Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, learning how to pay attention to the now instead of thinking ten steps ahead, behind or to the left at any given point. With history rooted in religious, cultural and secular practice many of us associate it with Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga but it can also be found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and has now made it's way into our secular daily life. It's a wonderful practice to begin and we literally say practice because not only will it take years to master, there is always room for improvement. You can read more about it and the benefits here or here and any of the links to sites below.
With modern technology, there are literally hundreds of mindfulness apps on both Android and IOS and this a reflection of just how popular mindfulness meditation has become in recent years. Before making your final choice, we recommended that you try a few different apps as this will give you the best chance of success in learning mindfulness meditation techniques and the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship.
When choosing a mindfulness app, one should ensure that the interface is easy to use, that there is a sufficient amount of content to warrant a purchase or subscription and that the voice(s) guiding you through your meditation are pleasant to your ear and conducive to relaxation.
To assist you in your ultimate choice, here we shine a light on our pick of the three best meditation apps.
The brainchild of former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe and co-founder Rich Pierson, Headspace is one of the earliest and most popular mediation apps, having been established in 2010. It consists of a cute interface and incorporates a number of slick animations that explain some of the more difficult questions associated with practicing meditation and mindfulness. Through a series of easy to follow guided practices, users are gently led using meditation ‘packs’ which focus upon different themes; e.g. anxiety, sleep, focus, kindness. Each pack is between 10 and 30 days in length and the duration of the pack sessions can be adjusted between 10 – 20 minutes since the emphasis is on fostering a regular practice rather than a long practice. Every sitting is topped and tailed with great insightful talks which bring context to the time spent meditating and help set your day off on the right foot.
In addition to the regular packs, Headspace also has a variety of other tools such as SOS sessions for those moments of meltdown and notifications to remind one to pause and take a minute’s mindfulness moment throughout the day. The real effectiveness of Headspace lies in its friendly and easy to navigate user interface, the ability to link up with meditation buddies to track progress and the sheer breadth of high quality instruction available. The clear and calm voice of the guidance and the statistics that are displayed in a personalised dashboard also go a long way to making this our preferred app.
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Rated as the best free app on the Play and iOS stores, Insight Timer gives access to approximately 2,000 teachers and musicians providing almost 10,000 free guided meditations, courses, music tracks and talks. Insight Timer also serves as a community of likeminded individuals who through 3,000 discussion groups share personal experiences and arrange meetups gravitating around meditation and mindfully aware activities. As the name suggests, Insight Timer is also a dedicated clock for experienced meditators with a sophisticated interface that features many options, in particularly a good choice of traditional Buddhist bells which are bound to suit the mood and style of experienced practitioners.
By providing access to both guided and unguided meditation in this way, Insight Timer acts as a gateway for those new to the practice as well as those who are experienced enough to ‘go solo’. In addition, should you reach the stage in your meditation practice where you feel you also have personal content to contribute, it is possible to use Insight Timer as a platform for self-publishing and in doing so add to the rich library of content. On the downside, Insight Timer can make finding a good guided meditation or teacher somewhat difficult and the quality of the meditations can be hit and miss if you are hunting through all the content. Luckily the creators have thought of this and curated the best content under a ‘Popular’ section and it is recommended that you make good use of this.
It was once said that if meditation were taught in schools, we would have peace within a generation and Smiling Mind it seems, is rising to this to challenge by incorporating programs in its free meditation app that appeal to younger age groups. The ultimate vision of Smiling Mind, which is designed and operated by an Australian not-for-profit, is to see mindfulness meditation brought on to the Australian National Curriculum by 2020 so it is particularly well suited to children, adolescents and young adults. The app also includes a feature to review and journal one’s emotions, both before and after meditation which is a recommended methodology for those seeking to learn the subtler aspects of meditation.
Smiling Mind really provides a great deal for a free download and as such is in stark contrast to most of the offerings in the Android or iOS stores, which work either on a subscription model or require an outright purchase. The Aussie narration in this app is noteworthy, and the interface is simple albeit with slightly clunky navigation. An excellent choice for those who wish to embark upon a complete meditation journey without coughing up the cash.
No matter which app you choose, including meditation and mindfulness if your daily life can make a huge difference, especially to the impact you make on yourself, others and even the Earth. After all, as one of the central figures of modern mindfulness, Sharon Salzberg said "Mindfulness isn't difficult, we just need to remember to do it."