Headspace: Take 10

Actually meditating every day is tough. “Headspace” makes it easier…and fun!

“Headspace” (my favorite meditation app) and its parent website, headspace.com, feature a series of 365 short guided meditations (male voice, British accent). The first 10 are free (with registration). The meditations have to be done in sequence, as each session builds on the previous day. Graphs chart your progress through the series, and there’s a supportive online community.

No arcane words to learn, no religious content, and no musical soundtrack.
Here’s what happens:

After the day’s introduction (variously a bit of instruction, reminders, encouragement, or pointers about common mistakes and experiences), each session follows this pattern:

  1. Breathing
  2. Body scan / tune into the environment
  3. Counting Breaths
  4. “Letting Go”
  5. Returning to the body

The “Take 10” series focuses on bodily sensations; later series tackle different areas of experience. Instructions throughout the guided meditation help keep novices on track. Over the course of the program, periods of silence get progressively longer.

Start out with less than 15 minutes a day…

Well, not exactly. The first day, you won’t actually meditate unless you plan to spend at least 30 minutes with the program. If you’re in a time crunch, it makes sense to register and watch the lively welcome videos and well-done animations explaining key concepts on the first day and start the guided meditations the next.

Warning: allow 12-15 minutes for each of the ten “Take 10” meditations! (This slight misnomer happens to be my current favorite example of the “squeeze it in” fallacy, for which I recommend wide margins in scheduling).

The “Take 10” name comes from the actual time spent doing meditation exercises (10 minutes) as well as the number of sessions in the series (10). In addition, however, there’s always a minute or so of instruction at the beginning and a wrap-up with further instructions at the end. On top of that, every few days there’s an extra video at the beginning (1-2 min). These usually mark transitions from one theme to another.

Sounds good. What do I do after the first 10 days?

I’ve found much benefit in repeating the “Take 10” series. I worked through it several times before feeling ready to move on to “Take 15.” Several months further into the program, I still like to pick a “Take 10” meditation if I’m short on time, feeling particularly tired, distracted, uncomfortable, or have missed a few days. I’ve also found it valuable to create a “mini-retreat” by alternating guided meditations with walking in nature.

There’s a lot more free material to explore: podcasts on various aspects of mindfulness, videos of other beginners describing their experiences, a meditation timer, and the questions and discussion in the community forum, among other things.

Note that if you choose to subscribe (a year costs less than a weekend retreat), the guided meditations increase in length to a nominal 15 minutes (actual 17-18 min) and then a nominal 20 minutes (actual 22-23 min). The first five minutes continue to be much the same as in “Take 10;” but the time allotted for counting breaths expands greatly, as do the periods of silence between instructions. The “letting go” and wrap up occupy the final two minutes throughout the entire series. FYI, I’ll be reviewing later portions of this program in the near future.

Anything else to keep in mind?

Travelling the path of mindfulness alone can sometimes be tricky. While “Headspace” offers tons of guidance for an online program, there’s no substitute for talking about quandaries and challenging experiences with a seasoned meditation teacher (search online for a nearby insight meditation sangha) or a mental health professional, or both, depending on what comes up!