The Bluetooth-connected Core trainer helped me find a meditation rhythm—literally and figuratively.

By Elizabeth Bacharach
May 28, 2020
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Elizabeth Bacharach/oxygen/GettyImages

It's 10:14 p.m. I’m sitting on my bed with my legs crossed, back straight (thanks to a supportive pile of pillows), and hands cradling a small, orb-shaped device. Following the instructions of the voice emanating through my AirPods, I close my eyes and inhale for 1…2…3…4 as the device in my hands vibrates at varying speeds.

If anyone were to walk by my closed door, they’d likely have some assumptions: Heavy breathing and loud vibrations. Hmmm, what’s going on in there? *wink, wink; nudge, nudge*

Spoiler alert: I'm meditating. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

The rumbling little sphere in my hands is the Core, a Bluetooth-connected meditation device said to help even the most fidgety meditators find their rhythm. Depending on the type of audio-guided meditation session chosen through the paired app, the trainer pulses to help lead you through techniques and to channel your focus.

While meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm might remind you to focus on the feeling of your hands on your thighs, the trainer emits a baseline vibration throughout any meditation session to serve as a gentle reminder to focus your attention. It also offers "breath training" (or breathwork) sessions, which can help relieve stress or promote concentration. For example, a breathing technique called Box Breath involves inhaling for a count of four seconds, holding for four, exhaling for four, and holding again for four. So, as the voice instructs me to inhale, the device ramps up speed for four seconds; when the voice says to then hold, the device pauses for four seconds. The narration and vibration continue in tandem for a little until you're left to try a few rounds on your own, at which point the pulses prove to be incredibly helpful guides. (Related: Breathwork Is the Latest Wellness Trend People Are Trying)

My Strained Relationship with Meditation

I love meditating. But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it or that I effortlessly maintain a consistent practice. Add in the coronavirus pandemic and, welp, any semblance of my previous meditation practice went by way of in-office work and social gatherings: gonezo.

While I knew—and know—how beneficial meditation can be, especially during trying times like these, it was frighteningly easy to find excuses to not make time to meditate: Too much is going on right now. I just don’t have the time. I’ll do it again when things go back to “normal.”  And although I was feeling uncharacteristically calm, especially given the traumatic state of the world, I knew that getting back into meditating could do my brain and body some much-needed favors. (If you still aren't entirely aware of all the mind and body benefits of meditation, know that, in short, research suggests meditation can decrease anxiety and depression, lessen loneliness, and improve sleep and work performance.)

But no number of push notifications or scheduled reminders could convince me to just sit down and do the damn thing. One possible reason for this neglect? The unwelcome challenge that always came with getting back into meditating (and it always felt like I was "getting back into it" every time I sat down to quiet my mind). Like returning to the gym after a hiatus, those first few sessions can be difficult and, in turn, turn me off from the practice (especially when there are so many other trying matters at hand). (See also: Lost Your Job? Headspace Is Offering Free Subscriptions for the Unemployed)

So, when I started seeing ads on Instagram (the algorithm knew what I needed before I did) for a simple little sphere that boasts Fitbit-like tracking for meditation, I was intrigued: Maybe having the physical reminder, will push me to (finally) reconnect with my meditation practice. After all, with a sleek and modern aesthetic reminiscent of something out of a West Elm catalog, I wouldn't mind leaving it out as a reminder to practice.

Before I knew it, it arrived at my front door and the excitement was real and expectations admittedly high. I was certain this was going to be the game-changer my meditation practice was missing. (See also: I Meditated Every Day for a Month and Only Sobbed Once)

Week 1

Initially, my goal was to meditate with my new toy at least three times a week. I also told myself that I was going to be open to meditating whenever, wherever instead of trying to adhere to some arbitrary schedule of practicing solely before bed.

And for the most part, the first week was successful. I meditated not three, not four, but five (!!) days during my first week with using the Core trainer. As a proficient procrastinator, I was super proud of that feat. However, I was having trouble becoming accustomed to the device's vibrations and became fixated on my frustrations. At the end of each session, no matter how long, I couldn’t shake a lingering tingling sensation in my hands from the pulsing. It wasn't painful or anything—more like when you hop off a treadmill after a run and your legs take a minute to readjust to solid ground—and it went away within 10-minutes, but the strange sensation was just annoying more than anything else. (Sound familiar but haven't used the Core? Carpal tunnel might be to blame for the tingling.)

Week 2

Week two was a rough one. I also couldn’t seem to move past my disappointment that the Core wasn't the immediate meditation magic I was hoping it would be for me. And so, I wound up only meditating twice before bed this week. But the orb did prove to be that helpful physical reminder. Positioned next to my book and glasses on my nightstand, the Core was always…well…there. It became increasingly more difficult to find excuses to not do just work in a quick 5-minute mediation session. (Related: How to Use Sleep Meditation to Fight Insomnia)

Week 3

With what felt like a bit of a failed week behind me, I was able to approach this one with a fresh start; a chance to stop judging the device for what I felt were design shortcomings but rather for its influence on my meditation practice. The more I used the Core, the more I became accustomed to the vibrations and gradually started using them as intended: a way to bring my mind back to the present when it started to wander or run through a mental to-do list. Being able to bring myself back to the moment without struggling to count my breaths or concentrate on a spot in front of me left me feeling stronger in my practice and, in turn, eager to continue the habit. After four sessions with the trainer this week, I was surprisingly back to my love affair with meditation—going so far as to turn to my boyfriend and say, ‘I think I’m finally back.’

What surprised me, however, was how much I missed having my hands touching my thighs (rather than holding the gadget) while practicing, which is ironic because the physical contact previously bothered me. I’d suddenly become itchy or feel a need to squirm, which would interrupt my practice. Now, however, I found it increasingly more challenging to connect with my body and really consider how each part was feeling—tight, tense, at ease, etc.—while mentally scanning from head to toe. (Related: How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation Anywhere)

My takeaway: While the Core trainer isn't likely to become a necessary accessory to my meditation practice, I do like having it next to my bed just in case I've made one too many excuses not to meditate. It reminds me to just take five minutes when I can for myself.

Plus, it's definitely improved my understanding of my own breathing patterns and the importance of breathwork both during and outside of meditation. I feel like I’m one step closer to finally being that person who knows how to breathe her way through, say, an anxious situation, but TBD on that.

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