Deborah KayBy Deborah KayJuly 25, 20225 Minutes

For the longest time, I struggled with meditation.

I tried all the mainstream meditation apps – Calm, Headspace, 10% Happier – but none of them stuck. Most of them tell you to sit quietly for a few minutes and it just did not do it for me.

Everything changed when I discovered Sam Harris’ Waking Up app. Sam’s Introductory Course taught me about what meditation and mindfulness is all about. Sam practices vipassana meditation (insight meditation) which is a Buddhist form of meditation, where you just observe your thoughts without judging or dwelling on them.


Training the mind

For me, the benefit of meditation is to train the mind learn to observe one’s thoughts. There are different stages to this:

  • Awareness – just being aware of the thoughts that come and go. Noticing the the fleeting nature of those thoughts. Noticing when you get distracted. Learning to reset and start observing again.
  • Understanding that what we think of as “reality” are really stories that we have made up in our own heads.
    • The mind can be a theatre of doubt and agony
    • Suffering, stress, self doubt, any negative emotion is really just an illusion (it’s all in your own head)
    • Pain is unavoidable but suffering is optional. Suffering is a product of thought, so if you can control your thoughts, you can eliminate your suffering
  • Changing your response – changing how you respond to the world is as good as changing the world
  • Ultimately, the quality of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

So often are we are lost in thought (thinking without knowing that we are even thinking). Meditation is the art of giving undistracted attention to the contents and the nature of one’s mind. You become what you pay attention to, and the practice of mindfulness is to see what you pay attention to.

It’s surprising how little I thought about my own thoughts and how little I understood my own mind and how it worked. Once I started paying attention to my thoughts, I started to notice things that I never noticed before:

  • The first time I would observe something
  • The first time I feel some sort of emotion
  • Triggers that result in certain emotion
  • Impulsive reactions



Once you learn to meditate, you can mediate anywhere.

Walking meditation

I enjoy my daily morning walks in the Botanic Gardens where each walk feels like a meditation.


Mysore meditation

My 3x a week mysore ashtanga practices are like meditation in motion. I focus on my breath and just observe my thoughts. Often the thoughts will wonder but I try to pull myself back to focusing on my breath and clearing the mind.


The other benefit of meditation is in the slow breathing – the slow inhales and exhales that activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body and the mind.



Meditation Apps

1. Waking Up

Sam Harris’ Waking Up app is a paid app but he gives everyone 30 days free (no credit card required to try the app).

What I love about it: It has meditation practices thought by Sam himself but also a number of meditation teachers like Henry Shukman Richard Lang, Loch Kelly. It also has a series of lectures on Zen, Eastern and Western religion, philosophy by Alan Watts and Joseph Goldstein as well as “Conversations and Interviews” into the nature of meditation and the mind with many interesting people

He also says that if you can’t afford to pay, all you have to do is to email his team to request for a free subscription and they will give you a year’s subscription for free.

2. Oak Meditation

Another type of meditation that resonated with me is Loving Kindness meditation. My favourite app for doing Loving Kindness meditation is Kevin Rose’s Oak Meditation free app.

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