I’ve made it through Headspace’s “Take 10”. It was a 10 part series of 10 minute mindfulness meditation sessions. I couldn’t have been happier that I chose this series to start my mindfulness journey. However, I’m moving on from Headspace for the time being to try some other mindfulness apps. One reason I’ve decided to try other apps is that Headspace gives you the “Take 10” series for free and then requires you to sign up for a (fairly costly) membership. This, in and of itself, isn’t a problem except that you need to pay per month or per year, not based on how much you use the app. So, if you know you’re going to use it every day I suppose it’s a good deal, otherwise it may not be worth it. The other reason I’m moving on (for now) is because I want to try some other apps that were recommended to me. It’s only fair that for this investigation into mindfulness that I do at least a cursory check of the options available to me. Beforehand, I want to reflect on my Headspace experience while it is still fresh in my mind.
As I mentioned, Headspace was a great place to start. It was impressive in the way that it introduced me to the basics of mindfulness and meditation all while getting me started in the process. Over the course of the 10 days there were a few short animated videos that helped to further explain some of the concepts behind what was being done in the meditation sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed these videos and strongly believe that without them I wouldn’t have become as excited about mindfulness as I currently am. On top of getting started with the meditations, I learned a few things:
- Training the mind through meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts or eliminating feelings during the exercise. It’s about allowing yourself to have thoughts and feelings, acknowledging them (but not judging them) and letting them pass. This allows us to view things with a perspective that we may not have had before. Doing this allows us to reach a place of being more calm. Occasionally during meditation exercises we’ll lose focus and run away with a thought, which is fine, we just need to return to that calm place of perspective and continue letting thoughts pass. For a (perhaps) clearer way of thinking about this, check out this video.
- More effort doesn’t always mean more results. The perfect example here is falling asleep…we can’t force it, and if we do, it usually makes it even harder to fall asleep! Training the mind through meditation is very similar, once you stop trying it is possible. There is a very good example about taming a wild horse in this video. We need to do things slowly while training the mind through meditation. Getting past the feeling of trying to get somewhere is important. It takes time, enjoy the ride!
- The “Blue Sky” always exists, it doesn’t go anywhere. The metaphor is of your blank, calm mind being a clear blue sky. Sometimes our mind gets so cloudy with thoughts (good and bad) that we lose sight of that “Blue Sky”. However, it is always there above those clouds just as our clear, sane mind is still there beyond all those thoughts and distractions. The “Blue Sky” is always there.
- Acceptance. We often talk about being accepting of others but what about ourselves? The idea that we need to accept what is in our mind, in order to see what is in our mind is very interesting. The analogy here is a pond, if we go chasing after everything in the pond we will muddy the waters and won’t be able to see anything. Our mind works the same way, we can’t chase every thought or idea. Allowing the waters to remain calm allows us to see everything that is in our mind, even the things we might not want to see! However, even though we may not like everything we see, it is important to see it all and acknowledge it without judgement…during meditation we must withhold judgement of ourselves!!
I have to admit that on Day One I found it extremely difficult to concentrate and focus on both the voice leading the meditation as well as actually achieving a sense of calm and relaxation. However, as the days went on, both I and the sessions improved. I improved my skills for relaxing and endurance (10 minutes is a long time when you’re just starting!) The sessions improved because a) they were somewhat repetitive which meant I already knew what to expect and b) the narrator didn’t talk as much as the sessions went on. This second point was probably the most important thing because, while his voice isn’t irritating, I can’t stand when I’m looking for quiet and someone keeps talking. Understanding that you’re learning throughout this process is essential, I needed a teacher/guide!
By the fifth or sixth session I was really into the groove. In fact, one night I wasn’t falling asleep as quickly as I wanted so I put the session I had listened to that morning on my phone. No exaggeration, I was asleep before the 10 minutes were over! I knew then that I was really getting the hang of this, I was able to let my mind relax, turn off, and fall asleep. The understandings I shared above, no doubt, played a huge part in me learning how to do this!
After day nine I started becoming frustrated, mostly with the fact that Headspace was making me pony up a bunch of money if I wanted to continue, this is good stuff! However, after day 10 I’m happy that I made it through the whole “Take 10” and I’m also happy to try some new things in the name of research…but I think I’ll be back to Headspace soon enough.
I previewed a bunch of other apps and finally settled on one that I’m going to take for my next test drive. I guess this is a lot like buying a car, you want to know it’s a quality car and that you feel comfortable inside it before you commit! I’m one session into my next ‘test drive’ and look forward to seeing where it will take me. More to come but I can say with confidence, that if you’re looking to try out mindfulness then you should try the Headspace app. Go through the “Take 10” sessions and see what you think, I’d love to hear!!