Close your eyes. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Focus on how your body moves when you inhale, and when you exhale. Feel the ground beneath you, the breeze on your arms, the Vive headset over your eyes…
Technology and meditation. At first these concepts seem far removed from one another. Meditation and mindfulness conjures up clichéd thoughts of incense, bamboo and pagoda-roofed buildings. Technology on the other hand is all sterile white plastic, circuit boards and endless lines of code à la The Matrix right? The two don’t mix.
Devika think otherwise. They’ve decided to push the boundaries and collaborate with Wollongong’s Nan Tien Temple on the possibility of making meditation apps for virtual reality.
At current, meditation and mindfulness teaching apps work via smartphones. You stick your headphones in and you get talked through how to meditate. Of course, you’re still surrounded by all the distractions of life. Using a VR headset can assist meditation novices by virtually removing thm from reality and all the distractions it entails.
The idea for VR being used to experientially teach meditation is a collaboration between Devika, UOW’s Dr Robert Gorkin, the Nan Tien Institute and the Nan Tien Temple. Originally, the idea was the the VR app would place the headset user at Nan Tien Temple virtually, then have the meditation instructor guide them through the meditation process over a three to 30 minute period. Fellow collaborator and Nan Tien monk [name] (who coincidentally has a background in computer science), thought there was a lot of potential for interactivity within the app.
One such interactive use could be applying existing mindfulness techniques within the VR app to combat anxiety and negativity. For instance, each time users have a negative thought while using the app they could “virtually’ place a representation of that thought into a box that would then float away. Mindfulness has already been recognised as being beneficial to anxiety, and it’s a real possibility that virtual reality applications could be used in the future to supplement anxiety disorder treatments. For those in high stress environments (e.g. university students or emergency workers) such an app could have huge mental health benefits.
In addition to being a more encompassing meditation experience than your conventional smartphone app, VR meditation has the added potential of “gamifying” the process. Meditation and mindfulness takes several steps to fully achieve. Trying to go from no experience to complete meditation immediately is of course going to be difficult. But introducing it through steps or levels in VR could help make the process that little bit easier (and more enjoyable).