ZenFriend: A new meditation timer for iPhone

zen friend meditation app

I’ve recently been trying out a new meditation timer app for iPhone. It’s very nicely designed and has a lot of promise.

The app is called ZenFriend, and it has a very clean and, well, friendly design scheme. The other app I use for timing meditations is the well-known Insight Timer, which I enjoy using, although I don’t like the faux-wood design. Skeuomorphism is so iOS6!

As you’ll see from the first screenshot, there’s a nice blurred-out background image, beautiful typography, and nice clean “buttons” for pausing or ending your sit.

The interface for selecting the length of your sit, whether there are stages, and the kinds of bells used for the start, finish, and intervals (if any) is relatively easy to use. There’s a choice of four bells: one called “outside,” a standard meditation bowl, a Tibetan-style chime, and a Zen-style woodblock. You can create “presets” with your most common combinations of length and number of stages. In case you think the status bar at the top clutters the look, this disappears when the app is running, leaving you with a clean and undistracting screen.

The timer keeps stats that can let you know how many sits and what length of time you’ve meditated in the last 30 days and since you’ve started using the app.

As with the Insight Timer, you can connect with friends and see how many other people are using the timer. ZenFriend isn’t as fully featured in this regard — there’s no map for example — but you can take that simplicity as a lack or as a welcome feature, depending on your taste. Since the app’s new there aren’t as many people using it as you’ll find on the Insight Timer.

You can set the app to remind you to meditate at particular times. This doesn’t have to be the same time every day.

So this is a nice alternative to the Insight Timer, especially if you like simplicity of design. And it’s free on the iTunes store for three days. I’d suggest getting it now and trying it out.

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VIDEO: Insight timer meditation app connects meditators around the world

Elevated Existence: Created by an app developer and meditator, Insight Timer meditation app for the iPhone, Android and iPad, takes an at-home meditation session to the next level by connecting the user to others who are meditating at the same time around the world.

Through the Insight Connect piece of the app, users can register and view who is meditating at the same time they are, and also see the number of current meditators using the app. There is also the ability to interact with one another.

“The idea behind the community part is to provide the experience of being part of a meditation group…

Read the original article »

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Labyrinths, meditation apps, and a not-so-rolling Stone

You’ve heard of meditation labyrinths, where people mindfully walk along complex pathways. These are increasing in popularity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which says there are now more than 1000 labyrinths across the US, including at least 170 in hospitals. Somewhat less mainstream are meditation pyramids, which apparently help us retrieve “positive cosmic energy.” I’m skeptical. On the other hand the meditation pond being built by students from the University of Tampa sounds like a lovely idea.

If you go to the meditation pond you may wish to leave your iPhone behind, but if you do take it there’s been a whole bunch of recent news stories about meditation apps, including a Mental Workout, a Zen Timer, and meditations to help you Build Confidence.

If you decide to take your meditation a bit further, and head to a temple in, say, Laos, you might find yourself bumping zabutons with none other than Mick Jagger, if the UK tabloid The Sun’s report is true. The Sun claims that Sir Mick has been sneaking off to the city of Luang Prabang, where he has been spending time with monks. Of course the Sun does not have a reputation for the most accurate reporting. Wikipedia in fact has an entire section of an article devoted to the Sun’s inventions. But it’s nice to think that Jagger might get some satisfaction from sitting.

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Religion, iPhone mingle with spiritual apps

Before the Rev. Roderick Belin gets ready to preach, he grabs his Bible and his iPhone.

He uses the mobile device to look up Bible verses and theology texts and to alert him if his sermon runs too long. If he forgets the words to a hymn, his phone can save the day. That’s what happened on a recent Sunday.

“I was singing ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow,’ and I had the first verse but wasn’t too sure about the second,” said Belin, pastor of Kairos Community AME Church. A few taps later on the iPhone, and Belin kept singing without a hitch.

Mobile devices have become a boon to local believers as they’ve used apps — shorthand for applications, or programs that do specific tasks — to deepen their faith and spread their beliefs. From the Bible to Buddhism, there are dozens of spiritual and theological apps. Fans say apps help with spiritual development, but others say a digital device can’t substitute for face-to-face spiritual teaching.

There are apps for a variety of faith groups, including iPrayPro, which offers daily Muslim prayer times for more than 23,000 cities around the world; Shabbat Shalom, which lists Jewish holidays and Shabbat candle lighting times around the world; and the RC Calendar, which lists Catholic saint days and other events in the church year. There’s even a Buddha Box app that recreates chants from Buddhist monasteries.

Bob Jarrell, a practice leader at the Nashville Zen Center, uses a Soto Zen timer app during his daily meditation. He spends about 30 minutes a day meditating, alternating sitting silently with short periods of walking meditation. The app keeps time for each segment. That keeps him from being distracted by peeking at his watch every few minutes.

“It keeps you from staring at the clock, which defeats the purpose of meditating,” he said.

Lisa Ernst, who teaches meditation for One Dharma Nashville, a Buddhist group that meets at the 12South Dharma Center, said iPhone apps can be a good introduction to spiritual practices. Beginners can at least get a taste of meditating, she said.

“If it gets someone to sit still and silent for a few minutes, that’s a good thing,” she said.

But a mobile device app goes only so far. Ernst recently had a new student who had started meditating using her iPhone and was looking to go deeper by getting personal instruction.

“It’s a great place to start, but if an app is all someone is relying on, it would be pretty limited,” he said.

Bible-based apps

The Rev. Stephen Mans field, a Nashville author who speaks around the country, uses two Bible-based apps. One is You Version, a mobile Bible reader that has been downloaded more than 6 million times. It was developed by Life Church.tv, an Oklahoma-based mega church with a satellite campus in Hendersonville, and offers 41 Bible versions in 22 languages.

Mansfield likes the program because he can carry several Bible versions with him and because the program shows only a few verses at a time.

“It slows me down because I am seeing less on the screen than I would on the page of a Bible,” he said. “Because I am only seeing four or five verses at a time, it allows me to focus on those verses.”

Mansfield also is one of about 190,000 people who use Logos Bible Software, an electronic library of Bible reference books and dictionaries along with copies of the biblical texts in Hebrew and Greek. He can do sermon research by tapping on his iPhone.

He also can watch sermons from his favorite preachers on the device.

Uses outside church

Ministers have begun using the devices outside the church.

The Rev. Beth Causey, a chaplain for Alive Hospice, uses her iPhone for Bible readings. She uses Bible Reader 4 from Olive Tree Bible Software, one of the more popular Bible apps, with about a half-million users.

The program allows her to search for a specific verse — which she says helps her bring comfort to dying patients. She can easily find their favorite Bible readings or prayers.

Because Causey ministers to people of all faiths, she says, her phone can help her find diverse spiritual resources.

“I’ve found Jewish prayers and readings from the Quran several times,” she said. “I don’t push what I want to read. I want to help people to use their own faith to find strength and hope.”

Causey stresses that her phone is a tool and can’t replace one-on-one relationships.

“The day I am more interested in my iPhone than my patients, is the day I have to quit,” she said.

Bob Smietana, The Tennessean

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Stress free, medicine free

WLTV: If there were a medication you could take that would reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase your ability to focus, prevent disease and improve your quality of life would you take it? Well, there is no such drug, but research shows that meditation can help all of those things. Doctors at Mayo Clinic have developed an iPhone application to help you fit the many benefits of meditation into your busy life.

Ann Marie Gullickson’s life is packed. She works, takes classes, keeps her family organized and somehow finds time to sew costumes for her kids’ performances. “When my mind is really busy with all the different balls I have in the air.”

Meditation is what keeps her together. Every day Ann Marie carves out 10 minutes and turns on her iPhone meditation app for a quick, but very effective session. “Sometimes when I’m meditating or right after, I maybe don’t feel any different. But later I’ll notice the sense of awareness, of calm, of presence.” Then, Ann Marie says, the to-do list that used to feel miles long, seems a little less daunting. She feels less stressed. “Meditation is a state of concentration with relaxation.”

Dr. Amit Sood and his colleagues at Mayo Clinic developed the application after four years of research. “We combined concepts and ideas from a variety of meditation styles. We also looked at some of the scientific data and put it all together into a program that could be learned in as little as 10 minutes.”

It’s very user-friendly. Musical chords synchronized with moving circles help you focus your breathing and mind. Dr. Sood says if you practice this two or more times a day, you will begin to feel more alert, focused, relaxed, and like Ann Marie, better equipped to confront a busy day. There is no mystical, ritualistic or religion-based approach to it. It’s simply a way to train your mind so that your attention becomes strong. And that can help you live a fuller, more balanced.

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Stressed? There’s a Deepak Chopra app for that

These days, there are smart phone applications that allow you to track airplane departures and landings and steer you to new restaurants. Apps can imitate bagpipes, flutes and bird calls and even translate a baby’s cries. Now, there’s an app to relax.

Deepak Chopra is taking his message of mind-body healing to the iPhone with an app of interactive stress-reducing exercises called Stress Free. It will cost just under $10 to download.

“Most people when they think of iPhones or BlackBerries or just everything that’s digital these days, they associate it with stress,” Chopra says. “So the thought came to me, why not use the very technology that is supposedly distracting you to bring you to the present, to help you focus on the moment, to help you get rid of stress. There is no stopping technology, and what we do with it depends on us.”

The Stress Free app reminds you throughout the day to “stop and pause and reflect,” he says. The reminders come in the form of music or meditation messages like “Take a deep breath.”

The app also offers feedback, Chopra says. “You can actually touch a portion of the app and it might tell if you’re at this moment stressed or relaxed … and tell you exactly what to do to counterbalance your stress.” He says there are many ways to gauge stress, such as temperature of the skin and galvanic skin response, a measure of its electrical resistance.

To combat stress, the options include following a guided meditation or even listening to a joke.

But why not just turn off your phone?

“Well, it would be wonderful to do that, except most people won’t do it,” Chopra says. “I have to be very practical. I see some remarkable benefits that will come of this technology.”


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