TThose who subscribe to the notion of “new year, new me” will be familiar with the advice to empty the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets of junk food before January 1, to prepare for healthy eating success. (Or, a McDonald’s delivery on New Years Day, when you wake up very much like you and aren’t in the mood for overnight oatmeal.)
After all those Love Is Blind and Selling Sunset binges last year, Netflix is now offering an equally ambitious update, with a new series of guided meditations. Produced with the popular Headspace app, the eight 20-minute episodes are advertised as a beginner’s guide to meditation, helping you start the year by “being kind to your mind.”
Meditation, and the mindfulness it cultivates, has been so talked about in recent years that it’s easy to roll your eyes as another panacea touted by wellness “practitioners,” or as a cast for suffering you ignore. the social and political evils. At its most basic level, it’s little more than concentration training, but there are benefits too: Mindfulness programs have been shown to have positive effects on stress-related ailments, psychiatric disorders, and … tentative evidence suggests – the immune system.
The difficulty is in doing the damn thing. Although it has been shown only 10 minutes a day to improve cognitive functioningIt’s somehow hard to find the time
Get into the streaming service, perhaps hoping to reverse your cultural association with laziness and unproductive excess. (A companion series, Headspace Guide to Sleep, is in the works, as if Netflix isn’t already the biggest challenge for that.)
It’s a clever attempt to “find us where we are,” as apps like Calm and Headspace aim to make meditation accessible and bite-sized, almost gamified, just as Duolingo has done for language learning. Spotify has also started including mindfulness prompts or guided practices alongside music in its new “Daily Wellness” playlists, introduced after the pandemic (US and UK only; talk about a adhesive plaster solution).
The streaming model makes trying meditation as easy as taking a chance on a new show. And happily spending 20 minutes feels less intensive on Netflix than it does on your phone – it’s the same length as an episode of Friends, and, God knows, we’ve all seen those times enough. But it works? In the first wave of New Year’s optimism that I too can live in the present moment in 2021, I try.
My first thought is that the show looks beautiful, like an animated watercolor painting or a Pixar dream landscape. The hyper-elegant presentation is a business card from Vox Media, also behind the Netflix Explained series; but this goes beyond a simple bending of production values to be a fairly effective way of showing how brains work.
Psychological concepts and functioning are often communicated in visual terms, so it is helpful to see a visual representation of neural plasticity or to see on-screen cars driving down a highway as a substitute for the flow of our thoughts. In this way, the medium helps with the message, which is themed by episode, including leaving the past behind, cultivating gratitude, and dealing with stress, pain, and anger.
The choice of the narrator, or rather guide, in Andy Puddicombe is also smart. Puddicombe is the co-founder of Headspace and has been described as “doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food.” As a pretty down-to-earth middle-aged British man, he doesn’t trigger the same (dare I say sexist?) Nose wrinkles as a young wellness influencer, despite his spiritual journey.
At age 20, dissatisfied with his study of sports science, Puddicombe decided to study meditation instead, in the Himalayas. After 10 years of practice, he was ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Sharing the fruits of this mission is the goal of Headspace and this series: “so you don’t have to go to the Himalayas,” says Puddicombe.
But the relative ease of 20 minutes sitting in front of the computer has a downside: It is much easier to get distracted than in a monastery. In the middle of my first attempt at meditation, as an orange squiggle slowly spins on the screen, the silence is broken by an omniscient voice: “Battery low. Recharge your headphones. “
It reflects the challenge of trying to solve the technology fractured approach with more technology. But I’m amazed at how far I’ve come with the Netflix Guide. The combination of 10 minutes of theory, 10 minutes of practice, and lively animation makes meditation less overwhelming, if only because sitting and looking at a screen is so familiar. Before you know it, you will have done 80 minutes of meditation. And it feels good.
The Jamie Oliver parallel is good. Oliver does not care about the history of healthy eating or the science of nutrition, nor does he demand a total dietary review and strict adherence. Suggest easy exchanges, gradual improvement, and strive for balance. Stealth health is even healthier, and around this time last year I was watching Love Is Blind. After eight hours of that, I think I can drive 10 minutes every now and then.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism