Over the last few years, meditation apps have taken the world by storm. Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and others grow more popular by the day. But at a certain point, the short guided meditations you find on these apps can be limiting. Once you've reached a certain point in your practice, you will want to cut loose from apps and go off on your own. Here's how to do it.
Choose Your Methods
Since you've been using meditation apps for a while, you're sure to have found a style that works well for you. Whether this is mindfulness, visualizations, body scans, breath counting, or loving-kindness meditations, choose your favorite method and dedicate yourself to it. Doing the same thing day after day will be much more effective than mixing things up and varying your practice. When you commit to one type of meditation, you'll dive deeper into it and get more out of it. Think of meditation as training a muscle. If you switch randomly between training your arms, back, and legs, none of the muscles will develop properly. Instead, choose one "muscle" to focus on. In the case of meditation, this won't lead to lopsided growth. Any type of meditation will train your mind in a similar way and will lead to numerous benefits.
Wean Off the Apps
You don't have to stop using apps cold-turkey. Instead, wean off them slowly. Try doing a silent meditation one day and a guided one the next. Slowly, increase the amount of time you spend meditating independently. If you find you really enjoy guided meditations, try using them as a treat. Do your usual silent meditation in the morning, and if you happen to have time or you need some extra relaxation, you can add a guided session later in the day. Using apps as a supplement to your regular practice is a great way to incorporate any types of meditation that are harder to do on your own, like yoga nidra and guided imagery. These meditations can be beneficial, especially for relieving stress, but for most people's goals, they should not make up the heart of your meditation practice.
Since you're used to guided meditations, you may be relying on the teacher's voice to help you ease into the practice, stay focused, and know when to stop. Now that you will be meditating on your own, you need to do all of this for yourself. The next time you do a guided meditation, carefully and mindfully take note of what the teacher is doing for you. Do they tell you to take deep breaths at the start? Do they have you relax and not worry about meditating for the last minute? Remember which parts you like and figure out how to give yourself that same experience. For example, you could use an app that sounds a gong every few minutes to help you stay focused. If you'd rather go completely low-tech, use an egg timer to tell you when to stop meditating. Perhaps you'd like to set a timer for the minimum length that you want to meditate, then go as far over that as you can manage. Plan ahead what you will do during your sit so that you're not thinking about it during the time you're trying to meditate.
Meditation apps have served you well, but if you're still reading this, you already know it's time to move on. Getting off the apps and taking control of your meditation journey will serve you well. By choosing your methods, weaning off slowly, and planning ahead, you'll take the meditation habit you've developed and turn it into something better and deeper than you ever dreamed.