I start my days early, typically waking at 5 AM, which provides me the opportunity to begin my day with practices that focus my mind on peace, presence, and perseverance. While everyone else is asleep I am able to eat a hearty breakfast, read, practice yoga, meditate, and trail run. The meditation aspect of my morning is one of the key ways that I establish a present mindset. To guide my daily meditations I trust in the wisdom provided by the meditation app Calm. I have used Calm for the past few years and my admiration for the app extends to all aspects of what it provides, from its Daily Calms (daily meditations) to its Sleep Stories (bedtime stories for everyone).

While I may personally be a fan of Calm’s perspective on meditation, there are countless meditation apps out there that aid a large percentage of our population in finding presence, de-stressing, and watching the watcher. Over the past half decade the practice of meditation has gained popularity, influence, and respect in American society. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics the percentage of American adults who use meditation as a “complementary health” tactic rose from 4.1% to 14.2% between 2012-2017. A “complementary health” approach is defined by the study as “the use of holistic or unconventional medicine with mainstream Western medicine for health and wellness.”

This overall rise in popularity for meditation has bled into a rise in popularity for meditation apps. Google searches for “meditation app” hit peak popularity just recently at the end of 2018 when tracking the search term over a five year period. In fact, interest in meditation apps has spiked in major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles according to the search data. Which makes sense as health and wellness trends typically gain popularity and traction in major population centers on the coasts. Across the board people are picking up meditation apps on an unprecedented basis. According to Apptopia compared to Q1 2017, consumer spending on apps like Calm or Headspace is up 40% in Q1 2018 and new downloads have risen 36% compared to 2017.

However, beyond the data the fact remains that meditation is one of the key ways to provide yourself the space to respond, instead of react, and people across the country are recognizing that fact. By building this skill you form space for yourself to find presence in the moment. Much like training for a race, you do not build the skill all at once or completely perfectly. Instead the skill of presence comes in small leaps and, often, with many set backs. You may often feel like you are taking one step forward but two steps back. The key is to recognize that you are building the muscle that is your mind and that takes work, challenge is an inherent part of that work. When those difficulties arise and even when you accomplish your mindfulness goals, through the use of a meditation app or otherwise, remember this passage from The Dhammapada, the millennia old collection of the Buddha’s sayings:

And having known directly on my own,
Whom could I point to [as my teacher]?
— Verse 353, The Dhammapada, trans. by Gil Fronsdal


Jarod Contreras

Call for comments:

What meditation app do you use? What role does it play in your day?


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