Service of Meditation That Makes Me Nervous

June 21st, 2018

Categories: Meditation, Mental Health, Mindfulness


Of all the people I know I could probably most benefit from daily periods of meditation to calm down. But Ellen Gamerman’s Wall Street Journal article, “Competitive About Meditation? Relax, Everyone Else Is Too,” made me nervous.

Gamerman wrote “Type-A people are descending on the ancient practice of meditation and tweaking the quest for inner peace to suit their hard-charging needs—racking up streaks and broadcasting their running tallies to the world. The result, for some: Meditation has never been more stressful.”


There are apps, like Headspace and Calm that keep track of the straight number of days subscribers meditate—or practice mindfulness–and subscribers compete. “Headspace and Calm report roughly 30 million and 26 million downloads of their apps, respectively.” Gemerman explains “Meditation, which can mean different things to different people, is a more focused state than mindfulness, which is a state of calm attention to the present.”

Members of online groups such as Mindful Makers can post daily and others can compare streak rankings. They live around the world. Another, Beeminder, tracks goals. Subscribers are fined if they don’t meditate. One paid $810 because he didn’t practice mindfulness an hour a day for a period of time.

“Streaks are big business for Headspace and Calm, which sell access to audio-guided meditations and other features for $12.99 a month, or less depending on the package. But pursuit of a streak has its risks: Customers can become discouraged if their runs end abruptly and might ditch the app or stop meditating altogether. Even a completed streak can potentially diminish enthusiasm: The only thing harder than the 365th straight day of meditation, some say, is the 366th.”


To change behavior, people buy devices, like wristbands, that feel like a bee sting when they shock. Pavlok sells them for from $145- $245 [photo left].​

I admire successful entrepreneurs and tip my cap to those who identified and addressed a need for people to quantify their calm times and pay for gadgets to nudge or sting them to meditate or otherwise change their behavior. Much of this counting and prodding seems counterintuitive, adding more to busy schedules and raising adrenalin to win, which makes sales victory in this space even more intriguing. However, it doesn’t inspire me to meditate—and you? What techniques do you use to calm down?


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10 Responses to “Service of Meditation That Makes Me Nervous”

  1. ASK Said:

    I am one of those people who simply do not understand meditation. If I can quiet my mind enough to meditate, I find myself falling asleep. As far as calming down, I tend to revert to the now perhaps old-fashioned idea of counting my blessings or asking myself, “What’s the worse that can happen?” On rare occasions when neither one works, I take a tranquilizer.

  2. jmbyington Said:


    It does seem odd to seek structure when trying to get rid of it.

    Do you write comedy? I giggled at the end of your response.

  3. ASK Said:

    No, but in a conference with my mother during my first-grade year at Catholic school, my teacher, Sister Anne, told my mother I had a really “smart” mouth…

  4. jmbyington Said:


    Still giggling!

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I truly don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity of all kinds of self-centered programs meant to be shared with disinterested parties or rev up competition among people looking to relax. The alternative to laughing at what sounds like a satire or theater of the absurd is to be annoyed or even disgusted.

    I certainly need any information about relaxation and minimising stress and anxiety. I think most thinking people do, especially in the particular moment in which we are living. However inverting or twisting the whole concept of attempts to relax into contests and self-abuse like bee stings certainly seems contradictory, maybe even masochistic. One of the wonders of our era is that this search for inner peace generates incredibly counter-productive profitmaking!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You’ve precisely hit on the head many of the nails I put in place in this post. It’s amazing what unnecessary things people will buy to improve themselves–bookshelves are filled with self-help books most of which help one person–the author who reaps the benefit of book sales.

    I’ve been tempted by some of the silliness sold mostly for $19.99 on late night TV such as that tape that keeps water out of a huge hole in a boat. I am certain it doesn’t work but….so I understand folks who think that this app or that wristband will do the trick. Snap a low-tech rubber band or set the timer on your phone to remind yourself to meditate and skip the pain of a snap–it works and saves $145-$245!

  7. Protius Said:

    For some reason I think I was left out when they were handing out aptitudes. I have never had a serious problem getting enough answers right when taking those multiple choice tests they used to give us in school, but get me on intangible ideas and stuff such as philosophy, ethics, morality, psychology, the difference between right and wrong, comparative religions and meditation, and I’m “up the creek,” paddleless.

    I don’t know how to answer your question, but, if I do the right thing in the end, why does it really matter whether or not I understand my thinking on the journey as I arrived at my conclusions? I suspect that journey is some of what meditation is all about.

    Then, of course, there is all the rest of it. When I must say something in public, like others, I usually feel a bit nervous. I’ll slow down, pause, and then composing myself, start afresh, pacing myself to the new material at hand. I suppose elements of this process might also be what you would call meditation.

    Therefore, I must conclude I, too, meditate whether I know it or not.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The problem for me with the meditation concept is that I find that by keeping busy, I am often, though not always, able to distract myself from stressful thoughts. While I’m not Protestant, I was brought up in the Protestant ethic which, along with my personality, conspire against the idea of sitting still for long. I never tried wiping my mind clean and focusing on nothing, and maybe I should, but I’m not tempted. Like ASK, I think I’d fall asleep. I suppose that watching TV is a mindless occupation which is my way of decompressing and wiping my mind clear of stressful thoughts.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Meditation has a highly positive effect upon some. Experimenting with it for any reason makes me extremely nervous, so I settle for less worrisome alternatives.

    Most of us usually find a way to deal with stress, so there’s no going into suggestions which may be fine for some, but damaging to others. This is an area where one, regardless of stature in the journalistic world, should be wary of showering the public with advice, since it could cause problems beyond cure.

  10. jmbyington Said:


    It seems that if a person cottons to meditation she/he shouldn’t need to be prodded or made to compete any more than a person who takes their medicine or keeps business appointments. More power to the marketers who have created viable businesses from all this! And for those who benefit from meditating, aren’t they lucky!

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