Meditation, and why you need to give it a go…

Meditation has been proved to offer a multitude of benefits, beyond just improved concentration, focus and stress reduction. Read all about the benefits of meditation, as well as my personal experience and three meditation apps you must try, especially for beginners. Read more @ stayathomestraggler.com
 

…Plus a closer look at three meditation apps, especially for beginners.

 
A few posts ago I suggested Meditation as a fantastic investment of your time…but why? and what is meditation all about? Allow me to explain…
 
My very first meditative experience was in High School, but it also doubled as a Religious Education class of sorts. Once we had all found our place on the floor, the session would begin with some generic (and quite enjoyable) relaxation techniques. It would then evolve into a bizarre visualisation exercise in which we would imagine ourselves approaching the gates of heaven…or similar. By that stage though, I was usually fast asleep.
 
About 6 years later, I found myself in the ‘meditation room’ of a dusty Ashram, somewhere in the back-end of India. I can’t even remember where it was, but I do remember it being hot, crowded, and extremely uncomfortable – mostly for me. After about 5 minutes of sitting awkwardly on the floor and wishing myself invisible, I quietly stood up and shuffled out of the room, breathing a huge sigh of relief as the door closed behind me.
 
It was very unfortunate that these experiences shaped my understanding of what meditation is all about. It would be another 10 years before I really, openly, considered giving it another try.
 
If you’re anything like me, meditation might initially feel like a waste of time. I was always too busy doing other, more important things, and besides, I really preferred to be moving rather than sitting. For most of my adult life I’ve struggled to sit still, and so I would tell myself that I could totally get into a meditative state just by doing session of yoga, or going for a run in the park. I was very wrong.
 
Truth be told, I was really too intimidated to try meditating properly. It was taking a dive into the deep unknown. I wasn’t sure where it might lead, or if it would even work for me. I had no idea what my mind would spit back at me, and being a practical, no-nonsense kinda person, I was equally unsure about whether I really wanted to become a weird, hippy ‘meditator’. According to Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace, “Meditation must be experienced to be understood. We can talk, read and think about it, but none of that comes close to the real experience.”
 
 

“Meditation must be experienced to be understood. We can talk, read and think about it, but none of that comes close to the real experience.”

– Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

And so I realised, I was just overthinking the whole thing!
 

 

What are the benefits of Meditation?

Don’t get me wrong, I am no meditation master! Even on my best days, I can barely muster a solid 5 minutes of concentration. Nevertheless, I still try to incorporate meditation as part of my daily routine and the results I’ve noticed over the years have kept me motivated to keep on trying.
 
There are so many reasons why meditation is worthy of your time. Here’s a quick run through of just some of the multitude of benefits:
In my past life, my life before meditation, I was a chronic multi tasker and would have no issue expressing my irritation at anyone, or anything, that demanded time away from my schedule.
 
For me personally, meditation helped calm my mind…and my nerves. By practicing mindfulness, I became more aware of my actions and their effects on the people around me. I’m not a perfect individual by any means, but my first reaction to distractions is no longer one of hostility; i’m actually genuinely interested in what’s going on beyond my to do list.
 
Most of all, meditation helped me focus on sticking to one task at a time. Even the notion of time became much clearer to me, which meant that I could manage it more effectively. I found myself being more productive, while still having ample time for those unexpected, and unavoidable, distractions.
  

How do you meditate?

There are no hard and fast rules about how to meditate, in fact there are more types of meditation than you can poke a stick at. Some involve repeating mantras – either out loud or in your head, while others require you to sit quietly. Some methods focus on mindfulness or compassion, while others just require you to breathe.
 

Overall, As Andy from Headspace puts it, “Meditation is surprisingly straightforward. It’s our conditioning, expectations and preconceptions that make it seem more complicated.”

 

“Meditation is surprisingly straightforward. It’s our conditioning, expectations and preconceptions that make it seem more complicated.”

– Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

 
Nevertheless, meditation is not something I would have ever attempted on my own. After failing miserably in my early attempts, the only thing that got me back on the meditation bandwagon was the availability of apps to guide me through the process, step by step. The beauty of using an app is that it doesn’t have to involve squeezing into a crowded room with sweaty, loudly-breathing, bodies. You can meditate anywhere you like, whenever it takes your fancy. In fact, I meditate in bed, as soon as I wake up. That way I don’t even have to imagine my favourite place – I’m already there!
 
If you’re keen to give meditation a go, here are three apps that you definitely must try!

 

 

 Headspace

Headspace Logo
 
Headspace was my first, and still my go-to meditation app. What initially drew me in was the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe – I used to use it to help me sleep –  but also the more straightforward, practical approach to meditation. There are also fun little animations along the way, explaining abstract concepts and techniques such as the body scan and visualisation.
 
The free version of Headspace only gives you access to the Foundations Pack, which amounts to 3 sets of Basics which are 10 sessions each and are perfect for beginners, or seasoned meditators alike. When I first started meditating, I repeated the foundation packs several times and still learnt something new each time.
 
Unfortunately, the free version of Headspace offers you only the Basics. To gain access to the full features costs USD 12.99 per month or USD 7.99 per year (yes, this makes no sense whatsoever). There is also a lifetime membership option worth USD 399.99.
 
Personally, I think the best of Headspace is locked away in the full version, so highly recommend it. There is a huge variety of packs on topics ranging from anxiety, focus, sports performance and even pregnancy. There are also some fun mini sessions you can do on the run, or a daily headspace, which gives you a new theme to contemplate each day. You really never get bored of this app!
 

Pros:

  • Clear, practical guidance but with just enough silence for you to practice the techniques taught.
  • You can change the length of each session, from 3 minutes to 10 minutes (and beyond for more advanced packs).
  • Tracks your meditation stats, which you can share and compare with other Headspace users. I personally didn’t make use of this, but you might find it motivating to have a meditation buddy.

Cons:

  • You need to pay for the full version to get the full experience.
  • Can be a lot of talking, which makes sessions often run longer than the selected time.
  • Meditation in silence, no option for adding music or background sounds.
 

1Giant Mind

1Giant Mind meditation app logo

1Giant Mind promises an effortless, easy and effective approach to meditation. They boldly claim that it requires no concentration, focus or control, which I have to admit, sounds very appealing to someone who can’t sit still! While the Headspace technique focuses on breathing, 1Giant Mind anchors the meditation around repeating the mantra ‘AHAM’. They also play a kooky soundtrack in the background, which I found helps to take your mind off outside distractions.
 
The app kicks off with 12 steps, or 12 guided 15-minute sessions, which teach you how to meditate. They also address common roadblocks you might face along the way, such as a wandering mind, or fatigue. After each session, you can watch a video about your experience and write yourself a note in the diary about how you went.
 
Once you’ve completed the 12 steps, you gain access to the 30 day challenge. This is where it get’s interesting! You can select the length of the session, as well as the guiding voice and the type of background music, or silence, if you prefer.
 

Pros:

  • Very simple and easy to use interface. There aren’t a heap of fancy topics or packs to sift through.
  • Offers some cool features like videos, a reminder to keep you motivated and a meditation diary. The diary in particular encourages you to reflect and learn from your experience that day.
  • Completely free!

Cons:

  • Less variety of sessions to choose from; all you get are the 12 steps and the 30 day challenge.
  • The app is quite video-heavy which can be time consuming if all you want to do is meditate.
  • You have to complete the 12 steps to unlock the 30 day challenge. No skipping ahead!
 

Calm

Calm meditation app_logo
 
Calm is probably the most popular and highly recommended of the meditation apps, but I’m sorry to say it was my least favourite of the three.
 
Despite the beautiful interface featuring stunning natural landscapes and calming nature sounds, I somehow found it too commercial and impersonal. There is no denying the app is packed with features and a wide range of offerings, but at the same time, especially at first glance, I found it overwhelming and had no idea where to start. That was until I realised that all the packs except the introductory ‘7 days of calm’ are only accessible in the paid version anyway. ‘Calm Premium’ is slightly cheaper than Headspace at USD 15.99 per month and only USD 4.99 per year. The lifetime membership is USD 499.99.
 
The seven days of calm is a quick and easy way to ease into meditation. Much like Headspace, the focus is on the breathing, however the sessions are more heavily guided which can help prevent the mind from wandering, but doesn’t allow you to really enter a meditative space.
 

Pros:

  • Massive range of features including calming music, bedtime stories and loads of meditation packs on themes such as focus, gratitude and self-esteem.
  • Regular emails to guide you through the various options of the pack, however this does get a bit Spammy as they start to push the Premium version.
  • Handy features including a ‘mindfulness reminder’ and tracking your stats which you can share with anyone.

Cons:

  • Very few features are available for free.
  • Cannot change the duration of the meditation session, or the background sounds.
  • Meditations are heavily guided which can be frustrating, not allowing for space to develop your practice.

 



What has been your experience with Meditation? Have you tried any other meditation apps that you’d like to recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

8 thoughts on “Meditation, and why you need to give it a go…

  1. I’ve been wanting to try meditation, but always thought my mind can’t be empty. I might have to try one of these apps to see if it will work for me.

    1. Thanks Alyssa-Grace! The hardest part is carving out the time, but once you get into it it’s really easy. I’ve had most success working it into my morning routine. If I leave it until later in the day, there’s always an excuse or something else that needs to be done instead! I’d love to hear your experience, especially your way of making it a habit.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for the review of the 3 apps! I have already downloaded headspace but completely guilty of not actually using it yet! Meditation is something I’ve wanted to start for a long time but I’ve just felt I’ve been too busy! Definitely need to find a way to fit it into my day. 😊

    1. Headspace is the best! Definitely worth finding the time for…even if you start with the 3 minute sessions! When I first started using the app, I basically let it play at night as I drifted off to sleep…

  3. I’m not awesome at meditation, but I’ve been practicing yoga this year and it’s getting me in a better mindset to meditate. I also have a feature on my Apple Watch that encourages me to breathe and has one of the visual inflating/deflating image.

    1. Hi Kayla! Totally hear you…I’m more of a yoga person too, and it does help get you into the mindset. You just reminded me I have a similar feature on my Fitbit that I really should use more often 🙂 I hope you get into the meditation as well though – You might find that the meditation helps your yoga practice as much as yoga helps your meditation. I’d love to hear how you go!

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