Episode 160 :: Brad Fullmer :: Insight Timer

| March 16, 2013 | 15 Comments


Insight Timer

Meditator and mobile application developer Brad Fullmer joins us to speak about his application, Insight Timer.

Meditating is not always easy bliss, it can be challenging in a variety of ways. We struggle to step off the powerful locomotive that is our train of thoughts, and bring our attention to the present moment. We may find it difficult to observe the very content of those thoughts, and of our current mental state. And if, like many of us, we’re used to sitting in a chair throughout the day, just being on a cushion can bring up aversion to the discomfort that may arise in our legs and back.

Of course, all of these are opportunities for development. It’s not about escaping pain, but changing our relationship to it. It’s not about finding joy and relaxation, it’s about facing reality and changing our reactions to responses. But the fact remains, there are disincentives to practicing even once, let alone every single day.

Part of what we’re hoping to do with the March and other Practice Challenges, is to encourage one another. We only see progress along the path if we actually take it, instead of just talking about it or thinking, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, I should do some meditation sometime, too.” Happily, we live in an age when there are digital tools to help with that encouragement.

Brad Fullmer has been meditating since 2004, and has been writing applications for mobile devices since 2008. Brad lives in Petaluma, California, and is also an amateur musician.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Spring Blossom tea.

Web Links

Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. The track used in this episode is “Tengai” from his CD, Traditional and Modern Pieces: Shakuhachi.

Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the host of the podcast Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. He has been a meditator since the early 90’s, has been interviewed for Books and Ideas, Mindful Lives, and The Whole Leader podcasts, spoken about mindfulness with various groups including Harvard Humanist Hub, and has written for Elephant Journal and The International Journal of Whole Person Care. He is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA’s official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Ted’s background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture. Ted teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, where he is the Manager of Online Programming and Community Development.

Comments (15)

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  1. Dana Dana Nourie says:

    Fun podcast! I’m so glad you brought up presets. I have a preset for 10 min, 20 min, 30 min, 45 min, and 60 min. I have my favorite bells on each as well as the times I want. All I have to do is click a preset and I’m ready to go.

    One of my favorite features is that you can turn off all cell phone sounds, expect for Insight Timer. That way I won’t be interrupted by calls or texts when I’m meditating!

    It’s fun to see others from our group meditating when I am. I have even seen a couple of people who visit our site here and one of our authors.

  2. Mark Knickelbine says:

    Love me some Insight Timer! It is funny and delightful how this ap helps you feel connected to a worldwide sangha, and reminds us that awakening is something we all do together.

    Re your show notes. Double true about confronting reality — but it is also important to find joy in our practice. I hear so many meditators who seem to struggle grimly on, and I wonder how they do it. One of the most difficult things can be to cultivate that sense of curiosity, friendliness and acceptance of our experience. But if we can, it helps us see that at the bottom of our pain and difficulty is someone who needs and deserves love and compassion, and then we can embrace even the hard moments and find the poignant joy they contain. May we all be happy!

  3. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    Good point, Mark. I suspect this may vary along the lines of one’s practice heritage, as the MBSR program repeated that sense of curiosity you described, but the zen tradition uses the admonishment, “Practice like your head’s on fire!”. That can sometimes set a tone of muscling through the pain, no matter what. That might only last so long before someone simply stops, because there are no grand gains (expectations have been set to enlightenment as a goal) to justify the pains.

    It can help to find, and even create, aspects of your practice to look forward to. Lightness of heart is one of them!

  4. Mark Knickelbine says:

    That’s because MBSR is right and Zen is wrong. Heh, heh, heh, just kidding, what fun we have . . .

    I know what you’re saying, and traditional Japanese Zen does seem all about pushing your way through to Enlightenment. But I also note the famous reputation of many Zen masters to be quick to laugh, to respond with tenderness and to exemplify compassion. Mahayana has the concept of bodhicitta, which all bodhisattvas vow to cultivate and express. I think awakening in any tradition will involve a tenderhearted acceptance of ourselves and others.

  5. Doug Smith Doug Smith says:

    Ted, FYI the simile of practicing like your hair is on fire actually comes from the Pali Canon. It occurs at least in Aṇguttara Nikāya 6.20:

    “Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head, in the same way the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning … evil, unskillful qualities.”

    Looking forward to hearing the podcast soon: love your app, Brad. I’ve been using it for years.

  6. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    *chuckle* We do have our fun 🙂

    Good point, Doug, thanks for the reference, I keep forgetting about that one!

  7. Doug Smith Doug Smith says:

    Hey Brad,

    Listened to the episode. Thanks very much to you and Ted!

    One question, re. the ‘milestones’: I have trouble with them sometimes because they seem a bit too spiritual-materialist, to use Trungpa’s phrase. I care about them too much, basically. But that said, they aren’t really an accurate representation of how much meditation one does, if one ends up going off to a lot of daylongs or retreats. In those situations one isn’t going to have the timer app going, and so one’s meditation periods that day go unrecorded on the device.

    I know there’s a way to add log entries, but data entered through that process doesn’t show up in the milestones. So for a more hardcore practitioner, ‘milestones’ end up being kind of meaningless: they’re only a record of how often the app is used, rather than how much meditation is being done.

    Just wondering if that’s how you meant ‘milestones’. Because it might be better to allow one to add to milestones manually, for retreat days, etc.

    But anyway this is a small matter. As I say, love the app!

  8. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    I suspect it’s simply that we can’t really have an unambiguous measure of what a “good” sitting might be, so we’re okay for now with counting time. As an encouragement to simply get on the cushion, I’m good with that.

  9. Mark Knickelbine says:

    I get Doug’s point about the milestones. I went on a one day retreat this weekend and spent five hours meditating but have a blank on my IT account and now won’t get my ten consecutive days milestone. I’m trying to laugh at how much I care about that. I also don’t use it when I’m doing taiji, qi gong or yoga so none of that mindful movement is captured (although I know it has a yoga setting but why would you need a timer for yoga?) I guess we just need to remember that sabbe sankhara dukkha, and that goes for IT as well.

  10. JimChampion says:

    Hi. I’ve just listened to this episode… Here’s the journey: After listening to another of your podcasts, with Ramsay Margolis from New Zealand, I contacted Ramsay and we’ve had some discussions about various things, including how I can go about setting up a face to face Secular Buddhist group where I live. Tricky thing of course is connecting with local people who would be interested in such a thing… Until I talked to my wife about it and she pointed out that Insight timer easily helps connect you to local meditators (it’s an app that she’s been using for years, and that I’ve only adopted this week).

    It would be good to hear a follow up podcast with the developers of insight timer app, especially to hear about how the “community” side of things has panned out and where they see it going in the future. I’m going to continue using it for my morning sittings, and to connect with local people with a view to starting a face to face group. The fact that there are so many groups now on Insight timer means that you can get an idea of a stranger’s “affiliations”, which makes narrowing down who might be interested a bit easier – I’ve no interest at all in supernatural, religious, ‘traditional’ Buddhisms, and if I did then it would be easy enough to walk into one of those kind of institutions that already physically exist in my neighbor hood!

    I’m now going to listen to your podcast interviews with Jason Siff – his idea of ‘unlearning meditation’ along with the community prospects of Insight timer are the headlines of my discussions over the past week, feel I’ve moved forward a long way after being stuck at an impasse.

  11. Mark Knickelbine says:

    Jim, I know IT is coming out with a new upgrade shortly, so maybe that would be a good time to get them on the podcast. Whaddaya think, Ted?

  12. Doug Smith Doug Smith says:

    I think Brad sold the company awhile back to a couple of new people. I know there have been a number of substantial updates to the app recently, after quite a long fallow period.

    Agreed it would be great if they wanted to chat!

  13. JimChampion says:

    Now I’ve read the IT app forum it seems they’ve recently released the new app for iPhone (which I don’t have) and will soon be releasing new app for iPad and android (which I do have). Would be interested to hear how they’ve coped with increased number of users, and how they’re developing the social side. Don’t have a personal interest in the milestones side of things (I worked that out of my system over a few years on the geograph.org.uk website, which pushed all my addictive buttons!)

  14. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    Hi,, Jim. Ramsey and I have been talking about the in-person groups topic lately, too, and I’ll be taking a look at some of the material that’s been put together already. More to come!

    I think it might be a good chance to reach out to the new owners of the app and see what their experience has been, will get on that today.

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