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We Asked a VR Meditation Expert How To Stay Calm

A beginner's guide to the future of chilling out.

by Beckett Mufson
Nov 9 2016, 8:15pm

Images courtesy Guided Meditation VR

The Creators Project team thought we'd give you some much needed R&R from the headlines, so we've roped together a regimen of healing and happy stories to help get you through the day.

If you're still struggling with your lizard brain instinct to crawl into a deep dark hole, virtual reality might be the cave you're looking for. Cubicle Ninjas is one of several companies offering VR mediation programs promising a break from the harshness of reality. Whether you want to relax on a tropical beach or in a crystalline cavern, their Guided Meditation VR program has you covered. The GMVR website offers, "mind vacations in exotic locations across the universe," that, "bring peace, joy, and calm back into your daily life." 

Josh Farkas, who leads the GMVR team, has made a job of calming nerves and stifling jitters. He does everything from designing virtual environments to answering user questions in online forums. He lent us his expertise  to help us chill:

The Creators Project: How did you become interested in meditation?

Josh Farkas: About 10 years ago I became an entrepreneur full-time. It was such a happy time, but as any one self-employed knows, it can also be a mind-numbingly terrifying rollercoaster of emotions. And when working from home, your place of comfort gets infected with this underlying dread of uncertainty. One day, by sheer chance, I stumbled into meditation, and for the first time in years, I felt completely at peace. Meditation changed my life.

What are the advantages of VR meditation over IRL?

When I found meditation I was so excited to share this with my friends and family. But they all sort of scoffed, "I've tried that and it doesn't work for me." After hearing this repeatedly, I was bummed to realize that often the people who need meditation the most are also those who find it the most difficult: the type-A, ultra competitive, hyper efficient, self-critical, folks who are focused on perfection. They'd tried meditation, didn't receive clear feedback on success of failure, and gave up.

We also heard, a person's home was too distracting to meditate within. With bills in the corner, and all of your preferred technology at an arm's length, it is overflowing with disruptions.

VR has a few built-in advantages to tackle these common problems:

-Virtual Reality is like a vacation for the mind, so the household clutter can truly be left behind. Taking a 10-minute breather in virtual Hawaii or Japan is joyful.

-Real-time biofeedback is available for some devices, so users can visualize the positive results meditation has on their body. Living in your heartbeat is so intimate, it helped me respect my body in a fresh way.

-Users can select from multiple meditation practices, helping them to understand that if a meditation doesn't work it isn't their fault. We can then help them find which techniques work best for them.

How have you personally coped with the stressfulness of this election?

Building new VR environments is pretty soothing! Pretending to be a digital Bob Ross and hiding happy little trees never gets old. Our research has found that people find the opposite of their normal life as most relaxing. If you live on a beach you'll find forests or mountains most effective. This same research applies to temperature, weather, or even accent of the spoken meditation teacher. The mysterious other is comforting. So, if you're feeling stressed, experiencing something new and unique may just help.

Has any of your company's research pointed to the detriments of such a stressful political environment, and the resulting benefits of meditation?

A recent study by the American Pyschological Association identified the top three sources for stress: money, work, and the economy. The results of this election are important, because all three of these sources could be heavily impacted. Millennials and GenX-ers report the highest stress levels of all age groups, and are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors due to uncontrolled stress levels.

All stress, whether from politics, family, or even work, is more than just a nuisance. It can cause physical ailments, like headaches, muscle tension, or general fatigue. And it can be even worse for mental health, fueling anxiety, anger, or depression.Meditation is recommended by leading organizations such as the Mayo Clinic because it has repeatedly shown to reduce stress. 

Nature is also shown to restore our focus (known as attention restoration theory), our mood, our self-esteem, our memory, decrease aggression, reduce stress, and even reduce pain. What is remarkable, is that the same restoration effects that we see in real-world nature spaces are also found in virtual reality spaces!

One more question: How am I supposed to stay calm today?

I can't help but think of the quote:

"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." - Anonymous

When we realize we're not in control of today's news, but the only true thing we can control is our reaction to this news, then nothing can hurt us.

Learn more about Guided Meditation VR on the official website. Click here for more relaxing artwork.

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