This month’s app roundup offers three totally different methods of technology-aided meditation. The most traditional is 10% Happier, with approachable teachings, courses, and meditations from a diverse group of renowned teachers geared toward the “skeptical” meditator. The game Zen Bound, a perfect on-the-fly centering experience, couches meditation in mesmerizing moments spent wrapping digitized wooden shapes in rope. The appeal of My Gratitude Journal is its simple task: each day, make a list of a few things you’re grateful for. You may emerge more present, more positive—perhaps 10 percent happier, or more.
(some free content; $9.99 per month; $79.99 per year)
Based on a best-selling book by news anchor Dan Harris, this app offers down-to-earth meditations led by esteemed teachers “for fidgety skeptics.” Its promise of “no robes, no crystals” will appeal most of all to those who worry about meditation’s religious trappings. The free courses include an introductory video conversation with Harris followed by a series of daily meditations.
The videos are genuinely fun to watch because of Harris’s quizzical tone and the everyday settings: while guests give Harris advice, we watch him brushing his teeth, driving, and walking down a noisy street. The app also has a “Just Meditate” section with one-off meditations, including a special group of one-minute and “extendable meditations.” An unusual feature is the “Coach,” which offers users the option to message one of three experienced teachers with any meditation-related question and receive a reply in less than a day.
The app’s only issue is the tyranny of choice. Most people’s days include several moods, needs, and issues. If you’re using this app to start a habit, it can be daunting. Of course, you can always start with “The Basics” course with old pro Joseph Goldstein, but once that’s done, where to next? Should you do a body scan with Dr. Judson Brewer, learn how to listen in an age of polarization with Pam Weiss, drive with Alexis Santos, practice generosity with Sharon Salzberg—or should you embark on another course? Perhaps a “Wandering Retreat” with Jeff Warren, or “Stop Ruining Your Day” with Anushka Ferndandopulle?
Every teaching I listened to was warm and insightful—there’s just no easy way to decide exactly what you need. Maybe they will make a course for that, too.
Available for iPhone and Web
ZEN BOUND 2
Purists may sniff, but meditation games are gaining traction for people who don’t want to be bound to a more formal meditation app (pun intended). The goal of Zen Bound 2 is to wrap a wooden object in a fixed length of rope. The game opens with items hanging as ornaments from a tree. Each tree represents a meditative theme, such as Reflection or Tribute, though the connections don’t extend beyond the name. Choose an ornament, and use your fingers on the touchscreen to rotate the object against the taut rope. The object gets coated in paint wherever the rope touches it; for certain objects paintballs burst onto the surface when the rope punctures it. (The painting part seems a bit random, but it adds another dimension to the game.) The goal is to paint the entire object, but once you reach the so-called “minimum goal” (the minimum amount of wrapping required to move on), a nail on the object begins to glow, and you can tie the rope around it and move on to the next object. You don’t get to keep the objects you wrap, but you can keep rewrapping them as many times as you want, trying for ever more precision.
The game’s sounds and visuals are delightfully realistic: the rope creaks, groans, snaps, snags, and slips in all the right places; the paint splats. And, Zen Bound 2 is totally absorbing and stress-free; there’s no time limit or score. For perfectionists and those who aren’t satisfied with the “minimum goal,” “achievements” offer additional challenges and a sense of progress—but, as is true for practice on the cushion, the only competition is ultimately your own mind.
Available for iPhone
MY GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Though not technically a meditation app, My Gratitude Journal (formerly known as Mojo and as Gratitude) promises to “rewire your brain in five minutes a day” by asking you to take a moment to jot down a few things you are grateful for. Though you can add to your list anytime, the optional reminder feature was key for me: at an appointed hour, the app prompts you to note a few good things that have happened today, from a morning run or coffee with a friend, to winning an award or celebrating the birth of a child. You can turn the app into a keepsake diary by uploading photos to your notes, and you can export your entries as PDFs or share them on social media. However, these extra features make the task more daunting and less contemplative: part of the app’s appeal is its simplicity and inward focus—not reliving each moment through the camera lens or the eyes of others. I found that after a few days, I had a more positive perspective on my ups and downs, and I looked forward to the daily note-taking, as well as to the inspirational quotes that follow. Optional features include geotags and local temperature, but otherwise there aren’t too many settings to toggle or distract. The app offers an easy way to tweak your viewpoint and the chance to focus on happiness.
Available for iPhone
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