“A Monastery for Your Pocket”
I was as close as you can get to catapulting my smart phone into the endless blackness of space, without actually doing the deed, until something inside of me told me to download the community-supported Plum Village app.
In all honesty, my faith in modern technology to create a better world was diminishing. If you’ve found this website, I don’t think I need to detail my reasons why, but in this review I will detail the reasons why the Plum Village app is restoring my faith!
If I were to sum up the Plum Village app in one word, it would be: authentic. This is a refreshing quality for an app and one that stands out like a sunflower amongst a field of cut grass. Providing access to a library of digital mindfulness content, it aims to provide you with “A Monastery for Your Pocket”. This app truly is an extension of the teachings and practices of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. It offers us the opportunity to tap into the wisdom of the practices of mindfulness, with confidence that the entire content is of high value and quality.
Features of Plum Village app
The app is inspired by Plum Village, a monastery in France following the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Many of the app features and content will be familiar to the many thousands of people who have visited the monastery on a retreat.
The Mindfulness Bell
One of my favourite features of the Plum Village app is the “bell of mindfulness”. At Plum Village monastery, a bell is invited (struck) every hour. Upon hearing the bell, everybody at the monastery pauses to listen to the sound ripple through the air, bringing them back to the present moment. I think this is a beautiful and incredibly simple yet powerful practice.
The Bell of Mindfulness feature essentially works like an alarm. Should you choose to activate it, there is a choice of three different bell sounds. You can then choose how often you would like the bell to sound, and between what times. For example, I have my Bell of Mindfulness set to sound every half an hour between 7PM and 9PM. Each time it sounds, it serves as a reminder to breathe, to be here and to be grateful for the day that I have experienced.
I particularly love this feature because it is one that users don’t have to open their phone up to use. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ is a concept that I resonate with. In the evenings I will usually place my phone somewhere out of sight to allow my mind rest, away from the distractions that electronics can brings. To enjoy the bell of mindfulness, I am still able to do this.
The range of meditations that this app offers is large, with options accessible to everybody of all ages and experiences. There is a category called “meditations for children” and even meditations offered in French!
Categories are organised simply and concisely, thus they’re easy to make sense of without the distracting and overwhelming nature of too many options. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say that (before discovering the Plum Village app), I would often find myself scrolling through endless choices of recordings, searching for the perfect one.
When you do find a meditation that you love you are able to tap the “favourite” button, putting it into the “favourites” category and making it easier to find and access again. When you discover one that you’d like to share with a friend, simply tap the “share” button. You are also able to download meditations, enabling you to access them offline.
It is in the nature of categories however, that I have two criticisms. Firstly, while there is a search option within the larger categories, there is no option to search the entire app [editors note: this feature has now been added, see comments]. Secondly, users are not able to view meditations organised by the length of recording. Although there is a category called “short meditations” this does not contain all short meditations within the app, only a select few. I would personally like to see all of the short meditations gathered in one place. I’d also love to see more categories of this nature, i.e. “medium meditations” and “long meditations”.
Resources: talks, text, and videos
Not only does the Plum Village app offer you meditations, it also offers “key texts” from the Plum Village tradition available for you to read, “mindful movement” videos to follow along with, dharma talks for you to watch be inspired by, and more. This offers the opportunity to sink deeply into the meditations and practices, with understanding of the traditions surrounding them. It also makes mindfulness more accessible for different situations and moods. The mindful movement videos for example are perfect for those who find more joy in movement than in seated meditation.
“Practice Songs” and “Albums”
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh encourages the use of song to bring about joy in our hearts. The app includes songs sung by the Plum Village monastic community, and lyrics so that users can enjoy singing songs of mindfulness. This feature adds a little fun into the world of meditation, with music being a source of fun and playfulness.
A recent update means that iPhone users can now integrate the app with Apple Health. Should you choose to activate this option, any meditations listened to will be recorded by the Apple Health app as “mindful minutes”. A simple feature that allows users to easily record their usage information.
On the subject of updates, the Plum Village app is updated regularly so you can expect new features and constant improvements.
I have much gratitude for the members of the Plum Village monastic and lay communities for dedicating their time, money and energy to creating and sharing this gift with the world. While it is a completely free app, the “Oak Forest Family” working on the app rely on donations which contribute towards paying for costs enabling continual development and curation of content. Should you wish to support them, you can donate via the Plum Village app website.
No advertisements or pop ups!
Hallelujah! We all choose to practice meditation for our own individual and unique reasons. Usually we engage with meditation apps intending to create a calm head space, and to still our minds. Yet with the myriad of adverts, pop ups and subliminal messaging, using mobile phones often hinders our ability to do so. In true alignment with the teachings and the intention of the authentic Plum Village app, it is free from this, allowing users “to experience mindfulness in a Buddhist tradition”.
This free/donation-based app is accessible for everybody with plenty of reading, watching and listening materials to aid in deep understanding of the meditation practices offered.
If you’re looking for a meditation app that you hope will aid in stilling your mind rather than distract it, look no further. The simple, easy to navigate design and lack of ads allows for an enjoyable user experience that is undergoing continual improvements and can easily be linked up to Apple Health for iPhone users.