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  • Mara Elwood

There's and App for that


Recently someone attributed the phrase, “Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes a day, if they are too busy, they should sit for 1 hour.” I am not sure if it this is a wisdom of the Buddha or something the Dalai Lama said, but I do agree, although when I say this to people I smile and go on to tell them that I actually think we need to at least start with a minute here and a minute there. In our current over-paced, over-competitive, over-stimulated, FOMO type culture we are all losing the ability to be aware, and also to be focused. We are less able to fully live because we are always in several places at once, distracted to the point of disconnection.


So what does Mindfulness or Meditation do to mitigate that situation? Mindfulness is all about awareness, noticing, and remembering to notice. When someone sits in meditation for the first time, the big thing they notice is the wandering mind. At the end of the meditation they report, “I can’t do this, my mind is too busy.” “I tried to stop thinking, but I just couldn’t so I didn’t really meditate.” Nowhere is it said that meditation is about stopping thought, also, since we are so busy and distracted every other minute of the day, is it surprising that when we sit for mediation we are still getting distracted and busy in our minds? Meditation is the gym for our mind, a training to start paying attention to one thing as best we can. Depending on how our day has gone leading up to our sitting, we can sometimes have quite good focus, and other times we hear the bell to start and then the timer goes to signal the end. The important thing then is to bring some awareness to that, awareness with compassion and forgiveness and the intention to begin again next time.


At this point, generally, people roll their eyes and say, “I have no time to do this.” Contrary to a fitness program that we should also all have in some shape or form, and takes at least 20 minutes a day to show any benefit, and perhaps a trip to the gym; meditation and mindfulness practice can begin with a minute a day, or three if you have that many to spare.


Our mobile devices (phones, iPads etc.), are often blamed for the lack of time we have, as we are constantly reminded by notifications to check mail, get sucked into facebook or instagram, or look at our phones instead of the person trying to have a conversation with us at that time. So let’s start with those notifications. The easiest way to avoid constant reminders to check statuses and posts is to turn the notifications off altogether. If that seems too extreme, try using the notifications in a constructive way to practice mindfulness. When the phone pings, stop, breathe a full cycle or two or three, notice how you are in that moment (scan your inner landscape) and then check the phone. You will become more aware of when you have been going on autopilot, and you will be in a better state of mind when you look at your phone to respond to the notification instead of reacting from a state of disconnection.


Another way to use our mobile devices to help us is to use apps that have been designed to start us on a journey to becoming more mindful. There are several meditation apps, and mindfulness apps, many of which use a daily check in to help us connect with our bodies and our emotions. They offer one to three minute guided meditations, and just like your breath, I bet your phone is always with you anyway. The only thing that remains then is to set an intention to use the app daily until it becomes a habit. Which is easier to do if you tie it to an already existing daily habit, like drinking a cup of coffee, or brushing your teeth. So instead of checking your instagram feed while commuting on the train, check in with the app and breathe for three minutes. Even these three minutes daily will move you towards greater awareness and attention levels than you now have. The first thing we need to do is begin.


Some of the apps I have found are: Stop, Breathe & Think (both adult and child versions, free), the Calm app, Smiling Mind (good for kids and adults), Aura, Insight timer, Happy not Perfect.


But I urge you to turn off your notifications on more things on your phone as well.