Catherine’s favorite meditations from the Ten Percent Happier App

Gold bunny statue in seated meditation pose.

Hi everyone! You know this already: I’m a big ol’ booster for the Ten Percent Happier App. What can I say? I’ve got the zeal of the relatively-new convert. I’ve been meditating almost daily for 2 years now, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t that long. But it’s long-to-me, and makes me feel happier. Maybe even more than 10% happier, honestly.

So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite meditations with you. It’s not so much that I want to promote particular teachers or particular apps, but rather that there are certain kinds of meditations I keep returning to, that center or ground or soothe me. Others lighten my burdens. Some are just fun mental explorations. So here goes, in no particular order.

“I need to chill out right now” meditations:

Jeff Warren does a Ten Good Breaths meditation. I love love love this. It lasts 3 minutes. It’s focused but also a little on the light side, with a smidge of humor. Here it is on YouTube:

I also really like Diana Winston’s meditations for a moment of panic. There are 1-10 minute-long options. I’ve used them when I’ve worked myself up into a serious lather. They emphasize noticing the body sitting, feet on the floor and then awareness of body parts that are feeling quiet (like hands or feet). I couldn’t find a free version, but here’s a 5-minute breathing meditation by Diana on the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center site, which has lots of free guided meditations.

“I need to wake up” meditations

I used to think that meditating first thing in the morning was useless because I’d immediately fall back asleep. It never occurred to me that mindfulness and focus could help me make the transition to wakefulness. Some of the techniques use body scans, an introspective check-in (e.g. how are my emotions this morning?), or even a gratitude practice (e.g. what are three things I’m grateful for right now/in the next hour/in general).

Every morning, when my alarm goes off, I hit snooze once. Then I turn on one of the morning meditations for 5 or 10 minutes. It helps me adjust to the reality of leaving my bed sooner or later…Joanna Hardy has my go-to morning meditations on my app. She’s got a lot of online talks and guided meditations accessible here, and below is a very strange video but worth spending a minute on (keep watching for the breathing dog):

One the one hand, there’s that universally annoying saxophone music. What is that song, and why hasn’t it been banned? On the other hand, there’s that dog. Is it just me, or is his breath making heart-shaped humid patterns? Awww….

There’s also a coffee meditation, where you are drinking coffee and meditation by design. Yes, I do this often, too.

I need to get in touch with my breath” meditations

These meditations are the meat and potatoes (as it were) of meditation apps, workshops, practices. Focusing on the breath is the foundation of mindfulness meditation. Every meditation teacher has their own variations, but for my money, no one does the classics like Sharon Salzberg. I love her reminders that whenever we come back to awareness after getting drowsy, bored, or distracted, that’s the work– that’s why we’re here. We come into contact with our own experience of ourselves, breathing, over and over again. That’s it.

Here’s Sharon leading a large room of people in a short and simple breathing meditation:

I do these sorts of meditations anytime I want to take a break, stop, and focus for a bit. It helps me reset myself, and it’s also restful and refreshing.

“I need to deal with scary emotions” meditations

These sorts of meditations are ones I do when I have a bit more time to process some difficult emotions or issues I might be facing. It could be that I’m anxious about an upcoming work event, or worrying about a member of my family. Maybe I’m avoiding dealing with something that’s too daunting. I’ve found that if I sit and meditate, something will come forth; I don’t know what in advance. But I’ve never been sorry that I did them.

Jess Morey does a great meditation in which she guides us to find a place in our bodies that feels calm, settled, grounded. Then we visit a feeling or belief or memory or a part of the body where there’s anxiety or disturbance. We don’t stay there long, but while there, just pay attention to how it feels. Then we go back to the grounded settled place. this repeats a few times. You can find a version here— look for dis/comfort. It’s 11 minutes long.

“I need to find something good, like right now” meditations

I like meditations that confront difficult emotions, but sometimes I want to see the light, the hope, the optimism that I know it out there (all news coverage to the contrary). For this, Sebene Selassie is who I turn to. Here’s a discussion and guided meditation from the Ten Percent Happier folks (the meditation starts at the 5-minute mark).

We are living in a glorious age of apps, podcasts, substacks, self-styled videos of all durations, and of course old-fashioned YouTube. I happen to like the features of Ten Percent Happier and don’t mind paying for it, but there are loads of free meditations everywhere. It’s kind of fun (for those of you who are meditation-inclined) to venture forth and explore what and who’s out there.

Meditator-readers: what are your favorite meditations? Where does one find them? Whose do you like best? I’d welcome any tips on new or familiar voices.

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