The Waking Up Course! A Short Review

By Jarrett Retz -September 29th, 2018

I have been meditating for almost two years now, off and on. My first experiment with meditation was listening to some strange meditation episodes on iTunes. After that I transitioned to some meditations that I found in two books, Constructive Living and Heart of the Revolution.

Later, I tried Headspace for a year in 2017, and part of 2018, meditating through many of the series they offered.

At the beginning of 2018 I cycled through some of Tara Brach's guided meditations. Mostly doing the ones that were shorter, but some up to 20 or 26 minutes.

I have been a fan of Sam Harris's for a while now. I have read Waking Up, and subscribed to his podcast.

I have been anxiously anticipating the release of his mediation app because I listened to a meditation recording on his podcast called "Looking for the Self" (26 minutes). I have really enjoyed this meditation podcast of his, so naturally when I heard he was coming out with an app I was excited.

I will point out that I am a supporter of Sam Harris's podcast so it's difficult for me to comment on the price tag because he offered lifetime subscriptions to supporters of his podcast and work.

OK, let us finally get into it.

Four things I liked about the actual app while getting started;

  1. Easy to download and I wasn't prompted to make a profile.
  2. Clear place to begin. There is a 'Day 1' download button right in front, so there isn't any confusion on where to navigate.
  3. I saw a 'Welcome' video at the top, which is optional. I listened to it later (because I really just wanted to hear a meditation first). It gives a nice background of Sam Harris's motivation.
  4. There is a 'Timer' button in the top right that allows the user to select a given time that they desire if they don't want to do the next guided mediation right away (you don't get stuck looking for the perfect length or ending one early)

Three things I liked about the meditations;

  1. The beginning meditations were approx. 10 minutes long which gives a good idea about how Sam will structure his guided meditations.
  2. Sam's voice is calm, but not soft.
  3. Sam's descriptions of consciousness (I will expand later).

Three things that I noticed Headspace (and Andy Puddicombe) did differently compared to Sam Harris's app.

  1. Whether it's Headspace, Tara Brach, Wherever You Go There You Are, or Sam Harris, there are fantastically helpful analogies and metaphors describing consciousness. Many comparisons also relate to how someone should approach meditation practices. However, with Headspace there are short cartoon animations that accompany those comparisons that I remembered being a really nice touch.
  2. Andy Puddicombe and Headspace had a good understanding of how difficult it can be begin a practice. They were more encouraging at the end of the meditations, and the app reinforced that with other animations—or encouragement—and visible positive statistics.
  3. Headspace has many segmented mediations on Stress, or Work that are a series of meditations. It can be a little easier to continue practicing when there's another chunk of meditation that you want try. Sam has the first fifty days labeled, but the labels aren't 'Work' Meditations or 'Healing' meditations.

Sam has a lot of content in his Lessons tab. He has been continuously adding metaphors, explanations, and context to the actual meditations in this section which is synonymous to the talks that Tara Brach provides on her website, or the short intro animations that Headspace has.

What's the best thing about The Waking Up Course?

Sam Harris's breakdown, understanding, and guidance in noticing consciousness. I remember I noticed it after a 26 minute guided mediation he released on his podcast called "Looking for the Self". He really has a special ability to walk me through the process of trying to see my mind, and how different aspects can occupy consciousness. The best thing about his ability is that he has not disappointed so far in the guided mediations on the app.

With a PhD in neuroscience, and an ability to effectively communicate, I can see myself using his app for a long time.

The best way to get a feel for Sam Harris's guided meditation is to actually try them out. He offers 10-days free on the app, or you can go to his YouTube channel & listen to the 9 min and/or 26 min recordings.

More on Sam Harris:

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