Too Busy To Meditate? Here’s Why You Need It The Most

There is an old Zen saying:  “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” If you’re constantly checking notifications or crossing things off your to-do list, the science shows you probably need to start meditating… right now.

How often have you heard yourself lamenting, “there just aren’t enough hours in the day”, or “things have been so busy”? It’s not uncommon – the reality is that most of us find ourselves running from one task or place to the next, and then filling the gaps in between with distractions like scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix.

The problem with this need to keep ourselves preoccupied at all times, is that it results in the opposite of ‘getting more done’ – being busy all the time makes the brain less efficient, less productive, and worsens overall performance. It also leaves little room for reflection and a break from routine, which is what makes life more meaningful.

Meditation, how to meditate, meditation for beginners, learn to meditate, how do you meditate, meditation tips

Signs You Need to Meditate: The “busy” trap

Here’s the easiest, single question litmus test that will give you your answer: Do you have 5 minutes a day to meditate? If not, you need to meditate.

Being ‘too busy’ can often be just a reflection of priorities, and not a real reason to take some time for self-care. After all, if high achievers such as Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Dalio, and Ellen DeGeneres practice daily meditation, you can too.

Most people believe that although their schedules are jam-packed they are still in control of their life, and how they spend their time. In fact, you may not even be consciously aware of the extent to which keeping yourself busy controls your life. Below are some clear signs that you would stand to benefit from a meditation practice: (1)

  • Are you constantly checking your smartphone for notifications?
  • Do you feel guilty if you don’t have much work to do?
  • Is it difficult for you to relax or take vacation?
  • Is it difficult for you to sit in silence without external stimulation of any kind?
  • Do your days consist of going from one to-do list item to the next?
  • Do you find it difficult not to talk about work?
  • Do others consider you a workaholic?

If you found yourself nodding “yes” to one or more of those questions, you’re in dire need of a heavy dose of mindfulness.

The Benefits of Meditation

Given our fast-paced reality, it is perfectly normal to have one, if not all of the warning signs above resonate with you.

Just as exercise is necessary to train the body and fight against a sedentary lifestyle, so is mediation a necessary tool to train the mind and become more effective in fighting off distraction. Research has shown that the benefits of meditation do extend beyond the current moment, and improve these two areas in particular:


A study conducted by the Information School of Washington found that meditation improves memory and the ability to focus on the task at hand. (2) Whether that’s work, a sport, or a conversation with a friend, we all know that being able to give our full attention enhances the overall quality of the experience. The study also showed that people had lower levels of stress and less distraction.


As recently discussed in this article about brainwaves, meditation does allow us to train our brains to operate at slower frequency states.  These brainwave-changing skills help deepen your ability to focus and control your attention  – abilities that are key for athletic performance as well as work performance.

How To Meditate

Fortunately, you don’t need to visit an ashram in India, or hike to the top of a mountain to learn to meditate. The beauty of a meditation practice lies in its simplicity and ease of access.  

One of the simplest forms of meditation for beginners is concentration meditation, where you have a single anchor, such as your breath, to use as a way to bring your wandering mind back from distractions.  The idea is that once you start to practice what is known as attentional loops, you become increasingly more skillful at avoiding distracting thoughts and bringing your mind back into focus.  

Here’s what to do:

  1. Find a quiet and calming space at home where you will be undisturbed.
  2. Sit on a mat or chair in a comfortable position.  Avoid laying down as that may make you potentially fall asleep – this is all about focused attention!
  3. Concentrate on a single point of focus  – this could entail following your breath, staring at a candle flame or repeating a mantra such as ‘Om’.
  4. Anytime you find your mind wandering, shift your attention back to the point of focus. Do not judge your mind for wandering, just become aware of the thought and then let it go.
  5. Try this for as little as five minutes, and then gradually increase the duration. You can stick to five minutes, or go all the way up to one hour if you’d like! Practicing on a consistent basis is more important than duration.

Meditation, how to meditate, meditation for beginners, learn to meditate, how do you meditate, meditation tips


Meditation Tips for Beginners

When you’re starting out, your mind is going to wander a lot. This is perfectly normal! The key a successful meditation practice is bringing the mind back from a wandering thought to the point of focus, as much as possible — reinforcing that attentional loop.

To help bring back your mind from wandering thoughts and to make your practice more effective, try some of the meditation tips below:

  • Try guided meditation. This helps provide structure for beginners and keeps the mind more focused. Use an app like Muse to guide you through meditation sessions that are as short as three minutes or up to an hour.
  • Listen to soothing sounds. It’s often much easier to quieten the mind if you’re listening to waves crashing on a beach or the sound of rain. With the Muse app, you can choose from carefully crafted meditation soundscapes such as the beach, rainforest, a city park, ambient music or a desert.
  • Get real-time feedback and take out the guesswork. Measure your brainwave activity during a meditation session with the brain sensing headband, Muse. Using sensors on the forehead, Muse can translate brain activity into guiding sounds. For example, let’s say that you select the soundscape ‘beach’ for your meditation sessions. If your thoughts are bouncing around, the waves will pick up, signalling you to shift your focus. Once your mind is calm, the waves will also become softer.

Lastly, the best advice for beginners is to just do – don’t get too caught up in the ‘how’. Try to commit to a few minutes every morning and check in with yourself after a month to really feel the difference.


  1. Harvard Business Review. (2018). The Busyness Trap. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Mar. 2018].
  2. Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. and Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface, [online] (2012). Available at: [Accessed 5 Mar. 2018].
  3. Lustenberger, C., Boyle, M., Foulser, A., Mellin, J. and Fröhlich, F. (2015). Functional role of frontal alpha oscillations in creativity. Cortex, [online] 67, pp.74-82. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].

A Deep Dive Into Brainwaves: Brainwave Frequencies Explained

We’ve all experienced that magical feeling of being hit with ‘a brainwave’. That moment of newfound clarity, shift in perspective or a novel idea. And typically, it seems to appear out of nowhere. In between sips of coffee, while out for a walk, or simply indulging your dog in a good belly rub.

While “a brainwave” can be a figure of speech to describe our thoughts, scientists and clinicians can use literal brainwaves, measured on the head, to help understand the functioning of the human brain.  As it turns out, the key to having more of these ‘aha’ moments lies in understanding the science behind brainwaves. Neuroscientists have been studying brainwaves – the popular name for the field of electroencephalography – for nearly a century.


The brain has billions of neurons, and each individual neuron connects (on average) to thousands of others. Communication happens between them through small electrical currents that travel along the neurons and throughout enormous networks of brain circuits. When all these neurons are activated they produce electrical pulses – visualize a wave rippling through the crowd at a sports arena –  this synchronized electrical activity results in a “brainwave”.

When many neurons interact in this way at the same time, this activity is strong enough to be detected even outside the brain. By placing electrodes on the scalp, this activity can be amplified, analyzed, and visualized. This is electroencephalography, or EEG – a fancy word that just means electric brain graph. (Encephalon, the brain, is derived from the ancient Greek “enképhalos,” meaning within the head.)

One way that EEG ‘brainwaves’ convey information is in their rate of repetition. Some oscillations, measured on the scalp, occur at more than 30 cycles per second (and up to 100 cycles per second!) These cycles, also called frequencies, are measured as Hz, or hertz, after the scientist who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves.  

When looked at this way, brainwaves come in five flavours, each of which corresponds to a Greek letter. As we’ll see, these different brainwaves correspond to different states of thought or experience. While there are many other ways to analyze brainwaves, many practitioners of a field called neurofeedback rely on dividing brain oscillations into these five categories.

Some of these brain oscillations are more easily detectable on specific parts of the scalp, corresponding to the parts of the brain just below. The brain has many specialized regions which correspond to different processes, thoughts, and sensations. Particular oscillations often reflect distinct regions and networks in the brain communicating with each other.

brainwaves, brain waves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


Different patterns of brainwaves can be recognized by their amplitudes and frequencies. Brainwaves can then be categorized based on their level of activity or frequency. It’s important to remember, though, that brainwaves are not the source or the cause of brain states, or of our experiences of our own minds – they’re just some of the detectable reflections of the complex processes in the brain that produce our experience of being, thinking, and perceiving.

  • Slow activity refers to a lower frequency and high amplitude (the distance between two peaks of a wave). These oscillations are often much larger in amplitude (wave depth). Think: low, the deep beat of a drum.
  • Fast activity refers to a higher frequency and often smaller amplitude. Think: high pitched flute.

Below are five often-described brainwaves, from fastest activity levels to slowest.

brainwaves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


  • Frequency: 32 – 100 Hz
  • Associated state: Heightened perception, learning, problem-solving tasks

Gamma brainwaves are the fastest measurable EEG brainwaves, and have been equated to ‘heightened perception’, or a ‘peak mental state’ when there is simultaneous processing of information from different parts of the brain. Gamma brainwaves have been observed to be much stronger and more regularly observed in very long-term meditators including Buddhist Monks.

brainwaves, brain waves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain wavesbrainwaves, brain waves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


  • Frequency: 13-32 Hz
  • State: Alert, normal alert consciousness, active thinking

For example:

  • Active conversation
  • Making decisions
  • Solving a problem
  • Focusing on a task
  • Learning a new concept

Beta brainwaves are easiest to detect when we’re busy thinking actively.

brainwaves, brain waves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


  • Frequency: 8-13 Hz
  • State: Physically and mentally relaxed

Alpha brainwaves are some of the most easily observed and were the first to be discovered. They become detectable when the eyes are closed and the mind is relaxed.  They can also often be found during activities such as:

  • Yoga
  • Just before falling asleep
  • Being creative and artistic

brainwaves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


  • Frequency: 4-8 Hz
  • State: Creativity, insight, dreams, reduced consciousness

According to Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, “previous studies have shown that theta waves indicate deep relaxation and occur more frequently in highly experienced meditation practitioners.  The source is probably frontal parts of the brain, which are associated with monitoring of other mental processes.”

Most frequently, theta brainwaves are strongly detectable when we’re dreaming in our sleep (think, the movie Inception), but they can also be seen  during :

  • Deep meditation
  • Daydreaming

When we’re doing a task that is so automatic that the mind can disengage from it e.g. brushing teeth, showering. Research has also shown a positive association of theta waves with memory, creativity and psychological well-being. (5) (6)

brainwaves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves


  • Frequency: 0.5-4 Hz
  • State: Sleep, dreaming

These are the slowest of all brainwaves, and are strongest when we are enjoying restorative sleep in a dreamless state. This is also the state where healing and rejuvenation are stimulated, which is why it’s so crucial to get enough sleep each night.


Is it possible to change how much we experience these different brainwaves, and the brain states and thought experiences associated with them? In short, yes.  

Conditioning and Neurofeedback

For decades, practitioners have engaged in training programs which are intended to reinforce the brain states which produce increases in certain brain oscillations, and decreases in others. The most common example of this, called neurofeedback, can utilize EEG or other brain sensing modalities.

Neurofeedback practitioners and clinicians find that immediate, direct feedback on brain states, whether in the form of sound, light, or even a video game, can produce changes in underlying behaviors and brain states that are reflected in brainwaves. This feedback seems to accelerate the learning process, by making brain states more apparent to the recipient.

Another important discovery in the recent history of neuroscience is the significant differences in brainwave characteristics of highly experienced meditators. Expert meditators not only have different resting-state brainwaves from non-meditators – they also seem able to control their brainwaves through voluntary thought control with greater ease than others.  

So how do we start to improve our ability to control our brainwaves? These brainwave-changing skills can be learned. Meditation deepens your ability to focus and control your attention.  

brainwaves, brainwave frequencies, alpha brain waves

What Does Muse Do?

Using 7 finely calibrated sensors – 2 on the forehead, 2 behind the ears plus 3 reference sensors – Muse is a next-generation, state of the art EEG system that uses advanced algorithms to train beginner and intermediate meditators at controlling their focus. It teaches users how to manipulate their brain states and how to change the characteristics of their brains.

The Muse algorithm technology is more complex than traditional neurofeedback.  In creating the Muse app, we started from these brainwaves and then spent years doing intensive research on higher-order combinations of primary, secondary and tertiary characteristics of raw EEG data and how they interact with focused-attention meditation.

Muse has been tested and validated against EEG systems that are exponentially more expensive, and it’s used by neuroscientists around the world in real-world neuroscience research inside and outside the lab.


  1. Scientific American. (2018). What is the function of the various brainwaves?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  2. Lustenberger, C., Boyle, M., Foulser, A., Mellin, J. and Fröhlich, F. (2015). Functional role of frontal alpha oscillations in creativity. Cortex, [online] 67, pp.74-82. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  3. ScienceDaily. (2018). Alpha waves close your mind for distraction, but not continuously, research suggests. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  4. Haarmann, H., George, T., Smaliy, A. and Dien, J. (2012). Remote Associates Test and Alpha Brain Waves. The Journal of Problem Solving, [online] 4(2). Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  5. Buzsáki, G. (2002). Theta Oscillations in the Hippocampus. Neuron, [online] 33(3), pp.325-340. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  6. White, N. (1999). Theories of the Effectiveness of Alpha-Theta Training for Multiple Disorders. Introduction to Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback. pp 341-367. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  7. (2018). What are Brainwaves? Types of Brain waves | EEG sensor and brain wave – UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
  8. Marzbani, H., Marateb, H. R., & Mansourian, M. (2016). Neurofeedback: a comprehensive review on system design, methodology and clinical applications. Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, 7(2), 143-158.
  9. Calomeni, Mauricio Rocha, et al. “Modulatory Effect of Association of Brain Stimulation by Light and Binaural Beats in Specific Brain Waves.” Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health,

Meditation and Athletic Performance – Upping Your Mental Game

Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you — when it comes to real improvement it’s as much about physical performance as it is about mental performance.  As we continue to evolve our view on optimal sports performance the need to focus on mental health has become increasingly more obvious. But the question remains, can we train our brain the same way we train our body?  Read on to learn about the health benefits of a regular meditation practice paired with physical exercise.  

Meditation and Athletic Performance – What’s the Link?

We’ve moved way beyond the old paradigm of daily exercise alone as a standard routine for athletes.  Through years of biometric and sports performance research we’ve been able to consistently improve how to make athletes, better, faster, stronger, and recovery more quickly… no easy feat!  It’s only now that we’re slowly starting to see the positive effects of a consistent meditation practice on athletic performance in diverse clinical research studies.

 how to focus better, sports performance, sports meditation

Pain and Sports Injuries – Can we change the way we feel pain?

Injuries or “painful interruptions” can be a major cause of delay in any training program.  Injuries resulting from athletic activities (i.e., sports such as football) or the normal activities of life can impede range of motion as well as the ability to bear weight on affected joints. Aging adults are also more apt to develop arthritis in formerly injured joints—and a work-out at the local fitness center can get shortened or halted due to pain in a hip or knee.

Appropriate rest to recover from an injury is paramount, but the speed at which we recover can make or break our ability to get “back in the ring”.  To help speed the process — and engage in recovery treatments — is it possible to change the way we feel pain?  The answer is yes. A study published in Neuroscience Letters revealed that the brain’s transmission of pain signals is lessened through a regimen of meditation and mindfulness (1). This study also found that meditation can positively affect the neural signals that determine pain sensation in the following brain-controlled processes (2):

  • Sensory processes
  • Cognitive processes
  • Affective processes

Similar findings were also found in a study of research participants with arthritis published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (3). These researchers documented that a gentle exercise routine (e.g., Tai Chi or yoga) decreased arthritic symptoms and increased cardiac function in the participants. Furthermore, the authors of a research article published in 2017 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience concluded that a three-month combined practice of yoga and meditation produced lowered inflammatory biomarkers (and arthritis is the result of inflammation in afflicted joints) (4).


Psychosocial States and Inflammation – The Impact of Meditation

Most athletes frequently deal with varying levels of stress and trauma – both physical and emotional. Improving mental toughness means being able to learn, adapt, and emotionally regulate past emotional events. It is widely recognized that emotional stress can be relieved by meditation—and also by aerobic exercise. Since stress is also associated with increased inflammation (as found in Rheumatoid Arthritis, as well as inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s Disease), the relief of stress can also relieve the symptoms of these disorders.

The previously-mentioned article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience — as well as numerous other medical research articles — suggests the link between stress and reactive inflammation. Not only can embarking on a combined meditation and fitness regimen improve the overall quality of life for people who suffer from inflammatory disorders, it can also relieve symptoms of depression and improve energy.

how to focus better, sports performance, sports meditation


Improving Focus and Concentration in Athletics – How Meditation Helps

Recognizing where to run to intercept the ball and reacting quickly is vital in volleyball, baseball, football, and soccer. That attention and concentration can be improved by physical fitness (achieved through an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise routine), and also through practicing meditation on a regular basis. The following are areas where positive cognitive changes were produced by meditation, as related to increased attention/concentration (per an article in Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports) (5):

  • Brain function capacity
  • Neural activity
  • Circulatory blood flow

Altering our neural connectivity for the ability to access information quickly as an athlete is crucial. The formation of new neurons through meditation in the brain’s hippocampus region—which is linked to concentration and memory—was shown in study findings published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (6).

This study tracked participants who performed exercise on a treadmill and a meditation practice, which suggested that participants’ increased blood flow and neural activity were the contributory mechanism leading to increased attention and concentration ability.

how to focus better, sports performance, sports meditation
Smith Lowdown Focus mPowered by Muse™


Upping Your Mental Game – Learn How To Control Your Focus

Life and sport are filled with chaos and distraction.  It’s not breaking news that a combined regimen of mental and physical exercise is the best way to boost mood, improve sleep quality, improve brain functioning, and boost overall health and well-being. For athletes, this is essential for their ability to execute as a top-performing player!

Meditation alone can be an amazing addition to any training program but if you’re looking for a way to start improving your mental focus now for better focus and concentration welcome to The Lowdown Focus with the Smith Focus App.  Specifically designed to help you develop a heightened sense of self-awareness and train your cognitive performance, the integrated brain-sensing technology provides real-time feedback on your brain’s activity level so you can learn how to control your focus.



  1. Zeidan F, Grant JA, Brown CA, et al. (2012). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters 520(2): 165-173. Webpage:
  2. Zeidan F, Grant JA, Brown CA, et al. (2012). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters 520(2): 165-173. Webpage:
  3. Prusak K, Prusak K, and Mahoney J. (2014). An integrated mind–body approach to arthritis: A pilot study. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine 4(2): 99-107. Webpage:
  4. Cahn BR, Goodman MS, Peterson CT, et al. (2017). Yoga, meditation and mind-body health: Increased BDNF, cortisol awakening response, and altered inflammatory marker expression after a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11:315. Webpage:
  5. Acevedo BP, Pospos S, and Lavretsky H. (2016). The neural mechanisms of meditative practices: Novel approaches for healthy aging. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports 3(4): 328-339. Webpage:
  6. Shors TJ, Olson RL, Bates ME, et al. (2014). Mental and physical (MAP) training: A neurogenesis-inspired intervention that enhances health in humans. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 115:3-9. Webpage:

I measured my brainwaves for 1000 days straight: Why, how, & what transformed as a result

Michael Balchan was our first ever “Muse Millionaire” (1,000,000 calm points!!), and recently we’ve had the pleasure of following along his 1000 day journey of meditation with Muse. His results, transformation, and reflections were truly insightful.

This article has been lovingly republished with permission from the original found here.

“I know of no other single activity that by itself can produce such a great improvement in the quality of life.” – Bernie Siegel, M.D 

“The purpose […] is nothing less than the radical and permanent transformation of your entire sensory and cognitive experience.” – Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

In 2013, several years into a commodity trading career and desperately seeking answers for how to both manage my stress and improve my performance, I experienced an event that would change everything.

I’d been experimenting with meditation for months. It was the latest in a series of well-being activities designed to close the gap between how I wanted to feel and how I actually did. Enough people and resources had recommended the practice, it seemed be foolish not to try. So, I followed simple instructions from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, did a short audio course from Oprah & Deepak Chopra, and worked my way up to 10-15 minutes a day.

Then, one day, a shift happened.

It was after the close of commodity markets but before the end of the day for equities. I was wrapping up my post-trading work. when I heard my brother speaking a bit loudly considering many people were still focused on the open equity market.

He was close enough for me to speak to and an older-brother pattern in my brain immediately activated. The ‘make sure he knows it’s better to not do that,’ one. That pattern typically ends in a harsh, condescending comment – not a behavior I was proud of.

But, just as I was about to snap at him, I realized that I had a choice. I didn’t have to respond negatively. More importantly, I didn’t want to. Unfortunately, the split-second insight alone wasn’t enough. I watched myself continue, as if on autopilot, with the sub-optimal behavior.

The experience was a revelation.

I hadn’t yet been able to step in and change my behavior, but I’d discovered the gap that existed between what happened in the world outside – and how I chose to respond to it. On a deep level, I finally understood Viktor Frankl’s insight: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Having experienced a taste of the change meditation was capable of creating, I was hooked. I made a 100% commitment to training my brain every (!) single (!) day (!).

I was going to master my relationship with my mind. 

Over the following months, I continued with my daily breath-focused practice. I started noticing positive changes in many areas that meditation can impact: mental health, performance, happiness, relationships, focus, productivity, creativity, and more.

But, by the winter of 2014, my progress was reaching a plateau.

Highly regarded teachers and practitioners taught that the most important part of meditating is showing up, and that we shouldn’t “judge” our meditations – advice I followed. (and still do!) Still, new technologies had the potential to accelerate my progress and shorten the path to mastery.

It was time for me to up my game.

Enter: The Muse Headband

The Muse headband is a slim headband embedded with a personal, portable set of EEG sensors. Wearing it connects your brain to your phone, utilizing “transformative neurofeedback technology” to give “accurate, real-time feedback on what’s happening in your brain while you meditate.”

Bulletproof Exec Dave Asprey gave the Muse a strong recommendation in his first Quarterly box, where he encouraged taking a data-backed approach to mental training. Smartcuts author Shane Snow offered similar advice after his two-week experiment with Muse, shared on the 4-Hour Blog: “Can you rewire your brain in two weeks? The answer appears to be — at least partially — yes.”1

I was intrigued, and excited. Research by Anders Ericcson, whose work was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as the “10,000-hour rule,” identified the fundamental role feedback plays in purposeful (or “deliberate”) practice. The quality of feedback is vital for learning new skills, as is the timing. The sooner feedback follows an action, the faster the brain can draw an association between that action and the outcome produced.

If the Muse could provide real-time feedback on how different ways of thinking affected my mind, I could accelerate my progress. Extend the results from Snow’s experiment over a longer period, and I might be able to achieve mental mastery in a fraction of the time: months and years instead of decades.

I’d already made a commitment to daily mental training. As Jack Canfield says, “Once you make a 100% commitment to something, there are no exceptions. It’s a done deal. Non-negotiable. Case closed! Over and out.” If nothing else, the Muse would be a fun way to track my progress and hold myself accountable.

It would also be a great thing to share with people who’d experimented with meditation but “didn’t know if I was doing it right” or “didn’t know if it was working.” And, even though I’d experienced phenomenal gains, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wondered the same.

So I ordered a headband* and anxiously awaited the start of my own neuro-enhancement experiment. Would it be significantly different from what I’d been doing up to that point? If the Muse worked, would the results translate to life outside of my sessions? Could I train my mind to be in a state of present moment awareness and calm – all the time?

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I was excited to find out.

 *[link is good for 15% off.]

A Journey of 1,000 Days Begins With…

The Muse headband arrived on the day after Christmas: December 26th, 2014. I immediately connected it to my phone and started playing around with the software.

Rather than displaying brain waves by frequency – alpha, beta, delta, etc. – the app simplifies things into three groups: either my mind was active, neutral, or calm.

When the headband senses that your brain is in an active state, the app plays sounds of violent weather and strong winds blowing. As your mind quiets, so does the weather, until the wind is still and waves are gently lapping at the shore. Remain calm for a few seconds and birds begin to chirp. Collect as many birds as you can, spend time in a calm state to earn “calm points,” and receive various awards for different achievements: this is gamification in full force.

Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband

After setting up the band and completing the required three-minute introductory session, during which I earned exactly zero birds, I settled in for a twelve-minute meditation. It started strong, but around 3 minutes in my attention began to wander. The wind picked up and the birds flew away.

By the time I finished, I’d spent 55% of the time in a calm state.

It was both a reassurance that I’d been moving in the right direction and a clear demonstration that I had a lot of room for improvement.

My Muse streak increased to “1…

Over the next few days, I experimented with different techniques. I tried to pay attention to what part of my mind was thinking (or not), and where my focus was – sometimes on the breath, sometimes counting, and sometimes on a mantra.

Each day, the streak grew. In less than a week, I was recording sessions with calm percentages in the mid-80s.

However, once the holidays ended and the New Year began, I had a hard time replicating those results. I could see the impact of less sleep, busier days, and volatile markets in the quality of my meditations. I noticed that I was often falling asleep during the mid-week, early morning sessions. My scores dropped and the birds abandoned me.

Clearly, I had more work to do.

The goal, after all, wasn’t to find intense periods of internal peace, but to be able to do it regularly and consistently. Especially when the world around me was encouraging otherwise.


In the weeks and months that followed, I once again began to experience dramatic increases in my quality of life. Muse was delivering. The streak continued to grow, and scores continued to improve.

Initially, I could only hold a calm state for a shorter period. As my practice progressed, so did the length of time I could maintain focus.

After 100 days I felt proud. I’d learned that instead of forcing my mind to think (or not think) in a certain way, it was better to let go and allow the bio-feedback to do its work. Without me getting in the way, my brain quickly got the hang of how to get the birds chirping. It was Wu Wei – the ancient Taoist concept of “non-action” or “non-doing.” And it was working.

After a few months of consistently high-quality sessions, I re-introduced conscious control. I started working on being able to enter a calm state at will. By using the audio as a key to intentionally adjust what my mind was doing, I gradually found how to purposefully create the same state that my brain had done intuitively.

I also re-introduced other techniques I’d learned – mantras, binaural beats, visualizations etc. – using the headband to capture data on their effectiveness.

On day 291 I passed the 1 Million mark for “calm” points. Apparently, that had not been done before.

December rolled around and my streak rolled past one year. 365 days. It was a psychological milestone that got me thinking. In another year the streak would be around 700. Keep going, and I could get it to four digits: 1,000. That felt exciting. It was a long way off, but doable if I continued to focus on one day at a time.

As the streak increased, so did my commitment. Each milestone gave me more motivation to continue.

+1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 …

Every day, the length of my streak grew by one. Each day, my mind – and my relationship with it – grew stronger.

I started loosely alternating between sessions with the audio feedback on and sessions with the audio feedback off. That way, I continued to benefit from the neuro-feedback training, while also improving my ability to assess and alter my mental state without the Muse. By doing sessions with the audio feedback turned off and analyzing results after each meditation finished, I could compare what I thought the data would show to what it actually did. Eventually, this would become my primary way of training.

Meanwhile, the Muse headband went with me everywhere. I meditated at home in the early morning, on benches in the park, and in the back of the trading floor after the close. I wore it on planes, trains, and busses.

I logged sessions next to wildlife in the African Savanah and surfers on the beaches of Australia.

I once even meditated with the headband while riding my bike through the streets of Chicago, wondering how high a score I’d be able to capture as I navigated traffic. (Better than expected.)

Time I spent meditating in the morning had a significantly positive impact on the rest of the day. The rest of the day also had an impact on my sessions. The clock-time, environment, and amount of caffeine I consumed all impacted the calm score. But the number one factor, by far, was how sleep deprived I was. If tired, I’d fall asleep while meditating and quickly register an active brain state.

No matter how advanced I got, once fatigue took over the overall session score would plummet. On those days, I took comfort knowing that a short rest was exactly what I needed – and often had a bigger impact.

Still, even in deep-recharge mode and completely unplugged from the world in every other way, I made time to train with the Muse.

At 500 days, extreme negative reactions were rare, and any aggressive behaviors were made by choice rather than the result of backlash. During volatile markets, I could tell when I was losing control of my mind. I knew how to use one or two minutes to get re-centered and re-focused. When my wife or family said something that upset me, I was able (most of the time :) to express that upset in a calm way, and move together with them to a resolution.

It was becoming easier and easier to intentionally find “calm.” My session scores had stopped climbing, but my “calm life” score continued to increase.

The distinction between the things I could control and things I couldn’t was becoming very clear. As the ancient Greek slave turned Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote in the Enchideron, “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

As my mental training continued, I wasted less time, energy, and attention on anything I wasn’t unable to control. The past, other people’s behavior, the weather, illnesses, global geopolitical events, what other people think of us – these things aren’t within any of our control. But the actions that we take and the way we behave – that is.

I was more consistently choosing actions that I felt proud of and satisfied by.

Gus, by the way, also loved meditating with the Muse. Both at home…

and on vacation…

At day 731, (two years in) a sense of presence, mindfulness, and peace were the default. I kept my cool through emotionally charged inter-personal situations. I maintained mental stability during periods of intense turmoil. During challenging athletic events or painful physical moments, I was able to find internal acceptance and strength.

It had become completely clear why experts across industries stress the importance of training our minds – there is simply no other skill as widely impactful, or as critical.

As Psychologist Belisa Vranich urges, “You must have a meditation or mindfulness component on your to-do list. Period. Recent research has been confirming this conclusion with ever more evidence as chemical changes, physical brain volumes, and meticulously set physiological markers are tracked and recorded.”

Then, on September 20th, 2017, the streak hit 1,000 days.

The congratulatory message was identical to the day before, only with one more digit. The real award was internal – I knew how much I’d changed, and the impact that it had on my life, as well as the lives of those around me.

The space between stimulus and response had become a place to live from, rather than just visit.

As Frankl said, that space presents a choice. It is the choices we make in those micro-moments that determine how we feel about our lives. When we make choices that align with our highest selves, the people who we want to be, and the values that we want to guide us – happiness ensues. Eudamonia. “Human flourishing.”

I had high expectations for how the Muse would help me to expand my mind. I hadn’t expected it to expand my heart and soul as well.

Lessons & Results

My meditation practice started with hope (+ faith) and out of respect for everyone who’d recommended and encouraged it.

After passing 1,500 days of meditation – 1,000 supercharged by the Muse headband – I can unequivocally say that it has transformed my life. My moment to moment experience of being has shifted on a fundamental level. I’m happier, more satisfied, more successful, more present, more loving, more stable, and more alive than I’ve ever been.

It’s as if I’d previously been living in a radio broadcast, only to now experience life in IMAX 3D with Digital Surround Sound. Instead of being a spectator, I’m now the creator of my experiences.

The neuro-feedback provided by the Muse was literally mind-altering, and the data collected played a big role in the brain’s re-wiring. Here are some of the final stats.

  • Over* 31,919 minutes of Muse-assisted meditation. (*Some sessions were lost due to connectivity problems.)
  • 67,702 birds collected.
  • 70,116 “recoveries:” catching the mind in an active state and returning to calm.
  • 3 million “calm points” earned.
  • Average session: 65% calm, ranging from lows in the single digits to highs in the mid-90s.

My journey has inspired me to write an introductory guide to meditation, lead group meditation workshops, and commit to supporting 5% of the world’s population in developing a daily mindfulness practice. (My team and I are currently working on an online pledge to track and support that global goal.)

As for the future, I don’t plan on going a day without meditating – for the rest of my life. The mind is just too important.

I’ve allowed the Muse streak to stop for now, but the headband continues to be a big part of my mental training arsenal. I’m due for an upgrade though – the old one has earned a break.

Are You Training Your Mind?

Today’s always a great day to start. Learn more


What is Neurofeedback and Biofeedback?

Gaining insight into your own brain activity is possible through the process of neurofeedback. A report in Psychology Today considers it useful in self-implementing a desired change akin to a meditative state of mind. Meanwhile, the positive effects of meditation include decreased anxiety and improved mood.

People who engage in neurofeedback can respond to real-time EEG information about their brain wave activity in order to produce a desired brain wave shift. From improving mental health to controlling Parkinson’s disease symptoms, neurofeedback has gained increasing numbers of disciples among teaching hospital physicians since its inception around sixty years ago.

Brief History of Neurofeedback

Beginning in the 1950s, medical researchers began to experiment with patient-controlled methods to decrease epileptic seizures. Decreased seizure activity was linked in numerous studies to calming brain wave activity through self-produced brainwave changes.

Neurofeedback—initially promoted as an aid for epileptic adults—became utilized in the conduction of research on meditation practitioners (in order to better understand the brain wave changes occurring during meditation sessions). The result was an increased understanding of the positive physiological effects of alpha brain waves, and the general health benefits of meditation.

Technological advances in EEG diagnostics has enabled neurofeedback to provide information valuable to enabling people suffering from a range of conditions to increase their alpha wave prevalence (and decrease the typical beta wave level that is characteristic of wakefulness). Consequently, the clinical management of such disparate disorders as childhood ADHD, sleep apnea, brain injuries, and PTSD may all incorporate teaching neurofeedback techniques to afflicted patients in tandem with (or instead of) medication treatments.

Biofeedback VS Neurofeedback: What’s the difference? 

Though often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the terms biofeedback and neurofeedback. According to the Mayo Clinic “biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body’s functions, such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you’re connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio).”

Types of biofeedback include (1):

  • Brainwave: Scalp sensors monitor brain wave activity using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
  • Breathing: Aka respiratory biofeedback where bands are placed around your abdomen and chest to monitor your breathing patterns and respiration rate.
  • Heart rate: Finger or earlobe sensors with a device called a photoplethysmograph or sensors placed on the chest, lower torso or wrists using an electrocardiograph (ECG) to measure your heart rate and heart rate variability.
  • Muscle: Sensors are placed over your skeletal muscles with an electromyography (EMG) to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.
  • Sweat glands: Sensors attached around your fingers or on your palm or wrist with an electrodermograph (EDG) measure the activity of your sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on your skin, alerting you to anxiety.
  • Temperature: Sensors attached to your fingers or feet measure your blood flow to your skin.

The amazing thing about this type of feedback is that is can help the subject gain understanding and awareness about their ability to directly impact their physical state, with their thoughts alone.  The feedback helps them to be able to focus on the subtle changes such as breath, focus, and relaxation of certain muscles to help achieve specific results. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, is a type of biofeedback that uses scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

So, you can think about biofeedback as more of a general umbrella term and neurofeedback is specific to EEG readings.

Positive Real-Life Impacts of Daily Neurofeedback

Described in an article in the Journal of Neurotherapy as physical therapy for the brain, a daily session of neurofeedback can produce positive brain wave changes that can improve mental and physical functioning. Both meditation and neurofeedback—through decreasing beta wave activity—increase cognitive functioning in areas such as concentration and problem-solving.

Muse: the brain sensing headband
Muse: the brain sensing headband

Research findings published in 2016 in Clinical Neurophysiology demonstrated this type of cognitive improvement even in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Who Can Benefit from Neurofeedback?

Healthy children and adults—as well as those with specific neurological disorders—can benefit from neurofeedback sessions. In particular, improvement has been shown in the following three brain-controlled areas in both healthy people and those with diagnosed neurological disorders:

  • Executive function (e.g., decision-making);
  • Mood;
  • Attention

There were 17,672 military personnel diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2016 alone, according to the US Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Meanwhile, the website of the American Stroke Association states that around 795,000 people have a stroke every year.

Insomnia, anxiety, and depression are all common in TBI- and stroke-afflicted individuals, and the International Brain Injury Association, therefore, recommends utilizing neurofeedback in treating TBI patients.

How Neurofeedback from Muse Can Help

Meditating while wearing the Muse headband (connected to a free app on a mobile device) can enable a user to view their brain wave patterns after a session of focused attention meditation.

Data feedback provided by Muse after a session
Data feedback provided by Muse after a session

During their session, and by focusing on their breath, a fundamental aspect of focused attention meditation, they can listen to subtle guiding sound cues to reach the desired focused brainwave response. This helps strengthen the user’s ability to reach this state during everyday events and, in turn, deter mind wandering or negative thoughts as well as improve quality of life.

Muse detects a full range of brainwave activity. Brainwaves are typically broken up into five bands, which Muse is capable of detecting. Brainwave bands:

  1. Gamma: Hyper brain activity, great for learning
  2. Beta: Actively thinking or problem-solving
  3. Alpha: Relaxed and calm
  4. Theta: Sleep, deep relaxation, and visualization
  5. Delta: Deeply asleep/not dreaming.

All of these bands are used in making the analysis that Muse provides at the end of every session, giving you unique insights with every Muse session.

> Want more information on what Muse can do for you? LEARN MORE 

> Are you a healthcare professional interested in learning how Muse can help your patients quickly and easily enjoy the benefits of meditation? Learn more HERE on our Muse Professional’s program. 

  1. “Biofeedback.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Jan. 2016,