Mindfulness Tools To Integrate Meditation In Your Daily Life [for serious meditators]

A daily seated practice of meditation is essential, yet not enough. For meditation to be truly transformative, it has to go beyond the cushion.

We have conditioned our mind day in and day out, for years, to function in a certain way. This automatic way of being limits our consciousness, and often brings stress, negative emotions, and much confusion.

In order to rewire these mental patterns, our meditation needs to be influencing our states moment after moment. This may sound like a very far-fetched ideal, but there is a solid way to walk in this direction. Every step counts, no matter how small.

In this post I will cover the importance of daily moments of mindfulness or meditation during the day, and how to make the process of remembering it easier.

Meditation and Mindfulness in Daily Life

When we meditate, we experience our mind and ourselves differently. This is often accompanied by feelings of relaxation and ease, expansiveness, peace, bliss, depth, wisdom, and oneness.

What we need is to constantly come back, during our day, to this mode of being. Remembering the subtle feeling of meditation is one way that our mind can tap into this state.

These little reminders can be as short as 20~60 seconds, once every hour (or every two hours). Each time we do this, we are strengthening the meditation muscle. We are making it easier for us to meditate, and we are tapping into some of the benefits of meditation here and now.

Having a formal sittingof 20~60 minutes once a day, coupled with 20~60 seconds mindfulness reminders, every hour, is the way for rapid transformation.

Bytime, these new neural pathways of self-awareness and self-control are getting deeper in your brain, and your “default mode” itself shifts to a more meditative, present and lucid one. Meditation will slowly start to be always in the background of your activities and interactions, giving them a different quality.

Overcoming Forgetfulness

Ok, this all sounds awesome, but how do I actually do this?

It’s not easy. Because our mind is so volatile, it is often hard to make it stick to an intention, or a new “program”. We soon forget. That is why the practice of mindfulness and remembrance (sati in Pali, smriti in Sanskrit) is so highly praised in the spiritual traditions of Buddhism and Yoga.

Lucky for us, in modern times we can take advantage of modern technology – such as apps and wearable devices – to help develop mindfulness. About a couple of months ago I started researching ways this could be done. Here I share my findings of what worked the best for me.

How does it help?

  • A device or app reminds us to get back to the practice, via a notification, vibration, or sound.
  • We use this to trigger us to do a certain internal exercise. For example:
    • Bringing the mind back to the present moment, by paying attention to our body and breath;
    • Observing the contents of our mind (thoughts, feelings, etc.), at this moment, and noticing our relationship with these contents;
    • Breaking free for a moment and bringing the mind back to the meditation object (mantra, breath, chakra, whatever it is for you);
    • Developing or kindling a specific quality inside ourselves, like equanimity, loving-kindness, acceptance, or tranquility.

Depending on the outside circumstances, we might be able to actually take a break and close our eyes for a few seconds. But, more often than not, we will be engaged in other activities, so this will be happening in the back of our mind, unbeknown to others.

Some people find that connecting a specific word or sentence to the trigger can be helpful. The message is up to you. It will depend on what type of meditation you practice, what you want to focus on and develop (or let go). Here are some ideas:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Be grateful
  • How is my mind now?
  • What is my practice now?
  • What story am I telling myself now?
  • Bring in compassion and loving-kindness
  • Accept and flow in the present moment
  • Let go of attachment
  • Relax and smile
  • Bring your attention back to your body
  • Connect to the source
  • Dive into the heart
  • Sit with God
  • Fall back into awareness

This same principle, of continuous remembrance, can be used to build any habit (like drinking water, for example), or to let go of any habit (like emotional eating, biting one’s nails, etc).

Regardless of the message and purpose, one golden rule always applies: take your trigger seriously. This means attending to it every time it beeps/vibrates. This is how your device gets its magical power.

If you can keep this in mind, I’m sure you will find this technique to be amazingly useful.

Now let’s have look at available tools.

Mindfulness Apps

Mindfulness Reminders

When looking for props for this process, the first thing I did was search in the iOS app store. After spending some time looking through the options available, I found Mindfulness Reminders app, by H2indie. It costs 2.99 USD, and allowed me to select:

  • number of times per day I want to be reminded (up to 18)
  • message that will show up
  • beginning and end time of the day
  • sound to play

This looked great! Exactly what I needed. I especially liked that the reminders were at random intervals, and not “every X minutes”. They even have an Apple Watch app.

Mindfulness Reminders 1Mindfulness Reminders 2

However, I soon found a problem with this approach. The reminder to be mindful came in my phone’s notification center, together with all the other notifications distractions. So the mind was, at the same time, prompted to be in the moment and yet tempted to get sucked into social media, messages, and news. Not ideal.

Notifications

Besides, to prevent interruptions and distractions, I always keep my phone on silent mode, and often facing down on my desk. This means that most mindfulness notifications would go unnoticed.

Bottom line: It’s a good app, but not the ideal solution. Perhaps having it on an Apple Watch could be more promising.

Mindfulness Mynah

My second trial was a Mac app. Since over 60% of my waking hours are spent in front of my computer, and I have the notifications for all other Mac apps always off, I thought this could work.

The only Mac app I found was Mindfulness Mynah, which I purchased for 1.99 USD.

Mindfulness Minah 2

This app didn’t work for me. In my workplace I leave my computer always on mute, so I couldn’t hear the notification sound. I expected to at least see a popup with a message, but this option was not available.

I selected the “open reminders app” checkbox, but the reminders app didn’t show up. Finally, I contacted the developers, but received no reply at all, which is unacceptable.

Bottom line: It didn’t work.

I then realised I wanted something whose sole purpose was to remind me to tap into my meditation. Something that was always with me, but unmixed with other apps and notifications. Eureka! I needed a wearable device!

Wearables for mindfulness

Fitbit

FitBit-flexThere are heaps of wrist wearable devices out there. I had to spend a few hours researching the main ones, and the best option I found was the Fitbit. It allows you to set up to 8 daily “silent alarms”. The Jawbone Up, for instance, allowed only 4. Most other wearables didn’t even seem to have this feature.

Because it is only 8 alarms, you can basically get one reminder every two waking hours. This is less than ideal, but good enough. Once the alarm vibrates, you need to tap the device, otherwise it will keep vibrating.

I got the Fitbit Charge HR (150 USD), but you can have the same functionality with the Fitbit Flex (90 USD). The reason why I went with the more expensive model was to have the feature of continuous heart rate monitoring, which is cool.

Bottom line:
Pros:

  • Does the work of reminding me to go back to my meditation, without any other distraction.
  • Is water resistant
  • Also has fitness and other health functionalities
  • Works as a watch as well (for the Fitbit ChargeHR)
  • Looks sleek

Cons:

  • Only 8 alarms
  • Need to recharge the device every 4 or 5 days
  • The trigger is also at fixed times (this may be an advantage for some people)
MeaningToPause

meaning to pauseTo my surprise, I found this wristband, made specifically for what I wanted to do. It’s called MeaningToPause, and it comes in different sizes, styles and colors. All it does is vibrate every 60 or 90 minutes! For this reason, also, the battery lasts for about 6 months, which is great.

You can use this as a bracelet, a necklace, or simply keep it in your pocket. There is only one button, which is used to turn the device on or off, and to select the time of the reminders. The capsule is to be worn on the inside of the wrist, so at most times it’s not noticeable.

This is by far my favorite solution, and the one I use now. I have felt the benefit in my meditation practice, so I decided to become their affiliate and promote the product.

They also offered a discount for Live and Dare readers. Simply type in the coupon LIVEANDDARE when you check out.

According to their website, this product is also used by weight watchers, alcoholics anonymous, family support groups, and prayer groups.

Bottom line:
Pros:

  • Tailor made specifically for this purpose
  • Alarm every 60 or 90 minutes
  • Battery lasts 6 months
  • Very affordable (25~60 USD)
  • Custom design for the beads, size, color, and written message

Cons:

  • It’s not water resistant
  • The capsule could be a bit smaller.

Unbroken Practice

When my device beeps, sometimes I am walking, sometimes talking to someone or answering an email. At other times I may be reading, working, or eating. It gives me the opportunity to bring the taste of meditation into these different activities, more than I could if I relied solely on my determination to remember. It is always a pleasant reminder. 

Using these technologies as a supportive tool of mindfulness has brought me closer to the ideal of being constantly in a state of meditation. I experience more contentment and pause in my daily life, and greater depth in my seated practice. Hope it does the same for you!

Please share this post for those who may benefit!

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  • pablo4twenty

    what an excellent and detailed article on how to improve your life by increasing the moments of peace and tranquility in a day. i use an ios app called ‘balance’ that can set reminders of various sorts on all kinds of schedules, but i have too many to keep notifications on. I’ll check out the bracelet and apps. thx!

  • Great post, Giovanni. Thanks! I copied down a couple of your mindfulness prompts for my own reminders!

    BTW, I use an iOS app called Due (http://www.dueapp.com/) for all my reminders, including mindfulness prompts. It’s easy to use and gets the job done.

    Take care and practice well!

  • Roo

    What a great post, thank you! Your practical and pragmatic approach to mediation is truly inspiring and encouraging. A bit like you my phone is often on silence mode, so the bracelet sounds like a great alternative. I will definitely check it out!

    • That’s great, Roo! I use mine basically all day long. It has made a strong impact in my practice.

  • Barbaranne Branca

    Help please. You have two guided meditations on Insight Timer. Neither of them will play. All other guided meditations will play. I really want to hear these. Are they available somewhere else?
    Thank you.
    Barb
    bbranca8@gmail. Com

    • That’s strange. Those guided meditations got so many positive ratings, so they must be playing for most people.

      In any case, you can listen to them here on my blog too:
      http://liveanddare.com/episode6/
      http://liveanddare.com/episode9/

    • Barbaranne Branca

      Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. I have been trying to get them to play on IT daily. All the other guided meditations work…don’t know if it’s my phone…
      Best~~
      Barb

    • Maybe send a support email to the guys in Insight Timer. They might be able to help you out.

  • Found some more interesting questions to use as practice, when the alarm/vibration is triggered: http://yourmindfulblog.com/become-present-to-the-moment-with-10-simple-questions/

  • Thank you for this, Giovanni – especially the Be Mindful Now bracelet – it is exactly what I have been looking for.

  • Hayder Hussein

    I use a digital hand watch. Almost all digital watches have the ability to beep once every hour on the start of a new hour.

    • Yes, I guess that also works. The problems I’ve experience with these before is that many times I miss the beep; but the vibration feedback I always notice.

    • Hayder Hussein

      I agree. The same here…
      When I had the motivation to make this better, I used an app that makes my handphone vibrating every 15 minutes. There are a lot of apps that will do that. I had a symbian Nokia phone then, and now on Android I have another app will do that.

      However, I felt that wasn’t practical. I cannot hold my phone in my pocket inside home all the time. However, I was happily holding a very light and small step counter in my pocket for the last 2 years. So either the watch will work – which I miss sometimes- or this gadget that you are recommending.

      I was very delighted that I found this page. I was trying to do the same for many years and have never seen anybody sharing my geeky-meditation side like you.

      Thanks for the brilliant post!

  • Dave

    This is an interesting topic and one that I’ve discussed countless times in various venues like Buddhist sanghas, etc. I now believe mindfulness the importance of which is exaggerated much like Metta can be as well. Maintaining mindfulness as separateness from activities can create a strain in the mind so from my experience better to treat this approach as an immersion in activities to make the best progress in your daily affairs. Simply put, deep rest (from meditation) and activity immersion (another kind of mindfulness) is a way to integrate the many effects of meditation into your daily life. The longer I meditate the more aware of the positive effects of meditation experienced regardless of my daily actions.
    Since I’ve already entered the stream and live in a state of constant joy and witnessing then mindfulness has receded in my rear view mirror. So for the nervous system to integrate the meditation effects it is important to dive into activity so that one’s system can learn to maintain both a meditative state along with activity.
    My idea is that along the way Buddhists came to believe that imitating the Buddha with mindfulness of the moment would somehow lead to the state of enlightenment. In other words, mental action became more significant than ‘Right concentration’!? Whether my idea is true or not this is not the case, in fact mindfulness is mental dualism on the minds surface not meditation. My approach has always been to meditate deeply (among other purifying practices) and delve into activity as well over time the effects will shine through to be experienced every moment of one’s day and ultimately night too. Having said this though, I occasionally pull back to survey a problem/experience but then my deep peace and witnessing make it that much easier to kick off that more mindful event. Those on the path to entering the stream and have suffering issues would be served to exercise mindfulness more frequently.

    Heres a practice to facilitate nervous system purification from a well-known Swami and I will not mention my benefits so as to predispose anyone:
    1. Sit in a full lotus position with your back straight.
    2. Do this for about 2 hrs. without movement.
    3. Meditate for the entire period.

    • Myles Davidson

      Advising your average Westerner to sit in full lotus is unnecessary and potentially dangerous and damaging to tendons etc. Too many people have incurred permanent damage because they mistakenly thought full lotus was necessary for attainment or their ego just wanted to show off. Yes, it’s an extremely stable position but plenty of people are experiencing full jhanas etc. while sitting Burmese style (or in a chair for that matter).

    • I echo that!

  • Lauren Sampson

    Have you tried this? http://www.choosemuse.com/

  • Myles Davidson

    Great post. The idea behind MeaningToPause is something I’ve had half floating in my mind as a good idea for a while now… and here it is! Thanks 🙂

  • Yes you can share. And yes, these tools can be used as a training for lucid dreaming.

  • Hayder Hussein

    Hi Giovanni,
    Do you recommend a more than every 1 hour vibration reminder for mindfulness. Like every 30 min. or even every 15 min. ?

    • I’d recommend once per hour. More than that you will likely start ignoring them.

  • Hayder Hussein

    It has been long time since this excellent post has been written. Now there are a few more gadgets appeared that can be used for this purpose. The new Fitbit charge 2 now supports sms notifications, and at least in my Android, I can setup the sms application that I use it with the fitbit app to send vibrations for the sms category. So I can let the skype for example as the app of choice for sms notifications, and I can set an IFTTT recipe to trigger every 1 hour to send a message to my skype, which will let the fitbit to vibrate every 1 hour.

    Another cheaper device is the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 for around USD25, which support unlimited amount of apps to forward their notifications to the Mi Band 2 and I have tested it with an Android phone and it worked perfectly. Any timer app can do this if supports Android notifications, or with the IFTTT approach. The Mi band 2 charge will last more than 2 weeks and has a lot of other nice features like HR, watch, calendar notifications, step, calories and sleep counter.

  • andreas krasser

    Hi!
    I bought meaning to pause 2 weeks ago and have to admit its really a níce help for pausing during the day. Even if its not vibrating, after a while i feel like ” hm isnt it time to pause” and i check my breathing , take some deep breaths and try think of something nice. And then ofc also when its vibrating. A nice little benfit is that mine doesent vibrate after exactly 60 min( some variation like 50-70 min i think) so i dont wait for it to vibrate, but when it does i just pause.