Sunday, 20 February 2011


The Timer Screen
This is the screen that you will interact with most. The assumption I made when writing Meditation Helper was that most of the usage would involve starting the app, selecting the meditation profile, meditating, then doing something else. The app is designed to be quick and easy and to use, but hides away some fairly powerful settings, should you want to tweak things.

The number in red shows the 'Preparation Time'. This is the countdown to the meditation proper starting. Use this to get comfortable on your meditation cushion and do whatever it is you need to do to mentally prepare for meditation.

The number in green shows how many minutes are left in your meditation session.

Select a Different Profile
A 'Profile' specifies the parameters of the meditation session, the details of which are outlined below. The idea is that you will set up a few profiles, then choose the one you want to use for a particular session.

There are 2 ways to load a profile. Either:
  1. Tap the name at the top of the timer screen.
  2. Use the menu button and select 'Load Profile'.

Add / Edit / Delete Profile
This is the 'Profile' editor screen. Here you can specify:
  1. The name of the profile by tapping on the top row.
  2. The preparation time.
  3. The sitting time.
  4. Interval bells that you want to ring.
Long clicking the profile name brings up a menu to load a different profile, delete the current profile, or create a new one. You can also create / load / delete profiles via the context menu (press the menu button).

Intervals are the mechanism for specifying when you want bells to ring. You can add as many intervals as you want. You can also delete intervals by long clicking on them, however, you cannot delete the top or bottom interval. These represent the bells that ring at the start and finish of the meditation.

If you don't want a bell to ring at the start or end of meditation, select the interval and set it to ring zero bells (see next section).

You can configure a meditation profile to include a number of bells. Use there to keep track of where you are in meditation, to keep you awake in case you nod off (we all do it!), or whatever other reason you want or need.

There are 2 types of bell:
  1. The start / stop bell. You can configure these to ring 0, 1, 2 or 3 times. The start bell rings at the end of the preparation time, the end bell rings at (can you guess?) - yes, that's right, the end.
  2. Interval bells. You can add as many interval bells as you want. When I meditate I ring a bell every 15 minutes to remind me to stay focussed and also to let my legs know that they are 15 minutes closer to being able to stretch out again.
As you can see from the screenshot, you can configure the bells to ring after a specific amount of time, or at regular intervals. This should be enough to cover any pattern that you want to put in place.

Note that you cannot specify when you want to ring the start / stop bells. By definition, they ring at particular points in the session.

Types of Profile
When you edit a profile you can either specify a fixed 'Sitting Time', or you can set it as open ended.

An open ended meditation is different in that it simply times how long you meditate for. It's up to you to press the stop button to indicate that you have finished meditating.

During the week, when I'm on a tight schedule to get out of the house to go to work, I use a fixed length meditation profile. At the weekend when I have a bit more time, I use an open-ended meditation, with a repeating interval bell every 15 minutes. That way I can meditate for as long as I want.


The Meditation Helper widget is my implementation of Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret:
Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. At the time, I was hanging around clubs doing open mic nights and trying to learn the ropes. One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime...
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don't feel like it.
He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here's how it works.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."
"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.
The widget displays the chain of days where you have hit your meditation target.

 This is a copy of the widget from my current home screen. The top number shows the current chain, and the bottom number shows the highest chain that I have completed so far. So what this shows is that I am currently on a run of 59 days, and that is my longest run to date. The bar on the right represents the time I have meditated today, as a proportion of my daily target. I know by glancing at this that I have meditated for 50% of my target today, and if I don't do the other 50% before midnight, I will break the chain.

The daily target is set via the settings menu. From the main timer screen, hit the menu button and select 'Settings' (see the screenshot to the right). That brings up the Settings page, which has the option to set the "Target Daily Time".

Currently my "Target Daily time is set to 60 minutes. So the widget is telling me that I have meditated for at least 60 minutes for the last 59 days, and so far I have meditated for 30 minutes today.

You can hopefully begin to see why this is useful. Having this kind of reminder on the home screen of your phone can serve as a powerful motivational tool. Before I had this, I tried to meditate for 1 hour every day, and managed to do so for maybe 8 or 9 days. But then something would happen that would make it easy for me to make an excuse not to meditate. Although I might regret not having meditated for a while, I would soon forget about it. There were no real consequences to skipping meditation.

That is not the case with the widget. Now, if I skip meditation, I will break the chain and will need to start again from zero. And I really don't want to do that! I want to push on to the 100!

I really really really do not want to break that chain. Here is where my competitive nature kicks in to act as motivation. I just do not want to see this on my home screen!

As an example, for the last couple of days I have had a really heavy cold. Previously I would have used this as an excuse not to meditate. But now I don't want to break the chain, and so I sat down to meditate even despite the cold.

So that's the widget. I hope you find it as useful as I do.

Sitting Log

The Sitting Log shows you all your meditation sittings. From this screen you can also manually enter sitting times, just in case you meditated somewhere without Meditation Helper.

You access settings via the context menu on the main timer screen. Here I will describe what effect changing the various settings has, and why you might want to use them.

Meditation Settings
  • Target Daily Time - use this to specify how long you aim to meditate for every day. One of the main drivers of Meditation Helper is to help motivate you to meditate every day. This options allows you to specify how many minutes you would like to meditate every day.
  • Day Start Time - in the original versions of MH the meditation day was assumed to start at midnight. This meant that if you wanted to hit your target for the day, you had to start any meditation sittings before midnight. This was fine for me, because I go to bed early. But I received some requests from people who asked if I could make this configurable. That's what this setting is for. You can now specify the time that will be used to determine whether or not you met your target for a particular day.
  • Reminders Enabled - Meditation Helper will prompt you to meditate if you have not met your target for the day when this option is selected. A notification will appear in the notification bar.
  • Reminder Time - use this to specify what time you want to receive a reminder. I have this set to 19:15 since I like to meditate as soon as I get home from work.
  • Reminder Message - use this to specify what you want the reminder to say. Put something in here that will inspire you to meditate.
Phone Options

  • Auto Silent Mode - selecting this will put your phone into silent mode for the duration of your meditation. Use this to avoid being disturbed.
  • Auto Airplane Mode - like auto silent mode, but even more radical.
  • Stay Silent at End - originally both 'Auto Silent Mode' and 'Auto Airplane Mode' de-activated as soon as the meditation session finished. This option extends both modes until you actually exit the application. So, at the end of the meditation, you can take a few minutes to reflect before opening yourself up to phone calls, text messages, etc.
  • Keep Screen On - prevents the screen from going to sleep. Use this if you like to keep an eye on how long you have left.
  • Disable Screen Lock - if you want your screen to go to sleep, but still like to check your progress and don't want to have to use your pin or security pattern to activate the screen, enable this. The screen lock will be disable for the same period that Auto Silent / Airplane modes would be active.
Bell Options
  • Enable Faster Bells - if you ring more than one bell at a particular interval during your meditation, then you may want to do so quicker than the default. By default the entire bell rings before the next one starts (roughly 10 seconds per bell). With this option you are saying you want to have a smaller gap between bells. It simply enables the next option...
  • Gap Between Bells - how big a gap (in seconds) do you want between bells?
  • Remember Bell Volume - if this is set then the application will remember the bell volume from the previous sitting.
  • Vibrate Enabled - do you want the phone to vibrate when a bell rings?
  • Vibrate Only - rather than ring a bell, just vibrate the phone. I use this if I am away with my wife in a hotel, and want to meditate without disturbing her.
  • Bell Notifications On - do you want to receive a notification in the notification bar every time a bell rings? You are unlikely to want to use this. I added it as a feature when I was investigating a bug where bells sometimes didn't ring (now fixed).
At the bottom of the settings screen there is an option to back up profiles and sittings. It should be fairly obvious what this does - it simply writes the settings to the various files, as specified.

If you buy a new phone then this would be the way to transfer your profiles and sitting information to the new phone. Simply backup both sets of data, remove the SD card from your old phone and put it in your new phone, then restore both sets of data.

Backing up sittings also provides a way to export your sitting information. The meditation-sittings.txt file is in csv format, and can be imported into Excel.


  1. I don't see the widget. Help please.

  2. You need to add the widget to your home screen. How you do this might depend on your phone. On my phone I hold my finger down for a couple of seconds on the home screen, then select "Widgets", then scroll to the "Meditation Helper" widget.

  3. hi there!

    i asked you before about the possibility of changing the bell sound... i find it a bit high-pitched plus the quality is quite low (lots of background noise). any way to make a setting to change the bell sound? or at least give a few different bell sounds (lower pitched, different styles, etc.)? thanks! ryan

  4. Hi Ryan,

    No, I don't plan to change the bell sound. Some people like it. Some people don't like it. No matter what I do someone will complain.

    That said, I am considering writing "Meditation Helper Pro" which will have the ability to customize the bells. "Meditation Helper" will remain essentially the way it is right now. "Meditation Helper Pro" will have a different interface with more advanced options.

  5. I've actually grown to like the high pitched bell! such a terrific app.... 3 in a row so far... :-)

  6. Hi, I love the app, but I have a query about my sitting log. After the last couple of updates that resolved manual update and app crashing issues, I have a problem with my sittings list - I have 27 sittings over 17 continuous days but the widget is only counting 13 of the days. I've tried to clear and restore the sitting list but the counter shows the same incomplete listing. Is there anyway to fix it or will I just have to make do with 4 days missing from my stats?

  7. Hi Al,

    Can you check that all the sittings in this sequence have a start time that is after the "Day Start Time" configured in your settings.

    If you still think that the widget is calculating the number of consecutive days incorrectly, please do the following:

    1) Go to the app settings and Enable Logging.
    2) Go to the sittings screen and manually add a sitting (of, say, 1 second).
    3) Go back to settings and click on "Report Bug".
    4) Email me the log file that it generates.

    If you could also email me the exported sittings file, that would be great. If you export them they will be in a file called "exported-sittings.txt" on your SD card.

    That should give me enough information to work out what is going on.

    (My email address is automatically pre-populated when you do "Report Bug". You should also be able to get it from the market).

  8. Thank-you for your helpful reply. Unfortunately I got impatient and deleted the log file and started again! I did work through my sittings and I think the problem arose when I increased my daily target time making it longer than earlier sittings, so of course they no longer counted as fully met days! So there is no technical bug, just a human factor! Cheers for the great app. Al

  9. Thanks Al. I thought it might be something like that ;-)

  10. Great app, tiny bug while editing the intervals, though... every time I edit one and change mintutes/bells a new one gets added and the old one stays the same. Moreover, having the ability to drag&drop intervals and bells would be very nice! Great work, hope you are willing to make it even better :)

  11. Dario - I'll investigate the interval bug to see if I can reproduce it. Drag and drop would be nice, but I'm probably not going to add it. Meditation Helper is pretty much feature-complete now. I have other things I need to be getting on with.

  12. I can't reproduce that behaviour. If I edit the interval bell then it is correctly updated.

  13. Here are the steps I use:

    1) tap on "bells" to edit intervals
    2) tap on "add interval" and add "1 minute/1 bell" seven times (seven different bells!)
    3) I try to edit one of the "middle" intervals and change it to "2 bells/2minutes" instead of "one bell" gets shifted to the end of the list!

    No way I can edit a middle interval and save it, it always becomes the last one :) That's why I was asking for "drag & drop" intervals...

    Thank you so much for your interest, hope you can reproduce this bug!

  14. Hi Dario,

    From what you have described, it is actually working as expected. The intervals are sorted in the order in which the bells will ring - so you have a bell at the star1t, optionally some bells during the sitting, and a bell at the end.

    When you change it from 1 bell 1 minute to 2 bells 2 minutes, you are actually saying that you want 2 bells to ring after 2 minutes. Since 2 minutes is later than 1 minute, it moves that interval to the bottom of the list.

    So, yes I can reproduce it, but it's not a bug ;-)

  15. I completely missed how it was supposed to work :) thought your app meant "1 MINUTE AFTER THE LAST BELL" and not from the beginning!!! Sorry for bothering you, thanks for explaining....

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  17. Hi Alex, I´d send you an email, but i whould love to se a social function built in, like share the efforts on twitter or facebook.

    Doing that more people whould be inspired, and the awarnes of meditation whould be more brought in to the open. And ofcourse the applicatin whould allso be more known, please consider that.

  18. Hi Chemek,

    Integration with Facebook and Twitter is something that I may look at in the future. However, for now, I'm not doing much active development on the app.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  19. Hi Neill

    Thank you, I love the app. It's helped my practice so much. It looks great with a nice clean simple design. Open ended timing and logging to really leverage myself. So I've just read that you're not doing much active development for now but... I use it for my yoga practice and would also like to start using it for meditation also. I could create new profiles but they would all be tracked to the same log. I wouldn't be able to tell which times are for which. I could use another app to track my meditation but I don't care for any of them and would like to keep things simple and be able to use meditation helper for both. I would definitely pay for that feature, actually I would pay for it as it is. Hope you can help!

  20. I'm sure I'll do some more development on the app at some point, I just don't have time at the minute. Sorry.

  21. Hi- I love this app, thanks. It was working perfectly for me until I flashed my phone with the MIUI gingerbread rom. Now if I turn off the screen it seems the timer stops counting down. The app is running in compatibility mode but I tried turning out off also.

  22. Please disregard the above post. I re-installed and it is working fine now.Thanks again for your work!

  23. I would like to use this app to time Sa Ta Na Ma meditation intervals. That would mean bells at 5 -5 -11- 5 minutes. Will this be poseupossible in a future release?

  24. @ Terri -> It is ALREADY possible :) read my comments above, the intervals' minutes can be used to do EXACTLY what you want! :)

  25. As Dario said, it is possible with the app right now. You would add intervals as follows:

    * after 5 minutes (5)
    * after 10 minutes (5)
    * after 21 minutes (11)
    * after 26 minutes (5)

    Hope this makes sense.

  26. Hello, I would love to track different goals like meditation, workout time, guitar practice....any chance the app could track multiple chains...or that one could have different copies of the app with different names all tracking different sitting logs?

  27. Hi there,

    Love the app. Just noticed that in a recent update, the app requires "Access to sensitive log data" -- why is this?

  28. @Monica - I don't have any plans to add to Meditation Helper currently.

    @Daryll - I added a feature to the settings under "Report Bug". This reads the log file and formats it into an email to send to me. If you never use this feature then the logs will never be read.

  29. It would be wonderful to be able to choose the reminder sound effect. Now it's is same as the general notification sound and thus I go "email? Oh, just the meditation, nothing urgent"

  30. On my Acer A500 the Meditation Helper does not ring bells before, during, or after. The bells only ring when I close the app. It notifies but no sound or vibration. HTH

  31. Thanks for the info Max. Unfortunately I don't think I can do anything about it, as I don't have an Acer A500.

  32. With the great merit that you aquired by giving the world this app, may you reach enlightement.

    I don't think any other meditation comes close to this. Specially the widget, it's out of this world.
    Thank you, thank you thank you sooo much.

  33. @dfwsecure Thank you for your very kind comment.

  34. I love this app!! It's a great motivator!

    Thank you!!

  35. wow thats a great application, i really appreciate your work, it will surely helps in the Meditation Process

  36. I gave Meditation Helper a permanent link in my homepage. Just thought I'd share that

  37. Thanks dfwsecure, Dan, and Clarity Meditation!

  38. Hi Neill,

    Thanks so much for your great app. I would happily buy a Pro version should you ever release one.

    I was wondering, I decided I wanted to back up my sittings because if I lost my phone I would be very sad about my "history" being lost too! I connected my phone to my computer and had a look at the TXT file. Unfortunately, it was barely readable, just tons of numbers. Obviously I am not "translating" it right, and importing into Excel is still a wreck. Can you assist? Here are some example lines:

    Thank you!

  39. The file format is:

    log entry id, start time, end time, configured sitting time, actual sitting time

    The start time and end time are in Unix timestamp format: . There are ways to convert this to times in excel - see for example .

    The configured and actual sitting time in seconds.

    Hope this helps.

  40. By the way, to back up your settings you just need to save that file somewhere. If you got a new phone you would just copy the file back to the same place on the SD card, then go to Settings -> Backup and Restore -> Restore Sittings.

  41. Hey Neil,
    In a future update or a paid version could you consider to add a 'visual chart' please? At this time I add my daily total in Meditation Helper Sitting Log and enter into Android app 'Weight Chart.' :) . It is open source so the code maybe available.

  42. Hi Asela,

    I currently have no plans for any more versions of Meditation Helper. I only have so much spare time to devote to personal projects, and I have other things that I want to do. Sorry.

  43. Not a bug or really a problem. Just an FYI, with the start of the day at Midight, if the start meditating at 11:59 PM, the log counts the meditation for previous day.

    So if I procrastinate till almost midnight and start meditating just before midnight the chain is still maintained?

  44. Hi Francis,

    Yes, that's how it works. I had to make a decision about how to handle edge cases like this. I based the decision on the thought that I might be busy some day, and not manage to meditate until late on. In that case I'd want to give myself as long as possible before the chain was broken.

    So the rule is, if the meditation starts before the start of day time, then it counts for the previous day, even if it starts only 1 second before the start of day time.

  45. I see a Remember Bell volume setting, but can't find a way to set the bell volume. Is it as simple as just using the volume controls on each individual phone?


  46. Hi Terry,

    Sorry, I thought I'd already responded to you. Yes, use the phone volume controls to set the bell volume. The app remembers the last volume that was used, and adjusts it accordingly on startup. It's a pretty crude approach. I added it because I had the phone on full volume a few times when meditating without realizing, and the loud bell nearly made me jump out of my skin!

  47. Hi - I think the app is brilliant, especially the widget. It's funny... my sister and I were talking about ways to keep meditating regularly, and I told her about the Seinfeld idea. So this is perfect!

    One question though: I would love to be able to add widgets to my home screen for other activities (e.g. exercise, practicing a musical instrument, etc.) Is there any way to implement multiple reminder widgets, to achieve this? I'm guessing the answer is no, but it can't hurt to ask.

  48. @M Cygan,

    No, there is no way to do that currently, and I don't have any plans to add that feature.

  49. Great app, the best in the market. Thank you very much, as said may you reach enlightement.

    A couple of suggestions for Meditation-Helper-Pro:

    a) To make easier to enter repeating bells/intervals combined with one-time bells. For example the pattern


    can be entered but with 5 entries. My request is because I vary X and Y according to the day pressures and going into each entry is "time-consuming". In some way the above pattern could be conceptualized with two entries:

    i) a repetitive bell every X minutes LIMITED to 4 cycles
    ii) a one time bell at (4X+Y) minutes.

    In other cases I combine two meditations in one session, i.e. 4-step mindfulness breathing with 5-step Metthabovana. The bell/inteval pattern is like:

    Breathing: Xmin+Xmin+Xmin+Xmin
    Transition: Ymin
    Mettha: Zmin+Zmin+Zmin+Zmin+Zmin

    Again, in some way these 10 bells/entries can be set in 3 groups: 1 bell every Xmin LIMITED to 4 cycles, 1 bell at (4X+Y), and 1 bell every Zmin STARTING AT (4X+Y)min LIMITED to 5 cycles.

    Maybe this could be achieved easier with the option to concatenate profiles with the option of launching another profile when the session ends.

    Finally, the option to customize bells with own would be a nice to have, not a must.

    These are just ideas.


  50. after export sitting log in windows or in mac os, what can i do to read the sitting data in data format mm/dd/yyyy... ?? thank you

  51. @paololuigi - see

  52. @Carmatana - thanks for the suggestions. If I ever do any more work on Meditation Helper I'll keep them in mind. However, I don't plan to do any more work on it in the forseeable future.

    Unless Clojure on Android becomes a viable proposition...

  53. This comment has been removed by the author.

  54. Press "Use this profile " once you have finished editing to save the settings.

  55. I find the correct formula to analyze the logs into Excel. However, there is an error in unix exported log. Unix date must divided by one thousand to get the correct format "dd / mm / yy"; also the column of dates must be exported text format. following the formula used in Excel:

    =(cell/1000)/(60*60*24)+"1/1/1970"+ 2/24

    =(your cell unx date/1000)/(transform time from seconds to days) +add to unix referiment date + add/remove your fuse rispect GMT time

  56. Hi,
    First of all: thanks for the app. I love it.

    I have a problem: I do not use it regularly :( and when I have returnet to it.. bells do not sound. I have activated 'vibrate enabled' and 'bells notification on' and both of them work.. but bells do not sound. (auto silent mode is not on and the phone sounds)

    Any suggestions?


  57. Have you checked the volume? Use the volume control on your phone while you are on the timer screen to set the bell volume.

    Other than that, check to make sure you have bells configured in your profile.

  58. hi, great work on the app!! I use it alot.
    maybe it's just me but it seems to take alot of battery for a timer, anyway i'm reinstalling to see if it helps.

  59. I just realized I have been using this for a year now. It has really helped me keep up with my daily meditations.

  60. Great to hear you find it useful Francis!

  61. Love this app. Tried a bunch, don't need to try any more. Fifty sittings in, I'm completely satisfied. I do, however, wish I could glean something from the exported sitting log. I read the Excel tips and got nowhere at all. If anybody found a way to translate the numbers, I'd love to hear it.

  62. Great app. Thanks.
    Transcendental Meditation (TM) has two 20 minute meditations each day. Is there any way to add a second reminder/tracking?

  63. Yes, this would be possible. I'll add it to the list of requested features. I only get to program Meditation Helper in my spare time though, so no promises when it will be done...


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