As avid travellers, we are always on the lookout for apps, tools and books that we can travel with and continue our spiritual explorations. 2018 was a year when we went to many places, sometimes we were lucky to be accompanying a master, at other times we traveled solo. While we had a lot of the books that we loved on Kindle, we were still searching for the perfect meditation app. We did use Insight Timer but were looking to see what else was there that would make our life simpler.
Apps had changed since we did our last survey. After being focused on virtually transporting users to beaches, rain forests and other dreamy locales, meditation apps today are also trying to appeal to the people who are actually travelling to such places. We found that several apps, like Buddhify, Calm and Simple Habit, offer special meditation sessions for travellers making their way across the ocean, simply across town, or even while just waiting.
Meditation is personal – the voice, words and methods affect each one of us in different ways. So here we have highlighted features that appealed to us. We looked at the apps that had features that were suited to both a novice who wants guided work and a more seasoned meditator. A great app, we feel, must include both guided meditations as well as hands-off options like a timer, and help you focus on the breath and be in the moment. It could offer meditations that aren’t so long that a beginner would feel overwhelmed by them, offer a trial period or a few meditations for free before you are charged, work on different devices, and maybe include other methods for relaxing, like music, instruction, etc., and allow you to download meditations for offline use.
Here’s what we came up with:
We checked out Buddhify which has a friendly interface that guides modern technology users in meditation practices. It has a rainbow wheel with a question in the centre: “What are you doing?” Users can select slices of the wheel with sessions like “Walking in City.” Each topic has timed meditations from five to 30 minutes, and you can rate your relaxation level and keep stats on your progress. We also thought that the over 80 custom guided audio meditation tracks were of excellent quality. And the Buddhify kids’ wheel has some 60 meditations that you can do with your kids.
We tried two paid apps, Calm and Headspace. Calm offers more open-ended sessions that we felt may appeal to more experienced mediators who aren’t looking for that much guidance. It also provides bonus perks, like ambient music and sleep guidance, and has multi-day programs. We preferred the beginner meditations on Headspace. Calm’s shortest meditations start are 10 minutes long, while Headspace has lots of short one- to five-minute options where it will guide you via podcast on how to get to sleep quickly and easily, how to make your daily crazed commute stress-free, how to take the time to really appreciate your food, and more. Calm offers sleep stories, which may appeal to you if you like to fall asleep to the sound of a soothing voice. Headspace makes it easy to set reminders to keep yourself on track and even offers a dashboard to evaluate your progress.
Both Calm and Headspace have timers that you can increase, Headspace timers increase in only five- or 10-minute increments, while Calm’s timer can be increased in one-minute increments.
The official app created by the Art of Living organisation is your “portal to a world of content to help you improve your personal self, strengthen your relationships, and eliminate negativity and stress from your life”. What we liked were the live broadcasts that we could join. The app is an excellent source of knowledge and teachings from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as well as a varied selection of articles, videos and audios from the Art of Living Foundation. The app also allows you to learn to cook as per Ayurveda, volunteer for service projects, get direct access to a range of wellness products, watch and learn from yoga videos demonstrating the various asanas, and get the latest updates about the organisation and Sri Sri Ravishankar. And one can also follow Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s guided meditation audios for relaxation and peace. If Art of Living is close to your heart, this is a good app for you.
The official Isha App (from the Isha Foundation and Sadhguru) allows you to keep in touch with Isha news and events, get Sadhguru’s daily messages and weekly spots, watch the latest videos, download wallpapers, ringtones etc. It allows you to also search for Isha programs, Sadguru’s programs and other special events. We liked that it allowed you to keep track of the monthly lunar events like Amavasya, Ekadasi, Pournami, major Isha Events like Mahashivarathri, etc. If you are a follower of or if you like Sadhguru and his teaching, this is a great app.
We love the Insight Timer, and use it on our commute to work as well as on our travels. It’s free, and while it did ask me to sign up, I felt it is worth giving up some information! It has a clean user interface and upon first opening the app, you are shown with a map of all the users across the world who are currently meditating using the app. It has five menus that allow you to quickly flip from guided to silent to timed meditations. And you can customise your profile and view your meditation stats as you continue to grow your practice. You also have an extensive directory of free meditations to choose from, including meditations on topics like healing and forgiveness. The timer is customizable, and you can personalise the bell sounds, frequencies and intervals, background noise as well as set an overall timer is a favourite. And you can track your progress too. There are also many courses, both in the free and more available in the premium (paid) version, that you might enjoy.
While on this search we found the monk Om Swami’s Black Lotus app. It focuses on spreading compassion, kindness, humility and love. It is free and allows you to meditate privately on calmness, forgiveness, peace, bliss, compassion and many other emotions at your own pace with carefully curated music that we loved. You can also choose to join and meditate live with the famous Himalayan mystic Om Swami and thousands of other meditators around the world every fortnight. With five categories, events, meditation and wisdom, chanting and random acts of kindness (RAKS) the app has a clean, minimalist approach. The Events section gives information regarding various retreats and camps, swaminars by Om Swami; while the Meditation menu allows you to either meditate with others (Globally) or meditate by yourself. You can select a variety of random or timed tracks for meditating. You can also just close your eyes and listen to five selected mantras recorded in the voice of Om Swami, which we are sure will help calm you. The Wisdom section has quotes, blogs, books and videos on spirituality, self-help and personal empowerment by Om Swami. The RAK section invites you to do random acts of kindness and earn points: like donating pet food or giving up your spot in a queue and get points. You reward yourself each good deed done. Om Swami says that Black Lotus is the start of a movement, and the app is just a tiny subset of this movement – a campaign to spread kindness. What we liked about it was the gamification of spiritual development (which the young-at-heart and millennial population likes), and it made us realise that even giving up one’s parking spot is an act of kindness that we must acknowledge to ourselves too. It helps you measure your meditation, chanting and your kindness levels. Swami is very definite that when goodness and kindness are nurtured by living and experiencing it in our everyday lives and actions, they slowly seep into our consciousness and become our second nature. And when a group of people start to live in a manner conducive to everyone’s wellbeing, and welfare, others around them adopt that way too – slowly, but Swami says it works. And he says that every kind act is a deposit in your spiritual bank account, so if everyone produced enough compassion, the GDP of kindness would go up! We love this app because we love the ethos behind it – kindness, compassion and sincerity.
We also checked out the Meditate OM which has a list of some 20-odd Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Hindu mantras. The app is entirely free and is easy-to-use. The mantras are listed in an uncomplicated manner, and every mantra comes with text that gives the full meaning and translation. We loved that the mantras can be set to repeat for a particular number of times – perfect while you travel!
By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it is a list by meditators for meditators. And we remind you that the smartphone that you are using to flip through emails could be the ticket to workday or travel zen!
– The Travelling Lotus (Raji Menon & Dhritiman Biswas)
Feature Image photo credit: valhallamind.com