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September 28 2021 2:26 PM ˚

Meditation through an App – The perfect Oxymoron

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In today’s App Store, multiple meditation apps boast incredible results (Photo: TryShift)
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AMMAN — For years now meditation videos, seminars and applications have taken both the Web and App stores by surprise, with COVID bolstering download numbers of such apps tremendously.اضافة اعلان

While we can all agree that a soothing wash of the waves against the sandy shore is a relaxing thing to visualize, the majority of such relaxing content is available online through mediums such as YouTube at a moment’s notice.

However, apps such as Calm, which has hit record highs in profits ever since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, offer similar content at the cost of $15 per month, or a $70 annual subscription or a $400 full ownership of the platform. While Calm is not the only app on the IOS and Android stores that features such content, it is by far the largest of them all.

This article highlights what such apps have to offer, how they differ from what is publicly accessible through alternate and free channels, and more importantly, whether such apps are even worth the money.

When we think of meditation, we generally think of releasing all the stress and thoughts that have clogged our mind throughout the day in order to reboot our inner selves.

Meditation, when done right, is an incredible tool for improving cognitive abilities, undoing built up stress and increasing focus levels throughout the day.

Traditional meditation features a variety of mechanisms such as breath control, flushing your mind of everything to calm yourself and, in loose terms, a bit of mental gymnastics to achieve what is commonly referred to as the ‘zen’ state of mind.

It’s also important to understand just how hard meditation actually is. Successfully meditating is not an ordeal that a person may achieve on their first, second or even their 10th time. While most receive the calming effects rather quickly, increasing focus and organizing one’s thoughts is no easy task. In some cases, it takes months or even years before a person is truly able to on command be able to zone out of their current scenario and fully invest themselves into their inner workings.

With that in mind, let’s talk smartphones.


In today’s society, escaping the smartphone is no longer an option (Photo: UC Health)

Most people have at least one of the many smartphones available on the market today. Smartphones by nature are built with multi-tasking and information provision in mind, giving users the latest updates on anything and everything that fits their needs. Emails, updates on concert tickets, calls and text – all in the palm of their hands, going off all the time.

While airplane mode and turning off notifications can help, there is little to no chance that it’s user would be able to truly dissociate themselves from the constant thoughts of ‘what-if’s’ that could happen while their phone is silenced. Therefore, the answer in relation to meditation should be simple -- just put the phone away.

However, since meditation apps are, in fact, in need of your phone being ever-present, there are multitudes of arguments that could be made already against such apps, the main one being  are they able to help you hit that ‘Zen’ zone efficiently.

While a meditation veteran may indeed be able to use such apps since they have conditioned themselves to the world around them, how do these apps expect a beginner to not only to successfully meditate, but also do so while in the presence of the world’s greatest distraction machine in the world?

Many such apps brand themselves as ‘guides, with much of their content walking you through the process of meditation by presenting visual cues on screen paired along with a voice that narrates tasks to you.
That too, is paradoxical in nature.

There is no correct way of meditating. Just like every opinion is subjective, every meditation is entirely dependent on the person themselves, their surrounding environment and their current mental state. There are no standardized meditational courses or tests in the world because meditation by nature cannot be standardized. Therefore, any form of directions that are or would be given during a meditative process are more likely hindering your meditational efforts rather than improving your odds at achieving it.

The visual and vocal cues are also likely to do nothing more than detach the user from focusing within themselves rather than their outer world. Imagine using one of these apps, actually managing to truly get close to that peaceful zone, and then suddenly a voice says “Now open your eyes and do The Twist”.

There is evidence to suggest that these apps can in fact help de-stress an individual through a listening session. However, this is also questionable as the majority of the listening experience is usually done in quieter areas, in comfort, eyes closed -- something that, naturally, would calm an individual in the first place.

However, a more resource based question looms on the horizon -- why even pay for such content?

There are a vast resources available all around the internet for calm scenery sounds; YouTube alone has videos that have more than 12 million hits that play sounds of rain hitting against the window. With that in mind, a question that’s just begging to be asked is: What do these applications add in terms of value for their users?

In essence, meditation apps can be seen as a “mile-wide yet inch-deep” experience that is likely not going to assist many people in achieving true meditation. While the apps do indeed feature many highly soothing recordings of a wide variety of scenes, they should be used less as meditation tools and more as a background noise during your 20 minute power-nap.

Whether such apps are worth it or not is entirely up to the user and their perceived value of the product. If they are genuinely far too engaged in day to day activities that browsing the web for a couple of minutes looking for the right relaxing track is difficult -- then by all means, meditation apps are definitely the way to go.

However, for those more inquisitive with their spending habits and a few minutes of spare time, perhaps alternate online mediums would work best for the purposes of having a quick relaxing break during a hectic day full of stress.


Read more in Health 

References

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/opinion/can-we-end-the-meditation-madness.html

https://medium.com/mind-cafe/4-ways-meditation-apps-fail-at-aiding-mindfulness-cd0f80219ad6

https://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/123645/1/EvaluatingMindfulnessMeditationApps.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280312741_Meditation_Research_A_Comprehensive_Review
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