Tigers in cages, a high pitched scream, running but my feet aren’t moving…my body reacts with electrifying terror… my alarm, MY alarm, MY ALARM… Ohhhh, my alarm….is signaling me to WAKE UP. As I slowly make my way out of bed to the sound of the fresh, hot coffee in my kitchen, I realize it was just a dream.
Finding my way to my favorite seat, I scroll through the Apps on my phone as my eyes rest on the familiar photo of a copper singing bowl, INSIGHT TIMER, ahhhh…. I search for a meditation suited to my current inner state. I settle on one titled, “Calming Meditation For Times of Fear and Anxiety.” My purpose, for this moment, is to clear the distressed energy from my waking dream. My morning routine has begun and I feel instantly at peace.
Let me be clear, this did not happen overnight. Developing a meditation routine was something I thought about, talked about and ironically stressed about for years. It wasn’t until I had real struggle in my life that I realized this tool was the best medicine for sleeplessness, stress, anxiety and depression. The biggest bonus of my mindfulness practice was that it helped me realize I was not my thoughts.
Speaking of thoughts... we, as humans, have an incredible gift. A thinking mind. As powerful and wonderful as it is for helping us navigate life, solve problems and plan for the future, it can also completely distract us from what we are actually experiencing in the moment. How many times have you driven to a destination only to realize you have no recollection of the landscape you passed. Or you were introduced to someone and you didn’t catch their name and where they were from, let alone the first few words they spoke to you? In these instances, your thoughts are running a fictional movie in your head and prohibiting you from being fully aware of the moment surrounding you. Instead the essence of the present is slipping by unnoticed while you are making up another version of reality in your head.
Getting out of our heads and into our bodies to tame our overactive mind is one of the many goals of a meditation practice. Striving for clarity was the main reason I began my meditation practice five years ago. As I began my quest to find my meditation guru, I soon realized I held the best pathway to learning meditation in the palm of my hand, the App store. Although there are over a dozen excellent meditation Apps available, these 4 are currently at the top of my list:
#1 Insight Timer
Probably my favorite for many reasons but also because its FREE, has been around the longest and is one of most comprehensive. Its library contains over 40,000 guided meditations from the world’s spiritual teachers and also includes courses for more in-depth study. Another huge benefit is its online community. This app allows you to join friends who are interested in the same types of meditation you enjoy. It enables you to connect with others as you navigate your way through your practice.
#2 Waking Up
The most straight forward of my choices. It's the cleanest and easiest to use. On the days that I feel more scattered and don’t want a bunch of choices I reach for this one. I love Sam Harris’ voice, its confident and soothing. His course for beginners is simple and clear. After all, the goal here is to elicit a more calm, clear and less distracted mind.
I like this App because upon opening it instructs you to take a deep breath. Breathing is something all meditation teachers agree upon. The power of your breath is well…powerful. The simple act of taking 3 deep breaths when you are stressed cannot be over emphasized. In addition, Calm’s sleep stories can soothe the most stubborn of insomnias into slumber.
In contrast to the Waking Up app, this one gives many more options for meditators. As you gain momentum in your practice this can be helpful as it allows you to tailor your stillness time to your needs. It’s beautifully designed utilizing a color wheel for choosing your daily practice. I recommend this one once you have a solid practice and are ready to play around a little broadening your repertoire of mindfulness. I chose this one specifically for our Hula community because of its claim, “the mindfulness app for people that don’t have time, meditation done differently.” Trust me, if your excuse is that you don’t have enough time, you need meditation.
I guarantee if you spend 5-10 minutes a day practicing mindfulness you will gain that time back through the efficiency of your mind. Eventually you will see the irony of this roadblock to beginning a practice. In turn, you may even crave more time spent in meditation as you witness it spilling out into your day. You notice yourself taking breaks to breathe before an important meeting, walking outside in nature during your lunch break, and simply stopping to gaze out over the lake as you pause for a breath before heading into work.
And that’s the point right? Meditation is something we practice, but eventually, it becomes a part of who we are. It may take a while to get there, but its worth the wait. Your mind becomes calmer, your insights brighter and you actually notice the moments of the journey you are on.
One last word of encouragement. Meditation…It is simple, but not easy. It does requires you to show up for yourself. To take a break from distractions. And sometimes, if not most of the time, when you sit and settle in you will find a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Some may be uncomfortable at first. But I urge you to stick with it.
SIT A LITTLE LONGER….
AND STAY A FEW MINUTES MORE…
You might surprise yourself. You are stronger than you think. Trust, little over slow, you will reap the benefits of a calmer, clearer more open mind.