When you do a guided meditation with the Brightmind app, you’re listening to the voice of the meditation teacher Shinzen Young.
There are a lot of wonderful and skilled mindfulness and meditation teachers around there, but we decided to build our app around Shinzen and his system, Unified Mindfulness.
So… why Shinzen?
Several members of the Brightmind team, including myself, were “Shin-heads” before we started building the app. Shinzen is not only pretty cool, he’s also a great meditation teacher. He has wonderful and helpful books and articles. His retreats — whether in person, or over the phone — are a unique blend of kind and rigorous. And it’s a revelatory, mind-blowing pleasure to work with him individually. But it’s Shinzen’s system, Unified Mindfulness, that sets him apart. What’s so great about Unified Mindfulness?
- It’s completely secular. Although it is informed by Shinzen’s knowledge of Buddhism, and his training in Asian monasteries, it replaces religious (or just plain old unclear) explanations with concepts and metaphors inspired by modern math and science. There are even concise, clear definitions for all of the terms that Shinzen uses, like concentration and equanimity.
- It’s comprehensive. You can follow the breath or do body scans with Shinzen’s system, but there are many more options, techniques, and strategies. Shinzen sometimes describes Unified Mindfulness as a “universal menu of mysticism.” He looked at the different mystical traditions, analyzed their different systems for contemplative practice, and brought it into one system. For you, that means that Brightmind will support and relate to any practices you may already have.
- Because so many techniques and strategies are included, it’s flexible. You can use Shinzen’s system not just on the cushion, as a kind of preparation for, or unwinding from your day, but throughout the rest of your day: in the car or on the bus, at work, or even in conversations or meetings.
- This makes it powerful and practical, whether you’re trying to decrease stress, improve your performance, work with pains, or just enjoy meditating.
- That flexibility allows you to be creative! You can make your day into a kind of game, with strategies and tactics, feints and twists. As you learn to practice mindfulness throughout more and more of your day, in more and more interesting and powerful ways, you see more and more benefits, achieving breadth and depth.
- On a broader scale, the secular, comprehensive, and clear nature of Shinzen’s system makes it uniquely well-suited to research on meditation and mindfulness. In addition to teaching meditation, Shinzen actually works as a neuroscience research consultant, and has collaborated with researchers from Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Vermont. One researcher that has worked with Shinzen Young, Emily Lindsay, said that “by separating mindfulness into its components, we can get a better understanding of how and why it works.” Shinzen’s system helped her and other researchers to explore which components of mindfulness meditation — acceptance, awareness, or a combination — could reduce stress the most effectively.
As Shinzen says, “each approach to mindful awareness has strong points and weak points,” and the weak point of his approach is its complexity. I first learned it by reading his “manual,” a batteries-included guide to getting started with his system. That worked for me, and it’s still an option, but it’s not for everyone.
That’s why we made the Brightmind app. Rather than reading almost 200 pages of explanations, you can get started immediately by downloading an app that lets you practice with a customized, guided meditation by Shinzen himself. The app starts with exploring Physical Sensations — not just your body and breath, but also the option to work with sights and sounds. Later, as you advance through the curriculum, you can practice other techniques, such as working with thoughts and emotions, or using ultra-fancy-super-upgraded mindfulness techniques like “Do Nothing.” You also learn strategies for accelerating your practice, and for integrating mindfulness into your daily life.
You can download Brightmind in the app store today.
Enjoy the app!