The answer to this question is simple – the Headspace app is fine if you want to learn Buddhist meditation, because this is all it offers.
According to the website, the popular Headspace app was designed by a man named Andy Puddicombe who decided to quit college and become a Buddhist monk. Ordained in a Tibetan monastery in the Indian Himalayas, his meditation training took him all over the world. When his monastic commitment was complete, he returned to the UK with a goal to teach mindfulness and meditation to as many people as possible.
His work began with a meditation consultancy where he worked with politicians, athletes, and business leaders. He eventually met a man named Rich Pierson who needed help dealing with stress and the two of them began to “skill swap meditation for business advice.” That’s how Headspace was born.
The kind of meditation that this app provides is about training people “in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective,” the site says. The aim is not to turn off thoughts or feelings, just learn how to observe them without judgement.
The beginner course on the app is free, but other content requires a paid subscription of $7.99 or $12.99 a month and $399.99 for a lifetime. The app also includes reminders, rewards, and ways to connect with friends for motivation.
The types of meditation offered generally fall into two main categories – calming meditation which involves concentration on a particular object such as breath or a mantra, and insight meditation which is aimed at transforming the mind by developing wisdom and compassion.
Even though these styles of meditation derived from Buddhism, they are billed as “non-religious” so “We won’t ask you to chant mantras, burn incense or even sit cross-legged!” the site says, although it clearly uses mantras as referenced above.
While there is nothing wrong with learning how to keep your thoughts under control and stay in the moment, Christians don’t need Buddhist techniques – or even so-called “secularized” Buddhist techniques – to do so. We have our own version of mindfulness which is found in the classic, The Practice of the Presence of God written by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection and a devotion known as the “sacrament of the present moment” by Father J. P. DeCaussade.
In Chapter Six of my new book, A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness, these practices are explained in detail. Unlike today’s mindfulness craze, our “app” isn’t about a technique and it doesn’t need a smartphone. It’s about a relationship, one that we are all longing for in the depths of our hearts and can only realize in the arms of our Creator.
The meditation techniques featured on Headspace may be billed as “secular” to consumers but, like Dr. Anthony E. Clark writes in the foreword of my book, “ . . . [W]hat one person calls ‘science,’ or what another calls ‘non-religious’ is actually very much related to the spiritual and religious realm.”
He adds: “Common sense tells us that the direction one drives a car determines the place one arrives at, and spiritual practice is no different.”
If we are employing practices that are based in Buddhist techniques, the direction we’re headed is into our selves. If we’re employing Christian practices of prayer as dialogue with God, then we’re headed toward God.
The question you need to ask yourself is this - which direction do you want to go?
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