Best intro to meditation with some structure? Book? App? Etc
March 30, 2017 4:38 AM   Subscribe

Zen Masters, help me? What's a great introductory program for meditation? I need something that will give me daily assignments (ideal would be every day for a month, but I can adapt). It can be a book, an app, a website, whatever. And yes, I know there are many different types of meditation and I will be learning for the rest of my life. I just need something with a bit of structure to get myself and a friend into the habit and hold each other accountable. Thoughts? Thanks guys.
posted by michaeldunaway to Religion & Philosophy (20 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Stop, breathe, and think is an app I've used a little bit, and have recommended to others. It is easy to use and easu to tailor to your needs.
posted by janey47 at 5:08 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like Headspace a lot. It does the structured month ramp up thing, and then has packs, lasting 10-30 days, on various topics/skills/situations. It's definitely a beginner thing, but it's also clearly gonna take a while to outgrow it, and in the meantime it has reminders and everything.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:26 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Most introductory programs go week by week, with daily homework (8 weeks is standard). The best start would be an in person 8-week MBSR program, sometimes you can get insurance to cover it, it's about $500 but is pretty intensive in terms of showing up for the class for two months and may not be the best option right now, but having an in-person teacher and practicing with others/discussing your experiences is really helpful.

I really like the book "Finding Peace in a Frantic World" by Mark Williams and Danny Penman - there are meditations on the related website to go along with it (available free). It provides an introduction to mindfulness and an 8 week program to follow and really gets to the crux of issues that people face.

I also like the Imagine Clarity app - you get lots of short videos of Matthieu Ricard (famous monk) and he provides a very nice structure for beginners, the interface is beautiful.

There's also the Tergar Institute free meditation training, you just create an account and can follow along the short introductions, do the meditations, and I think there's a discussion forum.

If those aren't enough check out for tons of mindfulness/meditation programs, there are reviews for all.
posted by lafemma at 5:29 AM on March 30, 2017

Real Happiness is the book that helped me get a practice going after years of thinking about it. It includes a CD with guided meditations and covers different types of meditation. Salzberg is a well-known and respected meditation/dharma teacher and this book is practical, honest, and forgiving.
posted by jeoc at 5:33 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Jack K is old but good. Anything by him. Books. CDs.
posted by anya32 at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2017

Nthing Headspace which gives you the first month free. After one year of Headspace I moved on to other apps.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:44 AM on March 30, 2017

An MBSR program is in fact pretty great if you have access to one, but personally I think that my experience with the class was better for having done some meditation work on my own first. I eased in with Jon Kabat-Zinn, I think his "Full Catastrophe Living" is a good place to start for something to read. But Headspace is really good for a structured program of daily assignments. I know that it has some sort of social component built in where you can befriend your friends in the app, but I'm not sure what sort of access you have access to about each other's meditation - might be worth checking out to see if it suits your "hold each other accountable" needs.
posted by Stacey at 5:50 AM on March 30, 2017

Nthing Headspace as a great beginner app. I also really like Tara Brach's podcasts, which are very engaging and a great way to remember to make time for meditation.

Insight Timer is my personal favorite of the apps for everyday use. It's a simple but elegant interface and you meditate "together" with others around the world, so is also a good one to consider if you want to meditate at the same time with your friend.
posted by veery at 6:08 AM on March 30, 2017

I also really like Headspace.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:08 AM on March 30, 2017

I love the 10% Happier app. It's worth getting the paid version for at least one month. There are instructional videos with meditation teachers that accompany the guided meditations. My absolute favorite is Joseph Goldstein, but I think the strength of the app is that it has a few different teachers and styles that you can sample until you find a fit. When you get the paid version, you also hear from a real person who acts as your coach. I didn't lean on this person too much, but I did reach out a couple of times when I had questions and she responded quickly and thoughtfully.
posted by katie at 6:44 AM on March 30, 2017

I did a meditation workshop with Austin writer Spike Gillespie this spring. She does some podcasts in Insight Timer and I ended up liking the app for my own practice.

Spike also has a book - Sit, Stay, Heal - on Kindle that I liked a lot. It's part biography / part meditation lessons. Her humor and style is not for everyone (I like smart-assery and swearing, YMMV.)...but it helped make meditation more accessible for me.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:44 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've recently started using rhe app Calm, which gives you some guided lessons even in the free version.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2017

I've tried to get into meditating many times in the past and never could. Headspace got me into it. A year plus later and I get antsy if I go too long without doing it, just like I get antsy if I go too long without exercising. It's a really great onramp.
posted by squasher at 7:09 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wasnt' into apps, but I LOVED Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness, like jeoc above. I've been using the meditations from Real Happiness daily for 6 months and am truly happier, calmer, and more hopeful.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing Headspace which gives you the first month free. After one year of Headspace I moved on to other apps.

This was me also. I asked this question a while back. Headspace taught me a lot of the techniques that were helpful and I moved on to mostly non-guided meditation with Insight Timer and occasionally using Buddhify or Stop. Breathe and Think when I had specific things I wanted to work on.
posted by jessamyn at 8:21 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing Headspace. I've been using it for about a year and started from never having meditated and it's great. I'm just about ready to move on to something else, having completed most of the programs, but it has changed my life a lot in the time I've been using it.

It's nice because it has lots of different meditation types, it keeps track of your meditation streaks, it gives you tips in the lessons on how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your life more seamlessly. I wholeheartedly recommend it. You can even become friends ("buddies") with your friend on Headspace to help keep each other accountable.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:09 AM on March 30, 2017

Headspace is alright, but be wary if you buy a whole years subscription by accident, because if you buy it from the app store or some damn thing there are no refunds. ask me how i know.
posted by speakeasy at 12:23 PM on March 30, 2017

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote Full Catastrophe Living for people recovering from medical trauma, I think.

His next book "Wherever you go, There you Are" got me really interested in starting my meditation Practice. Although the book chapters are easily digestible and short (1-2 pages), I was still having real difficulty getting an actual practice going. Then I saw the end of the book where he offered guided meditation cassettes(!).

Now those are available as Apps. I use the series 2 which is tied to the book. I have been doing it regularly for about 3 months now. And for someone who has had trouble for 3 years on starting and maintaining a practice; I can heartily recommend the series 2 App.

The most important things to remember are:

1) This has to be made a HABIT. You should really try to do a little bit EVERYDAY. I tried doing it once a week, or three times a week etc.. It was only when I started doing it everyday and made it a habit; that it stuck.

2) Don't beat yourselves up if you are not doing it 'right'. It took the Buddha 33 years to get it right. :-) Plus anyone really doing Yoga or Meditation always calls it "practice" for a reason.

3) You may not see changes quickly. The change will be gradual, but will be more noticeable to the people in your life, more than you yourselves noticing it.

This has been my experience. YMMV. :-)
posted by indianbadger1 at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a good time doing Camp Calm. It was cheap, effective, simple. It feels like an event, with a specific start and end date (it's a 30-day program, by email). Downside: you'll have to wait until "late summer".
posted by actionstations at 10:00 PM on March 30, 2017

These free meditations are very good. The earliest come from this informative book.
posted by sindark at 8:52 PM on March 31, 2017

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