CSC’s Guide to Using Insight Timer

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CSC’s Guide to Using Insight Timer
The Insight Timer app offers two primary functions:
1. Countdown timer for contemplation sessions. Highly customizable, it offers high-fidelity recordings of traditional Asian meditation instruments, such as bells and gongs. In addition to its base silent mode, Timer offers background ambient music and soundscapes throughout sessions, as well as interval bells to divide sessions. This is the preferred function for users who are prepared to meditate in silence (or to a soundscape), whether with or without a contemplative exercise, practice sheet, or liturgy.
2. Playback of pre-recorded and live audio for guided contemplation. Insight Timer offers diverse modes of instruction and contemplation towards wellness, education, and spirituality. These include but are not limited to: guided contemplative exercises, daily practices, music, lectures, series, and courses. This is the preferred function for beginners, those who wish to meditate with audio, whether musical or instructional, and to listen to lectures.
How to make a simple timer preset 
On the Insight Timer app home page, tap Timer at top left, adjust the Duration of the session to the amount of time you wish to practice, and press Start. You will be prompted to Save and Name the preset, which is useful if you wish to sit for the same duration repeatedly.
How to meditate to guided instructions
On the Insight Timer app home page, tap Guided at top center, and scroll through the meditation offerings by topical interest or length of time. You may also search for specific teachers and topics. Scrolling further down the page reveals more curated sets, such as For Beginners and an array of objectives or Benefits, such as Sleep, Stress & Anxiety, and Performance, among many others. 
Step 1 is identifying which objective you wish to engage through contemplation. You will find a number of CSC-recommended exercises according to type here
Step 2 is figuring out how to effectively engage a guided contemplation. This is rarely discussed and yet warrants some explanation. To benefit from the practice, it is not as simple as just pressing “play.” Your goal is not only to actively listen as best you can throughout the session, but to actively apply those directions in a deliberate, focused way as you do so. Like physical exercise, you get as much out of contemplation as you put in; effort is necessary, but you also don’t want to push too hard or hold yourself to unrealistically high expectations, which can be stressful. Try to find an appropriate balance in that moment. Like tuning a guitar, gently attune your concentration to be neither too tight nor too loose.
The following additional steps can help enhance your contemplative experience and produce positive results by establishing a supportive context for contemplation.
  • Set your setting. Find a quiet place to practice. Some guided instructions may include a walk or other physical activity, but most rely on remaining stationary and still so you can focus more exclusively on the content without distraction. Finding a place to practice alone can be difficult in college contexts, so if that is not possible, consider informing your friends or visitors that you are going to practice contemplation (and request quiet if possible), use headphones, and close your eyes for the duration of the session.
  • Set your posture. Get comfortable. It is by no means necessary to twist your legs into the lotus posture or sit on the floor to engage contemplation. Sitting in chairs and even resting in an inclined position are often recommended––just so long as you don’t fall asleep (unless that is the objective).
  • Set your intention. Why are you taking this time out of your day to do this practice? What benefit do you hope to gain? Deliberately setting your intention in mind––talking yourself through your objective with a sense of determination––is proven to help you attain it.
  • Cultivate a sense of presence and ease. While listening to the instructions, do your best to simultaneously apply them, allowing the aural instructions to seamlessly guide your attention and contemplative activity. For example, when the guide says to take a deep breath, hold it, and release, simply do what is suggested with a sense of presence and ease. When you notice that you have become distracted and have missed some of the instructions, don’t worry. Attention naturally fluctuates. When awareness returns to the present moment, just go back to following the instructions, right where they are in that moment. This doesn’t mean that you should float on with your thoughts and ignore the instructions, but rather that whenever you notice distraction, you should simply turn your attention and contemplation back to the instructions. There is no need for self-criticism here.
  • Transition out of your session. When the instructions conclude, take a few more moments or minutes to relax into your body and mind, exploring and appreciating how you feel. You might compose an entry in hard copy if you keep a journal (recommended) or in the Insight Timer app, which can be dictated. 
How to manage settings
You may refine the content presented to you by adjusting your Profile (silhouette at right of footer) and entering Settings (gearbox at right of header). Among its more useful features, you can:
  • Edit your Content Filters based on your interests.
  • Set Daily Reminders to practice.
  • Set automatic prompts to write or dictate entries in the in-app Journal
  • Review your Stats.
All of this data is automatically backed up to the Insight Timer website, so you won’t lose your data if you lose or damage your device. It may also be exported as a file via email if you need it for a class or research study. This function may be found under Settings. Your stats also can be integrated with Apple Health (but not Fitbit at present). 
InsightTimer records all of your sessions in its log, which is also found under the Profile tab and displayed at the top. Here the app offers the digital carrot of a “Milestone” star every time you complete 10 days in a row and for every 50 days total. The star itself has no real value of course, but since research consistently demonstrates that daily practice of at least 15–20 minutes (whether in silence or guided) produces the most positive outcomes, anything that keeps us practicing every day is welcome.

Related Content
CSC's Insight Timer webpage
CSC-curated Insight Timer Playlists