The app that has probably been on my phone the longest, and that has gotten the most consistent use over the past few years, has been Insight Timer. It’s known both for its meditation timer, and for its amazing library of guided meditations and calming music. It keeps stats on when and for how long you use the app, and you can choose sessions for the exact amount of time you happen to have.
My love affair with this app stretches back a few years, having joined on September 6, 2014. No, I don’t remember “The Downloading of The Insight Timer App” as a significant event in my life. But the app tells me that’s when it happened!
Since then, I know through app data, that I’ve had 511 days with an Insight Timer session. And my use of the app feels like a relationship that’s grown and evolved as my children and my own parenting has grown. This relationship also felt worth chronicling here.
Eagerness and the Early Days
I uploaded Insight Timer onto my phone in a year of desperation. My kids were both incredibly little (1 and 3 at the time), and I was looking for any tiny microcosm of calm I could find in my day. It was the time in life when 1 child + 1 child felt like 85 children, and I described life as the BHP Iron Ore Train, the longest train in the world.
A mere three months into my adventure with Insight Timer, I wrote this about my early days with a meditation practice: My Boppy is My Zafu, and Other Musings on Starting a Meditation Practice with Little Kids. Back then, as I wrote, I managed to meditate with the timer exactly 34% of my days, with an average session of 5.3 minutes.
These stats – all recorded in the app, of course – were something I used to beat myself up over. (I know, I know, not exactly the point of meditating or of the app.) But it was what I could manage. And I knew, deep down, that even that little amount of time absolutely helped bring calm into my life.
Micro-self-care was the name of my game, back then. When did I squeeze in the use of the app? Mostly on my way to work. I’d take the metro downtown. And then, on the walk from the metro to my office, I’d stop off for 5 minutes (or to be more exact, 5.3 minutes!) on a park bench or, in bad weather, in a hotel lobby. And I’d sit and focus on my breathing. This practice changed the way I walked into my office in the morning. Re-oriented my head away from the chaos of morning drop-off, and helped me look forward to the work I had left home to do.
Adolescence and Addiction
Alas, my early enthusiasm and eagerness eventually took some stormy adolescent turns. I switched jobs, and my beloved go-to park bench and hotel lobby weren’t part of my morning path to work anymore. I dabbled with doing 1-2 minutes with the timer in the bathroom, before taking a shower in the morning. But that habit didn’t stick. (Perhaps trying to sit and meditate on the cold, hard, bathroom tile wasn’t the best idea.) Then, I tried to do it before bed at night. But for some reason I didn’t love that either.
So my use of Insight Timer was hit or miss for a while, as I tried to find a new rhythm. I knew the app was there, of course. But we weren’t talking to one another much those days.
Eventually, prompted by persistent hip pain, I decided to give a morning home yoga practice a try. Each day, before breakfast, I would scroll through the app to find some music that lasted around 10 minutes, and I’d do a hip-focused yoga session. That felt better. Good, actually. And something I could stick with.
But STICK, I did. I got so incredibly stuck on it, that I got terrified of missing a day. The healthy habit of taking time daily to yoga and meditate started to become an anxious addiction. What if I skipped a day with the timer?! I’d end my “Zen winning streak”, as I called it in this piece, “From Recording Every Poop and Pee to a Mindset of Letting Go.” And that reaction was just as unhealthy as not spending any time with Insight Timer in the first place.
Now, I’m happy to report that I’ve entered a new phase with the app. One where I don’t relegate it to a 1-2 minute pause, or flip out if I break a 100+ consecutive day streak. I’ve cut out the mental litigation of what music to listen to in the morning while I do yoga, and consistently listen to a beautiful piece call Om Bhagavate by Frank Heke & The Gaya Tree (the Enchant album). And it makes me smile when I occasionally find my 5-year old – and even my husband! – singing “Om bhagavate jay jay ma” around the house.
I’ve also taken great comfort in making time for guided meditations when the spirit moves me, or when I need a little more support to calm down my anxious brain. Recently, I’ve discovered a tremendously beautiful (8 minute) meditation by Sarah Blondin of Live Awake, called “Learning to Surrender.” Which reminds me that life is unfolding as it should. And that I don’t have to hold on so tightly to, oh, everything.
Looking back over the past few years with Insight Timer gives me a pride in my own evolution. It also feels like tangible evidence that the early years of parenthood are indeed, only a life season. Where before, I could only manage to even remember to tune into the app only a third of my days, it’s now the rare occurrence that I have a day without a session.
Yes, life as a working parent of two children is still challenging. (When do they stop losing their minds on a regular basis?!) But my boys have grown and changed. And I have grown and changed. I have more time, more space, and more calm in my life now. And I have a deep gratitude to the app’s founders for providing such a useful tool to support this growth.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.