Why Would Anyone Use Technology for Meditation?

An early brain sensing prototype.

I often get asked why someone would need an external tool for meditation. A brain sensing headband and smartphone seem out of place in a practice that’s supposed to be about doing less. Isn’t meditation something we do to simplify our lives and get away from technology?

“It takes motivation and effort to actually meditate regularly.”

Meditation is full of contradictions. On one hand, we’re taught that we’re perfect the way we are and that we should accept reality as it is. But on the other hand, the practice itself can feel like a lot of work. It takes motivation and effort to actually meditate regularly. Especially for beginners.

A Double-Edged Sword

Keeping a journal, documenting your meditations on a calendar, or using a tool like Muse can help you practice and reflect. But at the same time, you might end up looking back at these tools and feeling like you’re not good enough. Judging your performance like this is completely opposed to the core values of meditation.

At Muse, we are constantly researching people trying to start a new practice. What we’ve learned is that no matter what tools you use, a significant personal investment is always necessary. We’ve also learned that physiologically tracking your meditation using brain-sensing technology can successfully evoke motivation, curiosity and inspiration for many people in the modern world. For some people, the kind of support Muse provides makes a big difference.

“Making sure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of self-judgment is critical to making this particular technique work.”

Making sure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of self-judgment is critical to making this particular technique work. That’s why we work around the clock to find the balance between promoting a non-judgmental attitude and motivating habit formation.

Compassion for Today’s Beginners

Building meditation into a contemporary lifestyle can be surprisingly difficult. Muse is full of compassion for those having trouble sticking to a meditation habit. The intention is to develop secular, science-based “training wheels” for new meditators.

A compassionate act.

The fact is, we live in a goal-directed and achievement-driven society. I see bringing motivation into a meditation program as a compassionate act to help with the early stages. Muse is a gateway to meditation which acknowledges the world we live in.

If you already have an established practice, you may find yourself resistant or opposed to the idea. This is natural, as this technology doesn’t solve a problem for existing meditators. If you already meditate, it’s simply a curiosity to experiment with. But for those having trouble creating a strong daily meditation routine, it can be a wonderful ally in the hard work of building a practice from scratch.

“Muse is a gateway to meditation which acknowledges the world we live in.”

Technology or Technique?

Many teachers will tell you that everything is perfect as it is, and they’re right. But the wise ones will also point out that it takes effort to accept and be with that perfection in this moment. Muse is less of a new technology, and more of a new technique to help you put in that effort. If you’re one of the millions trying to get a meditation habit going, it’s worth considering how Muse might help.

“Many teachers will tell you that everything is perfect as it is, and they’re right. But the wise ones will also point out that it takes effort to accept and be with that perfection in this moment.”

Muse is not about attaining some miraculous state of enlightenment decades from now. It’s about helping you start a practice today. It’s about motivating yourself to create a sustainable daily routine. It’s about learning to habitually give yourself an opportunity to exist within the perfection of presence every single day.

Our intention is to encourage people to see the wisdom in a daily meditation routine focused on attention and awareness in the here and now. We started this journey with a belief that this technology might truly help people start meditating. Now we’re even more sure.

Jay Vidyarthy


Jay Vidyarthi is the User Experience Lead for Muse. He helped conceptualize Muse and has directed all UX research, design and validation processes since. Follow him on Twitter @jayvidyarthi.

“Shift” – Our Steve Dee Plots a New Course to Join The Center for Mindful Learning

Steven working
Steven working

Sometimes in life, as we go about our daily routines, we feel compelled by influences not immediately known, to explore new boundaries or broaden current ones. Today we feature the story of our very own Steven Dee, an integral developer here at Muse who’s decided to shift gears and move on to a life as a Modern Monastic at the Center for Mindful Learning. Today is Steve’s last day at Muse. Without further ado, here, in his own words, is his story:


Back on retreat in 2013, there was a day when I had, what I still consider, kind of a significant shift in my relationship to life and practice. I was biking up a hill to get back to the monastery from the coffee shop where I spent lots of my breaks. I was focusing on external sensations.

As I pedalled, my entire worldview crumbled. All of the projects I cared about would never come to fruition. My practice would never go anywhere. I’d never help anyone. There was no reason to keep going, or to not keep going. It was a feeling of deep hopelessness and pointlessness to my entire life and everything I was doing.

So I just kept going. There was no reason to pedal or to not pedal, so I pedalled. I couldn’t tell you why I did. My life kept happening, and I didn’t know why it was happening.

That basic not-knowing is still identifiably here right now. It doesn’t feel hopeless anymore. There’s a feeling in it that I struggle to give a name—I might call it peace or trust or love.

This is my last week at InteraXon. In April, I’m joining Center for Mindful Learning as a full-time modern monastic. I don’t know why I’m doing it. I can explain it, but I don’t believe any of the explanations. That’s not to say that they’re intentionally misleading—just incorrect or incomplete.

“My work is elsewhere.”

Steven meditating
Steven meditating

Every time I’ve left a job up until this one, no matter how amicable the parting has been, there’s been some sense in me of “my work is elsewhere.” Not so with InteraXon. I’m still pretty convinced that this is the best company and one of the most important projects in the world right now. I don’t think my work is done here.

But it’s undeniably shifting gears. I’m grateful to be leaving my projects—libmuse and the SDK tools—in some very capable hands and very kind hearts. Things are now at a point where I’m comfortable stepping away from the code a bit. So now I have a chance to dive into this inner work whole-heartedly, with nothing left out, with no distractions.

I have no end date in mind with CML. If you ask me how long I’ll be there, I’ll say “as long as it takes.”

In this next phase, I hope to stay connected to all of my coworkers here. You are all my family. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have met and worked with you. Let’s keep going.

Steven hanging out
Steven hanging out

And I hope to continue to serve this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime company in any capacity that I can. You’ll be able to find me on the developer forums soon enough. From here, maybe I write some third-party Muse apps; maybe one day I begin to contribute as a meditation teacher. But for now, gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā!


From all of us at InteraXon / Muse we wish Steve the very best on his new path and may his experiences be forever fruitful!

Patrick Kennedy State of the Union on Mental Health

Patrick Kennedy, a former US senator, mental health advocate and author, along his wife Amy Kennedy, are both prominent figures on the Muse Advisory Board and in the forefront of mental health advocacy in America.

Patrick Kennedy sponsored and championed the Mental Health Parity Act, which indicates that mental health should be paid equally to physical health claims by insurers. As part of his advocacy, he has been bringing together working groups to tackle problems in mental health and deployment, which we have been honoured to be a part of.

The conference opened with an address from Amy Kennedy; a champion for the impact of mental health in schools.  She was followed by Dr David Satcher, the previous Surgeon General of the US. He recounted a story of being discriminated in his youth and targeted, alongside Dr Martin Luther King, and set free along side him.

He spoke of a new idea he has coined, Medical Civil Liberties, suggesting that all citizens have equal Medical Civil rights- rights to be recognised regardless of condition, and access to healthcare regardless of condition.

Here is Patrick in his opening address, talking about the stigma of mental health, and the need to break that discrimination:

The Kennedy Forum has created a simple video outlining the problem in mental health and what they feel is needed to close the gap. (Muse is honoured to be featured as one of the solutions suggested by this esteemed group).

Patrick’s vision is for mental health to be a social movement in America like physical health was in the 80s, raising awareness to give all of us the tools to live healthier lives, or like the environmental movement of the 90s, which brought awareness and solutions that make environmental consciousness a defacto part of our society.

Over 23 million Americans deal with substance abuse issues. 9.8 Million American adults suffer from mental illness. It is projected that by 2020 substance and mental health issues will surpass all other illnesses in terms of disability claims.

Simple recommendations today that can help improve both detection of and coping with mental health include solutions from doctors using mood questionnaires in checkups and schools implementing concussion tests. Schools, workplaces and more are beginning to roll out meditation classes to teach various methods of strengthening the brain. Tougher issues like managing mental health in correctional facilities will take longer to implement.

All are on the Kennedy agenda, and the several hundred policy leaders, heads of big insurers, Medicare/Medicaid, schools, Veterans Affairs, and more that were in the room, all agree that it’s time to break the stigma, and make mental health a natural part of total health.

The Muse Android Update Is Here

New features for Muse Android customers
Muse 2.5 for Android is here

It’s finally here… we are excited to announce a complete overhaul of the Muse app for Android.

We have lots of Android users here at Muse HQ, so we are celebrating with you! You can update the app on Google Play if your device didn’t do it automatically.

UPDATES INCLUDE

  1. A completely revamped look and feel
  2. Significant performance improvements, including a dramatically faster app startup
  3. Custom session lengths up to 60 minutes
  4. Challenges based on the latest research in brain health designed to motivate, inspire, and maximize benefits
  5. A new guided exercise: “Sensation of Breath”
  6. Improved tutorials to help users get going faster, more easily, and get the most out of Muse sessions
  7. Better account management and easier sign-in
  8. Improved awards for in-session accomplishments, and milestones to celebrate long-term achievements

Session Results
Richer data now with streak tracking

Immerse yourself in a lush rainforest

COMPATIBILITY

The updated app works best with high-end Android devices. See choosemuse.com/compatibility for our updated compatibility information.

Make sure to update as soon as possible, the old app will no longer be supported after May 2nd.

Denver Public Schools Incorporates Muse Into Curriculum

There are countless research studies that correlate meditation with positive impacts on health such as a study from the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital where they conclude that meditation can result in “cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day”. In another study, also from MGH, but this time from their Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders states that meditation alleviates “anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder”. Meditation has its broad spectrum of benefits within health and research but also can be applied in public, real world scenarios involving the education sector.  

One example is the use of Muse within the Denver Public School system.  Jackie Bott who is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for the school district is always looking for ways that technology can enable students with a wide variety of disabilities to succeed within the school curriculum.

Denver Public Schools, the largest school district within Colorado, with 210 schools catering to students from early childhood to transition years which include ages 18 to 21, received $1M in funding to support the purchase of assistive technologies within the classroom.  Student disabilities can range across a whole spectrum.  Some disabilities are emotional or behavioural and some can be physical to the point of being very severe.

Ms. Bott’s mission is to research and purchase technology that can assist all the various needs that a school may encounter.  She came across Muse while researching technology that may assist children with social / emotional disabilities including ADHD and mental health concerns within a mindfulness based learning curriculum; something that has been practiced at various schools across Denver but has not been formally adopted in terms of measurability and process.

“Severely emotionally challenged children typically don’t get much attention from technology so when I came across Muse this addressed a particular gap I was looking to fill,” says Ms. Bott, “We have been incorporating a mindfulness practice with certain students but there is no way for us to measure progress.  Muse fills this gap.”

Muse at Denver Public Schools District
Luke Chavez and Jackie Bott

Ms. Bott, in conjunction with staff from special education, has begun a pilot program that sees Muse being brought into numerous class environments in an initial sample of schools.  Part of this process includes a strict documentation process that identifies the Muse experience in detail so that Denver Schools is better equipped to explain the process to teachers, parents and children especially as it pertains to the capture and analysis of biofeedback and a student’s privacy.  Denver Schools is rigorous in its attempt to ensure that a student’s right to privacy is never violated.

The success of the pilot program will be evaluated by reviewing data provided by Muse, anecdotal feedback from students and teachers, as well as improvements in overall learning.  “From my own personal experience with Muse,” explains Ms Bott, “I can say that I really love it because I find it very motivating.  The gamification and the birds make me want to continuously improve and keep up my meditation practice.” She concludes by saying, “This is especially meaningful when I consider how fun and engaging this will be for our students.”

Pending the success of the initial program she will then plan for a roll out across the entire Denver School system.

Ms. Bott has a very exciting vision for the longer term future.  She plans to tap into the Muse platform through additional development. This would be to create thought controlled applications in a variety of everyday scenarios in the school environment that have yet to be addressed through technology.

Ms. Bott enthusiastically prophesied, “Think about children with severe physical disabilities being able to switch on a device by focusing their mind. This could empower students beyond what they always thought they were capable of!”