Getting the Benefits of Meditation:
If you’re like I was, you’ve heard that meditating every day is good for you (right up there with daily exercise), but you just can’t seem to get into it. Every time you try, sitting starts to hurt, or the silence becomes overpowering. You last maybe one or two days, then mutter, “I’m not sure how people do this daily. Maybe meditation isn’t for me.”
Never fear — Meditation IS for you, and there IS a way to make it fun, easy, and enjoyable, so you can stick with it, and reap all of those delicious meditation benefits which indeed do exist!
The Secret to Sticking With Meditation:
What’s the key to making meditating part of your daily habits and routines? The secret is that meditation doesn’t have to look or sound like you’d expect. Huh? Let’s break it down.
1. Sound: Mantra, Chanting, and Musical Meditation.
The game-changer for me was learning that meditating does NOT need to be silent at all — it can involve singing or chanting (no musical ability required)! My mind races during silence, and easy mantra chanting is gold for focusing and relaxing the neurons productively. For information on where to find these musical meditations, stay tuned for the next section.
2. Position: Can I Meditate Lying Down or Moving?
As a gangly 6-foot-tall human, I find sitting cross-legged for more than a few minutes downright painful. It’s sad, but the whole “quiet sitting” part of meditation utterly daunted me. How thrilled was I to learn, therefore, that you can meditate in any number of body positions!
I now do a combination of standing, swaying, stretching, dancing, and lying down movements while I do my chanting meditations. At the end of the 15 minutes (more on timing later), my body and soul feel great!
3. Duration: How Long and Often to Meditate?
Yes, you want to meditate at least once every day to reap the benefits, but once you get into the groove, it will all flow surprisingly easily. My suggestion for duration is to start with 10 minutes a day (scroll down to see a good course that supports this), then ramp up to 15-20 minutes a day. The key to launching this, as we will discuss soon, is guided courses.
4. Scheduling: When is the Best Time to Meditate?
Sure, it’s not as recommended to meditate right after eating (since your body is digesting) or right before bed (since you may just fall asleep), but actually it doesn’t matter. As long as you get your minutes in, it will make a positive difference. Something is always better than nothing when it comes to launching good habits, so just fit your meditations in whenever you can!
Experiment with what daily timing works best for you. I’ve found the morning ideal for me, because then I’m not worried for the rest of the day about whether I’ll have time to schedule in meditating (and it feels like a mini momcation to reset myself before being “on” with work and my kids).
5. Community: Meditation Near Me? Buddies?
The great thing about the 21st century is that we have technology that brings guided meditation right to your smartphone at home! To create a community for support in your meditation journey, there are two options.
Option one is peer pressure a friend to do an online meditation program or course with you. (I do this, and it’s effective and sweet! We check in on each other every morning and share insights and experiences.)
Option two is use any number of online meditation circles to connect with strangers who can support your progress. Many meditation apps have this as a built-in feature. This brings us to the important next question…
What is the Best Meditation App?
First, some background: This is not a sponsored or biased review. No one is paying me to write this, and there aren’t any affiliate links in this post. It’s just an honest song of love, created from experience and research!
So here’s my conclusion. Each person is different, but after trying Calm, Headspace, Buddhify, and Insight Timer meditation apps, I declare that Insight Timer is far and away the best app for me — and it might be for you, too. Here’s why.
Insight Timer has thousands and thousands of stand-alone meditations that you can search with a very user-friendly interface, but even better, it has hundreds of 10-40 day courses which are FANTASTIC. Just as it helps motivate exercise to follow workout programs with a beginning, middle, and end, meditation benefits from following guidance and a clear flow forward.
The other reason I adore and recommend Insight Timer is that it has a mystical, spiritual, and international element which I found utterly missing on the other apps, and deeply enjoy. Many of the teachers are from outside the U.S., and meditations frequently use Sanskrit language, and insights from around the world.
If this is not your thing, there are plenty of other types of courses and meditations as well on the app. As could be guessed from the name, Insight Timer also has various wordless meditation timers, if you’d prefer solo practice over guided meditation. Want to learn more about this fantastic app? Let’s dive into it!
Insight Timer App Review:
A large chunk of the Insight Timer meditation app is free, and I’d strongly suggest downloading it now to poke around. Start with the excellent 10 day “How to Meditate in 7 Days” course (no cost, and just ten minutes a day), and also play around with the stand-alone meditations, which you can find through the search and filter function. If you want to go the route of musical mantra meditations, here are my favorites:
Best 5-10 Minute Music Mantra Meditations:
A. “Om Shanti Om” with Gordon Burnham: 7 minutes.
This beautiful musical meditation is easy to follow, and my son loves singing it with me every night to relax for sleep.
B. “Activate Love Vibration Chakra” (2 min.) and “Om Namah Shivaya” with Miguel Brea. Also consider “108 Om Chanting Practice.”
Miguel is one of the stars of Insight Timer (see more about his courses, below), and my kids and I adore these two short musical meditations. The 108 Om chant is easy to follow because it’s just the word “Om” and helps regulate the breathing, but it does get kind of intense musically in the middle. It definitely works to put us into a trance, even when we break it into several days.
C. “Green Tara” with PAZ. 5 minutes.
Everything PAZ does on Insight Timer is fantastic (see more about her courses, below). There are also other versions of the “Green Tara” mantra chant by other artists on the app which we’ve enjoyed.
D. “Pagan Healing Chant” (2 min.) and “Pagan Moon Chant” (4 min.) with Dallas Montella.
My son really loves these, and they’re in English instead of Sanskrit. He likes to make his stuffed animals dance as these are playing, and we are slowly learning the words.
E. “The Most Relaxing Music in the World” (30 min.) and with Patrick Lynen.
This song meditation has no words or chanting, but I’m including it here because it’s been lovely to listen to either with our kids at bed time while we chat and cuddle, or for myself to unwind at the end of a long day.
Is Insight Timer Premium and Member Plus Worth It?
My two cents is that the premium version of Insight Timer is super worth it, because you get access to all the courses, which are the most valuable part of the platform. After a 7 day free trial, the cost is between $60 and $20 a year (there’s some weird fluke which is giving different charges for different people), and if you do the math for the price that comes to per daily meditation, it’s 16 cents a day or less for the year.
I’m really glad I took the chance on this app, because it’s been life-changing. I even ended up buying it for my closest friends, and they’ve also had wonderful experiences. If you’re on the fence, try the free trial and see! Let’s explore the best courses on the app.
Best Insight Timer Courses
I love, love, love the Insight Timer app’s courses, and am aiming to methodically go through them all! Do note that each course very different. For example, some are all guided meditation, some are all lecture, and some are a hybrid. Sample around until you find which fits!
Start With This Course (Free):
1. “Learn How to Meditate in Seven Days” with Insight Timer. 10 minutes a day for one week.
It was hilarious to me to notice how hard it was to fit in this ten minute a day meditation into my life, but I just kept saying, “It’s only 10 minutes! You can do it!” until I finished the course. As an introduction to meditating, it was highly worth it, but keep in mind it’s only one type of meditation. I didn’t really hit my stride with the practice until I found…
Chanting Mantra Mediations:
2. “21-Day Mantra: Journey to Happiness” and “30 Day Mantra Journey for Inner Healing (and Self-Acceptance)” with PAZ. 15 minutes a day for 21 and 30 days, respectively.
PAZ has changed my life, and my friend, who is doing all her meditations with me, agrees! I would start with the 21 day course, then move to the 30 day one. PAZ is so positive and insightful, the tunes are lovely, and the mantras are easy enough to catch onto — and really work.
3. “Find Clarity Through Mantras” and “Restore Your Balance Chanting Mantras” with Miguel Brea: Both 10 days for 15 minutes a day.
I LOVE Miguel’s courses. They have very dramatic musical sound effects in the start and end, and feature different mantras every day, in contrast to PAZ’s courses, which repeat the same mantra. I really felt the transformative effects of each daily chant.
4. “Kundalini: Journey Through the Chakras” with WelcomeEarth. 14 minutes a day for 10 days.
This course has a short intro about each chakra (a different one each day), then the same central mantra chant. It has less explanation than Miguel or PAZ’s courses, but I found it interesting and effective for getting me into a trance-like state, especially when I swayed or danced while meditating.
5. “Chakra Cleansing with Deep Cello” with Wong Janice. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
When my voice is tired from teaching, this relaxing and renewing musical course fits the bill. It does feature a mantra, but it’s in English and can be whispered softly. This class goes through the chakras one by one, clearing each with specific meditations, music, and mantras. What I found particularly helpful was Janice’s teaching on what emotions blocks every area (ex: Lies block the Throat Chakra), and which color is associated with each. This information assisted in effective (and beautiful) visualizations.
Teaching and Lecture Meditations
5. “Manifest Your Ultimate Goals & Dreams” with Kenneth Soares. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
I. LOVE. THIS. COURSE. It was a game-changer for me. The whole thing is in lecture format (with 5-10 homework to do after the lecture), so I listened to it every morning while making and eating my breakfast, then did the homework later in the day. I cannot recommend enough giving it a try to create the life you want to make. Give it at least four classes to get to the really mind-blowing stuff!
6. “Learn to Stop Caring What Others Think” with Lou Redmond. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
I’m halfway through this course, and am getting so much from it for actionable methods and mind-shifts to move forward in places I’ve been stopped by fear of others’ opinions. It’s half lecture and half active meditation, so I listen to the first half while doing an activity (like putting away laundry or walking), then for the meditation part, pause it and go somewhere I can focus.
7. “Knowing Your Soul’s True Purpose” (for Women) with Kim Newing – Mama Goddess. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
I’m halfway through this course, too (yes, I’m layering several on at the same time, and find they are complimentary) and it has rocked my world. During one day’s class, I started sobbing as I realized something that the “shadow archetype” visualization revealed. Like “Stop Caring What Others Think,” each day of this course is half lecture, and half active meditation.
8. “Creating Conscious Relationships” with Manoj Dias. 12 minutes a day for 10 days.
I’m in the middle of this course, and, though I find it has excellent insights — one of which made me sob and see a whole new plane for my marriage — I’m finding it is bringing up so much for me, that I’ve been spotty in moving through it. I suppose that’s a good indication that it’s worthwhile to keep going!
Meditations and Stories for Kids
9. “Inuku’s Journey: A Blissful Bedtime Adventure” with Kim Newing – Mama Goddess. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
This relaxing story is phenomenal for calming down kids, no matter the time of day. One afternoon, I was waiting by the side of the road with my children before a delayed activity, and on a whim, started playing this tale. They were rapt with attention for three episodes! FYI, the last few minutes of every episode feature calming instrumental music.
10. “Kids: The Tale of the Mysterious Mist” with Reuben Lowe. 15 minutes a day for 10 days.
My kids liked this story, and it’s an interesting combination of narrative story, then teaching, but I do warn you that there are parts that sensitive children might find scary: monsters. The monsters end up being harmless, but keep in mind that if your kid gets worried easily, you might want to try a different tale, or move quickly past the frightening parts to get to the resolution.
I’m thrilled that Insight Timer is building its library of kid-centric meditations and courses, and look forward to seeing what they come up with next!
Benefits of Meditation I’ve Experienced:
I’ve now been meditating daily for ten months — and Insight Timer has all sorts of deliciously geeky stats to analyze my streaks! — so what have the payoffs of 15-20 minutes a day of contemplation been? (For context, I’m a middle school teacher and the mother of two young kids.) Here’s my honest, amazed list of real meditation benefits I’m experiencing:
- Better moods and less rage. More ability to take breaths and calm myself down when everything around me is crazy.
- More confidence in my worth, intuition, decision-making, power, and ability to self-care.
- Shockingly better ability to create and reach goals. The paths forward that have opened up since Insight Timer (especially since the Manifestation course) are blowing my mind.
- More appreciative and deeper relationships with my loved ones.
- Better connections with my children (especially when we chant together and I know I can calm them).
- Growing appreciation of the human body, spirit, and natural world.
- So much more!
What’s YOUR Experience with Daily Meditation or Insight Timer?
So what about you? What have YOU found that does and doesn’t work for starting and maintaining a daily meditation practice? Have you found an app or other method that works for you? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!