As contemplative practice and smartphone use continue to become more mainstream, meditation apps have evolved to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse user base, from longtime Buddhist practitioners to media-savvy millennials to parents looking for a few minutes of quiet downtime. The elegant Equanimity app is a no-frills meditation timer with the added benefits of a progress chart and journaling feature. Stop, Breathe & Think, geared toward beginners, offers guided meditations based on your self-reported physical and mental state. The Mindfulness App combines many popular features of meditation apps in a one-stop shop—from guided themed meditations by big-name Buddhist teachers to a timer, pop-up reminders, and progress tracking.
What sets Equanimity apart from the slew of meditation-timer apps—besides its soothing grayscale interface—is its journal, where you can jot down exportable notes on each sitting and track your daily progress. After selecting a preparation time, interval chimes, cool-down time, and sitting time (there are perhaps too many options to deal with), you hit “Start Meditation.” A ping sounds and a pie graph starts filling in, chiming at your preset intervals to bring a straying mind back to the present. There is no distracting countdown timer, voice, or graphics. Once the final chime has rung, you can reflect on your session in the journal or rotate the phone to see your statistics.
Available for iPhone
(free; additional in-app meditations $0.99 to $1.99)
The doodly graphics and colloquial voice of this app (“Woo hoo!” “Finito!”), as well as its virtual reward “stickers” and social media tie-ins, may appeal particularly to a younger set. But for users of any age, SB&T’s most attractive feature is its mood-based meditations. You begin each session by selecting adjectives about your mental, physical, and emotional state. The app’s algorithms then produce a list of suggested guided meditations, shuffled from the app’s still somewhat limited library. A recent—deliberately extreme—choice of mentally “rough,” physically “poor,” and emotionally “grumpy” and “defeated” produced three meditations: “Change,” “Commonality of Suffering,” and “Be Present.” The meditations, while brief and clear, tend to sound unfortunately dry and scripted and—perhaps reflecting the last part of the app’s name—often seem to require more rather than less cogitation (“Commonality of Suffering” suggested pondering the victims of natural disasters, for example). If you don’t feel like checking in, a simple self-meditation timer and a quick-pick list of all of the app’s meditations are also available. SB&T also offers a series of helpful and appealingly designed “Learn How to Meditate” articles.
Available for iPhone, Android, Web
($1.99; additional in-app purchases $0.99 to $11.99)
If you’re looking for a single app that offers many options for maintaining or jump-starting your meditation practice, this one will likely fit the bill. A five-day “Get Started” program offers a gracious introduction. From there, you can choose free silent or guided meditations between three and thirty minutes long, or use the app’s library to purchase meditation series, courses, and challenges led by such well-known teachers as Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. These vary in quality: Pema Chödrön’s teaching “Can Your Thoughts Be a Friend?” is, though characteristically enlightening, evidently a recorded live session, complete with long silences and background noise. Rick Hanson’s “Stress-Proof Your Brain” is essentially a lecture on the biology of the nervous system; Tara Brach’s course “Radical Self-Acceptance” is warm and insightful. The challenges range from a nine-day compassion challenge to three- to ten-day meditation challenges. One of the best features of this app is the option of setting reminders and “mindfulness notices” to pop up onscreen throughout the day—to meditate, to take a deep breath, and so on—which is sometimes the most efficient way to achieve an unexpected moment of stillness and centering.
Available for iPhone