Instant Meditations? Probably As Unhealthy As Fast Food

Headspace and other meditation apps are offering meditation sessions as short as one minute. Don’t let your family be fooled by this spiritual equivalent of fast-food.

Are Headspace and other meditation apps going too far?

Unquestionably one of the the best meditation apps in the world, Headspace recently releases its revamped version. It’s packed full of updates and new additions.

The new update was released amidst heavy competition from the likes of Calm, Insight Timer, and Buddhify. These, and a continual string of new apps, are making it increasingly difficult for Headspace to stay at the top of the meditation app space.

Staying top means innovating, and the new version of Headspace does precisely that.

The new version offers many new features, some of which are truly excellent. There are different packs (happiness, health, foundations etc) that let you focus on different areas of your health. And there are customisable meditation sessions that allow for 20 or 10 minute meditation sessions.

Where the app gets a little crazy is in its uber-short sessions, some of which are just one minute long.

One minute?

It’s like Instant Zen. Except, it isn’t.

Can we humans change our state of mind in just one minute? Is it humanly possible to find Zen in 60 seconds?

Meditation is traditionally practices for long periods of time. Buddhist monks will meditate for hours on end. Even modern meditation teachers like Jon Kabat Zinn [founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction] recommends meditating for at least 20 minutes.

How did we get to 60 seconds?

It’s the way things are, isn’t it? We want instant noodles, instant coffee, instant gratification, and instant meditation.

We humans like things fast. And that’s understandable, most of the time. When you’re at work and you need a coffee, you don’t want to be waiting for a pot full of water to slowly reach the boil, so you grab the kettle. Makes sense. Then there’s instant banking. Sometimes you just need to get things done.

We all live busy lives and we all like to save time.

But meditation?

Meditation is supposed to be the one thing that is intentionally not instant.

Meditation is about slowing down. It’s about unwinding. It’s about actually taking the time to enjoy life. It’s not about one minute meditation sessions, like the ones Headspace is pushing on us.

Take a look at this guide to every major meditation technique in the world. They all take a minimum of 20 minutes. Why? Because it takes at least 20 minutes to create a Zen state of mind. It cannot be achieved in one single solitary minute.

Headspace, and other meditation apps that promise “instant meditation”, are sullying meditation. They’re turning a spiritual practice into something more like fast food. But you don’t get high quality nutrition from a fast food joint. And you don’t get Zen from “instant meditation”.

So why are app developer putting out these “instant meditations”. Simple: In an effort to get more people meditating.

You and I are special. We are not like other people. Most people are not able to sit for twenty minutes focusing on their breath. They lack the focus and the patients to do so. (Some will say they’re too busy. But scientific research has proven that the idea of being “too busy” is usually just a delusion).

In an effort to reach those people who are “too busy” or who simply don’t have the patients to meditate for 20 minutes, app developers are making meditation quicker. Understandable. Business, plain and simple. And in some ways it is even commendable. After all, it’s better to get someone meditating for one minute than for zero.

But what’s the long term effect of these “instant meditations”?

Not good.

What McDonalds did to food, meditation apps are doing to meditation. They’re offering a cheap and fast alternative. But you wouldn’t let your kids (or yourself) eat McDonald’s, because nutritionally it’s as empty as Donald Trump’s tax return. You’d cook your kids real food so they grow strong. And we should teach our kids real meditation too (speaking of which, here is how to teach kids meditation the right way).

Instant meditation is basically spiritual fast food.

Fast food fills you up. It tricks your brain into thinking you’ve eaten adequately. But in truth it’s done little but make you fatter. Instant meditations are similar. They make you think you’ve done something good, but really, you’ve just taken the spiritual equivalent of McDonalds.

There’s a reason meditation sessions are traditionally twenty minutes long. It takes those twenty minutes to produce true Zen.

Don’t let yourself or you family be fooled by these “instant meditations”. They will never be as affective or as healthy as genuine meditation. And if you need more convincing, take a look at this huge list of all the benefits of meditation, benefits that only come from proper meditation sessions.



Paul Martin Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book Journey To The Buddha Within You.

One thought on “Instant Meditations? Probably As Unhealthy As Fast Food

  • July 20, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Personally, for me, I would much rather do a full length meditation the right way and get all the benefits from it, no?


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