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I saw a TED video by Andy Puddicombe several months ago.  It was a thoughtful, short and entertaining lecture on mindful meditation; AND – it is related to an App.  Before going further, who is this guy?

Andy’s Bio (from wikipedia)

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham and, later, De Montfort University, Bedford, where he studied Sports Science. More recent academic studies include a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts, awarded by the University of Kent, curated by the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama at the National Centre for Circus Arts in London.

Over the course of ten years, his meditation training as a lay person and novice monk took him to Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Australia and Russia; culminating in full ordination at a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas. Having completed a one year cloistered retreat in Scotland, he returned to Russia, as a monk, where he taught meditation. He lived in Russia for over four years, before reaching the end of his monastic commitment.In 2004 Puddicombe returned to the UK with the simple mission of making meditation and mindfulness accessible, relevant and beneficial to as many people as possible.

Why Should We Care about Meditation

I’ve seen dozens of references to studies reporting a variety of benefits of meditation.  For example, this is an excerpt from the TED Blog;

“Is meditating a good way to increase creativity? Maybe, but it depends on what kind. Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands looked at the way two types of meditation — focused-attention (for example, focusing on your breath) and open-monitoring (where participants focus on the both the internal and external) — affected two types of creative thinking — the ability to generate new ideas and solutions to problems. In a study published in April 2012 in Frontiers in Cognition, they revealed that the participants who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show improved results in the two creativity tasks. However, those who practiced open-monitoring meditation did perform better at task related to coming up with new ideas. [Meditation Research]”

If certain modes of meditation can boost creativity – I’m interested.  Regardless of your role or the size of your company, who would not benefit from being more creative?

Headspace the App

Why do I need an app, wouldn’t it be easier to just do the meditation?  Not for me.  I’ve tried to develop a meditation habit for years and failed.  Maybe I didn’t stick with it long enough for it to become a true habit. Maybe there wasn’t enough obvious immediate benefit.  Who knows.  Would an app help?  Not worth over-analyzing, just try it.

The Headspace app has 10 free sessions, each lasting about 10 minutes.  If you desire more, there is a paid membership for 1 month ($12.95), 12 month ($95.88), two years ($149.76) or forever ($419.95).  I decided to go for the 1 month deal and if it still seems beneficial after the extra month, consider the annual subscription.

The 10 free sessions are intended to be used one-per-day.  There are a few well crafted animations to illustrate meditation concepts, and each session has Andy’s voice as a guide through the 10 minute session.

My Experience

A 10 minute session was easy to work into the day.  If they were 30 minutes, I would have probably found an excuse. After the 10th, I was ready for more.  I suppose I could repeat the original 10 indefinitely, but purchasing a license for the additional sessions also held the promise of more advanced techniques (new animations) and more.  I will never know if I don’t subscribe.

During the 10 sessions I discovered a few things.  First, I seem to manifest tension in my forehead.  Whenever we did a body scan, I discovered my forehead tight as a drum skin.  I also seemed to experience three phases of mind state.  I’ll call them A, B and C.  The first phase (A), was a calm state of mind, similar to just sitting and relaxing for a few minutes.   The second phase (B) was like a mild high, very pleasant.  The third state (C), was a much deeper high, almost intoxicating, with the temptation just to stay in that mode and not come out.  The third stage didn’t occur in every session.

When I search this topic, I find references to traditions of 5 stages and 9 stages.  In some scientific studies, they have mapped the meditation states to brain wave frequencies, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta, (4 stages).  For example, Beta is a frequency between 15 – 40HZ.  So my three stages don’t align to anything it seems.  Or, perhaps I’ve just experienced the first 3 of the 5 (or 9).   I’m not sure if the 5 stages in some traditions can be mapped to the 9 stages in others.  If I were to research this more that, would seem to be counter to my purpose.  I want to be a practitioner and beneficiary, not an academic on the topic.

But I do know that Headspace falls primarily in the the Mindfulness camp.  The expert on this technique is Jon-Kabat-Zinn, and his definition of Mindfulness is “moment to moment non-judgmental awareness”.  If you’re wondering what the heck is that supposed to mean, check-out of of his books or videos.  Here is a short one. MBSR.

Summary

After each session, I felt relaxed, refreshed and ready to tackle the day.  But what about an hour later, or 7 hours later after life has dumped another large pile of crap in your lap?

It’s difficult to judge if I’m handling stress better after 10 sessions of Headspace, or I’m more creative or whatever.  But this might be like a multivitamin, you can’t really tell the difference as you’re taking them, but you know it’s good for you in the long run.  I’ll write a follow-up Post in 30 days after I’ve delved more deeply into the Headspace app and see if my perspective has changed.

If anyone is looking for a book on meditation, there are hundreds (probably thousands).  I enjoyed Search Inside Yourself.

Image by Chris Sardegna (Unsplash)

Next week: the results of my experiment with a nootropic.

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