Russell Simmons, hip-hop mogul, best-selling author, and entrepreneur, wants to help you meditate. Simmons believes that if everyone took a little more time focusing inward, the world would be a much better place.
To help people find their inner peace and start the day in a zen frame of mind, Simmons launched Meditation Made Simple, an app in which Simmons takes you through 10- and 20-minute meditation sessions.
Simmons is a meditation evangelist. His book, Success Through Stillness, talks about the importance of meditation for success in both your personal and professional life. He’s meditated for decades, and says it’s a significant tool for the well-being of the brain.
“You have to go through the world with a calm mind,” Simmons told the Daily Dot. “Even to hear music you have to be still. Melody makes you still, and to understand it, requires you to have a stillness.”
As someone who practices yoga and meditates fairly regularly using other applications, I was excited to try out Simmons’ new app. Unfortunately, although his passion for stillness and meditation was clearly apparent in the app’s short introductions and our brief interview, the app itself is lacking. (Tantris Brand appears to be the company behind Simmons’ app, but there’s little additional information given beyond a logo and few links to social media sites.)
After you download the app, you’ll see a menu with five different options—benefits of meditation, how to meditate, 10- and 20-minute meditation practices, and vibration. The first two sections feature Simmons taking a few minutes to explain meditation. And the timed sessions feature him briefly walking you through breathing exercises and chanting a mantra as you’re instructed to try and clear your mind.
“The way you engage in the world should be moving meditation,” Simmons told me. “You meditate so you can move in the world so you can be present and awake.”
Meditation has a number of health benefits, both physical and mental. Taking the time to clear your mind and relax through focused breathing and meditation can reduce stress, and tech companies are beginning to adopt the practice in the work day to ensure employees are happy, healthy, and mindful while at work.
Simmons taught his daughters how to meditate when they were nine and 11 years old, and now meditates with them in the morning before going to school.
“One of the best gifts you can give anyone is the ability to meditate,” he said. “I’ve done it for many people whose lives have been affected deeply through meditation.”
While Simmons literally wrote the book on success and meditation, his app is not nearly as comprehensive. And for people who are meditating for the first time, it would be hard to figure out how to do it, and do it repetitively.
One four-minute introduction is not enough for most people to understand how and why breathing is so crucial for balance and relaxation, and considering it’s very, very easy to get distracted while meditating, the app should offer more information about how to continue your practice once you get frustrated and want to give up.
When I asked Simmons how his app compares to other meditation apps, he said he didn’t even look at the competition, instead relying on his own experience studying scripture, meditation techniques, and research for his book.
Perhaps he should’ve done a bit more research into the technical bits, rather than relying exclusively on his knowledge of meditation. He might know why it’s important to meditate, but it’s also important to build an application that will keep people coming back.
“I know about Headspace, but I never even looked at [other apps]…I studied scripture, I have my experience, I’ve been taught,” he said. “It doesn’t mean one is better than the other, but I’ve found a way. Here’s my way.”
Headspace, my meditation app of choice, takes users on a journey through meditation. It starts off with short audio cues, helping people recognize their breath and understand the benefits of meditation. Then each day users listen to a new recording, building up to an in-depth guided meditation session. It’s also possible to customize your meditation schedule for specific goals you want to achieve, and set alerts to help you remain mindful throughout the day.
Simmons gives users just a few options—meaning people must listen to the same meditation practice each day.
The design, too, is cluttered. On an iPhone 5s, the clock that counts down your meditation each day is not centered, and neither are the stop and play buttons during the meditation.
Despite its flaws, Simmons is convinced this app could benefit people on a fundamental level. In our interview, he told me what he would tell someone who asked why they should download his app.
“If you want to meditate, you need to learn to meditate, period,” he said. “No matter who you are, you need to learn to meditate. It works for everyone, and this is a simple way in.”
It’s definitely simple.
Photo via Francis Chung/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed