Mindfulness on the go

cross posted on my personal blog

Back in the Spring, a parishioner asked me to recommend mindfulness apps for her smartphone. She spoke about her hectic lifestyle, her desire to deepen her spiritual connections to the sacred, and her frustration at not finding time or space to do so. She wondered if having an app on her phone might help her develop this spiritual practice.

I was fascinated by her question, and curious about whether there would be “apps for that” and how effective they would be. I began my research last spring, and soon discovered an abundance of mindfulness apps available for both IOS and android, most for free, and I found the majority of them to lack depth or effectiveness. I also found that it took a lot of time to hunt for these apps, download them, and try them out … and that the hunt was increasing my “screen time” significantly, and without adding any benefit to my own spiritual practices.

I decided to halt the hunt, and instead took a week of study leave in August to research and test mindfulness apps.  I don’t currently use an iphone, so these are all android apps, and they are all free. Here’s my top five choices:

All About Mindfulness  Developed by the National College of Ireland, this app is free.  I appreciated the range of mindfulness supports in this app which incorporates life coaching as well.  The registration process helps you name your core values, and the weekly affirmations, daily gratitude journal and mindfulness tips gently lead you towards developing intentionality and awareness each day.  There is also a “friends” option where you can connect with others using this app for mutual support and encouragement along the way.

Stop, Breathe and Think  This app tracks how much time you spend in meditation (no pressure there!) which can be helpful in terms of personal accountability towards mindfulness goals.  This app was also a winner of the 2015 Webby People’s Voice Award for Health & Fitness.  Guided meditation exercises are designed to help with:
+ Self healing  + Self motivation  + Anxiety & stress  + Depression  + Compassion  + Falling asleep  + And much more!  I’m not a huge fan of guided meditations, but I found myself appreciating the gentleness and the scope of the meditations on this app.  The opportunity to check in before and after each session is helpful in naming emotions which is foundational for managing stress and achieving a sense of groundedness or wellness.

Conscious  This app provides a daily mindfulness task which is focused on becoming more aware of regular events or activities in your life.  You are invited each day to accept the current mindfulness challenge and incorporate it into your day.  In the evening, you then mark the challenge as complete and journal about your experience.  The challenges are delightfully simple: taste your food, watch your breath, be aware of silence.  This challenge to become more aware of small, daily routines increases deeper awareness of how you respond both physically and emotionally to larger events in your life. There is also an opportunity to reflect with others who are also receiving the same daily challenge.

Prana Breath This is an app for “breathing gymnastics” and incorporates eastern and western methodologies focusing on intentional breathing exercises.  The app guides you through a thorough array of breathing exercises, and each exercise is timed.  You have the option of adjusting the timer and choosing your preferred exercise, and also to choose to include hand mudras with your spiritual practice.  Breathing gymnastics has its origins in ancient times in many cultures, and was usually used in rituals and everyday religious practice: mentioned in Upanishads as Pranayama, the art of proper breathing (ancient Hinduism); claimed to higher realms of awareness (Qigong philosophy). as the part of Sufi practices (Islam); the important component in “Prayer of Jesus” (Christian)

iMindfulness  This app incorporates a number of mindfulness techniques and works well for beginners as well as experienced practitioners.  There are three guided meditations, as well as a bell to help mark time for silent meditation.  There are in-app purchase opportunities if you want to expand your spiritual practices.  This app has the option to set meditation reminders, and an option to track your mindfulness time.

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