Meditation apps gaining popularity in tech hubs
Some meditation and mindfulness trainers are using technology in interesting ways. They range from simple meditation timers to complete courses.
San Jose Mercury News
In an age of smartphones, instant messaging and 24/7 availability, it’s increasingly hard to find time to step away and reconnect with one’s self, especially in fast-paced tech hubs like Silicon Valley.
But before you lock your smartphone in a closet for an hour a day, check out some of the apps and websites available for learning and practicing the ancient art of meditation and the more contemporary mindfulness-based stress reduction.
You don’t need a new gadget to meditate — all the equipment necessary comes installed in the product.
But some meditation and mindfulness trainers are using technology in interesting ways. They range from simple meditation timers to complete courses.
“It’s almost using the enemy’s weapons against them,” said Dada Nabhaniilananda of the Ananda Marga Yoga & Meditation Center in Los Altos Hills, Calif. He’s developing a meditation app with some computer-science grad students, and plans to have it available in several languages.
Classes in mindfulness practices have become popular at some of Silicon Valley’s signature tech giants, where Los Altos psychotherapist and educator Renee Burgard conducts training.
“There are more teachers of this in the San Francisco Bay Area than any other place in the world except Toronto, I’m told,” Burgard said.
The apps and a growing awareness of the benefits of meditation are helping expand the practice in a big way, according to mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.
Kabat-Zinn’s website is one of the oldest commercial websites, launched in 1998 when the World Wide Web was still in its swaddling clothes. Now, colleagues in Sweden have developed apps containing Kabat-Zinn’s series of guided meditations.
“The idea is basically to make this as widely available as possible so people can practice the meditation on a regular basis in their own lives,” Kabat-Zinn said.
Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist, began researching mind and body interactions for healing in 1979, working with patients experiencing chronic pain “who were falling through the cracks in the health-care system.”
His courses are offered at more than 720 medical centers and clinics around the world. He’s not surprised by their popularity at tech companies.
“At places like that, everybody is addicted to speed, yet there is tremendous hunger in the Silicon Valley,” he said.
The reaction of some people in the first couple of sessions is that there’s not much of anything to it. But that’s the point, Kabat-Zinn said.
“We’re so conditioned to doing, that we forget about the element of being human. So when we drop into being, it seems like, wait a minute, nothing’s happening. I’ve got work to do, deadlines to meet. And you realize how driven we can become getting onto the next thing. If you do that your whole life, you just drop into your grave and you haven’t actually lived.”
Here is a sampling from the dozens of apps and websites dedicated to meditation and mindfulness.
• Headspace: Headspace Meditation (Apple and Android). First 10 lessons free. $7.99 a month for a yearlong course. (Apple and Android)
This popular app settles you down, leads you through a relaxing body scan, and then teaches you techniques for settling your mind, pushing your thoughts gently away and bringing your mind and body together to experience the present moment. If you’re not ready for a yearlong commitment, you can buy a month of sessions for $12.95.
• Insight Timer: Free. Spotlight Six Software (Apple and Android). With more than 13 million downloads, this timer is clearly popular.
The timer comes with sounds the user can select to mark the beginning and end of a meditation or yoga session. Sounds range from gongs to singing bowls.
• The JKZ Series 1-3: (Apple and Android.) $9.99 for each of three sections. These apps contain Kabat-Zinn’s three programs in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
Mindfulnessapps.com takes you to the store where you can download the three apps. These were formerly available only on CDs, and still are provided in that form at Mindfulnesscds.com, along with digital downloads to your computer.
• Mindfulness & Health: Free websites Mindfulnesshealth.com and Mindfulnesshealth-psychotherapy.com created by Silicon Valley psychotherapist and mindfulness trainer Renre Burgard. They feature information about her classes and downloadable guided meditation and mindfulness sessions.
• Mindfulness Meditation (Mental Workout): Multiple platforms.
“Lite” version free, full version $16.99 a year. A meditation guide by Stephan Bodian, author of “Meditation for Dummies.”
• Buddhify (21awake): (Apple; Android “soon”) $3. Custom meditations for different times of day and different situations.