Last year, a friend asked me how to start meditating. I suggested a popular app for them to download, which is a good way to begin with guided meditation. I realize now, the best way to learn how to meditate is to simply meditate. Watch your breath for a few minutes. Let thoughts arise and pass. No app required.

There are silly startups getting funded these days, many with an app, to reinvent something that folks got along doing for all these years with no phone in hand. I question whether these apps enrich our lives as much as they claim to.

I’ve deepened my practice of meditation this year. I am meditating for 20-30 minutes a day. I usually use a meditation bell app which lets me set a bell at the start and end of the meditation session. There’s no need to think about time.

I’ve also learned some meditation techniques that are physical, like watching the breath, or scanning awareness throughout the body. These are not time based practices, but ancient methods from before meditation bell apps existed. They are based upon concentration and stillness. They require deeper focus.

Meditation apps, to be blunt, have made me a lazy meditator. A timer allows me to outsource my attention, letting the mind wander where it may, knowing that a bell will ring in twenty minutes, whether I focus or not. I find a dedicated practice with unknown or unlimited time to be more enriching, more peaceful. If I do not concentrate, the practice ceases to move forward. So I must concentrate.

Last year, I wondered how people meditated before having these timers. To replace this app, a teacher would need to be there, guiding the meditation and ringing a bell when the practice ended. That whole community is not replaced by an app.

When opening your phone, wonder with me… is there a deeper and better way to do what I am doing? I think so. Technology is no replacement for community.

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