Is it possible to meditate in virtual reality? On one hand it may seem counter-intuitive, but on the other, it’s as natural as breathing and focusing our intention on our journey within, and letting go of whatever is in the way.
Let’s all take a really deep breath. Most of us breathe only at 20% of our lung capacity, so let’s make a real effort to breathe even deeper, really filling our lungs. By taking a conscious full breath, we immediately connect deeper within to ourselves. Our breath is the fundamental starting point of almost every meditation practice.
Now let’s add a focus or intention – this could be a word or sentence that describes what we would like to gain in meditation – for example calm, clarity or energy, and as we think of this word or sentence and repeat it to ourselves, we continue to take some more deep breaths.
We are now meditating with breath and focus combined. These two simple actions, to breathe and to focus, can be used at any time, day or night to access meditation’s benefits.
Why do we need meditation now more than ever?
We are so accustomed to being on the move, running from one thing to the next, we’ve forgotten how to consciously slow down, connect and restore.
This study shows that three out of five employees experience a high level of stress. Stress contributes to all kinds of health issues including anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, heart diseases, sleep problems, weight gain, cognitive impairment, and many more.
Stress is costly.
When not managed properly, stress can cost us our health, mental well-being, relationships, creativity, happiness, and so on. Annually, stress costs corporations hundreds of billions of dollars due to decreased productivity, rising rates of sick leave, and less engagement.
Meditation has been proven again and again in peer reviewed scientific studies to be one of the most effective solutions to stress.
Here are some of the scientifically positive changes that are known to happen to our brain during meditation:
- Increase in production of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Mindfulness practice improves attentional performance and emotional regulation by increasing the production of a neurotransmitter known as Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) during the process. Research has shown that lower levels of GABA are closely linked to higher levels of anxiety and vice versa.
- Increase in production of Dopamine
Dopamine is a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that is often linked to the feelings of love, lust, motivation, attention, learning, and addiction. It is the substance that helps control the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. When we are feeling that sudden surge of motivation to take action towards a certain achievement, it is the works of dopamine. Dopamine levels increase during a sustained meditation. In turn, our body enters a state of deep relaxation when our dopamine level rises.
- Lower level of Norepinephrine in blood stream
Norepinephrine is one of the stress hormones that are released when we are experiencing stress. The purpose of norepinephrine is to keep us safe from physical danger by raising alertness when we are in potential danger. However, our adrenals will continue to pump out norepinephrine when we are under constant stress.
Levels of norepinephrine in our blood is relative to our level of stress. Higher stress levels means more norepinephrine is released into our blood. The encouraging news is, research shows that norepinephrine blood levels will eventually reduce through meditation which leads to improvements in our quality of life.
- The amygdala will begin to shrink
The amygdala, also known as the lizard brain, controls autonomic responses associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation. When it picks up on environmental stressors surrounding us, the amygdala triggers a fight-or-flight response. We can think of is as our central security alarm circuit.
Meditation has an effect on our amygdala. It will begin to shrink during the process thus weakening the connections between the amygdala. As a result, connections with our prefrontal cortex associated with attention and concentration becomes stronger.
Meditation is a uniquely personal experience. You get to choose it!
Meditation applications such as Headspace, Calm, Simple Habit, and others have a compounded annual growth rate of approximately 48 percent, as more and more people seek technological ways to reduce stress. The challenge remains that many of us busy people find it hard or even impossible to sit down, and stay still for 10 minutes with our eyes closed.
When we talk about meditation, the first image that comes to mind is of a person sitting still in a cross-legged position, spine straight with their eyes closed. Fortunately, we have more options!
Meditation is an extremely personal experience that can be done while lying down, sitting, walking, dancing, or merely swaying to a rhythm. We don’t even have to close our eyes if we don’t want to.
For example, the Japanese practice known as shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, is a form of meditation that has a positive impact on our health and happiness. It is simply done by being in nature with trees, and connecting with nature through our senses.
Leveraging technology to facilitate our meditation experience is a modern phenomenon:
At FLOWVR, we combine Virtual Reality (VR) with a variety of 4-minute meditations in six modes for an immersive experience that eases users into their own very personal meditation.
The power of FLOWVR’s unique software platform springs from stunning 360° degree videos of pure nature combined with our highly effective spectrum of modern-day meditation tools, and our expert use of carefully curated licensed music from international artists. The results are mesmerising and impactful.
FLOWVR gives immediate access to meditation’s endless benefits through exponential technology. The way VR technologies engage with our senses to transport us to another world makes the meditation immediate and immersive.
The six modes of FLOWVR:
- Breathe, 2. Focus, 3. Move, 4. Let Go, 5. Calm and 6. Restore allow users to choose what kind of meditation they want or need each time. The modes work independently or cumulatively in varied sequences.
Move and Let Go are some of the favorites of our corporate customers, as they provide new, cutting edge ways to let go of stress. Moving our bodies can boost the power of our meditation experience. Letting go of stress and tension makes space for more of what we are looking for in meditation.
All six modes of FLOWVR are demonstrated in my TEDx talk, How to meditate in VR.
We even got the whole audience of 300+ to scream!
VR meditation can take us out of stress and transport us to a world of wonder and give a profound experience of meditation any time, any where, and from the very first try. Even a single session of meditation can lower stress and anxiety levels.
Interactions between VR and the brain has led to many applications in health and medicine that are used in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, surgical training, and physical therapy. Scientists are also exploring whether VR can change social attitudes by allowing users to experience the world from another person’s perspective.
Before we created FLOWVR, I was skeptical about how virtual reality could boost meditation. My background is deeply rooted in meditation, not in tech, and I have led hundreds of meditation classes. It was when I attended Startup Iceland for the first time in 2015 that I had a vision of how technology can give greater access to meditation’s endless gifts. Bala Kamallakharan became my first mentor, and I was on the stage the following year presenting FLOWVR. Now, two accelerators later (Startup Reykjavik and the Katapult Impact Tech Accelerator) I have led over 50 FLOWVR sessions for corporates, involving FLOWVR meditation technology. We have witnessed positive outcomes again and again, over a thousand times now with people experiencing FLOWVR meditation. We believe that this unique technology can help transform our entire world one deep breath, one meditation at a time.