Meditation, is the new kale for your brain. Lately, I’ve seen it discussed and written about everywhere. From Dan Hariss’ best seller “10% Better” to the Today show, meditation is being touted as, the antidote to our busy, scattered, “always on” lives.
It’s not all hype, there is some validity to this craze–meditation, scientific research has found, alters the pathways in the brain, activates the “rest and awareness” parts of our brain, promotes “divergent thinking” which permits new idea creation, it strengthens the mind’s ability to focus and filter out distractions. Meditations promotes better, deeper sleep, and reduces anxiety. You see what I mean? it is the new kale, quinoa, and beet juice all rolled up into one 10-20 minute session a day!
The problem with meditation, as the same as with kale and beet juice–staying with it. During those quiet meditative moments it is easy for the mind to get distracted, for doubt to emerge, and for boredom to set it. We know it is good for us, but how do we stick with it?
If you are new to meditation, as I was 9 months ago, let me recommend a wonderful app called “Headspace” (headspace.com). The brain behind the beautifully designed app and website is, Andy Puddicombe. Andy is a “meditation and mindfulness expert”. He is a trained Buddhist Monk, a Circus performer, and now the head of Headspace. His pleasant, practical, Cockney accented voice guides you through all the meditations–helping you overcome doubt and distraction through well placed prompts and thoughtful pre and post meditation observations.
For the novice, the basic concepts of meditation are easily understood through watching a series of well designed headspace “animations”. Membership to headspace which gets you the app (Apple iOS and Android, available on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon) and a log on to the website; also provides access to many different meditation focuses (or packs) like: anxiety, relationships, balance, creativity, and sleep. Packs continue for 10-30 days and you can determine the duration of the daily meditation by selecting between 10, 15, and 20 minute lengths. Headspace is available via a monthly subscription of $12.95 or an annual subscription at the rate of $7.99 a month. Before you commit and lay down your cash, you can try headspace for free for 10 days. During those 10 days you will be instructed in the concepts of meditation via Andy himself and the animations, and you will follow a 10 minute daily meditation. Once you’ve completed the 10 days you can sign up as described above.
I’ve been meditating using headspace for more than 9 months now. Through Headspace I have become very comfortable with the concepts of meditation and confident in my practice. I’ve meditated every single day for 9 months, save maybe 4. I crave the 10-15 minutes of space I carve out of my day to meditate. I have completed nearly all of the meditation packs, including the “Headspace Pro” series which have very little prompting but still are book ended by Andy’s observations and key ideas about the meditation practice. I don’t know if I will continue my subscription once my first year is completed. Unless they add many more series packs, I will not. But I am so pleased with the experience I’ve had over the past nine months. I really believe this app has guided me through and into making meditation a permanent practice in my life.
How do I feel? It is hard to describe, and Harris’ title, “10% Happier” is probably accurate. I can’t say that I feel smarter or more focused. But I do feel like the edges have been shaved off, I feel more able to deal with the disjointed and non stop nature of my modern lifestyle. I feel more centered, less easily thrown off balance. I attribute all of that to the time meditating, and the big ideas that Andy has discussed and made me aware of.
I highly recommend this app for beginners who are interested in learning more about meditation and want to start the practice of meditation.