Guided meditation apps bundle instruction with daily sessions

When I sit down to Meditation with a Guided meditation app, I don’t think of myself as “taking a lesson” or even really “receiving instruction.” I’m sitting down to meditate. But in fact, those sessions are lessons, and I do receive instruction. I use an app to guide my meditation session. These apps generally open each day’s session with a brief lesson that frames the day’s practice. Then throughout the session, the teacher will offer intermittent pointers, relating to that day’s theme. After the session, the lesson will often close with a few parting sentences.

This experience puts the focus on the activity itself, rather than the lesson, which is delivered peripherally. Contrast this to the experience of taking a class on cell biology. In a typical class, the lesson is the primary focus, and activities (like a structured lab) are clearly both secondary and subservient to the lesson content. When you show up for daily meditation, you think “I’m going to meditate,” but when you show up for a structured cell biology lab, you don’t think “I’m going to investigate cellular biology”—you think “today’s lesson is a lab, rather than a lecture.”

The inverted meditation framing is powerful because Enabling environments focus on doing what’s enabled. The biology lab isn’t really about doing cell biology—it’s about acquiring knowledge in preparation for some unspecified future period in which you might do cell biology.

Some other activities which are structured like meditation in this way:

  • team sports: you show up to play with your team, but your coach likely uses that context to deliver some day-specific drills or instructions
    • likewise with orchestras and choirs, I suspect
  • fitness classes: you’re really showing up to work out, not to “take a class,” even though there is an instructor who may deliver new “instructional material” every day
    • in the case of Peloton et al, this is actually a mass medium
  • martial arts?

I notice that I can’t think of any good examples which center on abstract knowledge (like cell biology), rather than embodied, practical knowledge. Why is that?

Last updated 2023-07-13.