Is your mind out of shape?

It’s difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when physical exercise seemed totally bizarre. It would have been completely unimaginable that someone would choose to spend an hour a day moving heavy weights or running in place or in circles. Formal exercise was unnecessary because life was so difficult that it made a sedentary lifestyle all but impossible. Working all day in a field, or walking for miles to fetch water, these were the minimum physical requirements for life.

There are many people for whom this is still the case today, but for most of us, life is no longer difficult enough to keep our bodies healthy, and recognising this, we do some form of exercise. Even those of us who don’t exercise, recognise that we should and understand what the benefits of doing so are. We know exactly where to go if we decide to start, and there are a variety of ways that are well known, of becoming more physically active.

This isn’t true for the mind. Our psychological lives are still difficult, on average maybe more difficult that they’ve been at any other time in history. We’re massively over-stimulated, there is an epidemic of mental health issues, anxiety and depression are practically ubiquitous, and yet most people are unaware that there’s anything that they themselves can do about it, never mind knowing where they might go if they wanted to start. 

The situation is like a world where the vast majority don’t know that it’s possible to lose weight and improve physical health through exercise. Instead, whenever they find themselves getting overweight, or feeling weak and tired, they go to the doctor and ask for medication, or look for someone to talk to about why they eat so much. I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t seek external help of course, but the importance of knowing we can do something by ourselves can’t be overstated.

With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to recommend a few meditation apps that I’ve used personally and think would be useful for beginners and experienced meditators alike.

Plum Village (iOS, Android)

Headspace (iOS, Android)

Waking Up (iOS, Android

Oak (iOS). 

These are all secular apps, meaning that they don’t promote a particular belief system or require the acceptance of anything that may conflict with your existing beliefs, they’re all free to download, although some content needs to be unlocked through payment.

Wikipedia also has an excellent page on meditation which serves as an excellent primer for anybody looking to learn more about the various styles and schools of thought meditation has to offer. It also links to a number of useful resources on each one.

The benefits of having a healthy mind are not as apparent, at least to others, as the benefits of having a healthy mind. But the mind is responsible for so much more of our experience than the body is. It governs what we say, how we think, how we feel, how our relationships work. If you’ve never taken the time to work on it, you really do owe it to yourself to try.

update:

Alternatively, Zen Habits is currently offering virtual meditation rooms (some guided some not) which you can join on Zoom.