Over the past months, I have understood the importance of boundaries and the pattern of energies. I also started to embrace meditation as it helps me get connected to my inner self and overcome fears and anxiety. Although I do meditation every morning for a couple of minutes, being an empath I realised I need a full-body refresh twice or thrice depending on the severity of the day, especially during afternoons when I feel like crashing on the bed and cutting off from the world for some time.
I don’t know how, but lately, I started enjoying meditation in virtual reality (VR) for some reason. I wasn’t willing to give it a try initially but I am seeing some kind of positive change in my life. When I started meditating in virtual reality, I thought it would be a short-term solution to heal my wounds but this could be a long-term thing, provided it has enough guided courses and the technology itself gets more mature. Here’s my experience of using a virtual reality headset for meditation thus far.
I accidentally discovered a VR headset in my closet… and it was less of a digital distraction
A few days ago, I stumbled upon an unused Xiaomi VR headset taking up space in my closet. The Xiaomi headset has two straps to fix a headset around the back and over the top of your head. On the front is a slot where you can slide in any smartphone between 5 and 6-inches in size (I used the OnePlus Nord CE 2 to test meditation VR apps) — the smartphone screen will serve as the headset’s display. The headset isn’t at the same level as the Oculus Quest 2; rather it offers a slightly better fit and finish compared to the Cardboard viewer which was a rage when Google tried really hard to make mobile VR headsets mainstream.
Although Google may have called it quits with mobile VR, you can still buy VR headsets based on the Cardboard VR online. Knowing the limitations of the headset and the ecosystem around it, I thought of selling it off on OLX and even listed the device on the platform. But something prompted me to revisit the headset and start using it for fun. I had no clue what to do with the headset until I accidentally downloaded a few meditation VR apps from the Google Play Store on my smartphone. That was the first thing that came to mind and I was right.
I sat on a chair, fired up the Solas Meditation VR app on my phone, and then strapped the headset to my headset. Upon launching the app, it will bring up a menu and let you choose between VR experiences: meditation space, wisdom space, and breathing space. By using the headset’s laser pointer, you can navigate through the menu and choose different programmes or change the settings.
I chose the meditation space; it’s free to use. Once selected, you can choose the duration, the voice of preference, and the background sound. For the first few seconds, I felt distracted and wanted to remove the headset. Eventually, I did a 10-minute session and then started liking it. I swiveled to get a 360-degree surrounding and found myself in a garden. A soothing voice-guided me to feel the surroundings and establish a relationship with nature. The voice told me to close my eyes and take long and slow breaths. I could hear the chirping of birds, and slowly I started to surrender myself to the world in front of my eyes. I focused on my thoughts and breathing. I was meditating – and was completely cut off from the outside world for those 10 minutes. It’s not that my fears start to go away entirely, but I get a space of my own.
Why does meditation in VR work for me?
I have been doing meditation for months. I go to a park early in the morning and do meditation to relax and release my fears. It’s working for me – and I won’t stop doing it because VR is a better medium. You can meditate anywhere, even in a room of your home. That said, while doing meditation in VR, I found a connection – a safe space of my own – that was not there when I tried meditation apps on my smartphone or watched YouTube videos. The thing with virtual reality (VR) is that immersive experience that places you in an environment that feels realistic. You get a feeling of being “present” in the environment, even if the images turn out a little blurrier than you would hope.
In one of the apps I tried, I was supposed to be on some fantasy island in the midst of translucent water. I hopped on a boat, the sky was clear… I could see turtles swim, occasionally butterflies come and go. Just being in that environment was like taking a break from Delhi’s scorching heat. I knew I was in a virtual world… far away from reality but that feeling of being surrounded by the pristine water and nature was therapeutic and relaxing. After writing a long piece, I usually watch a YouTube video for guided meditation but I always feel distracted. But doing meditation in VR is a different experience altogether. It not only helps me focus but also transports me to a space where no one is watching me. Your brain and body respond to that space and you become part of the world. No one is telling you to wear a headset all day, because that would turn out to be a little uncomfortable but I enjoyed VR for attending smaller meditation sessions.
Is VR the future of meditation?
I don’t own advanced headsets like Oculus Quest 2 or HTC Vive Pro but after doing meditation in VR for a few days, I have more faith in technology. All these years, I have heard analysts and tech insiders have a negative opinion about the prospects of virtual reality. VR as tech still has a lot of challenges and tech companies need to figure out how to make VR headsets more accessible. I tried on a basic VR headset but still found a use case. I wish Google had stuck to the idea of mobile VR for a little longer. That would have given developers a leap of faith in mobile VR.
Right now, there are only a handful of meditation VR apps on the Google Play Store and to be honest, they aren’t great. Beyond a point, your eyes get strained though I will still continue my meditation journey on VR, despite the tech’s limitations and lack of content. I will however not urge you to buy a VR headset for meditation. But I do imagine a future where I will be using a VR headset for a lot many things. I liked the idea of taking short guided meditation sessions using VR, without the need to step out in the summer. I have heard a lot about Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 and hope to get the headset soon. For now, I want to stick to the cheap VR headset I have and will continue to use it for meditation.