Mindfulness has officially hit the mainstream, and today we are more conscious than ever about our own mental health and well-being. However, while many of us are now embracing mindful practices such as meditation, in today’s always-on world others simply find it extremely difficult to disconnect.
Historically, meditation has been viewed as a spiritual experience, but it is now widely acknowledged that it also has many health benefits, from improving concentration and increasing self-awareness, to reducing stress, relieving depression and anxiety, and even slowing ageing. And although increasing numbers of us recognize the advantages, committing ourselves to carving out some quiet time can be complicated.
However, with the increasing popularity of meditation and the advent of new technology, the practice is now evolving, and there are a variety of new ways and means available that are designed to help us focus our minds, and actively engage with the experience.
Muse is one of a myriad of hi-tech devices and associated apps that are now on the market, and aims to help the user reach a deep state of relaxation by playing different sounds while they meditate. A wearable brain-sensing headband measures the brain’s activity using EEG (electroencephalography) sensors, and an app converts the signals into audio feedback via built-in headphones.
Through the app, you can assess your progress in remaining calm - when you are in a more relaxed state you hear sounds such as birdsong, while in a state of higher brain activity it’s the sound of a storm. The device also records when you move, fidget, or open your eyes, alerting you immediately so that you can refocus, and it's this active meditation, compared to traditional methods, which makes Muse particularly useful for beginners.
MINDSET Brain Gym
Designed specifically with busy urban dwellers in mind, MINDSET opened its first Brain Gym in Toronto’s Yorkville last month, and offers a variety of drop-in meditation classes as well as private sessions to help improve overall mental health and well-being.
Classes are tailored to meet specific mental fitness goals, and range from the basic foundations of meditation, to sessions to sharpen concentration, minimize the negative impact of stress and anxiety, or increase empathy and emotional intelligence. Each session includes 30 minutes of teaching and guided meditation, followed by an optional 15 minutes of discussion and reflection. And for those who prefer to meditate privately, MINDSET also offers access to so-called Stillness Pods, which play a choice of guided meditations or soothing sounds of nature.
Company co-founder Sean Finnell hopes to have 10 locations up and running by 2020, with major US cities including Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, the Bay Area and New York under consideration, and a second Toronto site is already scheduled to open in late 2018 or early 2019.
Meditation pods provide a private, relaxing space even in the most public and stressful of places. Indeed, during a ‘No Noise’ event in London’s Selfridges, the department store partnered with Headspace who installed its meditation pods in the shop’s Ultralounge for its customers.
Pods make practicing meditation easier, as they are a calming, secluded space in which users can typically enjoy a library of guided meditations. Los Angeles-based Headspace enlisted experimental architecture and design firm Oyler Wu Collaborative in the design of its pods, which are inspired by natural geological formations. Combining a modern, minimalist exterior with a curvy, organic interior made of machine-cut wood, a touch screen displays and controls the entire Headspace Library.
Somadome pods adopt a different approach, and combine light and binaural beat therapy to help meditation. Lined in “microcrystalline tiles,” its pods, which are installed in several US gyms and spas as well as at Adobe headquarters in Silicon Valley, are designed to counteract the effects of electromagnetic fields from everyday electronics, and emit healing frequencies to restore the body, and reduce stress.
Part of the challenge for many companies is how to make meditation, which is an intangible experience, tangible. These new innovations help to do this, and in doing so, open up the benefits of the practice to a wider audience.