Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Health

Meditation sessions for travelers? There's an app for that

Having long tried to virtually transport listeners to beaches, rain forests and other dreamy respites, meditation apps today are also trying to appeal to people who are actually traveling to such places.

Several apps, including Buddhify, Calm, OMG. I Can Meditate and Simple Habit, offer specialty meditation sessions for travelers on planes, trains and city streets, making their way across oceans or simply across town, be it "Waiting at the Airport" or "Commuting: A Mindful Journey."

On my first trips of 2017, I tried several such apps, including some veterans, to see if they could alleviate the stress of long lines, crowded planes and busy streets. Meditation is personal — the teacher's voice, words and methods affect each of us in different ways — so I didn't rank the apps. Instead, I've highlighted certain features and to whom they may or may not appeal.

Research began at Newark Liberty International Airport, where my plane was being de-iced. I put in earbuds and tapped the "Prepare for Travel" session from Simple Habit, an app with meditations for situations as varied as remedying procrastination and easing PMS. Users can choose from sessions that span the vacation process, from "Waiting at the Airport" to "Just Landed" to "Relaxing on Vacation" and "After Vacation." To gain access to all of Simple Habit's sessions, you need a subscription ($3.99 for seven days; $11.99 for one month; $99.99 for a year on iOS). As with other app subscriptions, you can cancel through iTunes. (I used an iPhone, but the apps are also available for Android.)

"Travel can sometimes be a tumultuous experience," a male voice said. "You just got your seat on the plane?" the voice said. "Just this breath. Just this moment."

Another app, OMG. I Can Meditate (access to all sessions, $12.99 a month; $89.99 a year on iOS), offers sessions like "Mindful Walking," "Waiting in Lines," "Public Places" and "Mindful Eating," which I selected during breakfast.

"Notice all the different colors, textures, shades, different food types," a female voice said. The travel-related meditations on this app may appeal if you're beginning to practice mindfulness and want step-by-step instructions. The eating session, for instance, asks listeners to rate their hunger from 1 to 10 to help them learn when they are full.

Experienced meditators may want to try an oldie but goodie: Buddhify ($4.99 for iOS and $2.99 for Android), which has a rainbow wheel with the question "What are you doing?" in the center. Users can select slices of the wheel with sessions like "Walking in City." I tapped one that said "Traveling" and up came options like "Connecting with stillness in a busy place" and "A unique meditation for when you're on a plane."

The latter is about 10 minutes. A soft male voice asks you to notice the sounds of the plane, and the people within. To help you stay present, the voice suggests that when your thoughts drift to the past, you say to yourself the name of the city from which you're departing. If your thoughts drag you into the future, you say the city where you're headed. Simple but effective in gently guiding the mind.

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