Appiness is….

Unless you’ve just emerged from a three-year solitary retreat, you’ll have noticed the huge surge of interest in mindfulness.  These days, many newcomers to Shambhala have had their first contact with meditation through mindfulness apps, online videos and audio-based courses. As a mindfulness teacher with a media background (I worked as a BBC producer for 16 years) I’ve been invited to contribute to this wave of mindfulness products from its early days. In 2010, with fellow Shambhalian Ed Halliwell, I co-wrote and presented a course for the Mental Health Foundation called Be Mindful Online, which has trained thousands of participants, and is still going strong. I was also commissioned to write two books – Introducing Mindfulness (2012) and Mindful London (2014)- all out of the blue, and somewhat to my surprise.

As technology moves on, mindfulness training is being re-shaped for each new medium. In 2015, I was invited to write and voice an app called Mind Pilot, with co-presenter Vishvapani Blomfield – familiar to Radio 4 listeners as the Buddhist voice on Thought for the Day. The app offers an 8-session course in basic mindfulness practices, as well as targeted meditations for sleep, anxiety, pain and other challenges, all offered in 5, 10 and 20-minute versions. Last year we launched a sister app called Quility, using much of the same content but aimed at parents, and especially frazzled mothers. Research confirms these are some of the most stressed people in our society: women with young children, rushing from school gate to workplace to supermarket, in a perpetual state of anxiety and exhaustion. They feel guilty taking any time for themselves but Quility encourages them to follow the oxygen-mask principle:  we need to put on our own mask first before we can help others. If parents can take a few minutes to be present to themselves, they can also be more present for their children and begin to enjoy family life instead of rushing through it.

Of course I do have some ambivalence about apps and encouraging people to spend more time on their phones. The ‘smartphone’ may turn out to be one of the dumbest things mankind ever invented and is re-wiring our brains in disturbing ways. Many of us are over-stimulated and distracted from constant engagement with our devices. Nevertheless, I think we have to go into the belly of the beast and meet people where they are. Apps like Quility can offer people some experience of just being, however brief – being with their breath, their body, their senses and their own experience as it is. They can begin to reconnect with the genuine, friendly awareness that meditation teaches, and hopefully a seed will be planted.


Tessa is a mindfulness teacher, consultant, and coach, running workshops in organisations as well as the 8-week MBSR course. She is author of the books Introducing Mindfulness: A Practical Guide and Mindful London: How to Find Calm and Contentment In the Chaos of the City.

Tessa has been practising meditation for 20 years, and is an experienced instructor and student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. She is a fully qualified yoga teacher, trained with the Life Centre in Notting Hill and registered with the British Wheel of Yoga.

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