Stress levels tend to run high in the city that never sleeps; it can be difficult to find time to relax and clear your head.
Enter meditation smart phone apps.
Forget Snapchat, forget Temple Run and forget Candy Crush. Apps like Headspace, Bhuddify and Insight Timer are here to clear your mind and provide an outlet from the hectic city lifestyle right in the palm of your hand.
For most beginners, meditation feels difficult and it takes time for them to figure out what type of talk or guidance is the best match. Dharma Punx NYC’s main teacher Josh Korda, 54, says that though it is worthwhile to try out a bunch of different voices and talks to see who you respond to, it is also important not to be too reactive.
“No one likes meditation at the beginning,” said Korda. “As human beings we are set up to get things done, to accomplish. We are prone to overscheduling and busyness so the idea of settling and focusing the mind and internally letting go of achieving or doing anything can at first be a very challenging endeavor.”
Today there are a variety of simple ways for people to include a real, sustained integration of meditation into their lives including both smartphone apps and the Internet. There are a number of websites with guided meditation like Dharma Seed that allow someone to sift through a number of different talks, choose a bunch and download them so they are easily accessible.
“When I first started, they said take an egg timer and just sit there and stay quiet and believe me it was torture for many years. I don’t think I would ever recommend that old school way to anyone,” Korda said. “Download a bunch of guided meditations to your phone and then when you’re available to spend 15 or 20 minutes just sit and play the guided meditations -- that’s the best way to get started. “
There are roughly two large sub-categories of meditation and to understand the benefits it is necessary to understand those categories. First, there is concentration meditation which is focusing on the breath and this in general builds attention skills and focus. The next category is mindfulness which incorporates open monitoring and not focusing on anything specific, you are training the mind to stay in the present and be available to anything that arises in the present moment. This is emotion integration.
Kathy Cherry, 45, who is also a Meditation Instructor and Events Coordinator at Dharma Punx NYC, is well-versed in mindfulness and a meditation app user.
“I use an app called Insight Timer; it is available for both the Android and iPhone and it provides an additional community,” Cherry said. “You have the ability to join other meditation groups and you can see others and track yourself. Connecting with other people in the process is really critical to being able to sustain your practice.”
Korda and Cherry both agreed that formal practice is important and if someone is not willing to meditate for roughly 20 minutes a day each day for at least 8 weeks they likely will not see any significant differences or benefits.
Kathy uses Insight, practices formally and incorporates the practice into her daily life.
“In the beginning you are training your mind and the mind is like a puppy and it wants to run off and chew on everything,” Cherry said. “If you are on the subway, it is checking out the woman standing over there, ‘Oh I like her hair,’ the mind wants to flow out and check all this stuff out.”
When looking for an app, Cherry said it is important to take into account its ease of use, meaning you want to remove as many distractions as you can as it is hard enough to stop and dedicate the time to meditation. She added that an app like Insight Timer has a simpler timer app within it that one can use to fit their own personal needs.
“Having the ability to program indicators for yourself allows you to relax,” Cherry said. “You can trust that the app will give you the notification that it is time to switch into this other mode.”
Because training the mind is so difficult and humans are programmed to constantly work and achieve, it is easy for people to give up, move on and throw the idea of meditation away.
“Most will think, 'Why am I doing this? I have so much to do,' and they won’t understand all the benefits,” Korda said. “They won’t be able to really know what the long term goal is and what the possible benefits are.”
He added, “There are no studies that say meditation is bad for you.”