system. A sound and simple place to begin exploring. 6 minutes, no music, little bell rings at the end
  • “The Selves Within: The Parts Work Perspective,” by Jogen Sensei. Led by a former Zen Buddhist monk, this guided introduction to your inner world is very cheerful and matter-of-fact — less a blissed-out meditation, more a practical sort of workshop. It provides very simple guidance about “two simple things you can do to begin a partswork practice in yourself.” If you like to keep things simple, this is a great place to start. 7 minutes, cheerful narration, no music
  • “Divine Comfort for a Hurting Part,” by Jenna Riemersma. If you’re a person of faith — any kind of faith — this meditation, by a wonderful Christian IFS teacher, will help you care for a part of you who’s hurting. You don’t need to know anything else about IFS to use it. If you like the to the idea of comfort from a divine presence of some kind, this meditation will absolutely help — no previous experience required. 10 minutes, soft music throughout
  • “Healing Meditation: Parts Therapy,” by Fred Wood. At the beginning of all his meditations, against a background of lovely piano music, this trained hypnotist and IFS practitioner intones, “This is Canada Meditates” in his velvety baritone. This introduction to your inner world will work best if you have a very visual or spatial imagination. Over a subtle soundtrack of beautiful music, Fred Wood invites you to imagine your inner world as a house in a garden, and then leads you through a loving first encounter with all the parts who live in it. 15 minutes, musical soundtrack throughout

Getting in touch with your Self

Many of us start exploring our inner worlds by meeting various parts of ourselves and getting to know them. An equally good way to begin is by focusing on the essence of who you are: that state of clarity, calm, compassion and curiosity IFS calls the Self. Because many spiritual traditions understand our essential being in a very similar way — as Buddha-nature, ātman, or imago Dei — focusing on your true Self can be a very direct, and very therapeutic, way to begin exploring your internal world.

  • “Visualization for Connecting to Our Deeper Self,” by Ralph De La Rosa. This guided meditation, recorded live in New York City, is a beautiful way to encounter your inner world for the first time. Without using any technical terminology, Buddhist teacher and IFS practitioner De La Rosa provides “detailed instructions for connecting to what is sometimes called Buddha Nature, the inner teacher, Self.” It is both cozy and profound. I love it especially when it’s cold out, because you can hear the hiss of the radiators in the room and the creaking of the wood floor. 17 minutes, no music, soft background sounds
  • “Re-Parenting Yourself: A Mentor Visualization,” by Kathryn Fink. This meditation, like the previous one, is inspired by a Buddhist practice, and it doesn’t use IFS terms. But it’s a very nourishing way to help your inner world come into loving awareness of the Self you truly are. I find this meditation especially helpful when my inner system is feeling overwhelmed. 10 minutes, no music, brief chanting at the end

If you try any of these meditations, I’d love to know how the experience was for you — send me a note if you’re so inclined.