Meditation is one of those things: you know it’s good for your mind and soul, you want to do it, but it’s hard to get started. I was on the lookout for something that would help motivate me to meditate.
That’s when I came across Muse, the brain sensing headband for meditation. The initial appeal was that it looked like a sci-fi headband from Star Trek and I wanted to have it in my life. More importantly, Muse is supposed to measure your brain signals (much like a heart rate monitor) and give you feedback when your mind is calm or wandering, to help you meditate. Well, it was worth a try.
Honestly, the Muse experience has been fascinating. Not often do we receive feedback on what’s happening inside our head. Some people are very aware, however most of us will probably learn quite a bit from using the Muse.
So how does it work? Download the app, place the Muse headband on your head, plug in your earphones and a soothing voice guides you into meditation. The voice guidance does a calibration at the start of each session and then walks you through a short exercise to prepare your mind for meditation. Exercise topics vary from “the sensation of breath” to “dealing with distractions”. Once the exercise is complete, you’ll find yourself immersed in a soothing soundscape. There are five soundscapes to choose from: Beach, Desert, Ambience Music, City Park and Rainforest.
As the meditation begins, you’ll focus on breathing and clearing your mind. That’s when you’ll hear soft waves, a light breeze or the pitter patter of rain. If you reach an extra relaxed mind state, you’ll hear birds! Inevitably when your mind begins to wander, the weather starts to pick up. The wind blows harder, the waves crash louder and you’ll quickly realize it’s time to re-focus on your breath and try to bring back some calm.
Here’s a glimpse into my Muse experience.
Session 1: Beach soundscape | 5 minutes in the evening | Sitting up in bed.
One minute I was swaying to the sound of soft beach waves, imagining a boat tied to the dock, swaying back and fourth; the next minute a wind storm was picking up speed. Not expecting this, it gave me a bit of anxiety. I had a hard time relaxing my mind with the hostile wind blowing. Yet oddly, my mind didn’t feel like it was wandering as much as the wind was indicating. I tried to clear my mind and felt like I didn’t have much control. Five minutes also felt like a long time. Conclusion: First session didn’t feel great however I reached 56% calm.
Session 2: Beach soundscape | 5 minutes in the evening | Laying down under the covers.
My mind started in a calm state, I immediately heard two birds – yay. But then before I knew it, I was asleep and woke up to the ‘end of session’ sound, oops. Conclusion: bad idea to lay down while meditating, reached 14% calm. Fascinating fact: I discovered my mind is not calm when I’m sleeping. In the chart below, I fell asleep at the 1:15 mark and my mind progressively got more active as I slept.
Session 4: Beach soundscape | 5 minutes on Sunday morning | Sitting up in bed.
This was a great session. My mind was calm, I heard 31 birds and the waves were soft and relaxing. So what was different? This session’s exercise was focused on ‘counting your breaths’. I counted to four for every inhale and for every exhale. I got so good at counting and breathing that I started thinking about how I would write about my success and what a Superstar Meditator I had become. Before I knew it, there was a tornado attacking my senses – but I was still counting? That blew my mind, I was multi-tasking by counting and thinking at the same time. I knew in life I could talk and walk at the same time, or chew gum and read at the same time. Doing something physical and thinking at the same time was the kind of multi-tasking I was used to. However, I didn’t realize I could think about two things at once. Conclusion: our brains are amazing.
Session 6: Beach soundscape | 5 minutes on Wednesday morning (before work) | Sitting up in bed.
I woke up consumed with work and decided some meditation would be beneficial. Especially since last Sunday I meditated in the morning for the first time and had an awesome sesh. So I popped on my Muse headband and tried to calm the chaos in my head. Sadly, my mind was too deep into work already and I didn’t have a very good meditation. Conclusion: our minds are stressed on work days. But any meditation is still better than no meditation. I reached 11% calm. Glad I meditated.
Session 7: Ambience music | 5 minutes in the evening | Sitting in bed, leaning against the headboard.
I finally remembered to change the soundscape before meditating. I chose Ambience music which felt tranquil, however the feedback was hard to identify. With the nature soundscapes, the weather changes to loud wind storms which was very noticeable. With the Ambience music, it all sounded the same to me, the feedback was too subtle. As a result, I only reached 9% calm because I didn’t know when my mind was wandering and consequently did not adjust my attention accordingly.
Session 7b: Rainforest soundscape | 5 minutes after session 7 |Sitting up in bed (no leaning).
Do over. Unsatisfied with my session, I selected a different soundscape and immediately meditated for another 5 minutes. This time I chose Rainforest and loved it. Fascinating fact: Instead of leaning against the bed, this time I consciously sat up and instantaneously my mind was calmer. The evidence, I heard a bird chirp. This made a lot of sense to me, when I sat up I was focused on breathing, when I leaned I got lazy and my mind wandered.
Session 10: Desert soundscape | 7 minutes in the evening | Sitting on a cushion.
I found my second favourite soundscape: Desert. I really enjoyed the soft soothing breeze of the Desert. During this session I had a realization – anytime I heard birds I would get excited and lose the calm. Noticing this, I made the effort to take a deep breath each time I heard birds to maintain the calm instead of getting excited about it – to my delight, it worked. Conclusion: Bumping up to 7 minutes was do-able. Breaths really do help keep our mind calm.
After the 10 sessions, I’ve continued using the Muse headband. I really do enjoy it and it actually motivates me to meditate more often. I appreciate the guidance at the beginning of each session, and it helps to receive feedback during each meditation. The rainforest and desert soundscapes are my fav and I’ve been able to manage my mind better than before using Muse. You can download other voice guides, I tried Deepak Chopra but the man voice startled me. I went back to the soothing lady voice that comes with Muse. All in all, I would give Muse 5 stars and definitely recommend it.
If you want to start meditating and you don’t know where to start, check out http://www.choosemuse.com/