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September 15, 2020 7 min read

A few moments of meditation each day will change your life forever. Really!

 

Meditation is a valuable technique that allows us to change our state of mind and heart, enables us to see things differently. It’s a way to find more happiness, more creativity, a greater sense of fulfillment.  Meditation can help us to deal in a more skillful way with the challenges that we face; it’s a way to find fresh solutions, to see our endless possibilities.  And it’s a way to find a better balanced life and a healthier body.

 

It has been scientifically proven.  Studies in neuroscience have shown that meditation can literally “rewire” our brain, change its physical structure and its function in response to experiences.  It’s called neuroplasticity. This opens up new perspectives and new pathways to a joyful, fulfilling life.  The studies have demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of meditation including:

 

Reduction of stress levels
Reduction of feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and confusion
Improved sense of peace and calm
Improved sleep
Increased happiness
Increased energy
Expanded creativity
Greater ability to respond to situations with choice rather than react automatically 
Greater ability to recover from setbacks

 

Meditation can boost every aspect of your life including your health, well-being, your performance, and it can bring more happiness and sense of purpose to your entire experience of life. And the studies have shown that it’s never too late to start!  

 

Meditation is simple to do and gets easier with practice - and yet may feel intimidating to get started. So how do you get started?  For some tips to get started on your daily meditation practice, I’ve written an earlier post, 12 Tips to Start Your Daily Meditation Practice.

 

A meditation app can help you get started…or go deeper

First, let me say that you do not need a meditation app to practice meditation.  It is likely that your most insightful meditations will be those where you practice on your own, in silence. 

But I’ve found that guided meditations and the ease of a meditation app can be really helpful if you are new to the practice. An app can be a great way to get started and to help you stay on track with a daily practice. And if you are not new to meditation, an app can inspire you to learn more, to go deeper, and to spice up your practice with some variety.

 

What is a meditation app?

I’ve been using an inexpensive meditation timer app for years. There are many apps of this type available. And in the past few years, subscription-based meditation apps have been popping up one after the other. For a monthly or yearly fee, you get access to guided meditations, meditation training, courses to go deeper, and other practices all gathered together in an app. These apps offer a lot of content but they are pretty expensive, so if you want to use one to support your practice you need to do your research and try several to see which one feels right for you. 

 

Tips to choose your meditation app:

There are more and more subscription-based meditation apps available and it can be confusing and challenging to make the right choice. To avoid getting caught up in the hype and marketing and trapped in costly subscriptions that you don’t use, I highly recommend that you do your research. This is how you will find the one that feels right for you:

  1. Look at the app’s website to see in depth what they offer 
  2. Read the reviews in the app store
  3. Look up the main teachers of the app
  4. The most important thing is to try it first.  Try several.  If the app doesn’t offer a free trial period of at least 7 days, forget it. Know the you will have only very limited access to their content during the trial period, you won’t be able to go very far before you encounter locked content, but at least you can see what they offer, how it’s structured, and try some of it to get a flavour of what they stand for and what they offer.
  5. Compare the pricing on the website to the app store (I’ve noticed that the subscription price can be cheaper through their website).  
  6. If it's "free", check that it's really free.  Most apps are "free" to download but you can't get very far without a subscription or in-app purchases.  There are exceptions, truly free apps, two outlined below.
  7. If the app offers a newsletter, sign up. You will get some interesting content to inspire your practice, and you will know when they offer a special pricing or a challenge that allows you to try out what they offer.

 

A good meditation app should offer:

  • An adjustable timer to allow you to meditate in silence on your own
  • Guidance to learn how to meditate
  • A large variety of guided meditations for different types of situations (ie cultivating positive emotions, dealing with negative emotions, reducing stress, finding calm, getting better sleep…)
  • Courses to help you to go deeper into your practice
  • Inspirational talks or other practices
  • Ideally a way to track your practice, if you’d like to know how many days or minutes you’ve been meditating

 

HERE ARE MY 3 FAVOURITE MEDITATION APPS:

After trying many different options and styles of app, I’ve selected just a few to support my practice. I don’t like the idea of paying lots of money for a yearly subscription, so until recently I’ve only used a simple timer for my self-guided meditation, and a few free apps. However, I recently paid for a subscription app after reading their newsletters for a couple of years, and after a really nice trial experience. I am finding it very worthwhile. It’s a way to try something new, to add a little variety.

 

Plum Village - Cost: Free 

This app is a beautiful jewel. It’s an exceptional and generous offering from Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastic community at the Plum Village mindfulness practice centre in France. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, zen master, peace activist and poet. The meditations and other practices are very easy and accessible, it’s all about helping you use your attention throughout the day to live a mindful lifestyle. The app includes guided meditations, deep relaxations, mindfulness practices, talks by Thich Nhat Hanh, chants and other practices. The app also includes pre-set silent meditations if you want to meditate on your own. You have the option of using the Bell of Mindfulness to schedule a moment of mindfulness into your day. There are even practices for children. The app is free and that is how they want it. You can support Plum Village and their efforts to create new content for the app by offering a one-time donation or a monthly subscription but there is no obligation and no soliciting.  

Link to the website, there’s a video introducing the app: Plum Village App

 

 

10% Happier - Cost: $99 USD per year (and I had a 40% discount off that when I joined their summer meditation challenge)

Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor and discovered the power of meditation when he took it up after suffering an on-air panic attack. He wrote two books about his journey to less stress and anxiety and more happiness through meditation and mindfulness, one called 10% Happier and one called Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. The app brings together some of the best secular mindfulness teachers, including Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzburg and many others. There is a large variety of guided mediations for any situation, help for sleep, many courses to build the skills you need to live happier, talks to bring you practical wisdom for a saner life. It also allows you to track your practice. And finally there are meditation coaches you can reach out to for guidance.

They’ve also got a great newsletter and podcast.

Link to the website:  10% Happier

My Meditation Timerby Egidijus Basys- Cost: $2.79 CAD, $1.99 USD, in the Apple App Store

Sometimes simple is best. I’ve tried several meditation timers to use during my self-guided meditations, and I always seem to prefer this simple, streamlined app which I find elegant to look at and easy to use. You have 4 choices of bell, the possibility of building your practice time with warm up, cool down and equal intervals. Dividing your practice into intervals is helpful if you practice Loving Kindness meditation - the interval signals you to change the practice. This app is not new, but if you want a simple and easy to use timer this is a great choice.  

There’s no website, check it out in the App Store:  My Meditation Timer

 

YOU COULD ALSO EXPLORE THESE THREE:

 

Chopra - Cost: $92.99 CAD per year

If you like the content from Deepak Chopra and the Chopra centre, you will like this app. It’s absolutely brand new, only available for iPhone for the moment. I’m currently exploring via the free trial, although I am a bit annoyed that the “trial” doesn’t include much. It’s pretty comprehensive, with lots of meditations, and tips and other practices for a holistic, mind/body/spirit self-care approach.

Link to the website: Chopra

  

Mindfulness.com - Cost: $129.99 CAD per year

This is also pretty new, positioned as “your daily mindfulness coach”, with daily meditations and daily video coaching. They also have a library of meditations and talks from mindfulness experts, including Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s pretty complete, sleek and easy to use. Not too many teachers, it’s mainly the guidance of the two co-founders, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Plus, they donate a portion of their sales to non-profit organizations. I’ve followed co-founder Melli O’Brien’s blog for a couple of years.

Link to the website: Mindfulness.com

 

Insight Timer - Cost: Free

They started out as a timer, and still have a really great timer with the option of adding music or sound effects.  And since inception they have added more than 55,000 free guided meditations from teachers all over the world.  You can track your practice and feel part of a community.  It’s free, and if you wish you can leave a donation for the teacher. Looks like they are also building a yoga element and live events. There’s so much it might seem a bit overwhelming, but this is definitely worth looking at.  It's pretty awesome to have access to so much free content and fabulous timer.

Link to the website: Insight Timer

 

MEDITATION RESOURCES:

12 Tips to Start Your Daily Meditation Practice

Get Comfortable for Meditation

3 Easy and Powerful Meditations to Try at Home

HUM Meditation Collection


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