How Mindfulness Meditation Went From New Age To Mainstream
This app gives everyone from Wall Street execs to Olympic athletes their zen.
When I hear the word “meditation,” my mind immediately conjures an image of an older, hippie-looking chick sitting in a New Age-y decorated room with her legs crossed and eyes closed, humming some monotone tune.
That might be what you’re thinking of, too. Or you might be one of the thousands of people who has recently discovered Headspace, the meditation app that is making even the biggest meditation doubters into converts.
The app’s tagline is “treat your head right,” and boy, does it fulfill that promise. Starting with just 10 minutes a day of guided meditation, the voice of app creator Andy Puddicombe talks you through the occasional short video explaining the fundamentals of meditation and then the actual 10-minute exercise meant to be treated like a gym for the mind.
Signing up is free, of course, but just as with a gym membership, there’s a monthly or yearly fee to use the app beyond the basic Take 10 (the first 10 lessons on meditation). The fees are reasonable, with a monthly subscription going for $12.95, a yearly for $7.99 per month and even options to subscribe for two years or for a lifetime (a bargain at a whopping $419.95 for the rest of your life—or until apps become obsolete).
And what’s included with the subscription isn’t short on content, either. You’re instantly given access to all of the app’s meditation courses. You can start with the Take 10, and from there, move on to two more Foundation courses. Both are comprised of 10 sessions, each of which lasts roughly 10 minutes. Each series includes a guided meditation, with occasional animated videos introducing the topic.
From there, you can move on to lessons in different series: Sport, Health, Performance, Relationships and Headspace Pro. Under each topic are more targeted sets of sessions that focus on one particular area you can choose to meditate on, such as anxiety or depression under “Health” and patience or kindness under “Relationships.”
There’s no right or wrong way to progress through the app. For example, you can choose to move straight to the Performance series instead of Foundation Level 2. Your meditation time doesn’t increase or get more “serious” or intense as you move on, though various lessons last longer than others. Headspace leaves the choice up to you; and the world is your meditation oyster.
For some, Headspace has taught them to be less anxious. Others love the app because it can help them get ahead at work. For instance, extroverts are taking a cue from their introverted counterparts and embracing the power of stillness thanks to regular meditation. Having a few minutes away from the hectic work day can help you to come back more focused and ready to tackle that never-ending to-do list. Plus, research has shown that regular meditation might help your work performance, job satisfaction and engagement.
But the most interesting part of the app is that it’s a totally secular form of mindful meditation and not at ALL about what we all probably think meditation is: Turning your brain off.
I know that when I first tried the app, I was feeling anxious and overthinking everything in my life. I was hoping to find a magical way to not have any more stressful thoughts, and was shocked to hear a pretty interesting metaphor in one of the app’s animated tutorials:
Imagine yourself sitting by a busy highway. Cars continue to pass by. You can choose to sit there and notice the cars without focusing on any of them, or you can follow a car down the road.
Andy explains that meditation isn’t here to turn off those thoughts, but rather to help us deal with them better. It made me realize that just because my 10 minutes begin with thinking about what I have to work on for the rest of day and end with trying to figure out what I’ll make for lunch, doesn’t mean I have to be stressed about those things all day.
The Headspace app helped me to breathe deeply and, although a million thoughts still ran through my head, I slowly began to think of them differently. As all those cars drive by me on the busy highway of my brain, I’m letting them enter my mind and stress me out less.
The best part of Headspace, and probably why so many of us are falling in love with mindful meditation all of a sudden, is that there’s real science behind the techniques. As the website states, “While the practice is not new, science is just catching up to its benefits. Recent studies show meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.”
So far I’ve only been using the app for a few days, but I’m already loving the calming benefits it has had on my morning routine. Instead of rushing to get to work, I take my 10 minutes and meditate. Afterward, I feel calmer and find myself oddly wanting to continue that feeling. Often, I sit there for an additional few minutes and reflect on my upcoming day. I feel energized and more focused to tackle it, and my to-do list has been steadily decreasing quicker and quicker.
In a world of many highways and many cars, it’s nice to know that I can take some time during the day and calm down. It may not work for everyone, but I’m certainly becoming a quick convert to mindful meditation. And I’m just loving it.