Happiness, Health, Mindfulness, Reducing Stress

There’s an App for That: Great Tools for Effective Meditation

A few years ago Andrea and I took a Transcendental Meditation (TM) course. We didn’t know anything about meditation, and to me it always sounded very hippy-dippy and felt somewhat intimiting. But we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the proclaimed countless benefits of practicing it daily. The price tag for the four day course was steep (and I mean, steep) but our North American consumer mindset justified that if it was so expensive, it must be the best one out there! Why not go with the best?

This isn’t a TM review or anything, but let’s just say now that I’ve learned a few other meditation techniques, I’m a little regretful that I dropped so much cash on a meditation course.

TM in essence is a ‘mantra’ meditation. Based on your age and gender and I’m not sure what else, you receive a single 2-syllable meaningless word called your ‘mantra’ that you effortlessly repeat in your head while in a comfortable seated position. The program recommends two, 20 minute sessions per day.

I’m sure busy folks out there immediately think, ‘yikes, where would I find 40 minutes of free time per day?’ I certainly had trouble with it. I mean, the cost was actually quite helpful in that sense, since I wanted to practice as to not waste the money I spent on the course.

So for years I’ve been a casual meditator (is that the word for it?) going through constant swings of great consistency to weeks of complete avoidance.

It’s a habit that I’ve never nailed down in 3 or so years, which is irritating because I totally believe in the benefits! I notice in those times of non-practice my brain gets all jumbly and chaotic and foggy and full of thoughts. And when I’m in a consistent routine it truly feels (advance cliché apologies) that the clouds have parted and there’s just blue sky up there.

However, being 2016 and so to the surprise of no one, there are some great meditation apps out there. And it’s been a game changer in terms of building daily consistency.

One issue I find frustrating about TM is the 20 minute session is self regulated, i.e. you don’t set an alarm or timer for 20 minutes, you simply check your watch once in a while until time is up….but that rarely works out in reality. I find that this becomes a tiny stress that you have to worry about keeping track of the time, which prevents your mind from totally chilling out.

Or I fall asleep and wake up an hour later.

This is where the apps enter. Let’s introduce them, shall we?

1. Headspace. 

image_500This is by a guy named Andy Puddicombe. He lived in Nepal and studied as a monk before coming back to Britian and making a kick-ass free app. Well, you get 10 sessions for free and then you pay for new ones. But the 10 are great and they work for me just fine. These sessions are fully guided which is nice, so when you start thinking about what Subway sandwich you’re going to buy later instead of your breathing, he reminds you to get back to…well, not doing anything. Check it out here.



2. One Giant Mind. 

unnamedThis app is essentially teaching you TM for free. I’m currently doing the introductory 12 Step course and it’s awesome. Each session is 15 minutes. When you hit ‘play’ the host guy (complete with soothing british accent) gives you a generic mantra and tells you to effortlessly repeat it. The part I like the best is that he dings a chime when time is up! There’s also a 30 day challenge complete with reminders and a daily post-session journal. Check it out here.

Remember, when you’re meditating you don’t have look like a yoga studio advertisement with your legs crossed, fingers joined, and be floating above some rock in front of a sunset. You just have to sit down and close your eyes. Buses work great. Park benches. Upright in your bed. You’ll just look like your really enjoying you’re music or having a nap.

It’s a fascinating thing to try, and you might find like I did that sitting and doing absolutely nothing is weirdly harder than it sounds. But if you do find that sense of uncomfortable-ness, it probably means you really need it. Hopping off the constantly-moving life train feels great and creates an awesome sense of awareness and perspective. So give it a try.

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