March 2, 2017

Transforming your Mindfulness Practice: There’s an App for That.

When I was a child, I loved getting sticker stars on my work in elementary school.

I’m not sure if teachers even do that anymore. It’s been such a long time since I was in elementary school.

But these stars meant much more than actual grades. There was a color for different levels of achievement, but everybody got stars. It was less judgmental than grades.

About a year and a half ago I discovered an app that has brought new life and adventure into both my yoga and meditation practices. And like in elementary school, I get stars and affirming camaraderie from people all over the world.

The app is called Insight Timer and there are nearly two million meditators and yoga practitioners who use it. Every day 30,000 hours of meditation, yoga, chanting and pranayama are logged on the site. It’s an online community like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but it connects me to a community of meditators and yogis. Rather than leaving me feeling information overloaded, I feel a refreshing spiritual connection to the whole world.

I don’t actually remember how I found the app. But I had just finished reading The One Thing and started a personal yoga and meditation challenge. Experts say that you need 66 days to form a habit. I used the app to keep myself on track and did not miss a day of yoga and meditation for the full 66 days.

Although I have been practicing yoga and meditation for many, many years, I can’t say that I have ever managed to go that long without missing a day. Every day I was able to see my progress, and I made (virtual) friends and met encouraging people from around the world.

All of us are pulled in so many directions in our lives. With this, the habits that enhance our lives, no matter how good they are for us, often fall by the wayside for short and long periods of time.

Since my 66-day challenge in 2015, I have rarely missed a day of practice, even if my asana practice was only 15 minutes and my meditation practice was as little as five minutes.

Without a doubt, the app helps me to maintain consistency in my practice. I wrote an article called Developing a Home Yoga Practice: It’s Not About Discipline after I finished the challenge. 

The Insight Timer app allows users to preset mindful activities such as meditation, yoga, chanting and breathing. Users can add interval bells and a variety of ambient sounds. There are also 4,200 guided meditations by over 1000 meditation teachers such as Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, and Sadguru among them. You can bookmark your favorite guided meditations.

But back to the stars. They may sound childish, but there is something gratifying about seeing them add up on my Insight Timer profile. Every 10 consecutive days is considered a milestone and you get a gold star. If there is a break, at say Day 5, the consecutive days begins again. After you receive five gold stars they turn into a red star. And after five red stars, you get a green star.

When you open the app it tells you how many people around the world are meditating at that moment. When you finish your practice it tells you how many people were meditating with you. There are groups to join such as Daily Gratitude, the Insight Community, and Global Well-Being Meditation. You can comment and post your thoughts.

On January 1, 2017, Insight Timer started a 365-day challenge which I joined. And yes, I have missed some days—and it’s okay. It’s the idea of being in community with people all over the world that is so compelling and affirming.

As they say, “It’s not the destination that matters—it’s the journey.”

None of us know what the final destination will be. But in this age of technology, seekers from all over the world can journey together.


Author: Gayle Fleming

Image: Trevor Ellestad/Flickr

Editor: Caitlin Oriel


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