iPhone meditation apps

Interested in Mindfulness? Well, there has to be an app for that!

I read an article about meditation nearly two years ago – (guess who’s just rediscovered this idea for a blog topic?).  It was in the UK newspaper, the Observer. It reported that a study at a US Buddhist retreat found that eastern relaxation techniques can protect our chromosomes from degenerating.  You can read it here.

That gave me an interest in Mindfulness.  I’ve written elsewhere how I love my iPhone so you can imagine that one of my first thoughts was: there has to be “an app for that”. And so there was.

Actually, there are lots and lots of apps for Mindfulness and for meditation.  I am going to list here only the ones I’ve used.  Have a look in your app store and you’ll find more.

I’ve used three suppliers really: Meditation Oasis, MindApps and Mental Workout Inc.

Meditation Oasis produces “Simply Being”.  This bills itself as “guided meditation for relaxation and presence”.  It is easy to use, has guided meditations of four different lengths, from 5 to 20 minutes.  It uses a woman’s voice and you can listen to the voice alone or have it accompanied by either music or nature sounds of ocean, rain or stream. A recent update (2012) gives you control on how long the music or nature sounds will continue after the guided meditation.

I’ve actually used one of Meditation Oasis’s other apps, “Relax & Rest”, more often.  This has the same sort of functionality.  It has three meditations and the one I’ve used most is “deep rest”.  This is a 13-minute meditation, which is really great at lulling me to sleep.

Both these apps cost 69p on the UK iTunes store and $0.99 on the Australian one.  The same app can be loaded on the iPad as well and has got the same functionality but the displays reformat themselves for the iPad, which is nice.

Meditation Oasis has lots of other apps if you look at their web site, here.  The newest, “iSleep Easy” is AUD 5.49 so a bit more expensive but no doubt worth it if you are finding it difficult to sleep.  They have also recently released “Take a break!”, which is free and provides two meditations – a seven-minute and a thirteen-minute option – to help with stress management.

MindApps is a Swedish organisation and you can buy their apps in Swedish as well as in English, if you find that helpful.  You can find details on the website in Swedish here and in English here.  I first used “Mindfulness” and there is now “Mindfulness 2”.  They both use women’s voices.  When you run them, they present you with a screen that tells you: “Take a deep breath”, which is a good start.  They also use a lovely gong or bell sound, which you can turn off if you like.

Mindfulness provides a series of guided meditations of different lengths from 3 to 30 minutes and silent meditations, punctuated with bells, of the same lengths.  Mindfulness 2 provides a series of guided meditations of different characters: mountain, lake, lovingkindness, standing, walking meditations and body scan and silent meditations of between 10 and 60 minutes.

Both apps allow you to create personalised meditations, to set meditation reminders and to record or log the meditations that you do using the app.  There is a great deal to explore.

The apps cost £1.49 on the UK store and $1.99 on the Australian one.  They will run on the iPad but only using the iPhone interface.

Mental Workout Inc is an organisation under development, as you can read on their website here.  I have their app, “Mindfulness Meditation”.

Unlike the other apps mentioned here, it has a man’s voice.  It has a 10-minute relaxation option as well as guided meditations of 5 to 40 minutes.  It contains a section with tips on how to meditate – delivered mostly by voice recordings. The main message seems to be: don’t worry about it, whatever you do is fine.  You can also give a meditation to someone else, sharing it using email, Facebook or Twitter, which is rather neat.

Mindfulness Meditation costs £1.49 on the UK store and $1.99 on the Australian store.

These are the apps I’ve tried.  Let me know if you’ve found any other good ones.  In the meantime, take a deep breath and be mindful in all you do!

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The wonders of wireless

No, not the radio. Not that kind of wireless!
A few years ago this would have been science fiction. I’m sitting in a hotel in Singapore, talking to my partner in Sydney. And, best of all, no marginal cost…

Of course, we had to both have iPads. iPhones or iPod Touches would have done, I suppose, but the iPad has the advantage of size. And we have to have broadband and wireless modems at home where he is. And I have to have reasonable speed wireless with 24 hours’ worth already paid for.

But, still, no marginal cost with FaceTime – or with Skype (very funny! Apple’s spell check can’t correct Skpe to be Skype! Tee hee!)

So, I’m sitting here having a glass of wine and, if we’d wanted to, we could both have got a drink and had a chat as if we were in the same room. Wonderful.

Of course, the downside is that when I can’t get wireless internet I feel bereft. And the fact that 3G networks are so expensive outside your home country means they are no compensation.

My world has shifted so that something that didn’t exist a few years ago is almost a necessity. What next, eh?

Fun with a keyboard… not!

Argh! And, I cannot emphasise that enough: argh! My keyboard at IIA-Australia is driving me potty!

“Oh, poor you,” I hear you say, “Why? What is it doing?”

Thank you for your concern.  Let me explain.

It looks like an American keyboard.  Seems reasonable, given the use by both nations of the dollar as unit of currency.

(As an aside, at this point, I note wryly that, following the 1966 example of the country itself, the Australian keyboard too has chased away the pesky £ – I found it hiding in the “Insert Symbol” option on Word and I understand it can also be coaxed into view by ALT CTRL $.  Here goes: ¤ – WTF? Oh, that was ALT CTRL 4.  To get the GBP symbol, you have to remember that the AUD symbol is actually SHIFT 4.  So, substituting into the formula, I try again ALT CTRL SHIFT 4: £!  Hoorah!)

Well, that was fun, but where was I?

Oh, the potty-drivingness of it all.

Many readers will be aware of the way the @ symbol and the “” symbol often switch between the top set of keys and the second from the bottom set.  On my keyboard, as is the US-keyboard habit, @ is @ the top (v. v. small joke) and “” is at the bottom.

I am frankly amazed by how often I have the occasion to type these symbols.  I am jackiely infuriated by how often I select the wrong one.  Brain- and muscle-memory combine to have me type “ when I mean @ – and vice versa – several times a day.  When will my hands adapt, I wonder?

An added frustration arises from the way the keyboard handles quotation marks.  Possibly very cleverly, the keyboard uses “ to provide an umlaut over vowels, without using the CTRL SHIFT ; key combination.  In other words, type “CTRL colon” and then a vowel and you get an umlaut on the vowel: ö.  See? Or type “ and then a vowel and you also get the umlaut: ö.  Neat.

BUT if you want to open a quotation beginning with a vowel, you have to remember to type “ then a space before the vowel: “o, what a lovely war!”, for example.  If you don’t, you end up with: ö, what a lovely war!”  Not quite the same thing.

Possibly because of that quirk, whenever you type “ and hit the space bar once, you get no space, just in case you want to open a quotation with a vowel.  If you want to open a quotation with something other than a vowel, that is fine.  It sorts itself out.  But, if you want to close a quotation and move on, you find yourself locked to the end of the last sentence: “Here is my quotation.”here is my new sentence….    Argh!!!!

A small frustration you may think but it raises its head somewhat frequently.  Maybe I will feel calmer for sharing the “pain” – or maybe not!  Thanks for reading! 🙂

Momento is to diary as Twitter is to blog, or is it?

I like the iPhone app, Momento. It allows me to document short notes of what is happening, collect them with entries into Twitter and Facebook, export them to text files on my computer and so into my diary. A great way to keep up on the diary when time is short.

But, I asked myself last month why I would rather write a “moment” than a tweet? I thought then that I retain a reluctance to broadcast all of my doings and thoughts. I wonder if that is generational or individual?

That then lead me to thinking about diaries. I’m keen on writing a diary and I feel better, more settled in myself, when I write it regularly, recording what I’ve done and how I feel. However, I have found that the Momento approach has also been satisfying – it’s allowed me to keep track of what’s been going on, by writing a few notes when I can, even if I haven’t sat down and written a lot at the keyboard.

And then my mind moved to blogs. I set out in 2011 to blog on a regular basis and I failed. I found that I had lots of ideas but that I censored myself. I could use my iPhone to jot down the ideas but I felt I needed to find a chunk of time when I could hone the idea and the writing. That meant I needed not only time but also energy and even some feeling of optimism and confidence. It seemed almost impossible to marshall all of those emotional resources at one point in the day when I also had access to a computer.

It seemed to me that Twitter ought almost to provide the same service for the blogging me as Momento does for the diary-writing me. And yet it hasn’t worked out like that. I suppose because Momento allows completely disjointed, fragments of sentences while Twitter encourages a whole thought and is in fact a pretty honed form. Moreover I think a blog that was simply a collection of tweets would not be satisfying to read.

What has made a difference to the blogging me is a change of attitude and concerted use of a different app: the WordPress app. I’ve decided to post every day and, to do that, to be freer with myself, not to expect every post to be a masterpiece but to expect that the overall quality of my posts will improve with time and that each post will appeal for different reasons to different people. I’m going to go for it – and evaluate how well it is going several months down the track. The WordPress app lets me start writing a post wherever I am so that I can make the most of bursts of inspiration and short windows of time.

So, no, the answer is that Twitter is not to Blog as Momento is to Diary.

I love my iPhone …

… I do, I do, I do!

I admit I came to smartphones lat-ish, getting my iPhone only in August 2010, but I do find it a boon. From helping me find my way to meetings around London, to knowing the weather, to keeping in touch with people and to helping me organise my time, it is makes my life easier and more fun.

There is a lot of discussion about how Apps are dividing the internet into proprietary enclaves. However, the reason they are so popular is that they provide users, particularly non-technical users, with what they want in an easy-to-use package.

Every working day, I wake up to my Sleep Cycle app and I use Mail to check my email from different accounts. I load iPhone versions of the Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent and can quickly scan the business headlines. I can check Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn using their apps – and can again post to mulitple accounts using Hootsuite. In this way, I keep up-to-date with what is going on in the world and with my friends before my very beautiful PC has even finished its boot sequence.

I check how the tubes are running with Tube Deluxe and can find my way more efficiently using Tube Exits and the standard Map.

I make notes of what’s going on in my life using Momento; I record thoughts on projects and other to dos in Evernote or in my diary; and it is much easier to Post once a day in 2012 when I use the WordPress app.

All these tools mean I can record life and take action when I think of it, not later when I am at home or in the office. It is a powerful information and communication device, like Box on “Star Cops”, for those who remember that programme. You can even use more and more voice control.

Clearly, the small form factor can be difficult for some people to see. That is one advantage that the iPad has. However, for me, it is a wonderful gadget – and I do miss using it when I’m outside the UK. Maybe I should investigate a worldwide data tariff! 🙂

That’s me, out! I’m off to cuddle my iPhone! TTFN!