How the Waking Up app and the Before launcher have helped me

As you might know by now, I am on a quest to bring more calmness and mindfulness into my life. For example, I have written about awakening from the meaning crisis and my Swedish shorter versions of these themes.

Today, I will continue on this path but tell you about an app and a launcher that really have helped me: Waking Up by Sam Harris and the minimalist Before launcher by Before Labs. These are no affiliate links, meaning I mention these apps since I genuinely like them and not because they pay me.

Waking Up is by far the best mindfulness app I have tested, and I think I have tested at least 10. Tim Ferriss was right when he said:

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with this app. Whether you want to sharpen your mind or experience more peace, this can help in dramatic fashion. The power of its progression is hard to overstate.”

For example, Sam Harris has a 50-day long introduction where you learn mindfulness, and then a lot of other very useful material such as daily meditations. You can test the app for free and see what you think.

The other phone-related idea is the Before Launcher for Android. I have used the Nova launcher for years with all its built-in tools, but now I got what I needed: You can only select 8 apps on the front page, and there are nearly no notifications! It is like they say about their app:

✶Open your phone 40% less.✶
✶Reduce distractions with our notification filter. 80% of all notifications don’t warrant interruption.✶
✶Focus on what matters.✶

Already the first day of using the launcher I started to bother less about my phone. Since there are no notifications and distractions, there is no point, and I can go on my the rest of my life instead. Our phones are hauntingly seductive but this removes much of the temptation. Yes, in this case, less is more.

Approaching mindfulness

The last five years, I have seen several people I know crash due to stress. And according to the research, this is a problem that is growing at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, at work, we are supposed to be highly driven and focused people that are using the smartest ways to stay on top of all tasks thrown at us. But we all have a limit, and before we reach ours, it is better to treat yourself the right way to avoid a crash.

2018 has been a year where so many professional opportunities opened for me, where I am responsible for the roll out of Office 365 plus the investigation on which LMS to use. Once the holidays came, I noticed the sheer speed at which I had worked and that I needed to balance this with calmness and stillness. Yes, expanding projects at work are the best thing for our professional development. We just need a solid base to stand on when the action lists come flying, and here are some tips on getting started with mindfulness:

Read the book The Headspace Guide … Mindfulness & Meditation: 10 minutes can make all the difference. It is a great introduction to how mindfulness can help us. The author Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist Monk and the book contains a lot of wisdom from his talks with his masters, such as:

‘In stepping back from the thoughts and feelings, there will be a sense of increased space. It might feel as if you are simply an observer, watching the thoughts, the traffic, go by. Sometimes you might forget,’ he said, smiling knowingly, ‘and before you know it you’ll find yourself running down the road after a fancy-looking car. This is what happens when you experience a pleasant thought. You see it, get caught up in it, and end up chasing after the thought.’

This is a clear analogy for all of us: Be the observer by the side of the road instead of the one always driving the car. The book also tackles the happiness explosion we have seen all around us, where happiness seems to be end in itself instead of something we might occasionally experience as a result of other things:

‘Happiness is just happiness,’ he went on, ‘no big deal. It comes and it goes. Sadness is just sadness, no big deal. It comes and it goes. If you can give up your desire to always experience pleasant things, at the same time as giving up your fear of experiencing unpleasant things, then you’ll have a quiet mind.’

He also offers mental models that help you treat your sensations in a different way than you are used to:

‘When you experience discomfort in your meditation, whether it’s the restlessness of a busy mind, physical tension in the body, or a challenging emotion, I want you to imagine it’s the discomfort of the people you care about. It’s as if in an act of extraordinary generosity, you are sitting with their discomfort so they don’t have to.’

The author is also behind the app called Headspace, which is a way to practice what he presents in the book. Other apps that can be useful, and that I have tested, are:

  • Aura – driven by AI to adjust to your mood
  • Calm – guidance by Tamara Levitt
  • Waking Up – guidance by Sam Harris

It matters less which app you use, but more that you start with professional guidance from any teacher. The above apps cost about the same thing, USD 50-60 per year, but that is cheap comparing to the cost of slipping and falling. No, we cannot stop everything from happening to us, since that is the way life works. But we can teach ourselves to avoid to fall or to fall softer.

Photo by Levi XU on Unsplash