Not everyone agrees that meditation can improve one’s quality of life. Last year’s study of studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that meditation worked about as well as prescription drugs for relieving anxiety and depression. Proponents of meditation profess myriad other benefits such as clarity of thought, relaxation, increased ability to concentrate, and greater creativity.
Perhaps one reason many doubt the efficacy of meditation is meditation isn’t easy; in fact it’s hard. It takes work to shut off your mind, focus on the moment, on a single sound, image, thought, or in the “space between thoughts”. Full disclosure: I have practiced meditation or at least tried pretty hard, setting aside 10-15 minutes a day for weeks at a time and it “seems” to me that meditation actually works. The experience I have is unlike just relaxing, resting, or sleeping; it truly feels like a different mental and physical state. While the whole session is subjectively positive, I and everyone I’ve ever spoken with or read about meditation found that the moments, and they were truly moments, where one was really “in the zone” were few and fleeting. To meditate well takes consistent practice, although it’s not a binary experience of working or not working, because even as you try to meditate most report it feels great and when the session ends people typically feel relaxed, rested, and recharged. So even if you’re not an adept meditator, you apparently can still benefit.
Headspace is a suite of tools to assist in learning and practicing meditation. Headspace, which is available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and also runs on Internet-connected computers, is available in one month, one year, two years, or forever subscriptions with prices ranging from $12.95 for one month to $419.95 forever. There is also a free version that includes the basic mobile meditation app, tools to track and share your experience with others, and a course of ten 10-minute meditation programs. Paid subscriptions include additional programs of 15 and 20 minutes plus programs specifically intended to improve health, performance, and relationships. There is apparently no cutoff period for the free version but if you subscribe to the paid version and stick with it for the long haul, the variety of visual and audible programs could help you keep focused and involved.
In addition to the apps and programs, Headspace’s user community can be a source of information and support, which may be just what it takes for someone who would otherwise struggle trying to find success and give up. Learning to meditate effectively requires commitment and dedication of time for the long haul. While you will never learn to levitate through meditation, the ability to control your mind and stress levels should be enough for most, but not only do you need to believe it’s possible, you have to work at it.