Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

7 Ways to Get Started in Meditation (That Do and Don’t Use Gamification)

Using Gamification to Get People Into Meditation and Mindfulness

Making space for a meditation practice is as difficult as it is to make a space for anything in our lives. If something isn’t valued, it isn’t prioritized. There’s a LOT of word-of-mouth and marketing dollars behind spreading meditation practice.

There’s one interesting part about meditation that makes it similar to relationships and careers: there are no instant results.

In the case of meditation and mindfulness, rewards (if you get any at all) aren’t reaped until one goes further along in the practice.

The argument, then, could be to use gamification and human-focused design to build a habit of meditation and mindfulness so as to progress further along. If one doesn’t build the habit, then he can’t experience the benefits (this is if you are even seeking benefits to begin with–see #5 for an alternative approach to meditation practice).

There are many types of meditation practice, and this article will not go into each. It will simply be a brief commentary on some apps and resources I’ve found as I begin to explore.

I will lightly mention the Game Techniques and the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis.

7. How to Meditate (on Youtube)

There are many ways to get started, but YouTube might be one of the easiest. The above video gives a Head Start with clear explanations from an at-the-time 300-day 1-hour meditation “streak”.

In presenting benefits, the video describes

  • productivity
  • creativity
  • calm
  • …and even enlightenment

In acknowledging there are many reasons one might arrive at her first meditation practice, the presenter himself shows recognition of our Core Drives, from epic meaning through to development and accomplishment.

6. Spotify Guided Meditations

If you already use Spotify, heading over to their guided meditation channel may be a useful way to incorporate guided meditations into your daily routine.

I like the idea of guided meditations for their Head Start quality. This plays to my desire to try new things quickly (an impatience I might stem from doing more meditation practice). It also serves as a Mentor, though less aware of who you are exactly as the listener than a meditation teacher might be.

With time, I would like to improve to the point where I do my own meditation. I’m leaning towards the “simple” Vipassana meditation practice.

5. Alan Watts (the Art of Meditation)

Alan Watts was a popularizer of eastern philosophy in the 1960s and 70s.

The above video itself is not a guided meditation, but rather a primer on what meditation is for Alan Watts.

While many modern meditation apps relay the numerous benefits of a meditation practice and mindfulness routine, Alan Watts suggests these goals are contrary to the experience of meditation itself.

Instead, like music or dance or even writing, meditation is done for its own sake.

Meditation is how we come to feel our basic inseparability between ourselves and the entire universe.

In a sense, Alan is appealing to an epic meaning and calling, with that epic meaning existing only in the doing of the activity itself.

Meditation is grooving with the eternal now, a state of peace where we can understand that the point of life, the place where it’s at, is simply here and now.

4. Headspace

Andy is the voice for Headspace and he gave this TED talk about his experiences.

In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India.

His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.

There are a lot of stories like Andy’s.

People learn the ancient wisdom around meditation and aim to apply it in our busy, addiction-laden world.

Headspace is a playful and has attracted over 6 million users to its 10-minute-a-day meditation practice.

3. Sam Harris on SoundCloud

Sam spent time with a meditation teacher and several years of his life he also has a new meditation app coming soon. You can see a three-year’s-old 9-minute guided mindfulness meditation on YouTube here.

Sam reminds us that how we think influences our experience:

Although the insights we can have in meditation tell us nothing about the origins of the universe, they do confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.

He also reminds us of pitfalls in the idea of one’s approach to meditation…ones initial intentions matter:

The ultimate wisdom of enlightenment, whatever it is, cannot be a matter of having fleeting experiences. The goal of meditation is to uncover a form of well-being that is inherent to the nature of our minds. It must, therefore, be available in the context of ordinary sights, sounds, sensations, and even thoughts. Peak experiences are fine, but real freedom must be coincident with normal waking life.

2. Audible: Exhale, Anytime Meditation

Notice the Exhale: Anytime Meditation channel. Just one of many channels that are complimentary with your Audible subscription.

In my recent practice of digital minimalism, I’ve added the Exhale: Anytime Meditation channel to my audible “following” channels as a Moat to protect against needless browsing, akin to my girlfriend’s browsing on Pinterest or my friend’s frantic Facebook scroll.

Basically, it’s a way to call myself out and stay accountable in the moment of straying from focus (or divulging in too much addictive scrolling). Instead of scrolling for new story experiences, why not let my mind rest (or workout) with a guided meditation?

1. No gamification needed

Sometimes you don’t need gamification…

We’ve been running and meditating for thousands of years. Just do.

Here’s a conversation on Reddit to give you permission not to use a gamified experience…sometimes permission from a stranger is all you need:

I’ve been using a meditation app for over a year now…I am starting to question the practice of tracking my meditations– specifically the track record feature of apps like Headspace and Calm that record how often and how long you meditate.

I often find myself checking my stats immediately after completing a meditation and I find myself drawn to meditate using a specific app in order to keep the stats growing. This seems contrary to everything that I am trying to cultivate through my practice.

Has anyone else experienced this? How do you reconcile it?

What followed were two perspectives:

  1. Don’t worry about it. But you will probably progress to a place where you no longer need an app to maintain your habit.
  2. I credit gamification with helping me break my 15-minute sit limit, so if gamification works, then it works!

Where are you in your meditation or mindfulness practice?

Do you or have you ever used reminders or apps for meditation or mindfulness? How did they work for you? Do you still use them? Or was it a case of they got you started, but now you’ve carried on for its own sake?

Let me know all in the comments if you have a moment to share 🙂


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5 Responses

    1. Hey Julian, thanks so much! Do let me know as you get started how you’re approaching. I hope to learn from the community as I also embark on this journey.

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