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I'll be the first person to admit—I've never been much of a "mindfulness" type of guy. For me, the world of meditation, yoga, and the overall "strengthening of the mind" were pretty foreign concepts. After all, I'm not flexible, clinically overweight, and probably one of the more cynical people you'll ever encounter in life.
Well, at least I used to be (I mean, I'm still fat and inflexible, but you get the point).
I heard about a product called Muse—a brain sensing technology that you wear as a headband during long periods of meditation. My mother said she was thinking about getting one, and I was skeptical at first. For some reason though, I was possessed, and picked up a pair for both me and her on her birthday. I could've just bought her the one, but I was too intrigued not to get one for myself.
Needless to say, my life has changed substantially. The way I think, the way I exercise, and, most importantly, the way I live my life are now completely different thanks to this device.
Let me explain.
My Initial Thoughts on Muse
Again, I was pretty skeptical when it came to Muse, but this could mostly be attributed to my overall lack of knowledge within the realm of mindfulness and meditation. For me, all of it seemed like a gimmick—can your mindset really help you change your life that much?
Well the answer is, unequivocally, yes.
Those books taught me a thing (or 500) about the importance of having a positive mindset. They also touched upon meditation, which at first seemed like a bit of a stretch. I understood that I needed a better mindset, but was meditation really the way to go?
Then, I read a couple of books from legendary Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson, aka, the Zen Master. He often spoke about his unusual coaching practices, in which he taught his players "mindfulness." He literally made Hall of Fame players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, and even the eccentric Dennis Rodman meditate. And they bought into it. Big time.
So I figured I'd have to give it a go. Except I added a little bit of millennial flair.
How Muse Works
The funny part is, I didn't even start meditating until I got Muse. So I have almost no background on what it's like without it (Ok, I tried it ONCE, but I simply could not focus, so I stopped trying altogether). However, I can tell you this—I would have never started to meditate regularly without the device. This thing has figured out how to make even the biggest skeptics (like myself), not only buy into meditation, but facilitate the process outright.
Here's the deal. From what I gather, Muse has two essential functions: Track your meditation progress, and help you focus. When I first attempted to meditate without the device, the biggest issue I had was actually determining if I was doing it correctly. Oftentimes, I would find myself wondering "Am I really meditating?"
Muse: A Heart Monitor for Your Brain
Well with the Muse brain sensing headband, ambiguity was never an issue. Muse essentially operates as a heart monitor for your brain. It has seven calibrated sensors that measure your brain signals. There are two on the forehead, two behind the ears, and an additional three reference sensors. The newest version, the Muse 2, takes it a step further—it provides real-time feedback on brain activity, heart rate, and breathing, making it both a physically and spiritually immersive experience.
The real-time feedback the Muse offers makes the overall process of mediation much easier, so you don't have to constantly question your own meditation tactics. This is especially useful if you're a beginner, much like myself. The app helps you visualize real-time data based on your own brain signals, and will help you analyze said data in order to continue improving. It will also give you the exact amount of time you remained "calm," so you know whether or not you were in real meditation mode or not.
The Muse App
Perhaps the best feature of Muse and the free app though, is how it actually helps you focus on meditation. Basically, if you have this headband on, it's almost hard NOT to meditate.
As a self-diagnosed sufferer of ADD (or ADHD, or whatever it is that makes me totally unable to focus), it's very hard for me to focus on one thing at a time (you have no idea how many other things I've done while writing this article alone). This is, essentially, why meditation has always been such a daunting task for me. Like I said earlier, my early attempt without the Muse sensory headband was a total blood bath—I couldn't focus, and basically stopped trying after like five minutes (which felt like four hours). With Muse, it was an entirely different experience altogether—I was actually able to relax, and I ended up meditating for like 30 minutes without a hitch.
Once you turn the headband on, sync it to your phone via Bluetooth technology, and put on your headphones, you are already fully immersed.
The App Caters to Your Mood.
When you're calm, you'll hear serene, peaceful sounds of nature. However, once your mind starts to wander, you'll start to hear more stormy, unpleasant weather, which will help shift your focus back to total relaxation. Basically, it forces you into the proper mindset for meditation. At the very least, it makes you cognizant of what type of mindset you need to achieve, in general.
If you're still struggling, the Muse also offers a variety of techniques to assess what kind of guidance works best for you personally through the real-time feedback.
With the Muse, there's no such thing as an inability to meditate—it basically does the job for you. If you've been considering meditation as a form of stress relief (there are plenty of studies to suggest it's more than a viable option), than you might want to pick this puppy up.
Before I started using Muse, I was stressed about my career, could barely sleep more than five hours, and I found my hairline receding more and more each day. Now, I get a healthy 7-8 hours, feel great every morning, and I'd like to think my hairline hasn't shifted THAT much. I wasn't buying the whole "mindfulness" thing until I picked up the Muse, but it's really made me see everything from a different perspective. It's a great product with an even better mission—making everyone's life a little less stressful, and a lot more relaxing.