The Meditation Series: 10% Happier

 

Week 2: 10% Happier

 
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BEN

I’ve actually known of Dan Harris and the fantastic ‘10% Happier’ catchphrase for years now; a good friend recommended his book by the same title to me just after it came out. Dan’s story is fantastic and really easy to empathize with - he suffered a panic attack while delivering a live newscast on national television, and slowly found his way to meditation through the process of figuring out how to, uh, not do that again. His writing is very interesting, and I was really looking forward to the 10% Happier meditation experience as an extension of that.

For me, the excitement probably put an unfair burden on the app to perform to some expectation I hadn’t really identified, and it fell a little short. To be fair, the app is well produced and aesthetically pleasing and has a ton of content within it. It even comes with a meditation coach, who I chose not to really interact with, but I can imagine is great for purposes of keeping yourself accountable and asking questions about the mediation process.  

What left me wanting was the actual meditation itself. I went through the introductory basics course again (that’s what we’re doing here right?) and did the first 5 basic meditation exercises. The guided meditations are lead by Joseph Goldstein, and while he’s clearly very an expert at explaining the process, I found him to be wholly uninspiring as a guide. If you asked me why, I honestly would struggle to explain it, but the general feeling is something along the lines of this guy is drier than desert dirt.  I recognize fully that this is a personal characterization that’s probably unfair, but, I need to be honest.

In total, the app is really well laid out, has lots of video and audio content, and seemingly a meditative track for every mind-state I could muster. Seriously, there’s one for performance, anxiety, performance anxiety (probably) and many, many others. It’s visually very pleasing, though, for me, I didn’t love canned pre-roll video before every meditation. There seems to be an entire community built around this content, and I for one didn’t really get into it.  

All told, I’d recommend the application to others with the caveat that they should try some of the other teachers beyond the introductory series. Charlie Murphy 1.5 thumbs up (two thumb scale).

 
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AMY

Let me paint a picture: Stillness. Breath in, breath out. Stillness. Breath. Air. Notice the way the air feels when you breath in and how it feels when you breath out. Dimmed lights, Himalayan salt lamp on, fireplace going, cross legged on the floor, fur child trying to jump into my lap and give me her toy so we can play. This is not my reality of meditation. The reality is I can try to make the perfect environment to practice but when I actually should/need to meditate is not when I have said perfect environment to do it in.

It is week two and I have succeeded at completing week one. Better than I thought I was going too honestly and I learned to continue practicing even though I didn’t feel like I was “doing it right”. I will confess though, I have been struggling at getting into a habit forming routine. At the beginning of accepting this challenge I wanted to bring meditation into my morning and nightly routines but as the last two weeks came and went I have noticed that I don’t have much of routine anywhere in my life. I wake up at a different time, go to sleep at different times, have different work hours daily, and squeeze in the rest in between all of that. This was a big light bulb moment for me and I decided I would meditate on it. **Inner self talk immediately just went “Woah, wait what!! PROGRESS” as I wrote that last sentence.** Even though my practice is not happening the way I envisioned it to happen doesn’t mean it’s not making an impact on my life. I am clearly getting something out of this process.

The second week has ended and the most important thing I took away from the 10% happier app was to “simply begin again”, three simple words that mean everything in meditation and now mean everything for me in my own practice. My type A personality and the perfectionist in me really needs these words. This mind of mine easily takes the bait for the slippery slope affect that are my thoughts. It {my mind} is really good at hopping on all the trains one after another, sometimes switching to the next train while in full movement. Hence why getting into a meditation practice has been high up on the goal list I have created for myself.

If there wasn’t a commitment to this though, I don’t know if I would have continued with this app. The free version is not something to use for more than a week or even a couple days. You log in and it immediately feels like I logged into a college classroom site. You see the option to choose courses, singles, sleep, talks, and profile. The courses include; the basics, the basics II, phrases for stress, meditation for skeptics, focus, emotions, performance, compassion, 10% nicer, relationships, meditation and the brain, essential advice, common questions, meditation in real life, on the go, mindful eating, insights, ethics, focus, and a wandering retreat. The only one you can access without a subscription is the first basics course. This includes 7, 5-10 minute sessions that go over the basics of meditation. I enjoyed going through this. What I should have done was do one session every day for this week but I just went right through all 7 at once the first night. I learned a lot and I think this truly did help re wire some thoughts I was having about my practice.

As I mentioned earlier my mind wanders. Going through the basics course it touched on the art of mental noting and how to acknowledge the mental note that is by whispering to one’s self and giving permission to acknowledge and come back to the present moment. This idea of allowing thoughts to float by without grabbing on to them is amazing actually. The practice of mindfulness is “having the ability to know what is in your head right now without getting caught up in the thoughts and emotions of it”, a very important concept to understand through my practice. The courses are intriguing and a few times I almost pulled the plug and subscribed so I could go through them. There are different teachers throughout the courses that are labeled “world-renowned meditation teacher” or “Mindfulness teacher” so you’d assume the information would be valuable, especially during the beginner stages of starting meditation.

Within the free options, I enjoyed the shortness of the lessons and meditations as this fit into my daily scheduled easier but I also went through all the free options within the first three days and decided to play sessions I already listened to and then practice meditating on my own. There are a few other free options in the single section of the app but the sleep section is locked unless you want to try it out. Okay so I could have done the 7 day free trial and really gone above and beyond with this review but I know myself and I would never have remembered to cancel said trail and would have ended up paying for the entire next month and then probably forget to cancel before the next month was up and so on and so forth. So here I am, with a very basic review to a very basic free version of the 10% happier app.

 
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TAYLOR

Week 2 of “5 for 5” and I signed up for the free one-week trial of 10% Happier. That being said, I didn’t have much of a choice. The app had very little available for a user that refused to formally sign up (smart, on their end). As part of the sign up process, a user is prompted with a few easy questions (when do you want to mediate, why do you want to meditate etc.)

I should note that up until this past week, I have had plenty, in fact, probably too much time on my hands recovering from an injury. I was not working. I did not have very many obligations. My point being that before this week, I could easily make time to meditate at almost any time of the day without having to forfeit time that I should have been using for other tasks. However, that changed this past Monday when I moved back to my NYC apartment and went back to work full time. Factoring in eating, commuting and working, I was more or less “booked” from 7:30 AM - 7:30 PM. A shorter time frame for me to fit in meditating resulted. 

That being said, most of my experience with 10% Happier happened in the evening hours. Users are able to easily set reminders to meditate at a time of their choosing, which I found very helpful. I tried out a couple of the meditations that I found in the “Sleep” subsection. For most of these meditations, you are able to choose how long you want that particular meditation to last for which is very convenient! That being said, I missed being able to choose a background noise like I had the option of doing while trying out the Mindfulness app. Most of the meditations I participated in had long and relatively frequent periods of silence. I suppose that is expected, but I would have preferred some sort of background noise. Birds chirping? Waves crashing? Wind? Anything. The periods of silence made it so much easier for me to get distracted by a city sound while meditating even though I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood. 

I also found myself frequently wishing I could “preview” a meditation before agreeing to participate. Over the week, I never connected to any particular meditation leader’s voice. I was looking for a session that would calm me right before falling asleep and that unfortunately, never happened for me. That being said, I am sure over time I could have found a meditation or a leader that I connected with, but I think the option to “preview” could have expedited the process. 

It’s hard for me to say if I actually feel “10% Happier” after a week of using the app, but for what it’s worth I did not feel 10% unhappier? That should count for something...

On to week 3...

 

JOIN US NEXT WEEK WHEN

BEN, AMY AND TAYLOR RECAP THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH Insight timer

 
Richie Crowley