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The true mindfulness app

Meditation app Calm hits a $250M valuation amid an explosion of interest in mindfulness apps”  


My first reaction to this headline was, “Wow!  I wish I’d come up with the idea for a mindfulness app a few years ago”.  Then my thinking shifts to…..  “Why are apps so popular and what contribution do they really make to our lives”?


In 2010 the word “app” was listed as the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.  There is a growing marketplace for apps.  If you want to improve your life in some way there is bound to be an app which claims to be able to help you achieve it.


But what is the purpose of an app?


Originally they were to aid productivity and information retrieval.  Meaning we didn’t need to be at our computer to accappsess emails, calendars and documents.  We didn’t need to be near a TV, radio or newspaper to get weather updates, sports results, the latest news or programme listings.


In short, apps enable us to access more information more quickly and with greater ease.  They help us share information with each other thus giving us an opportunity to connect more frequently and about subjects we are mutually interested in.  Many apps now claim to be able to help us lose weight, sleep better, be more productive, improve our fitness, learn a language or become more mindful.


But can piece of software on your device really create these kinds of changes?


The journey towards changing behaviour is rarely smooth and so it is vital that we have ambition, willpower and determination to overcome the bumps in the road.  Even if we start with good intentions, the trick is in sustaining the energy to keep going when things get tough.

I question whether an app can give us that support.


When it comes to mindfulness there is definitely a place for an app.  I use the “Insight Timer” which is a great way to support my practice, connect with other practitioners, try out new practices and track the frequency of my practice (should I choose to do so).  However, it is clear to me that I would not have developed my regular mindfulness practice nor my awareness of mindfulness in daily life if I had only had this app for guidance and support.


I’m not suggesting everyone needs to do as I did and undertake a 3 year Masters degree nor train to be a mindfulness teacher to develop a mindfulness!  But I am suggesting that without the presence of wise teachers embodying mindfulness who I could be with and learn from, connecting and sharing experiences with other mindfulness practitioners in regular practice groups and the sense of common humanity I got from sharing a space with other people as I practiced, I would not have experienced the shift in mindset, perspective and approach to life that I have.


So, I applaud the guys at Calm for developing something that is clearly popular and is surely offering some benefit or relief to many people.  But the true mindfulness app is the one we develop internally.  It’s not an icon on a phone which we rely on to remind us to take a breath, move, go to bed or whatever.


“The true mindfulness app is the one we develop internally”.


The true mindfulness app develops and updates as a result of regular, focused attention and a deep sense of wanting to be less at the mercy of external factors for our happiness, peace and calm.


Learning how to do this takes practice and guidance from people who have walked along the same road as you are starting out on.  You can only learn so much from a disembodied voice in an app.  Try sitting with someone who is truly mindful.  What learn from that can’t be put into words on a screen or in an audio.  It has to be felt.


If you are ready to develop your internal mindfulness app, check out the UK register of Mindfulness teachers to find someone near to you who could be your tour guide on  your mindfulness journey.   Or just get in touch with me (I’m on that listing!).


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