Meditating in Meta
Finding a Place of Calm in Metaverse Madness
The number 300,000 sounds pretty big. When it is linked in headlines to terms like ‘10X Increase’ it would seem that Meta’s big bet is off to a great start!
300,000 monthly visitors is actually a very small number that would not rank in the top 10,000 websites. It is several orders of magnitude less than what will be needed to make good on the billions spent to date.
I have no special powers of prognostication and I don’t know if Horizon will achieve the numbers Meta’s futurists must have projected. I don’t even know if the platform will catch up to Rec Room’s volume of social VR traffic, claimed to be one million monthly visitors.
But I do know this: Meta is having trouble providing a good experience for most of the visitors there now.
I’m trying to help, completely overmatched. I’m not specifically trying to help Meta. I’m trying to help the 300,000 people have a good experience.
I’m trying to do it by leading meditations, which is even more ridiculous since I doubt even one person came to Horizon with the specific intention of meditating in VR. Nevertheless, that is what I am offering, and I am not the only one, nor am I even the first one. Two of us lead meditations in Horizon.
A social environment that is meant to be a major Metaverse outpost should have a wide range of activities and events. Sometime maybe it will, but now it doesn’t and now is when the people are here. Now, meditation is the leading activity, with two per week, so that’s something!
The ‘Attend Tab’ in Horizon today also includes a Car Show, World Touring, an LGBT Meet-Up and Scripting Office Hours. That’s the whole week and all of its 168 hours.
Well, there is one more thing. Worldbuilding.
Horizon is primarily, at this moment, constructed to let people construct. If you want to do that, come to Horizon and you will be in Heaven because you will have God-like powers you have never imagined. I’m not kidding.
Horizon is not failing for people who like to think spatially and make stuff. There are plenty of people who are passionately committed to the platform already, creative people.
There are also plenty more people who aren’t especially into that, including me. Horizon may have enabled Worldbuilding for everybody, but it’s not clear everybody actually wants to be a Worldbuilder. Until it has a fully developed Event structure, to me Horizon is something like a niche platform, not a mass platform.
Meditation isn’t exactly a mass thing either, or is it?
What if meditation is just offered as a way to relax for a few minutes, period? How much more mass market can you get than that?
Of course I know that relaxation is just a surface expression of the powerful neural technology we call meditation. But I believe many of the 300,000 people now visiting Horizon are highly stressed up by life so far in the 2020s. So I say to them, ‘Welcome, let me lead you on a brief and enjoyable respite from everything,’ as opposed to ‘Welcome to your spiritual path!’
Maybe it comes to the same thing.
Meditation is open source. Nobody owns it. There is no Best Of, there is only what helps people reduce suffering now.
I also know there are sophisticated refinements that people can learn on their own or with the help of a teacher. I’ve done a little of both and I still am.
Box Breathing, as it is sometimes called, is a Zen technique I often use to begin a session. I let people know that Box Breathing is a tool they can always pull out of their inner toolkit when they need it. It requires complete focus and most people enjoy it for about a minute, so that’s how long we do it in my meditations.
Instead of sustaining attention on a single object, we shift from visualizations to sounds to stories and puzzles. This structure makes it easier for people to stay engaged and stay away from their everyday idea flow.
An episodic mediation may not be as deeply affecting as a long solo sit can be. But it may not even be possible to do a long solo sit without first learning how to accomplish the very first stage of calming down, of noticing the non-stop internal chatter and knowing how to turn the attention somewhere else.
I see my series of meditation objects as scaffolding, training wheels for people learning about their own mental processes. Long-time meditators who don’t need training wheels still seem to enjoy the novelty.
Most meditation leaders offering online or virtual sessions have imported the current Western Buddhist style as-is into new media and it works extremely well. Most of the popular meditation apps I have tried also stay roughly within the mindfulness tradition, .
I feel that the sampler plate style helps introduce meditation to people who had no intention of meditating when they put the headset on and went into Horizon. They attended because there was nothing else to do. They intended to leave right away but some of them stayed without quite knowing why.
They don’t all come at the beginning. They drop in continually and the constant changes in the flow of the meditation allow them to join easily at any point.
When we check in at the end, many of them are so new they’re a bit shy and just wave. Some speak right up, though, and mostly what they say is, ‘Thanks, I really needed that.”
We don’t know where anything leads, but at least that happened.
I have a black belt in learning and I’ve been meditating for so long you’d think I’d be enlightened but I’m not. I have had a few experiences where my usual filters weren’t in place and I knew all over I’m part of something bigger. Those help.