The digital era has produced yet another dubious gift for the stressed out and screen-locked: meditation apps. So. Many. Meditation apps.
And meditation apps are big business: Headspace and Calm have collected $75 million and $88 million from investors, respectively. Calm is a meditation app currently valued around the $1 billion mark
But can you truly learn mindfulness and meditation in the same medium that allows you to conduct seances, mark spots you’ve left number twos, and pop virtual pimples? Frankly, those all sound more relaxing than letting a soothing voice guide me through developing my chi. So, my skeptical self did some research and found the ideal app for me: Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics.
Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics was created by journalist Dan Harris of 10 Percent Happier, who once had a panic attack during a live news broadcast and now has a couple of books and a podcast, so he must know a thing or two about getting his shit together.
“I’m all about the nurturing aspects of our planet, but I’m in this app to learn about my mind, dammit. Give it to me straight.”
Right away, I appreciated that Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics didn’t rely on an earth mother aesthetic. No romanticized scenes of waves lapping on quiet shores or birds quietly twittering to be found here. I’m all about the nurturing aspects of our planet, but I’m in this app to learn about my mind, dammit. Give it to me straight.
And Harris does. It helps that Harris himself is a likeable skeptic of meditation marketing, firmly dismissing the typical visual of “people with those beatific looks on their faces, floating off into the cosmos.” He prefers a dude whipping his brain into shape. The sessions are laid out simply, with short videos and minimal design flash. I immediately liked that Harris’ approach to collating the app’s lessons is pure journalism: he found experts in the field and lets them give the lessons.
Quickly putting to rest the idea that your mind can actually be cleared — it can’t, because thoughts — the app’s approach feels accessible, friendly, and actually kind of cool (despite labelling itself as such). Like you and a pal taking 10 to think about your brains and then chatting about it over brunch caesars.
My first week of sessions was easier than I expected, and the low-stakes, amiable tone was definitely a factor. I’m not training for the meditation Olympics, I just want to be able to get through stressful work days without crying, or watch a movie without mentally drafting a reaction tweet I’ll never send. Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics gets that.
Intrusive thoughts will always appear, but I’ve learned that the trick is to acknowledge them, evaluate their usefulness, and then wave goodbye. ‘Respond, don’t react,’ is a mantra I can get behind.