I wrote a post a while ago about using vibro acoustic technology in mindfulness after I was offered a taster session. The taster session was exploring how using this sensory experience could help develop a mindful practice, or even help improve mental health.
The taster session was interesting, and felt very relaxed afterwards but I couldn’t determine any long lasting effects, because it was a one off session and very short.
The great news is that the people at Accessible Arts and Media have invited me back to undertake a set of sessions so I can determine how this multi sensory space could work for mindfulness, and how it helps me.
Using mindfulness and technology seems like a strange fit- often technology is the very thing that prevents us from being mindful. I wanted to see how using technology can support mindfulness and wellbeing.
I’ve recently left a very stressful job which has left its toll. So having a chance to test an experience which is designed to support physical and mental relaxation is really exciting.
During this process I am looking for visible differences to how I feel both physically and emotionally from the sessions I undertake. Alongside this I am hoping to understand what a multi sensory space could do for mindfulness practice, particularly for those people who find it hard to be present, or to meditate.
What is iMuse?
IMuse is essentially a gazebo style tent with some cool stuff inside!
Originally designed to be used with people who have learning disabilities, the space contains a vibrating mattress that you lie on. The frequency can be adjusted so that you feel completely comfortable and at ease with the vibrations. This works on the physical relaxation of your body.
Alongside the mattress, there’s a projected image dislayed in front of you which you can customise to a shape that you like, and colours that make you feel relaxed, happy, inspired, its your choice. The image can move with the vibrations of the sound in perfect symmetry, which is very mesmerising.
You also have the option of creating sound by moving your body. So if you don’t want to to stay still for example, you could move your body around and create different noises: from a harp to a guitar.
You can also use a microphone to make sounds, and work with the vibrations. So if you want a creative space, where you can be totally present and very interactive, you can easily create this. I didn’t use the space in this way though. I wanted a break from everything, and used it as a relaxation space.
Alongside all of these sounds and experiences, you can also choose to have music. Again there’s a wide range to choose from, from relaxing, to uplifting, to full on raging.
So basically you should be picturing a gazebo with lots of sound happening inside it with a projected image and a rubber mattress on the floor !
The real beauty of iMuse is how customisable it can be. I‘ll talk more about how it worked for me in a moment, but you can really personalise the space into a space that’s suits you.
Whether you want to relax and meditate, let out your emotions and really rage, create music through the vibrations, or have a very visual experience. Everyone’s iMuse can be different.
So last week on a cold, wet Tuesday I set off for what is likely to be the first of six sessions. The lovely Tom is facilitating these sessions and along with Julie who organised this pilot, they both really put me at ease.
I started by getting comfortable on the mattress. Tom is with all the controls behind the tent flap and you can choose to have that open so you aren’t closed in, or you could close it so you’re completely isolated in the space.
I didn’t like the spiky shapes on the screen where the projections are displayed, which I found out were created by the sound vibrations so Tom was able to adjust this. I chose colours of blue and yellow which were really relaxing.
Later I chose a different shape which did interact more with the sound, and this was almost in the shape of flower petals. Watching the screen and the shapes twist, swoop and move really relaxed me.
Tom helped me choose a very calming piece of music and I laid back and took some deep breaths.
I tried using the interactive sound sensors, but I found that for me I prefer iMuse as a passive space. Almost as if a bath of sound and images wash over me.
When I came to the space, I was aware that although I wasn’t particularly apprehensive I had had a really busy day with lot of appointments and a bit of a rush to get there.
By the time the half hour session came to an end I was conscious that my breath was coming deeply from my belly; a true state of relaxation and I felt incredibly calm and relaxed.
That is the first of my six half hour sessions. I will be interested to see what difference they make. The sensory experience is absorbing. It’s hard to think about anything else and when you do, there are lots of sound and sight anchors to to bring you back.
You could meditate in the space, which is essentially what I was doing. If you struggle with meditation, relaxation, stress or mental health I am pretty sure this would do you good. It’s apparently also really good for people who need to let out emotions which affect their behaviour. I can really see why it would help as you can get in the space and let it all out and it really is a multi sensory experience.
So I will be back in 6 weeks to report the results of my iMuse study. From my first weeks experience I am seriously looking forward to next week !