Meditation has been proven to have immense emotional and physical benefits. It’s a practice that has been around for thousands of years, but many people find it quite elusive. The thought of sitting still and focusing for a set amount of time can be intimidating. It’s also difficult to find the time to weave it into our busy lives. Could meditation in VR be the answer? As someone who has been practicing yoga and meditation for almost 20 years I was curious to see what the experience in Guided Meditation VR would be like. Would meditating in VR be a novelty or could it really offer a new and innovative way to approach meditation?
I was surprised at the wide range of locations where the user can choose to meditate. Do you want to sit at the edge of a waterfall or at the base of a temple? The offering has something for everyone and at first I didn’t realize it, but you can teleport around the location as well in order to find your perfect meditation spot. Guided Meditation VR has also intentionally stayed agnostic in the types of meditation they offer. You can choose from Zen, Relaxation, Heartfulness and several others. From there you’re able to choose the amount of time you’d like to spend in your guided meditation. I liked that I wasn’t forced into a fifteen minute meditation right away. Want music? You’re also able to select the type of music you’d like to have playing or if you’d like music at all. Having so many options was nice. One of the things I usually struggle with in my own practice is settling into my space and trying to tune out any of visual and auditory distractions. I found that I seemed to settle in a bit faster in VR because my vision and hearing were immediately tuned into the location and the voice guiding me through the meditation. I did several different meditations within the program and really enjoyed the Zen ones. I did the 10 minute Zen #1 experience and felt like the time went by pretty quickly. Overall, the experience was easy to navigate and offered a multitude of options to the user which was great.
I was surprised at the low fidelity of the graphics. They could do a better job at making the locations look more realistic and less cartoony. I also found myself closing my eyes quite a bit during the experiences which renders the entire VR part unnecessary. I could have just as easily been listening to a guided meditation program. The weight of the headset was a bit more bothersome in meditation than I find it in other experiences too. I would say that after about five minutes I found it annoying. A few of the meditations also left me initially confused as there was no preparation given to the user prior to diving right into the meditation practice. I was still holding the controllers in my hands, standing in the middle of the play space and was expecting to be told what to do prior to starting to meditate. It would be ideal for the experience to coach the user into a seated position and I think they should suggest that you set the controllers down in front of you. I held the controllers for several minutes and then ended up lifting off the headset to set them down breaking the immersive experience (VR cardinal sin!) In at least one of the sessions they did tell the user to find a comfortable seated or standing position, but it should really be done each time.
Guided Meditation VR is a good introductory tutorial to meditation and leveraging VR is a fun way to do so. However, I’m not 100% convinced that meditating in VR isn’t just a novelty. I think there is benefit to introducing the practice of meditation to people using VR, but for those of us who are long-time practitioners, traditional methods still might work the best.