For many of us, "meditation" is another term tossed into the kale and wheatgrass salad. Our doctors claim it's good for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, our therapists say it helps with mommy and daddy issues, and media hyperbole depicts it as the fix-all magic practice. For most would-be practitioners, however, making the move to start seems to entail wading through stacks of texts or developing a new vocabulary, riddled with words like nibbana and vipassana. On the contrary, beginning to meditate is easy; and yes, the iPhone can help.
The Insight Timer meditation app, created by Spotlight Six Software, can quickly get you started, and keep you on the path. It won't teach you how to meditate, but by linking you into an online network of practitioners, it can help make meditation a consistent part of your life.
The clean interface provides nine traditional bells to choose from, ensuring a smooth entrance and exit to your sit. The app includes a customizable timer, a journal for brief reflections, and a map indicating who is meditating with you in real time, and where they are on the planet. Advanced practitioners can take advantage of the interval bells for walking meditation or to regulate breaks while on retreat.
Through the Insight Connect feature, meditators can send messages to each other to develop communities, or sanghas, which are crucial to maintaining a regular practice.
For those just beginning, select your bells and set your timer for eight minutes. Sit upright on a chair or on the ground with your legs folded. Maintain a gentle S-curve in your back and keep your chin parallel with the floor. Relax into the stability of this position.
Breathe through your nose without trying to control your breath, while focusing on the sensation of air entering and exiting your nostrils. Internally count your inhalations, up to five. When you have reached five, restart back at one.
That's all it takes.
We are programmed to think, to plan, to reflect on the past. When you catch your mind wandering, as it inevitably will, bring your attention back to the breath streaming in and out of your nose. Don't imagine what the breath looks like, just feel it. The Insight Timer app offers a meditation vacation anywhere, a happy respite during long days at the office. [$1.99, Insight Timer]