What do you think of when you hear the word ‘meditation?’ You might imagine someone sitting cross-legged… on the floor of a yoga studio… while tranquil music plays softly behind them.
And sure, that’s one example, but as technology moves forward, we’re seeing it used to enhance health in a big way.
LISTEN: The future of meditation
Hiroko Demichelis founded the Vancouver Brain Lab, where meditation is a therapeutic measure to treat mental illness.
“Mindfulness has really reached quite deep. Helping with conditions from depression but also but also psychosis, for example, to sit with the discomfort or the pain and learning to be more flexible, what we call cognitive flexibility, as opposed [to] finding strategies to get rid of the pain.”
So how does it work?
Demichelis says it starts by hooking up to a series of sensors that can monitor the number of things in real time, such as brain activity, breathing, heart rate, muscle tension, etc.
Then comes the visual element, where people can watch their brain activity and see their breath slow down as they learn to control it.
But the Brain Lab isn’t the only place Hiroko is using this technology, she’s also co-founded a meditation studio in Vancouver called Moment Medication that doesn’t offer yoga.
“We go through some experiences of mild stress and as we go through them we see what happens in our physiology, so we’re almost looking at the control panel of our own inner car and then we’re given the opportunity after each stressor to be mindful, to relax, and to see what happens in our body.”
There’s an app for that…
But you don’t need to go to a neurology Centre, or a studio to practice guided meditation. Like most other things in life today, there’s an app for that.
There’s a variety of companies looking to bring meditation straight to you and make it a regular part of everyday life.
One product in particular, called ‘Muse,’ is a brain sensing headband you can purchase to use at home that gives you real-time feedback while you meditate.
Jay Vidyarthi, the head of user experience for Muse says technology can now be used to help you
“We’ve been able to create something that sort of serves as an indicator of when, you know, your mind is focused on your breath and when it is not. So you can choose from like a beach and a rainforest, and you’re instructed on a meditation to pay attention to your breathing, and then when your mind wanders you hear the weather sort of pick up as a gentle cue to bring your attention back to your breathing.”
He says the app serves a similar purpose as other fitness apps.
“So if you think about that interaction really carefully, it’s not that the brain sensor is doing anything to your brain, it’s just providing a support to help you do the work. Then you compare that to something like FitBit, where this is a sort of a support to help you motivate yourself and understand what you’re doing and hit meaningful goals, but it’s still you that has to run.”
But for now, what experts are really working towards is a focus on the health benefits of meditating and making the experience as normal and accessible as possible.
So who knows… maybe someday meditation breaks will be the new coffee break.