Meditation: To App, or Not to App?
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
“Well, I’ve tried Headspace?”
I often hear this, or words to this effect, as a cautious response when asking people if they’ve meditated before.
In a world where it’s commonplace to use an app to transfer money, call a taxi, order dinner or find a partner, why wouldn’t an app for meditation be the best thing?
The purist in me wants to object. I have such vivid memories of the calm I felt after my first ever meditation. Despite being in the centre of London, with twenty-odd other humans, everything was so quiet and so still. It was like a door had opened into a world I didn’t know existed.
Meditation is profoundly simple. You don’t need any tech, any gear, any equipment. Not even trainers or a chair. If you have yourself and patch of ground to sit, kneel or stand on you’re good. Back to basics. As soon as you plug into a phone and don your earphones the simplicity is lost.
‘Oh look, I’ve got a 7 WhatsApp messages. Oops, supposed to be meditating.’
That said, the increase in knowledge of mindfulness and meditation, and their benefits, has rocketed in the west in the last twenty years and the internet, YouTube and apps will have played a big part in this, so for me to dismiss meditation apps as second rate or ‘not quite right’ would be closed-minded to say the least.
A friend of mine is a nervous flyer and uses the Headspace app on flights. Listening to a short meditation during take-off and landing makes the experience much more bearable for her and keeps her present.
We all have those nights where our mind won’t sit still, darting from to-do-lists to fears to regrets and back to to-do-lists. Hopefully yours are few and far between, but rather than using your phone to check Facebook, listening to relaxing meditation to encourage sleep can really work and is one of the times I do use, and recommend, a meditation app.
I'm not wanting to turn this into a review site, but for sleep meditations (and a timer that sounds like a singing bowl) I like InsightTimer. Two of the other popular apps are Headspace and Calm although I’ve not tried them so am interested to hear from you if have.
Of course, not everyone has access to meditation groups or classes; or the time or inclination to learn the techniques. To start the day with a guided meditation, even if it’s just five minutes, can set a positive intention for the day and help in being calmer, less anxious and more productive. Beginners will most likely find using an app is easier than trying to meditate unguided whilst staying focused on one point, such as their breath. I encourage taking the time to learn the techniques – it is a discipline – so you can slowly train your brain to being able to meditate by yourself. In the longer term this will be most beneficial as the brain training means you’ll find it easier to have a calmer mind outside of meditation too.
Yesterday, after a group meditation, a lady said to me,
'I could really feel everyone else's energy this morning.'
That's something that's not translatable through an app. However, meditation is positive however you choose to do it. For me, the most benefit is gained from meditating free from tech but, if that’s not an option, meditating with an app is absolutely better than not meditating and living with a stressed, busy mind.