For anyone who is just beginning I would definitely recommend going through Take10, all the Basics packs and all the Pro packs in Headspace. In this order the guidance gradually decreases and by the time you finish you will have built a good routine and will be ready to switch to unguided meditation.
At the moment I use Oak - it's free but only available on iOS. It effectively acts as a timer and tracker for my unguided meditation, nothing more.
I've tried Calm and I don't get appeal - the content, design, progression, voices... everything seems strictly worse than Headspace or Oak.
It could be a matter of taste though. The creator/'guide' of Headspace, Andy, has a kind of British bloke-ey voice that I really prefer over the deep, 'spiritual' guide of other apps. Maybe that says more about my distaste of the woo-hoo that is common in this field, but still. I've talked to people who dislike Headspace because of Andy's voice though, so YMMV.
I don't understand how an app that claims to want to help you meditate can invest so heavily on harassing users with ads everywhere. This really pushed me off meditation altogether to be honest
End result is associating the app with annoying ads.
So you end up hating the guy and its made phrases. A shame, really.
I'm reading some comments here and see some people mention how easy it's to meditate. I'm wondering if they actually meditate or know what it is. Before I started meditating, I too had similar thoughts. But I had some misconceptions of meditation before I tried these apps. These apps helped me to start my meditation on the right path.
After a year, I don't think I need these apps anymore. The guided meditations are distracting themselves because the teacher jumps in at random points to remind you of things that you already know. I do like the teachings they do before an after meditations. Sometimes, they are helpful and insightful.
I think these apps are fine for beginners. Once you get used to meditating for 20+ minutes every day, you probably won't need them anymore.
I didn't mind paying for subscriptions. They do get into different techniques and insights that the free content don't give you. Although I never tried insight timer; that app seemed to give you a lot more content for free.
This statement alone makes me root for Headspace.
> “If you were going to see a psychologist, you’d probably want to know where they trained and qualified. It’s the same with meditation,” Mr. Pierson says. Calm’s founders previously worked in online gaming and advertising.
Well... Zen isn't just what people today associate with it:
and when we're there:
Meditation can be tough to learn, but you only have to do it once. I find it hard to believe that one can find true balance in their practice by using a meditation app. And what is the deal with having to pay for something that's essentially free?
Is it the entertainment value, or is it so that we can tell our friends, "Hey John, I just spent $5 on that new 'stress release' meditation and I have been feeling so zen!!".
Why go out for dinner when you could just cook for yourself?
Why pay for a therapist when you could just stop being depressed?
Why pay for a financial advisor when you could just do your taxes yourself?
If an app brings change into your life, via application of knowledge you do not yet possess, then it has value. Whether or not these specific apps meet that criteria is, however, a question worth asking.
The Mind Illuminated by John Yates is the one I see recommended the most, and it's helped me tremendously. It goes through ten stages, from novice to very advanced. I'm still close to the beginning, but the instructions in the first several chapters have helped me make far more progress than I ever had before.
The Science of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young is also quite good, with more of an emphasis on insight rather than concentration meditation. There's also the classic Mindfulness in Plain English.
I do use one app. It lets me set a countdown timer, and plays a quiet gong when time is up. That's it.
Because they are paid to be uncompromising about your goals, so that when you’re weak they’re strong and push you to be better.
These apps too are meant to lure our lazy instant gratification craving part in exchange for money.
Of course, you can still be cynical about that and say it's a great way for them to keep you subscribed.
But for me, it's been a good introduction. I've been practicing regularly, I introduced a friend to it, and we have decided to sign up together for a retreat in the spring. So it's not necessarily just mind candy to pad out your credit card bill.
Why not just do pushups, walk the stairs or just go running, cook for yourself and your friends, know yourself instead of paying for therapy. Even doing taxes yourself isn't such a burden.
Glad you can just decide to do those things, do them and stick to doing them! Well done.
Because just doing pushups is not enough and even those can de done badly. Because cooking yourself is a completely different experience from going out to eat, part of the experience is precisely _not having to cook and clean_. Because some people can't help themselves and could end up in really bad places, because for some people spending time doing taxes could be very well used otherwise...
This is a book about why you do not really need all this stuff that commercial capitalism is trying to sell to you. It has inspired me years ago.
I got myself fit as I was able to plan for a healthier lifestyle and see it through. Not all folks can.
I wasn't able to get myself mentally healthy however, and without paying for mental health support I would never have had the mental stability to get myself physically healthy.
If you find life easy, good for you, but assuming everyone skips through life as easily as you is arrogant at best.
Headspace is great. Is it as good as heading to a monastery and studying for years? No.
Could you get the same experience without guidance? Sure, but most people haven't got the will power to stick to it. That's not a weakness. That's just human.
I was meditating for some time, but I felt like I wasn't making any progress. I know the point is not to aim for progress, but I was and it was discouraging. So headspace helped me back on track.
I really liked Andy's voice and the guided session helped me see meditation in a different light. He uses all these metaphors to make you realize that thoughts are constantly passing, that you shouldn't judge yourself for getting caught up in a thought pattern.
I would say that the biggest advantage to meditation apps is that they distract you from your own thoughts and draw your attention to certain topics. They can also teach you how to relax when you're finding it hard to do that by yourself.
Also, I want to add, I stopped using headspace, because I didn't feel the need for guidance at some point. Actually, I felt it was distracting me, so I returned to meditation without any guidance or other devices.
it is hard to learn. been to a 10 day vipassana retreat this year, and out of 100 hours of sitting, i've spent maybe 5-10 truly concentrated, and we're talking perfect conditions, with some prior experience
the most difficult part in my opinion is getting the reference point for how meditation should feel like - you can spend years doing what is breathing exercises, visualization, etc. never hitting that point. this is where Muse (https://choosemuse.com/) helped me tremendously
commercialization aside, the real question is about the value of guided meditation most of these apps are about. like, honestly i don't know.
the main selling point for me was the api, and possibility of using it as a brain-computer interface, but i haven't done anything fun with it yet (except of setting up the drivers for python, and verifying it indeed works)
I have personally had more satisfaction meditating outside in fresh air near natural environment than indoor. I also know of many meditative experts who routinely visit remote areas in forests to practice deep concentration.
I would like someone to build an app to locate more favorable spot for meditation by calculating net wifi traffic in air.
It's true that we're bombarded by wireless signals. In addition, we're bombarded by all manner of noise and radiation, both terrestrial and from space. It seems a little bit foil hat to imply that you can meditate better if you turn off wifi in your subdivision, doesn't it?
Maybe I'm cynical, but that reads like a pure monetization strategy to me.
There are many distractions that can happen, not necessarily mind-wandering. There are other distractions like getting bored or falling a sleep, discomfort in the body (which includes itches, pain, needing to move, etc.), outside noises, forgetting to focus on your breath, etc. Your mind is constantly seeking new stimulus while you're trying to calm it down.
For me, it's hard to do that without getting distracted. Maybe the easiest part is remembering to focus on the breath after you get distracted. But that's also easier said than done.
So here's the thing, whenever I read stuff on meditation, it often quickly veers into these frankly even sometimes pretentious discussions and concepts that I honestly dont understand. I could be wrong, but it reminds me of a lot of the hand-wavy "bro science" workout advice I've heard.
The best ways I've found to meditate, or rather I should say to at least reach my goals of meditation, so far are a hot bath or listening to music.
Anyway, I choose Transcendental Mediation because of the form of the meditation: one is assigned a nonsense mantra phrase, which the meditation technique is nothing more than finding a comfortable position, closing the eyes, and repeating the mantra in one's head for 20 minutes. Thing is, after about 5 minutes a complete psychedelic trip occurs; the nonsense mantra fills your head with nothingness, no logic to "think". After 5 minutes your brain just trips. I'm aware of the mantra's echo, but I'm in fractal landscapes skipping tra-la-la with Bambi and blue meanies. Really.
This is why I think all these meditation apps are a joke, as they impede too much, they guide too much to enable experiences as I get when I meditate.
* Initially, committing to a daily practice. After 6 months this problem disappeared one my meditation became a habit.
* Getting comfortable with the different techniques. Focusing on your breath is fairly straightforward (in practice, but equally quite difficult to start with) whereas techniques such a loving kindness and resting awareness can be a bit tougher to understand. The Headspace forums suggest everyone struggles with certain techniques, so having a guide was useful (for me).
From reading of "The Science of Meditation: How to Change Your Brain, Mind and Body" it seems there is always more to learn but as an app meditator I can only give you the above experiences.
At least it's cheaper than the Transcendental Meditation snake-oil course (sponsored by your favorite celebrity):
When technology fails us for one reason or another we seek a form of change (i.e. shutting off your brain for a moment, meditation). However since our society has developed dependencies on apps, we seek the solution in the exact madness we’re trying to escape. To err, is human.
I don't know how much value an app can be in replacing a real person, but it's gotta be better than nothing.
I personally could have probably muddled through learning how to meditate with a book, if I'd had the inclination. I'm not so sure most people can. All people unfortunately aren't created equally.
All the people I talk to who don't seem to be getting much out of meditation, I'm not so sure any book could have helped them, while I'm pretty darn sure that if they were sitting in front of me allowing me to guide them once a week, they'd get the trick within a month or so.
I mean, you certainly don't need a Fitbit or Apple Watch to change your habits and start to exercise regularly, but for some people, having the feedback from these devices help them see their progress and that's what keep them motivated.
Not to say its all a scam - it does genuinely help to have a trusted teacher in many cases, whether its for accountability and a push or just reminding you of the basics.
I guess what seems more distasteful to me is how much meditation is being marketed as the new self-help cure-all to stress/anxiety etc. Its makes you wonder how many people need it because they are stressed vs. how many people need it because marketing manufactured that need.
And these apps are a way of learning far cheaper than hiring a coach irl.
His actual voice is just endlessly zen, so when he's really trying to be soothing and calm in a guided meditation. It's just really calming and transparent, so I can focus more on the technique of meditation.
He also has more of a hands off approach compared to Headspace and Calm. Whereas the other apps are pretty high touch, Waking Up is fairly low touch, and Sam lets minutes go by with no guidance, just letting you attempt the technique on your own after the introduction.
But it's funny how this turned into a big business.
Sam Harris's app is the only one i find actually valuable because he frequently releases 5 to 30 minute "lessons" that are audio of him teaching some aspect of meditation or purpose. Talks on death, gratitude, the goal of meditation, thought experiments, etc. I don't do his 30 day guided meditations that are also in the app, but I'm sure they'd benefit some people.
The pros with Sam's app is that he is going to give you a unique experience and ask you to "look for things" in your meditation that might otherwise take you years to realize you should be looking for.
The con is the same with all guided meditations. An app can't tell what level of concentration you happen to be at during your 30 minute sit, and so it often interrupts you just as you're making some real progress.
In interest of many commercial products is for you to be dependent on them. This is opposite to benefits of meditation in my view.
Now as always, real thing is much harder than pretending to do it, which is why those two apps are popular. Sam Harris app is much better in that regard for example.
How about going outside to meditate in nature? What happened to that? :/ Do it while you still can, as we have not completely destroyed our planet yet.
Anyway, these monasteries are actually on mountains or deep in the forest for a good reason, so not exactly in seclusion from nature. Buddha himself is said to have attained Bodhi under the Bodhi Tree. Meditation and nature are strongly tied to each other. Are you trying to suggest that it is not the case? It definitely did not happen "in seclusion from nature", that would be not only counterproductive, but it is historically incorrect.
Maybe you are confusing the mindful meditation with the spiritual meditation?
And that makes it even worse because then you get all these people saying 'ooh I meditate' when no, they've not even meditated once.
It's all western BS about making money, not about helping anyone. And people are too stupid/lazy/dumb to know any better, it's the same with 'learn to code in 24 hours', '6 abs in 6 weeks' etc.
If you want to meditate - actually meditate - get rid of the apps. Just go sit somewhere and turn your attention inwards, it's so simple, children should know this.
There's also a world of difference between 'being present' (which should be your default mental state) and actually meditating, they're as different as night and day, that's something else people don't get.
The constructive part, if you're actually interested check out Raja Yoga, again 'yoga' that westerners do is a bastardized form of Hatha Yoga which was nothing more than a warm up in itself. There's a good series of lessons from the 1940s. You'll find them if you're meant too.
Words are for people to communicate to one another. They're not a stand-alone entity that will remain correct, regardless of time and place.
In the west, yoga and meditation mean something other than what they mean, in other cultures and time periods. That's perfectly fine.
Folks are doing stretches and holding poses, they like it. Great. Folks are sitting down and listening to something soothing for 10 minutes, they like it. Great.
There is no downside here - the only downside you're finding is inside yourself, being projected outwards.
>> In the west, yoga and meditation mean something other than what they mean, in other cultures and time periods. That's perfectly fine.
You know, in real life we take care of our children because they will never know better if we don't teach them something at the right time. So often it's actually beneficial for someone to push you in order for you to understand the finer things in life.
In my stretch class it would probably take me a few months to reach a split if my teacher wouldn't just push me (by pushing I mean literally - physically push my legs apart). Because I was afraid I would tear something apart - be he otherwise knew it wasn't as unsafe as I've thought.
So... Yeah. Make sure you've got a good teacher before you start. Because most of them generally do not care at all.
Well, there is one downside: it makes it harder to refer to the original meaning of the word, which could point to something valuable.
For perspective, when trying meditation at first, I did it without the use of any technology- I read "Mindfulness in Plain English" and some other articles and books, and attempted meditating based on what I learned there (with mixed periods of success).
And then at some point later, I tried headspace to see what the hype was about. I found both paths helpful and effective- after all, the guided mediations in headspace largely just reflected the same things that the books had taught me. I don't have a headspace subscription and wouldn't get one, but I don't see it as significantly different than an audiobook version of some of the material I had read about in order to understand how to meditate. And maybe you could make the argument that people should just do that instead (listen to audiobooks, since the cost would be much lower). Do you see something fundamentally different?
Perhaps you were born with a natural instinct for what meditation is, what to do when thoughts arise and you go off track, how to sit comfortably, what you’re aiming for and what you’re not.
But I didn’t, I needed to read books to start my development. I absolutely don’t think children should know this.