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Review: Headspace, the App

March 1st, 2018

Headspace: Everyday Mindfulness

I decided to continue on my mindfulness mission by having a go with Headspace, an app with the tagline ‘A few minutes could change your whole day.’ This app focuses on the practical benefits of short meditations: reducing stress, improving focus and sleeping better. Just like with my Calm review, I’ve only reviewed what content I could get for free. The financial commitment for Headspace is pretty hefty. UK prices, you’re looking at £9.99 a month, or a one-off cost of £71.88 for the year. Want to unlock all features permanently? That will be £299.99 please. I just think these prices are very off-putting, and will stop people even trying the app for free in some cases, as they know that if they like it, and it works for them, they are going to be shelling out a huge amount of money.

Actually using the app is a doddle. It starts with a ‘meditation basics’ program, which is actually really useful. The speaker is male, British, with a calming and down-to earth tone. He speaks about meditation as if it’s a daily requirement like brushing your teeth, and makes it seem easy and accessible for all. For the first time in guided meditation like this, I am told to start with my eyes open. Each meditation session can be tweaked to reflect how much free time you have in your day. You can meditate for as little as three minutes, and as much as ten in one go. I found the ten-minute sessions were useful at the end of the day for relaxing me before sleep time.

As well as the basics program, there are other freebies, which seem to change from day to day. Today’s was an exploration of stillness and silence. Before the meditation started, the guide spoke of the nature of silence, and whether it is passive or not. He explored the usefulness of stillness, and how it helps us to be present in the moment, not wrapped up solely in our own thoughts. This aids us in listening to others.

Silence is the foundation of calm and clarity that allows us to hear what others have to say.”

There are also some mini meditations, but for free, you only get access to the ‘Breathe’ mini, which as the title suggests, gives you 60 seconds of exploring the sensation and mechanics of your breathing.

One of my favourite things about Headspace is that it can easily be linked to the ‘Health’ app on your iPhone, and I presume there will be a similar option on Android devices and similar. So, when I look at my ‘Health’ stats, if I have meditated with Headspace that day, the phone will describe how many ‘mindful minutes’ I’ve taken. I like the sense of achievement that comes with this, and recognising that I’ve been good to myself and my mind for at least a few minutes each day. The app itself also records some data for you, and shows you how many minutes and on what days you’ve meditated.

There’s also a kids’ section, split into ages 5 and under, ages 6-8, and ages 9-12. These have titles such as ‘Appreciation’ and ‘Kindness’; good at any age! But particularly useful for young, developing minds. Sadly, as far as I could tell, none of the kids’ stuff was available on the free version.

I’m going to keep the app on my phone, as even just having the basics package has been really useful. It’s so easy to use, there’s no set-up, you just download it and start meditating. An absolute beginner could use this, even if they had zero experience of mindfulness or meditation. I really hope the prices reduce at some point though, as at the moment, they are just far too high to consider a full subscription. Perhaps one day, when I’m a bit more flush with cash! But all in all, an excellent user experience; very relaxing and very unique in its informal and easy-going style.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

Click Images for Amazon Information

 

As a witch, I have found that sometimes the safest place to chill out is the recess of my own mind. This means that for me, as for many pagans, indeed people of all paths, being able to meditate is a real key skill; one that I have worked at for many years. By no means am I a meditation master; in fact, even though I need this skill, I’ve often struggled to get to grips with it and sometimes struggle to switch off at all. With that in mind, I’m on a mission to find the best meditation apps on your smart phone or tablet and I’m sacrificing myself to science, or magic, for you all, by downloading and testing some of the supposedly best apps on the market.

The first that I’m going to be looking at is Calm. I’ve downloaded it on my iPhone, but I believe it’s available for android as well. Billed as the number one app for mindfulness and meditation, and Apple’s number one app of 2017, the app is basically a series of guided meditations, with themes from calming anxiety to gratitude to forgiveness and loads more. From the get go it’s a very attractive user interface; as soon as you open it you are greeted with a lovely lake and mountains, and the sound of birdsong; the epitome of what we think of when people say the word ‘tranquillity’. Straight away the app is moving you into a different mindset; removing you from whatever situation you are in right now. Unless, of course, you happen to be at a lake view with birdsong! But you can choose other backgrounds.

Meditation is a way that we take a break from whatever we are doing with our day, whether that’s our job or even a hobby or a passion. Sometimes we even need to take a break from things we enjoy; if you do the same thing for too long it becomes stale, and you might stop enjoying it even if it’s something you have a real love for. If you’re stuck in an office for eight hours a day staring at a computer and bashing on computer keyboard, then meditation is even more important.

I read once that someone said you should meditate for five minutes every day. If you don’t have time to meditate for five minutes every day you should meditate for half an hour every day! Well, that’s not always possible for everyone. If your life has become so full of hassle and stress that you can’t spare five minutes for yourself to give your brain a rest, then some might say you need to seriously look at what is stopping you giving yourself that time. But believe me, I am not one to judge at all. I am exactly one of those people who sometimes tells themselves ‘I really don’t have five minutes’. I have a 12-week-old baby, I have a seven-year-old son, I have a full-time writing and journalism career on top of an office day job which pays some of the rest of the bills; sometimes it feels like I genuinely can’t take five minutes for myself. Then I remember telling other people how important it is and remember that I need to take my own advice! That’s basically why I wanted to have a look at some of these apps; maybe they can help give me that previous time away from the hustle and bustle.

Our phones are easy to keep with us all the time, in fact most of us do just that, so we can keep in contact with loved ones and update our social media accounts. Being able to use the device to take a break from everything seems a big bonus. Interestingly, one of the guided meditations on Calm this week was about the dangers of social media; how being constantly connected to the internet can actually end up with us feeling more disconnected from real life and the people who matter to us, and how to focus on re-establishing those connections.

This was certainly more in-depth thought than I was expecting from a pocket meditation. The quality of the guided talk down was very good too. The woman who speaks has a soothing voice, and leaves good spacing in between speaking, to allow you time to focus on your breathing. I had no problem relaxing into the meditations and fully enjoying the process.

The meditations I indulged in daily were the Daily Calms; daily meditations each on a different theme. As far as I could tell, these are only available if you pay for the premium version; $59.99 or £35.99. There are also subscription options, and a free option, with less features. I wanted to get the fullest experience for the review, so took out the free trial which gave me seven days of full features. I’m not sure seven days is really long enough to give you the full sense of whether a meditation regime is right for you or not. Some other apps, such as Headspace, give you a thirty-day trial which is much more useful. Still, seven days of free premium features is not to be sniffed at!

The ‘Daily Calms’ are a great way to take a break, and with each of them having a different theme, it’s like your mind relaxes and is given something meaningful to ponder upon, then gently brought back to the here and now. As well as the daily calms, there are many different meditation paths to follow: 7 days of focus, 7 days of happiness, 7 days of sleep and so forth. There’s even a separate option to choose to help you sleep, called Sleep Stories. These are soothing spoken word recordings, read by a diverse range of people such as Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry. How lovely to be a grown up, and feel totally justified in having your own bedtime story.

If I had the money, I think I would happily sign up for the premium version, even if just for the daily calms. Over the past week I have felt less stressed, less overwhelmed with my tasks and have looked forward to the little moments I can put aside for myself. Highly recommended.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon information, click images below.

Hunt for Witches No More: WitchEmojis by Pam Grossman

Emoji2

Witches now have their own charmed emoji to use with iMessenger, thanks to Pam Grossman, a Brooklyn-based writer and curator who focuses on witches, magic and esoteric art.

I created WitchEmoji because I couldn’t find any great witchy, magical emoji to use in my texts,” she states on the witchemoji.com website, adding, “Necessity (or obsessive desire in this case) is the mother of invention.”

Working with an emoji designer who created the icons based on her designs and direction, she then built the app herself. Costing $1.99, it launched early April 2017. The iMessage sticker pack is compatible with iPhones and iPads with iOS 10.1 or newer.

It became the number one sticker pack in the App Store in its first week, beating the likes of Star Wars and Kim Kardashian,” Grossman said. “It’s currently still in the top 20 and getting stellar reviews, which has been very heartening. Just goes to show how much the archetype of the witch is currently resonating with people of all ages.”

WitchEmoji’s 80 images include a besom, cauldron, Book of Shadows, pentacles in all colors, a chalice, a candle, an owl and a love potion along with witches of all hair and skin tones in a variety of situations from flying on a broom to honoring the full moon.

There are so many more emoji I’d like to add to the pack,” she said of her towering list. “It will just depend on what I can afford to develop, so hopefully the pack will keep selling well so I can invest in making more.”

Explicit directions on how to download and load the emoji can be found at https://www.witchemoji.com/.

Emoji1

I’ve been a witch since I was very little – before I even knew to call myself one,” Grossman said. “Like lots of kids, I gravitated toward stories and artwork that deal with magical themes, and engaged in my own intuitive rituals and wild imaginings. Once I was a teenager, I began to read a lot and explore the path a bit more formally. But it was really discovering the surrealist artists and the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell that opened things up for me, and made me realize that creativity is the surest path we have to the divine. My practice is very personal and syncretic, and draws as much on the art world as it does on spiritual systems.”

Last May her 36-page book “What Is A Witch,” was released. Illustrated by Canada’s occult sweethearts Tin Can Forest, and published by Tin Can Forest Press, it is described as “an illuminated incantation, a crystalline invocation, a lovingly-crafted celebration of the world’s most magical icon” and a “manifesto on witchcraft.”

Grossman’s blog, Phantasmaphile, can be found at Pamgrossman.com.

She is the associate editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies, co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at New York University, and co-founder of the former Brooklyn arts and lecture space, Observatory, where her programming explored mysticism.

Grossman’s writing has appeared in “Sabat Sciences Occults,” “Huffington Post,” and MSN. Lectures include such topics as the occult in modern art and female magic in Western Art, and she also teaches classes on spellcraft, ritual and herbalism.

 

Who is a Witch is beautifully written by Rowan Moss. The illustrations are also beautifully done by T.S. Lamb. This is the first book in the Pagan Children Learning Series.

 

This book covers the topic of who is a witch and what witches do. The book explains everything in easy to understand language. For words that may be harder to understand, the writer included a glossary at the back of the book.

 

Who is a witch explains that almost anyone can be a witch, and that you cannot tell just from looking at someone. It shows that witches come in all shapes, forms, colors, and backgrounds. It shows that witches are not someone to fear because they do the same kind of stuff that the readers do! It goes on to explain that witches practice magic and what magic consists of. The book does a great job of explaining the types of things witches do like keeping a garden, being in nature, and practicing magic with a coven.

 

One of my favorite parts of this book series is the activity in the back of each book. The activity this time consisted of making a bird feeder. This was one of my favorite things to do as a kid and I was excited to see it included. I feel that this activity is perfect for teaching children about witches because the book is showing children that witches are helpful to nature and care about the environment.

 

I shared this book with my son and he gave it a big thumbs up. We spent one afternoon discussing who in our community may be a witch and what they did in their free time. That evening we sat out and watched the sun set and the moon rise. We talked about the book and what witches might be doing at that time of the day. The next day we completed the activity in the back of the book. We discussed how witches take care of the Earth and what else we could do to support witches and nature.

 

This book comes highly recommended from me. If you have small children and are struggling with how to explain who witches are, use this book! It not only explains everything in an easy to understand way but the activity is a lot of fun also!

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You can read Deanna’s Review on What is an Altar HERE.

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MUDRAS – YOGA IN YOUR HANDS

BY GERTRUD HIRSCHI

Personally, I love mudras; they are such a simple way to heal, both physically and emotionally. The mudra book that I currently own is in pieces, and so this one coming to me is doubly welcome.

Part I explores the “concept” of mudra, which, simply put, is yoga for your hands. Ms. Herschi introduces the mudra, its’ possible origins and how and when to practice them. This includes how the hands themselves correspond to the chakras (energy centers in the body), Ayurveda (the Indian art of healing through food, acupressure, reflexology using the hands instead of the feet and meridians (energy paths).

Part II, which is the bulk of the book, introduces the mudras themselves. The author describes how to hold the hands for each mudra, the issue for which the mudra is being used, how to use the mudra in combination with pranayama (breathwork), asana (posture), plus movement. Each mudra also lists an herbal remedy that can be used for the specific issue being worked on, as well as an affirmation. There are 52 different mudras presented within the book.

There is a short section toward the back of the book which describes different mudras that can be specifically used in easy pose (cross-legged seating) and some that can be used with specific movements.

(Note: My own training would posit that there are many more of these seated and moving mudras than are listed in the book.)

The book closes with several appendices, as follows: Nutrition, Herbs, Chinese Five Element Theory (wood, fire, earth, mental, water), and very basic Chakra information.

If you are looking for an easy way to begin healing or to add meditation to your daily life, this book would be a great way to go about doing so. I can easily see myself reaching for this book when looking for something specific.

Recommended.

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About the Author

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess, as well as Mago Publications She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is [email protected]

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