The Practice of Meditation – And the Tools that I Have Found to Help

Supposedly, today is International Calm Day, so I thought it was an ideal opportunity for this post.

I mentioned here the changes I’ve been trying to make to my morning routine and some of the tools that I have recently been using as ways to better start my day.

One of the keystones of Hal Elrod’s ‘Miracle Morning‘ is ‘silence’ which is achieved through some sort of meditation, guided or otherwise.

I had been really tentative in the lead up to tackling (that’s almost how I saw it!) meditation and always of the mindset that I didn’t know ‘how’ to do it. I was procrastinating and concerned that I would be ‘doing it wrong’ – I think that’s why the tools that I found helped so much, even just in reassuring me that there really is no ‘right’ way to meditate and it all comes down to you, what you need, and how you clear your mind.

I looked into different apps in order to help me and, if I’m honest, I’m still choosing between them. But I thought I would do a quick post on meditation and a review of the tools that I’m currently using:

:: Headspace

Designed by Rich Pierson and Andy Puddicombe (previously trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk) Headspace is free for the starter Take 10 (10 minutes of guided meditation for 10 days) and for extra unlocked features during the first 30 days – which should be long enough for you to build up a basic understanding of the fundamentals of secular meditation and an idea of whether or not you’ll find it useful in every day life.

After the free-trial a subscription costs $12.95 monthly or $96.00 annually (two-year and forever plans also available). Headspace is probably the most established out of the apps that I’m reviewing but it’s not my favourite, primarily because I found that starting at 10-minute sessions was a bit ambitious. I also feel that, out of all the apps I’ve been trying, the free version of Headspace offers the least.

:: Calm

Calm seems to offer the most in the free version of their app – guided meditation sessions, unguided options, a 7-day introductory mindfulness programme and also a sleep stories feature. As with the others, the paid version unlocks more but I’ve been quite content working my way through the free options and repeating my favourites. Guided meditations include ‘Body Scan’ ‘Calm Light’ ‘Loving Kindness’ and ‘Forgiveness’ and, very usefully, you can choose how long your session lasts so as you get better you can gradually increase the length of your session (the paid version will unlock longer sessions).

In honour of International Calm Day, Calm has unlocked all of its premium features for free (until the end of today) so it’s the ideal time to try it out.

:: Aura

Aura is the new kid on the block as far as meditation apps are concerned and it’s perfect for a beginner (like me) for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the free app only allows you access to one 3-minute meditation per day – which is perfectly manageable and not exactly daunting. Secondly, it tailors the meditation depending on how you are feeling (you pick from anxious, great, stressed, sad or okay). Lastly, it encourages you to schedule your meditations and to tie them to an existing daily habit (after showering, after brushing your teeth or before bedtime, for example), when you’re new to meditation and trying to find a way to incorporate it into your day this is incredibly helpful. It even allows you to change the scheduled time for the weekends (since Aura is smart enough to realize that, despite my best intentions, I’m usually not getting up and showering at the same time on Saturday and Sundays…)

I also appreciate that Aura will link my mindfulness sessions to Apple Health (this is a feature in Headspace too).

You can unlock longer and more frequent guided meditation sessions with the premium app ($11.99 per month, $7.92 per month if you choose the annual package or $399.99 for the forever package).

* Disclaimer – despite all of these apps having a paid version, I am using the free one so my review is for the free versions.

Additional tools:

Essential oils – spritzing a little essential oil when you meditate can do wonders for helping you focus or helping you relax.

I like to use a lavender oil if I am meditating right before bed as it helps me unwind, I rub a little on my pulse points and then settle into one of Calm’s Body Scan meditations, starting with my scalp and moving down through my every part of my body and ending with my toes. I’m guaranteed to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep. This is especially helpful if I’ve had a stressful day and might have otherwise had thoughts from my day buzzing about, worrying at me and preventing me from sleeping. This clears my mind and allows for a really restful night.

Conversely, if I am meditating in the morning I want something that will uplift me and help me shake off that slumber, so I’ve been using eucalyptus or a citrus scent to give me an energizing zing and help me not to drift back off to sleep.

Think Up – this is another app, an affirmation app. ‘Affirmations’ are a separate part of the Miracle Morning routine but I have found that following your meditation with positive affirmations – while your mind is clear and receptive – is a very natural progression, so I’m mentioning it anyway.

Think Up suggests positive affirmations and you can create your own. You record the affirmations yourself, since our brains are more receptive to our own voice, and then play them back daily. You can have four at a time using the free version (although they recommend using 15).

Do you have any recommendations for new apps or your own tips and tricks that I should try? Have you used any of these apps and what were your thoughts?

There’s never been a better time to start your mindfulness journey.


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