Having a formal practice of meditation is essential, yet not enough. For meditation to be truly transformative, it has to go beyond the cushion. This is where a mindfulness reminder tool—be it an app or bracelet—can come in handy.
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. This is one of the three Pillars of Meditation.
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.
Mindfulness Reminder Tools
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.
The basic idea is to have an alarm every hour or so, to pull you back to the present moment. It’s a type of meditation reminder.
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 sticky thoughts
- 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
- Practice one of these quotes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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
- 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)
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.
- 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
- It’s not water resistant
- The capsule could be a bit smaller.
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!
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