What is a Meditation Timer?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A meditation timer is an electronic device that signals the beginning and end of a meditation session. This device is used by people who have a specific or limited amount of time to meditate. It can be quite difficult to have a good meditation session while keeping an eye on the clock. Therefore, a meditation timer can be used to signal when it is time to bring the session to a close.

Meditation times can be used by those who want the benefits of meditation without worrying about watching the clock.
Meditation times can be used by those who want the benefits of meditation without worrying about watching the clock.

It is common, in meditation, for bells or gongs to be used to signal the beginning or end of meditation. For this reason, many meditation timers use the sounds of bells or gongs. These sounds are often preferable to the harsh sound of an alarm clock because they much quieter and gentler. The sounds that are used to indicate that the meditation time has ended sometimes softly escalate in volume.

Some people like listening to a soundtrack featuring ocean waves while they are meditating.
Some people like listening to a soundtrack featuring ocean waves while they are meditating.

These devices are programmable and can be set for different lengths of time depending on how long the user plans to meditate. The time setting options generally range from five minutes to sixty minutes, while some devices allow for even longer time periods. Most of them are battery-operated and small enough to travel with.

It is possible to find meditation timers from stores that sell other meditation supplies as well as from a number of online retailers. Some of the timers are quite simple while others are designed to look like small statues or pieces of art with the dial and battery opening on the bottom. A yoga timer, which is used to time the duration of yoga sessions and to mark the beginnings and ends of certain poses, can also be used as meditation timer.

Instead of purchasing a meditation timer, some people prefer to use a meditation application on a piece of technology that they already own. There are a number of such applications that can be used with PCs, Macs, and a myriad of PDAs. These applications simply use a standard timing device and, just like a meditation timer, release a sound to indicate the beginning and end of a meditation period.

There are also CDs and MP3s that can be played instead of using a meditation timer. Instead of playing songs, they simply play the beginning and closing bells or gongs, separated by varying lengths of silence. Some may play very soft, peaceful sounds instead of silence. The sounds may be the sounds of water in a stream, ocean waves, or other recordings of nature.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I'm shopping for a nice meditation timer application. I bough one that did not run on my device for some reason. So I think I need to do more research and read reviews before I invest in another one. If I can find an actual meditation timer with authentic sounds, I'd prefer that actually.

Do most of you use a normal timer or a timer application?


@turquoise-- If you have an android device, I highly recommend getting a meditation timer application for it. There are some free ones made available by software companies online. Others are available for very small cost.

I have one that uses the sounds of real singing bowls and bells to tell me that my time is up. I can set it up so that the bells ring only at the beginning and of the meditation or at specific times in the middle. I can set up the timer for as short or long as I want, there is no limit.

It also allows me to log my meditation time so that I can track my progress. I started out by meditating only fifteen minutes at a time. Now I can meditate uninterrupted for an hour. I thin that the meditation timer has played an important role in my progress.


I bought a timer which has time settings for 5, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. The time options is really ideal for use in meditation. The issue is that when the alarm goes off, it's an awful ringing noise. It's not at all gentle so I literally jump in place when I hear it. It startles me and I think that ruins my meditation and makes it counterproductive. I wish I had gotten a timer made specifically for meditation with a pleasant alarm sound.

Post your comments
Forgot password?