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What About Meditation Apps?

I'm often asked by students or attendees at events, whether I use a meditation app. For the record, I'm not an app guy, but that's just my personal preference. Please allow me to explain.

First and foremost, I support pretty much anything that promotes a broader awareness of meditation. People learn in different ways. People have different needs--and that can change multiple different times, over the span of a lifetime. Peoples' curiosity is peeked in different ways, by different things. Vive la difference!

Beyond the promotion of awareness, however, I'm not a fan of meditation apps, for two reasons: 1) Apps can be meditative, without cultivating the unique state that I recognize as meditation, and 2) I am not aware of any app that answers, or even addresses, the questions of how a particular meditation can be useful, or why one should choose to meditate, in the first place.

With respect to the meditative versus meditation debate, I guess I'm a bit of a purist. Don't get me wrong--learning to be still and prioritizing the importance of quiet time for one's self, are both important components of meditation. But they only prepare us for meditation. Worse yet, uninitiated meditators can be led to believe that being meditative is really the same thing as meditation. It's not.

With respect to the how and why questions, it's probably my lawyer brain kicking in, but prior experience with others has led me to believe they are important questions. People interested in starting a meditation practice are often reluctant to ask questions they fear may negatively reflect upon them--it's an anomaly that seems to be part of the learning process. But let's go there.

How can the focus of a particular meditation be useful? For me, it helps to think about that question in the context of a particular practice, like a body scan, or a thought meditation, or an emotion meditation. It's important to first give folks a taste of a particular practice (in a led-meditation format), then spend a minute or two talking about how that meditation can be useful and what the purpose or end goal might be, if one needs to have a goal.

This posting is neither the time nor the place to get into specifics, but it hopefully provides some insight into why I believe the how question is important. It's all about the ability to interact with a teacher and other meditators, who can share their views and respond to questions about how the focus of a particular meditation might be useful.

Why might one want to develop a meditation practice? That's something we all have to answer for ourselves, but the answer will often depend upon the words and deeds of others--and who better to look to than our teachers, and the men and women in our meditation group?

Meditation is something I choose to do for myself, but it also involves others--real, live people--not pre-recorded voices. And as I've said before, meditation is kind of like snow skiing--when I'm in the middle of a run it's all about me, but at the end of a run, I need to be able to look at one of my buddies and say--with a big smile on my face--damn, that was good!

To each his/her own, but when was the last time you talked to an app?


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