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VR meditation: awe, avatars and psychedelics

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In January, I sat in the mountains and enjoyed the panorama. I heard soft music, and every time I inhaled or exhaled, the crystal swirled inside and outside my mouth. A few feet away, rocks projected a beam of light into the sky, and distant rocks produced the same beam. This showed that other people were in the mountains and gave me a sense of connection. coronavirus Pandemic.

I used TRIPP, a virtual reality meditation app that allows users to focus on their breath while looking at attractive visuals. During the pandemic and mental health crisis, the number of VR meditation apps has increased. This explains part of why video games dropped from 72% to 64% of all VR pies, according to Polaris Market Research.

The increase in VR meditation is comparable to the avalanche of smartphone apps for mental health. total About 20,000. Some say that VR is more immersive than smartphones and can at least enable awe, relaxation, mindfulness, and connections with fellow meditators and their avatars.

I’ve tried 6 of these relatively cheap VR apps (all compatible with the popular $ 300 Meta Quest 2 headset), talked to entrepreneurs and researchers, and compared to regular meditation. Then I learned if VR should be incorporated into my mental wellness routine.

With that surrealistic stimulus, TRIPP aims to stir up the emotions of Awe, It is defined as an emotional reaction to something so vast that it changes one’s worldview.Some studies suggest that you can experience awe Improvement happiness.recently study44% of VR users experienced goosebumps, a physiologic sign of awe.

The territory of another world of TRIPP does more than just duplicate tropical beaches. Nanea Reeves, CEO of TRIPP, said: Like my meditation at the summit, each of TRIPP’s “gentle” sessions ends with a few minutes hovering in a fictional galaxy soaked in warm shades.So the user Overview effectAwe and wonders felt while looking down from space, reported by astronaut..

Another option: Journey through undulating, highly colorful works of art, beautifully rendered geometric and psychedelic works of art. These awe-inspiring “travels” seem to be comparable to the use of hallucinogens. advantage, But Reeves distinguished TRIPP from the drug experience. “TRIPP is coming to you” via a VR headset “and [the drug trip] Come from you. TRIPP makes no therapeutic claim, Used Initially to ease patients with psychedelic supportive care that overwhelms some people.

research It suggests that meditation may increase openness to drug-induced transcendental experiences, and meditation may increase openness to VR as well. Psychedelic and VR At the University of California, San Francisco. A single VR meditation probably doesn’t change your mindset, but “with repeated use, the benefits can be powerful,” Aday said. He emphasized the need for more research.

Many VR meditation apps focus on relaxation rather than awe. “How can some apps blow your mind away,” said Josh Farkas, CEO of Cubicle Ninjas, who creates the popular Guided Meditation VR app that offers virtual beaches, waterfalls, and other soothing landscapes. .. “How can our app make you feel like you’re in a big hug?”

Recent reviews found VR meditation may promote relaxation.It has decreased stress First year for isolated people in a pandemic blockade Medical studentBefore college students testUK office workerAnd compared to audio And 2D video meditation.

However, mindfulness meditation, in which people practice what is present at the moment, involves two stages, Jinder Seagull, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto who is studying mindfulness-based interventions. Says. VR is a “powerful technology” to reach the first stage. In other words, it calms the mind. However, it prevents the second step, “investigating what appears in your mind with curiosity and kindness, with the aim of knowing your mind itself.”

“Because VR is like putting a curtain between you and your ability to monitor the movement of your mind,” he explained. For example, TRIPP’s breathing crystals are “twice away from what breathing actually does,” Segal said.

He is also concerned about the practicality of VR meditation. If someone is lined up in the bank, “there’s no crystal or high-resolution graphics,” he said. “What you have is your breath.”

But Judith Amores of Harvard University research A fellow VR designer believes that meditating in a busy VR area can prepare for this very situation. “VR trains you to pay attention to the moment, even though it’s distracting,” she said. Also, as businesses design lighter, more portable devices, more people may wear VR headsets when lining up or waiting elsewhere.

Serves as a gateway to meditation

Farkas believes that the pleasing sensory stimuli of his app can also encourage many people who do not meditate in other ways to try it out.

Amores was such a person. After she struggled to meditate on a regular basis, she was encouraged to design using VR meditation. “When I meditated, I was more productive, but it was hard to do it,” she said. “I wondered how I could make this experience more appealing to novice users.”

Another hook for new entrants is gamification. With the Maloka app, your avatar, or “spirit,” evolves and looks strong enough to meditate.

Providing a way to connect with others

With a few VR apps, you can meditate in groups.While many Westerners view meditation as a lonely endeavor, the Buddha taught that meditation should take root in the community, said Jeremy Nickel, who began. EvolVR, A social platform used for VR meditation recently acquired by TRIPP. “Group meditation takes you out of your head,” he said. “They make it easier to get back to your own practice.”

I have never meditated in a group and have become nervous about meditating in VR. This feeling only increased when I entered the first session and soon realized that I was invading another avatar’s personal space. We finally unraveled and headed to the other end of the bluff overlooking the pixelated beach for the session.

Another group meditation took place in a virtual cave. There, I realized that I sometimes accepted bumping into other avatars, managed to focus on my breath, and the instructor gave me very helpful guidance. Find out why Toronto psychologist Segal wants VR to have more access to qualified mindfulness teachers.

It’s my daily reliance to just meditate and not use VR, but VR is an important change. On days when I have no intention of sitting and closing my eyes, the novelty of meditating in the depths of space and the sea fascinates me.

“VR is another tool for mental health,” says Farkas. “It may be scary for some. For others, it’s an incentive to put self-care on your calendar and get excited about sitting on a virtual beach and breathing.”

Matt Fuchs lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. In addition to writing about his health and technology, he is the editor-in-chief. Leaps.org, A journalism platform that covers health innovation.Follow him twitter..

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