If you want to know how well the top meditation apps work, your best bet is to test some of them out by using the free trial offer of each app. Meditation apps offer a good introduction to the challenging practice of meditation, and they give experienced meditators assistance performing their mindfulness exercises.
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Are Meditation Apps Worth the Cost?
Each app comes with different features and limitations, and some are offered by their developers completely free of charge. Most paid meditation apps are subscription-based, and users can save money by purchasing a subscription on a yearly — instead of a monthly — basis. Subscriptions vary in cost from around $5 to $15 per month or $25 to $75 per year. The revenue from app subscriptions is used partly to pay the meditation guides for their services, which would be much more expensive if they were offered in person instead of through an app.
Meditation guidance is a very useful tool to have at any stage of the learning process. While not strictly necessary, it can save beginners a significant amount of time during their development as meditators. The amount of time saved would almost certainly be worth the cost of a subscription, and those who can afford a subscription should save themselves the difficulty of self-teaching this extremely challenging skill.
If you can’t afford a subscription just yet, you can get started with one of the free meditation apps such as the Breathing App. This app gives you a useful visualization of your breathing pattern so that you can match your inhalations to the rhythm shown on the screen. You won’t get the sort of structured guidance from a free app that you’ll get from a subscription-based service that’s aimed at novices and intermediate users, but you can begin training yourself to breathe properly while you work on mastering the difficult skill of mindfulness.
Long-Term Benefits of Meditation
The challenge of learning to meditate is training your mind not to wander when your eyes are closed and your attention is focused on your breathing. The payoff from this effort is greater control of your thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Experienced meditators report an increased awareness of their consciousness and a greater capacity for empathy.
Meditation is a tool used by consciousness researchers to explore the subjectivity of their minds from a more objective perspective, according to professor Thomas Metzinger during his appearance on the Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris. It is a teachable skill with measurable benefits that most meditators notice after two to three months of practice.
The phenomenon of becoming an objective observer of the interior of your own mind is a radically altered state of consciousness that offers useful perspective to just about everyone who sticks with meditation long enough to experience the phenomenon. It has been likened by consciousness researchers to the experience of total psychological immersion induced by hallucinogenic plant compounds such as LSD and DMT. The long-term benefits of meditation are similar to the benefits reported by medical researchers conducting clinical trials of hallucinogenic substances. Subjects of the trials reported improved mood, better control of impulsive thoughts and behavior, and relief from depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Learning the art of meditation can be a major challenge. Fortunately, many aids exist to help anyone get started. The best meditation apps are probably worth the cost of a subscription for anyone who’s serious about learning meditation.