I started meditating at the end of last year. I read a few books that really opened my eyes to power of both mindfulness and meditation and have been meditating daily ever since.
The problem when you first start to meditate is that it’s hard to gauge the quality of your sessions. I am sure that this comes with experience, but when you first start it is difficult to tell the difference between being physically relaxed and mentally relaxed. The goal of attaining “no mind” – where your thoughts disappear for longer and longer periods of time is difficult to describe until you experience it yourself.
Now, I realise that technology is totally against the basic concepts of meditation and relaxation but I am who I am. At the beginning of the year, I purchased a Muse headset as it promised to help me measure the quality of my meditation sessions.
This device is a bluetooth electroencephalogram (EEG) that measures your brain activity and it comes with an accompanying app.
Each time you use the Muse headband, you must re-calibrate it. This is because the electrical signals from your brain are very weak and that their levels apparently can change from day to day. When you start a session, the app walks you through three steps where you are asked to think of as many things that can fit into a category as possible such as famous people, books, vegetables, colours, etc. After you’ve done this, the session can begin.
During the session, the Muse app will provide you with bio-feedback on the activity in your brain. This presented as weather conditions (wind). The more active your brain, then the more severe the weather… the calmer you are, then the more tranquil the setting. If you remain very calm then you will hear birds chirping.
Personally, I found the bio-feedback very distracting. I use the device with the sound muted now and simply set a timer on my watch so that I know when I am finished. It’s the end result that I am looking for anyway – a way to measure the quality of each session and then compare that to how I felt.
The app itself has improved over the past six months and it includes the ability to run longer sessions, some guided meditations, and some game mechanics that encourages you to achieve higher and higher levels of achievement.
I think that meditation is a bit like golf. It requires a lot of practice and all improvement is marginal and long-term. Because of that, this sort of device is really useful so that you can apply some deliberate practice and I highly recommend it for beginners like me.