Meditation Apps: Seeking Peace Online

A well-designed app has the potential to help us live more gracefully while being connected. The team at Gracefully shares the ones that we find bring greater ease to our lives. Have an app that helps you bring grace into your life? Share it with us!  

By Sarah Kaufman

Using an app to help meditate may seem like an oxymoron. After all, meditation is about finding peace within yourself, and uncoupling from all the inputs and distractions that tech is so good at delivering, right?

A habit of meditation can lead to the grace of greater clarity, calm, and compassion. But if you’re like me, the discipline of it can be a challenge. This is where the quality apps come in: They guide you gently through a relaxation and awareness routine with step-by-step directions and soothing words. They’re a stand-in for an instructor in a meditation class, or a voice on a relaxation CD, offering ways to bring ease to your breathing, thinking, and even your sleeping. But apps aren’t the only digital source for guided meditations. You can stream them on websites, for free.

Before I discovered my favorite free sites, I tried a few of the popular apps for purchase. Headspace routinely tops lists of best meditation apps, and I enjoyed the 10-day free trial. But a yearly subscription will set you back a steep $98. For a less-expensive option, try Calm ($69.99/year) or Meditation Studio. ($49.99/year for iOS; unfortunately there’s no subscription yet for Android. The Android app, with a subset of content, is $3.99.) Both apps offer free trials, and they’re elegantly straightforward, simple in presentation, and easy to navigate. On Calm, you can also swipe through nature scenes, hear soothing sounds, and watch guided video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching for ease of motion.

Yet there’s really nothing super complicated about meditating, once you find a helpful voice to give you encouragement and pointers that make sense for you. Plenty of sites offer gratis guided meditations. You’ll tradeoff the beautiful imagery and appealing navigation, but once your eyes are closed and your earbuds are in, all that really matters is whether you’re hearing a calming voice and perspective that you like. I’ve found that these qualities are abundant on the web if you know where to find them, and they don’t have fees.

UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free guided meditations, which have an especially peaceful and lovely tone, as well as a free weekly podcast of meditations. And the noted meditation author and teacher Tara Brach, founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., offers free guided meditations on her website. Her guided meditation classes at IMCW are infused with a bit of Buddhist philosophy, as are her online meditations, which run about 15-20 minutes long and contain reflections on a theme and periods of silence for your own contemplation. Both UCLA’s and Brach’s websites also offer online courses and resources for those new to meditation, to help clear the way to a tranquil mind.

Whether it’s an app, a podcast, or an online resource, technology certainly has the power to bring meditative calm and ease into your life. Let me know your favorites.