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  • Juan Reyes

Do you truly meditate? or do you just listen to a meditation?



My meditation practice for many years has been sitting in silence, on my own, for 45 minutes....until I started using apps to "help" me with my meditation. Then everything changed.



I practice Vipassana meditation ( mindfulness) and lately I started listening to some other different styles which I found very helpful, specially self-compassion meditation and loving kindness meditation. I liked it. And then the app started showing me dozens of new meditations everyday. So many meditations to listen to!. I felt I had to try them otherwise I would miss out on all the "bliss" that was being promised. And then I noticed that sitting in silence on my own was no longer "fun" and that I preferred to listen to an app instead. I became an "user" of the app.


Edward Tufte, a professor of political science at Yale and author of several books on data said : "There are only two industries that call their customers users: illegal drugs and software/apps". This is because they use data they collect from us to manipulate our thinking to make us become "addicted" to the app. This is the purpose of any app. So the question I started asking myself is: am I meditating or am I listening to a meditation?. Is it my brain that meditates or is it just following guidance blindly without really creating a true meditation path on my brain. Am I an observing my mind or simply listening to a story?


"There are only two industries that call their customers users: illegal drugs and software/apps "

-Edward Tufte


Meditation has always been practiced in silence. Yes, you have to learn it from somewhere and the you practice on your own. They way I learned was to go to a retreat. That's where I learned. I attended. a ten-day silent Vipassana retreat in 2006. Ten days of silence , sitting still and meditating ten hours per day starting at 4:30 am. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It is difficult to attend a retreat nowadays so we have to learn meditation in other ways. You can attend a meditation course or join a group. The objective is to learn the technique from an experienced instructor and then you can practice on your own.



The objective should be to learn the meditation technique from an experienced instructor and then you can practice on your own.

Meditation apps are useful to get people started on meditation and perhaps listening to a meditation app is better than nothing. They are easy and fun. They offer thousands of different meditations for you to choose..... and that's where the problem starts. There are too many. Meditation is simple, you don't need to do a different one every day. That is the objective of the app, to keep you engaged , meaning to keep you paying for the app. And even if the app is free, we are still paying with the data that we provide them as users. This is a fact, and is the way Facebook and Instagram operate. A meditation app is a software app.


I am not saying that meditations apps are completely bad. They are actually very useful to help you relax. They are useful to learn the basics of meditation. They are useful to get you started in meditation. They are useful to find teachers that are very good and who can make an impact in your life. I have found many meditation teachers that now I follow and I have learned a lot from. I have incorporated new meditations in my practice and my teachings that I learned from the apps.


I am not saying that meditations apps are completely bad. They are actually very useful to help you relax.

But we have to be conscious that the purpose of the app is to make you addicted to it.

I just can't say it any other way. They perpetuate the same problem that they want to solve. I think we also need more research on how the brain responds long term to always listening to guided meditations and if we are actually doing the meditation ourselves or simply just listening. This is very important and I will look into this type of research and share it when available.


So here is what I recommend to do:

  • Learn meditation from an experienced trained teacher

  • Take a course ( or retreat when available) that teaches you the technique

  • Practice one main technique every day on your own in silence

  • Listen to meditation apps only as a supplement to your main practice

  • Schedule app free days or silence days


My basic recommended practice is:

-30-40 minutes of Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation every day in silence

-Listen to Loving-kindness meditation everyday, anytime during the day

-Listen to a gratitude meditation every night before bed ( or anytime)

-Listen to a self-compassion meditation when feeling depressed and overwhelmed


Listen to any other meditation style: chakras, visualizations, affirmations etc only after you have done the basic practices. If you want to learn more about the different styles of meditation watch this video: .


The key point is to be conscious of our behaviors and patterns. Patterns that are rooted in attachments will lead to more suffering not less. Then purpose of meditation is to decrease our suffering. We have to train our awareness every day with the base practice.


We have the power to meditate on our own and be in silence with ourselves. That's where consciousness resides.


I hope this was helpful to you ,


Juan









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