Friday, September 13, 2013

Mindfulness and Technology: An Unlikely Duo

Mindfulness continues to gain momentum as a practice that can be designed to combat the ever demanding world of technology and media. It is a way for us to "unplug" from the Ipads and emails that vie for our attention like rock star groupies outside of an 80's era Whitesnake concert. Using mindfulness can help us turn off the things that steal our attention and tune into the things that are happening in the present moment such as the way we feel and the sounds we hear. By redirecting out attention to the present moment we are able create space between what is happening and how we respond to it.

In a twist of irony it appears that there are an ever growing list of Applications for our smartphones that make it easier to employ mindfulness in order to unplug from the very smartphones that are helping us to be mindful. Yeah confusing I know... its kind of like trying to start a diet by going to McDonald's and ordering a chicken salad topped with fried nuggets. However, part of dealing with a world that is increasingly being taken over by technology is approaching the way we deal with that technology in a contemplative manner. By mindfully paying attention to how we interact with these technologies we can use them to our advantage and help increase and strengthen a daily mindfulness practice. I have compiled a list of "Mindfulness Apps" that I think can help us maintain our daily practice through fun interactive means.

Insight Timer- Meditation Timer ($2.99): This is my current favorite application for my smartphone. It is available for both Iphones and Android operating systems. With the Insight Timer you can try both guided meditations as well as silent self-guided sits. It has a handy timer that starts and stops your session with a variety of bells and singing bowls. It also has a journal feature to write about your experience after meditating. The app has an online community called Insight Connect that lets you connect with other people using the application.  According to Amazon "With the Insight Connect feature, you can become part of a global meditation community - seeing at a glance people around the world who are meditating with you." 

Conscious App by Makan Studios (free): This is another app that is available for both the Android and Iphone smartphones. This app pushes daily challenges to you that help you stay mindful of a certain goal. It also has a community of users to help you stay motivated. Every morning, everyone gets the same new challenge for the day. If you accept the challenge, you then try your best throughout the day to incorporate it in your experience. In the evening, you mark the challenge as finished and add a daily journal entry to keep track of your progress and share your insights with the others. I think it is a great idea I just am not too thrilled about the idea of more notifications being pushed through my phone.

ReWire by Seated Monkey (free): This free app tries to increase your inherent ability to pay attention. It is simple and easy to use. You listen to sound and when the sound disappears you tap the screen. I also find it to be a great precursor to a meditation session by helping to ready your ability to focus. I  like that you can import your own music or purchase the ReWire "brainwave tracks." Although not specifically meditation this is a great app to use with kids or other novices who may not be experienced with staying aware of their own attention. 

The Mind Gardner App ($.99): This app can be download on both the Android and Itunes platforms. It is based off the popular Mind Gardener website which focuses on positive thinking in the realm of positive psychology rather than mindfulness. It is another app that tries to help with mind training to increase attention and focus. However, it relies more on training your brain for positive thinking and motivation... kind of like a pocket sized Tony Robbins. According to the Android store "Mind Gardener Moments contains 20 topics, including the procrastination buster, the relationship smoother, the mood shifter, the busyness buster, the change embracer and the creativity booster. Each topic reveals 3 simple and practical exercises designed to hit the spot." I don't use this app and by the looks of the website its full of platitudes that can come off a little trite. However give it a shot it may be just what you need. 

Mind Hacker app ($1.92): Mind Hacker uses binaural beat technology to alter your though patterns by stimulating specific parts of the brain using various frequencies. Binaural beats are believed to lower brain frequency, decrease anxiety and increase learning (working memory). Theta waves specifically are supposed to help with meditation. The jury here at the Mindful School Psychologist is still out on this one, but if this is your thing its a great app. 

The Meditation Jar (free):  This app is only for the Iphone and is great for kids to practice "mindful seeing". The Meditation Jar app gives relaxation to your mind and helps you to focus on the simple settling of dots in a jar- similar to a snow globe. Just shake the jar and let the dots clear your mind in 10 seconds right where you are.

As mindfulness continues to "go mainstream" more and more of these apps will continue to be developed. From websites that are dedicated to tracking the growing movement of technology in contemplation/ meditation, as well as podcasts that discuss their utility, the lines between awareness and technology will continue to blur. As a practitioner who is  excited to be apart of the growing mindfulness movement I am optimistic about how these apps can help us to strengthen or daily practice as well as bring mindfulness to those who have not found it. However, I am cautious and always mindful to approach my relationship with this technology in a inquisitive and introspective manner. What apps do you use? Are there any you would recommend. Leave your recommendations in the comments section. 

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