MindFi: A few minutes of open-eye meditation with this app could make your day more productive
Be in the present
Stress is a funny feeling. On one hand, it drives us crazy and on the other, we can't seem to work well without it. Or at least, that's what we have been wired to believe.
Homegrown app, MindFi, is about to prove us otherwise with a newfangled technique termed as open-eye meditation, which aims to relieve stress, improve focus and increase productivity. Straying from the common perception that meditation requires your eyes to be fully shut, this innovative concept teaches users to be mindful of their surroundings (while going through the daily grind) through intergrating short spurts of meditation sessions guided by an audio narration.
All meditation exercises are designed to adhere to our everyday routines. The instructions on every session champion you to be present and mindful of your surroundings, even while you're having lunch or on the bus home from work. Simple actions like sipping on your water slowly or engaging in deep breathing exercises help to relieve stress. Not to worry, you'll still get your work done — the app also has a brilliant focus feature that allocates a certain time dedicated to a task at hand. Functioning with a rejuvenated mind and spirit, you might just be able to perform better at your upcoming proposal in no less than an hour.
Recently, we caught up with founder of MindFi, Bjorn Lee, who was conducting a session on mindful meditation at Apple Orchard Road. We picked his brain on the impact of technology and the wonders of open-eye meditation — here's what he has to say.
How did MindFi come about?
My previous job had me awake at odd hours as I was working with teams in four different timezones. I began experiencing chest pains due to stress and found myself using meditation to cope with it. Meditation was a skill that I learnt seven years ago from a retreat in India. Since then, I've found it to be a very useful life skill that everyone can use in their stressful and imbalanced lives.
Long story short, I consulted several doctor friends, immersed myself in local and US meditation communities and decided on a logical angle to address our society's need to calm down while living in a busy world. What we need to do is work with the medium, and not against it. As a mobile app maker, I have endeavored to reframe this unhealthy relationship by creating a meditation app that is socially conscious and ethically responsible.
What is something about stress that you think we shouldn't overlook?
Smartphone over-usage is killing our attention span and contributing to stress. In my past job, I was unlocking my phone 200 times a day, which meant I was unlocking my phone 11 times an hour if I slept an average of six hours. This means my attention span was only around 6 minutes and my mind was probably overworked in switching between contexts and tasks.
What are some misconceptions most people have about meditation?
It is that we need to close our eyes to meditate. The second biggest one is that meditation is religious and only for Buddhists. I am heartened that the media has helped to educate the public that meditation transcends religion and strict formats. There are many types of meditation and the one that MindFi focuses on is mindfulness meditation, which can trace its scientific foundations to a programme called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Talk us through a session of open-eye meditation. What happens during the session and what are some of its benefits?
Mindfulness is just about paying attention to the present moment, purposefully and non-judgmentally. Anything around us can be the object of our attention — our clothes, watch, hands, nature etc. Pick one and watch it with curiosity, paying attention to the details as if you are looking at it for the first time. Suspend that cloud of judgement that follows us as you do this. Try and see if you're able to notice something new with your visual sense. If you like, engage your other senses like smell, hearing or touch too.
A short exercise like this can give an anxious mind a brief moment of clarity or awareness of the present moment, pulling it out of its default "time-traveling mode" of worrying about events in the past or future. For those with difficulty doing long exercises, start with short three-minute sessions in MindFi and use such micro-workouts to build up a consistent habit, and gradually level up to longer sessions. The trick is regularity of practice, and not about the duration.