"Headspace" app: Meditation made simple by former monk

Headspace, an app that provides guided meditation, has three million downloads as users perform a centuries-old practice with a swipe of a smartphone
Headspace, an app that provides guided medita... 03:51

Meditation has been practiced for centuries, but one app is making it as easy as the swipe of a smartphone.

"Headspace" calls itself a "gym membership for your mind" and offers users simple lessons for meditation and mindfulness.

Andy Puddicombe CBS News

A former Buddhist monk, co-founder Andy Puddicombe told "CBS This Morning" that he was initially skeptical of taking meditation online, especially because he had "missed out" on the Internet during his time at the monastery. But he was enticed by the idea of making it "available and more accessible to people."

"So often meditation is seen as something quite mystical and even quite threatening and daunting," said Puddicombe, who is also behind the voice that guides users through the lessons in the app.

Puddicombe was first introduced to meditation at around age 10 by his mother as a way to relax during stressful times. But in his late teens, he was involved in a fatal accident involving a drunk driver that killed his friends, which made him turn his life around.

"It left me with a lot of questions and a mind that was very restless and easily overwhelmed. And for me the answer to that was to go away and become a Buddhist monk," he said.

But Puddicombe said his time as a monk made him realize that keeping distance from society "to find a quiet" mind wasn't necessary. He wanted to show that it was "absolutely possible, even in the midst of all the busyness of everyday life, if you have a tool for it."

With simple graphics and animation that offer a user-friendly, easy-to-use experience, he has helped create the right tool with "Headspace."

The app guides its users through meditation and mindfulness in just 10 minutes and also sends reminders for short breaks throughout the day to "come back to that quietness of mind."

Headspace has already been downloaded by 3 million people and has also been a commercial success. It has subscription plans starting at $7.99 a month.

But Puddicombe said his only intention was the mission to help people to feel "a little bit more calm, a little bit more clear."

"It's something I set out not with commercial intent. Success has come along with it and that's wonderful because it allows us to fulfill our mission," he said.