Comparing ‘Waking Up’ and ‘Insight Timer’

I stepped up meditation practice recently, beginning with using the new app from Sam Harris, Waking Up, but also continuing with Insight Timer. Along with just giving more time.

Things I appreciate about the Waking Up app:

  • It is NOT a social media app.
  • There are no ‘rewards’ like stars or trophies for meditating more or less.
  • It is rather single focused.
  • The lessons and meditations are a closer study of ‘nature of mind’ than almost anything I’ve come across so far. This app works well with science-based consciousness explorations.
  • My decidedly ‘non-woo’ friends might find a more comfortable home in this app, than in communities sprinkled with chakra and spirit guide talk.

Waking Up is NOT FREE, however if you have a genuine desire to use/try it, but financial limitation is the obstacle, you can send an email and will be, at least for now, gifted a grace period.

Things I appreciate about the Insight Timer app:

  • It IS a social media app. I enjoy ‘seeing’ friends’ names and faces pop up once in a while, and trying out the meditations they seem to like. I really love the ‘who is meditating in your area’ feature.
  • It is FREE unless you purchase courses.
  • It contains everything under the sun, from a wide range of teachers and guides. You can set a simple timer to track your own activity (with or without music), or at the other end of the spectrum, you can be led through elaborate visualizations and shamanic journeys.
  • Chanting. Insight Timer offers courses, and my favorite so far is a course on mantras and chanting. I go back to it often and feel instantly de-tensed. Mantras are a really nice way to get into the flow of a new day.
  • Music. Some friends don’t use the guided meditation feature of the app often, but instead they listen to meditative music. Although you can find similar offerings on YouTube, these are contained (not leading into auto-play algorithms), and you can bookmark your favorites easily.
  • This is the big one. Insight Timer is hugely helpful for INSOMNIACS! There are so many guided ‘yoga nidra’ or ‘music for deep sleep’ options! This is actually what prompted me to begin using it a few years ago.
  • I must not be alone, because just this morning the Insight Timer folks shared their billboard in San Francisco, contrasting it with “Calm”, which I’ve never used (below).
Image shared from Insight Timer’s Instagram page.

I am ambivalent about the rewards and trophies Insight Timer offers. In the beginning, this feature did help me to create a good habit, giving the feeling of moving toward a goal.

I’m just not sure it is a great thing to be encouraging in the long term. In the end, meditation isn’t the kind of thing that can be measured by how much you do it, and intention is important.

So much in our culture is already about striving for improvement instead of acceptance. Validation is great, but if it becomes just another hit of adrenaline, I think it is missing the point.


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