Science, Technology

Headspace: Meditation, mindfulness minus mysticism

Image credit: Headspace
Image credit: Headspace

In today’s edition of The Wake Up on the Headspace app, Headspace Chief Music Officer John Legend — yes, that John Legend — walked the plank.

The multi-awarded American singer, who is the first Black man to win the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), was using a VR headset to walk a virtual plank way up high under the guidance of neuroscientist Dr. Yewande Pearse. They were testing how music could make us feel less stressed. I found this episode of The Wake Up — a series on this meditation app that features different subject matter experts — very relatable because I have acrophobia, which I sort of overcame in college by climbing mountains. And it’s a perfect example of how Headspace demystifies meditation, and marries ancient wisdom with cutting-edge science and technology to help more people practice mindfulness.

Meditation made modern

Andy Puddicombe, who is the voice of Headspace and co-founded it in 2010 with Rich Pierson, is a former Buddhist monk. For 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, Puddicombe trained in some of the great Buddhist centers of learning across Asia.

After completing his monastic commitment in 2004, Puddicombe decided to return to the UK with the goal of demystifying meditation and mindfulness, and making them more accessible to the West.

He and Pierson, a former advertising executive, launched Headspace in 2010, starting with books and events, before launching the app. It was in 2013 when the two co-founders decided to move to Venice Beach in California, to set up the Headspace headquarters in the US.

Today, Headspace has 70 million users across 190 countries, who are all benefiting from Puddicombe’s deep knowledge of the ancient tradition of meditation and his uncanny ability to translate this into modern applications backed by science.

It was last year that I first tried Headspace, precisely because I was attracted by how the app modernizes meditation, apart from the fact that I’ve always had an affinity with Buddhism, particularly Zen. I lean, however, towards Western Buddhism, and don’t see Buddhism as a religion but rather as a philosophy and a way of life. Ancient wisdom that seems to be converging with neuroscience.

Meditating using Headspace got me through a lot of challenges last year when the world changed forever because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped me overcome my grief over the death of my father.

Mindfulness and impermanence

And while I got tired of meditating for a few months, I found myself missing it a lot, and subscribed again to Headspace this year.

It was also last year that Headspace launched new features like The Wake Up, Move Mode, and Focus to expand its offerings beyond meditation, so I truly feel that I stumbled upon Headspace at the right time.

Just how successful has Headspace become?

Well, last year it spawned a Netflix Original Series on meditation.

And just two weeks ago, Netflix launched another original series, this time focusing on sleep.

It has been an amazing journey. One that happens day by day.

So, are you ready to meditate?